Fear The Dawn: Chapter 15

The rest of the weekend was not nearly so exciting, but Aidan was elated nonetheless. He had never dared hope that things would go so well. Thinking back on it, it seemed unbelievable that Nisha had been just some girl on a train to him a few weeks ago. Now, they had been out on a date and things had gone well and he couldn't have been happier. He was actually even looking forward to Monday so he could see her again, so he set out all of his clothes, packed his lunch and got ready for bed early Sunday night to ensure a good night's sleep. However, before he could turn in, the joyous mood in his apartment was interrupted by a phone call.

For a moment his heart leapt at the thought that it might be her, but he quickly remembered that she didn't have his phone number. “Who else could be calling at this time of night?” he wondered.
My man!” the voice on the phone loudly greeted him as soon as he picked it up.
I think you have the wrong number”.
This is no time for jokes”, Dan said, “tell me how it went! I figured you'd have to be back by now.”
Aidan put his palm on his forehead. He wasn't expecting to have to explain it all before he even got back to work. “We went out on Friday night, and it went great.”
Oh come on, you need to tell me more than that. I need details!”
I took her to dinner at Ellie's, then we went to the theatre and saw some cute animated movie, and afterwards I walked her home and we talked a lot on the way.”
Ooh, so you walked her home? Did anything... happen?”
He rolled his eyes, “Come on, Nisha's not that kind of girl”. Or at least he didn't think she was. For a moment, he wondered about whether or not she was serious about that offer, but he quickly put that thought out of his mind. He still needed to get to bed. “Anyway, we had a great time, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to see her again.”
Wow, I never knew you had it in you, man. Congrats.”
Thanks. Can I go to bed now?”
Oh, no problem. I'm sure you're anxious to go to 'bed' after a weekend like that”.
We went out on Friday night, you dork. I'll see you at work tomorrow.” He hung up the phone.
He glanced over at the clock. It was still nice and early. To his mild annoyance, he found Nisha was on his mind now, so for a few minutes he allowed himself to imagine what might have happened if he had gone inside with her when she offered.

The next few days passed by faster than any he had ever known. Nisha was there on the train every night now, and they cuddled and talked on the way home, which made the entire day feel worth it. He was flying through his work, too, most days he was finishing his pile early, and once he even asked his boss for a little more so he could pass the time faster. “I am a changed man”, he thought, “this must have been what was missing from my life, something to look forward to and give it meaning.” Friday came so fast he thought he must have lost count.

He was waking up early and full of energy every day now. No strange dreams had troubled him, though he often dreamt about her. Last night he had dreamt that he was back in university with Dan and Tina, though Nisha had been there too, and they had all been close friends. He sighed wistfully. “If only we had met so soon, we'd probably be married by now.” He ate his breakfast and left for the train station, and he got there early enough to pick up a bagel and a newspaper for the ride into work.

He had learned by now that Nisha took a later train to get into work. He had jokingly suggested that the next time she needed to work late she should just come in early instead, then they could ride both ways together, but she laughed and said she'd never be able to get up that early. Maybe it was for the best, though, seeing her after work gave him something to work towards, but seeing her beforehand would probably just distract him at work. Actually, today he was distracted already, because the weekend was nearly upon him and that meant he'd be able to go out with her again. He could hardly wait for the rest of the day to go by.

His weekend plans were quickly put on hold when he reached his desk that morning, though. His inbox was empty, and there was a note on his desk that read “come see me in my office”. Instantly he was overcome by a sense of complete dread, that he might be getting laid off or demoted to the mail room or something equally terrible. He held his breath and gingerly knocked on the door to his boss's office, which was closed this morning.

Ah, Aidan, come in!”
You wanted to see me, sir?” he asked, fidgeting nervously.
Yes, my boy! I must say, recently your performance has been excellent! Really top notch!”
Aidan breathed a deep sigh of relief. It must have been pretty obvious, because his boss immediately picked up on it.
Oh come now, don't tell me you thought I was calling you in here to fire you?”, he laughed. “What do I always tell you, my boy, work hard and you've got a bright future at Walder Financial!” Aidan repeated the last part with him, he'd heard it dozens of times. “That's right”, he beamed. “No, I called you in here today because I have an interesting assignment for you.”
He pulled out a document. “I found this under my desk last night. It must have fallen out of my inbox.” He handed it to Aidan. “It was one of yours, I believe.”
He looked it over. It was that request for expansion capital for the art supply store that he'd processed a few weeks ago. “You seem like you've been looking for something more to do here, so I thought I'd give you a little exercise. This one's not for too much money, so why don't you look into it and tell me if you think we should go for it or not?”
But sir, I don't know anything about art.”
Well neither do I, my boy, but I can give you the number of some business consultants that we use. They'll be able to point you in the right direction.”
Well, I guess I can try”, he said, not feeling entirely confident.
That's my boy. It's like I always say, work hard and-”
Yes sir, I'll start working hard right away”. Aidan took the page of numbers from his boss and quickly let himself out.
Ah, you see, there's that famous Aidan sense of humour again.”

It turned out that his haste was unnecessary, the first thing he learned about business consultants was that they didn't come into work as early as he did. Instead, he set to work reading over the whole document again, more carefully this time. This art supply business was currently being run out of someone's house, and they were looking to expand to a storefront. That was simple enough. What he wasn't familiar with was the products they sold, his knowledge of art supplies began and ended with pencil crayons and smelly markers. He was finally able to get a hold of someone around 10:00. It took him a while to explain who he was and why he was calling, which whomever he was on the phone with obviously didn't have a lot of patience for, but eventually he managed to explain the basic gist of it. The person on the phone them promptly gave him another number to call, supposedly belonging to someone with experience in the art field who would be able to answer his specific questions, and bade him good day.

Aidan was able to reach the art person fairly quickly. He read off the list of products over the phone, mispronouncing most of them, but the person on the other end seemed to know what he meant.
Those are all speciality products”, the consultant told him. “They're used for very specific types of projects, like painting on glass or clay. Most of them are foreign, too, and fairly expensive.”
Do you think it's something that would work well as a store?” he asked.
Where are they trying to open it?”
He hadn't even thought to check that part. Actually, it was somewhere out near him, across the bay.
Hm, I don't know. In the city, perhaps. Out in the suburbs I doubt you'd get enough clientele to support a business unless you really knew how to advertise yourself.”
Okay, well, thank you for your time.” He hung up the phone.
Advertising, huh?” Aidan visited the art store's web page again. It really wasn't very fancy, but a fair number of people had signed their guestbook. “Maybe there's a market for it.”

It was too close to lunch time now for him to call anyone else, so he decided to head down to eat a bit early. Dan was already there, as usual.
So, big plans for this weekend?” He asked before Aidan had even sat down.
Actually, with all this morning's excitement he had barely thought about it. “Not specific plans, but I'm sure we'll do something together.”
You really like to wing it, huh? I always thought you were more organized than that.”
Something about her makes me feel spontaneous, I guess. Speaking of which, I've been working on a big assignment all morning.”
Dan took a big bite out of his lunch. “Oh yeah? Got an extra big form to fill out or something?”
No, it's something totally different, they want me to evaluate the viability of some business.”
Wow, I thought the clerks never did that.”
I didn't think so either, but apparently I've been doing good work lately and showing initiative lately.”
Damn”, he said, impressed, “this is all because you decided to talk to that girl, isn't it?”
I guess it probably is.”
Well, that's it, you've inspired me”, he said, finishing his food. “I'm going to ask Nicole out. It's time I started taking initiative too.”
So you're really going to do it? This is something I have to see. Let's go now, she should be in the lobby.”
Dan blushed. “I didn't say it would be right away, resolving to do something and actually doing it are two different things. I mean, I'd have to think about what to say...”
Yeah, that's about what I thought.”
Hey, come on, I really will do it, just you watch.”
Aidan finished his sandwich, too. “Well, I don't have nearly that long to wait, I've got to get back to my project. Good luck with your love life.”
He had to admit, it felt good to be on the giving end of the jabs again.

Aidan made a few more calls that afternoon, but he received largely the same advice. It wasn't looking good for the little art store. He looked over their web page again and sighed. “This is someone's dream”, he thought, “I don't really want to be the one to crush it.” He thought of Nisha, and of her aspiration to create her own TV show. “Dream Girl?” he asked, dressed in a judge's robes, “that sounds stupid, no one would watch it. DENIED!” He banged his gavel down and crushed her lifelong ambition. “The world of finance can really be pretty harsh”, he thought to himself, suddenly questioning his career choice a bit.
His daydream was interrupted by a sudden visit from his boss. “Aidan, my boy, how is that analysis coming along?”
Oh, ah, well... it's going good. I've made some calls, and I think I understand it better now.”
Good, good, I'll want you to summarize your thoughts in a report so I can make my decision.”
Aidan looked down at his watch. It was already getting fairly late. “Yes sir, but I don't know if I can finish it by the end of the day, there's still a bit more I want to think about.”
That's all right, lad, they've waited this long to hear back from us, they'll wait another weekend.” He seemed to think that was very funny, he chuckled uproariously and patted his fat stomach. “Oh goodness me, we mustn't keep our clients waiting too long, this is serious work”. He tried to keep a straight face but looked like he might burst out laughing again any moment.
I'll do what I can, sir.” His boss managed to keep his merriment under control. After he had gone, Aidan started typing up his thoughts on the proposal, but by now the offer of his reprieve and the impending arrival of quitting time had shifted his thoughts almost entirely towards Nisha. “Just a little while longer”, he thought to himself, smiling and wondering what they would do for their date this weekend. In the end he didn't really accomplish much at all before quitting time.

He was so excited to get to the train and see her that he'd forgotten all about Dan, and it wasn't until he got to the lobby and saw him talking to Nicole that he suddenly remembered his ambitious plan. “Is he really doing it?” Aidan wondered, and for a second he wanted to eavesdrop, but he really needed to get to the train. It turned out not to be an issue, though, just as he was on his way out the door, Dan said goodbye to her and left the building himself.
So, did you do it?” he asked, expectantly as they walked towards the train station.
What? Today?!” he asked, taken aback. “No, no, it's much too soon for that. It can't just come out of nowhere, I have to talk to her a bit first, work her up to it.”
Uh, you've been talking to her pretty much every day since you started working here.”
That's different”, he said, rolling his eyes. “That was just pleasant conversation. Now I'm dropping little hints that I'm interested, so it won't be a total shock when I ask her out.”
Aidan shook his head. “I don't mean to burst your bubble, but she probably already knows. Women are really perceptive about that kind of thing. I thought I was going to surprise Nisha by asking her out but she saw it coming a mile away.”
That's terrifying.”
Well, it takes the pressure off knowing you don't have to be clever about it. You should just ask her out and see what she says. She's probably already made up her mind.”
That's easy for you to say, you already have a girlfriend.”
Aidan smiled happily at the thought “and I'm going to see her in a few minutes. I'll see you next week.”
Lucky bastard”, he groused, and he turned at the next light to head back to his house.
Aidan did feel very lucky. The last few weeks had been wonderful, and it seemed like things were only going to get better. He reached the train station and boarded his train, and in a few minutes she arrived. His heart sang at the sight of her and he knew all of his hard work this week had been worth it.

Nisha flopped down into the seat beside him. “Oof, I'm glad this week is over”, she said, snuggling up to him.
Tiring day at work?” he asked.
Yeah”, she nodded. “But I was looking forward to seeing you, too.”
He felt his face turning red. He knew by now that she liked him, but it still made him happy to hear her say it. “I've been looking forward to seeing you, too.”
So, are you going to take me somewhere this weekend?”
I was very much hoping to.”
Great,” she replied, “where are we going?”
Oh no”, he smiled slyly at her, “I chose last time, this time I want to know where you'd like to go.”
She seemed a bit surprised by that. “Where I'd like to go?” she repeated, dubiously.
Yeah. I want to get to know you a bit better, so I thought I'd like to see what kinds of things you like.”
She thought about it for a moment. “Well, there is a nice exhibit of contemporary paintings at the art museum, but I think you'd probably be bored.”
Did you want to go see it with someone?”
She obviously really wasn't expecting that question, she became a little fidgety and her voice lost almost all of its volume. “Well... yes... it would be nice to share it with someone... if they liked that kind of thing...” she squeaked, barely audible.
Sure, it sounds like fun.”
She still didn't seem to really believe it. “It's not open too late”, she said, still a bit faintly. “If we're going to go, we should go tomorrow afternoon. But you really don't have to...”
Hey, don't worry about it” he reassured her. “If you're happy, I'm sure I will be too.”
Thanks”, she said, snuggling up to him. “You're sweet”.
It seemed she really was a bit tired after all, because she seemed to be starting to doze off on his shoulder. “There's a little coffee shop outside the museum, we can meet there around 12:00. It's near where I live, I can give you directions later.”
Tired?” he asked.
Yeah. Sorry”, she mumbled, not getting up.
It's okay”, he put his arm around her and held her close as they rode home together. That didn't bother him at all.

After he got home that evening, Aidan made doubly-sure his alarm clock was set properly. Even though 12:00 was fairly late, he didn't want to run any risk of oversleeping. He ate dinner and watched a bit of television, he even came across a new comedy program that he hadn't seen before and he quite enjoyed it. Everything seemed to be looking up these days, or perhaps he was the one who had changed, and he was simply appreciating things more than he used to. Either way, he went to bed excited for the new day, a feeling that had been gone from his life for too long.

It was a good thing he set his alarm, because he slept so soundly that it was only the loud blaring of the radio that brought him back to the waking world. He quickly shut it off and checked the time. It was 10:00am, nothing had gone wrong. He breathed a deep sigh of relief and went to make himself breakfast. This morning he decided just to have cereal, because he figured he'd be eating again at 12:00, and it was lucky he did, because as soon as he put the first spoonful into his mouth the phone started to ring. “Since when do people call me so often?” he thought, bringing his bowl over to the phone.

Aidan!” the voice on the other end of the phone greeted him. He responded politely through a mouthful of cereal.
Are you eating breakfast?” Tina asked. “That's awfully late for you, have you been out drinking again?” She didn't wait for him to reply. “Well, that's not important, I'm in town again today, I wondered if you wanted to hang out?”
He swallowed another mouthful. “Actually, I can't”, he replied, “I'm going out soon, and I'll be gone most of the day.”
That's too bad”, she said, sounding disappointed, “you're not usually busy on the weekends, are you and Dan going somewhere?”
Actually, no, I'm going out on a date today.”
It sounded like she dropped the receiver on her end. “What? Really?”
He swallowed another mouthful of his breakfast. “Yeah, I met this great girl a few weeks ago, and this is our second date today.”
Wow, that's amazing!”, she replied enthusiastically. “Is she nice? Pretty? Smart?”
All of those things and then some. But I can't really gush about her too much, I've got to get ready.”
Okay”, she said, “but you'll have to tell me all about her later. I want to know what kind of girl you've finally decided to get involved with.”
Okay, I'll talk to you later. I'm sorry we couldn't do anything today.”
That's okay, have fun, Aidan.”
He quickly finished up his cereal and set about having a shower and getting dressed up. He'd chosen his nicest clothes for today, he figured for an art museum he needed to be well-dressed. By the time he'd shaved and carefully prepared his hair he really didn't have a lot of time left to get there. He left his apartment and caught the bus at a nearby intersection that would take him in the direction of Nisha's house and the art museum.

He arrived at the coffee shop a few minutes before 12:00, but Nisha was already there, waiting for him.
Hey”, she greeted him, “I'm really glad you came. And wow, you're totally overdressed. You look great, though.”
He laughed. Whether she expected it from him or not, she was dressed up rather fancily too, she was wearing a sleek green dress under a long brown coat. She looked very nice, and he didn't mind telling her so. She appreciated the compliment and he sat down.
Shall we get a bite to eat before we go in?” he asked.
I think so”, she said, “there's a lot to see in there and they don't allow anything inside other than water.”
He ordered a bagel and a coffee. She ordered tea instead.
Are you feeling more well-rested this morning?” he asked.
Yes, thank you, I was just tired after work yesterday. And you really shouldn't ask it like that”, she smiled, “people will get the wrong idea.”
Hey, I could be legitimately concerned about your sleeping habits,” he said, defending himself, “besides, if I am going to take you back to my apartment for naughty stuff I want you to be wide awake.”
She laughed. “I'll remember that. What about you? Has anything more interesting been going on at your work?”
Actually, it has. I've been assigned to do some research. Come to think of it, you might be able to help me. I'm looking into a company that sells art supplies”. He related some of the basic information of the company and its products to her.
Oh!”, she said, “That's Josie's store! I went to school with her!”
A friend of yours?” he asked, surprised.
Well, not really a friend, but she was in some of my classes and I heard she opened a business around here. I've never actually been there, but a few people I know have bought her stuff and they said it's really good.”
Hmm, that's interesting” he said, stroking his chin. “I couldn't get in touch with anyone who actually used those types of products.”
Well, it's hard to get your hands on some of the speciality materials, and dedicated artists will pay a lot. I hope her business does well.”
So do you spend a lot on art things?”
Well, all artists have some expensive pens, markers, brushes, or whatever. They make a great gift for yourself if you're ever feeling down. But anyway, if you want to know more about art, why don't we head into the museum?”
Sure”. He had finished eating, so they left the coffee shop and entered the museum. She wouldn't let him pay for her this time, because she still felt he was doing her a favour, so they each paid for their own ticket to get in. It was a bigger place than he had expected, the exhibit seemed to consist of at least a hundred different pictures, covering every side of every wall and column.

Nisha's eye was quickly drawn to a lush forest painting. A few scattered rays of sunlight broke through the dense canopy of leaves above. There were several other nature scenes nearby, one depicted a grassy cliff overlooking the ocean with thousands of individually painted waves, while another showed the sun setting behind a simple wooden farmhouse. She spent a long time looking at each one.
Nature is your favourite subject?”, he asked, though it was clear enough.
Oh yes, there's just so much natural beauty in the world. Sorry, I should be talking more, but these pictures are just so captivating”.
That's all right, I know you really want to see these.”
I wish I had this kind of skill. These pictures are just as good as being there. Whenever I try to draw something like this, no matter how well it turns out, it's still just a reminder of what the real thing looked like.” She sighed. “It's no wonder this art has endured for hundreds of years.”
Maybe you'll get there someday. You're very passionate.”
Probably not”, she said, “very few people are ever able to reach this level, it takes tremendous natural talent and a lifetime of practice. But that's all right, I can still enjoy this even if I can't do it myself.”
She stayed silent for a few minutes before speaking up again. “You can look around the rest of the exhibit, you know. I might be here for a while.”
Well, I don't want to leave you, we did come here together.”
She squeezed his hand. “I'm sorry, I warned you it might be a bit boring. I'm glad you're here, but art is kind of a slow and quiet experience most of the time. I'll come find you if I want to show you something, I don't want to stop you from finding something you might like.”
Aidan shrugged and wandered off to check out the rest of the pictures. There were some animals, a lot of portraits of various people, some pictures that just seemed to be of various shapes and colours, and a handful of other landscapes and cityscapes. Off in the far corner of the room, though, he found something that was a bit different, there were paintings of groups of people in various interesting locations, and they were a bit more dramatic and varied than the ones he had seen earlier. Then he spotted one picture that caught his eye, and he had to examine it in more detail.

You're interested in that one, are you?” Nisha asked, finding him.
In the picture, a man was standing at the entrance to a valley, where the path split in two around a large plateau. One side was fraught with dangers, boulders careened down from above and jagged rocks lined the sides, while the other path appeared relatively clear and unobstructed, and there was even a little pond. On the far side of the valley, the two paths joined together again. The man was stroking his chin ponderously.
Why would anyone choose the path on the left?” Aidan wondered aloud.
It's a metaphor for life”, she said. “We're often faced with choices where one choice is difficult and one is easy, yet sometimes we choose the more difficult one because we believe it will be worth it.”
So what does it mean that the paths come together at the end? Is that supposed to represent how we're all eventually going to die?”
That's one interpretation”, she smiled. “From where the man is standing, he can't see that the paths converge on the other side. Some people see this as a metaphor for one's inevitable destiny, we agonize over the choices we make in life, but the choice is only an illusion, where we'll end up has already been decided.”
That's kind of bleak.”
Some would say 'liberating'. After all, if the man accepts that his choice is ultimately meaningless, he's free to take the path on the right and have an easier time.”
Aidan thought it over for a little while.
Do you believe in destiny, Aidan?”
I don't know. A little bit, I guess? Not that that extent, though, you can't just take all the easy choices in life. I mean, I wasn't taking the easy choice when I decided to get to know you, was I?”
Oh, is this about me now?”
Well, I just, err... ah...” he stammered, flustered.
She squeezed his arm, “I'm teasing you. I'm glad you're taking an interest. One of the things that makes art great is that it makes you think about things that you normally wouldn't.”
Well, what do you think about it?” he asked.
She smiled. “I'm glad you decided to get to know me.”
I was actually talking about the painting.”
I know”, she said coyly, moving on to the next set of pictures.

They spent most of the afternoon in the gallery, it was already starting to approach suppertime when she had finally seen enough.
Oh my, look at the time, I hadn't intended to stay quite this long. Oh Aidan, I hope you weren't too bored.”
It was okay”, he said, “I've never done anything like this before.”
Well, hopefully some day you might like to try it again.”
I hope so too. I'm glad you had a good time.”
For once, he thought he saw her blush, but her skin was darker so it was harder to tell.
It's too bad”, she said, “I'd like to spend more time with you, but I have to get home.”
That's all right. You live near here, right? I'll walk you home.”

So which one was your favourite?” she asked as they started on the way home.
Well, I'm no authority on the subject, but I think the one with the two paths was the most interesting.”
Hmm, I thought so.”
You know, you never told me whether you believed in destiny or not.”
She turned quiet for a moment. “I don't want to, but sometimes it seems hard to believe otherwise.”
Well, I think everyone thinks that way now and then. I mean, who hasn't had something good happen and thought it was meant to be?”
I didn't mean it that way. It's silly, forget about it.”
Hey, it's all right”, he said, trying to comfort her. “You can trust me. I wouldn't laugh or anything.”
Things... haven't worked out too well for me in the past. Sometimes I feel like it's my destiny to be alone.”
He put his arm around her. “Aww, don't feel that way. After all, you've got me now.”
Isn't that a little presumptuous?” she asked him.
Maybe, but I've really got a good feeling about you.” He kissed her lightly on the cheek.
Thanks Aidan”, she said, closing her eyes. “Maybe the problem is that I never dated a sweet guy like you before.”
I don't think you've got anything to worry about. A lot of guys would be happy to be with you.”
She snuggled up to him and they walked quietly for the rest of the way.

Well, here we are”, he said, as they arrived at her home. The sun was still slightly, out, but it would soon be getting dark. “I had a great time today.”
Me too”, she said. “I had my doubts that this would be a good idea, but I'm glad we went.”
Even though he had kissed her before, he was still a bit nervous about what move to make, but she spared him the trouble.
Come here”, she said warmly, and she drew him into a tight embrace and kissed him. He was caught a bit off-guard by it, and even more so when he felt her tongue in his mouth, but the sensation of it rubbing against his own quickly overpowered him and he kissed her back eagerly.
Thanks for everything today”, she said after they finally parted lips. “It means a lot to me to know that you care about me the way you do.”
You don't ever need to worry about being yourself around me. I really like being with you, Nisha.” He held her for a little while longer, then they separated, standing in silence for a moment, a palpable tension between them.
Is that offer to come inside and warm up still available?” he blurted out, surprising himself immensely.
It definitely would be if my parents weren't home”, she replied. “Right now it's probably not a good idea. I haven't told them about you yet, but tonight I'm definitely going to.”
He didn't really know what to say to that, so they stood there awkwardly for a moment or two. “I guess I'll see you next week”, he said, finally.
Next time, let's go back to your place, so we can be alone.” He nodded. She drew him in for another long kiss, and he caressed her back lovingly. “Call me tomorrow night”, she said afterwards. “I don't want to wait until Monday to hear from you again.”
He didn't even want to wait that long, but somehow he managed to bid her farewell and head for home. The sun was just dipping below the horizon now, dying the sky a magnificent orange hue, and he took a moment to admire the beauty of it all.

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