I sat before the fire and listened to the sound of Sophie’s feet marching up the stairs, followed by the slam of a door. With smoke lingering around the tips of my fingers, I brought the cigarette up to my lips and inhaled deeply. The cravings for the red stuff were bad tonight and I knew that I would have to get back to Hallowed Manor soon. The nicotine masked it, but not enough – not tonight.
Why had I come looking for Sophie? I told myself that it was to try and find out what had happened to the world while we had been away – but I knew that was bullshit. Sophie had been pushed too – so she wouldn’t have known any difference to the life that she was now living. But, she had remembered me. Why and how? And why had those letters turned up? I had sent them from another place, another time, where my heart had been crushed by her. Like I said, it wasn’t so much as another where – it was another when.
I took another cigarette from the pack and lit it, as I thought of how finding Sophie again had brought back some of my own feelings that I had for her. Was that bad? Was I wrong for having those feelings as I had Kiera in my life now? With the cigarette dangling from the corner of my mouth, I couldn’t help but remember how much I’d loved Sophie. I could feel the pain again as she screamed at me, telling me to get out. The pain felt real, all over again. I could see myself wandering aimlessly for weeks, from one town to another, writing her those letters, hoping that she would accept me for who and what I really was.
Had I been stupid to send those letters? No, I’d been naive and in love. But, then, hadn’t Sophie?
Hadn’t her reaction to me been normal? Christ, what had I expected her reaction to be on seeing a giant bat perching on the end of her bed? And I’d been a numb-nuts coming back to look for her. I’d used her. Whatever had happened between us, Sophie deserved better than that.
I flicked the end of my cigarette into the fire and got up. Taking off my coat, I made my way up the stairs to her room. At the end of the landing, I paused outside her door. Not knowing if again I was doing the right thing or not, I pushed it open and stepped into her room.
She stood in the centre of the room, and she was naked. I half expected her to cover her breasts with her arms and yell at me to get out, but she didn’t, she just stood there, her arms by her sides and looked at me.
“What do you want?” she asked me.
“Do you want me to leave?” I said.
“No,” she whispered, and the room flickered with candlelight. “Do you want to leave?”
“No,” I said, closing the door behind me.
I turned to face her again, and I couldn’t help but think of how beautiful she looked in the soft glow of the candlelight. Her long, blond hair flowed over her shoulders and settled against her breasts. Sophie came towards me, and as she did, I felt a thumping sensation race through my body.
It was like a ghost of a heart, racing inside of me.
She stopped before me, and we were so close that I could see she was trembling. “I do remember you,” she whispered. “I remember everything. I remember how much I loved you and I know how much I hurt you.”
“How do you know?” I whispered back.
“The letters you sent me,” she said, her eyes looking into mine. “They were full of pain.”
“I’m not hurting anymore,” I said.
“Are you sure?” she asked as she folded her arms about me. She pulled me so close that I could feel her breasts, soft against my chest and her breath, warm against my cheek.
“I’m sure,” I said, closing my eyes. “I’m in love with another.”
Sophie seemed to flinch in my arms and pull slightly away from me. “Kiera Hudson?” she asked.
“Yes,” I told her. “I love her more than anything.”
“But you loved me,” she frowned.
I opened my eyes to see that she was staring into them again, and the hurt that I could see there was almost unbearable.
“That was a long time ago, in another where and another when,” I told her.
“What about what we shared,” she smiled, pulling me close again. “What about us?”
Gently easing her away from me, I said, “There is no us anymore, Sophie; I was wrong to have come back to look for you.”
“You came back for me because deep down you still love me,” she tried to convince me.
“I came back because I wanted to know what had happened to the world,” I explained, not wanting to hurt her feelings, but knowing that I had to be honest with her. “I had no one else.”
“You don’t mean that,” she said, but I could tell by the tears that were standing in her eyes that she knew I was telling her the truth.
“I’m sorry,” I shrugged.
“You can’t just come back and open up old wounds then disappear again,” she whispered, a tear slipping down her cheek. “You might have had time for your feelings to have changed, but to me it seems like only moments ago that we were making love in my room.”
“So why didn’t you answer my letters?” I snapped.
“I was a child back then,” she cried. “I was scared, Potter, but not of you.”
“Of what then?”
“Me,” she said. “I was scared at how much I wanted you, even though I knew you were a -”
“Monster?” I cut in. “Is that the word you were searching for?”
“Yes,” she said, and looked away. “How could I have been in love with a monster? What sort of life would that have been for me?”
“Kiera loves me, even though I am a monster,” I told her.
“It’s easy for her,” she said. “She’s a monster too.”
“Kiera fell in love with me before she knew what she was,” I told her. “She knew I was a monster long before she knew what she truly was. Yet, she accepted me for who and what I was. Kiera loves me for everything that I am, for my foul mouth, my chain-smoking, my bad attitude, and violence. Kiera is freaking awesome. There is no one like her.”
“She is very beautiful,” Sophie mused.
“You just don’t get it, do you?” I said, looking at her.
“It doesn’t matter to me how beautiful Kiera looks,” I tried to explain. “I couldn’t give a monkey’s toss if she looked like the Elephant Man and had an arse the size of King Kong – although she does have the sweetest cheeks I’ve ever seen. But that means nothing to me – it’s what Kiera stands for – that’s why I’m so in love with her.”
“So what does she stand for?” Sophie asked, and I couldn’t help but notice the slightest hint of resentment in her voice.
“She has this really annoying habit of wanting to do the right thing the whole time,” I said, smiling inside as I thought of her. “She wants to do the right thing by everyone, even if it means that she loses out somehow. She threw herself into the arms of a serial killer because she couldn’t bear the thought of others suffering. Kiera is the smartest, bravest, and most selfless person I have ever known. But deep inside, she is so gentle and kind, and sometimes I think that I’m not even good enough to hold her hand, let alone share a life with her.”
“She sounds truly amazing,” Sophie shrugged, pulling away from me. I watched her take a blanket from the bed and wrap it about her shoulders.
“She is more than amazing,” I whispered.
“I’ve never been very good with words or explaining how I feel, but Kiera makes me feel whole and although we’re together, she makes me feel free – that’s the only way I can describe it.”
Brushing the tears from her face, Sophie looked at me. Then, silently she came towards me again, and kissing me softly on the cheek, she said, “Maybe in another where or when, things might be different between us, but I’m glad that you are happy now and I’m truly sorry that I hurt you the way I did.”
“That’s done with now,” I told her, heading for the door.
“Don’t go,” she said softly. “Stay with me tonight. We are miles from anywhere, no one will ever know.”
“I’ll know,” I glared, leaving her alone in the room and closing the door behind me.
I wrapped the blanket around me and rolled onto my side. I felt hurt and humiliated. Why had I asked him to stay the night? I’d just given him another opportunity to knock me back. Maybe that’s why he had said no, he wanted me to know how it felt to be hurt, just like I’d hurt him. I couldn’t believe that he didn’t feel anything for me anymore. I only had to read those letters to know how much he had felt for me. But there was that word again – “had!” Those letters had been sent from another place, another time – from a world that hadn’t been pushed. Potter had had a chance to overcome the hurt that I had caused him – whereas, the feelings that I had for him were still fresh and very real.
He made Kiera Hudson sound wonderful and if all the things he had said about her were true, then she was really special. But wasn’t I?
Potter had been in love with me once, but I had been special to him, too. I closed my eyes and I could see him making love to me and I tried to push those images from my mind. To see them over and over again was torturing me. To know that he was now making love to Kiera like he once made love to me was enough to drive me insane.
Why had this happened to me? Why couldn’t I have been left to my life, the one with Marty? We had been happy until those letters had shown up on the doormat. I only had feelings for Marty back then, now I felt nothing for him and even though this sounds nasty, I felt it difficult to feel anguish at his death. Did that make me a complete and utter bitch? I didn’t want to be. But somehow, my feelings had changed. I no longer felt like the Sophie I had known all my life, I felt like the Sophie that Potter described from his world – the one before it had been pushed.