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A Clear Night Before the Storm




A Clear Night Before the Storm This night had been a long time coming. It had been coming since a particular October picnic. Cindy knew it, Marcell knew it, but neither of them had really talked about it. Part of it was awkwardness, Cindy was much, much younger than him, after all, and neither of them were very charismatic. Part of it too, Cindy realized, was fear. Sure, she had made out with a few football players under the bleachers back when she’d been part of the in crowd, but she’d been too young to ever progress beyond that. She had no experience, no knowledge to fall back on. She would be entirely reliant on Marcell to help her through it. She’d be vulnerable, and being vulnerable was terrifying. It certainly wasn’t smart, especially with Marcell’s… tendencies. But ever since October, without a conscious decision being made, Cindy came to the conclusion that she was going to have sex with Marcell. It wasn’t a want at first, more of an inevitability, a realization that it was only a matter of time before she would want it. And as inevitabilities are wont to do, it began to come true. At first, the two of them mostly just talked, during the hour she was his TA, after school. They barely even touched, partially due to necessity, but partially because neither of them really knew how to start. Occasionally they would kiss goodbye when Cindy had to leave for home, soft, fleeting things that ended far too quickly. Until one day it didn’t. Until the day that Cindy’s gut suddenly screamed at her to not pull away and she listened. There was just a moment, less than a moment of hesitation as they both realized what was happening, before both gave into it. The first thirty seconds or so felt strange, as they struggled to find a rhythm, to figure out just how their bodies worked together. But then it began to fall into place as soon as Cindy stopped thinking so hard about it. Quite out of her control, she was moving, and she didn’t bother to stop it. Cindy pressed herself into him, and found her fingers entangled within his dark hair, quite without the knowledge of how they’d gotten there. Marcell seemed to chuckle at this, and the sound became her world for a moment as his thumb caressed her cheek. Them Cindy’s ears pricked up as she heard the sound of footsteps coming down the hall and they abruptly pulled apart. Too soon. It felt unfinished. After that they moved such happenings into the supply closet. One thing Cindy had never thought she’d memorize were the contents of a supply closet. And yet, here she was. She often found herself staring at one particular textbook on the far shelf with the number 518 written on it in the former history teacher’s geometric hand. The image would be etched in her mind for hours afterwards, dancing behind her eyelids as she tried to fall asleep. After a while she found it impossible to glance at those textbooks at all without blushing. The day was drawing ever nearer, she knew. She could feel the change in herself, in him, the tension that crackled between them all the times that all they could do was glance at each other knowingly. And one night, in the dark of her room after she’d pit out the light she knew: she wanted him. After that there were moments where it nearly hurt to be in the same room as him. Not all the time, of course. When her mind was distracted by other things like making copies or bantering with him about this or that she was fine. But there was always that one moment when she first saw his face that her heart nearly leapt to her throat. It seemed so silly, so childish almost, to be taken aback by his face, but it happened every time he glanced up from his papers to greet her at the beginning of seventh period. Marcell was never going to be on the cover of a magazine, but there was something there that made him absolutely beautiful. And it was then, one afternoon, in that supply closet, her body against his, his hand under her shirt, that the words tumbled out without a conscious desire for them to do so: “I want you.” “Yeah?” he asked, looking down at her with a strange sort of hunger in his eyes. “Yeah.” He kissed her again, but this one wasn’t tender. It was rough, raw, a beginning, not a goal. He reached for her sweater, began to pull it upwards, but then stopped. “Wait,” he said, “have you ever done this before?” Cindy paused, unsure of how she should respond. He was inevitably so much more experienced than she was. Would he even still want her if she told the truth. But that thought was silly. She knew that she was never going to lie to him. “…No,” she finally admitted. “A supply closet is a terrible place to lose your virginity,” he commented. Oh, was that all? Cindy’s cheeks flushed with relief. “Probably,” she said. A small grin crossed his face. “Tell you what, if we’re going to do this, let’s make something of it. Come to my house, stay the night.” The thought briefly flashed through her mind how dangerous that could be. “You wouldn’t just be playing an extremely long game by seducing me, inviting me to your house and then draining me dry, would you?” she asked, only half-joking. “Yes, because clearly virgin blood is best after simmering in sexual tension for months,” he smirked and rolled his eyes. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, however, she’d known she was safe with Marcell. He meant her no harm, and she trusted him. For once she could thank that daemon bastard for taking the question out of it. “Alright,” she nodded. “How does Thursday sound. We get Friday off this week, don’t we?” “For some made-up holiday that no one celebrates, yeah. I’ll tell my mom I’m sleeping over at a friend’s.” They kissed once more, softly this time, a promise. Cindy fixed his mussed hair, and adjusted her sweater as Marcell wiped a bit of smudged mascara from under her eye. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, leaving the supply closet and grabbing her things from the classroom. He’d wait a minute, just in case someone happened to be watching. The rest of the week was one of the longest of her life. It’s one saving grace was the care she had to take to prepare. There was no way her mother was going to let her spend the night alone at her history teacher’s house, regardless of what excuse she gave her. Cindy was going to have to go about this in a different way. She didn’t have many friends she could call upon anymore. Most of her former friends had refused to speak to her after sophomore year. It’d have to be Jenny. They’d been friends back when they were young, but had drifted apart once they started hanging with different crowds. But they had always remained friendly, and had started talking again Junior year. Cindy was going to be smart about this, no loose ends. She leaned over to Jenny the next morning during comm-tech, explained to her that she was seeing an older man, and would she please say that Cindy was sleeping over at her house if anyone asked. “So, you want me to cover for you while you go canoodle some old weirdo?” she glanced at Cindy over her long, lank hair. “That’s not how I’d put it, but yeah.” “Hmm, alright.” “Wait, really?” Jenny nodded. “On one condition.” “What is it?” Blinking slowly, Jenny smiled a little. “I’m almost out of marshmallows.”

“I’ll buy you some marshmallows,” Cindy laughed. “Get the jumbo ones. The little ones don’t work right.” Cindy didn’t want to know what that meant. But once the marshmallow sidequest was completed, there wasn’t much else to do except wait. And waiting was torture. Deep down, of course she knew that everything would work itself out in the end, but she couldn’t help the trillion little worries that kept endlessly looping through her head. What if he had a small dick? What if it was so big that it couldn’t even fit? What if she was the worst he’d ever had? What if she was so awkward that he’d change his mind and nothing would happen at all? But there were those moment where she could imagine it going perfectly, wonderfully, and these thoughts were enough to chase the nasty questions away for a little while. But either way, she was half-convinced that the suspense would literally kill her. It didn’t, though by the time Thursday rolled around she had no idea what to even do with herself. It was a miracle that she managed to get through breakfast without her mother noticing. Though knowing her mother, she probably did and just didn’t say anything. Class was even worse. Time slowed to a standstill almost to the point that Cindy wondered if the clocks had stopped working altogether. Just when she thought she’d be stuck in an endless hell of droning teachers and pointless study sheets forever, the bell that signaled the start of seventh period rang, and Cindy abruptly found herself outside of Marcell’s classroom, with no memory of having walked there. But she couldn’t stand out here forever. As she turned to step into the classroom she silently berated herself for being so nervous. She literally saw him every day, this wasn’t anything new. But it wasn’t every day that she saw him with full knowledge that in just a few short hours he would have all his clothes off. As she set her backpack down at a desk, Marcell looked up casually from a paper he was grading. “Good afternoon, Cindy,” he nodded from under the reading glasses which she knew for a fact he only used to make himself look older. She hated the forced formality, but in this public institution it was a necessary precaution. There were so many things she was bursting to say, but she held her tongue. There’d be plenty of time later. The tension positively crackled through the air as they waited for the seconds to tick by. Even as she was nearly vibrating with impatience, Cindy still couldn’t believe how idiotic some of these sophomores were. On the test she was now grading some douchewad had claimed that Snoop Doggy Dog was the 15th president of the United States. At least the teeth-clenchingly cringy test provided a small amount of much-needed distraction. At least it was overcast today. Cindy didn’t know if she could bear having to wait past five for the sun to go down. It was hard enough waiting for three, looking up at the clock after what seemed like an eternity to realize that only four minutes had passed. Finally, echoing through the near-empty classroom, the heavenly sound of the final bell. After about thirty seconds, Marcell stood. Cindy noticed with a hint of excitement that he already had his bag packed in anticipation. He plopped on his wide-brimmed hat, and as he passed her he leaned down. “I’ll pull my car up front.” He gave her a little wink before leaving the room. She waited until she couldn’t stand to wait anymore, then followed him out of the classroom, turning off the light and closing the door behind her. Even though no one was really looking, Cindy could have sworn that all eyes were on her as she pushed through the front doors of the school. She huddled in her coat and fuzzy scarf as she looked around for a moment, trying to figure out which car on the street in front was his. But it was only a moment before her eyes fell upon the old Ford Falcon puttering a short distance away, with a familiar face behind the wheel. Cindy hurried over, trying not to look too creepily excited. The old passenger door creaked in the cold, but she wrenched it open and slid onto the leather seat. As soon as she slammed the door behind her, Marcell took off. It wasn’t until they were off school property that he let out the breath that he’d been holding. “I think that was more torturous than that prison in Versailles,” he chuckled. “You were in a prison in Versailles?” Cindy raised an eyebrow. “Love, I’ve been in prisons everywhere. Nearly got hanged for witchcraft twice.” Cindy shook her head. “There’s so much I don’t know about you.” “There’s a lot to know,” he shrugged, watching the cracked road as they bumped down sixth street. “I doubt I’ll ever know everything, will I?” He glanced over to her for just a split second, his burgundy eyes bright against the gloom of the car. “Probably not.” Staring at the dash, Cindy thought about that for a moment. “I guess that’s something I’ll have to live with, then.” There was silence in the car, but she could hear him breathe out. A second later, however, his eyes widened. “Oh, damn it all.” “What?” Cindy asked, concerned. “I just remembered I don’t have any actual food in the house.” “Oh, is that all?” Cindy smiled. “We could just get a pizza.” “Is that alright?” he asked, looking a little sheepish. “Just pizza?” “I’d be happy eating raw chicken liver if it was with you,” she immediately cringed from the cheesy words that had just emerged unbidden from her mouth. But he didn’t take them badly, as she feared. He just chuckled and shook his head. “Now that’s dedication. I wouldn’t wish raw chicken liver on my worst enemy. I’m a lucky man.” “That’s right,” Cindy grinned. “You better count your lucky stars you found me.” “I never said I hadn’t been.” Twenty minutes later, Cindy’s hand was resting on the warm pizza nestled in between them on the bench seat, and she stared out the window, watching the freezing February rain that had begun to fall. Most of her nervousness had faded. It would come back later, of course, but for now she was feeling calm, maybe even a little… happy. It kind of surprised her, the feeling of warmth that started in her chest and face and flowed out from there to the rest of her body. It wasn’t that fake kind of happiness that she felt when she was playing a good game or got a day off. That felt hollow and forced compared to now. It was more like… the feeling when she used magic. When she next looked up, she realized that they had crossed the invisible barrier into Snob Hill. It was a neighborhood that crisscrossed one of the hills that bordered the suburb. But all the houses here were large and old, and so it had been dubbed the titular nickname by the residents of the valley below. “You live on Snob Hill?” Cindy asked. “Snob Hill?” he laughed out loud. “I had forgotten about that. That is what the plebeians are calling it now, isn’t it?” Cindy opened her mouth, but she had no idea how to respond to that. Seeing her expression, Marcell laughed again. “I’m kidding.” He flicked her forehead playfully. “I’ve owned this house since before the bourgeoisie moved in.” At that moment he pulled off the road into a near vertical driveway, the Ford Falcon straining. Above them was a small, old house, its wood supports clinging onto the hillside for dear life. The paint was faded, but not peeling, the windows sun-bleached but not dusty. “I traveled a lot before I took the teaching job,” Marcell looked up at it fondly. “But this was always a nice place to come back to.” “Then you’ve been in Ede Valley longer than I thought.” “Yes, imagine my surprise when the very Truth I was searching the world for was right here all along.” Cindy thought about that for a second. It certainly was strange how the universe worked. How she had always assumed that there was no happiness here in this town for her, and yet here she was, an entirely different person than who she’s been mere months ago, happy in Ede Valley of all places. She didn’t know how to vocalize that thought though, nor whether it was even the right time to say it. “It’s a nice house,” she said instead. “It is, isn’t it?” He grinned, and grabbed the pizza. He opened the car door, and Cindy made to follow, but he held out his free hand. “Wait, wait, wait.” Even though the rain quickly soaked his hair and shoulders, he went around and opened the car door for her. “Shall we?” She rolled her eyes, but let him. “I know you’re not hip with the new kids, old man, but people don’t really do that anymore.” “You have to at least give me that,” he said as they ran up the moss-covered steps towards the door. “Well, I will admit it’s very flattering, “ she glanced up at him. “But the instant you expect me to make you a sandwich we’re through.” Marcell fumbled for his keys with his free hand. “I don’t eat sandwiches.” “You know what I mean,” she said. “Here, let me take that, or does chivalry forbid it?” Cindy reached for the pizza. “It pains me,” he grimaced, “but yes please.” The lid of the cardboard was slightly melted by the rain, but Marcell had done a decent job of shielding it. The underside warmed her hands as she waited for him to find the right key and jiggle it in the lock. It stuck a little. The door finally opened. It was one of those old doors that had a real weight to it. Marcell turned on the light switch right inside so that the interior wasn’t so gloomy, and gestured her in. “After you.” She stepped over the threshold and into the small entryway. To the left was a mat for shoes, to the right a small closet which Marcell ducked into after taking her coat, and directly ahead was a staircase that led up into the house proper. Up there she couldn’t see much, partially due to the gloom of the day, but also because of the curtains that Marcell had shut out of necessity. After a second, however, he flipped a few more switches and Cindy followed him up the stairs. “This doesn’t really look like a vampire’s lair,” she commented, glancing around at the decidedly modern fixtures. “What did you expect?” he asked, leaning on the kitchen island, where Cindy set the pizza. “I don’t know, black and red color scheme, gothic lighting fixture. I mean, come on, there isn’t even a single coffin anywhere in sight.” “I am so glad that phase is over,” Marcell rolled his eyes. “Phase?” “It’s all because of the romantics,” he shook his head. “There was a… period of time around the Victorian era where some of my kin got the idea into their heads that the only way to get close to the death they’d lost was the sleep in coffins.” Cindy glanced over to him. “That sounds… really overdramatic.” “Yes. Yes it was.” The problem with events like this, Cindy realized, is that they were both too awkward to figure out when the appropriate time had arrived to start anything. Cindy figured that it started with kissing and then just kinda… escalated from there, but she had never thought too hard about when exactly the kissing happened because there had always been the much more pressing issue of when the kissing couldn’t happen.

And now, here they were, with a whole house to themselves, no fear of discovery. It was somewhat thrilling, but also a little terrifying. They talked about this and that as they ate their pizza; Marcell’s annoying students, the new spell Cindy was working on to trick the bank website into transferring money to her account that she didn’t have, the usual affair. “So wait, you can… eat pizza?” she asked him at one point. “I mean, I can,” he said, taking a bite. “Unfortunately, more normal food just sort of tastes like… dust.” But after a time, most of the pizza was gone, and Cindy knew that it was only a matter of time now. Yet she also knew that Marcell was sometimes too gentlemanly for his own good. This was going to be up to her, wasn’t it? “Look,” she said finally. “I… don’t really… do any of that coy bullshit, so I’ve got no other way to say it, but at some point something’s gotta happen and I really wanna do this like, right now.” She could see something change in him, a sudden alertness. He smirked, tilting his head. “Yeah?” “So how do we, uh, start?” He slipped around the counter, his movements nearly predatory. It probably should have scared her, but it didn’t. Quite the contrary. She suddenly felt herself drawn to him like a magnet. “Well, usually it starts like this.” Then his arms were around her and he kissed her, hard. Her whole body tensed as she leaned into it, the sheer magnetism pulling her off her chair. Marcell led her back into the bedroom, a simple, yet cozy room that she didn’t pay too much attention to. Cindy sat back hard on the bed, sure that her legs weren’t going to support her for much longer anyway. Off went the sweater, and then her bra, thrown with impunity into the corner. She felt cold for a split second as Marcell’s eyes swept over her, nearly hungry. But then he was guiding her down to the bed, his shirt unbuttoned, then off as well, and he was over her, kissing her neck. His hand trailed across her breasts and down her stomach, before questing under her jeans. She fumbled with the button for a moment, too distracted by the feel of his lips to handle anything too dexterous. But in a second they were gone too, and here she was, the most naked she’d been in front of another person since the age of three. There was something terrifying about it, the vulnerability, the cold. But it was Lucius next to her, and she was sure that whatever happened, she would be okay. “Now, I’ve learned from experience,” he said in a low, calm voice, “that most virgins aren’t really… big enough down there the first time. I’m going to help out a little so hopefully it won’t hurt as much.” “Okay,” she barely managed to hiss the word out as his fingers continued down between her legs. Focus on him. His voice, his lips, she instructed herself. Not on how scared you feel. Not on how inherently strange this all is. It did hurt a little, but he went slow, paused when she inhaled a sharp breath. After a minute, it was better, and as he went just a tiny bit further a small moan escaped her lips. It was so strange she had to pause. She had never heard anyone make a sound like that, not even in the movies. But there was only one person here to hear her, so what did it matter? “Alright,” he said then. “I’ll get a condom.” “Wait, you’re technically dead, aren’t you?” she asked out of sheer curiosity. He shrugged. “Technically. But you never know what thousand year old disease might be lurking down there. I’ll be right back,” he kissed her softly. And then he was across the room. It wasn’t a very big room, but for some reason the gap suddenly felt enormous. Cindy lay back on the bed, breathing heavily, her heart racing. Everything felt eerily clear, her nerves tingling at the slightest movement. She didn’t quite know what to make of it. All she could do was lay there and try not to panic. But before she had time to figure out exactly how to react, Marcell was back, and she realized two things in quick succession. 1) He was big, which led directly to 2) This was going to be painful. Maybe he noticed the look on her face, because as he grabbed her legs and leaned down over her he said: “I’m going to go slow, okay?” She gulped, and nodded. “Okay.” It did hurt. A lot, and Cindy bit her tongue to keep from crying out. Then, after a moment, she felt something give, and she did cry out as she felt him inside her, but not from pain. But a second later, Marcell straightened and froze. “What’s wrong?” she asked, nearly panicking. “It’s… nothing,” he sounded oddly strained. “It’s just… blood.” Oh. Oh. She realized then just how dangerous this could be. “Oh, no, should I—”

“’S fine,” he shook his head. “I expected this. It’s… not very much.” He leaned down again, staring into her eyes. His irises were brighter than usual. Red. “I was… going to try to be gentle. I don’t think I can promise that now.” He was breathing heavily. Cindy put a hand to his cheek, and met his gaze. “I don’t want you to be.” It was pain. Pain and noise and heat. And red. Cindy’s whole body felt red. But underneath all that was something good. And she knew that soon the pain would go away and all that would remain was that intriguing feeling. Maybe it wouldn’t be this time, or the next. But soon. Afterwards they lay together on the bed, Cindy’s head resting on his chest. For a little while, they just breathed, took in he feeling of their bodies together. Cindy ached, everywhere, throbbed, but again it felt… good. Like she had finally scratched a powerful itch that she’d been trying to ignore for years but had never gone away. “God, that was…” she began finally. “Yeah?” She shook her head. “I can’t even describe it.” He laughed, and she felt the vibration against her ear. It made her smile. “Many people have tried,” he said. “Just… wow.” “And that’s about as accurate as it gets.” They kissed a little more, and lay together, but Cindy suddenly felt so utterly exhausted that she couldn’t do much of anything. That heightened sensation had left her, replaced by a warm feeling of numbness in her limbs. That felt good too. “Should we go watch a movie?” Marcell asked finally, and Cindy nodded. A minute later they were back in his cozy living room, Cindy cuddled by a fuzzy robe. Marcell put his arm behind her and she leaned into him. And in that moment, everything seemed absolutely fine. But then Marcell flicked on the TV. It turned onto a news station, and he was just about to change the channel when they both saw the headline, and froze. “St. Adelaide’s taken over by unstable students.” “Word has finally reached us as to the goings-on at St. Adelaide’s School for Gifted Youth via the texts of several students to their friends and parents,” the newswoman looked grave. “Quote: ‘She outed the Director and locked the gate. She said she’ll let us leave Friday morning,’ End quote. The ‘she’ referred to is allegedly Jilli Nakajima, former Japanese pop idol who…” Cindy didn’t hear the rest of it. She was nearly frozen in panic. But then, something clicked in her head. She couldn’t give into it. First step, grab her phone. “What are you doing?” Marcell asked, as Cindy frantically reached for her phone. “I’ve gotta call Tommy,” she said. “That school…” Marcell shook his head slowly. “Isn’t that where your brother…?” “Yes.” Cindy held the phone to her ear. After a second of ringing, there was a small click. “This is the Smiling Goat.” Thank god, it was Tommy and not the other one. “Tommy!” Cindy tried—and failed—to keep her voice calm. “Turn on the news.” “Why?” “It’s Mike. He’s in trouble. And he’s gonna need all the help he can get.”

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