My fingers were threaded so tightly into the black fur I thought I might cause Daniel pain, but his purrs of delight told me otherwise. It felt so soft and familiar between my fingers, caressing the flat palm of my hand. “I can’t believe you’re back,” I stammered.
His response was his large panther head lying in the crook of my neck.
“Where have you been for so long, Daniel?” I demanded, pulling away to look him straight in those animal eyes. They gleamed with unshed tears – tears he had obviously held back for so long, longing and isolation hid underneath that expressionless mask.
He shoves his paws away as if distance will make the pain less profound. The space between us acts as a barrier and I can almost hear the way his heart drops at the look on my face – sadness and abandonment. I turn away from the sight that twists my stomach, pulling myself back up onto the bed. Pain radiates through my body – my beatings taking a hellish toll on my body, everywhere throbbing with a dull reflection of the agony I had once been in.
Sleeping had eased it, at least. The mattress gives into my weight straight away like it’s used to me being there – it moulding into the shape of every curve and crevice of my body. I sigh in deep relief, feeling so light; it’s so different from being chained down for so long.
The temperature of the room shudders for a moment and I feel goosebumps rise on the skin of my arms. From the corner of my eye, I find Daniel standing up quickly and pulling a shirt around his arms – I could see the muscles moving underneath the taut skin of his back, rippling even as his shoulder blades seem to grind together. Once dressed, the reflection of the boy I once knew disappeared and was replaced with a hard, blank replica. Even his eyes were a void of emptiness and that scared me.
“You saved me that night, yet you can’t say a word,” I say peevishly. “What happened to the happy, cheerful young boy my family adopted?”
“He vanished,” Daniel answers coolly.
I couldn’t believe how this boy I grew up with for a few years had changed so much, and yet after disappearing from the face of the earth he refuses to acknowledge how upset and shocked I was. He wouldn’t even answer my questions without an acidic stare being shot my way.
The bed is weighed down considerably with the anger that builds inside of me like a torrent. I can feel myself sink until I can touch the floor. “I want him back,” I told my adopted brother bluntly. “And I want him to answer my questions.”
“I answered your question; you just refused to accept it.” His hands grip the sides of the arm-chair, fingernails digging into the wood.
“Why did you save me that night?” I question again, sharpening the words until they were bittersweet. The memory was lodged in the back my throat, an unwanted image I couldn’t swallow down.
A muscle spasms in Daniel’s jaw; his teeth clenched tightly like he was stopping them from chattering from a cold swept wind. “They would have killed you, Mary-Lynette. I wouldn’t leave you to them as bait for my plan. You weren’t even meant to be there.”
“You could have come back,” I can feel my eyelashes flutter just underneath my eyes as I stare at him through a narrowed glance. It’s a sweeping, soft gesture and it seems to wipe away the tears that threaten to further spill over.
“I couldn’t have, trust me,” he laments. “Even if I came close enough to see you, Mary-Lynette, they would have returned and killed you all. It seems they even succeeded in that without me.”
I feel like standing up, running over and wrapping my arms around his neck; cooing that it wasn’t his fault over and over. Yet, another part told me that it was his fault that my family were dead – a jumble of dried bones in a house of ash, broken glass and debris. But I stay on the bed; frightened that if I get up an unseen anger will arise, causing damage that I didn’t want on my hands.
The whole story sounds suitable enough for a ballad or sad song. I could almost imagine someone singing of Daniel’s sorrow – his horror, affection, isolation thick on their tongue. “But you left me in the woods, Daniel?”
“I ran off to draw their attention away. Did you want to die then?” Anger flashes in his eyes, his iris’s rings of flame. “What were you even doing in the woods? Didn’t I tell you they were dangerous!”
“I was looking for you,” I retort back sourly.
The tension in the room is so heavy I feel it may snap at any moment. Both of us are panting in agitation, fists gripped – my fingernails leaving crescents in my skin – and I’m shivering.
He had no idea what I had suffered. The guilt that tore at me every time I thought of that small boy running away from me – a body of black fur leaping into the undergrowth of the forest. My father had snapped at me, Daniel leaping in to defend: he’d gotten the bulk of the scolding, myself so stunned into silence I wept without tears.
“I looked for you every night in those woods! I would sneak out with my torch and scream your name until my throat was dry, to see if I could find you. Call it my fault if you will, but I wanted you back – I wanted my brother back.”
The words stung; I could tell by the way he licked his parched lips nervously, the colour draining from his face and his hand no longer gripping the muscle of his stomach. “I never knew,” he whispers.
“Of course you didn’t. You left us.”
His eyes break through his fallen length of hair, drilling into mine. “I never left you, I was always there. You just never knew,” a ghost of a smile lingers on his lips.
“You disguised yourself as my friend. Then you showed up in Forks giving me information on Carlisle Cullen, basically telling me about vampires again. Nice way to say “hello” to your adopted sister,” I smirked. He no-longer looks uneasy, but rather comfortable in his natural skin – cocky and protective.
“Typical of me, I suppose,” he chuckles. “I always did love disguises.”
Laughter bursts from between my lips, so suddenly that I have to clutch my chest were a few broken ribs jab me painfully. Daniel raises an eyebrow at me quizzically. “Can you remember when I dressed you up as a girl for a joke – makeup and all?”
Heat spreads up his neck and onto his cheeks. “I do. You called me Danielle for the whole day.”
The hilarity of the memories is just so easy for us that we can laugh without strain, or without the rigidity of knowing that Daniel left me, and my family, to the Vampires – unconditionally of course.
After a while, Daniel joins me on the bed and we sit and share our lives. “So she’s called Leah, and you left her just like that?” I hold his hand tight within mine, the heat of his palm against mine a secure feeling.
“I did, but,” his voice is sombre, almost mournful. “I regret doing it. I feel like I’ve lost so much without knowing, but it is what it is, right?”
“It’s water under the bridge, but you imprinted on this girl?” It hangs in the air like a statement, heavy but there. Daniel flinches at the word, his elbow scrapping against the wall.
He nods, but his head doesn’t reach up from the ground. “I’m completely and irrecoverably tied to this girl, and I can’t do anything about it.”
I look around the room, surveying its dim appearance – the dusk light filtering through the window giving the bare walls an eerie gloom, shadows lengthening across the floor and the light breeze coming through the ajar window chilly enough to raise the hairs at the nape of my neck. My finger’s stroke the exposed skin of Daniel’s wrist comfortingly, “It’s like how I’m apparently tied to these Sisters’ people keep talking of.”
“Mary-Lynette,” Daniel looks at me with a stern glare now; his pupil’s enlarged at the mere mention of the Sister’s. “You must tell the Mother everything you know of Carlisle Cullen, and his clan.”
My knees become weak and I rip my hands away from Daniel’s to grip at the skin of my legs. It’s as if I could rub away all of my annoyance into this soothing action. Could I betray Carlisle Cullen after he bestowed me with his undying trust? Could I up-root that just to save my own skin? The way my skin crawled told me I couldn’t. “If I didn’t tell Miranda and Greg, I’m not telling her a thing.”
“You don’t understand; keeping these dangerous secrets will get you killed. All you need to do is tell her, and then you’ll be released,” he was pleading now, a crease forming on his brow.
“And I don’t think you understand,” I reply strongly. “I’m not betraying Carlisle to these monsters.”
The bed sounds as if it would snap in half as Daniel throws himself on two legs, myself following – almost falling, so I grip the sides of a cabinet with my fingers and leaning against the draws. Pain jolts into the heels of my feet, feeling old wounds re-opening. “Monsters? What do you know of them? Miranda and Greg will be punished, but they are not monsters.”
“What about the Vampire’s in that room? What are they there for, Daniel? I recognised them!” I shout; my wavering stance not as half as imposing as I hoped it would be.
Just as Daniel is about to retort a bitter reply, someone raps against the door with a rapid knock. I walk toward it, my hand outstretched toward the door knob, but I’m pinned against the wood with a thump. My chest constricts with sudden pain and I can feel my breath stick to the roof of my mouth – I lick at my damp lips, trying to suck in some air. Daniel had pinned my hands to the door harshly, fingertips grazing my wrist – the angles of his body pressing me against the wooden door, heat flushing my skin at his immediate contact.
“What are you doing?” I hiss from behind clenched teeth, blocking the pained whimpers from escaping.
His mouth is next to my ear, his breath curling in my hair. “Be quiet,” he whispers. “Now listen.”
The silence from the other side of the door terrifies me. What was it to make Daniel stop me from opening the door, and reduced to whispers? The thoughts made the blood freeze in my veins. “Daniel,” I breathe; my voice barely audible amidst the pounding in my ears.
“You must keep quiet, Mary-Lynette,” he continues. He quickly looks toward the window, waiting to see if he senses a presence, before turning back to survey me with worried eyes. “There is no doubt in my mind that this person waiting for you, will take you to the Mother –”
“The Mother? What will she do to me?” The questions explode from me in frenzied panic and Daniel puts a hand to my mouth. I can taste pine needles, sweat and skin.
I flex my fingers against the door, stretching my fingertips until they graze the door handle. I could open it if Daniel got out of hand? Yet, he was my adopted brother – why would he hurt me? Too many questions crowded within my mind, and thinking of them only made more appear. “The Mother will ask you about the Vampires and Carlisle Cullen: I advise telling them, but if you are still stubborn I hope you have a smart-tongue. She does not take lightly not being told what she wishes to know.”
“What happens to me if I don’t?” There is another knock on the door behind me. We ignore it.
“She will kill you, Mary-Lynette,” he says pointedly. A glint of sadness is seen in the way his cheeks fall from being so perfectly poised. “I hope to God you don’t die, I only just found you.”
My toes curl at being told so frank that I will die if I keep secrets. I think back to what my mother told me of secrets, yet it did nothing but to reinforce my opposition to telling the Mother of Carlisle Cullen. “She will have a hard job,” I say, Daniel’s brows knitted together tightly as he fully understands my choice.
He pulls away reluctantly, his arms loose to his sides and brushing his waistline. “So that’s your choice? To die because of some stupid secret,” he roars.
“It’s not stupid, someone trusts me and I’m taking that chance,” I growl. How did we go from being so close enough again to at each other’s throats? Had Daniel’s change not been that obvious – was he struck with anger at his past actions, or was he struggling to cope with it alone? Is that why he lashed out so eagerly?
“Mary-Lynette,” fists pound against the door. “I have been sent to escort you to the Mother. Open the door,” the command rings sharp and dangerous.
I don’t answer it just yet, adrenaline live in my veins. “I’m not going to betray someone else’s secrets to save myself, Daniel. It’s not moral.” My voice is a thin whisper, struggling to rise above the average tempo.
“Fine,” he falter’s, his whole body rigid and his muscles like cables of steel underneath his taut skin. He radiates ferocity in intense waves that hit me clean in the chest, the pulsation of my heart momentarily stumbling at the impact.
I’m leaning against the door and before I can move away, I feel the wood bending and convulsing at the impacts of the pounding punches as if they’d break through at any moment. It dug into the skin of my back, it was so painful it made my spine curl but I resisted the urge to scream – I could feel the closing whip wounds on my back rip open once more.
“Don’t complain to me when you’re on death sentence,” Daniel finished acidly, before striding toward me and opening the door with once violent gesture. From behind it, a man with bruised knuckles and gold-rimmed glasses stares at me curiously. Daniel eyes me once with brief, tender eyes before leaving – his figure dissipating into the dark corridor.
I collapse to the floor in agony before the small man is ushered inside, his glasses already hanging half-way down his nose. Something pounds behind my eyes lids and then I black out.
The servant finishes wrapping the bandages around my back and I pull my T-shirt back down to cover my exposed stomach. My cheeks are flushed from embarrassment and pain. The small man with glasses, who had been pounding at the door, just stood in the corner and kept his eyes on a spot on the wall. They never strayed, and it got to the point where it started to creep me out.
His attention slipped and he paused to watch me as I heaved up myself up onto my elbows. “Mind helping me?” I asked with concern.
“My apologies, Princess.” Stepping close, he held out his hand and I took it.
I gritted my teeth at the annoyance of being called “Princess” again, and the stinging pain that rippled up my spine. Once I was standing on two legs, I brushed at my wrinkled clothes and ran my fingers through my hair – it was the first time I noticed how much it needed grooming. The man started to tap his foot impatiently and my own patience snapped. “Ready to go?” I said a little too coarsely for his liking.
“Of course,” he replied. “Please hurry. Our Mother won’t be pleased by your lateness.”
I rolled my eyes: like it was my fault I passed out. As if reading my thoughts he ducked his head and shook it in disapproval. I cursed under my breath at my own stupidity – why had I come to Forks, to the middle of trouble, when I could have stayed at home in Minnesota where everything was calm, and nothing was trying to kill me?
The corridors became so twisted and misshapen that I gave up trying to memorise the route back to my room, but rather concentrated on the numbers of doors on each leg of the route. In the first corridor there were six, the next four, then three and then one – was it some kind of code, or way to remember the passageways? – Before we emerged into a large open space.
“Morgan, dear, you have finally decided to join us.” The voice was youthful with a tint of iciness. Morgan stepped forward, leaving myself to stare in awe at the room.
It was a circular room with bookcases reaching the ceiling all curved around the walls: I had never seen so many books in my life; some with broken spines, other’s perfectly new while others were spilling pages into another books open cover’s. The floor was a plush white carpet with a gilded border, I felt my feet sink into it in pleasure and my shoulders relax and drop. In the middle of the room was an ebony work desk: everything neatly piled and organised, not a single detail out of place.
“I’m sorry Mistress, the girl had a mishap and it could not be helped,” Morgan utters, something about his words sending shivers up my spine.
“No matter Morgan, thank you. Now where is she? I am most eager to meet her, I bet she is just like her mother,” I hadn’t been paying attention to the voice, but I caught her string of words and turned toward the Mother.
“What do you know of my mother?” I demanded. Then I instantly regretted my harsh tone, a breath held in my throat.
I had imagined her to old, with wisdom showing from her age but she had a standard lack of grey hair and wrinkles. Instead, she stood proud with her fingers laced together proudly. Her face portrayed that of an angel: corn-silk hair swept tightly to the nape of her neck, soft blue eyes and rose-bud lips- yet there was something sinister in the way she smiled, a hostile and icy motion.
She brushes a pale hand at her pearl white suit, sweeping away the creases that usurp her image of perfection. “Child, alter your vulgar mannerisms before you speak to me. You shall conduct yourself with etiquette.”
“Yes, miss,” I reply politely, feeling as if I should be standing straight, feet crossed at the ankles and hands by my sides.
“That’s better, child. Now do come along and sit,” she gestures me over with a wave of her hand and pats a chair next to her desk. I moved over silently, her presence making my knee’s knock together. “I believe you have some information for me,” she says, moving toward her own chair and sitting down with such poise it made my head hurt. “Tea, child?”
I shook my head. Watching her hands move methodically over the ingredients for her tea, I kept my lips pressed tightly together. My tongue was dry, yet I was knowledgeable enough not to accept something from the Mother. “Now Mary-Lynette,” the use of my name coming from her lips didn’t sound right, almost terrifying. “I must warn you that I am not to be trifled with. If you do not tell me what I wish to know there will be consequences, I promise.”
“How does everyone know my name?” She looked at me sternly. “Miss,” I added curtly.
“Why, dear, everyone knows who you are. Your name is quite well-known actually – far well-known that I have found myself interested in you, and that is quite rare as my I don’t extend my favour to many.” Her laughter was like chimes, loud and peeling – yet it sounded so childish and flimsy for one so mature.
“What do you want with me, Miss?” I asked; keeping my eyes averted from her cold ones. They drilled into mine, and when they did it felt like a white hot pressure at the back of my skull.
She sips at her tea, slim fingers curling around the teacup. “I find you may be an asset to my Coven, Mary-Lynette, and I’m simply offering you a place amongst your kin. After all, your mother would be proud.”
Memories of my mother come flooding back: good and the bad. I toss them to one side, deciding to play with my strengths. If this so called “Mother” was trying to get my angry, I wasn’t playing along. Although my curiosity was flaring at the mere mention of my mother – I had known she was part of a cult, but nothing as monstrous as this!
“In return for answering your questions, I suppose,” I replied, placing my hands in my lap to distract me.
“Of course,” she answers, placing her tea back on the desk. “I believe you met a certain vampire in Forks, Washington – Carlisle Cullen, was his name?” She gives me an open question – a chance to decline to answer.
“I made a brief encounter with him at the Forks Hospital. He was as sweet as any gentleman, I believe,” I countered. “He treated me for some severe asthma and then I was gone.”
A muscle in her cheekbone twitches, a sly smile pulling at her lips. “Did you notice anything unnatural about him?”
I swallowed down the lump in my throat. “I did not.”
She picks up her teacup again, this time she runs her fingertip around the golden rim of it hypnotically. I have to look away. “I also heard your family was attacked? They were killed, were they not?”
“They were as you say, Miss.” I have to reign in the sorrow that taints my voice when I speak of my family – the foul images still pollute my brain from that unfaithful day.
“Who would have done that?” She questions doubtfully.
A part of my mind knows she’s trying to play friendly, hiding her cruel streak behind a mask until she gets the answers she wants, but another part lulls me to tell her everything. To pour out my heart – but can the Mother do that? Have a power that makes you want to do everything she says? Compulsion, is it? I can even tell that my lack of useful answers is driving her to bite back the malevolence from her commands.
I sat up straight against the chair, wincing as the hard-back presses against the newly open wounds. “The police believe it was an arsonist attack on my home – we were in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”
“And yet you survive?” She gestures to me and I shudder.
I felt myself want to shrink inside my shell and hide – something about her tall, imposing appearance and I was small, and insecure. “Luckily I was away from the house at the time, yet my parents weren’t as lucky. They were killed by the impact.”
“Where were you, Mary-Lynette?” Impatience is lacing her tone now, rigid and strict.
“I was in the woods.” Some of the starkness in her eyes melts, as if she thinks she’s gotten to me but it vanishes once my monologue continues. “I was looking for a dear friend, which I did every night.” – It was partly the truth; I just twisted it so it sounded correct, yet not dishonest enough to be noticed so instantly.
The Mother’s face became flushed with anger, the teacup placed gently on the desk and she stood. Her heels clicked across the floor menacingly, it vibrating in my ears, obscuring any other sound. She came to stand by my chair, her curved hip leaning against the desk. “Do you know who I am, Mary-Lynette?” she asked coolly.
I have to look up through my eyelashes to see her – a proficient, established figure, but with a fierceness to her, I wish I possessed. “You’re the Mother, Miss.”
“Insolent girl! If you don’t give me the information I require, the consequences will be severe,” she replied, the sharpness of her fingernails evident in the lamp light of the room. Her hands are like talons gripping the desk.
“I’m sorry,” I stand as well, facing her. Her sharp angles are dangerous and deadly compared to my soft curves which were so easily beaten, broken and bruised. “But I will not betray my secrets, Miss. I will bear the consequences willingly.”
My voice was shaky, but strong enough that she raised her eyebrow in astonishment. “You will regret this, Mary-Lynette. Your mother will be disappointed in you. I was wrong, you are nothing like her.”
Before I have a chance to ask, Morgan is behind me, locking my wrists together between his hands and dragging me away. I don’t kick, or try to scream, but rather let him drag me away. The Mother’s dark, cruel face is the last thing I see before the doors close.
The passageways continue, as does the pattern of doorways, but none of it is registering in my mind. I just feel the cold, metallic chill of the dark creep across my skin as I’m shoved not back into my room, but a damp cell. I fall to the floor, my hands catching the impact.
Morgan pulls the bars back into place, the grating sound making blood pound in my ears. He hitches the glasses once again onto his nose, “God help us all.”
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