An Excerpt from: Surfacing

Copyright © 2009 Isabelle Santiago

All rights reserved, Freya's Bower.

He tried to tell me his secret, all that time ago. I know because there would be these long silences between us. He was thinking. Deciding. One night, while sitting under the stars, he seemed particularly distracted.

“Everything ok?”

He sighed. It wasn’t a good sign. I reached my hand to his shoulder, let it rest there, offering whatever comfort I could. He stiffened under my touch, a touch he’d explicitly forbidden.

“Paige,” he said, his voice too stressed, too thick. “What’s happening between us…it can’t. We can’t.”

“You’ve said that.” I took my hand away. It hurt too much to hear him say it again.

“It doesn’t make it any less true.”

“Why? Why can’t we?”

“Because…,” he sighed again, running a shaking hand through his hair, “we’re just too different.”

“I don’t believe that,” I said, too naïve to understand.

“Whether you believe it or not, it’s the way it has to be.”

“I know that you feel something for me,” I pushed, wanting him to break that secretive exterior he guarded so tightly. “I may be young, Xen, but I’m not stupid. I know when a man wants more than he lets on. I can tell by the way you look at me.”

“But I shouldn’t,” he strained, his voice a mere whisper. “We’ve gone beyond the allowed perimeters of interaction. I’ve already crossed boundaries that could get me expelled.”

“Expelled?”

“Paige, please,” he begged, “please accept that we can’t be anything else. I can’t handle anything else.”

I looked over the cliff at the city below the mountain range where we sat. I couldn’t bear to look at him, too afraid of the emotions that would show in the ageless silver depths of his eyes. “Where did you think this might lead?”

“Not here,” he admitted, “not with us like this. I didn’t think. I allowed myself to cross one line after another all in the name of….” He paused. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be simple, precise.”

“Nothing about love is simple,” I said, acknowledging that the bourgeoning feeling between us had grown from friendship into something much more potent.

“Love?” He brushed hair from my face with his fingertips. His jaw tightened. He drew his attention away from my questioning eyes over the city. Something about him seemed reckless that night, on the precipice of change. “I’m here for my studies,” he said, reassuring himself. “Research, nothing more.”

“I’ve figured that much out.” I crossed my arms over my chest to protect my aching heart. “What are you studying anyway? You always carry that little notebook around.”

“It isn’t important.”

“It is to me. If it’s the reason we can’t be together I want to know.” I took his hand pressed in the dirt and entwined my fingers with his. That familiar sting of electricity buzzed between us. “Tell me.”

His next word changed my life completely.

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