Slowly, I came to my senses. There was a light burning; the room was cold, I was cold; and there was the face of Raffles hovering above me, his hand on my shoulder. Remembering where I was, I hastily sat up on the bed, and the room spun a little.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to… was only gonna lie down for a minute…”
“Oh, really?” Raffles chuckled, and took a seat on the chair. “Looks like you were in need of a little more than so.”
I shivered with the cold, and he looked concerned.
“You’re not ill, are you?”
“No,” I replied, and tried to sit up a little straighter. “I couldn’t sleep last night, that’s all.”
I looked out the window, where darkness had fallen; I looked at the clock on the bureau—it was past nine already—and at the unfinished verses scattered on the floor.
“I’m sorry,” I said again, feeling like an absolute failure.
“It’s alright, Bunny. If anything, I should be sorry for keeping you up at night.”
I mumbled something unintelligible, not wanting to offend him by agreeing, even if I did. There was a silence. I did not dare to look at him.
“Bunny, go to bed. You can finish this tomorrow.”
I scrambled to my feet, quickly collecting my things, and headed for the door. Raffles followed me; and just as I reached the handle, I felt his hand on my shoulder. I turned around, half-frightened and half-hopeful, only to see in his hand a pencil that I had left behind.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” he frowned, when I blushingly accepted the pencil.
I hesitated; but his firm hand on my shoulder and the genuinely concerned look in his eyes did much to reassure me; and I said:
“They are talking about us, you know. They’re saying you are keen on me.”
Raffles hand fell, along with his face.
“I don’t mind!” I was quick to add. “I don’t mind it at all. I just… I don’t want them to get the wrong idea about you. And I thought you should know.”
Raffles looked at me blankly for some moments, and I began to wonder whether it had been a mistake to speak. Then he smiled—a sad little smile—and shook his head.
“I did know,” he said. “I was only hoping you didn’t, and that it would blow over before you did.”
For some reason, the statement did not make my heart feel any lighter—quite the opposite. Raffles continued:
“I’m sorry they have misunderstood, Bunny. But it’s just a phase, I’m sure; and don’t you worry about me.”
I nodded, biting my lip. There was no more to say, then. But Raffles put his finger under my chin, and lifted it so that I was forced to look at him again.
“Are you alright, then?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, and tried to smile.
He looked satisfied, and patted my cheek before reaching for the door. I turned to leave, but swiftly turned back; and I do not know whether it was the deprivation of sleep, or some other strange sensation, but I was bold to ask:
“Have they? Really?”
For a second he looked surprised, and—I imagined—a little vulnerable. Then his eyes turned soft, and he smiled again. His hand reached out, and gently stroke my cheek.
“Bunny… you really should make more friends in your own form, you know,” he said, and left it at that.