As it happened, Conrad was terrible at dealing with his nerves. Anything that unnerved him was a no-go and tended to be abandoned. Whether that be an ominous phone call from that redheaded moron Hanna that always screamed trouble or a sudden onset of a raging thirst that he knew couldn't be quenched by just any liquid. Both were dealt with in the same way. Shoved to the furthest reaches of his subconscious where they could cause him no harm and would leave him with the peace he so desperately wanted.
So, upon receiving an odd text one evening just after he'd woken up, Conrad felt he should've done all that was possible to put the strange, and definitely unexpected, pixelated words at the outskirts of his mind. At first glance, the upbeat and playful tone of the message labelled it as being one of Hanna's crazy delusions of grandeur. However, the vampire knew this couldn't be true as his iPhone had already forcibly had Hanna's number stored on it. This number came up as 'unknown'. Which definitely
unnerved Conrad. Still, intrigue tugged at his last few remaining strings of humanity. The text was simple:Wanna go on an adventure? x
He most certainly did not
want to go on any sort of adventure that involved... a winking smiley emoticon? Though, the words did
continue to play across his vision long after he'd set his phone screen side down, darting behind closed eyes. Which, inevitably, would've given him a headache had he still been... well, human. He was irrevocably snagged between the borders of two worlds. The one that was his nature, allowing him to hide and ignore the message and its unknown sender whose motive could spell nothing but trouble for him, and then the other world, the one where a more spontaneous and somewhat suppressed and barely even acknowledged side to him was begging him to reply and find out more.
By this time, Conrad had already sat upright in his bed, sheets pooling around the pallid points of his hips. The iPhone was sitting mutely somewhere behind him atop the bed sheets he'd only changed the night before, though there really was no need to do so anymore. Despite the fact that heavy, thick curtains now accommodated his bedroom window and most of the ones in his apartment, Conrad's internal body clock forewarned him that he still had another hour's worth of sleep in him. It was only with the slight vibration of his phone against the spotless glass of his bedside table that had aroused him from a dreamless daytime sleep. He was still getting used to being a creature of the night. No. That inapt description only made him shiver in abhorrence.
Hands slumped ungracefully in his lap and his eyes drooping with weariness, Conrad leaned back, resting on his hands. His digits splayed out over the cool plastic back of his iPhone. Upon looking back at it, Conrad paused. What would be the harm in finding out who the sender was? It wasn't like he needed to comply with them. Just a quick text wouldn't hurt, right?Sorry, I don't have your number in my phone?
He let his thumb drift across the screen to the 'send' button and tapped it quickly without hesitation. He was afraid that, if he let himself think about it, he'd back out and scrap the text. A frown worked its way onto his forehead to crease several lines there after a moment. He had never been the most patient of people and waiting was one game he hated
to play. Yet Conrad realised that the phone was already buzzing away animatedly in his hand as he thought about how insufferable waiting was. Surprising himself, he found that opening the message with an automatic scrape of the screen and eager eyes wasn't quick enough for him.It's Toni! Forgot you didn't have my number. So, how about it? x
With a lopsided smile slight on his dazed lips, Conrad replied.Where shall I meet you?
He'd sent it before it even hit that he'd just deliriously agreed to the senseless and somewhat vague notion of escapade with a woman he found... well, too desirable for his own liking. He didn't enjoy the squishy sensation he so often felt rummaging around in his stomach when he was around her. Or, for lack of a better word, the attraction. It was oh, he was buzzing again.Downstairs, I'm already here. x
At this, he yelped and practically tumbled out of bed to meet a pair of trousers face-to-face that he hadn't remembered discarding that morning. Conrad groaned and hauled himself up to dress in fresh clothes. Once dressed, though not nearly as neatly as he normally would've exhibited, especially since it was Toni who he was meeting, and why he felt he had to put so much effort in, he had no idea because, really
, she was just some girl he knew and god
, was she really downstairs already
? Between fetching his keys and his coat, he'd managed to type back a reasonable response to her sudden looming presence all contained within a few words on his iPhone. Which he hurriedly stashed in his pocket after pressing 'send'.Coming now.
As he raced down the many flights of stairs in his building, Conrad's mind was already racing through a variety of ideas as to just what it was Toni defined to be 'an adventure'. Was it the kind of event that got them in trouble, perhaps mauled or even killed? If Toni found that
sort of thing enthralling, Conrad would suggest she hung out with Hanna more. Though the mere thought of that alone sent an odd feeling skimming down his back. Twice in fact. All these random and unconnected thoughts came to a halt, along with him, when he hit the ground floor and pulled open the door to the outside.
There she was, back facing him. She turned upon hearing the door open and, when a flash of recognition darted across her features at the glasses, snaggle-tooth and sweater vest, Toni's face split into a wide smile saved, he envisaged, just for him.
"Hey, tiger." Tiger? "Let's get going, 'kay?"
"B-But where are we going?" The stutter was instigated by her cool hand flitting to his and the fact that she now had him in tow as she marched off along the darkened street. For a brief moment, her tawny eyes glanced back at him. It only worsened his tense countenance, even if only for the fewest of seconds before her eyes were set in a straight stare once more.
"I told you. On an adventure."
After only minutes had passed, Conrad decided something; the less he knew about the whole thing, the better. He didn't want to ask any questions to which he knew
he wouldn't like the answers to.
The walk couldn't have lasted more than ten minutes, in which Toni kept quiet whilst dragging him along to some unknown place. Conrad noted that there was a certain gleam in her eye tonight, though for some reason, he felt the unnecessary need to match her silence rather than make small talk, despite their familiarity. Which he was not good at at all.
She seemed happy to see Conrad was keeping his head about him instead of freaking out as she no doubt would've expected from him, so, at any rate, Conrad was just glad to see her smile.
A similar joy was found in the building they stopped outside. Though she was the only one who felt this fleeting elation at the sight of the decrepit place. Conrad was pretty sure she would've been able to see the surprise splattered so eloquently all over his pale features had she been paying him any attention.
"Come on, let's find a way in." Again, his hand was in hers as if she'd ever let go while Conrad's head was knocked awry by the mere fact that Toni considered this... place
an adventure, something to be explored and that aroused interest.
He held the deep silence he had so successfully managed to maintain throughout their journey for a while longer. Toni, completely absorbed in the mission of finding a way into the boarded up building, searched without looking back at him. It was only when she found no unbarred entrance did she turn and take notice of his wide eyes. And since she seemed to find him so marvellously naïve to her plan, she caught his eye.
"We're going to go inside and have a look around. Apparently, this place was a psychiatrist's office a few years ago..." Her words trailed away as her eyes averted back to the tall brick building that resembled apartments more than offices.
"Can you imagine what might've gone on in there? All the people who could've been going mad?" That last remark, in particular the last word, stung a little and made his insides curl up. But he pressed his lips into a thin line so as not to let any words escape. Being a werewolf probably made her all the more versatile, because within just seconds, a little door down the alleyway to their left was in her sightline and she was yanking him along towards it.
"I think it's open!" She whispered, jamming her arm between the two long planks of wood running vertically down the length of the door. They were quite far apart, with just enough room between them to fit a slim person through, making Conrad very aware of what she was going to say next and that it would be detrimental to every aspect of him.
"Squeeze through there and open the door." Her hands were already running across his shoulder blades as she ushered him over to it. It briefly crossed his mind to protest; what use could possibly come from entering such a, by her own decree, run-down place? However, since his stick-thin body was already wedged between the two planks and his ribcage was knocking against them persistently, he decided to just do as she said. So his hand groped blindly in the dark recess of the doorway for a handle, or anything that could represent such a thing. The more imaginative side of his brain, which had also been nurtured by the world Hanna, and now he, so irrevocably inhabited, produced tendril-like arms before his eyes that reached out of the black for him. Moments saw him frozen in terror.
But he suddenly recalled learning, during all his years studying art, that black was not a colour as much as it was the absorption of all colour. And, coasting along that logic, his vision may have been impaired, but the darkness only shrouded the unknown that could be stimulated by his other four senses that were so incredibly sharp now due to his... circumstances, as it were. Even if it was an illusion thought up to protect him from what might lie in wait, it made him feel less alone in the dark. Forcing the fear back, he stretched out once more. His fingers hooked on something cold and metal, and he hastened to keep his grasp on it before turning it and letting the door swing creak
Without another word, they were both shimmying inside, the shadows embracing them with a chill that made her shiver. It was a reception. Overturned chairs coated with dust lined one wall, two, while a bare desk sat abandoned, tucked into another corner without so much as the obligatory rubber foliage that he so clearly remembered hating to accompany its desolate existence. The air was thick with... something. It irritated Conrad that even the smell was familiar to him, even after all these years and he couldn't stand to be in the room much longer. Only Toni kept his sanity and he focused his eyes solely on the streak of blue lightning running through her hair, standing with a certain rigidity in the middle of the room.
"I've always wanted to come in here." She mused, her back to him as she peered down the hallway that he knew lead to the doctor's office.
"Why did you choose tonight to finally make that leap?" Conrad maintained a steady voice somehow.
"I had someone to come with me." She shrugged and turned to him with a bright look, "Let's go into the office. We might find one of those leather sofa thingies that psychiatrists use "
"He didn't have one." Someone seemed to have cursed his tongue to suddenly flap about without his permission, as he was quickly staring hard at his white shoes in annoyance. Now she paid attention to him and to him alone.
"How do you know that Conrad?" He hated when she spoke his name like that. He hated when she said his name at all. It sent involuntary shudders through him that he would've preferred to have kept hidden in the deepest depths of himself. He gave himself away by not answering. "Conrad?" Then there she was, stood in front of him, fingers on his chin as she tilted his head up to look at her and her breath skimming teasingly and evocatively along his jaw.
"I..." He wasn't dumbstruck by her behaviour, but simply by the way that she was looking at him so caringly and worriedly, "I used to come here when I was a child." He whispered, as if any slight sound would jerk back the memories of this office that he was trying so hard to ignore and shove away into the light of day, another forbidden and now frightening thing to him. Combining the two felt easier to manage.
Combining Toni's touch with positive thoughts provided a deep comfort for him. And her arms sliding so carefully around his waist was just the icing on the cake. So, despite their surroundings, he didn't feel totally alone whilst in a place where he'd spent some of the worst days of his life feeling that way. Curling down into her, Conrad's nose buried itself in her hair and he felt some sort of something stirring in his chest. He was hesitant about the something. Just a little. For the most part, the something made his lips slide up into a small smile and he was pretty sure that she was smiling too.