Second Date (1500Words, Week 3, Day 7, 1/7/18)
“Well, how do YOU organize your books, then?” Nina threw the question at Martin, attempting to divert attention away from her reddening cheeks. Things weren’t going quite the way she’d had in mind.
Martin pulled his gaze away from Nina and let his hand follow his eyes back to the bookshelf. “I organize my fiction by author and my nonfiction by title. Your way is much more interesting though I’m not sure how you find things later.”
Interesting was just another word for weird and Nina knew it. “I don’t usually go looking for books once I’ve read them.”
Martin snapped around to look at Nina again. “You’ve read ALL of these?”
“Of course.” Her reply was so simple and matter-of-fact that it was Martin’s turn to blush. Nina watched his cheeks flush and felt better. They each had their oddities.
“Nina, there are so many books here – it’s like a library!” He rotated in place, looking again at all the books on all the shelves. “This is amazing.”
His awe was endearing and Nina felt herself relax a bit. She didn’t bring men into her home often or easily and the Book Room was only the beginning. Martin seemed different, though, so she’d taken the leap and felt horribly unsure of what would be expected of her by him.
“Would…you like something to drink?” Nina asked, taking a step towards the entrance to the kitchen.
“Yes, please.” Martin seemed reluctant to leave this room full of books. “Might you have tea?”
“Yes, I have quite a bit. Come with me into the kitchen so you can choose which one you want.”
They walked down the small hallway, each lost in their own thoughts. When they emerged into the kitchen, Martin drew in a sharp breath and froze,
“What? Wait. What is that?”
Nina’s heart sped up a bit in this moment of truth. “What are you talking about, Martin? What is what?”
Martin’s eyes had gotten huge and his face was pale. He looked at Nina and back again several times before his mouth remembered how to speak. “Nina? I swear I’m looking at a dragon. A large, green and gold dragon. And if you don’t see it then I’m sure I’m losing my mind.”
Nina looked at Gornlia and smiled. “You are not losing your mind. I can see her. It’s not typical for others to be able to, so I needed you to tell me what you were seeing first. She’s quite friendly if you’d like to touch her.”
Martin shook his head and pressed the heels of both hands into his eyes. “You’re telling me,” he asked, with his eyes still covered, “that you have a friendly dragon that lives in your kitchen?”
“Yes. I read all my books and I live with a dragon. Both things are true. Would you still like that tea?” Nina took a step forward and put her hand on Martin’s elbow. “You can open your eyes, Martin. Gornlia isn’t going anywhere and she won’t hurt you unless you ask her to.”
Martin’s arms flew out to the sides and his eyes popped open. “Why would I ask her to hurt me? And HOW would I do that? Not because I want to – because I don’t want to confuse her!”
Nina smiled and clasped her hands together. “Oh, she’s smarter than you. You won’t confuse her.”
Martin stared at Nina. She held her expression and her breath, waiting for him to say or do something. That this man could see Gornlia was one thing – one very good thing. If he could see AND accept her was almost too much to hope for.
The silence and tension was broken by Martin’s soft laughter. Nina still waited. His laughter grew until it took him over, leading him to double up and fall gently to the floor. Gornlia looked to Nina, then Martin. She stretched her neck out, reaching out to give Martin’s cheek a soft lick. Her eyes as big as they could be, Nina watched for how Martin would react to Gornlia’s attention.
His laughter didn’t stop, though he did straighten up a bit. He reached for Gornlia’s head and gave it a tentative stroke. The tongue flicker the dragon gave made Nina release her breath. Gornlia liked Martin, which left it all up to him. Nina reached out her hand to Martin, to help him stand up. Once back on his feet, Martin said, “She’s real.”
“Yes, very.” Nina was aware of Martin’s hand still wrapped around hers.
“And she’s smarter than me.”
“Yes,” Nina chuckled. “Very.”
“Ouch.” Martin smiled and gave Nina’s hand a squeeze before releasing it to pet Gornlia with both hands. “She’s so soft! I never imagined they would be so soft.”
Nina moved towards the oven to start water for tea. She kept her voice level as she asked, “What did you imagine about them?”
Martin was so entranced with Gornlia he answered without thinking. “I thought they’d be cold and bumpy.”
“Really? Interesting. How long have you thought about dragons, Martin?” Nina pushed down her excitement. She needed to keep her cool for now.
“Since I was a little kid. My grandmother used to tell me stories about them. My mother didn’t like the stories or that my grandmother told them to me. My mother said they were fairy tales and that I was silly to think they could be true. Grandma was so convincing, though, and I thought it would be so awesome if they were real, so I chose to believe her. Grandma said she’d never met one herself. She said her grandmother had, though, and that the stories had been passed down to her by her mother, my great-grandmother. I loved listening to the stories and imagining myself in them. The dragons in the stories weren’t all nice, of course, and grandma didn’t let me pick and choose what stories she told. She said all stories were important and that there was no such thing as a species of entirely good creatures. She said that counted for people, too.” Martin stopped, startled by the whistling of the teakettle. Nina fumbled with the stovetop dial, working on making the noise stop. She’d been just as lost in Martin’s storytelling as he’d been and had forgotten that she’d put the water on to boil.
“Sorry. Tea?” Nina offered up a little smile with her question.
“Ha! Yes, tea. That was why we came in here, wasn’t it? I didn’t mean to wax nostalgic on you.”
The two of them busied themselves with tea bags and cups, not talking. Gornlia watched them, slowly flicking her tongue. When they had their cups in hand, Nina said, “shall we move into the Living Room?”
Martin looked at Gornlia before answering. “Is that the room with all the books, or is there another room to explore?”
Nina smiled. “Another room. And don’t worry – Gornlia might decide to join us there, too. She only stays in the kitchen when people who don’t see her are here.”
Martin nodded as if he understood and followed Nina out of the room. Nina was pleased that he wasn’t too enthralled with Gornlia to leave the kitchen. She knew that Gornlia wouldn’t join them in the living room. They’d had their meeting and now it was time to see if Martin could shift back into people focus.
The sliding doors to the living room were large and ornate. She used her weight to push them open and smiled to herself at Martin’s gasp behind her. First the Book Room, then Gornlia, then this room – the final “test” to see how he would fit into her world. She hadn’t brought anyone in this far before. The book room was usually enough. She’d brought a few people into the kitchen. Mostly friends, though, and only a couple of potential suiters. No one had been able to see Gornlia before today. Two of her girlfriends came close – they could sense something different in the room though they didn’t see anything beyond the normal kitchen appliances and furniture. That Martin could see her dragon AND enjoy her left Nina hoping that, perhaps, he’d be strong enough to become a Constant Companion.
Martin stopped at the threshold, holding his forgotten tea in both hands. He let his eyes scan the room slowly, taking it all in. Everything was unexpected. The colors, the smells – he felt like Nina had opened the door to a dream-world and he was starting to wonder if he was awake.
“Nina? What am I looking at?” Martin’s voice was calm and small, as if he didn’t want to use any more breath than necessary in case he’d need it soon.
“You’re looking at my Living Room. You can come in if you’d like. If not, we can go back into the kitchen or the Book Room where you might be more comfortable.” Nina didn’t want him to turn back. The choice to enter the Living Room was his, though, and she needed to stay out of that decision-making process. It would not be good for him to be forced inside.
“When you said ‘living room’, this isn’t exactly what I pictured.” Martin hadn’t taken a step in either direction. He stood rooted on the threshold, waiting for more information from Nina.
“Ah, yes. I forget that living rooms exist in other ways.” Nina stayed in her place as well, and took a sip of her tea before continuing. “My Living Room is different. Did your grandma tell you any stories about places like this?”
Martin shook his head slowly. “No. Nothing like this ever came up. I don’t know what my mother would have done if it had.”
Nina smiled. “Well, your grandmother hadn’t seen a dragon first-hand, right? So, she may not have encountered a Living Room either.”
“Right.” Martin’s eyes found Nina’s again, pausing in his scan of the room. “Nina, what am I seeing?”
* All 1500Words are fiction. Any resemblance to people or events is strictly coincidental. *