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|Welcome to Heart's Song, a story of Love's tricks and wiles. Often a blessing, sometimes a curse...|
The first and second chapters of The story. Decided to group them together when I broke up the story because they are relativly short.
UpdateP:3-29-04: Thanks for the help...hope this works better.
Marius was hiding something.
Dana just knew it. Not that she loved him any less for it; heavens above, she had her own skeletons. But it still hurt: after all they’d been through, as long as they’d been together, he wouldn’t tell her what was obviously bothering him.
He’d come close, a couple of times. Sometimes he’d glance at her frown, and she just knew he was about to tell her something, something important. But he’d always shake his head and ask her to pass the ketchup or something like that.
The telephone began to ring loudly. Quickly setting down her college biology textbooks, she stood up and stretched her stiff joints. The phone rang again, impatient.
"I’m coming," she called irritably. Marius always made fun of her for talking to her telephone like that, but that bloody ringing always seemed like it was asking for a response. Walking into her kitchen, she picked up the small white receiver and put it to her ear.
"Hello?" she asked.
"Hello," a mechanical-sounding voice replied. "Would you be interested in signing up for a-" That was all Dana heard before pulling the phone from her ear and pushing the "OFF" button with a look of disgust. Damn telemarketers, always interrupting her when she was trying to study. Hadn’t she joined that program to have herself removed from their calling lists?
As she dropped the receiver back into its charging rack, she glanced up at the clock and blinked in surprise. It was already eight O’clock? She must have gotten lost in her book’s descriptions of X- and Y-chromosomes, fruit fly heredity patterns, and organism taxonomy. It was a fascinating subject, to be sure, but she had to eat sometime, didn’t she?
Nodding to herself, she glanced around at her small cluttered kitchen, dirty dishes still stacked in the sink. After walking to her small refrigerator and groping around for a moment, she pulled out some leftover steak. She didn’t like the stuff all that much—pasta was her favorite food, especially chicken alfredo—but Marius absolouly loved it. Then again, he loved any red meat; watching him eat was like watching someone butcher a cow. He literally licked the bones clean.
Well, steak may not be her favorite food, but it wouldn’t keep forever. She sighed. She could practically hear her mother’s dry, sardonic "Waste not want not, Dana."
Walking to her microwave, she set the plate full of meat inside, and set the timer for a minute of cooking. Pressing the button labeled START, she grabbed the remote control to her little white TV. Immediately, the high, dynamic voice of an anchor-woman flooded the room.
"…And in other news: The body of Sarah Mayes, wife of the late Richard Mayes, was found today in what one expert called ‘the most vicious mauling in recent years’…"
Hadn’t Richard Mayes been the owner of that restaurant? What was it called? Mc-something. McNabbs? Yea! Dana had been there once, the food was really good, but the place was expensive. The guy had probably been up to his armpits in money. The voice died as Dana turned the television off. She didn’t like to see women on TV; it always made her feel odd.
She walked over to the window, and examined her reflection in it. She didn’t understand what Marius saw in her… Her cheekbones were much too prominent, her nose was huge, her eyes were so brown they made wood seem light, and her straight brown hair was absolutely boring. She always felt so… commonplace compared to some of the women on the television.
She’d actually complained about her nose to him once. They’d been on a picnic deep in the woods when she’d just flat out asked him. He’d stared at her for a second, with this incredulous look painted all over his face, when he’d suddenly started laughing.
"You think your nose is too big?" he’d exclaimed, tears streaming from his eyes. "You have no idea of what a big nose looks like!" She’d stared at him. It wasn’t funny! She had honestly been considering surgery to get her nose fixed. When he heard this he’d laughed even harder, but eventually calmed down enough to speak.
"No, don’t!" he’d said with a smile. "I love your nose, it’s perfect."
"Do you really think so?" she had asked, still not sure if he was poking fun.
He had nodded. "Dana, everything about you is perfect." The smile faded from his lips. "Someday, I’ll show you one that’s ‘too big’, okay? You just keep yours exactly the way it is until then."
He was like that. She never felt common when she was around him. He always knew the right thing to say…
The phone rang again, snapping Dana out of her daydreams. She sighed, and grabbed the telephone. "Look, you," she snapped at the receiver, jabbing her finger at it. "If this is another telemarketer, I’m going to pitch you into that garbage can—" she pointed to the black, plastic container, as the phone rang again "—and then go out and buy a shiny new cell phone, got it?" It rang what almost seemed an affirmative, and Dana hesitantly pressed the big, central "TALK" button.
"Hello," she said, putting the phone to her ear for the second time that night.
"Dana?" a strong baritone voice asked quietly. Dana grinned.
"Marius! How are you, honey?" she asked, feeling mildly stupid for not having something better to say to her boyfriend of five years.
"Not so good, Dana." he answered. Dana blinked, that wasn’t exactly the I’m fine, dear. How are you? she’d been expecting. "We need to talk," he continued, "tonight."
Dana frowned, this wasn’t like him. "Marius, what’s wrong?" she asked, worriedly. "Is everything all right?"
He didn’t answer. Dana briefly pulled the phone away from her ear and glanced at it, to be sure the damn thing’s batteries hadn’t died. It was still running. "Marius?"
"Do you remember when we first met?" he asked suddenly.
Dana frowned. What did that have to do with anything? "Yeah, but-"
"It was a concert for the university band," he interrupted. "Do you remember what you played?"
"Barber’s Adagio for Strings," Dana answered, "but I still don’t see what this has to do with anythi-"
"You walked up on that stage and played that song. All I could see was you." He laughed. "Anyway, you got off the stage and I didn’t even think about the other players. They’d go up on stage, and all that I would hear would be that adagio, no mater what they actually played. I got up-"
"And you met me in the lobby," Dana injected sharply. "Now will you please tell me what this is all about? What’s wrong, Marius?"
"Your D-flats were out of tune, you know," he said, still off wherever the hell he was. He certainly wasn’t in the real world, that was damn sure. Maybe she could draw him out of whatever bloody dream world he was in and back into reality.
"They were not!"
She heard a slight laugh on the other end of the phone line. "You always get so defensive about that. Is it because of your mother?" He must have taken her silence as a yes because he continued. "Dana, when are you going to stop thinking about that woman? She was-"
"My mother, " Dana cut in, "was a slave driver, Marius. Do you know what I would come home to every day? ‘Dana, where have you been?’ ‘Dana, you only got an A minus on your report card, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you appreciate all your father and I do?’ Nothing I did was good enough for that woman, and I don’t like talking about her, so I would really appreciate you not bringing her into this. Okay?"
There was a long pause.
"Dana, I love you. You know that, right?"
Dana sighed. When had he become so dramatic? "Of course I know," she said tersely. "And I love you, too."
"No, you don’t."
Dana blinked, startled that he would say something like that. "What?" She heard a deep, hissing breath on the other line. He always did that when he was working up his nerve to do something.
"You don’t know me, Dana. The real me. Not even half."
"What do you mean?" Dana asked, too shocked to say anything else.
"Do you remember that spot I used to take you to?" A chill ran up Dana’s spine and spread out into her arms and legs; the hair on the back of her neck rose.
"Yes," she said softly.
"Can you meet me there. Tonight?" The blood drained from her face. She literally felt her face go pale.
"I know it’s a long drive and that it’s late already, but it would mean a lot to me."
"But- I- I- I’ve got a biology exam tomorrow," Dana stammered.
"You could get your doctorate tomorrow with what I’ll show you, Dana." he said, obviously anxious for her answer.
"I- I’ll come."
There was a loud sigh in her ear. "Thank you, Dana. I’ll be waiting for you when you get there, okay?"
Dana bit her lip, "Okay," she said shakily. "I’ll see you in a few hours." There was another long pause.
"I will never hurt you."
Dana blinked a couple of times. "What?" But the only sound that came from the phone was the dial tone. He’d hung up.
She stared down at the phone receiver, then blankly turned it off. Why did he want to go there? Anywhere else would have been better. Anywhere! Her head was spinning; she didn’t want to go. It was too far, and he didn’t know what had happened the last time. It was late, and he had no right to just call her up and demand that she take a four-hour trip. It was rude, it was mean, it was…
It was for him.
Groaning, she glanced at her watch. She searched around the cluttered room for a couple of minutes. When had she become so messy? And why couldn’t she find her key-
Her hand brushed up against the pocket of her blue jeans. Oh, there they were. Dana grabbed a random coat out of her little closet, and then hurriedly put on the first pair of shoes she saw. She opened the door, turned off the lights, and stepped out, barely remembering to lock the door behind her.
Flicking her turn signal, Dana slid into the lane of traffic on the right. The slowest lane. She was in no hurry to go back to that place. How could he do this to her? Make her go back there? Didn’t he know?
Dana shook her head. No, of course he didn’t know: she’d never told him. He would say she was crazy, a raving lunatic if she had told him what had happened. Hell, even she though she was crazy.
Dana suddenly realized that her she was clutching the steering wheel so hard her fingers were beginning to numb. She took a deep breath, and counted to ten. She couldn’t afford to panic; strange things happened when she panicked. Bad things.
But even as she felt her muscles relax some, memories flooded her mind. No! She wouldn’t live that all over again, couldn’t. "One times one is one," she began, "one times two is two, one times three is three…"
It wasn’t any good, though, even trying as hard as she could to focus on the multiplication tables, the memories of a night over two years past flashed before her minds eye as though she were there now, instead of safe in her sedan…
She was sitting in a beautiful little niche in the woods. It was quite some ways to the nearest town or city. With the autumn colors in full flame, the woods were stunning. Everywhere she looked: red, orange, yellow. It was beautiful, but it was lonely. She could almost feel the crushing weight of the loneliness.
Almost, if not for the fact that he was there. Sitting right next to her, his firm, muscular shoulder touching her own. She looked over to him, and his eyes met hers, and she couldn’t help but notice how odd they were. There was light in them, when they were looking at her: joy, happiness, even love. But there was something else. Something that seemed much too close to fear. But that was just silly. As long as she’d know him, Marius had never been afraid of anything. Ever.
But there was still that fear in his eyes… He frowned at her, as if trying to make a decision about something. His mouth opened and closed a couple of times, and his eyes didn’t really see her. They stared through her, sort of.
"What’s wrong?" Dana asked. Marius blinked, as though surprised that she was there. But then all the doubt was gone from his face, hidden by smiles and by the gentleness of his voice.
"I’m just thinking how lucky I am to have someone like you." He reached up and brushed a strand of her lifeless hair out of her eyes. "Someone who’s not afraid to be who she is, no matter what." He gave her a small, sad smile. "I wish I was as strong as you are."
Dana laughed a little, but he only gave her that same tired smile. "What are you talking about? You’ve got abs to make the governor of California jealous!"
"That’s not what I-" He stopped and sighed. "Forget it, lets just enjoy the view, okay?" he asked, not a trace of irritation in his voice.
Dana layed down on her back, staring at the sky. These woods stretched on for miles and miles. Acres of red and yellow leaves… Dana couldn’t help but wonder how it would look from the air. It must be quite a sight.
"It is," Marius breathed beside her. Dana frowned for a moment, she must have been thinking aloud.
Some time later, she noticed how regular Marius’s breathing had become. She smiled to herself. He’d fallen asleep. And why not? The food was eaten, there wasn’t anyone around for miles, and even if there was, Marius was there with her. She glanced around the small clearing one last time. Everything was so serene, so peaceful…
Her eyes flew open. Everything was dark! She’d gone blind! She rolled from her side to her back and nearly wept with relief when she saw tiny little pinprick stars shining overhead.
How long had she slept? It couldn’t have been more than six o’clock when she had settled down next to Mari-
He was gone! Dana frantically searched the spot where he had been lying with her hands. It was cold. She bit her lip; he’d been gone for a while, then. But he’d come back. He had to, didn’t he? Dana rose to her knees and searched her pockets. She still had the keys, so where could he be? Maybe he was-
A sharp snap caught her attention. Tears of fear stung in her eyes. She could hear breathing, but there wasn’t enough light to see more than a dozen or so feet by.
"Marius?" she called. No answer, just another cracking noise, then another. "Marius, this isn’t funny! Stop it!"
No answer but an increase in the frequency of the footsteps. Is that what they were? Yes, Dana realized. They could only be footsteps. And they were too heavy to be Marius’s. She suppressed a scream. There was someone in the woods with her, someone who was not Marius!
She could hear breathing, but she couldn’t see where it was coming from. It seemed to be all around her. The trees! The trees were throwing the sound. Suddenly, the cracking footsteps stopped. Slowly, Dana turned around.
There was a man standing in the little clearing. She couldn’t see much more than a deeper shadow against the woods, but she knew it wasn’t Marius. Quickly, she glanced toward the car. It wasn’t more than twenty feet away. A rustle brought her back to the man. He was now noticeably closer. If she could get to the car, she could lock the doors, and then simply drive away. But could she get to the car? The man was so close…
Dana’s mind raced to think of anything that might be useful. Did she have any mace? No. Hadn’t she taken that self-defense course? Yes. Had she learned anything? No.
She ran. She ran like she had never run before, sprinting up to the car, fumbling with the key. She hurriedly picked out the key in the dim light, and shoved it into the lock.
Something hit her on the side of the head, and stars exploded in her eyes. A thin, wiry, hand grabbed her shoulder and spun her around wrapping itself around her throat; another grabbed the neck of her shirt, and with a sharp pull, tore it to shreds. She started to scream, but one of his hands came up and covered her mouth.
She bit down on a finger, as hard as she could. The attacker sucked in a breath, and the hand fell from her lips. She drove her elbow into his sternum, and began to wriggle as hard as she could, trying to escape the hold he had on her. Her eyes caught a slight glitter, and something cold pressed itself against her throat.
"I wouldn’t do that again if I were you," a thin, raspy voice warned, hot on her neck. He shifted the knife to the hand that was wrapped around her neck. With the other hand he began to feel his way down her chest. After several seconds of him playing with her breasts, the hand crept downward, over her stomach, finally settling on the clasp of her khaki shorts.
He began to play with the button, trying to get it to undo itself with one hand. The hot, rank breath on her neck began to speed up, coming faster in his anticipation. The knife slid a fraction of an inch away from her throat, then bit more. Should she try and get away? No, he would kill her, slit her throat without a moments pause. The knife slid a little more distant from her. S
She’d rather be dead, then—then—
Dana brought her foot upwards as hard as she could, driving her heel into the man’s groin. He gasped, and his arm dropped from her neck. She began to run, as fast as she could. She was going to make it--
Dana found herself on the ground, a heavy weight on top of her. She beat at it with her fists, but the man only grabbed her wrists and pinned them against her bare chest. The man leered down at her, a sadistic grin paining his face. That tongue licked his lips, as if in anticipation.
With a rush of air, a huge black shadow blocked out the stars. The man glanced up and screamed. Then, as quickly as it came, the shadow was gone, and so was the man. Dana laid there for what seemed like hour, breathing shallowly and shivering—no, she was trembling. She felt the clasp of her shorts. Still intact. She was okay! She was okay! The man was gone…
Dana sat upright. What had that thing been? That huge black shadow… She scanned from side to side, but she couldn’t see anything in this darkness. A soft rip caught her ear. What was that? What was going on? Another ripping noise, followed by a loud grunting and something else… Almost imperceptible—a slow, steady hissing sound, almost like- She gasped, realizing what the noise was.
Something breathing. Dana scrambled backwards. She didn’t stop until her shoulders thumped solidly against the metal side of her car. Solidly, and loudly.
Another loud grunt from the darkness…this one sounding almost surprised. Loud sniffing noises, and then a slight rustle. Dana tried not to breathe, tried not to move. Whatever it was, maybe it wouldn’t find her. Suddenly, from out of the darkness, a loud hissing breath reached her, followed by silence. It must have seen her, Dana realized.
Abruptly, a massive rush of air made Dana shield her face, covering her eyes from the dust and leaves caught up in the blast. Three more came, but none were as powerful as the first, and they eventually faded into nothing more than a loud noise, which too faded into the air.
Dana uncovered her face. Was it gone? She listened now, and only silence greeted her ears. Not even the crickets were chirping. It was almost an hour before she managed to work up the nerve to open her car door and drive away.
As the memory faded, the hiss of air from the car’s vents was unnerving, far too much like thin, rasping breathing. She couldn’t help but glance to the passenger seat, just to make sure it was empty. Even though there wasn’t anybody in the car with her, she couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. Without warning, something cold pressed itself against her neck, and Dana barely bit back a scream.
Terror welled up in her, and she fought to suppress it. No! Her hands shook on the wheel as she pulled the car over to the side of the highway. She reflexively slammed on the brakes as another mass of fear slammed into her.
She couldn’t let it happen again, not ever again! Not like the theater! Taking quick, shallow breaths, she wrestled with the fear, forcing it down. Something brushed against her shirt, and tears filled her eyes as another wave of terror broke over her, bringing with it twinges of pain.
Dana’s eyes widened. No! Not again! She forced her breathing to become deeper, more regular. Clamping her shaking hands on the steering wheel, she battled the fear, and slowly—very slowly—it began to subside.
Some time later, Dana wiped a tear from her cheek, and then rubbed her throat. She hadn’t been cut, but she could still feel the knife against her throat as, as if it was still pressed there. She shivered in fear, quickly suppressed it. She couldn’t let the fear win…couldn’t let it take hold. Bad things happen whenever she thought to hard about that night. Most of the time she could forget, but it always came back, eventually.
She shook her head. What was she doing? She’d sworn that she was never—never—going to visit that place again. Not in a million years would she be dragged back there.
Yet she was. And less than two years later. Even after almost being raped and killed, she was going back! Maybe shewas crazy. Regardless, she’d never told anyone. If she had, She’d have been thrown in the funny farm faster than she could say "schizophrenia."
Not even Marius knew. He’d asked why she had left, and she’d asked where he’d gone. To take care of personal business, he had said. Because she was cold, she’d said. She never even mentioned that she’d almost been killed while he was out in the woods emptying his bladder.
The subject never came up, but he’d never asked her to go back either. Until now. A green sign floated in the darkness outside the car: WHITE FIELD Rd. ¾ MILE. Her exit.
She scowled. Marius, this had better be good.
|A Christmas Tale|
|Heart's Song, Chapter 3||Heart's Song, Chapter 4|
|Dragon's Awakening, Chapter 5, Chapter 6|