Even though, at times it might seem debatable, I am a girl. Thus, I am prone to rehash confusing, unexpected, surreal situations regarding the opposite sex over and over again.
Charlie didn’t come back that night, but that didn’t surprise me. I needed time to think, and I’m sure- well, now that I think about it, he’s a guy, so maybe he didn’t- Charlie did, too. Maybe, I told myself, as I lay awake in bed sometime after midnight, maybe completely overthinking this situation is the wrong way to go about it. Going over and over that glorious, unanticipated kiss in my mind was only making me more confused. Guys kiss girls all the time, and it doesn’t necessarily hold any hidden meaning. I should know; even guys who profess their love to you tend to have no qualms about kissing other women.
Around 3am, the brilliant solution to my dilemma hit me. It was Descartes, or some other dead, “important” philosopher that I’d had to study in my mother-mandated muggle studies class, who’d said, “I think, therefore I am.” What rubbish. Anyway, it wasn’t until an extremely sleep-deprived, recently kissed Ileana Ramsey came along that the neo-philosophy of “if you don’t think about it, it never happened,” was born. Not thinking about it was the perfect solution; however, I hit a small snag around 4am, when I realized that by concentrating on not thinking about The Kiss, I’d subconsciously made it the only thing that I could think about.
My usual method of clearing my head had been explicitly banned by Charlie, the guy who’d hated me forever: the guy who, one day, out of the blue, had kissed me. Why did he kiss me? Why did he stop? Why- damn.
Anyway, back to my original train of thought: I couldn’t get up and walk around to clear my head, which only succeeded in frustrating me more. That had been my fallback method, rain or shine, whether I was running through the streets of Cape Town, or snowshoeing in the mountains in Switzerland, being outside was usually the only thing that could calm me down.
I punched my pillow several times irritably, trying to find a comfortable position. Ironbelly wounds heal best when the victim lies flat on their back. Due to a spinal injury (broken back), which I’d sustained when I was fifteen after a failed attempt at tree climbing in the middle of an ice storm, sleeping flat on my back was challenging. It sucked, actually. I was already uncomfortable enough without factoring in the dull throbbing of both my back and my brain.
It was a little after 5am by the time I finally drifted into a light, troubled sleep, waking several hours later at the sound of loud voices passing my tent.
“Morning, Ramsey!” Andrew stuck his head into the tent, temporarily blinding me with bright, early morning sun.
“Hey,” I yawned groggily, wiping the sleep from my eyes.
“Feeling better this morn?” He asked, walking through the door and sitting down on the chair next to my bed.
“Yeah, a little,” I stretched, wincing at the twinge in my leg. “What’s on the schedule today that I get to miss out on?”
“Good question.” He grinned ruefully, looking in his pocket for that week’s schedule. “Er, let’s see, it’s Thursday, so we have border patrol at the Rehab Center later this afternoon. We were at the Protection Center all last night- nothing good happened, though.” He added hastily.
I smiled at him, grateful that, even if something absolutely brilliant had taken place last night, he could at least protect my pride and lie about it.
“Since I was up all night, I was going to go sit by the lake and relax. You want to come?” He asked, standing up and proffering his hand.
“I’m not supposed to walk, remember?” I said sarcastically.
“That was yesterday, this is today, why no’ give it a go?” He cajoled, giving me an impish, dimpled grin.
“What about Charlie, though?” I asked, hesitating. “Won’t he be pissed?”
“No’ if he doesnae find out.” He replied, winking.
“Why the hell not?” I asked, slowly swinging my legs over the side of the bed. I took his hand and, right before my legs could fall out from under me, he put his arm around my wait, holding my weight. With his help, I tentatively made my first few steps in days.
“Wow, it feels great to be outside again.” I remarked, taking note of the beautiful Romanian summer morning. Birds were weaving complex melodies that floated through the green leaves of the old, gnarled trees, leaving glorious traces of magic on everything the song touched.
“Yeah, I figured if you were anything like me, ye’d absolutely hate to be cooped up inside.” Andrew said, helping me get situated on top of a blanket he’d placed at the bank of the lake. He sat down next to me, and we let the cool, gentle swells of the tide wash over our feet.
“Thank you so much for this.” I sighed in bliss, letting my head fall back, my long hair, straying from its braid as always, reaching down to sweep the rocky embankment. I’d been told on several occasions that I look like a gypsy, with flyaway, curly hair, and huge amber eyes rimmed by dark lashes. As a native Romanian, I’ve tried not to take offense to this, and ignore the connotation of the term “gypsy”, even though, as I’ve grown, I’ve envied their lifestyles on several occasions, apart from the thievery and complete disregard for the law. I’ve always wanted to be free from engagements, to have the time to roam the countryside and live.
“So, tell me about yourself.” Andrew said, taking a bright red apple from his jacket pocket, polishing it on his shirt, and biting into it. “All I know is that you love Dragons, hate being discriminated against, and have the capability to frustrate Charlie more than anything I’ve ever seen.”
I laughed, not really sure if I wanted to go into my life story, or at least the part of it I was comfortable telling. I looked at Andrew’s honest profile and took a leap of faith. It was time I started letting people in.
“Well, I also hate paperwork.” I said, grinning. Andrew looked down at me and burst out laughing.
“What?” He said incredulously. “I had absolutely no idea! I thought you were just calling Charlie all those names yesterday for no reason. At last, the truth is out. Ileana Ramsey, dragon tamer extraordinaire, hates to be cooped indoors doing paperwork. Who knew?”
I nudged him with my shoulder. “Hey, I try to keep my hatred of writing a secret.” I couldn’t even finish the thought before I erupted in giggles.
“But, seriously,” He said, still guffawing, “What brings you to Romania?”
“A broken engagement.” I said, stilling.
“Really?” He asked, “What happened?”
“He was a cheating scumbag.” I said, shrugging my shoulder. “The wedding was three months off, when I discovered that he’d shagged about four other girls during the length of our engagement. Classy, huh?”
“What kind of an idiot would do that to you,” He mused.
“I know, right?” I joked, keeping the tone light, carefree. “So I packed my things and moved back home.”
“What the hell are you playing at, Ross?” Andrew and I both turned to see Charlie standing at the top of the hill, bellowing, looking supremely irritated, even from the distance.
“I promise, Charlie’s a great guy.” He said in an undertone, as we both started laughing quietly. “Very even-tempered, never lets anything get him riled up.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it.” I said, giggling.
“I swear, until you got here-“
“Comforting to know that I piss him off.” I was wondering why Andrew was telling me this. Did I really look like a girl who was absolutely mind-boggled when it came to a certain redhead named Charlie Weasley? Because I was, I was just hoping that I was better at hiding it.
“I don’t think it’s you,” Andrew said, “By the way he’s cursing my name, I’d say that I might be the offender this time.”
“Yeah, that might be a bit of a dead giveaway.” I said, accepting his hand and letting him pull me to my feet. “Just act innocent.”
Charlie, striding toward us from the top of the hill, finally reached us. He didn’t look happy.
“What are you doing?” He asked pointedly.
“What?” Andrew said innocently, tightening his hold on my waist as my legs threatened to give way.
“Why is she out of her tent, walking, with you?” He reiterated slowly, trying to control his anger.
“Oh, that.” Andrew said, running his free hand through his shaggy hair. “Well, you see, I thought Ramsey could benefit from some fresh air, and she agreed to come with me.”
“Is that all?” He asked, glaring at Andrew, who, thankfully, was completely unaffected.
“Look, Charlie,” He started. “She’s fine. Also, she can make her own decisions. If she says that she’s okay to go outside, then she’s okay to go outside.”
Charlie brushed him off, strode to my other side, and put his arm around me, and slowly started walking me back to camp.
“Oh, yeah,” Andrew muttered in my ear before Charlie half-dragged me out of earshot, “I forgot to mention that he’s a bit protective.”
I bit back an enraged laugh. “Just a bit?”
I turned toward Charlie, “Weasley,” I hissed, “Where the hell d’you think we’re going? Take me back! Andrew and I were having a laugh.”
In response, he swung me up over his shoulder, carrying me like a bloody friggin’ sack of potatoes. “No walking, remember?” He ground out, though I thought I detected a grin in his voice, which only served to enrage me further.
“Charlie, put me down!” I pounded on his back with my fists. “You barbarian! You can’t just pick people up because they don’t agree with you!”
He only tightened his hold. I stopped screaming and lifted my head to see Andrew, standing on the bank of the lake, laughing his head off.
“Is this about yesterday?” I asked him as we neared my tent. “Because as far I’m concerned, that never happened.”
He stopped, put me down, and looked at me. Without arms around me, I stumbled. He picked me up right before I hit the ground, holding my shoulders roughly, supporting me just enough that I didn’t fall, but making me struggle to stay upright.
“Why?” He asked, as the muscle in his strong jaw twitched. “Because you didn’t want it to happen? Because you didn’t like it?” Damn, I was cornered, and he knew it. We both knew the answer to those questions, and as much as I was loath to admit them, they were completely different than they would have been six months ago.
“Because you confuse me!” I burst out finally. “One day you’re telling me that you think I should just leave and go home, and the next, you’re saving my life and kissing me. Jesus, Charlie, what the hell is a girl supposed to do? You make absolutely no sense!”
He looked at me, utterly bewildered for several moments. “Christ, you’re a mess.” He said finally. “I kissed you because I wanted to. Simple. We can figure the rest out later, once you get better… Unless,”
“No,” I said, backing away quickly, not ready to go down that road. I needed to figure out what I wanted first. “No, later is fine by me. Perfect, in fact.”
He was looking down at me with such an expression of male arrogance, the look of a man who knows exactly what he wants, and is confident in his ability to procure it. Unfortunately, I was the target.
“Could you take me back to the tent, now?” I said quietly, looking at the ground.
He let out a low laugh, grabbed me around the waist, quite tightly, so I was basically flush against him, and walked me into the tent, depositing me down on the bed.
“Thanks.” I whispered, surveying the wooden floor.
“No more walking adventures, got it?” He said, tilting my chin up to look him in the eye. Mutely, I nodded my head.
He gave one last chuckle and strode out of the door, leaving me wondering what in the name of Merlin I was going to do.
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