The funny thing about someone breaking up with you is – most of the time, you can see it coming. At least, that’s what Theo had thought. All the books she read, the movies she had seen, indicate you can usually tell when a relationship is about to come to an end. However, in her situation, this was not the case.
“Theodora, please look at me,” a voice begged.
Now she was Theodora? This was serious. Never in the three years that they had been dating had he called her Theodora-not even when they argued. She was always Theo to him.
But Theo didn’t look at him right away. She kept her eyes on her lap, where she was nervously picking at the skin around her thumbs–a habit he always yelled at her for. Now he didn’t even seem to notice–or care more likely.
Her grey eyes moved slowly, up and out across the dashboard of his sleek black BMW, to stare blankly at the golf ball-sized raindrops hitting the windshield. When had it started to rain?
“So, let me get this straight,” Theo began, looking at him defiantly. “You make me sit through an entire dinner, where you said absolutely nothing and pretended everything was fine, and decide to break up with me now? What’s wrong with you?” Her gaze moved across the car to the driver’s seat where he sat, hands gripping the steering wheel as he turned his face away from her.
The veins in his arms pulsed and his knuckles started to shake as if he was going to rip the steering wheel right from the dashboard. His golden blonde hair was sticking to his forehead matted with sweat, and when he finally looked at her, she thought she saw rage in his dark blue eyes.
Seriously? He’s mad at me?
Finally, he sighed. “You just don’t understand.” He let go of the steering wheel, dropping his hands into his lap. “I just can’t be with you anymore. It’s too hard to explain…”
“What’s so damn hard?!” she interrupted. Theo shifted in her seat to completely face him, her dark hair tumbling over her chest, and saw him wince. “Oh. I see what this is about. Wow.” She turned to face the passenger’s side window, tears brimming in her eyes.
Rain poured steadily over the blacktop of the parking lot and onto the hood of the car. She never in a million years thought he was the type of guy to do this to her. After three years in a relationship, she thought she knew him better. She was wrong.
“Theo, you can’t even begin to understand what this is about–” he began.
She whipped her head around to face him, willing her tears not to fall. “I know exactly what this is about,” she started, her voice beginning to shake. She looked down at her hands once more, then felt his hand rest on her shoulder.
“You seriously think I am breaking up with you because we haven’t had sex?”
Theo looked up when he laughed and narrowed her eyes. He was still softly chuckling to himself, pinching the area between his eyebrows with his thumb and index finger, and clenching his eyelids as if he was contemplating the meaning of life. Finally, he stopped and looked at her, his eyes leveling with hers.
She remembered once thinking how she could drown in those pools. Where her eyes were the bluish grey of the sea before a storm; his were the depths of the ocean blue, dark and dangerous.
“You’re just not getting it. It has nothing to do with you not sleeping with me. It just has to do with me. There.” He threw up his hands in defeat. When Theo said nothing, he started the car and headed to drop her off.
“Are you really giving me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ excuse?” she asked incredulously. “You break up with me the night of my birthday and don’t even give me a logical explanation, and I am supposed to believe it has nothing to do with the fact that I won’t have sex with you?” He remained silent. “I know there is something you aren’t telling me.”
A small knot had formed in her stomach. She thought at first it was due to the nature of their conversation, but then realized it was sending small ripples of uneasiness throughout her body as if to alert her of foul play.
Her words seemed to really frustrate him now. Still looking at the road as he drove, he raised his voice enough to startle her, “Yes! Yes, I broke up with you on the night of your birthday. I had to! I couldn’t wait any longer. I couldn’t stand being with you for one more second. There’s your explanation. Are you satisfied?”
He was completely unrecognizable. In the three years they had been dating, he had never raised his voice, let alone mocked her.
The boiling rage began to subside as shock and sadness took its place. She felt a burning in the back of her throat and once again willed her tears to stay in their rightful place. Her stomach churned and she clenched her hands into fists so tight her knuckles turned white.
By now, the sky had completely opened, raindrops falling in a ferocious drumming, creating a blinding array of what looked like a wall of water. She used the sound of the windshield wipers rapidly swishing across the glass and the heavy downpour to drown out her sadness and focus on her anger.
Within seconds, Theo completely erupted.
It was a screaming match. She barely heard what he was saying as she tried to drown out his cutting words with her own sharp phrases. Curses were thrown.
Sweat poured down her back and in between her chest as one hand gripped the leather headrest and the other was firmly planted against the glove compartment. Her seatbelt remained unbuckled so she could face him, as if the closer she was to him the more her venomous slew of syntax could possibly cause him physical harm.
At that moment, she wished him physical harm.
It was then that she heard the glass exploding and felt the stabbing of what seemed like hundreds of sharp knives piercing her back and arms.
The car spun out of control; the last thing she saw were his wide terrified eyes before her head slammed against the dashboard and everything went black.
It was the first day of her freshman year of high school when Theo first saw him; his blonde hair glowing around his head like a halo. Such an interesting shade of blonde, Theo had thought. Gold, like the innermost embers of a burning flame.
He was leaning against his locker, flipping through a book, and she could clearly make out his lean muscular build. It was as though he sensed her walking down the hall-he straightened and languidly turned so she could see his face. He had a solid, square jaw and prominent cheekbones with a hint of a fading summer tan. Theo thought he couldn’t become any more perfect until she saw a set of dark blue orbs shaded by long dark lashes. The quintessential boy next door, and yet–not quite. There was a darkness about him, despite his golden looks. But Theo pushed her uneasiness aside as he walked toward her.
She felt a shove and her books and papers scattered all over the floor. Well, she was just standing in the middle of the hall. She barely noticed that the bell had rung and other students were rushing to their classes, anxious to be on time for the first week. She flushed a brilliant shade of scarlet and bent down to retrieve her belongings.
Before she knew it, he was kneeling beside her, his face inches from hers, helping her to her feet. “Let me help you,” he said, his voice smooth as silk.
She stood speechless and accepted her books with trembling fingers.
“Thank you,” she managed to finally get out then quickly began walking away, silently scolding herself for her clumsiness.
“Are you running away from me?” he asked amused, catching up to her.
“What?” she replied, taken aback. “N-no. I just don’t want to be late for class.” Ugh. She sounded so lame.
He laughed; of course he was laughing at her. “You’re a freshman, I’m guessing?”
Theo smiled sheepishly. “Do I look that helpless?”
He shook his head. “No. I’m a freshman, too. It’s just that I find most upperclassman don’t care whether they’re on time or not. Unless, you are just a really responsible sophomore…or junior?”
“Well, Freshman, can I walk you to your class?”
“Sure.” Theo nodded and showed him her schedule.
“Oh, that’s just terrible,” he muttered.
“What? What is?”
“That class is just down the hall, which doesn’t leave me a lot of time to talk to you.” He gazed at her intensely, and Theo got the sense that he was the type of boy that got everything he wanted when he wanted it. She swallowed back nerves.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she muttered, then paused. “Well, thank you for showing me to my class, but I really don’t want to be late.” She walked in the direction he’d indicated, thinking he’d finally relent, but once again, he fell in step right beside her.
“You just don’t give up, do you?” She smiled in spite of herself. Was this the type of boy mothers warned their daughter’s about? The nearly perfect looking, smooth talking, charismatic boy who would eventually break their heart?
Well, whatever game he was playing, she was enjoying playing it with him.
“When I see something I like, I go for it.”
Theo flushed as they reached the door to her classroom.
“So, how about this: my class is conveniently right across from yours,” he started and nodded across the hall, “and I’ll be waiting for you to walk you to your next class, then we can talk some more.”
Stragglers filed in behind her, but Theo was lost in thought. Surely, he had some cheerleader type with perfectly painted nails and a designer purse chasing after him. Why would someone like him be interested in the bookworm, who never let her fingernails see a coat of paint and who was too afraid to be late for class?
Despite all these doubts, she was too curious and too enamored by his golden boy looks to say no. She shrugged an okay. What did she have to lose?
He beamed. “Great. So I will see you in about an hour…Freshman?” he inquired, his tone clearly implying he wanted to know her name.
“Theodora, but everyone calls me Theo.”
He smiled wider. “I’ll be waiting for you, Theo.” And with that he turned and walked across the hall.
Theo was about to step inside her classroom when a thought occurred to her. “Wait!” she shouted across the hall. Several students turned, but he remained with his back to her. She took a step forward. “What’s your name?”
He waited until he reached the doorway to his classroom before he faced her and said, “Taliesin, but you can call me Tali.”
Theo’s head was pounding; her eyes felt as though they had sunk so far down into her skull that she might never open them again. She struggled, and eventually, with growing pain, she opened one eye, then the other.
A dimly lit hospital room slowly came into focus. Straight ahead was a bare white wall, with an empty chair in the left corner. To her right there was a white curtain separating her hospital bed from someone else’s, but she couldn’t hear if there was anyone else in the room with her. It seemed very late, very quiet–maybe they were sleeping.
Where were her parents? Why was she in the hospital? Small, incoherent segments flashed rapidly in her mind.
There was glass–she remembered that much. And a deafening, crunching sound. Her brain fished around for more information and kept coming up short. There was something missing–or was it someone?
Suddenly, the curtain next to her fluttered, and she craned her neck slightly to the right. Sure enough, she could make out a shadowy figure behind the curtain.
“Hello?” her voice cracked on the word.
The shadow moved, inching closer to the edge of the curtain until a beautiful, golden haired boy stood in front of her. Something stirred in her gut as she looked at him. She felt like she should know him, but her mind was still drawing a blank even as the pressure against her skull grew.
The boy said nothing as he moved closer and sat down on the edge of her bed. He leaned in close to her face, and she stared into a set of dark blue eyes. An immense sadness spread throughout her chest, though she still couldn’t figure out why.
It hit her like she was drawing a breath for the first time.
“Tali?” She reached for him and at first, it seemed as though he was reaching to embrace her too. Her sadness slowly dissipated as his strong, muscular arms reached around her. But instead of pulling her close, his long fingers wrapped around her neck and tightened.
Theo’s hands flew to wrap around his wrists which remained locked firmly around her throat. Her first instinct was to draw in a breath, which she realized was impossible, as any air flow had been cut off by his grip. Panicking, she tried to cry out.
Again, a failed attempt, as his grip tightened further.
Those dark blue eyes were oddly black when she stared into them, hoping to see some glimmer of mercy, of love he once had for her.
The veins around his temples throbbed and she felt burning in her chest from losing too much oxygen. No matter how much she kicked and flailed and pounded, his grip on her throat never eased.
Just as she was about to succumb to the enveloping blackness, she thought she saw that familiar smirk of his-the “Cheshire cat” she had called it-a smirk she knew all too well since the day she saw him in the school hallway. That same smirk now made her irate.
The small burst of energy she gained from her anger allowed her to escape the swallowing blackness; she wrapped her own thin fingers around Tali’s throat and squeezed with all the energy she had left: she thought he might find this feeble attempt amusing, and simply strengthen his own grip to completely finish her. Yet, a wild look of surprise crossed his face, and he released his hands from her throat just before she blacked out.