It's painfully apparent that Jack expects me to greet him as kindly as he did for me. But my mind cannot create even a simple word for me to say, and I'm numb all over my body. Time seems to slow to almost a standstill, and it seems like hours before I find just one of the correct words I'm looking for - which is 'angel' - so that I can reply to Jack and hopefully get some sense out of him. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I know I should be screaming and running away from him, or at least trying to get him out of my train cart, but I just can't.
Then the rest of the words come to my mind and tumble out of my mouth. "Are you one of my angels?" I realize how thick-headed I must sound, however, that's the last thing on my mind when I discover that I can feel my body yet again, and I walk towards my vanity, putting everything in a pile into the small space that's left on the tabletop. I turn on my heel once I make sure nothing's going to fall, and Jack's already swiveled around to face me.
"I wish I was, but I'm afraid I'm a bit too lively to fit that role. The angels you're talking about are constantly with you, right? They're always stirring up winds too, aren't they?" He inquires, slightly smiling. I'm assuming he thinks he's going to be on my good side just because he knows some things about the angels.
"Yes, they are. They always help me through some of my tougher days too." Somehow I feel a bit apprehensive with telling a shadowy figure who isn't an angel about my personal life, but I'm almost certain that I'm having a perfectly normal reaction to it all.
"Those aren't angels. They're the spirits of the wind, and I'm betting that they were sent here to collect your story. They just happened to take a liking to you." He says, the smile fading from his face. "It's almost a shame, really. Wind spirits and I don't exactly get on with each other."
"The spirits didn't like it when I was reaching for the doorknob, so that makes things more clear." I nod, taking all of this in slowly. "But why don't you get along with them?"
"It's a really long story that wouldn't interest you, belie- don't make that face." Jack glares at me when he sees my pleading eyes and I begin to stare at the walls. "It's amazing how you go from being not the least bit amused by my antics to begging. In any case, I have an irresistible offer for you, Sophie."
"What is it?" Stubborn, I still don't look at him as I light a candle so that I can at least see to some extent.
"Just look at me." Deciding not to make him angry, I return his expectant gaze.
"How would you like to go adventuring with me? You could leave your drab life here at the circus and become someone completely new."
After a few, long moments of silence in the room, I sigh tiredly. "Jack, I appreciate the offer, but I'm going to have to decline."
He looks genuinely stunned. "What? Why?"
"You're the last thing I need, and want, in my life." I reply quietly. "It's already bad enough that you're treating this entire situation as if it's nothing and, who knows, maybe this is normal for you! But for me, I just want to keep my life as it is, no matter how terrible it may seem in your eyes."
"Please hear me out Sophie! I honestly see some beautiful events happening in the future if you accept!"
"Just leave now and never come back, you shadow."
"Please!" He's frantic now, and I can tell that he's wondering why I'm doing this to him.
I take a step forward and even though I'm standing in the various shadows that Jack has pooling around him, I couldn't care less. "Go. Just . . . Just go, Jack." The finger I point towards the door is shaky, and I feel tears growing in my eyes. I hold them back, not wanting to make this more terrible on myself. Now I know that the nagging loneliness in my heart doesn't want me to kick out such an accepting soul.
But Jack doesn't go, and instead closes the short distance between us. "You're an idiot when it comes to knowing what you truly and actually want, Sophie. Why don't you just accept the fact that you want a friend?" He says softly. "Even if you don't want to run away, I'm not going to leave you."
After that, Jack wraps his thin, shadowy arms around me in a tight embrace, and after about thirty seconds, I copy him. Right now I don't think I can be any more upset with myself for losing my resolve and my first hug to such a fool.