“Raven.” Jay frowned.
Do I know anyone named Raven?
“Uhhh. Okay. So, you’re Raven.”
“Indeed, sir. I spoke to you earlier regarding Robin.”
“Oh. Ohhh! You’re that super posh guy in the Black Butler cosplay.”
“I do not know what you mean by ‘cosplay’, but I shall let it pass. There are more pressing matters at hand.”
“Yes. Did you talk to Robin?”
“I did, sir.”
“And? And what did he say?”
There was a long pause.
Jay stopped walking. “Raven? What? What did he say?”
“I do beg your pardon, sir.”
Jay tightened his grip on his phone.
“He is unable to come at this time.”
“You don’t understand. This isn’t a friggin’ tea party invitation that you can accept or decline at will! This is a matter of life and death. Robin needs to come. He must come!”
“Sir, you are waxing hysterical.”
“I don’t care! Isellta means the world to me. If Robin loves him as much as that sweet kid thinks he does, he would come. He would leave right now and—”
“Sir! You need to slow down. Calm down. Robin will come. Believe me. He will come. Just not yet. There is something he must do first. I realize that is not the answer you had hoped for, but it is the only one I can give you. It is the answer he gave to me.”
“Did you get my note from the bar?”
“Yes. It was…rather rambling but emotional.”
Despite his stress headache, Jay chuckled. “Rambling, huh? Do you still have the note?”
“Could you give it to Robin? Just give it to him and let him read it. Let him decide what he really wants to do.”
“I could tell you what he wants to do, but…” Raven sighed. “I believe that would be akin to spilling a vat of boiled fish in the parlor room — hardly a good idea. Would you rather just call him?”
Jay shook his head. Then, he remembered that he was on the phone. Nonverbal cues weren’t going to work. “No. I can barely keep it together just talking to you. If I talk to him, I know I’ll get too emotional. I’ll probably wind up yelling at him and scaring him away. Or I’ll turn into a sobbing car wreck and scare him away twice as fast.” He paused. “You will give it to him, right? You will let him read it, right?”
“Yes. I promise.”
“Thank you.” Jay thought about it. “Where is he, anyway?”
A long, long pause.
“Is there a reason why you are asking, sir?”
“Curiosity. I’ve been walking all over this city and haven’t seen hide nor hair of him. I’m starting to wonder if I’m chasing a ghost or something.”
“Not a ghost, sir. A vampire. As for where he is…”
A couple of back-to-back silences.
“He is safe and well. That is all you need to know, sir.”
“What? You don’t trust me?”
“I do not know you. I know Robin. Robin is part of my small family. I will protect him from those who would hurt him.”
“Take the implication however you wish, sir. I will protect him.”
“Fine. But you will eventually have to let him go. You have to. You must let him come to Isellta. If you don’t, you’ll break his heart and Isellta’s heart.”
“I am aware of that, sir.”
“Will you give my note to him?”
“Indeed, I will.”
“You mean it?”
Raven dramatic paused again.
What is he thinking?
What is he doing?
What is he going to say?
“Yes, sir. I mean it. I may be a vampire, but I am not a liar. Sir.”
“And I can trust your word?”
“More than you can trust anyone else’s word. I am a man of honor, sir. Robin will get your note and I will leave his decision up to him.”
“I guess that’s as much as I can ask for. Thank you. Thank you, Raven.”
“You’re welcome, sir.”
Raven ended the call and put his phone into his jacket pocket.
He unfolded the paper one more time and contemplated it.
I could give it to Robin.
Or I could crumple it and put it in the rubbish bin.
He reread it.
The frantic need.
The scratched out lines.
The broken sentences.
His thoughts turned to Robin.
They turned to Isellta.
He thought about Missy sleeping alone in the hospital room.
Raven straightened his posture and folded the note into precise, even squares.
He put it into the same pocket as his phone.
He walked back to the hospital.
In his mind, Missy walked beside him, talking three million words in one breath.
Tears filled his eyes and he ran.