Withdrawing her hand during Piotr’s bout of coughing seemed the most prudent thing to do, even with his armored skin. The teens had never really tested the resistance of his mutation against hers, and now wasn’t the time to find out.
Lejla’s hand strayed back to comfort him, continuing to caress his hot brow while softly watching until he finally rewarded her patience. Her eyes held his for several long moments.
That she should feel such tenderness filled her with wonder. It made her ache inside to see him so helpless, his strength and stature often made her ignore that he was essentially still a boy. She’d been forced to grow up so soon she often forgot they where both regarded as children.
Even though Piotr remained silent, his creased brow betrayed his confusion.
Lejla shifted so that he could clearly see her hands. < Piotr > She began by simply finger spelling his name. < If I want be with Doug, I not be here. > A bit frustrated with the inadequacy of sign language, Lejla paused to meet his eyes. < I here because I WANT be here. > She exaggerated the sign for want so there was no mistaking its importance. < Because I care for you. I worry about you. > She reached out to stroke the backs of her fingers lightly over his cheek. And because I think I love you
. She just couldn’t make her hands say those last words – with him so ill and not merely to ease his jealousy. There would be another, more appropriate time.
Nearly choking on the emotion of the moment, Lejla tried to relieve the stain. Her lips curled impishly before she added, < What I supposed to do with Doug? > She leaned in to give him a lingering kiss on the temple.
Lejla pushed herself back to an upright position. Meeting Piotr’s eyes anew, she sighed audibly. < Can I do that to Doug? > She was tempted to give Piotr a passionate kiss on the mouth, but thought better of it. In his present condition, the shock might make him lose control of his mutation again. Piotr< Piotr > She began by simply finger spelling his name. < If I want be with Doug, I not be here. >
A muffled ‘hmpf’ was the only response he gave the red girl. She wasn’t fooling him. Piotr could see right through her supposed charade. She just felt guilty and was trying to ease her conscience. Jubilee tried a similar approach when she realized she’d broken the Russian’s heart with her blunt rejection. The Chinese girl had also started off by saying really nice things about him.Don’t get me wrong, you’re a really nice guy an’ all, you’re just not really my type, ya know?
Piotr vividly remembered his first crush and how he’d literally been ‘crushed’ by her words. Lejla was going to do the same thing, he could just tell. Why did he have to be labeled as the ‘nice guy’? It’s always the nice guys who are rejected by the pretty girls. Wait… Doug was a nice guy.He is a SMART nice guy with MONEY…
Piotr thought, assuming the language mutant’s intelligence and possessions made all the difference in claiming Lejla’s love.
Heart racing, he wrapped his arms tightly around his chest waiting for Lejla to continue. < I here because I WANT be here. > She exaggerated the sign for want so there was no mistaking its importance. < Because I care for you. I worry about you. >
“You stay because you pity me.” His tone was meant to be cold, but came out as a childish pout.Her lips curled impishly before she added, < What I supposed to do with Doug? >
Before Piotr could fathom a list of mind-boggling board games, Lejla planted a drawn out kiss upon the Russian’s forehead. It threw Piotr off guard. The fact that she was still here amazed him even more. < Can I do that to Doug? >
“…No,” he admitted reluctantly, “But you can
play hard board games and be given expensive sweaters
.” A bit disparaging, his words somehow lost their bite through his nasally voice.Lejla
Lejla glanced at the hockey stick with another sigh. She was beginning to wish she’d held on to it. Maybe she could use it to whack some sense into this stubborn – dare she call him her boyfriend? Yes, she felt sorry for how pathetic he looked, but that wasn’t the point. “…No,” he admitted reluctantly, “But you can play hard board games and be given expensive sweaters.”
Now he was starting to sound like an envious little boy. Lejla had never seen him behave this way. She had to keep reminding herself that Piotr wasn’t his usual self today. She was half tempted to grab her tray and leave, but a deep-seated fear of losing what she might not ever find again made her stick around.
Raising her hands, Lejla began to sign very slowly so that he wouldn’t miss a word, finger spelling where she wasn’t sure Piotr knew the signs. < Piotr, I play same games with Kurt. You jealous of him? > She wasn’t afraid to put a name to Piotr’s insecurities.
Bracing herself, she chose the next words very carefully. < I care about Doug. You must accept this. He is my friend. > Well, almost more than a friend, but Lejla barely admitted that to herself, so she wasn’t about to tell Piotr. < If Doug not teach me, I not know much English, not many signs. If Doug not ask me, I have no place to go at Christmas. > She paused to study Piotr’s face, making sure that he was actually paying attention to what she was saying.
< Doug know my leather not warm. My classroom is cold. He make sure I have warm clothing... and pretty. Is that bad? Do you not want me to be warm and look nice? >
Something Piotr said about cost made her pause again. She pursed her lips, continuing her clarification; < I not care
how much money you spend. My new sweater not last. > Lejla smiled faintly, gesturing as if she was tossing something aside. < Your present special. I keep it forever. > Lejla couldn’t understand why Piotr did not know this already. His resentment of Doug blinded him to how she’d responded to his
Lejla reached for Piotr, lightly caressing the side of his face before she continued. < I not deny Doug is special friend. But you Piotr... > Lejla had to pause again, blinking away the burning sensation in her eyes. < Please believe, what I feel is... different... > God that was lame
, but it was all she was able to express at the moment.
Losing her composure, Lejla stilled her hands, bringing them to rest in her lap. She lowered her head, studying her motionless fingers. All this was so new – and confusing. How did one know when they were in love? She thought she was falling in love with Doug weeks ago. Maybe she’d been wrong. This thing with Piotr was
unique, and not just the physical aspect that had never been a part of her relationship with Doug. The whole idea made her head spin. Maybe she should go ask Kurt. He didn’t seem to have any problems with romance. Piotr
Piotr sighed. This conversation was unnerving him, making him think about how he truly felt for the Bosnian girl. He cared deeply for her. This girl intrigued his artistic sensitivity the very moment he laid eyes on her and seemed to awaken other indescribable emotions within him over the past couple of months. The possibility Lejla liked another boy bothered Piotr more than he was willing to admit.< Piotr, I play same games with Kurt. You jealous of him? >
“Of course I am not jealous of Mr. Wagner. He is… hey! I am not
jealous!” Piotr said, realizing the red girl’s accusation. He narrowed his eyes at Lejla, not taking kindly to her rebuttal.< I care about Doug. You must accept this. He is my friend. If Doug not teach me, I not know much English, not many signs. If Doug not ask me, I have no place to go at Christmas. >
Though Piotr’s eyes never left Lejla’s hands as she signed, when she paused to look at him, he stubbornly looked away trying to maintain what small ounce of his dignity he had left.
He felt a pinch of guilt for not inviting Lejla to come home with him for Christmas. Their friendship was still new, and then the whole ‘kiss in the snow’ incident had put a whole different spin on their relationship. Inviting Lejla to Russia would have been rushed and maybe even a little awkward. Piotr sucked in his lip at the mentioning of Language Boy teaching Lejla sign language.I suppose if it had not been for him, Lejla and I would not be able to talk as we do.
Mentally acknowledging the benefits of Doug’s friendship with Lejla gnawed at Piotr’s pride.< Doug know my leather not warm. My classroom is cold. Doug make sure I have warm clothing... and pretty. Is that bad? Do you not want me to be warm and look nice? >
How did she do that? How did she manage to turn Piotr’s rightful accusations into him simply acting like a silly jealous little boy? Of course, he wanted her to be warm and pretty, but why did Doug
have to be the one to give it to her? Piotr exhaled deeply, remaining silent. Saying anything else would, more than likely, make him appear selfish and childish – even more so than Lejla had already indirectly pointed out.< I not care how much money you spend. Besides, my new sweater not last. > Lejla smiled faintly, gesturing as if she was tossing something aside. < Your present special. I keep it forever. >
The use of his
present and “special” in the same sentence made Piotr hide the small smile playing upon his lips. Doug’s gift was temporary, but his was everlasting; she promised to keep it forever
. < I not deny Doug is special friend. But you Piotr... > Lejla had to pause again as she blinked away the burning sensation in her eyes. < Please believe, what I feel is different... >
Piotr looked at her thoughtfully. For a moment, he forgot about how jealous he was of Doug; he even forgot how irascible he’d been in his current condition.
“…Different?” He said softly. Contemplating her hand signs, Piotr wondered if her ‘different’ was the same different he felt when they kissed, or when she smiled that impish little smile…
“What I feel for you… is different, too.” His soft tone never changed as he locked eyes with Lejla.
He gave her a faint lopsided smile.I really do love her…
Sure, in his thoughts he’d said he loved her, but then it felt more like a really close ‘friendship’ type of love. This time, as the words danced around in his mind it was different, stronger…almost definite. Lejla “Of course I am not jealous of Mr. Wagner. He is… hey! I am not jealous!” You most certainly are!
Lejla fought back a smirk. Gloating over having nailed his true attitude certainly wouldn’t fix things. In reality, she was more than a little flattered.
Carefully studying his demeanor as her hands danced entreaty; Lejla noticed a gradual change cross his features. The Piotr she knew so well slowly replaced the petulant, immature manner he’d been wearing like a second skin ever since she’d mentioned Doug yesterday. It dropped away completely when Lejla confessed how dear she held his hand-carved present.Tell him...
I cannot... What if he DOESN’T feel what I feel? Sure he is jealous. You get angry when Jono spends time with Amara, and you’re not in love with HIM.
In the end, Lejla settled for confessing that her attachment to Piotr went beyond her friendship with Doug.< Please believe, what I feel is... different... > “…Different?” He said softly contemplating her hand signs, wondering if her ‘different’ was the same different he felt when they kissed, or when she smiled that impish little smile… “What I feel for you… is different, too.” His soft tone never changed as he locked eyes with Lejla.
Lejla had a strange notion the conflict raging unseen within her mind had been mirrored by Piotr. Nevertheless, the depth of emotion exchanged in that glance sufficed for the moment.
Piotr’s anxiety finally gave way to a weak smile. Lejla was only beginning to realize exactly what affect that boyish grin had on her. No longer able to resist, she leaned over and kissed him softly on the lips.
Withdrawing reluctantly, she smiled down at him. < I should go class now. You okay? I come back at lunch. > The last sentence wasn’t a question. She would
come back, whether he liked it or not. Somehow, she didn’t think he would protest this time. Piotr
During the moments their eyes met, Piotr could have sworn he saw something in the Bosnian girl’s gaze; a passion yearning to be expressed yet never verbalized through her hand signs.Tell her…
No, she may not feel as strongly as I do. She said nothing about love. She only said her feelings for me were DIFFERENT from those she has for Doug…
You said your feelings for HER were DIFFERENT… and you love her.
Piotr subconsciously sighed at the headache he was getting before he was overtaken by a string of coughs. He really wasn’t up for debates with his psyche at the moment.
“I’m sorry for acting that way,” he said after his bout of coughing. Continuing, his pride took a back seat, “I guess it is hard to share your attention with someone else.” It was the best apology that came to mind without revealing his true feelings to her.
Lejla planted a delicate kiss on his lips, ultimately showing her forgiveness. Though he enjoyed the gesture, he frowned with disapproval.
“You really shouldn’t…” he started to cough again before he could object to Lejla’s affectionate kiss. “…I do not want you to be sick as well.” < I should go class now. >
Piotr pouted slightly, for all the fuss he made about her presence mere minutes ago, the thought of her leaving now made him doleful.< You okay? >
Before the Russian could reassure Lejla of his well-being, a horrendous sneeze erupted from him, causing his body to revert back to its fleshy olive complexion. He sniffed twice before looking back up to her, “Da, I will be fine.”
He didn’t feel so hot anymore, and the chills had eased off a bit, causing him to shiver only every once in a while. He yawned widely. This flu was really taken a toll on his energy level. His eyes were starting to tire, feeling sweet sleep beckoning to embrace him. < I come back at lunch. >
“…Okay…” His voice drifted off, drowsiness enveloping him. Smiling softly, the last thing he saw before he greeted dreamland was a red-skinned, blue-eyed angel bending over him.Lejla “I’m sorry for acting that way. I guess it is hard to share your attention with someone else.”
Considering his illness, Lejla was satisfied with his somewhat meager apology, sealing it with a soft kiss. He could make up for it when was more robust, she wouldn’t let him forget. “You really shouldn’t…” he started to cough again before he could object to Lejla’s affectionate kiss. “…I do not want you to be sick as well.”
After all she’d been through, germs were definitely not a source of fear. Shrugging, Lejla informed him she’d need to leave soon and was rewarded with boyishly pursed lips. She crossed her arms with an amused sigh. And they say women can’t make up their minds. “AH-CHOO!” Another huge sneeze gave Lejla involuntarily tremors.
“Da, I will be fine.”
Tempted to dispute that he certainly didn’t sound
like he would be “fine”, she let it drop. One argument today was more than enough.< I come back at lunch. >
The assurance of her return seemed to halt any lingering obstinacy. “…Okay…”
– Piotr’s last words before his eyelids drifted shut, fatigue finally overcoming his stubborn spirit.
The red girl studied his face for a few moments longer. Even in this afflicted state, Piotr was – as Jeanne-Marie had pronounced – gorgeous. How the ‘Queen of Freaks’ could dare to think she’d won his heart was beyond Lejla’s comprehension. Maybe her reluctance to declare the depth of her emotion sprang from the disbelief that anyone
could care that way about her, let alone a handsome passer boy. And if he did
– would it last? There were so many complications, special considerations. At what point would he decide that being with her wasn’t worth the hassle?
Lejla could not recall ever telling anyone she loved them – not in her entire life. It was less painful to keep it locked up tight, barely even confessing the truth to her own heart. In a distinctly different way, she loved Kurt, Papa... and Jono. Doug? – well... that
was still a little unclear. She’d never told any of them, even thought she knew the sign. Was if a flaw in her own psyche that prevented her, or merely the fear of loss.
Shaking off her malaise, Lejla gathered up the remains of breakfast. She left the orange juice, and although the tea was surely cool, she left that behind as well. Already fairly late for class, she’d have to deposit the tray in her room and return it to the kitchen later.
Just before she reached the door, her own body shuddered with a single tremendous sneeze that rattled the silverware and threatened to send her empty glass careening.
Glancing over her shoulder, she checked to see if the sound had wakened her slumbering ‘knight’. Fortunately, he was completely lost in much needed rest. Lejla sniffed, pausing to rub her suddenly itchy nose on her leather-wrapped arm.
A wry smile spread across her face as she quietly let herself out of Piotr’s room. Relationships always came with a price. This time she didn’t mind the cost.
We hope if anyone is reading this story that you are enjoying it, because we are having a blast writing it. XD
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