Seth was setting the table when he heard the doorbell ring. Vida was early. He hurriedly placed the wine glasses by each plate while Nova answered the door. He took a few deep breaths to calm his nerves. Everything had to go perfectly tonight. It just had to.
"Hi Vida," he said as Nova led her into the living room. "You look lovely, as always."
"Why, thank you, Seth," she said cheerfully, giving him an inviting hug. "It smells delicious in here. I hope you didn't go to too much trouble."
"Oh, no trouble at all," he replied.
Nova leaned over and whispered in Vida's ear, "actually, we had it catered from the restaurant down the hall."
"What are you two whispering about?" he asked curiously.
"I was just commenting on Vida's dress. It's really gorgeous, especially with the scarf."
"I got it on a shopping excursion with Jade. She has great taste when it comes to fashion."
"She certainly does," Seth agreed. "Now, would you like something to drink? I can make you a Blue Venus, Vida. I know it's your favorite."
"That would be wonderful. You're a sweetheart, Seth."
"He sure is," Nova said, kissing him lovingly. "Make that two Blue Venus', will you, honey?"
"Sure, I'll be right back."
"Well, you both seem really happy," Vida commented when Seth was gone.
"Oh, we are. I can't believe it's been only a little over a month since we started seeing each other."
"Me neither," she said as the doorbell rang.
"That must be Jade," Nova said, getting up to answer the door.
Vida stayed seated in the living room, listening to Jade's light-hearted voice as Nova greeted her. Had it really been a month since that day when she had walked in on Seth and Nova? It seemed like yesterday. That would mean that Tristan had been in his coma for about a month now, too. She'd been going to see him every day since it happened, and though his wounds were healing, he showed no signs of ever awaking from his coma. She was glad that Seth had invited her for supper; it would take her mind off things.
"Hey, Vida," Jade said, "shove a butt so we can sit down."
Vida moved over to make space for Jade and Griffin on the couch. She was a little surprised to see Griffin. Jade hadn't mentioned anything to her about bringing him. Just then, Seth came in with the drinks and greeted Jade and her guest. He looked as surprised as Vida. Obviously, Jade hadn't told Seth about Griffin either.
"Um, Jade, can I talk to you for a second in the kitchen?"
The two siblings excused themselves and retreated into the kitchen to talk in private.
"Okay, I know what you're going to say, but after you invited me I realized that I had already planned a date with Griffin tonight, so I brought him along. Is that a problem?"
"A problem? Well, sort of. I wasn't planning on any extra people."
"It looks like you have plenty of food. All you have to do is set an extra place."
"Jade, that's not really the point. I...this is-" he stuttered. "Tonight was supposed to be a family thing."
"You never said anything about that to me! I never knew that this dinner was such a big deal," she argued. "And technically, Nova and Vida aren't family."
"No, but Vida's like family and Nova..."
"Nova's your girlfriend, and if you're allowed to bring your girlfriend, why the hell can't I bring my boyfriend?"
"Because Nova's more than my girlfriend, she's..."
"She's what? What is she, Seth? Why should she be more important than Griffin?"
"She's my fiancée!" he shouted. "For crying out loud, Jade, I wanted this night to be special. I was going to tell you all properly tonight at dinner, but you had to go and bring your damn boyfriend along. So now you know. This isn't the way I'd planned on telling you, but the least you can do is let me announce it officially and try and act surprised when I do, okay?"
Jade stood silently, looking down at her shoes and absorbing what Seth had just told her. "Seth, I'm really sorry," she said at last. "I didn't mean to ruin this for you. I made such a mess of things."
"It's okay," he muttered, seeing that she was upset.
"I want you to know that I think it's really great news."
"I think so, too," said a voice out of nowhere.
Seth looked up to see Vida, Nova and Griffin watching them. Vida stepped forward and held Seth in a warm embrace. Seth looked over Vida's shoulder at his new fiancée who smiled lovingly at him.
"You were all listening?" he asked with surprise and a hint of disappointment.
"It was kind of hard not to," Vida said, still exhilarated at the news.
Seth turned to Nova and took hold of her hand. "I'm sorry, this didn't go as I had planned it."
"That doesn't matter," she told him, stroking his cheek soothingly. "All that matters is that we're getting married. I don't care how people find out."
They hugged and soon Vida and Jade joined in, unable to contain their happiness. Griffin stood awkwardly in the corner and watched the four friends with their arms around each other. He suddenly felt very out of place and wished he could have been part of this affectionate circle of friends. Seth saw him standing alone and reached out to him, beckoning Griffin to join them. They all smiled at him as he rushed over to them and added his arms to the group hug.
"Man, you guys are the greatest!" he exclaimed so graciously that everyone couldn't help but laugh.
The evening had gone well and Vida was exhausted when she left, but she forced herself to pay a visit to Tristan before going home to bed. She still hoped that he would awaken from his comatose state, though her hope grew less and less as the days went by. Since she had discovered the truth about Tristan, she no longer felt alone. There was someone else who had possibly dealt with the same struggles that she faced every day and who would understand the dreams that haunted her.
Since Tristan's coma, Vida had been helping out in the infirmary. Dr. Winters had shown her how to draw blood, inject medication, repair a broken bone and much more. She found, to her amazement, that she had a certain knack for medicine. The technical part was easy; all of the medical equipment practically worked itself. It was the interaction with the many patients that took time and effort.
"Hi Vida," the doctor greeted her when she entered the infirmary.
"Hi Allyson," she replied. "Busy day?"
Allyson sighed, "Isn't it always?"
"So how's Tristan today?"
"Quiet, as usual. Go on in and see him."
He lay in his bed, unmoving, without even the slightest twitch of a hand or roll of an eye. She sat beside him and whispered soft words to him, hoping to call him from his sleep as a siren calls to the lonely seaman. She told him of her day and of the announcement of Seth and Nova's engagement. She discussed her ideas for the wedding and what dress she would wear. The thought had occurred to her that her words fell on deaf ears, but it didn't bother her. In fact, she enjoyed expressing her thoughts aloud without worrying about criticism in return. She liked it much better when Tristan couldn't respond with an obnoxious comment, though as much as she hated to admit it, she missed him sometimes. She saw more to him than the arrogant, unscrupulous thief he appeared to be. There was depth to his eyes; thoughtfulness and sensitivity were hidden below the icy blue surface.
The wine from dinner in combination with the Blue Venus she had consumed earlier was making her daring. She fondled his hair playfully with her fingers and then lowered them onto his face, feeling the contours of his surprisingly supple skin. A heavy beard had grown and concealed his handsome features. The beard was rough, but when her fingers reached his lips, they pleasured in their softness. A thought came to her mind of what it might be like to kiss those soft lips. She pondered this thought a moment longer instead of dismissing it as she normally would have. If she kissed him now, no one would know. What harm would it do? She took a cautious look behind her to make sure that no eyes were on her. The infirmary was quiet and most of the patients were sleeping soundly. She bent over him, her heart racing with anticipation and longing. She closed her eyes, ready to press her lips to his when she felt a hand touch her back lightly. Startled to death, she drew back sharply and nearly fell off the bed. She turned around to see no one was there. Then she looked at Tristan whose eyes were wide open and staring at her. Even though he didn't smile, she could see the glint of amusement in his eyes.
"Tristan, you're awake!" she gasped.
Dr. Winters rushed in at the sound of Vida's shocked voice. She saw Tristan's alert eyes and joined in Vida's excitement, giving her a hug and laughing happily. She had grown close to this young woman over the last month.
"How are you, Tristan?" Allyson asked, checking his vital signs with her med-scanner. "Vida found you in the morgue and brought you here. Do you remember how you got there?"
He looked at her with bewilderment and opened his mouth to speak. He had trouble getting any sound to emerge from his sore and unused throat.
"Who's Vida?" he finally croaked.
Vida's heart sunk at his words and she retreated from the cubicle, not wanting to believe what she'd heard. She sat in the empty waiting room with blank numbness. She stared at the white wall facing her, feeling as though everything was swirling around her. What a fool she had been to ever hope that anything good could have come of this. She had put her life on hold for this man so that he could wake up without any memory of her. He would never be able to answer all of her burning questions. Now those questions would keep on burning until she was nothing more than ashes.
A few minutes later, Allyson entered the waiting room and sat down beside her. She took Vida's hand and squeezed it. Vida kept staring at the wall, not wanting to talk to anyone right now.
"Amnesia is common in coma patients. I did warn you that this might happen."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
"No, but you need to understand that it's likely he'll regain his memory in time." She paused. "But there's still a possibility that he won't. We'll just have to hope for the best."
"That's what I've been doing for the last month, and I'm sick of it," she said as she stormed out of the room.
It was dark and lonely in her suite that night. She didn't even bother to turn on the lights as she entered, wanting only to hide in the darkness. Light and dark made no difference to her; they were one and the same. She tore off her clothes and left them strewn across the floor, then looked out her bedroom window at the stars. She suppressed the urge to make a wish. She'd had enough of wishes, enough of dreams. It was time for her to sleep without dreams and face reality.
A unicorn galloped out of the shadows, bringing a trail of light along with him. Majestic trees, spring grass and a gently trickling stream emerged from nothingness. Vida stood in a patch of dandelions and marveled at the grace of the creature before her. She stroked his velvety coat and silken mane and the unicorn whinnied with pleasure. He bowed before her and she graciously mounted his back, clinging tightly to his neck as he ran across the field of flowers. They approached the woods and entered into its murky depths. The light was obstructed by the trees, and branches disrupted their path, but they ventured onward. The forest grew more dense as they continued further in and she could sense the unicorn's agitation as well as her own.
Suddenly, they jolted to a stop and Vida saw a pair of yellow eyes watching her. A wolf lurked out from behind the trees and the unicorn backed up nervously. The wolf lept up and embedded his ferocious teeth in the unicorn's pure, white neck. Blood gushed from the wound and the unicorn rushed to meet the ground, pulling Vida along with him. She looked into his frightened eyes and watched them slowly close in death. She turned towards the wolf, feeling angry and helpless. The wolf's pelt fell away and was replaced with dead white skin and black hair. The eyes remained the same cold yellow. Looking down at her hands covered with the unicorn's blood, she cried out in despair. Her skin, too, was white, and she saw that black hair now brushed against her cheek. The Andromedan held out his hand and she took it, solemnly accepting her defeat and her destiny.
A shiver of fear shot through her as she jolted out of bed. Another nightmare. Her heart was pounding, ready to leap from her throat, yet she couldn't recall what the dream was about. An eerie feeling still remained and she turned on the lights to chase it away. It was almost morning. She put on some clothes and made her way down to the French bakery. The hallways were forbiddingly quiet with only a few early risers and graveyard shift workers roaming about. A heavy-set man with a bushy mustache was opening the bakery just as she arrived.
"Good morning," Vida greeted him.
"Allo, ma chere," he replied cheerfully. "Up early this morning, aren't we?"
She shrugged. "I just had a craving for one of your fabulous chocolate croissants, that's all."
"Oui, oui," he laughed, "I'll get you one right away. Some coffee with that to wake you up?"
"Yes, please, that would be great."
He promptly took off, and Vida took a seat at her regular table right outside of the bakery. She loved the morning. It was a private, secret moment that few took the time to savour. The baker returned with a fresh, slightly heated croissant and a steaming coffee. She watched attentively as people slowly began to fill the halls. It was amazing to watch the transformation from a few sluggish individuals to a bustling mass of beings. The time passed quickly and soon Jade arrived to meet her.
"You're here already? I thought I was early."
"You are," Vida said, "but I was earlier."
"I see. Have a bad night?"
She shook her head and took another sip of coffee. "I don't want to talk about it. Let's talk about you instead. You and Griffin seem to be getting pretty serious."
"Oh no, don't change the subject. You said you were going to visit Tristan after you left Seth's. How did it go?"
"Why should it be different than any other day that I visit him?"
"You tell me," Jade pried. "You obviously didn't sleep well, so I just assumed that it had something to do with Tristan since you were having a pretty good night before that."
"Tristan woke up."
"What?" she exclaimed. "Well, that's good news! Why aren't you there now?"
Vida couldn't answer.
"What is it? Tell me, Vida."
"He doesn't remember me," she said indifferently, although, underneath, she was anything but indifferent.
"Oh," Jade muttered.
"The doctor says it's normal and that it'll probably pass," she continued optimistically, "so there's really nothing to worry about. Everything's fine. It's not like it should matter to me anyway. I barely knew the guy. I guess I felt an obligation to him because he saved my life, but now things are even between us so I can move on."
"I guess that's one way of looking at it."
"What other way is there to look a it? He saved my life, and I saved his. That's all there is to it. Now he can go on leading his pathetic, deceitful little life and I can forget I ever met him."
"Whatever you say. It's your life, you don't have to convince me of anything."
"I know I don't, I just...nevermind. Let's go now, okay?"
Jade got up from the table and grabbed her gym bag, moving her feet swiftly to keep up with Vida's brisk pace.
After boxing, Jade felt energized, but Vida still looked uptight and edgy. She had put little effort into their practice and barely kept her mind on the match.
"Maybe you should get some rest," Jade suggested with concern as they left the gym.
"I don't need to, I'm fine," she protested unconvincingly.
"Go on, Vida, go to bed. You look exhausted."
"I don't know," she sighed, "maybe your right. I might feel better after a good sleep."
Jade smiled. "I'm sure you will. I'll see you later, okay?"
"All right, bye," she said as Jade took off down the hallway to her suite.
Vida walked towards her own suite, but as she approached her door, she changed her mind. She went down another hallway until she came to the infirmary. Allyson was busy, as usual, but she noticed Vida's presence immediately.
"Vida," she said cheerfully, "I'm so glad you stopped by. Tristan's been asking about you."
"He must be pretty confused."
"Why don't you go in and see him?"
She shook her head hesitantly. "No, I don't think that would be a good idea. I'd probably confuse him even more."
"Just go in there," she said impatiently.
Vida dawdled towards his cubicle and nervously peeked in, and afraid to let him see her.
"You can come in," he said when he saw her.
"Sorry, I didn't want to disturb you. I can come back another time, yeah, I think that's what I'll do, I'll come back later."
"No, please, come sit down," he pointed to the chair beside his bed.
"Um, okay, but only for a moment."
She sat down and fidgeted uncomfortably.
"So, I wanted to ask you a few things."
"Okay, well, you were the one who found me, right?"
She nodded. "That's right."
"Did you meet me before that?"
"Do you mind if I ask a kind of personal question? And please, don't be offended if I'm wrong about this, but are we, you know, is our relationship intimate in any way?"
Vida blushed and looked away from him, embarrassed and confused by his question. What made him think such a thing? Then she remembered the kiss she had tried to plant on him before he woke up. That must have been why he asked. She heard a muffled laugh from Tristan's direction.
"Oh man," he laughed, "you should have seen your face! I really got you good, you actually believed me."
"Yeah, that's really funny, real mature of you, Tristan" she scolded.
"There you go again, getting all uptight on me. Why can't you appreciate good humour?"
"Tristan, there's a time to laugh and there's a time to be serious."
"And which time is this?"
"I don't know," she laughed, but there were tears in her eyes.
Tristan reached out to touch her face and wiped her tears away with his thumb. She fell into his embrace and he cradled her on his shoulder. He pulled away suddenly.
"Watch it, I'm still a little sore."
"I'm sorry, I'm just happy you're okay."
There was an uncomfortable silence.
Vida nodded soberly.
"And..." he urged.
"I don't know what to say. I've been waiting all this time for you to wake up so I could talk to you about it and now I'm at a loss for words."
"I know how you feel. I wanted so badly to tell you everything from the moment I first saw your eyes. You can't imagine how surprised I was. Are they, I mean, are you what I think you are?"
"I'm a hybrid. And I can imagine how surprised you were because I felt the same way when the doctor told me about you. Is it true? Are you really...like me?"
"I'm the illegitimate son of a rich and very powerful Andromedan. My mother's a servant in his estate. She was his mistress," he said with disgust. "I ran away after my father tried to have me killed. I guess I looked a little too much like him and people were starting to talk."
"You don't look at all like an Andromedan."
"Well thanks, I'll take that as a compliment, but you haven't seen me with my natural hair colour."
Vida smiled and touched his course, black beard that had grown in during his coma and his roots on his head were already betraying his blond disguise.
"Oh, I must look pretty bad."
"Don't worry, we'll clean you up. All you need is a good shave and a haircut and you'll be as good as new."
Allyson walked in to greet them. "Hi, you two," she said. "Feeling better, are we?"
"Much better," he replied, "but I'd be even better if I could get out of here."
"Patience, Tristan, patience. Your body's been through a lot."
"Yes, but I'm healed and I'm ready to go. See?" he opened his shirt to reveal healthy skin where the photon blast had once been. "There's not even a scar."
"Maybe not, but I'd like to keep you here at least one more night for observation. Is that okay with you?"
"Not really, but I guess it'll have to do."
"Now, I'm sorry but I'm going to have to ask you to leave, Vida," she ordered. "My patient needs some rest."
"That's my queue to get out of here," she said softly to him. "I'll come and see you later."
Vida left the cubicle and was on her way out of the infirmary when Allyson rushed up to her.
"Wait, Vida," she said. "I wanted to ask you something. You don't have to answer right away, but I would like you to consider becoming a nurse here."
"What? Are you serious? I'd love to!" she exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Oh, thank you. It's just that I need as much help as I can get and you seem to have an interest in medicine. You've been a big help to me over the last month and it would be a shame to lose you."
"Of course. I'm so happy you asked me. When can I start?"
"You can start now, if you're not busy."
"Great, welcome aboard, Vida."
End of chapter 10. Click here for chapter 11!