Rhona Age 8:
She ran, her hand clutching tightly to the teddy bear, her breath and the sound of her bare feet crunching on the snow beneath her the only sounds. She glanced behind her and screamed when she saw it. It was dark, like a living shadow and it was too fast. Tears stung her cheeks as they slipped from her eyes. She tripped, falling hard and flipped over to see it stalking toward, its sharp teeth dripping with saliva, its milky eyes watching her hungrily. It crouched, readying itself to pounce when a pop filled the silence and it jerked back, its screech so loud she curled into a ball and covered her ears. Please, she thought, I want my mommy, please.
There were more pops and then a sudden silence. She couldnâ€™t bring herself to move, she was too scared. A hand rested on her shoulder and she flinched, whimpering. â€śRhona?â€ť She barely heard her name, but she knew that thing couldnâ€™t speak and uncovered her ears, raising her head. â€śHello Rhona.â€ť He smiled at her, his eyes warm, his tone gentle. â€śYouâ€™re safe now Rhona.â€ť
â€śWâ€¦who are you?â€ť
He picked her up off the ground, cradling her against his chest. â€śIâ€™m Antoni, a Dreamwalker.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s right, I kill nightmares.â€ť
â€śJust rest Rhona, youâ€™ll be waking soon, but if you ever need me, just call for me.â€ť
She was going to see him. She had too. Kind and gentle Antoni, her guardian angel, her hero. With each passing year she had gone from a child like trust and adoration to a romantic love. The last time she had seen him, she had asked to see him, but he had told her it was impossible, that they were worlds apart, but she had begged him, maybe even to the point of whining, and he had finally relented a little, giving her hints on how to find him. They were cryptic, like riddles, but she knew she could follow them, she knew she could find him and even if he didnâ€™t feel that same about her, she needed to see him in person and thank him for everything he had done.
Rhona knew that just because he was reluctant for them to meet didnâ€™t mean he didnâ€™t want to see her too. She imagined beings like him lived by rules and he could possibly get in trouble just for giving her any means to find him. She hoped he wouldnâ€™t but still, she was filled with hope that he had fallen for her too. After all, she was hardly a child anymore at twenty and he still came to her when she had nightmares. As she understood it he was only supposed to help children. Rhona was currently attending college and when she wasnâ€™t pursuing Antoni in her dreams or doing her school work she was pursuing a music career. She wanted it badly, but knew not everyone could make it. So sheâ€™d chase her dreams but she would have the realistic back up of being college educated while she tried to get there.
She had made sure to let her teachers know in advance so they could email her assignments while she was gone as well as her parents so they wouldnâ€™t worry. They thought she was going abroad to study music. She had all the clues Antoni had left her written down in her tablet, every word to the letter so she wouldnâ€™t miss anything. She was both excited and nervous, but determined to find him. She wondered what he was like in reality, if he looked the same or if he was something strange and unusual, and how he managed to traverse the dream world. She wondered if he would try avoiding her or if he would actually wait for her. She had checked and double checked everything she had packed and was ready to leave.
â€śYouâ€™ve been in your own head a lot lately.â€ť The voice pulled Antoni back to reality, but he didnâ€™t turn away from the foggy view of the island he called home.
â€śHave I?â€ť He asked as his friend Ronin came to stand behind him.
â€śYou have. Itâ€™s her, isnâ€™t it?â€ť
Antoni sighed. â€śWe should get to work.â€ť
â€śSays the man staring longingly off into space.â€ť
â€śI might shove you off this balcony.â€ť
Ronin chuckled heartily. â€śYou wouldnâ€™t, I know you wouldnâ€™t. Youâ€™re too much of a softy.â€ť Antoni still seemed annoyed so Ronin relented, â€śAlright, to work.â€ť Ronin knew he had given Rhona hints and even though they weren’t really supposed to tell people about where they were he hoped she came. Her coming would mean their master would find out, but Ronin would be surprised if their master didnâ€™t already know. There was very little that man missed. He was probably just keeping quiet so Antoni could talk to him about it in his own time.
â€śI canâ€™t believe youâ€™re leaving the country.â€ť Rhonaâ€™s friend Rose said as they ate lunch. â€śAnd alone, that just seems so dangerous.â€ť
â€śItâ€™ll be fine.â€ť
â€śBut what if someone kidnaps you, I mean youâ€™re so pretty.â€ť Her other friend Landon added.
Rhona laughed. â€śOh come on, you know Iâ€™d beat them up so bad theyâ€™d willingly let me go. Itâ€™s going to be fine. I even ordered a card so I can make calls from my phone while Iâ€™m gone. All I have to do is pick it up at the airport as soon as I land.â€ť She nudged Rose. â€śItâ€™s going to be fun, Iâ€™ll take lots of pictures.â€ť
â€śMaybe get a boyfriend.â€ť Landon teased and laughed when Rhona blushed.
â€śOh hush, Iâ€™ll be too busy studying music.â€ť
â€śCome on, we all know music is one of the most romantic things ever, wellâ€¦mostly.â€ť
Talking to them about boyfriends felt awkward since that was actually what she was hoping to get out of this trip. She wanted to tell them, they didnâ€™t normally have secrets but this was one of those things that people just didnâ€™t understand. Explaining everything to them would only make them stress more about her trip and she didnâ€™t want that. It would also be harder coming back if she had to talk to other people how Antoni rejecting her. This way if he didnâ€™t share her feelings she could come back, get over it on her own and nobody would be the wiser.
At the end of the day, after all of her school work was done and she had eaten and washed, she climbed into bed and closed her eyes, falling asleep as quickly as ever. She couldnâ€™t believe there had been a time when she was actually afraid to close her eyes, so terrified of her nightmares she was sure she would die from exhaustion. Now, she knew he would be there, he always was, even when there was nothing waiting to torment her. She let herself drift away, falling down that dark tunnel into dreamland. She found herself standing on the edge of a body of water, the waves lapping against the shore.
â€śBack again?â€ť She smiled at his voice and turned.
â€śIâ€™ll be leaving soon you know.â€ť
â€śI do.â€ť He sighed. â€śRhona, you shouldnâ€™t come here, itâ€™s not a place for humans.â€ť
She moved closer to him, searching his eyes. â€śYou donâ€™t mean that. You wouldnâ€™t have given me all that information if you did.â€ť She took his hand. â€śI want to see you, the real you I mean, Iâ€™ll be careful.â€ť
â€śThis is the real me.â€ť
She laughed and his heart did a little dance. â€śYou know what I mean.â€ť
Why couldnâ€™t he say no to her? Why couldnâ€™t he look away from those beautiful eyes that reminded him of the sea? He nodded. â€śYouâ€™re so stubborn.â€ť
â€śYou made me that way. Just wait for me, okay?â€ť
â€śYou know I will be.â€ť He smiled, unable to help himself.
He was far more excited about seeing her than he knew he should be. Antoni just hoped she made it safely. He didnâ€™t know if he could handle anything happening to Rhona because she was looking for him. She was strong and undoubtedly resourceful, but he couldnâ€™t help but worry over her. Antoni stayed with Rhona until she woke, his heart aching as it always did when she left his side. Rhona got up excitedly, going straight for her car since everything was already packed.
She headed for the airport, her mind only on Antoni and what she would say once she found him. Even with all her stubborness, she was still nervous. What would he think of her? Would he think her selfish or stupid? She knew he worried, she could see it every time they met in dream. She knew he was somewhere on an island off the coast of England, but explained it wasnâ€™t normal and was only reachable by boat. He had told her there was someone who knew of their existence, a man who brought supplies, but he hadnâ€™t told her his name, only giving her vague directions. She was ready to search for him, even if it took her forever.
Antoni fought the giant spider that tormented the young boy huddled in the corner of his own mind. The childâ€™t imagination ran wild with it, turning it into a hideous abomination with dripping fangs. He had encountered many fears and phobias like this and it always took a long time to get the child through them. The spider finally flopped to the ground and flailed angrily before curling up and vanishing. He turned to the boy, smiling gently and helped him to his feet. â€śCome now little one, letâ€™s get you to a better dream.â€ť
Antoni walked with the little boy until they were suddenly in a much more pleasant dream. His friends were all there, playing in their favorite park. He ran to them and Antoni just smiled, happy to help another kid. This work was incredibly fulfilling. He felt blessed to do it and hoped he hadnâ€™t jeopardized being able to do this by giving Rhona clues. It had been hard not to simply tell her, he truly did deeply desire to be with her in person, even if they only met once. He went straight from that little boy to another child that needed him, making sure to stick to work regardless of his mind being on her.
Once Rhona found her seat she quickly stowed her carry on bag and sat down, putting in earbuds and starting her ipod so sheâ€™d have something to keep herself busy on the long flight. The music began and she gave a contented sigh as her mind drifted. Nothing worked her imagination quiet like music. It went all over the place, her minds images changing with every song. She had to skip love songs this trip since those were just making her more nervous to meet Antoni.
The flight was uneventful, with hardly any turbulence and even she was up in the air for so long, it seemed to flash by. She couldnâ€™t believe she was so close and her heart hammered in her chest as the plane started to descend. She knew she probably looked like she was scared of landing, but she just really wanted to off so she could start her search. She forced herself not to rush once she was allowed to disembark, even taking a moment to thank the pilots and flight attendants. She made her way through the airport, grabbed her luggage, then was on her way. She wasnâ€™t surprised that it was chilly in England since Antoni had warned her it might be and she stopped long enough to pull her sweater on. She hailed a cab and gave the driver the name of the hotel she would be staying at.
Antoni yawned as he woke and stretched his muscles from being in one position for so long. He needed to eat something and warm up his muscles. â€śIâ€™m surprised to see you up so early.â€ť Ronin said as Antoni walked into the kitchen. â€śCoffee?â€ť
â€śYes please and I decided to walk around for a bit.â€ť
â€śMmm, I see.â€ť He poured Antoni a cup of coffee and put sugar and cream in it then handed it over. â€śSo, how has it been so far?â€ť
â€śGood, a couple of tough ones. How about with you?â€ť
â€śSame as always.â€ť He took a sip of his coffee. â€śWhen is she supposed to be here?â€ť
Antoni looked away sheepishly a few moments before answering, â€śIt depends on how well she understood my clues.â€ť
â€śWhenâ€™s the soonest she could possibly get here?â€ť
â€śA few hours.â€ť Antoni took a nervous sip of coffee and Ronin said, â€śI suppose Iâ€™ll be getting myself up a lot then.â€ť
â€śWe canâ€™t neglect work.â€ť
â€śMmhmm, that’s all youâ€™re going to be able to do when sheâ€™s here.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think that’s going to be a problem.â€ť Antoni nearly dropped his coffee mug at his mentors voice.
He turned, their eyes meeting. â€śIâ€¦â€ť He couldnâ€™t speak, his mind couldnâ€™t decide what to say.
â€śRelax Antoni, you really think Iâ€™ve had no idea whats going on between you and Rhona?â€ť
â€śYes, I wasnâ€™t going to let on I knew about anything, but Iâ€™d really like to come in here and get some coffee myself. I don’t have the energy to wait until you leave so you donâ€™t know I heard this conversation. If you want to keep secrets you two should talk about them less.â€ť
“Iâ€¦I wasn’t necessarily trying to keep it a secret.”
His mentor nodded. â€śWell, you are my oldest student Antoni. If you had done this in the early years yes, I would have been mad, but youâ€™ve never broken a single rule and youâ€™ve helped countless children, countless generations even just as I have. You wouldnâ€™t have broken the rules for just anybody and I know I can count on you not giving more people information about the island. Youâ€™re allowed to find love, you all are. Just keep doing your work and weâ€™re fine.â€ť
â€śWhat he means is heâ€™s incredibly interested in meeting the young woman who managed to get his star pupil to rebel.â€ť Ronin teased.
â€śOnly someone truly extraordinary cause you to keep secrets from me.â€ť He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a sip.
â€śHow did you know?â€ť
â€śBesides you two talking about it in the kitchen and on the balcony?â€ť Antoni nodded. â€śIâ€™m the one who taught you how to do this work, I can feel the reverberations through dream. I knew you were hiding something so I started to get curious and then I overheard you two talking one day.â€ť He slapped Antoni on the back. â€śDonâ€™t worry so much.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll try not to.â€ť
â€śYou can always wait for her to be dreaming and check in. If sheâ€™s struggling you have my permission to offer more help.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m honestly hoping she will get here in a few hours.â€ť They drank coffee together, talking until they were all ready to help any more kids that needed them. Antoni needed to work, he had to keep busy or all heâ€™d do is obsess about Rhona’s journey. Rhona had no trouble checking into her hotel so was already settled in and figuring out where to go next. She wasnâ€™t sure sheâ€™d be using her room at all but she had gotten one just in case she needed it. Sheâ€™d rather have a sure place to rest than be cocky and end up not being able to find a place that wasnâ€™t booked.
One event was enough to make finding lodging impossible so if she had wasted her money she had wasted her money, but at least that was one less thing to worry over. With a fully charged phone, calling card, map and euros in her pocket Rhona was walking to find the man who could take her to the island.
She looked over the clues he had given her, the little riddles, and the answers she had found for them. She had found that each one lead to a certain building or cross street and it was almost like he was giving her a tour. She stopped when she started to get hungry and checked her route with the woman behind the counter, telling her that it was a scavenger hunt set up by her boyfriend. She blushed at the word, knowing it was stupid to get her hopes up, but thought it was the easiest way to explain why she was following all of Antoniâ€™s clues. â€śHow romantic.â€ť The woman said with a big smile.
Once she was sure she was going in the right direction, she paid for her food and headed out again, her heart jumping in her chest. She was getting closer and closer to the end of his clues. She knew the man was supposed to be close to Antoni and his fellow Dreamwalkers. He had explained the manâ€™s family had delivered supplies to their island for centuries and he knew how to safely get there.
When hunger bothered her again Rhona stopped to check in with her friends. She knew once she was with Antoni chances were high sheâ€™d forget so she knew she needed to do it now or theyâ€™d end up worrying over her and sheâ€™d have to feel guilty later. Rhona was happy when Rose answered right away. â€śRhona, howâ€™re things?â€ť
â€śAmazing, I hope itâ€™s a decent hour back home.â€ť
Rose laughed. â€śDonâ€™t worry about that. Iâ€™m just glad to hear from you. Now I know you havenâ€™t been kidnapped.â€ť
Rhona grinned. â€śYeah, I just wanted to let you know Iâ€™m okay before I get too into having fun around here.â€ť
â€śAlright, text me though or something okay?â€ť
“Okay.” Short and sweet, just like Rhona hoped it would be. Now she called Landon who didnâ€™t answer so she just left him a voicemail letting him know she was alright and having a good time. Slipping the phone back into her pocket she continued on, only getting nervous when she approached what should be the man’s home that could help her.
She stood on his front porch, her heart skipping in her chest as she raised her hand and knocked. She wasnâ€™t expecting the little girl who opened the door and it took her a moment to say anything. â€śUh, yes, hello. Is your daddy home?â€ť
â€śAre you Rhona?â€ť The girl asked.
â€śWhy yes I am, whatâ€™s your name?â€ť
â€śRosie.â€ť She looked over her shoulder. â€śDaddy, sheâ€™s here.â€ť
Her father came out of the kitchen drying his hands, a big smile on his face. â€śSorry, I was making bread, youâ€™re here a lot earlier than I expected.â€ť He held out his hand. â€śIâ€™m William, please come in.â€ť
â€śAlright, thanks.â€ť She stepped inside and Rosie closed the door. â€śSo how do you know what I look like?â€ť
â€śAntoni told me, his description was spot on.â€ť
Her cheeks flushed. â€śHeâ€¦he told you I was coming?â€ť
â€śTheyâ€™d have a real problem on their hands if I believed just anybody that said they were invited. He wanted to make sure I took you.â€ť Her heart fluttered, emotion rushing through her giving her a tingling sensation in her body. He really did want to meet her. He wouldnâ€™t have made sure like this otherwise.
â€śSince you’re busy taking me can waitâ€¦please donâ€™t feel rushed.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll just finish this bread and we will be off.â€ť
The little girl grabbed her hand. â€śWill you play with me? Please?â€ť
â€śSure.â€ť It was the least she could do and she had always loved children.
It was the phone ringing that woke Antoni after he had finished calming an expectant mother. She had been having nightmares about losing her unborn child and it had manifested quite the creature in her head. He had reassured her that everything was going to be alright and lead her to happier thoughts. He yawned as he opened his eyes and froze when he heard the phone being picked up. There were few people who knew the number to the island and it was a little concerning. He got up, wanting to be ready just in case something had happened. He saw that it was his mentor who had answered and paused when he heard him chuckle. â€śThen weâ€™ll be seeing you soon, yes of course, thank you and be careful.â€ť He hung up, giving another amused laugh. â€śEavesdropping, Antoni?â€ť
â€śNo, not at all, just concerned is all. The phone woke me.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry, but it was actually something very important.â€ť He turned. â€śSheâ€™s at Williamâ€™s.â€ť
Antoniâ€™s heart stuttered. â€śShe is? Really? Already?â€ť
â€śYes, theyâ€™ll be heading this way soon. You should get ready.â€ť
â€śI still have work.â€ť
He waved his hand. â€śIâ€™ll take the rest of your shift.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť Antoni didnâ€™t argue another second. Instead he gratefully ran to his room to shower and get ready for her. Antoni went straight for the shower, making it quick so he could dry and pull on some clean clothes. He had realized she was an intelligent woman, but he still couldnâ€™t believe she had already found her way to him. Once he had gotten his hair completely dry he straightened his clothes and went outside to wait for her. He wanted to be the first person she saw and he knew if he waited inside the guys would all tease him. She was so close the rest of the waiting would be agonizing enough.
â€śI hope youâ€™re okay with being on a boat.â€ť William said when they finally locked up and left with little Rosie in tow.
â€śEven if Iâ€™m not, I just want to get to Antoni.â€ť
William chuckled as they got in his car. â€śI was pretty surprised when he called and told me about you. Antoni is the last person to break the rules.â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s not going to be in trouble is he?â€ť
â€śNo, teased maybe, but not in trouble. Itâ€™s not like he did it on a whim, he probably debated with himself over it. Besides, his mentor is pretty forgiving.â€ť
â€śHe told me there were six of them total, but some of them donâ€™t live in the main house.â€ť
William nodded. â€śThey got married and wanted their own space so a new one was built. Then there is Antoni of course, Ronin, their mentor Phobetor, the couple Alec and Claire, then Phobetorâ€™s newest apprentice Shona. Sheâ€™s the youngest at twelve. She goes between the two houses.â€ť
â€śWow, so young to be fighting nightmares.â€ť
â€śShe doesnâ€™t have any family and when Phobetor discovered her talent for dreaming, he adopted her. Now she has everyone on the island.â€ť
â€śThats so sweet, they all seem to have good heartsâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll like them, every generation of my family has. One day it will be little Rosie here making this trip. Itâ€™s an honor.â€ť
â€śAre you excited to do this yourself one day?â€ť Rhona asked the little girl who nodded with a smile.
â€śWait until you see the island.â€ť
â€śWhen did you first start going with your dad?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve been going as long as I can remember.â€ť
Her father was now speaking again, â€śYep, our family tends to start bringing the young ones as early as they can be trusted on the ride.â€ť
â€śThat must be fun, is it hard to keep the secret?â€ť
â€śNot at all, as I said, itâ€™s an honor.â€ť
Antoniâ€™s heart gave a leap when he heard the sound of the boatâ€™s engine and made sure his clothes looked okay as he walked to the edge of the dock and looked off into the fog. The bell on Williamâ€™s boat sounded to let him know they were close and he swallowed when the boat finally broke through the fog bank and started towards him. She was there, sitting in the seat just behind Rosie. William slowed and had Rosie grab the rope and toss it to Antoni. â€śYou made it.â€ť He said as he tied the boat off.
â€śWe did and even managed to pick up a passenger.â€ť
Antoniâ€™s eyes were already riveted to Rhona and hers on him. He held out his hand and Rhonaâ€™s cheeks warmed as she took it. â€śItâ€™s really you.â€ť She said as he helped her up onto the dock.
â€śAnd you.â€ť She was even more stunning in real life and he got so lost in her eyes he nearly forgot about William and Rosie. He blinked, feeling embarrassed. â€śWilliam, would you and Rosie like to go see the others?â€ť
William tried not to grin too much as he and his daughter walked away from the two of them. â€śIt really is good to see you Rhona.â€ť Antoni said softly.
â€śThankfully people were kind and helpful along the way. Your hints were really good too.â€ť
â€śSorry I wasnâ€™t just straightforward with how to get here.â€ť
â€śOh, donâ€™t worry about that. It was kind of fun.â€ť
â€śI was mostly worried my mentor would be upset with me for inviting you, but heâ€™s actually eager to meet you.â€ť
Rhona smiled. â€śThen let’s go in, Iâ€™d love to see everyone.â€ť
Antoni cleared his throat out of nervousness. â€śMay I take your hand again as we walk inside?â€ť Rhona put her hand in his and they laced fingers as they approached the home he shared with the other Dreamwalkers.
They could hear everyone talking as they entered and Antoni found himself suddenly very nervous. Rhona seemed to feel the same and squeezed his hand, helping to calm his nerves. Phobetor was surprisingly in the kitchen with Rosie and Shona who were making cookies and smiled when they walked through the door. His eyes moved over Rhona as he held out his hand to her. â€śMiss Rhona, so nice to finally meet you.â€ť
Rhona took his hand, shaking it. â€śUm, you too.â€ť
â€śNo reason to me nervous, youâ€™re very welcome here.â€ť He turned his attention to Antoni. â€śI wanted to greet her before I went to work, please introduce her to everyone and give her a tour.â€ť
â€śI will, thank you.â€ť Even though Phobetor had said he was fine with Rhona coming, it was still nice to see him greet her with a smile.
Phobetor left them and while Rhona wanted to get to know him as well she understood how important their work was. She couldnâ€™t imagine how hard her childhood would have been if Antoni hadnâ€™t been there for her. You only slept so many hours a day, but nightmares had a way of haunting you even in your waking hours. With Antoni around she never had to worry, she knew he was always coming for her and she couldnâ€™t take that security from another child, not when she could just talk to Phobetor later.
They spent a lot of time talking to Ronin first. He was as lively and kind natured as Antoni had depicted him. He was really the only one she knew much about so meeting the others was an extra special treat. Antoni told her as much about them as he could think of which to his dismay wasnâ€™t much. All he could think of right now was that she was here on his island.
â€śI can see why he broke the rules.â€ť Alec teased.
â€śItâ€™s because sheâ€™s so pretty.â€ť Claire added with a wink to Antoni that had his heart skipping.
â€śThatâ€™s not true.â€ť Antoni replied. â€śI wanted her to find me because Iâ€¦because I wanted to see her, really see her.â€ť
â€śI bet youâ€™re clues were even that hard.â€ť Ronin added. â€śGo left at the bakery and youâ€™ll find William who will bring you right to me?â€ť
Rhona couldnâ€™t help but laugh. â€śIt was a bit challenging to be honest, but I think after getting to know him for so long, I was able to decipher everything. It was like getting a tour from him and was a lot of fun.â€ť
â€śMaybe heâ€™ll have to ask Phobetor to let him leave the island to give you a real tour. Like a date.â€ť Ronin threw out, trying to sound nonchalant about it, but chuckling when Antoni gave him a look.
â€śYou really think he wouldnâ€™t mind?â€ť She asked and Antoni said, â€śI doubt he would.â€ť
â€śHe doesnâ€™t expect us not to have social lives,â€ť Ronin added.
â€śIâ€™ll ask him when heâ€™s done working.â€ť Antoni said, already trying to think of where all to take Rhona. He was devoted to his work so while he had of course left the island before it wasnâ€™t something he did often. He hadnâ€™t had much of a reason to until now.
When Phobetor was coming in for a coffee break he spoke without being prompted, â€śYou can have all the time off you want.â€ť
Antoni nearly blushed. â€śI…â€ť He started and Phobetor shook his head. â€śGo on, take her somewhere. Iâ€™m very old and I get more and more observant with time. Plus it would be common sense youâ€™d want to be able to do something with her since she came all this way. Go on, I donâ€™t want to hear anything about work. We all have things taken care of.â€ť
â€śAlright, thank you.â€ť
Phobetor waved him off. â€śWhen we start a relationship, itâ€™s important to grow it and if I forced you to always make work a priority then it would fall apart, so go and have fun. Iâ€™m sure William and Rosie will bring you back when youâ€™re ready.â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť William said. â€śYou know I donâ€™t mind.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť He turned to Rhona. â€śWould you mind waiting here with the others while I get ready and gather some clothes? It is okay if I stay with you while Iâ€™m away right?â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť Rhonaâ€™s face warmed and he gave her a warm, adoring smile.
â€śGo on, we want to tell her about all of your most embarrassing moments.â€ť Ronin teased.
Antoni gave his friend a look before hurrying off, a bundle of nerves and excitement. When he came back everyone was laughing and he didnâ€™t even want to ask what they had just been telling her. â€śIf you two are ready I can go ahead and take you.â€ť William offered and Antoni looked to Rhona who said, â€śYeah, Iâ€™m ready.â€ť
â€śMake sure to bring her back sometime.â€ť Ronin insisted as they got on the boat with William and his daughter.
â€śIâ€™d love that.â€ť Rhona said as she sat down. Antoni sat close to her, his heart actually beating a little harder in his chest. They made the trip back safely and didnâ€™t waste time leaving William and his daughter to their own lives. â€śSoâ€¦umâ€¦â€ť she started.
â€śBy first impressions am I what you expected?â€ť
He smiled. â€śYouâ€™re just as pretty in person as you are when I see you in your dreams.â€ť
â€śYeah, youâ€™re perfect, of course you would be no matter what?â€ť
She giggled. â€śWhat if I had actually been a man?â€ť
He shrugged. â€śI like to believe Iâ€™d still love you, though it might be kind of surprising. I mean Iâ€™ve known you since you were little.â€ť He rubbed the back of his neck. â€śWhat about me? Not nearly as cool without the guns huh?â€ť
Rhona took his hand. â€śEven cooler.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s a relief. Iâ€™m really happy youâ€™re here, that you were able to decipher all my clues.â€ť
â€śWell, I wanted to meet my hero and thank you. You kept me safe my whole childhood.â€ť
He blushed, wanting to respond, but feeling any way he could would sound far too sappy. He always wanted to keep her safe and wished she didnâ€™t live so far away. As things were, he could only watch over her in the dream world unless she was visiting. The two hit it off almost surprisingly well hanging out in person over the following days. Antoni had to admit to himself that sharing a bed in her hotel was the best part for him. It was only making him care more deeply for her. She fit so perfectly in his arms and she always smelled amazing, even after long days of enjoying everything the area had to offer.
â€śRhona?â€ť Antoni said as they walked through the city.
â€śYeah?â€ť She looked up at him and he found himself frozen by her beautiful blue green eyes. It was like he was being hypnotized. â€śAntoni?â€ť
He blinked, his face warming. â€śUm, I was wondering, when do you have to leave?â€ť
â€śThe end of next week.â€ť
â€śI see.â€ť He reached out and took her hand, pulling her to a stop. â€śDo you have too?â€ť He swallowed. â€śI mean, Iâ€™m sure you want to go home, but Iâ€¦I want you to stay, or maybe I could go with you.â€ť
Rhonaâ€™s heart danced and she almost couldnâ€™t believe what he had said. â€śYou want to go back with me?â€ť
â€śOf course, I donâ€™t want to be without you and if you canâ€™t stay here then Iâ€™ll leave. I donâ€™t think Phobetor would mind.â€ť
â€śBut this is your home.â€ť
He moved closer to her, lifting his other hand to stroke her cheek. â€śItâ€™s not home if youâ€™re not here. I love this place, but I want to be with you.â€ť
Rhona’s heart stuttered in her chest. She could barely believe he was saying things like this despite how well they were connecting. She could see in his eyes he had no reservations about following her home if that’s what he needed to do â€śIf I didnâ€™t have school I wouldnâ€™t ask you to leave butâ€¦my career means a lot to meâ€¦â€ť
He kissed her forehead. â€śDonâ€™t feel bad about me leaving. Iâ€™m happy to, I truly mean that. Why donâ€™t we go back to my island so I can talk to my mentor and the rest of the group.â€ť
â€śThey really wont hate me?â€ť
â€śNot at all.â€ť She hugged him, feeling excitement and happiness rush through her body. He held her in return, keeping Rhona in his arms until she pulled away. They hoped William wasnâ€™t busy but even if he was they had plenty of time to get back and talk.
William was more than happy to take them back and once they were back on the island, Antoni explained to everyone that he wanted to leave with Rhona. They all looked sad that he would be leaving, but they could both see they were happy as well. â€śNow who am I going to tease?â€ť Ronin asked.
â€śBut he doesnâ€™t have anyone to stare longingly out into the distance for.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll figure something out.â€ť
â€śAnd I promise weâ€™ll be back.â€ť Rhona said. â€śI really want to get to know all of you more and it wouldnâ€™t be fair to keep Antoni away, youâ€™re his family, so weâ€™ll be back.â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t rush, weâ€™re not going anywhere.â€ť Phobetor replied. He then placed a hand on Antoniâ€™s shoulder. â€śIâ€™m proud of you, Antoni and if you should ever need us, you know youâ€™ll find us in dream.â€ť
â€śI know, and Iâ€™ll keep helping children as much as I can.â€ť
â€śI know, how much longer can she stay? Weâ€™d love to spend some time with her before you are off.â€ť
â€śI have to leave the end of next week. I was actually hoping I would get to know you all too.â€ť
â€śThen that settles things, you can stay in Antonis room the rest of your trip.â€ť
â€śWould you like me to check out of your hotel room for you and collect your things?â€ť William offered and Rhona said, â€śOh yeah, I forgot where all my things were for a moment there. They might give you trouble for trying to check out of my room so maybe Antoni and I can go back tomorrow after breakfast, spend one more day on our own then come back here in the evening.â€ť
â€śThat’s fine with me, my daughter loves coming out here.â€ť
Rhona loved the rest of their time there, becoming good friends with everyone and learning more about dreams and what Phobetor looked for in the people he chose. She loved how much Ronin teased Antoni and adored how much they all cared for Shona. It seemed like their last day came far too quickly and she was sad during their goodbyes, but promised they would be back. William picked them up and Rhona snuggled close to Antoni as they rode back through the fog, her giving his hand a squeeze when she saw him looking back toward the island. â€śI promise weâ€™ll be back as soon as possible.â€ť
â€śI know, itâ€™s just strange to be going away for so long.â€ť
â€śAre you okay? I mean, really?â€ť
He turned to her, smiling. â€śOf course, I love you and I donâ€™t regret leaving. Iâ€™m happy you came to me, that you found me, and Iâ€™ll be happy no matter where I go as long as I have you.â€ť
Her heart danced and she smiled lovingly back. â€śI love you too, my hero.â€ť They hugged each other then relaxed for the rest of the ride, looking forward to their future together.