Chapter 17, A Day to Forget
[BY JANE D’LOGIRAM]
Once I’m dressed for the day, I turn to the mirror in my room. Usually, I prefer blazers and tailored pants, but today is different. Instead, I’m wearing a bulletproof vest underneath my matte grey jacket. A silver brooch in the shape of a downwards arrow is pinned above my heart. The South used to have a yellow arrow that represented them but since we’re Southern Sterling now, it’s a silver arrow. Further down, I’m wearing tight black pants that still allow me to move comfortably and combat boots with steel tips. My accessories include two Smith and Wesson handguns strapped to my thighs, an AK-12 automatic rifle secured on my back and two Glock 17 pistols tucked into the shoulder pouches of my gun harness. For good measure, I made sure to have a machete strapped to my boot.
Ready to wage war, I stare at the thing in the mirror.
It’s times like these when it feels wrong to refer to myself as a girl, or even a person. I’m a leader. A weapon. And today, I’ll be death itself.
My hair is mousy as always. I’ve considered dyeing it, but I’m scared of messing it up and I don’t trust hair salons. I’d be too vulnerable sitting in a chair with myself facing away from the people doing my hair. One of them could easily be a hired assassin that slits my throat. I tilt my head - examining my face. I’m not ugly. But I’m not pretty either. I’m forgettable - which can be used as a great advantage, but it does make me kind of wish I could go get my eyebrows done or have someone show me how to properly put makeup on. I kind of wish I didn’t kill my mom.
A sudden knock on the door gets me to turn away from the thing in the mirror.
“Who is it?” I ask.
“It’s Kyle,” my co-leader answers, “Do you have a minute?”
I sigh and go to sit on my bed. “Come in. I wanted to discuss the plan with you in anyway.”
Kyle opens the door and walks in. It’s the first time he’s in my room and his expression is about the same as everyone else’s when they see my minimalistic tastes.
“Are you planning on redecorating?” Kyle asks - scanning my room.
I look over out of habit as well. My walls are painted grey because that’s how the house was bought. The floor is still untiled - resulting in cold concrete beneath my feet. And except for the bordered up windows, there are only four things in my room. A walk-in closet with more guns than clothes, a bed with only a mattress, no pillows or blankets, a lamp on the floor next to my bed, and the full-length mirror leaning against the wall opposite to me.
“No,” I sigh, “I keep it like this. I don’t see a point in having my personal quarters decorated. I don’t have to show off in here.”
“Yes, but... It’s as you said, your personal quarters. Isn’t it nice to have it personalized? Hell, my room has nearly every inch covered in paint,” Kyle says. I look him over and scoff. I hate that he always has paint on his clothes. He reminds me of my wretched cousin.
“The place might get attacked and then all the decor would be for naught. Besides, I’m only in here when I’m sleeping or dressing - which takes up less than four hours of my day.”
Kyle shakes his head - deciding to drop the subject. “Nevermind your room, we have to get ready to leave in three hours,” he says.
“So, did your brother pull through? Personally I think Blake’s a God damned liar and we shouldn’t trust a word he says,” I say.
Kyle sighs and goes to lean against the wall - pushing back his black hair as if to clear his thoughts. “Blake is family... He wouldn’t betray me,” Kyle says.
I scoff at the insinuation. “Born blood is weak. Just look at me and my cousin. We want each other dead. Bound blood and vowed blood are the only things that matter. Loyalty to the family you choose will always be greater than the family you had no choice in. Blake’s already been brainwashed by my cousin. Your brotherly love means nothing,” I argue.
Kyle looks at me sadly and slowly nods his head. “I haven’t been there for my brother these last few years. I understand why he’d be hesitant to follow me now... So though I trust Blake, of course, I have to take extra precautions. A good leader always has a card up his sleeve.”
“What precautions? What did Blake say?” I ask.
“Blake called me last night to tell me of what’s happening today. He explained the plan carefully. I doubt he’d make it up. It also supports what we’ve been told from our spies,” Kyle explains.
“The wedding will be held at the North’s stronghold. Isabella’s. Blake explained to me that all the Northern guests will get into about a dozen black vans. They’ll make it seem like all the guests are in the vans but in reality, everyone that’s not from the North will be waiting at Isabella’s. Then the vans will all move out. The main road out of Tygerwell is the Western road, but there’s a Northern coastal route that Xavier only uses for business trades. The vans will follow that coast, but when they head through a tunnel through the mountains, they’ll stop and get out. The guests will then get into the food truck that’s been waiting for them. Once the guests are in the disguised truck, they’ll head back to Isabellas while the drivers of the dozen black vans continue to drive to the second decoy location. Blake told me not to follow those decoy vans and head to the wrong location. He promised me that the wedding is in fact at Isabella’s and that the second location was just a mind trick. He said that Xavier knew we hacked his email and we saw the booking for the fake location,” Kyle explains to me, “They’re trying to fool us by making the truth seem like a lie.”
I sit for a while - taking in all the information. My cousin is a lot more ruthless and cunning than people give her credit for... She has Sterling blood so of course, she’s good at deceiving people. It’s never just black and white with her... She definitely has a plan...
“Something isn’t adding up,” I say, “Why would my cousin let spies go that gave away the location?”
“Maybe she’s too soft-hearted. Maybe she just doesn’t have that cutthroat attitude that a leader needs,” Kyle suggests.
I shake my head. “No... my cousin is definitely cut out to be a leader... That’s why I hate her so much,” I comment.
“Well, either way, the wedding is either at Isabella’s or the second location that’s ten hours away. Blake says it’s Isabellas and I trust my brother,” Kyle says.
I look up - not bothering to hide my smug amusement. “Do you?” I ask.
“Then what precaution did you make?”
Kyle looks at me torn. He chews his cheek as if contemplating whether to tell me. “I had a tracker planted into his phone,” he admits eventually, “Though that’s more for his safety that his trust.”
“Well, then we don’t need Blake’s promises. We only need his location,” I say simply.
“I don’t need it. I know he’ll be at Isabella’s. He promised me that the wedding will be there. If my brother makes a promise, I’m going to damn well believe him,” Kyle insists.
I nod at that. But I’ve learned by now that the Bowmen family is a complicated bunch. They say one thing while they think another. “Fine,” I sigh, “I’ll leave it up to you.” I get up and walk past Kyle - towards the door before I stop and turn around. “Blake Bowmen is betraying someone he loves today. It better be Amber. If his story isn’t true... If I don’t rain hell on a wedding today... I’m having that brother of yours pay the price.”
I think my threat gets to Kyle because, at the very mention of harming Blake, I get a look that sends chills down my spine. Ah... There’s a shy little hello from the man behind the mask. His eyes aren’t the color of a silver lining, but rather the silver of a freshly forged knife.
“We leave in three hours,” I add before leaving.
The mansion is buzzing with activity as everyone gets ready to leave. I make sure everyone knows what needs to be done. Nixon is told to prepare enough transport for at least thirty armed men. We have enough firepower to take down a small army. And since our target is a wedding, there’s no chance of surviving me this time. By the time everything is settled and everyone gathers their thoughts before leaving in an hour, the world has become much too loud for me.
Instinctively, I think of the basement and how quiet it felt in there. Perhaps Sean can give me his opinion on what he thinks Amber is planning... Or maybe I should just go down there to tell him Amber is dying today. It will be fun to see the shock on his face. It could break that dead attitude he has.
Excited about pulling emotion out of my prisoner, I practically skip towards the stairs. the guards let me through and I slowly descend into the cold basement - keeping my jacket and weapons on me. When I get to the last step and round the corner, I’m pleased to find that Sean’s situation is looking a lot better. He’s still chained to the pillar in the middle of the dimly lit room and he still looks like a skeleton, but at least the place isn’t smelling as bad as the last time I came in. Instead of a bucket full of water to drink out of, I ordered the guards to bring him bottled water. And instead of a bucket to relieve himself in, I ordered the guards to escort him to the bathroom upstairs whenever he needed to go. He was too weak to try and escape so I saw no problem in it.
However, after all the positives there’s still a kind of dampness to the room that I don’t like. It smells stuffy and though it’s nice and quiet in here, without the constant ticking, I’m forced to take in every detail of the room that I don’t like. One particular detail has me biting my tongue.
“You aren’t eating,” I say by way of greeting.
Sean is sprawled across the floor and though he has clean clothes on - a grey shirt and black sweatpants, he’s still shivering in his sleep. Why isn’t he waking up? I walk over and crouch down - examining him while he doesn’t know I’m here. I look over at his leg that’s been bandaged and set. It must hurt like hell. Maybe the pain is preventing him from eating? I should probably get him pain pills. Then again, I don’t want him keeping them and committing suicide when I’m not looking. I’m not letting this prisoner get away. Not even with death.
I move over even closer - glancing at his sleeping face. His dark fringe is covering his eyes so I swipe it away to look at the deep frown set upon his face. What’s he dreaming about? Or does he have nightmares? I can’t let his nightmare show me up. I’m supposed to be his tormentor. I’m supposed to be the one that casts fear into his heart.
“Hey, Sean,” I say and lightly shake him. “Sean,” I repeat.
Sean slowly opens his eyes before that lifeless look lands on me. He doesn’t flinch away or beg for freedom. He only yawns himself awake as he tries to sit up again. “It’s been a while,” he says, “You ready for round two?”
I clench my fist at his sassy attitude. He’s acting like I’m the one being tortured in here every day. He’s making a fool out of me. I should have his tongue cut out just for that.
“You haven’t been eating your food,” I say. “If you don’t, I’ll break your other leg as well.”
“Go ahead. Break every part of me. You can’t hurt me,” Sean says in boredom.
The words get me to think for a moment. What part of him could I break? He already has a broken leg. A broken finger would be nothing compared to that. A repressed memory flashes through me - too fast to catch, but the feeling of it doesn’t leave me.
I can break his heart. More than bones, more than promises, a broken heart can wound you.
“Amber is going to die today,” I say.
Sean goes very still, very quickly. The look he has on his face is exactly what I’ve been looking for! Who knew words could cut deeper than blades. “Why would you say that?” Sean asks.
“It’s my cousin’s wedding day today. Such a shame she didn’t bother to invite you,” I sigh sarcastically, “Regardless, I’ll send her your love once I’ve laid waste to the venue. I bet she’ll feel really sorry really quickly for forgetting about you. You know what? It would be perfect if you could tell me some kind of inside joke between the two of you. If I say it to her while she dies and her last moments are spent knowing you betrayed her, damn, that would just be perfect.”
Sean shakes his head - tears starting to form and though it’s exactly what I want, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable seeing him like this. “I will never betray Amber. And you won’t kill her. She’s too smart to be caught like that,” Sean insists.
I roll my eyes. “Yes, I’ll give my cousin some credit. She’s smart, but all that potential is being thrown away by her supposed kindness. You can’t be kind and a gang leader. you have to pick. Kindness will only get you killed.”
Sean looks at me in horror and disbelief. I usually live for this expression, but it feels wrong somehow. Not able to take his sadness anymore, I sigh and pretend to check my watch. “Oh well, it’s time to head out. Don’t look so sad. When Marigold dies, you’ll be useless to me and I’ll gladly put you out of your misery.”
I turn to head out, but Sean suddenly falls forward to grab my ankle. I turn around in horror at the sight of Sean stretched out to stop me from leaving. “What are you doing? Your leg won’t heal if you move like that!” I exclaim.
Sean’s leg is at a horrible angle but the tears in his eyes don’t seem to be from the pain. “Don’t do it. Please don’t do it,” Sean begs while sobbing. Tears stream down his face and his hair clings to his moist cheeks. Were his dark eyes always so sad?
“Do what?” I ask.
“Don’t kill Amber... Don’t massacre that wedding. I beg you,” Sean cries, “I’ll do anything!”
“Anything?” I ask.
“Anything,” Sean confirms - hope finally shining in his eyes. Desperate, useless hope.
I think about it. I really think about something Sean could give me in exchange for my cousin’s life. Alas, “there’s nothing I want more than to kill my cousin,” I say simply.
Sean visibly crumbles beneath me and I hate it. This just doesn’t feel right. The boy that would barely react to being tortured is breaking so easily now at the mere mention of Amber’s death? I hate it. I hate her so much. How could she brainwash all these people? How could she just turn Sean into such a loyal follower but then not care when he’s been missing for months? And why the hell does none of these people see beneath her bullshit? She’s playing them all for a fool and they just can’t stop praising her. She could kick a puppy and people would still find a way to kiss her ass.
“She doesn’t deserve your loyalty,” I say.
“She does,” Sean cries. “She was the only one that saw me. That saw the pain I was in. She gave me pumpkin cookies at the party. She’s the only person that’s ever told me sorry.”
“Have you been that starved for attention that the mere glance of a pretty girl would turn you into this mess?” I ask - angry this time.
Sean looks at me painstakingly - words failing him.
I kick his hand lose from my ankle and crouch down in front of him. “She didn’t see you. She never saw you. She doesn’t know how carved up you are. She doesn’t know that you tried to off yourself. She doesn’t know that with broken bones, you still follow her. She doesn’t know shit and you know what else? She doesn’t want to know either. She’s just pretending to care because that’s the nice thing to do,” I tell Sean.
I can’t believe I didn’t pay attention to this boy before. I mean, I remember he did a job or two for me, but he was just so... forgettable... And look at me now. Telling my prisoner that he deserves better. This cannot be good for me.
“Jane... I beg you. Please have mercy,” Sean sobs.
Mercy. I’ve heard that word before. I know it from a memory I can’t quite remember. I hate it. I hate people that beg for mercy. There’s no such thing as mercy in this life. And if I was capable of it, the last person I’d show it to is my enemy or anyone loyal to my enemy.
“I’ll make it painless,” I tell Sean. A single, clean shot to the head. She won’t suffer. And in exchange, I want you to eat your food.”
Sean just starts sobbing all over again and I leave the basement before I could do something stupid. When I get up the stairs and close the door, I turn to the guards with a glare. “You’re giving him porridge? No wonder the guy isn’t eating, you fucking morons. Have the chef prepare him something and make sure he eats it. Ask if he has a preference or allergies first,” I instruct. The guards look confused, but I turn on my heel before they can question me.
And the world instantly becomes loud again.
By the time everyone is lined up in front of the mansion - ready to leave for the wedding, Kyle and I are standing on the stairs leading up to the mansion. We share a look before I nod to let him speak. Of course, Kyle gives a glorious speech of how we’re one step away from making this world a better place. He asks everyone to do their part but not to throw away their lives carelessly since he cares about everyone here. I let him go on his little charade until he’s done and turns to me.
There’s nothing noble I can say really. I want my cousin dead and Kyle wants the North gone. We’re going to commit a massacre - not skip into a battle that’ll have songs depicting it. It’s not pretty.
“Today isn’t a day to remember,” I start with, deciding that I want this as short as possible. “Today won’t be the story of how Southern Sterling rose to defeat the Northern traitors. Nothing will remain of them when we’re done. Not their names, their stories, or their traitorous deeds. Today will be a day to forget. Forget the ways of the enemy and move onto a new era with allies.”
The people before me cheer and Kyle sends me a surprised look.
What can I say? I’m surprising myself as well.