Chapter 5, Bound blood
BY XAVIER JILTEN
The plan is set. I’ve done enough hacking and asked all the right questions to know where Owen’s sister currently is and when they’ll be transporting her. As I explained, trying to save her isn’t going to be easy while she’s at the waiting area. Nessa agreed. Blake, Owen and my inner gang would have to take their chance when Kelly is on the move. I’ve dealt with the Dolls group before. I know how they operate and those black market sex traders keep things tight knitted. Waiting for the transaction is everyone’s best shot.
And knowing they’ll most likely transport her by the end of the month - three weeks from now, we could still maybe have the wedding in two weeks. It wouldn’t matter to me when Marigold and I get married, it really wouldn’t as long as I know she’s by my side. But if we want to stand against Sterling and the South, we’ll have to do it all out.
It’s been three days of planning and getting everything we need. Blake and Owen both come over every day to discuss the plan. I actually hate seeing Owen in that wheelchair of his. I know how much it must pain him and through the bit of time he’s spent at Isabella, I’ve come to learn just how good the boy, no, the man is. After everything we’ve faced and all that we’re still to endure, nobody here are children anymore.
During the day, when Blake and Owen are here, I feel... uncomfortable staying away from Marigold. I hate how we can’t even really touch in front of them. They know, of course they know we love each other, but seeing it must surely suck so I get where Marigold is coming from and I respect her wishes.
At night however, the wicked girl has to make up for a day of enduring without her. We don’t have the freedom to go out on dates like normal couples without the risk of getting killed, nor can we really do any other things until the wedding, so we settle for a thick, soft rug in front of the fireplace in the upstairs library - my personal library.
“Okay so you see Pollock sleeping over there? Try sketching him,” Marigold says and hands over the pencil for me to use. We have a large white paper in front of us with some basic doodles and textures. I take the pencil and start with the head of the sleeping pup.
“Now, tell me what you’re drawing,” Marigold says.
I look over to her with a confused smile. “I’m drawing Pollock, like you said,” I explain.
“See, that’s where you’re wrong,” Marigold chuckles and pushes me with her shoulder while we’re laying on the thick carpet. I love watching the flames of the fireplace dance in the oceans in her eyes.
“I’m literally drawing him,” I defend. I might not be the best artist, but Miss Sauvage is pretty good and she taught me everything I know.
Marigold snuggles closer and takes my hand in hers - directing the pencil to the paper again. Her hand is so tiny compared to mine, but I keep my amusement to myself. I don’t want that tiny hand punching me in the face.
“In art, you’re perspective has to change,” Marigold explains while directing my hand to draw Pollock’s ear. “You’re not drawing Pollock, it’s impossible. You’re drawing lines and shapes and shadows that come together to look like Pollock.” I let her guide me into sketching some lines and fade in a few shadows. Before long, we have the top of Pollock’s head drawn almost perfectly.
“You’re an excellent teacher,” I tell Marigold.
She shrugs, “I know.”
I can’t stop just smiling at her as she guides my hand to draw the rest of Pollock. At one point I think she gets a hair in her mouth and I laugh at her trying to get it out.
We both pause when we hear her phone buzz. Marigold frowns and checks the message. Concern appears in her expression and I feel myself getting worried as well. I go to grip her remaining hand - silently asking her what’s wrong.
“It’s Blake,” Marigold says, “He just got a message from Jane to attend an important meeting with the South. He sent me a location.”
“You think we should go spy on the meeting?” I ask.
Marigold stares at the messages for a moment before she lets out a sigh and gets up. She extends her hand for me and I don’t need it, but take it all the same. “We don’t have a choice if we want to get ahead,” Marigold says before helping me up.
“We’ll have to get dressed in something better,” I say and refer to the fact that she’s just wearing shorts and a large T-shirt, while I’m in sweatpants and a comfortable shirt as well.
“I’ll go throw something on,” Marigold says before leaving the room. I exit as well and head to my own bedroom to get a set of black clothes that ought to conceal me as best as possible. I spot myself in the mirror while getting dressed and cringe at the scars and patched up bullet holes adorning my torso. The only scar that doesn’t make me flinch is the one above my heart. Instead, that scar stand for literal proof of a much more figurative situation. Marigold has, and will always have my heart.
When I have my boots slipped on and jacket in my hand, I leave to go get Marigold. I softly knock and step inside just as Marigold ravages through her closet for a shirt. I walk over and find myself staring at the scars on her body. She’s building up quite the collection - might even surpass me in the future if we’re not careful. Just below her sports-bra, there’s an angry red mark from when she was training. By her left arm is a graze wound that’s still pink from healing. I stroll over as she grabs a tank top and turns to me.
The matching scar above her heart differs a lot more from mine than one would expect. For one, it’s a lot messier than the neat line that I have. And then there’s the fact that when I look at my scar, I’m reminded of how I gave my heart to the person I love. When I look at hers, I’m reminded that she needed the heart in the first place. I’m reminded of what the situation really was. Not this romantic gesture of true love or any of that crap, but rather testimony to me messing up so bad, I almost cost Marigold her life. That’s always what gets me first. The harsh reality of all the crimes I’ve committed for the sake of an impossible dream of saving this world. But what’s worse, is the afterthought... The realization that Marigold has to live with my poisoned, rotten heart...
I wish I could’ve given her a heart worth having.
“Hey, we talked about this,” Marigold says and throws her shirt on before grabbing a jacket.
I duck my head in guilt. “I know, I know... I just... I just wish I could change the past sometimes,” I admit. I’m no stranger to waking up at night with the eyes of innocent people I’ve caused to die.
"I don’t. I won’t risk it,” Marigold says as she puts on her Jacket. “No matter how ugly the past is, I wouldn’t change it. If it wasn’t for the bad, I wouldn’t have seen you for who you really are,” she smiles sadly before standing on her tippy toes to kiss my cheek. I can’t help smiling back.
“Let’s go then,” I tell her before grabbing her hand and heading out.
I get downstairs and grab snipers from the hallway closet. Marigold takes the one I hand her just as I lock the closet again.
“Where ye headin’?” Nessa asks as she walks down the hallway.
“We’re off to go spy on the South,” Marigold answers for me.
“If we’re not back by tomorrow morning, something went wrong,” I tell my second in command before walking to the garage. I grab the keys to one of the many cars in the garage, but as always, head to Phoenix. Marigold slips into the classic red Ferrari just as I do and we’re speeding out of the garage and down the driveway without further delay.
"Will something go wrong?” Marigold suddenly ask as we race past dark pine trees and eventually the sleeping houses of residential areas.
“I hope not,” I say and get onto the main road that leads to the location on Marigold’s phone.
“But?” Marigold asks worried next to me.
I sigh, because I know it’s maybe the wrong thing to say. “But Blake does technically still work for Sterling and I know he doesn’t like me. I just... I know you trust him, so I trust him, but... I just have this gut feeling about Blake. My instincts tell me he’s going to betray us at some point and I really hope my instincts are wrong this time,” I explain cautiously while driving through the quiet night.
“How often are your instincts wrong?” Marigold asks instead of shaming me for my suspicions.
I slowly look over to Marigold. “Never,” I say.
The location that we arrive at, makes me feel anxious all over again. Instead of it being at the docks like all neutral meetings, it’s at the old docks, more South of Tygerwell. The abandoned shipping containers and old, beat up fishermen boats with nets and fish littering the corners, doesn’t set me at ease at all.
Marigold and I made sure to have Phoenix parked a healthy amount of blocks away. We silently walked the rest of the way and now we’re crouching behind a stack of crates that smell like fish. I hear Marigold scoff as she scrunches her nose.
“What’s wrong?” I ask her.
“I’m not a fish kinda gal,” she replies.
I smile at that, but then return my focus ahead of me. A few minutes pass where we’re just staring at the empty, abandoned dock. That gut feeling in the pit of my stomach doesn’t go away. What if Blake set us up? What if he’s led us into a trap? I can’t help the instincts inside me to consider it as a serious possibility. But expressing my concerns more than I have, will only upset Marigold.
“Marigold...” I whisper.
“Xavi?” She replies while still staring out at the dock.
“Nobody’s here yet... This might be a trap,” I warn her.
“I told you before, Blake won’t betray us. He’s many things, but a traitor isn’t one of them. Blake is one of the most loyal people I know. When Jane showed up back at that masquerade last year, it was Blake that stayed by my side. He’s loyal, Xavi,” Marigold defends.
I nod at that. If Marigold trusts him, I trust him.
A breath of relief leaves me when I hear the distant sound of cars approaching. I stay on high alert and keep my sniper aimed trough the crates. Marigold mimics my gesture and we both watch cars line the docks through the scope of our guns. I recognize Jane’s silver sports car parking across from us. My gut feeling only tightens when Blake gets out of the car with her. Sterling has all their members getting out of their cars. Some of the men, I recognize, other’s I can’t. I immediately distinguish Nixon Shaw and other more prominent members, but the others carrying guns are probably just protection.
Nobody says anything and after a few minutes, a few other cars come speeding to the old docks with dark grey vans accompanying them. I grit my teeth when I spot the downward painted arrows on those vans. The South... It takes all of my will power to not start firing at them.
Since the South is parked on our side, we can’t exactly see too well. I drop my sniper and Marigold does the same.
“We need a better vantage point,” I tell Marigold.
“It’s too risky... We might get caught...”
“You’re right,” I tell her and stay where I am. I can’t risk our safety.
So, we watch what we manage to see past all the vans and cars. Someone gets out of a rather expensive sports car and stands. I can only see the back of his head. The way he stands... and the black hair... He’s the second, or rather only Southern leader. My gut feeling confirms my thoughts.
“Who’s that?” Marigold asks.
“The Southern leader,” I whisper.
“I know, but who is he?” she presses.
“I can’t be sure by just seeing the back of his head,” I admit.
What shocks me is when a girl with a purple wig gets out from the passenger seat of the sports car and goes to stand right next to the Southern leader as he walks to meet Sterling.
“That’s Myra!” Marigold gasps.
“She was a traitor?” I ask surprised.
Marigold hesitates. “I- I don’t... She couldn’t... She must be,” she whispers defeated.
I can’t see much through the vans and cars blocking our way and neither can I really hear what everyone is saying, but I keep watch. Jane goes to meet the Southern leader and they shake hands. I think they greet, but I can’t be sure.
“Can you hear anything?” I ask as I turn to Marigold.
She’s squinting her eyes for some reason as she listens intently. “I got nothing,” she says.
What’s the point of spying on the South if you can’t hear or see anything?
“Then we’ll just have to hope Blake can tell us what they said,” I whisper.
Marigold nods and we keep watching. They talk for a while. I can’t be sure what they’re doing exactly, but I know it’s a long discussion. However, right at the end, before anyone can depart, there’s one gesture that doesn’t need words. One gesture that speaks for itself. Even Marigold freezes next to me.
Jane and the Southern leader cut their hands and then shake on it... Blood drips to the pavement...
“Does that mean...” Marigold mumbles.
“Yes,” I answer gravely, “They just bound their blood...”
And that is not good news for us.