Fear The Dawn: Chapter 17

After all of the weekend's excitement, Aidan was almost glad to be back at his desk Monday morning. The slower pace of his job afforded him time to relax and get his bearings amidst his suddenly burgeoning social life. As she requested, he had called her last night, and they had spoken for a little over an hour. It hadn't been a heavy discussion, they had mostly talked about her work and she had teased him a bit about the coming weekend, but it was still a lot more excitement than he was used to on a Sunday night. Enjoyable as it was, these new social interactions had disrupted his regular routine and he hadn't been getting to bed as early as he was used to, and he was finding himself a bit tired this morning. “Oh well”, he thought, he would adapt to it soon enough. Coffee would just have to suffice until then, he was already on his second cup of the morning and it wasn't even 10:00 yet.

Aidan, my boy”, his boss greeted him as he returned to his desk. “How are you doing on that little assignment I gave you?”
The assignment from last week had largely slipped his mind, but he had finished his little report on Saturday evening after coming home from their date. “I think we should go for it”, he said confidently, “I went to an art gallery this weekend and spoke to some people there, and they seemed in favour of it. Artists are very particular about their supplies, and I think a premium store has real potential.”
Excellent”, he smiled, clasping his hands together, “it's great to see a young person like yourself showing initiative. The safe way out would just be to turn them down, but you can't make money that way. I think you'll do well here, Aidan.” He patted Aidan on the back with his giant hand, almost knocking him out of his seat. “Just send that report off to me and I'll make the case to the higher ups.”
He nodded and his boss strode happily back to his office. “Here's to showing initiative”, Aidan thought to himself, raising his coffee cup and reflecting on how his life had changed.

He finished polishing up the report a little before lunchtime and decided he might as well head down to the cafeteria a few minutes early. He got to the table before Dan, and sat down to wait for him. It took Dan another few minutes, and Aidan stretched out and yawned, finally getting a chance to slow down.
Another busy weekend?” Dan asked, pulling up a chair.
Yeah, I guess. I've certainly been spending more time on the phone lately”.
Has she been calling you a lot?”
Well, not really, I called her last night and we talked for a while. Though actually Tina called me this weekend as well.”
Oh yeah? What did she want? You already met her fiance, right?”
Just to get together I guess. I couldn't go, I was just about to go out with Nisha.”
She never calls me”, Dan shrugged. “Though I guess that's no surprise, she was always much closer to you.” He took a bite of his lunch, which was leftover pizza today. “What ever happened between the two of you, anyway? I always figured you were going to get together.”
Nothing happened. It never went anywhere.”
Right, but who decided it wasn't going to go anywhere?”
Who cares, that's ancient history now”. A hint of annoyance showed through in his tone.
I was just curious”, Dan said, backing off. “How was your date this weekend?”
It was great. We went to an art museum, which you might think would be boring, but it was actually a lot of fun. She's very passionate about that kind of thing, it was interesting to discuss it with her.”
That must have won you a lot of points with her, did you take her back to your apartment afterwards?”
That's really none of your business, but no. I like her a lot, I'm not trying to rush things.”
Dan grinned. “So you wanted to but she said no, basically.”
Aidan rolled his eyes. “You're such a dork. No wonder you don't have a girlfriend.”
So when do I get to meet her?”
What?”, he said, surprised.
You know, I've heard a lot about her, when are you going to introduce me to her?”
I dunno, maybe if I decide I don't want to see her anymore?”
Ha ha. I'm serious, I want to see the girl who's changed your life. You can't just keep her to yourself forever”. Dan finished off his pizza, then an idea struck him. “Hey, she takes the same train that you do, right? You should bring her to Carson's on Friday. We can all have dinner together.”
Aidan looked down at his lunch, avoiding eye contact. “I dunno...”
Hey, come on, you trust me, right? I won't say anything bad.”
If you agree not to get drunk, I'll ask her.”
I won't drink a single drop.”
See, it's saying things like that that makes it so hard to trust you.”
He grinned widely and slapped Aidan on the back. “I knew I could count on you, buddy. I'm looking forward to it.”

Aidan, however, regretted agreeing to it almost immediately. Things were going really well, this just introduced and unnecessary degree of risk at a crucial time in their relationship. If Nisha and Dan didn't get along, that could easily sour the evening, and he was already feeling nervous enough about the prospect of bringing her home to his apartment that night. He really hoped she would say no and spare them the trouble, hopefully she had more sense than he did. He was even more anxious to see her after work today than usual, so the hours just seemed to crawl by that afternoon. After working on that report this morning, it looked like he probably wouldn't finish his inbox before quitting time, by 6:00 he still had quite a few papers left. “That's not my fault”, he thought to himself, stuffing the remainder of the pile inside his desk. “No one will notice if they don't get finished until tomorrow morning”. He wouldn't normally put off his work like that, but he really couldn't afford to work late tonight. He locked up his desk, said goodbye to the receptionist, and just barely made it to the train in time, where Nisha was already waiting for him. She greeted him with a hug and a quick little kiss, and he wrapped his arm around her as they rode home. He was enjoying her company so much that he didn't really want to ask her about Friday, but he was a man of his word and he felt like he had to.

Hey, Nish, about this weekend...”
Can't wait?”, she asked, not lifting her head from his shoulder.
Not that”, he said, rubbing her shoulder. “This Friday, how would you feel about going to dinner at a place near the train station? I have a friend who would really like to meet you.”
Already feel like showing me off?”, she teased.
It's okay if you don't want to, but I said I'd ask.”
I don't mind. Afterwards we can take the train back to your place.”
It gives you something to look forward to for the rest of the week, right?”
Or to worry about”.
Don't worry about it”, she said, caressing his chest with her hand. “If you enjoyed taking me to the art museum, I'm sure you'll enjoy taking me to bed.”
He had nothing to say to that, but his cheeks were completely red. She looked up at him and smiled. “You're fun, Aidan”. She snuggled back up to his shoulder, contentedly.
He took a deep breath and tried to clear his mind. “We've got a dinner to get through, first”, he reminded himself, but that didn't really help.

Dan was overjoyed that she had agreed to come, and spent most of the rest of the week talking about how excited he was to meet her. Aidan tried to gently persuade her that they shouldn't go, but she seemed keen on the idea, so eventually he just had to accept that it was going to happen. He wondered if Nisha knew how he felt about it and just enjoyed watching him squirm. She was a nice girl, but she did seem to enjoy toying with him sometimes. He tried to just busy himself with his work as best he could, at least it remained appreciably predictable. Somehow the rest of the week passed by eventually.

I hope she knows what she's doing”, he thought as he checked at his watch again. It was 5:00 on Friday afternoon. He glanced out the window. It was already getting a bit dark, but at least it was clear outside. It had snowed yesterday, and the world outside was still blanketed in white, but it looked like they wouldn't be getting drenched on their way back to his apartment tonight. “Let me help you out of those wet clothes...”, he imagined himself saying to her as they returned to his apartment, but he quickly pushed those thoughts out of his mind. “There's a lot to deal with before that”, he reminded himself.

He plucked another paper off the top of his pile and began reading it over. At this time of year, a lot of people were looking for short term financing to cover credit card debt. Unless a person had absurdly bad credit, these ones pretty much always went through, so he took out his pen and started filling in his share of the fields.
Aidan, my boy”, his boss greeted him, dropping in unexpectedly as he often did. “I thought you might like to know that the loan for that business you recommended got approved today.”
That's great, sir”, he smiled. He'd tell Nisha about it later.
Yes, good work on your report. I might have some more of those cases for you to look at in the future if you're still interested. Anyway, I'm off for the night, you have a good weekend, now.”
Thank you, sir”. Aidan didn't really want to offer any more details about his weekend plans on the off-chance there were still some people who hadn't heard yet. His boss waved jovially and left down the hall, and Aidan returned to his work.

Well, come on now, we don't want to be late”.
Aidan looked up from his desk to see Dan standing there. “You're not even supposed to be able to get in here”, he replied, going back to his work.
Someone let me in as they went out. Everyone's leaving already, let's just go.”
He looked at his watch again. It was 5:45. “Just let me finish this one”, he said, checking off a box and filling in a dollar amount. Dan sat down in a nearby desk that was already empty. He was right, most people had already gone home for the weekend.
So, are you two going to go do anything after we finish dinner?”
We're just going back to my place for a bit”, he responded absent-mindedly, not even realizing what he had let slip until it was too late.
Oh ho!” Dan squealed, greatly enthused. “Finally going to get intimate, eh? Lucky bastard. No wonder you didn't really want to come, you just wanted to go home and have sex.”
Aidan rolled his eyes, “see, that's the perfect example of something you shouldn't say during dinner.”
Dan put his hand on his chest. “You don't have to worry about me, I'm perfectly discreet.”
One of his other co-workers walked by, leaving for the evening. “Good luck tonight, Aidan”, he said. Aidan smacked his forehead.
See, if we had left a few minutes ago, that wouldn't have happened.”
Aidan sighed and finished up the form. “Let's just get this over with”, he said, and they finally left the office for the weekend.

So when are you going to ask Nicole out?” Aidan asked as they rode the elevator down to the ground floor.
I'm getting there, our conversations have gotten very cordial lately.”
You should stop wasting time and just do it. That's what I did.”
Well, I can't ask her out tonight, we've already got plans.”
The elevator doors opened.
Hello boys”, she greeted them.
Hi, Nicole”, he beamed, walking over to lean on her desk. “Great to finally be done for the weekend, eh? Have you got plans this weekend?”
She smiled. “Nothing exciting, I'm afraid. How about you?”
We're going to dinner to meet Aidan's new girlfriend.”
Oh, congratulations Aidan.”
Thanks”, he offered quietly, trying to stay out of it.
You should join us sometime”, Dan suggested, very transparently, “we'd love to have you.”
Maybe next time”, she responded coyly. “You have fun, boys.”He waved to her and they left the building.
See, what did I tell you? I've practically got her worn down.”
I don't know, I think she was just being nice.”
Well, there'll be time to worry about that later. I'm really looking forward to tonight.”
Aidan sighed. “I guess you might as well go on ahead and get a table, I'll go pick up Nisha from the train station.”
All right, see you in a few minutes”, he said, leaving Aidan in blissful silence as he walked the rest of the way to the station.

Nisha was waiting for him on the same bench where he had met her the day when he missed his train.
You look lovely”, he greeted her. She did look especially beautiful tonight, her hair was curled a little fancier than normal and she was wearing a beautiful black dress with a pearl broach across her neck. “I hope you haven't been waiting long.”
It's all right”, she smiled, picking up a bag that she had set down beside the bench. “I just got here. You're looking pretty good yourself. Shall we go?”
He nodded and took her hand. “I hate to say it, but the place we're going to really isn't that fancy.”
I know”, she said, “I wanted to look nice for you.”
He kissed her on the cheek and led her towards the bar, no longer dreading the dinner. As long as he was with her, it would be all right.

You must be Nisha”, Dan greeted her. “Aidan's told me a lot about you.”
It's nice to meet you”, she replied. They shook hands and everyone sat down.
So, Nisha, tell me a bit about yourself”, he asked shortly after they had settled in.
Well, I studied traditional art and animation at college, and I work as a graphic artist. I love art, nature, drawing, and music. I guess you know how Aidan and I met, one night there weren't enough seats on the train and we ended up sitting together. Then the next week he was late for the train and I offered him my seat and we got talking to each other. I believe he was late for the train on purpose, just so he could sit beside me.”
I actually wasn't”, Aidan chimed in in his defence.
It's all right”, she replied, holding his hand, “I was going to offer you my seat anyway.”
Aww, that's sweet”, Dan said. A waitress dropped by to take their orders. Nisha ordered a chicken salad, and Aidan also ordered something light. His nerves were already on edge and he didn't want anything that might bother him tonight. Unsurprisingly, Dan opted for wings, but he did keep his promise not to order beer.

Now it was Nisha's turn to ask questions. “So Dan, I understand that the two of you knew each other even before you started working together. How did you two meet?”
We met during the first week of university, in one of our math classes or something. We became good friends right away, even though we had only just met it was like we'd known each other all our lives.”
That must be nice”, she said, “it's hard for me to make friends.”
Well, then you should just hang out with us sometimes. We're fun.”
Yeah”, Aidan added, “if you enjoy seeing Dan drink too much and yell at the TV, you'd have a great time.”
Dan chuckled. “Aidan's a funny guy. I hope you like to laugh.”
Sure, who doesn't?”, Nisha said.
Their food arrived, and the game came on, so they didn't talk too much while they were eating.
Oh man! They scored again! Aidan, shake your fist at the TV with me.”
He shook his head. “See, the fun never stops.”
Nisha giggled. “You have good friends. It's nice.”
Well, you go out to see movies with your co-workers sometimes, don't you?”
It's not like this. This is a lot more relaxed.”
Next time you should have a drink, then”, Dan suggested.
She laughed. “Maybe I will”.

The bill for their dinner arrived. Aidan suddenly felt apprehensive, not knowing what to do about it with a third person present. “I'll get it”, he offered.
No, no, I'll get it, I insist”, Dan said, snatching the bill before Aidan could reach it. “This was my idea, and it's the least I can do after intruding upon your date.” He gave the waitress his credit card before Aidan could protest the idea. Nisha thanked him and excused herself for a moment.
Well, what do you think?” Aidan asked, as soon as she was out of sight.
She's definitely pretty, and she seems nice...” he trailed off, not finishing his thought.
He shrugged. “I don't know, I guess she's not quite the type of girl I pictured for you.”
Hah, well I certainly didn't picture you with someone like Nicole.”
Dan laughed. “Fair enough. You two have a good time tonight.”
We will”, he smiled, spotting Nisha coming back.
It was nice to meet you, Dan”, she said as they got ready to leave, shaking his hand one more time.
You too, Nisha. Take care of Aidan, and you two get home safe.”
Dan left, and Nisha locked her arm with his. “Are you ready?” she asked.
Yeah”. He knew what she meant. He took a deep breath and they left the bar for the train station.

The trip home was very quiet and awkward. He tried to keep the conversation going, but it wasn't easy. That night he had spent with Tina, he was ignorant of her intentions until she sprang them upon him, but here they both knew exactly what was going on and it hung in the air between them like a dense fog. He was a bit reassured to see that she seemed to be nervous too, for all she sometimes teased him about being obvious and acted like she knew it all it was still a big deal to her, too. He caressed her shoulder lovingly as she leaned on him and closed his eyes, trying just to enjoy the moment. Eventually the train pulled into the sleepy little station across the bay, which was almost totally deserted at this late hour, and they started the long walk back to his apartment. He was especially glad for the weather now, the soft light of the street lamps created a very pretty scene reflecting off the recently-fallen snow, and it helped make up for the gaps in the conversation. There was no turning back now, whatever happened their relationship was about to change, and they both knew it.

The tension reached a breaking point when they finally reached his apartment. He opened the door and switched on the light, but beyond that he was completely at a loss for what to do or say.
This is a nice place”, she said, coming in and taking a look around. “It's very neat”, she noted, “I was a bit worried it might be a mess”. She walked over to the window. “Oh, the view from here is wonderful, you can see all the way out to the bay. The stars are really pretty tonight.”
Yeah, another friend mentioned that once, too”, he blurted out, immediately regretting it. “Can I get you something to drink?”, he asked, quickly changing the subject.
I'm all right”, she said, sitting down on the couch. “Come sit with me.”
He sat down beside her, and she moved over to him and put her arms around his neck, and kissed him. It was very different from when they had been outside her house, they were alone here and they had all the time they wanted, their kisses were long and passionate this time, and after a few of them he could barely control his desire for her. She was sitting in his lap, so there was no concealing his intentions from her, but he was still a bit nervous about escalating things, waiting for her approval before he began exploring the rest of her body with his hands. That approval didn't come, however, after one last kiss she parted from him and sat up in his lap, holding him back lightly with her hand.

Before we go any farther, there's something I need to know”, she said firmly.
What is it?”
I know you like me, but... Aidan, are you looking for something serious?”
Can't you tell?”, he asked, staring into her lidded eyes. “You always seem to know what I'm thinking.”
This time I need to hear you say it”, she said, her voice sounding more vulnerable than he was used to.
He nodded. “I'm very serious about you, Nisha. I want us to be a couple.”
She smiled and leaned in to kiss him, just a short one this time. “I want that too”, she said, happily. She stood up off of him and he was disappointed for a moment, but then she undid her dress, revealing a lacy white bra and panties tantalizingly covering her dark skin.
Do you like me?”, she asked, displaying her whole body to him. Aidan was too captivated by her to say anything, but she enjoyed that well enough. “I guess this time I can take your word for it”, she said, climbing back on top of him. She pushed him down onto his back, lying on top of him and kissing him. “Don't be shy”, she instructed him, and he took her breasts in his hands and caressed her whole body as she pressed her body against his.
Let's get these off of you”, she said, removing his pants. They snuggled for a bit longer, but he couldn't take much more of it, and she knew it.
Are you fine with doing it like this?” she asked. He nodded. “Then help me out of these.” He undid the clasp on her bra while she slipped off her panties and she took him inside her, then she leaned forward to kiss him as the two of them made love for the first time.

It didn't last long, but she seemed to be expecting that, and under her care he quickly found himself ready to give her more. “I'm on the pill”, she reassured him, “so you don't have to worry, just do what comes naturally”, but he needed little encouragement. He felt no hesitation this time, and she was very supportive and alluring, he quickly worked past his nervousness and they had a wonderful night together.
This must be what it's like to be with the one”, he thought as they snuggled together on his bed afterwards. He gazed lovingly into her beautiful brown eyes, which were brimming with affection and kindness, and gave her another tender kiss. “Tonight was wonderful”, he said softly. She nodded, and he held her tight, drifting off to sleep with her lying in his arms.


You have to get out of here”, a familiar voice called out to him.

Why now?” Aidan wondered aloud. Everything had been going so well, surely there couldn't still be something wrong in his life. And yet, he still had this sense inside him that he had to find something, so he placed his hand along the mirror to his left and began to walk down the hall.

This isn't right, please, you have to go back.”

He found the hole in the mirrors where he expected it to be, and continued down the path.

No, please”, the voice pleaded with him. “Don't go in there!”

He reached the hallway with the mirrors that showed different images of himself. He took a closer look to see if they had changed, but they had not. The images showed his life up until he had met Nisha, but nothing after that, she did not appear in any of the mirrors. He came to the end of the hallway.

I beg of you!” The voice said, but he was ignoring it. “Come to my voice!”

He looked into the final mirror, where the shadowy figure was waiting for him.

It's her, isn't it?”, he demanded of the figure. “She's the one I've been searching for.”

The shadow swirled around and faded away. Inside the mirror, a brown-coloured figure slowly came into focus. As the figure became clearer, he saw a brokenhearted girl with long brown hair leaning forward on her knees, the dark skin of her face shimmering with tears.

Nisha...”, he said softly, reaching out towards the mirror. His hand slipped through it, and he stepped inside. He crouched down and hugged her to him, her naked body hanging limply in his arms. “I swear I'll protect you”, he told her. He could feel himself starting to wake up, and the hall of mirrors started to fade out around him. Just as everything went dark, she opened her eyes, and the last thing he saw was her vibrant irises staring into his soul.

Aidan slowly opened his eyes. She was still lying there in his arms, breathing slowly, the woman from his dream. “I finally know why I couldn't be with Tina all these years ago”, he thought, giving her a squeeze, “it's because I've been searching for you my whole life.”
She slowly opened her pretty brown eyes and looked up at him.
I'll keep you safe”, he silently vowed to himself, kissing her on the forehead.
Are you already eager to go again?”, she asked, sleepily.
It hadn't been his intention, but he found this his desire for her was even stronger than it had been earlier. She smiled warmly, amused by his passion, and he gave her everything, knowing that he would love her for the rest of his life.

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