I woke with the sudden and uncomfortable understanding that I was not alone. Blinking into the darkness, I threw a cautious arm across the bed. Nothing.
From outside the bedroom, the softest crinkle of the holland blinds, made by fingers pushing them furtively aside. I peeled back the quilt and rolled out of bed, shambling without conscious thought out to the front room.
One of the curtains was indeed pulled aside, illuminating the man in the room with a sharp rectangle of light courtesy of the street light on the front corner of my property.
“Hello?” The word rolled out before my brain kicked in. Hello? It mocked. Stranger in your home, and you say hello? Shut up, I scolded. Where were you, anyway? Still sleeping.
The man swung in surprise, the fluorescent illumination fuzzing his features into an impression of dark hair, broad shoulders and black feathers.
“You can see me?” He seemed as equally as off guard as I, a feat I considered mighty as my brain informed me that I could see the edge of my window sill through his naked chest, and that the impression of feathers I’d gotten earlier were, in fact, shimmering midnight wings vaulting high over his furrowed brow.
“Yes, I can see you,” I said, wondering if I should run, or fight, or scream.
“Huh,” he said, blinking rapidly. “Now what?”
I leant back from the keyboard as a single feather drifted down in front of my nose. I caught it before it landed on the keys below, holding it up in front of my face for inspection. Black, yes – but with shades of blue and violet if I turned it this way and that in the bright afternoon sunlight.
“Well, well,” I said, leaning back in my chair. “The prodigal imaginary friend returns. Were your ears burning?”
“I’m not imaginary,” he said. The chair behind me creaked in emphasis and I swivelled to face him.
Bare chested, dark jeans, long legs propped up on my desk. No shoes, as usual. Long, gloriously feathered midnight wings draped lazily over the carpet. “You look good in dark denim.”
Dante snapped his fingers and just like that, he was wearing tight white vinyl pants that looked absolutely ridiculous. “Whatcha doing?”
“Writing about the day we first met. Which you knew,” I added, narrowing my eyes at him.
“You wrote about that ages ago. Well over twelve months,” he waved a dismissive hand. “Long overdue it was, too.”
“Oh please,” I rolled my eyes. “Did you come here just to torment me?”
He tilted his head, an odd, bird like mannerism which gave away more about Dante than he’d probably like. “Maybe. Where are the kids? Hubby?”
“Kinder, school, work. In that order. What do you want, Dante?”
“To know why you married him instead of me,” Dante answered, flipping his hair aside. It was long enough to brush the tops of his shoulders and silky smooth, giving the appearance of feathers more than actual hair. In the same way as his wings, Dante’s hair was black and yet not – more than black. A colour which, for the life of me, I’ve never been able to accurately describe.
“One, you’re imaginary. And two, why would I marry someone who looks like they’ve stepped off the cover of a cheesy romance novel?” I asked.
“Because you’re a sucker for a rogue,” Dante grinned, his irrepressible personality drawing a laugh out of me at last. “There. That’s better. And for the record, I am not imaginary.”
“So you keep telling me. Bit hard to back that up when nobody but me can see you,” I pointed out.
Dante simply shrugged, an elegant rolling of muscles that caused his wings to whisper across the floor. “Such is the nature of curses – and I’ll have you know I have a whole bunch of friends who can see me.”
“Sure, and I have a whole bunch of pineapples that can dance,” I replied smoothly. “Why are you here? I haven’t seen you in months.”
“I was busy.” He frowned and waved a vague hand. “Don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well, don’t let the door hit you on the way to your boy band audition,” I growled, reaching over to shove at his ridiculous pants. “I’m trying to work.”
I turned my chair back to the keyboard and tapped a few keys, trying to regain my train of thought with the full knowledge that his annoyingness hadn’t moved a muscle.
“I need somewhere to lie low for a while,” he said at last. “Figured we could hang out.”
“Pissed off your friends?” I asked, not bothering to keep the acid from my tone.
“Something like that.” His tone was so hesitant I paused and looked over my shoulder. “Please?”
“You know, I’ve spent my entire life pretending to be as normal as possible, you and all the other weird shit notwithstanding, and I find it a pretty odd coincidence that when I finally make peace with my potato of a brain, you show up a couple weeks later.” I shoved out of my chair and leant against the desk, crossing my arms over my chest. “What is this actually about?”
“Your brain is not a potato,” he replied, voice dry. “It’s a sparkly unicorn.”
“With the processing power of a boiled cabbage and the spatial awareness of a paper bag full of vinegar,” I retorted.
“So sour,” Dante shook his head and stood too, towering above me with masculinity draped over him like a cloak. The illusion was ruined by the fact that I could see through his body to the golf clubs against the back wall – but I knew better than to point that out while he was trying to look important. “All I’m saying is, maybe I can help.”
“There’s more to this than you’re telling me, isn’t there?”
“Smart unicorn.” He reached out and flicked playfully at the center of my hairline. “Horn hasn’t grown yet, though.”
“Stop it,” I hissed, swatting his hand away.
“Come on, beautiful, you love me. Don’t be so sour.” He tilted my chin up, all bright blue eyes and perfect white teeth. “You know you can’t make me go away.”
“Ugh, fine,” I growled. “You can stay. But any funny business and I’m exorcising you.”
“I would never!” Dante’s grin widened. “I still maintain that the spoon incident was not my fault.”
I shoved his chest and he backed up a pace, laughing. “First rule,” I said, pointing. “Get rid of those pants. They’re hideous.”
“Sure.” He snapped his fingers and I sighed.
“Dammit, Dante, you still need to actually wear pants. I see enough block and tackle as it is.”
He wrinkled his nose at me, but snapped his fingers again and the dark jeans reappeared. “Party pooper.”
“You know it.” I plopped back down in my chair, rubbing a hand over my eyes. “Now can you be quiet, please? I’m trying to write.”
“Well, now that someone derailed my sparkly unicorn brain, I don’t actually know.”
He leant over me, one semi-transparent arm thumping down on the desk by my elbow. “You could just write about this.”
“Everyone will think I’m crazy.”
Dante grinned and nuzzled my hair. “Welcome to my life.”