When Gail got up the next morning and began getting ready to go to her first class she noticed that Cecil was nowhere to be seen. Usually even if he didn’t talk to her all that much she would at least see him standing off in a corner somewhere, but this morning he wasn’t anywhere at all. She didn’t think too much of it though and just continued going about her day like normal.
Gail and Haley went out early so they could get coffee on their way to class. Haley was chattering excitedly about having Gail meet Janae.
“I think you’re going to like her a lot,” Haley said with a grin. “She’s really great, and so nice. I can’t wait for tonight!”
“You’ll be seeing her in class this morning, right?” Gail asked as she took a sip of her coffee.
“Yeah, I will. I’ve been texting her about this and I think she’s excited to meet you, too. We really should have done this way sooner.” Haley sighed a little dreamily and Gail just snorted.
“Yeah we probably should have but things have been crazy as you know. Anyway, I gotta get to class. I don’t want to be late after missing yesterday.”
“Alright, I’ll see you for lunch.”
Her first class seemed to fly by and before she knew it she was leaving and going back onto the campus grounds. She decided to use her free time to do some photography around campus. With the transition into fall weather, everything looked especially colorful and vibrant.
Gail was so engrossed in her work that she almost didn’t notice when someone walked up behind her and he had to clear his throat. She looked up and saw Ivan standing there with his hands shoved in his pockets. “Hey.”
“Oh, hey,” Gail said quietly. She turned off her camera and let it hang over her shoulder from its strap. “What’s up?”
Ivan shrugged his shoulders. “Um, would you like to get some lunch together?”
“Sure,” Gail said, and Ivan’s face lit up but his expression fell again when she added, “I’m waiting for Haley to get here so we can all go together.”
“Oh, right,” Ivan said, clearing his throat again. “Um, actually I was hoping we could do it alone, or maybe even grab dinner sometime? Just to have a chance to talk without Haley around.”
Gail frowned at him and crossed her arms. “She’s not around now. We can talk without getting food, you know.”
“Right, yes, you’re absolutely correct.” Ivan cleared his throat yet again and by this time Gail was starting to get annoyed and hoped he wouldn’t do it a fourth time. “Um, you wanna take a walk together?”
Gail stared at him for a time then sighed and shook her head. “Yeah, I guess. There’s no harm in that. Let’s go.”
Ivan smiled and the two of them walked across the campus together, going a little slower to take in the scenery and the lovely weather. After a time of walking in silence, Ivan spoke up. “Are you sure you won’t change your mind?”
“Oh my god,” Gail groaned. “Ivan, listen, you’re a great friend and I like hanging out with you but I don’t feel that way about you, alright? Can we drop it now?”
Ivan sighed, letting his shoulders slump a little. “Are you saying I need to just shut off my feelings, then?”
“I didn’t say that,” Gail muttered, rubbing a hand over her face. “I know you can’t just get over something you’re feeling but if you really do care about me in any capacity you should respect my decision. I like hanging out with you, Ivan, but if you keep this up-” She waved her hand in the air, frowning at him. “I’m not sure if we can anymore.”
Ivan stopped in his tracks and stared at her with a look of horror in his eyes. “I- no, I like hanging out with you, I just…” He sighed and hung his head. “No, you’re right. I’m being selfish, I’m sorry. I’m thinking about myself too much and not considering your feelings at all, am I?”
“Yeah, you kinda have,” Gail said with a sigh. “And after everything that’s been happening especially…”
Ivan reached a hand out to touch her shoulder but drew it away before he did. “I’m sorry… I guess I really have been an ass. I really do want to help you, though, with everything that’s been going on in your life. I mean that. Please, if you need someone to talk to-”
“Yeah, I know,” Gail said a tad dismissively. “I don’t need to talk about anything right now but thank you for the offer. I’ll consider it at some point if things get bad for me again. That’s why I went to the counselor yesterday, though.”
Ivan let out a heavy breath and then nodded his head. “Well. Alright. You wanna go grab some lunch?”
“Yeah, I do. I’m starving.” Gail pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to Haley saying they would meet her in the cafeteria unless she had other plans. Haley replied saying that would be fine, and Gail and Ivan set off together.
Once they had gotten their food and sat down, Haley joined them with a huge grin on her face. “Hey, you two. I have someone I want you to meet. This is Janae.”
Gail and Ivan both turned to see a tall, beautiful girl standing behind Haley. Janae looked like the definition of a fashion student whose aspirations were to become a great designer one day. She held her hand out and shook both Gail and Ivan’s hands, a warm smile on her face. “It’s nice to finally meet Haley’s friends. I was starting to wonder if you even existed.”
Gail snorted quietly. “We were starting to think the same thing about you, so it’s nice to finally see you in person.”
Haley and Janae sat at the table and Gail could tell that Haley was barely holding in her excitement from finally having them meet. As Gail looked at Janae she could tell she was just the sort of girl that was perfect for Haley, and that thought made her smile. It was good to see Haley so happy and it made her own heart feel warmer.
“So I guess I’ll be seeing more of you tonight, won’t I?” Janae said to Gail.
Ivan blinked and tipped his head. “Will you?”
“Yeah, she’s coming over to our place to cook dinner for us,” Gail said with a slight grin in Janae’s direction. “Haley says you like to cook and I’m honestly looking forward to it. I haven’t had homemade food in awhile so I’m sure whatever you’ve got planned will be great.”
“Oh, I doubt it’ll be that good,” Janae said in a modest tone. “But I’m looking forward to it as well.”
“So,” Ivan started, peering between Haley and Janae. “You two are… dating?”
“We are,” Janae said in a calm voice, gazing at him with a slight gleam in her eye. “Why, do you have a problem with that?”
“Problem? No, no, I just-” Ivan swallowed hard and Gail felt a slight bit of satisfaction from watching his discomfort with the situation. “I mean, I guess I’m just not used to the idea still. I mean of girls dating other girls…?”
Janae snorted loudly. “Well that’s alright, you will get used to it. There are plenty of us around.” She smirked in Haley’s direction. At that moment Gail decided she liked Janae and had a feeling they were going to get along quite well.
“Er, right,” Ivan said, his eyes darting toward Gail who stayed silent. “I just… How exactly does that work?”
“How does what work?” Gail asked in a rather flat tone. “You mean two people loving each other? It’s quite simple. They get to know each other really well and then mutual feelings bloom between each other and they decide they want to be together forever.”
Janae smirked and nodded her head. “Yeah, what she said. She’s smart, you should listen to her.”
Ivan stared at Gail a bit dumbfounded and whatever question he was going to ask before had been completely lost. He apparently decided to drop the subject, which was just fine with all the girls sitting at the table.
When they all got up to leave the cafeteria, Janae smiled at Gail. “I certainly look forward to getting to know you more tonight.”
“Same here,” Gail said. “I’ll see you two later, then.”
As Gail left the cafeteria, Ivan began trailing along behind her. He cleared his throat and Gail stopped and sighed, turning to him with an expectant look on her face. Ivan shoved his hands in his pockets and looked a little lost. “So, uh… I have a question for you.”
“And what might that be?” Gail asked, staring at him a little dully.
“Um… you seemed really passionate about all… that back there.” He gestured vaguely with one hand before resting it on the back of his head. “And I started wondering if… maybe the reason you’re not interested in me is because you’re… like them?”
Gail stared at him coolly. “Like them? You mean liking girls?”
“Uh… yeah, something like that.”
Gail drew in a deep breath and pressed a hand to her face. “I said I’m not interested in dating anyone. Is that really so hard a concept to grasp? Geez.”
Ivan frowned a little and shrugged his shoulders. “I just thought most people wanted to be in a relationship, that’s all.”
“I’m not most people,” Gail said flatly. “Now please just drop it. I have to go.”
For the rest of the day Gail couldn’t seem to forget her annoyance toward Ivan. As much as she tried to shove those thoughts aside they just wouldn’t leave. She decided she would just have to talk to Cecil about it when she got back home.
Cecil, however, was nowhere to be found when she returned to her apartment. “Cecil? Hey, where are you? I need to talk to you.”
The little orange kitten came running out of his hiding place and mewed at her. Gail sighed and scooped him up into her arms, mumbling, “You’re not the Cecil I was looking for. Where is that lousy guardian angel, anyway?”
Cecil never appeared. Gail curled up on the couch with the kitten and rubbed his belly, playing with him and watching a little TV until Haley got back. Janae was with her and Gail immediately sat up when the two of them walked in the door.
“Hey,” Janae said with a grin. “Aw, is that a kitten? I didn’t know you had one!”
“Yeah, that’s Cecil,” Haley said with a smile. “Just don’t tell anyone, we’re technically not supposed to have him. We’re doing a good job hiding him, though.”
Janae chuckled as she walked over to Gail, peering at the kitten. “Sure, I won’t tell. I’d have a cat myself if they let us keep one in the dorms. I wouldn’t be able to get away with hiding one though, I’m sure.”
Gail handed the little kitten over to Janae so she could hold him, and she absolutely adored him. He seemed a tad unsure of her at first but as she rubbed his ears he started purring and snuggling into her arms.
“So,” Gail said after a moment of watching her with the kitten, “what were you planning on making for us tonight?”
“Spaghetti,” Janae said with a little grin. “It’s just one of those things that you always have to have on dates, right? Plus it’s easy to make, so why not?”
“I won’t argue with that,” Gail said with a little smirk. “Sounds great.”
“I thought maybe we could watch something together, too,” Haley offered. “Unless you just wanna talk and get to know each other better.”
“We could do both,” Janae said.
“Sounds like a plan.”
Though Janae did all of the cooking, Haley helped her out quite a bit while Gail asked her about herself. The more Janae said, the more convinced Gail was that she and Haley were a perfect match and she was happy they had found each other.
When the food was all ready, the three of them sat down and started eating. Haley’s face lit up as she put the first bite of food in her mouth. “It’s wonderful!” she said. “I had no doubts in my mind that you’d be a great cook.”
“Oh, stop,” Janae said with a faint blush. “You’re just flattering me.”
“Haley doesn’t flatter,” Gail said with a slight grin. “She says what she means and she’s always honest, and I happen to agree with her, it really is great.”
“Thank you,” Janae said with a bright smile. “I’m glad you both enjoy it.” She peered at Gail for a moment and, after hesitating a little, she asked, “Can I ask you something? It’s about that guy you were with earlier. Ivan was it?”
“Hm? What about him?” Gail tipped her head to the side and raised an eyebrow.
“You’re not dating him, are you?” Janae asked. Haley snorted loudly and started to laugh.
“She’s definitely not dating him,” she responded for Gail. “He was trying really hard to get her to, though, but she rejected him and he’s been acting like a lost puppy ever since. I mean, he’s my friend too, so don’t get me wrong, but it’s kind of pathetic.”
“I only wondered because I noticed the way he was looking at you,” Janae went on, a bit cautiously. “And the way you were looking at him… and I wanted to make sure you weren’t dating him because it didn’t seem like it’d be a good situation.”
“Yeah, no,” Gail said with a shake of her head. “I’m not interested in romance myself, to be honest, but even if I was, he’s too… well, you met him.”
“I did,” Janae said with a smirk. “That poor boy looked so confused I almost felt bad for him. Almost.” She gave Haley a wink and Haley started cracking up again.
As Gail put another bite of food in her mouth, she happened to glance across the room and noticed someone standing there. She had to restrain herself from crying out or making any noticeable reaction.
The man was tall with long black hair, and he had white wings on his back, and in a way he reminded her of Cecil though with a less kind demeanor. He was staring straight at her and without looking away his wing stretched out to point toward the door to her room. He opened his mouth and said in a quiet yet commanding tone, “We need to talk about your guardian.”
Gail frowned at him and looked toward Janae and Haley. “Uh, excuse me for a second, I need to go do something. I won’t be long.”
They didn’t suspect a thing as she stood up and went toward her room, staring at the angel the whole time. He followed her in and shut the door behind her, then crossed his arms over his chest.
“Where is Cecil?” he asked.
Gail scowled at him. “I could ask you the exact same thing. I haven’t seen him since last night, and before you say anything else, do you mind telling me just who the hell you are?”
He breathed in deeply and pressed his fingers to his temples. “I was afraid you were going to say that.” He snapped his gaze back on her, a stern expression on his face. “My name is Cynder and Cecil is my brother. Listen closely to me. I believe he’s in trouble. The only reason I came to you is because I know he’s been with you. He trusts you for some reason.”
“Trusts me?” Gail frowned at him. “What is going on?”
“I need your help,” Cynder said. “My brother is in danger and I think you’re the only one who can bring him back.”