Dragons and Imps
by Rumyana Bumbarova
“Cause it was the heat of the moment
Telling me what your heart meant
The heat of the moment shone in your eyes …”
Lena opened her eyes so fast she had a head spin. She looked at her touch screen – it was 6:45. She yawned for what it felt like an hour and got out of bed stretching, “Yeah, like that would help!” She went to the kitchen, poured some water into the kettle and went to the bathroom. She did all of that with her eyes mostly closed. Almost every morning she had the same thought: “That’s how a blind person must feel when they can’t see anything but know where everything is, so they don’t need to see.”
She finally felt kind of awake when she sat in front of the laptop. She checked her Facebook and then a couple of freelancer ads, she sent applications and started to get ready for work.
“Walk, come with me now
I’m gonna take you down
Walk, come with me now,
I’m gonna show you how…”
Clothes on, make up on, a little dance to go with the singing and Lena went out the door.
The train station was a 10 minutes’ walk from her apartment. Every other day she used to drive to the station. It was so easy to convince herself that by driving instead of walking she trained her driving skills; or that there wasn’t enough time and the car was faster than her two legs; or that she would need the car after work to go to the supermarket. All good reasons for the lazy side of her. When she thought about her laziness, she often imagined it exactly like Al Bundy – with a beer in one hand and his other hand in his pants. Much like in the movie “Inside out” she saw her qualities and her feelings like little creatures inside her head. But today she didn’t want Al, today she thought that a walk was better – it would help her wake up, it’s healthier and it was gas free.
“10 minutes to 8, I can make it, no need to rush.”
“9 minutes to 8, oh my God, I’m gonna miss the train! Just RUN, FOREST, RUN!”
“5 minutes to 8, oh, ok, I see the train! Please don’t move, I’m coming!”
At 7:57 Lena was trying to find a seat like every morning. She liked to read on the train, so she always looked for a quiet set of seats, with preferably no other passengers around. There were none that day, so she had to make do. She was just about to sit next to a high school student when she saw him. She felt chills and hot waves all at the same time. The little spiders under her skin, she felt whenever she was nervous, started crawling right on time. He was sitting alone, gapping at his phone and did not see her.
“Should I go over there? No, I shouldn’t… but what’s the worst thing that could happen? I should sit next to him. No! I’ve already done that once and what happened? Nothing! Yeah, he smiled at me but so what?! Stop embarrassing yourself! Yeah, so maybe he’s a little shy, maybe I should do the first step, although I’m always the one that smiles first and sits next to him, so it would be more like the 100th step! What more does he want? A declaration of love? Oh, stop, this is ridiculous! Just go over there, smile and open up your Kindle.”
- Excuse me, is this seat taken? – she could feel her face already turning red.
- Yeah, sure.
She sat down and tried to calm herself. “Why did I have to run?! Now I’m sweating and I am breathing like a horse! Ok, relax, just open your book and forget about that cute guy, with blackish hair and dark brown eyes who is sitting in front of you. Ok, Samwell Tarly, take my mind off of him. “
“The sea made Samwell Tarly greensick. It was not all his fear of drowning, though that was surely some of it. It was the motion of the ship as well, the way the decks rolled beneath his feet. “I have a queasy belly,” he confessed to Dareon …”
“Oh, who am I kidding, Samwell’s are one of the most boring chapters! What should I do? Maybe I should say something to him?”
Lena looked at him, their eyes met and they both smiled nervously at each other.
“Ok, smiling, I can do smiling, but not too much, my face looks awful with a wide smile on it! Ok, yeah, that was fine. So what now? Say something, anything! Just not something stupid!”
- Are there dragons on your phone? – “What the hell?! Dragons?! Are you insane?!”
- I’ve seen you a couple of times and you are always looking at your phone and I thought what could be so interesting. Heads – dragons.
“Oh, my God! I am so dumb! Dragons?! REALLY?!” Her heart was just gonna jump out of her chest like in a Looney Tunes’ episode.
- Ah, no, no dragons, just an imp and a eunuch.
- I’m sorry, that was stupid. You probably think I’m talking nonsense, which I am. I was trying to say that I’m reading a book, ah, on my phone. – he smiled quickly and in embarrassment. Her heart started to slow down.
- No, I got it. So which one are you reading?
- Sorry….? – he looked puzzled.
- Which Game of Thrones book are you reading?
- Oh, “A dance with dragons”. – he smiled again. “Oh, he has such a cute smile!”
- Shut up! I’m on “A Feast for Crows”.
He looked relieved and Lena was just about to unleash all of her Game of Thrones knowledge when the Conductor’s voice shouted: “Next stop Central Train Station”.
“Really? Now? I thought the train ride was 30 minutes, not 2 seconds!”
They both stood up.
- After you. – he said with the most beautiful smile Lena had ever seen.
The 8 o’clock train was full of students and working folks and all of them were in a hurry to get out. When she turned around to see if he was behind her, she saw an old woman trying not to sneeze. Unfortunately for Lena, she was unsuccessful. Lena turned back quickly, covering her face. The crowd was fast and when she jumped on the platform, she quickly looked around, but she couldn’t see him.
“Well, at least we talked a little. I mean, I still don’t know his name, but may next time… or not, maybe next time they saw each other it would be so awkward, that he will just smile and run in the opposite direction and that would be it…”
- Hey, dragon! Hey! – someone was shouting behind her.
She turned around and saw him running towards her. Her heart started to do that Looney Tunes thing again. He stopped 2 feet from her.
- I didn’t catch your name. – he said and there it was again that cute smile.
- I like Dragon, it’s mystical and bad ass. But if you are lucky maybe next time I’ll tell you my human name.
He laughed and then she laughed. The whole thing was ridiculous.
- Ok, then you can call me Storm and you can also call me at this number. – he took the phone out of her hands and wrote down his number. – There. It’s under S. Maybe we can grab a drink, say tonight, and talk a little more about dragons and imps?
“Ah! Why was he so damn cute!”
- – she smiled back at him and turned around.
“Maybe?! Maybe?! What was I thinking, I should have told him my name and actually say ‘Yes’! Now he’s gonna think I’m weird and melodramatic!”
When she finally got to the office, she still couldn’t stop thinking about it, about him, about his dark brown eyes and his bright smile. “Again with the smile! Stop it!”
- Hi, sweetie – Evan was already making coffee.
Evan was one of her colleagues and normally she would have shown him a lot more attention but now all she could think about is The Guy from the train. That’s what she called him in her head. “Although now I guess I should call him Storm.”
- How are you today? I brought you some of my homemade cake – Evan was dangling a yellow box and smiling at her.
- Oh, really, you’re the best! – Lena didn’t have breakfast at home because she thought she would buy some fruit on her way to work. But after that exciting train ride, she completely
- forgot about the fruit, about work or about coffee. All she could think about was dragons and imps.
- When do you think is Cuckoo coming today? I really hope she doesn’t come at all.
- I don’t know. I doubt we will be so lucky.
Cuckoo was what they called their boss. She was a dreadful woman in her 50s, whose only joy in the world was to torture the people around her. Every time Lena thought about her she couldn’t help but see Dolores Umbridge, the awful frog-like witch from Harry Potter. Of course, physically they had nothing in common, but their personalities were very much alike. Cuckoo was always trying to shove people done, so she can come out on top. She constantly said “I’m better than you” no matter the case, that’s how insecure she was. In addition, she was incompetent and often gave orders that contradict the previous ones. Sometimes she shouted at everyone for no apparent reason, except for the crazy ones in her head. Sometimes she used the Umbridge tone – sweet, low, almost like she has no power left, to tell you how bad you’re doing, how good she was for giving you a chance and how you should be grateful for the huge salary you have, which to be fair was next to nothing.
Lena was a psychologist and her office was a government office that dealt with prevention of drug abuse. She and her colleagues – Evan, Mary, Naomi, Roberta, and Lucy, visited schools and gave lectures on the risk and bad consequences of using drugs. They also organized different events like concerts and football matches. Nobel cause, but in reality they sat in front of the laptops all day, they talked to school psychologists and headmasters, they were trying to come up with fresh ideas for events and for prevention programs, only to be crushed by Cuckoo, who always said “They are my events and this stupid idea you have is incomplete and unrealistic.”
Lena and her colleagues didn’t even bother to try anymore. They all knew how cuckoo Cuckoo was and the office tension was so obvious, you could cut it with a knife.
One by one her colleagues came. Cuckoo, of course, came around noon. She always said she was busy working outside the office, but everyone knew she just slept in. But none of this matter to Lena today. She spent all morning thinking about Storm. Actually, the name he chose for himself fitted perfectly, because every time she thought about him, she felt like there was a storm coming inside her body. She had butterflies in her stomach, spiders inside her skin, a whole group of insects, actually, all over her body. She couldn’t stop smiling, she couldn’t stay at one place for more than a minute and when the lunch break finally came, she was the first out the door.
- What’s going on with you? – Evan asked when the waiter brought their drinks.
The six of them were having lunch in a nearby restaurant. That, of course, was a secret, because the second Cuckoo found out that they were fraternizing all hell would break loose. She saw friendship between colleagues as a conspiracy with one purpose only – taking her out. She had worked very hard to divide them by spreading rumors about each of them, talking behind everyone’s back and all the other childish methods, she could think of.
- Nothing, I’m just in a good mood, can’t I just be in a good mood? – even now she couldn’t stop laughing.
- Liar, liar pants on fire! – Mary said pointing a finger at her. – Our little Lena is hiding something.
- Did you get a new job? – Evan asked – I will kill you if you got a new job and didn’t tell me!
They were all looking for new jobs. None of them wanted to stay a minute longer with Cuckoo.
- No, I don’t have a new job. – Lena said – I don’t know if I will ever find one. No one’s looking to hire a psychologist, fresh out of the university, whose only psychological experience is dealing with Cuckoo.
- Still, there is something going on with you today – Lucy winked at her.
- You’re all wrong, I’m just in good mood and the reason is that it’s a beautiful day and we shouldn’t let Cuckoo bring us down. There are 4 more hours and after that, we can all do whatever the hell we want.”
“Listen to yourself! Like they’re gonna bite that! I’m not in a good mood because the day is beautiful! The day was beautiful yesterday and the day before that, but I didn’t meet Storm in any of those days, right?”
- Hey, do you wanna grab some beers after work? We can go to the hippie bar you like so much. – Evan always thought that all the stuff she liked were hippie – her taste in music, in clothes and apparently in bars.
- Yeah, let’s – Lucy joined in. She had big blue eyes that just don’t allow you to say “No”.
- Sure, why not. – Lena took a bite of Evan’s Shepard’s pie. His order always came before hers. “Would have killed the cook to make the chicken nuggets first?”
They went back to the office and tried to spend the whole afternoon researching new drugs online. Cuckoo kept interrupting them every 10 minutes with new orders and one very long interrogation about Evan’s love life and Mary’s husband’s education. So Lena stopped trying to actually work and instead spent her time staring at her phone. She did find his number under S for Storm. The whole thing was still unreal to her. “He gave me his number, so now it will be my move. But how am I supposed to call him? What would I say? ‘Hey Storm, it’s Dragon, wanna hang?’ OH, GOD THAT’S THE WORST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD! I can’t do that. Plus I already said I will go out with Lucy and Evan tonight. But maybe I should just call.”
This debate in Lena’s head went on all afternoon and ended around 5:10 pm when they left the office. “This is crazy, I don’t need this right now.” Lena thought and followed Evan and Lucy across the street.
The bar was full even though it was so early in the evening. They grabbed a couple of beers, Lucy’s fiancée joined them and so did some other friends of Evan and Lucy’s. Lena liked them and she usually had fun with them, but today her mind was just somewhere else. In a place called Westeros. “Storm… Storm, he even looks like the Edric Storm that I had imagined in my head but he is even hotter! What am I doing? I have been complaining about the absence of attraction in my life for a year now! This is new and exciting and a bit scary, but good scary! I’m gonna do this! I’m gonna call him now before I change my mind!”
She took her phone and went outside. She pushed the green headphone button and it felt like her heart skipped a beat. “It’s ringing… What am I going to say? OH, MAN, WHAT AM I GOING TO SAY?! Hang up, hang up now! No, it’s too late, he will see that I called. What do I do now?!”
- Hello – this time her heart most certainly skipped a beat.
- Hi, how’s it going in Dragonstone? – “What the hell did I just say?”
- Haha, it’s a bit drafty but good. So you called. I didn’t think you would.
- Well, I decided to take you up on that beer you’re about to offer me. “Damn, that was good. Thank you, writers of HIMYM!”
- Hahahaha, ok. Are you still in Plovdiv?
- Good, me too. Do you wanna meet in 10 minutes at the Rome Stadium?
- Yeah, ok, I’ll see you there.
- Bye dragon.
She went back inside, grabbed her things and said goodbye to everyone. “I can’t believe this is actually happening! I’m on my way to meet a stranger and do who knows what who knows where! This is so not like me!”
When she got to the Stadium, he wasn’t there yet. She was relieved “At least I can catch my breath before he comes.”
And there he was. Her heart was pounding so fast, she seriously considered going to the doctor tomorrow. He was walking towards her for what it felt like hours. Everything was in slow motion. He was walking and walking and when he saw her, he smiled. It was a little smile, just at the corner of his mouth but it was so thrilling and then the slow motion turned into fast motion and in the blink of an eye he was standing in front of her.
- Hey, did I make you wait long?
- No, not at all, I just got here myself. – “Ahr, why is blushing involuntary, there should be an off switch!”
Awkward silence. They were just standing there, smiling at each other.
- So, should we go?
- Yeah, but where are we going?
- I have an idea, come on.
- You know, that is not very wise of me – she caught herself doing the sexy face while they were walking up the hill. You know the face, slightly serious, biting one lip, looking up. Lena and her girlfriends had so much fun doing that face and taking pictures.
- What is? – He looked at her a bit confused.
- Well, meeting a stranger and walking with him even though he hasn’t told me where we’re going.
- Yeah, I guess that’s very irresponsible of you. But we are not exactly strangers. I’ve seen you around a couple of times.
- Yeah, that doesn’t make it sound better.
- Oh, come on, it’s not that bad. Plus everyone starts as strangers.
- I guess, but I don’t even know your name neither do you.
- What? Of course, I know my name. – he was laughing and she felt a little stupid. – Ok, but you do know my pseudonym, right?
- Yes, Dragon and Storm. It sounds like the title of the newest teen fantasy novel.
- Oh, no, not teen fantasy, please. You make it sound so cheesy. Can it be just a new adult fantasy novel?
- Yeah, like that’s better! Now it sounds like a porn book.
They were both laughing and walking up the stairs, so they were out of breath. Lena hated it when that happened. She always felt like one of the people on the strollers from that movie “Wall-E”, who tries walking for the first time. Plus it made her sweat, which was the last thing she wanted right now.
- Ok, a new fantasy novel for people of all ages, what do you say?
- Ok, but only if you tell me where we’re going.
It was the old part of the city and she knew that those stairs lead to the Ancient Theatre. But the theatre was closed when there were no performances.
- Well, we’re going to the café to buy some beers and then we’re going to enjoy an awesome view.
By the time he finished his sentence they were already there. The café was empty if you didn’t count the bartender playing on his phone.
- Wait here – he said and he touched her hand very gently.
“Oh, yay!” Lena took that time to calm herself. She was out of breath, the Looney Tunes thing had started again, she was sweating a little bit and she was probably as red as a tomato. She did the best she could, which wasn’t much. She could only hope that she looked at least presentable if not good.
He came back carrying five beers. Now that was an odd number. Two, yeah, one for her and one for him, but five…
- Here, let me help you – Lena took two of the beers.
- Shall we?
Lucy had told her that there is a way to sneak into the theatre and that they did it all the time, so they don’t have to pay for tickets. But how exactly, was a piece of useful information and like most such pieces, was somewhere in her mind, lost forever.
Storm seemed to know exactly what he was doing. They went to the right side of the theater where the fencing was old and had a hole in the right corner.
- Here, take the beers. – Storm gave her the canes and pulled the fencing to the point where a person can easily sneak in. He went throw the whole and turned around. His black hair was even messier than before and he looked so hot right now. – Give me the canes and come to me.
- Ok, but just so you know trespassing is not one of my strong suits. – And of course, while passing throw the whole, she scratched her left arm on one of the loose wires. – Oh! See, total newbie at trespassing.
- Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s just a scratch and this trespassing would be just the first of many. You’ll get better, I’m sure. – He was standing so close right now that she could feel his breath on her face. Their eyes met and for a moment Lena though he’s gonna lean in and they would kiss, like in those cheesy moments in every movie ever. But he turned aside, put his hand on her arm and tried to see what she had done to herself. The lightning was very bad, however, so he couldn’t see anything.
- Let’s get you closer to the light to see if you’re going to live – He smiled at her and turned around.
They took the beers and walked away from the fencing. After 3 seconds she saw the theatre. It was incredible. She has been here many times before but never when it was so empty. There was no one around besides them and the place was full of lights. It was early and the sun was still up but half of the lights were on. The Ancient Theatre was on one of the city’s hills, so it had an amazing view – the traffic right under it, the big buildings and the mountain in the distance.
- Do you like it? – he asked with a victorious smile on his face.
- Yes, it’s beautiful.
- Well, we couldn’t go to Westeros, but I figure another old place will do. – There was something in his smile, something flirtatious, something mysterious.
Lena smiled back thinking “Oh my god, this Game of Thrones’ thing is actually working”.
They went to the center of the theatre. Lena set facing the stage, so she can enjoy the view, but he sat facing her.
- Now let me see your arm.
She had completely forgotten about the arm. She looked down and saw a huge scratch. He took her arm in his hands and very gently touched the place around the wound.
- Well, I think you might need a tetanus shot, it’s pretty deep.
- Yeah, that would have to do the trick for now – she said, took one of the canes, opened it and spilled a little over the wound.
- I didn’t know they have Perlenbacher here. – she said laughing at his surprised face.
- You said it without reading the label! – he was still holding her hand – Yay, so you really know your beer.
- You have no idea – Lena laughed. He really had no idea. She drunk different kinds of alcohol, but beer was her thing. Everyone who knew her had the same association in mind: Lena – beer, tv shows, and Harry Potter.
- Well, that’s the second thing I learned about you – he was watching her in the eyes so persistently he wasn’t even blinking.
- Oh, yeah and what was the first – she giggled like a little teenage girl “Oh, I so hate that!”
- That you have a great taste in books, a taste that is also very uncommon for a girl.
- What? What do you mean “for a girl”? – Lena felt that there is a gender argument on the horizon. “Damn it, it was going so well.”
- Well, let’s just say that most girls don’t exactly dig fantasy.
- How do you know that?
- Don’t get me wrong, I’ve meet girls who like one or two fantasy series or movies, but that’s usually an exception for them.
- Really, so you think that fantasy universe is almost entirely male. – he let go of her hand – In that case, what kind of books or movies do most girls like?
- Ok, you’re getting mad. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend you. – he took a little sip – But let’s be honest, girls like romantic comedies, self-help books and apparently a little BDMS novels. Come on, tell me I’m wrong!
- You are so wrong!
He laughed. It was like he thought she was a little girl, who just won’t accept that Santa Claus isn’t real.
- Ok, I have an idea, why don’t you tell me some of your favorite fantasy movies or series and see if I know some of them – Lena was going to crash him, she always wanted to have that kind of trivia or a contest of some sort.
- And how would I know, you didn’t just hear of them, how would I know that you know what you’re talking about? – he couldn’t stop smiling at her, he probably still thought the whole thing was gonna come back to bite her in the behind.
- Let’s see… you can ask me additional questions to make sure I’m not lying if you feel the need to.
- Ok, deal – he pulled out his hand and they shook on it but again everything was so gentle. He kept his grip light but she could still feel the hard blisters on his palm.
They stood holding hands like that for a brief second and then they let go.
- Ok, let’s start. – For the first time he didn’t look so smug – what do you think of Angel, the tv series?
And his smugness was back on. He probably thought she had never heard of Angel and that he won with his first question.
- I think it’s a shame it ended on a cliffhanger.
- Ok, but who won the last battle between Angel and Wesley?
- Oh, you are bad! – she smiled at him so widely – The last battle isn’t between those two, it’s between Angel, Spike, Gunn and that Illyria chick and all the monsters in the world. By the time the battle started Wesley was already dead. And no one knows who won – that’s the cliffhanger.
- Ok, impressive. – he did look impressed. Lena couldn’t stop smiling – Let’s see… who is your favorite character from Lord of the Rings?
- I don’t have a favorite one from Lord of the Rings – that victorious smile was back on his face – my favorite character is Bilbo but from The Hobbit, I think Martin Freeman was very good.
- Oh, ok, so you have seen the movies but what do you think of Tolkien’s books? Which one do you like better?
- The Silmarillion. I liked the concept of his world and I even liked how the dwarfs actually came before the elves.
Storm looked shocked. He really didn’t expect that she knew all of this. Lena was laughing. She tried to take a sip but she had already finished her cane without even noticing. She took another one.
- Ok, give me something hard, come on. – “Oh, did I really say ‘Give me something hard’?! Oh, who cares, I’m winning!”
They went on like that for a long time. All the things he could think of, she knew of – from Smallville and Batman to C3PO and Warcraft. It was sunset when they finally got to the end of the trivia.
- Fine, which is your favorite Supernatural episode?
- “Yellow fever”, especially the scene with the cat in the locker. That Dean cracks me up.
- Ok, that one was easy, it’s television, let’s try something else… You know the Harry Potter books? A lot of things didn’t make it into the movies. Which one do you think should have?
He lost, he lost badly. She was going to take him down with this one. He wouldn’t even know what hit him.
- Well, let’s see… Winkie the house elf should have made it, also Mrs. Weasly’s nightmares and Harry and Ginny’s actual first kiss. Remus’ break down in the seventh book was a huge loss and I would have liked to see the Nearly Headless Nick’s birthday party. They are many others, of course, like meeting Neville’s parents and Lockhart at the hospital. But most of all throughout the books Ron is hilarious and every joke he ever made should have been into the movies.
He was speechless. His eyes were so wide open that he looked like he was petrified. And then all of sudden he grabbed her, pulled her on top of him and kissed her passionately. His lips were soft and a little wet, his tongue was dancing around with hers as if they had done this all their lives. Lena had no idea what was happening but she didn’t care. It was amazing, thrilling, new and exciting. She grabbed him by the hair at the same moment he grabbed her by hers with one hand and he slowly slipped the other one from her neck to her lower back.
They were kissing for what it felt like ages. When Lena finally leaned back to look at him, he smiled, pulled her back over and when their lips barely touched, he whispered: “I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.” She kissed him gently and slowly but then they speed up the paste and before she knew it he turned her around and got on top. They were kissing intensely, their hands were all over each other’s bodies and their lips didn’t unlock for a second. Lena was so exhilarated, she didn’t even though that he was still a stranger with no name and they were alone at the Theatre about to… it was like her brain had just stopped working.
They even started to move in a very specific motion when they heard the noise. They looked up and saw someone standing at the main gate with a flashlight.
- WHO’S THERE? – The figure yelled.
- Oh, God, let’s move! – Lena pushed him away and gathered her things.
- Come on! – he whispered and took her hand.
She grabbed one beer before he dragged her out. The figure saw them and yelled:
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! YOU’RE IN BIG TROUBLE! DON’T MAKE IT WORSE!
THE END OF PART I
The next part will be published on Thursday so be sure to come back and until then, you can browse through the blog for interesting posts about books, shows, and travels.