SPY X FAMILY
CHAPTER V : Memories and Stars
Anya had almost forgotten the sad event that had marked the beginning of her first year of high-school. But occasionally, she would walk past the courtyard and feel her shoulders stiffen. Sometimes, she would walk by the memorial set up at the entrance of the school and her heart would tug painfully. Seeing that single picture of the shy professor, now resting six feet under, surrounded by more candles and flowers than he probably received in his entire life… It made her incredibly sad, not that she let anyone even suspect it.
Becky was back to being her joyful self, with a very strong crush to their new biology professor. Most students didn’t mention the ‘incident’ any more. Her parents didn’t ask any more question other than about her well-being. They never found anything suspicious about the unexpected death…
Anya was about to continue her way to her after-school activities, but she bumped into someone.
“Sorry!” she exclaimed, looking up at Damian Desmond.
He stepped away to give her more space, a downward smile on his face that wasn’t quite a grimace. His usual stern face.
“Sorry, you seemed… lost in thoughts. I didn’t want to interrupt your… grieving.”
He glanced quickly at the picture. His eyes darkened quickly, just enough for Anya to feel her heartstrings being pulled again, for a different reason than the grief she truly was feeling for Professor Adler. Damian looked so… lonesome, in so much need of comfort.
She tightened her hold onto her notebooks, fighting the urge to lean forward and pass her fingers through the soft locks of Damian’s messy brown hair. She forced a smile on her face, although Damian didn’t seem fooled. It was strange how she was the one who could read minds, but he saw through her like an open book.
“Thank you,” she answered after a long pause, although she wasn’t certain it was the right answer to give to such circumstances.
“I… wanted to ask you… how have you been?” he asked, stepping away to give her the space to walk away from the memorial.
She continued her way towards the main staircase for her after-school activities, but she realised half-way through that she was slow. Way slower than she had ever been, slower than Damian could possibly need to keep up with her (he had incredibly long and powerful legs, after all). Perhaps she just wanted this strange, unexpected moment to last much longer than the fourty-or-so-meters left before they’d go their separate ways. Again.
“I’m fine, considering the circumstances. I’m looking forward to fully put this behind me. And… you?” she continued, tilting her head on a side and despite her best wishes, her mind dug into his thoughts.
I would feel a lot better if we weren’t reminded of what had happened at every corner. I hate seeing that look on your face. Your stupid fake smile can’t fool me.
“I’m fine,” he answered with a nod, to convince himself more than anyone else.
Anya smiled, sweetly, touched by his attention to her well-being. Because she could fool everyone else, but not Damian Desmond.
“You always seem to know when I’m feeling down. I might start thinking that you’re a mind-reader,” she teased, knowing full well that was impossible.
“Pff, what a ridiculous idea! As if mind-reading was a thing.” He mumbled, rolling his eyes passionately.
Ouch, she thought. Don’t let it sting too much. He doesn’t know, he can’t know.
“It could be possible… in… uh, science-fiction books…”
“I guess, but not in reality. It’s a ridiculous concept.”
“Of course… yes… ridiculous…” she repeated, glancing away.
Silence fell between them. She was counting the steps until they’d reach the stairs. Damian stopped abruptly. She turned towards him. He passed a hand behind his neck, his cheeks a little flushed.
“So… uh… you enjoy… dancing?” he asked in a surprisingly high-pitched voice.
Anya blinked, stunned by his sudden question. She hadn’t kept up with his line of thoughts, she had no idea where it came from. Just as she thought that, she unconsciously perceived his memory of her dancing a few days ago, at the common hall’s improvised party. A wide smile appeared on her face. How lovely that he’d see her in such flattering lens.
“I thought you would know already, considering what happened at our middle-school end of year’s party!” she exclaimed.
She tilted her head on the side, staring right into his eyes with a smile he couldn’t comprehend. She had that mischievous, curious look on her face that aggravated him… No. Damian was just denying what that look meant. She wasn’t clueless in the slightest. She was challenging him, silently, to face his own feelings. He was the only one she looked at this way, and he was the only one who knew what it truly meant.
Go on, Sy-on boy, you know what I want, she seemed to say.
And as if she knew what he thought, what he felt, the corner of her lips lifted. Just a little, just enough to make the sight absolutely maddening.
“Last year? You mean…”
The memory hit them both. The traditional end of middle-school’s party held at Eden where all the students had spent an evening in the gymnasium to dance and sing, in quite a crazy demeanour like the improvised party in Cecil Hall.
And the party from which both Anya and Damian had sneaked out to dance, together, in the garden, away from any prying eyes, witnessed only by the starry night.
“Well, you, uh, didn’t seem to enjoy any of it. I had assumed…”
Damian’s voice trailed off and he suddenly turned around.
“Nevermind. I’m just content you’re okay.”
He waved at her with the book held in his hands, and he disappeared out of the building for his own after-school activities.
Anya’s smile wavered and she turned towards the stairs, slowly climbing them to reach the second floor, but she had no desire to paint anything now. The memories were too close to her heart after this conversation.
A few months ago, at Eden Academy, their last evening as middle-schoolers…
Anya had only sneaked out to get away from the loud noise and lights, she needed some fresh air. She had only meant for it to be for a few minutes, but a silhouette had caught her eye and she had unconsciously followed him. Sy-on boy. Damian Desmond. Her pink dress flew behind her as she ran down the stairs to reach the giant garden of Eden academy. She had never seen the academy at night, so empty, so quiet, bubbled away from the world.
She must have made some noise because Damian turned around before she could call him. He seemed surprised to see her.
“What’s going on?” he asked her, eyes a little wide.
“Oh, uh, nothing, I just saw you leave, I was wondering if you were… okay…?” she hesitated.
“Oh, yeah, it was just…”
“Overwhelming?” she finished with a smile.
He nodded, but he looked forlorn and lost in thoughts.
I hate those stupid parties. I hate that I was forced to go there. I hate that Demetrius always forces me to participate to the family dinners and parties. It’s never been the same since he has been gone. I hate all of it.
Anya swallowed hard when those thoughts weighted on her heart.
“Hey, do you want to take a walk?” she suddenly suggested, eager to distract him from bad memories.
“Oh, uh, yes… if you want…”
“I’ve never seen Eden so dark and empty before!”
He glanced at her very quickly, visibly hesitating as they started walking.
“Someday… you should go see the Stella Lake. It’s… beautiful.”
But nowhere near as beautiful as you tonight, he added to himself (well, not quite to himself with Anya next to him).
“I would love to see it at night someday.” She answered with a smile, glad to know he was sending his thoughts in a different direction than the ballrooms and the absence of his father.
They walked in a comforting silence for a long time. They remained on the safe grounds of the academy, within sight of the buildings. They could see the colourful lights of the ballroom spilling out into the garden in waves, occasionally broken by the shadows of their dancing classmates.
Having walked for a considerable amount of time in the quiet warmth of each other’s company, bathing in a distinctive feeling that they had never experienced with anyone else, but which was too new to be comprehended, they eventually made their way back towards the building. They climbed up, slowly, to make that moment, that feeling, last longer, as long as possible, but as they reached the marble terrace, they stopped.
The music was loud enough to be heard even through the walls and windows, and a considerable change of atmosphere took place. From the chaotic Rock n’Roll music that had been preferred all evening, a lovely rhythm started raising into the night.
Anya and Damian could easily guess the giddy sighs and lovely smiles from their classmates.
My heart belongs to only you
I've never loved as I love you
You've set a flame within me burning
A flame to stay within me yearning
A discreet little cough from Damian attracted Anya’s attention and she turned towards him. Cheeks flushed, he had extended one hand towards her, the other resting in his back. The perfect stance of the perfect gentleman. If it wasn’t for his tendency to be in constant denial.
Anya felt her cheeks burn with the sweetest fire, as she took his hand. He brought her closer to him, one hand entwined with hers, the other on her waist as she leaned against him. As natural as most things were between them, they fell into the easy steps, a soft swinging of their bodies. Rather than a dance, it was a delicate rhythm that echoed their heartbeats and the warmth growing in the pit of their tummies.
There were sometimes when I was doubtful
Of this new love affair
But now my mind is no more doubtful
I've found my heaven with the help of a prayer
Damian made her spin, never stopping to touch her skin, never holding too tightly her hand, before bringing her back against his solid body. Anya was flushed and stunned by the lovely attention, and he felt pride swell within his chest to have caused such an adorable reaction from her. He was the reason why the flush on her cheeks darkened, he was the reason why she pressed herself just a little closer to him, he was the reason why he felt her heart beat faster, he was the reason why she blinked in astonishment and that the sweetest smile in the universe appeared on her face.
He had dreamt of kissing her a thousand times, but he had never hoped he’d ever be close enough to Anya Forger’s face to see the way her lip gloss shone on her lips, making a kiss so inviting. Or even less that he’d be close enough to feel her sweet breath on his face.
He swallowed, but Anya’s smile widened, in a knowing way. That almost made his heart stop, right here and now. It drove him mad. The way she always knew what he thought, what he felt, being three steps ahead from his very own heart.
What sort of spell have you put on me, Anya Forger… he thought to himself.
Her eyes sparkled.
“I didn’t know you could dance so well, Sir Desmond.”
He snorted, a most inelegant sound, but he couldn’t help it. The reaction to that ridiculous title, pronounced by Anya Forger of all people, came naturally. He hadn’t felt so careless, so free in… almost a decade.
“I’ve had lots of practice,” he answered with a smug smile.
Her smile disappeared and she stared at him. Long and hard.
He felt his palms get sweaty from that suddenly intense look.
“Oh? I had no idea so many girls lined up to dance with you,” she muttered, with a stern expression on her face.
“Wha– no! I-I mean… yes, but no, I mean, not…”
He blushed, looking away from her. He heard her chuckle and realised she had managed to trick him into thinking she could be jealous.
As if I could make her jealous. She’s the only one. She’s always been the one and only. She has no idea I only have eyes for her and only her.
“Every year, my brother insists that I participate to our family’s galas and dinners… It involves plenty of annoying dancing with plenty of undesirable partners.” He answered, looking back at Anya.
“Really? Am I desirable enough as to not annoy His Majesty Lord Damian, then? Should I count myself lucky?” she teased.
“I’m the lucky one,” he let out.
Anya’s eyes widened. She looked up at him, stunned by his honesty. Damian himself was the most astonished that his mouth had betrayed him into revealing what he really felt!!
Anya’s smile turned into a chuckle. One that was more hesitant than amused, one that was almost embarrassed, one that was a little chocked. She sounded as charmed as he felt.
A hesitant, soft smile appeared on his face. One he had never shown her. It left Anya staring at him, wide-eyed and stunned, as if she were looking up at a falling star and couldn’t decide what to wish on.
“Anya… this entire time… you’ve been my lucky star.”
My guiding star.
Her smile softened, mirroring his. Their swinging slowed down, down, down until they were leaning against each other, as pressed as physically possible. He leaned down, eyes half-closed, thinking himself asleep, dreaming. He could smell her perfume of strawberry and vanilla that was, from this moment onward, his favourite flavour of all things. She could almost taste the warmth of his breath. They were only an inch away, both only half-believing what was happening, but far too gone into their dreamy moment under the stars to really care.
Anya, my lucky star, my guiding star. The light that pulled me out of my darkest moments.
In his arms, Anya stiffened. A soft, almost painful gasp escaped her lips and she suddenly moved away.
Damian pulled back, blinking, stunned… and a little hurt she’d pull away so suddenly.
She was blushing, but her lips were tight, and her gaze cast down.
Oh. Oh. What an idiot. Damian, you impossible idiot. You greatest dumbass. You cosmical imbecile.
“I’m sorry,” he stammered, pulling away and letting go of her hands.
Anya almost stumbled when he stepped back, as if, unconsciously, she still craved the warmth and strength of his arms. As if without the magnetic gravity pulling them together, she couldn’t find her balance anymore. But she caught herself at the very last moment, looking back up at him, as if enquiring into his soul what had happened.
What has happened? Why did you make me think… Why did I think that– Damian, you imbecile. Damian, you’ve ruined everything. You absolute moron!
“Don’t bother. I get it. Forget everything that happened tonight. I’ll… it’s not like I care about you anyway!”
Don’t . Don’t look at me like that. Don’t look so hurt and disappointed. Don’t you dare look at me with such pity when you– you idiot, you stupid woman! How can you look at me like that when you’re breaking my heart?!
Anya opened her lips to say something, but he turned around, unable to look at her, to listen to her, to even be anywhere near her.
His entire body was fuming from embarrassment, from shame, from disgust. Not disgust from Anya, never Anya, but himself, for thinking, for even entertaining the thought that a lovely, luminous star like her would even look at him–
“Enjoy the holidays, Forger.” He mumbled, hurrying down the stairs, back into the garden, far away from the bright lights, and disappearing into darkness.