You lay on your back, staring up at the ceiling where you’d stuck a bunch of tacky old glow in the dark stars. They sparkled an ugly green color, but it was the closest thing you’d get to the real ones back in mystic falls. You were still in your clothes from the day, some blue jeans and a knit sweater, and your hair was a tousled mess. Multiple notebooks and textbooks lay scattered around your body, and you groaned and rubbed at your eyes before promptly sitting up with an exaggerated sigh. It was one in the morning, and exam week, which meant little to no sleep for you, and late nights sipping on old cups of coffee. You grabbed at your mug and took a swig of the cold drink, letting out a sigh of agitation and throwing a highlighter across the room with a short scream of frustration, but before it could hit the wall, a hand snapped from around the wall and plucked it from the air.
“Kai?!” you breathed in surprise, “is it really you, or am I so tired I’m seeing things?”
“It’s me,” he chuckled, wooshing over to your side in a second and causing you to drop your mug in surprise.
“I’m delirious, don’t scare me like that!” you laughed. Then you relaxed with a little smile, “you’re really here.”
“I really am.”
Kai bent down beside your bed, his bright blue eyes narrowing as he scanned you over. His eyes flickered across your paled skin, dark circles, and chapped lips, and your makeup less and exhausted self had never felt more self conscious.
As if reading your mind, he stated, “you look-”
“I know,” you grumbled, “atrocious.”
“Actually I was gonna say beautiful,” his lips twitched.
It was dumb how something so simple could make your heart do flips in your chest.
“I don’t know, it just makes you look a little…” he paused, searching for the right word, “rougher.” Then he gave you his cute little wink, “it’s hot.”
“Kai!” you squealed shoving him playfully, to which he smiled wide and climbed up onto your bed.
He wore a dark black coat and tattered grey jeans, his dark boots dangling off the bed. He smelled faintly of the forest from back home, and a little like rain, too.
“Come here,” he scooped you up into his arms, wrapping you into one of his bear hugs. You burrowed into his front and nuzzled your face into the crook of his neck, breathing in his aroma, your body instantly relaxing under his touch.
“So, tell me what’s been keeping you up, sweetheart?”
“Says the one who hardly sleeps,” you scoffed into him.
“Well why would I when I could be keeping you up all night and until morning, princess?” he smirked, his eyes flashing.
“Kai,” you blushed furiously and tried to claw your way out of his arms, but he just held you tighter and chuckled, his chest rumbling beneath you.
“Kidding,” he laughed. “Well, unless-”
“I’m a bit busy,” you cut him off with a chuckle, shifting your body so you could blink up at his big blue eyes.
He hummed and trailed his fingertips gently through your hair, “why’s that?”
“My finals are this week, so all I’ve done is study, and I’m beyond stressed, you grumbled, lip jutting out.
“Aw, I’m sure you’ll do amazing,” he cooed gently.
“Easier said than done,” you sighed.
“Come on,” he tilted his head like a puppy, “I know you. You always overthink, and you always over stress everything.”
“That is so not true,” you said unconvincingly.
“Mhm, sure,” he smiled, dimples alighting his cheeks. “And I also know that you always try your best, so you will succeed. And hey, if you don’t, you’ll know you did what you could, and that I’m proud of you either way, okay?”
You sighed, brushing your nose against his jaw with a sigh, “okay.”
“So, maybe you should get some sleep for once, you need it,” he reassured, scooping you up and gently rubbing his fingers rhythmically into your shoulders.
“Mmm, but that feels good,” you rolled your head to Kai’s shoulders as he massaged you.
“Okay, fine,” he said, “but first tell me about those horrific things on the ceiling.”
“The stars?” you laughed.
“Sure,” he said, digging his knuckles into your spine as you spoke. It hurt, but in a good way.
“I put them up there after I moved into the dorm. I don’t know, I guess it’s just a reminder of how bright the stars would shine back home, how we’d lie under them and tell stories,” you sighed.
“Yeah,” he responded, moving his hands to your lower back, “I miss that.”
You turned, Kai releasing him as you pushed him gently back onto the bed, so you both lay looking at the faded ceiling.
“What’s this?” he laughed.
“We’re stargazing, just like the old days.”
“Oh,” he beamed, “of course!”
“Look,” you said, pointing at one of the half broken and uglier of the stars, “that one looks like you!”
“Oh shut it,” he snorted, nudging your side.
You laughed and rolled to your side, and Kai was already there, doing the same. His eyes shone through the dark, brown hair slightly ruffled, and that smile he wore melted your heart.
“You remember what else we used to do under the stars?” he whispered.
“Nah,” you obviously lied, “I might need a reminder.“
Kai’s full lips twitched as his hand cupped your face, body rolling into yours like a puzzle piece as his mouth found your own. You curled your knees into him, Kai’s arm scooping you into his front and closing the gap between your bodies as you kissed each other, foreheads touching, noses squishing against each other as you lost yourself in his taste. And so you lay, tangled together on the old mattress, in the tiny dorm room, beneath the crappy stars, and it felt enough like home.
Kai sighed and pulled away from you, “shall I let you sleep then?”
“Wait,” you tugged his collar before he could move, “stay? Just a little while?”
“Okay,” he smiled as you turned around, your back to his front as his arms went slinking around you and you cuddled into each other. “Just a little while.”
And so you pictured the mattress beneath you being fresh green grass, the ceiling a canvas of diamonds, and the fan a cool night’s breeze, and you drifted away just like that.
. . .
When you woke up, he was gone, and not a trace of him was left, almost as if he’d never been there in the first place. You yawned and rubbed at your eyes, heart sinking because you already missed him. Your alarm blared beside you, and you knew it was time. But as you threw on a jacket and sneakers, hands scooping up your textbooks, your eyes fell on something. A cup of coffee sat beside your bed, and it was still steaming hot, and a part of you wondered if Kai had enchanted it to stay hot for you. He’d scribbled a note on the cup in his messy handwriting.
“Go get em.’ I love you. Also I figured you could use some hot coffee for once.”
You chuckled, heart lifting as you put the cup to your lips and took a slow sip, it tasted really good. As the warm liquid hit your throat, your eyes caught another message written on the other side of the cup. You took a swig as you read the message;
“Also, you’ll need the pick me up and lots of sleep, cause’ I promise you, you won’t be sleeping much when you get home.”
He’d scribbled a winky text face and a bracket heart by his words, and you almost spat your coffee everywhere in surprise.
“Love you too, Kai,” you laughed into the empty room.
Our October 2017 issue is coming up fast and for the first time, we’re revisiting a theme! Spooky was one of our favorites last year, so we’re trying it out again, this time as Spooky: Revisited. Send us art that’s spooky, scary, horrific, terrifying, haunted, eerie, ghostly, or mysterious. (Extra credit for submissions that also address “revisited” as a theme.)
Is that what you want to do? You wanna sit here and label me just another case of some crazy ass combat vet who lost his mind, huh? Maybe that’ll appeal to some shit-bag jury in some shit-bag court. It wasn’t on a battlefield … That’s not where my life went to shit.