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Guiding Star

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Guiding Star

CHAPTER XIV : Star-Crossed Lovers


Following the ‘infirmary accident’, neither Anya nor Damian slept that night. Unknowingly plagued by the same torment, they were haunted by sights, thoughts and emotions that ardently burnt their hearts. Sensations and desires that had only brushed their young bodies. What had, until that point, only been fluttering feelings and fantasies.


They had not kissed, but they had stepped beyond their carefully forged friendship. A leap of faith. Wearing a blindfold.


Becky was talking about something, but for the life of her, Anya had no idea what. She was too busy staring at Damian, across the room, who was desperately trying to focus on the book he was reading. She knew his thoughts were about her. To the dream he had had of her the previous night. It had left him hot, bothered, panting. She could almost feel the heat come in waves all the way to her.


Sighing by his lack of focus, Damian massaged his fingers against his temple, before drawing them down to the side of his mouth, against his lips. A frustrated little gesture she had never noticed from him.


It was all she would think of now.


His lips. His kiss. His lips against her ankle. His kiss on her skin.


She felt branded, and she didn’t mind.


Damian looked up, as if he was the mind-reader who had caught her traitorous feelings. Their gazes anchored.


Anya realised she hadn’t been breathing. She almost gasped from the intensity of his look. Even across the room. What would it be like to burn under his touches.




She jumped when Becky shook her by the shoulder. Her friend leaned forward and when Anya looked back at Damian, his head was down, pretending to be reading. He was biting his lower lip.


“What happened between you two? It’s been a week and you haven’t said a word! You couldn’t stop being at each other’s throats just a few days ago…” Becky continued in a low voice.


“Y-you know what…”


“I know what I caught you doing you-know-where, but how did such a thing even begin–”


Nothing happened!” Anya exclaimed, blushing.


Becky rolled her eyes, thinking loud enough for Anya to catch it.


As if she could lie to me about such a thing! I can’t believe that Desmond finally had the courage to seduce her! As long as my Anya is still innocent, pure and untouched–


“Becky!!” Anya scolded.


“What! I haven’t said anything!”


Anya lowered her face against her hand, hitting her palm hard.


Some of Becky’s concerns were true, though. For the first time in their lives, Anya and Damian were unable to talk to each other. An entire week. It had been the longest time they had gone without bickering or teasing one another.


She couldn’t find it in herself to confront him about what had happened. She just wanted to slam him against the nearest wall and lose her breathe to his. She had had quite a vivid dream of what would follow such a bold move. She knew that if she somehow resisted, Damian would not.


And regardless of what would happen the next time they addressed each other, with words or lips, how could she forget what he had said?


He didn’t feel ready. Deep down, he was scared. Of getting too close to her, to the flame she was to him, and get burnt. Worse, that his family would oppose his even knowing her. The wildest scenarios had crossed his mind, and she was becoming as paranoid as he was.


She knew everything he felt, but she was unwilling to admit anything that she felt. It was too… too strong.


Their break was over when their next class begun, with Professor Mandel. Everyone stood up straighter, turning their attentions to the Literature class. Their sudden attention was caused for one simple reason: everyone loved Professor Mandel.


She was one of the youngest professors of Eden Academy, and everyone’s favourite (without exception). Even the ones who hated Literature from the bottom of their souls enjoyed her teaching.


Long brown hair and wide brown eyes, she was always kind, always smiling, always sweet. She brought almost every week candies and snacks to the students and even knew everyone’s favourite songs or books. It was impossible not to listen, they were all enchanted by her. As a child, Anya had been certain she had been a fairy. She was so sweet she once apologised to the entire class for giving ‘only’ ten Stella stars for a big exam. She was so understanding, despite Eden’s strict rules, that she often gave the option to retry an exam for the students who had failed or had felt their results inadequate. Damian once gathered his courage to ask her to retry an exam (he had only had 74 and had been utterly disappointed) and Professor Mandel had sat him down and talked with him for two hours about how brilliant he was, how very aware of his efforts she was, he didn’t need to retry because he had one of the best results and perhaps it was her teaching that was inadequate and not his skills – she had been feeling so guilty that Damian ended up being the one trying to comfort her. He never dared tell her he had simply been annoyed that Anya (Anya, of all people!) had received 97 to the same test. It had driven him mad, until Professor Mandel had reassured him of his abilities in Literature.


She was everyone’s favourite, it was as simple as that.


“Good morning, children!” she exclaimed, waltzing in with a wide smile, “Today, we are going to leave our study of ‘The Picture of Dorian Beige’. The exam will be next week, and I want you to reread your notes and write down questions you still have, we’ll go over it all tomorrow, along with how to structure your essay.” She started explaining.


“What will we do today, madam?” a student asked curiously.


“Ah! I’m glad you asked! I want us to have a little introduction on plays, especially dramas! This is the theme of our next term, but today will just be easy and amusing!”


Her skirt flew as she grabbed a pile of documents, coming forward with the look of a hopeless romantic on her face.


“During Winter break, there will be a representation of ‘Roma and Juliet’, from the great William Shakesword, at the Grand Theatre, I will go with my darling husband, but more importantly it is such a beautiful play to study! As it unfortunately occurs during the winter holidays, we won’t be able to go as a class, but I encourage you to go in your own free time if you can.”


She started distributing printed extracts of the play, but she was a clumsy and adorable professor and dropped a few. Anya eagerly stood up to help her out:


“Oh, Anya, dear, thank you so much!” Professor Mandel said with a smile.


It became Anya’s duty to distribute all the copies their professor had printed for them.


“We will only have time to study one short extract today, but it will be amusing, I promise you!”


And everyone believed her, even though many wouldn’t consider Literature ‘funny’, Professor Mandel had a gift to make it entertaining.


As Anya reached the desk at the back of the class with the trio, she quickly left three stacks to avoid Damian. Too quickly because the papers slid off the edge of the table. They started falling. She quickly reached for them, in the same time as Damian did.


Kneeling on the floor, stacks of papers flying around them, their hands brushed. Anya and Damian looked at each other, flushing. His pinky finger brushed hers, strongly enough that it couldn’t have been an accident.


I miss you, he thought, unknowingly sharing with Anya his deepest feelings.


She quickly tried to get away, but his hand wrapped around hers. She whipped around.


“Oh dear! Are you two quite alright? Anya dear, Damian!” Professor Mandel exclaimed, immediately worrying about them.


He let her go and she stood up quickly, forcing a smile on her face.


“I apologise, professor! I dropped the plays! Mr Desmond was simply helping me out!”


I hate it when she last-names me like that… he thought, standing up, visibly irritated.


She ignored him, quickly hopping down the stairs to go back at her desk at the front.


“Oh, well, as long as neither of you are injured, it’s the most important! Thank you for your help, Anya!” Professor Mandel continued.


She started her lesson. Everyone knew the story of ‘Roma and Juliet’. The most famous story of star-crossed lovers, entwined and separated by fate, whose terrible death brings peace back to the city of Vienna. Born from two enemy families, the two lovers met at a ball, fell in love, before the hatred of their families brought them apart. They fought to be together, and they eventually were. In death.


“This is the climax of the entire play! Roma finds Juliet, and thinks her dead! And with one last kiss…”


Professor Mandel happened to glance towards the back of the classroom and fell silent. Her voice trailed off through the classroom, the students hanging on her every words, even though they knew the story.


She tilted her head on the side.


“Damian, Mr Desmond, why do you look so grim?” she asked, incapable of letting one of her students look so forlorn and miserable.


He startled, not having realised he had gotten lost in his own tormented mind.


“…Isn’t it obvious? They both die at the end, we all know it.” He answered, looking down at the script beneath his fingers.


“That’s true, they both die.” Professor Mandel agreed, looking surprisingly serious and solemn for once, “This is the meaning of a tragedy, dear. But does its tragic ending make the entire play meaningless?”


It wasn’t unusual for the professor to interrogate her students during her explanations, it was more interactive than most classes, which was another part they liked.


Despite his poor (or so he thought) results in Literature, he usually had easy answer, but for once, Damian’s mouth was dry like sand. He hesitated, then shook his head.


“They should have talked to their families instead of hiding themselves… If Roma had been more patient, none of it would have happened. It’s all his fault.” He said with a half shrug.


“Does anyone wish to discuss this further?” Professor Mandel asked around the classroom.


Most didn’t feel concerned enough by an old play they could only half understand that wasn’t even part of the program.


Silence stretched and the professor was about to intervene when Anya slowly stood up, drawing everyone’s gazes towards her. Her head hung low, and her lips were pursed, an unusual expression for Cecil Hall’s cheeky girl. It made everyone more curious.


“The play isn’t about whether Roma and Juliet live happily ever after at the end, it’s… it’s about the time they have together, about the choice they make to be together despite the hatred that divides their families. About the city of Vienna finding peace, through their sacrifice. War tore them apart, but love brought them back. All… it’s all for peace.” She explained.


She turned around, diving her gaze deep into Damian’s as she continued:


“It doesn’t make their actions any less brave and beautiful. Every choice they made was for their happiness, and for their families, even if they weren’t aware of it…”


Silence stretched. The whole classroom held their breaths, expecting tension to spark between the two star-crossed lovers of Cecil Hall. Strangely, it was an unusual sadness that hung in the air.


“He was selfish,” Damian replied.


“He was scared!” Anya exclaimed.


He glowered at her. She held his gaze.


“It’s a story about love vanquishing the worst parts of mankind, and only someone who is incapable of love would think otherwise!” she declared, stubbornly sitting down to mark her statement as finale.


Damian gritted his teeth. Anya knew she was being unfair, to bring their own affairs into this classroom, but the unadmitted tension, the unwavering sadness of keeping apart, had broken out.


Silence echoed, heavy in the air.


Damian sat down as well.


“…Why don’t we look further into a deciding scene? It might enlighten us on the nature of the choices both Roma and Juliet make.” Professor Mandel decided with a smile.


It’s important these two realise that they can be both right and wrong all at once, she added to herself.


Anya glanced at the teacher whose eyes lit up with a sudden sparkle.


“Oh! I know! Anya, dear, and Damian, please come here! You’ll read the gazebo scene out loud for everyone!”


They both startled, flushing. It wasn’t unusual for students to read some passages of whatever they were studying… but re-enacting the most famous scene of the most famous lovers in front of the entire classroom?


“Come on, come on, don’t be shy!” she continued.


Hearts drumming into their ears, incapable of finding any reason to refuse, they had no choice but to go in front of all their classmates which were, by the way, leaning forward, eagerly entertained by the way this lesson had turned out.


“W-which scene…?” Damian asked in a low voice, unwilling to put up with any of this.


“Start here,” Professor Mandel indicated, pointing at a passage of the text.


He hesitated, glancing quickly at Anya who seemed as embarrassed as he was.


Waiting for him to start, Anya looked up and it brought him back to the text he had to read.


“Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,

Having some business, do entreat her eyes

To twinkle in their spheres till they return.

What if her eyes were there, they in her head?

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars

As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.

See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.”


Damian swallowed hard, the description of Juliet’s starlit beauty through Roma’s gaze far too close to how he viewed Anya. His voice became more hesitant, falling into the text and imagining it were his own sorrow he was speaking of.


“O… that I were a glove upon that hand,

That I might… touch that cheek…” he finished in a breath.


Anya stared at him, conscious of every thought going through his head.


“O Roma, Roma… wherefore art thou Roma?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name…”


Damian glanced up, forcing her to a stop.


Anya was willing to be patient, she was, but this hit far too close to her own heart. How many times had she wished Damian had been born from a different father, under a different name? If only so he would suffer less. She shook her head, quickly finishing the famous lines:


“Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”


She had talked too quickly, stumbling on the words, but no one seemed disturbed by it. Damian least of all, but something passed between them. Unspoken words, a quiet understanding that those words their professor was making them recite were the ones they had, somehow, needed to hear from one another.


“’Tis but thy name that is my enemy…” Anya continued, voice breaking as her eyes started stinging.


She had thrived so hard to make Mission Strix succeed. It had been her only goal in the first few years of her life as Anya Forger. Help her father for Mission Strix, stop Donovan Desmond, gain world peace… Falling in love with his son, with Damian, had never been part of the plan. And here she was, spilling out her heart in front of the entire class.


“Thou art thyself… though not a Montague…”


Damian remembered Anya’s words a few days ago. “Have you considered that when you’re around me, it’s not that you’re not yourself… but you’re being your true self?”


A tear slipped out of her eye, startling Damian and the entire class but Anya continued, half-blinded but reciting the words anyway:


“O be some other name! What’s Montague?

It is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face,

Nor any part belonging to a man.”


Her voice broke and more tears filled her eyes.


“Anya–” Damian intervened, taking a step closer.


Like always when Anya cried in front of him, his heart was being torn apart. He wanted her to stop crying, he wanted it more than anything else in the world. All he desired was for her smile to light up the night.


But she didn’t seem to hear him, and continued, in a wobbly voice and with a tear-covered face:


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet.

So Roma would… were he not Roma called…”


“Anya,” Damian murmured.


She hiccupped and tried wiping away some tears but they kept rolling down her cheeks.




“Anya, please,” Damian continued, taking another step closer.


“R-retain that dear perfection which he owes…

Without that title… Romeo, d-doff thy name…

And, for thy name… which is no part of thee…

Take all myself!”


A sob escaped her. Anya dropped the play on the floor and covered her face with her hands.


“Anya…” Becky whispered, standing up with a packet of tissues but she didn’t dare move closer when Damian was right there.


He only stared at Anya as she hopelessly cried and helplessly wiped away her tears.


“Anya, dear…” Professor Mandel said, standing up to come closer.


It seemed to bring back Anya because she sniffed and suddenly raised her chin high, avoiding anyone’s gaze.


“S-so! I was right!” she started, “They’re just… they’re just scared because of their parents’ strife! But they… they have no… they… they could be happy! If… if it weren’t a tragedy!”


Another sob escaped her, which she quickly tried to control, sniffing, and wiping her tears with the back of her hands.


Damian’s legs were shaking. Through the frantic drumming, his heart was being torn apart. He could never resist when he saw her cry.


It had been what had made him fall so many years ago.


It was what was making him take a leap of faith now.


“It doesn’t have to be,” he stammered suddenly.


Professor Mandel glanced at him and blinked but he didn’t seem to notice her. Only Anya. Always Anya.


The professor stepped away, eyes sparkling, watching the two students face each other.


“W-what?” Anya stammered, her teary eyes shining.


Damian stepped over the last step separating them. Hesitantly, he lifted up a hand. He put one on her cheek. Anya shivered under his touch, but she didn’t go away. He started wiping away her tears with his thumb. More tears filled her eyes, but it didn’t seem so sad anymore.


“It doesn’t have to be a tragedy… it turned into one b-because Roma and Juliet didn’t talk to their families a-and fate was against them but… I refuse to believe star-crossed lovers are inevitably doomed to sorrow!” he exclaimed suddenly.


The whole classroom, including the professor, all held their breaths, leaning forward to discover what would happen next between those two who had danced around each other for a decade, pulled and pushed by fate.


Damian’s heart was so loud it was echoing in his head. He was quite certain Anya could hear it. Her eyes were shining like liquid silver, from all the tears she’d cried.


“Anya, I…” he continued, cheeks turning crimson as he stared at her.


She held her breath, waiting eagerly for the next words. Her own mind was such a mess that she didn’t dare try to listen to his, or she’d surely pass out. Unconsciously, she leaned her cheek against the palm of his hand.


“Anya, I–”


The bell rang. So loudly and suddenly that everyone jumped in their seats. Damian and Anya froze, still standing face-to-face. The students started murmuring, disappointed, and slowly gathered their notebooks and pen cases. Lunch break was calling.


Damian and Anya remained frozen, not daring to move, like a couple of deer frozen in headlights. They had completely forgotten they were supposed to be in the middle of a class.


“Everybody, shut up!!” Becky yelled suddenly, not wanting to let go of the show, or worse, for her friends to chicken out again.


Her shout had the opposite effect. It startled Anya and she whipped away from Damian, turning crimson out of sheer embarrassment for the pathetic display she had just shown everyone. Bringing her personal story into this play, crying for the parallels that hurt, for the inevitability of it all.


“Anya–” Damian started, stunned by her sudden movement.


Anya threw all her notebooks into her bag then ran out of the classroom, far too fast for Becky to even call her.


“Oh no! Not again!” Becky exclaimed.


The students, now more eager for lunch than whatever drama was happening, were starting to fill out of the ranks.


“D-don’t forget– your notes for the exam!” Professor Mandel exclaimed, a little taken aback by the unexpected turn her class had taken.


“Damn it!” Damian swore, turning on his heels and sprinting after Anya.


“W-wait! Boss-man!”


“Your bag!”


He didn’t care. Damian ran, as fast as he ever had, through the hallways slowly filling with students. He couldn’t see Anya but he would be damned if he let her go one more time. If the simple idea of being doomed for loving him made her cry that much, what was he waiting for?


His father’s approval? HAH! His father could roll over in his grave, Damian wouldn’t care.


His family’s approval? What did they even know about him, his wishes?


The one person he had been looking out for in the crowd, for the past ten years, had not been his father or his brother, it had been Anya. It had always been Anya and it was her words that always managed to bring him out of his worst moments.


Doff thy name…

And, for thy name… which is no part of thee…

Take all myself!


“For what it’s worth… I’m really proud of the man you’re becoming…”


“I’ll be patient.”


“Have you considered that when you’re around me, it’s not that you’re not yourself… but you’re being your true self?”


“Anya!!” he shouted, hoping to see her hair flash in sight.


He wasn’t sure where his feet were taking him, he wasn’t sure where Anya would go hide. But he suddenly ended up in the hallway of art classrooms, all empty as all the students and professors had left for lunch.


He walked by the classes, a little out of breath after his run, when he noticed a bag with a familiar keychain hanging from it, left at the entrance of a classroom. The one where she went for her art club, the one where she had created that soccer banner, the one… the one where no one else would find her.


“Anya.” He called upon entering the room.


She whipped around, her hair flying like a halo. She flushed, to be caught so easily. She bit her lower lip, eyes darting around to try to escape him.


“I-I’m sorry!” she exclaimed.


“Whatever for?” he asked, frowning.


“I-I was embarrassing, for the both of us, I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry–”


“Don’t apologise, I’m… glad you did this.”


She tried to make for the door.


He caught her by the arm, not letting her run away this time. They had both played that game, and he was tired of it.


“Do you want me to throw a shoe at you too?” he muttered, but he was smiling.


She looked up at him, blinking. Then, she chuckled at the memory. His smile widened.


“Anya, the bell rang at the worst possible time…”


“The only time I didn’t want it to ring,” she muttered, lowering her face.


Damian put a finger under her chin, forcing her to look up. To look at him, at his eyes.


Anya held her breathe, mesmerized by the way his eyes shone. A beautiful green, speckled with gold. She had never seen such a colour and somehow, she knew it was meant for her and only her. She would always be the only one seeing such a look on his face… Soft, open, vulnerable. And adoring.


“Anya, I…”


Damn it, it shouldn’t be this complicated to say it! Just say the damn words, Damian!! He thought to himself.




He turned crimson, his tongue fumbling. Anya felt his distress and went on her tiptoes to attract his attention. She put her hands on his cheeks, almost losing her balance. His eyes widened.


“You like me, I like you… So far, it’s simple.” She said, quoting his own words from a few days ago.


And screw any ‘but’ that would follow.


Damian leaned forward to finally seal those words with a kiss. Eyes fluttering shut, they moved in tandem. But Anya’s unstable position made her waver. She tried to hold onto him, but her left foot hit her right and she stumbled backwards. Damian reacted too late to stop the fall.






His astonishment was replaced by irritation.


“You! We were having a moment!!”


She was already standing up, her pride far more bruised than her body. She looked back up at him, pouting as he turned red in anger.


“Anya! You! You impossible klutz!!” he exclaimed, almost furious.


“I’m sorry!! I didn’t mean to!”


“Couldn’t you be more careful?!”


“It’s not my fault! You’re too distracting!!”


I am distracting YOU?!”


“YES! You are, you foolish man!!” she exclaimed, blushing furiously and tightening her small fists while standing on her tippy toes to make herself look taller and more impressive.


Damian tightened his jaw, holding back a growl of frustration to see her so fiery, so annoying, so infuriating, so infuriatingly attractive!!


Throwing all care into the wind, he grabbed her face into his hands and bent down, kissing her fast and hard. Anya gasped against his lips, and they immediately pulled apart, breathing hard, as much from their ridiculous argument as from the overwhelming emotions. They were both a blushing mess. Their hearts were beating so loud, they were certain the other could hear it.


He had kissed her. He had kissed Anya Forger. He, Damian Desmond, second heir to the Desmond family, had just kissed Anya Forger. It had not been a good first kiss. He had been too hot, too hurried, too much of a klutz himself. Their noses had bumped awkwardly, their teeth had tapped, they had almost hurt their lips. And right now, they were staring into each other’s eyes with a mix of astonishment and the smouldering annoyance that, to be entirely honest, had morphed many years ago into an ardent passion that they had been carefully ignoring.


Disappointed and annoyed with himself, Damian tightened his lips.


“Damn it, I wanted our first kiss to be sweet and romantic, not like that at all, I’m sorry, I–”


Anya put her hands on his face, pulling him down eagerly. She kissed him, as strongly as the one he had just given her. But this time, it lasted, their lips remained connected. He pulled her tightly against his body. Their clumsy kissing was full of passion, but they had so much to learn yet.


They pulled apart, breathless and dizzy, staring at each other as if they had just discovered the secret of immortality.


“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Sy-on boy. It’s us, after all! What did you expect?” she breathed against his mouth, a giddy smile and ecstatic laugh erupting from her lips.


Any other time, he’d be enchanted by the sight, but all he wanted was to kiss her, again and again and again, until she forgot how terrible their very first kiss had been.


“I’ll never let you forget how our first kiss went,” she whispered against his lips.


He chuckled, almost darkly, a low rumbling laughter that was full of challenge, and unexpected happiness. He dived down again, forgetting his name, his family, everything that was not who he really was. Everything that was not Anya. She melted against his body, which sent an army of butterflies fluttering in his entire body.


They had a lot to learn yet, but they were more than happy to practice.