The Lady in Red

The Visitor

Selina was in the boarding houses' music room, playing songs on a dusty old piano. It was out of tune and hadn't been played for years, but that was all right with her. She hadn't practiced for years either and no doubt sounded awful. But she didn't care. She was full of feelings and needed to get them out somehow.

She'd come straight here once they'd gotten back from the crypt. The others had wanted to talk about it, to comfort her. But she'd just wanted to get away and be alone. They'd known all the time that Katherine wasn't there. Why hadn't they told her? Well, Selina admitted, her father had answered that one: because even if they had told her, she probably wouldn't have listened to them, but would it have hurt them to at least try and tell her once?

She paused in her playing, and got off the piano bench to root around for some other music. She found the sheet music in the bench and picked something that was particularly touching to her, something her mother used to play her before she went to bed at night. With the thunder crashing outside, she had to play extra loud to even hear the notes, but she didn't care. Finally, with a loud crash of thunder and lightning, the power went out and Selina was left sitting in the dark, still pounding out tunes on the piano, as if possessed. When the music room door opened, she finally snapped out of her stupor.

"Selina," whispered a voice, "are you all right?" It was Elena. "The power's out downstairs too, and your father send me up here to check on you."

Selina turned. Elena was holding a flashlight and standing in the music room doorway. "Yeah, I'm all right," she whispered finally. "I guess, anyway."

"Why don't you come downstairs?" Elena suggested. "It's kind of unsettling to be alone in weather like this. I'm going to be heading back to my house soon. Jenna doesn't like it when I'm out late in bad weather."

Selina stayed on the bench a moment, then stood up and made her way slowly and carefully over to Elena. "All right," she said. "I'll come downstairs. But I doubt it will do me any good." She let Elena lead her to one of the downstairs living rooms. There was a fire in the fireplace and Matthew, Damon and Stefan were each seated in a high-backed leather chair on either side of it. Selina took the remaining empty seat next to Damon and settled in uneasily.

"You want me to follow behind you and make sure nothing happens to you on your way home?" Matthew asked. "It wouldn't be any trouble."

Elena looked at him and nodded. "Would you? Thanks. I have to go over the bridge to get home and that always makes me nervous, especially in bad weather."

Matthew nodded and followed Elena out the door, leaving Selina alone with Stefan and Damon. After a few minutes of silence, Stefan was the first to speak.

"Are you going to be okay?" he asked.

Selina shook her head. "I really don't want to talk about this right now, okay? I just want some time to process before we start discussing it to death." She paused a moment, then said "I'm tired. I think I'll just go right to bed. If Matthew wants to see me when he get's back, would you tell him that's where I'll be?"

They nodded and she made her way up to her room. Instead of going to sleep, however, she just climbed into bed, tucked herself in, and let the tears run down her cheeks. After about an hour or so, the rain let up and the lights came back on. Selina pulled the covers off herself and stared at the closed door, jumping at a sudden knock.

"Come in," she said unsteadily.

The door opened slowly and Damon walked in. "Feeling any better?" he asked.

Selina sat up. "I guess so," she answered.

He nodded and sat next to her on the bed. "You want to tell me what's wrong?" he asked. "Because I know something is."

"Yeah you do," Selina replied. "Ever since you told me about Katherine being in the tomb and the two of us resurrecting her so that we could pay her back for all she did to us, that's all I've thought about, all right? As far as my sister is concerned, I've always felt like the victim; my father's dead, her father's around. He treated me like I was dirt on his shoe and like she was a damn princess. And don't try and dispute any of that, because you know it's true."

"But why does that still bother you so much? You've changed since then. You're so much more then you were," Damon said.

"And that's exactly the point," Selina said. "I wanted to show Katherine that I'm not the same girl that she used to kick around, and that I won't put up with her crap anymore, and now she's outsmarted me and I don't get to!"

"Come here," Damon said, holding out his arms. She came gratefully and he held on to her. "I want you to listen to me very carefully," he said. "You've always been a worthwhile person, all right? True, you're a lot more fun now, but that's because times are more permissible now then they were 145 years ago. And nothing would make me happier then to see you face Katherine now, because I bet, no I know, you would kick her ass from here to kingdom come because that's the kind of person you are. And you'll get the chance. It'll just happen a little later then you'd like. And while that might seem like a drawback now because you really, really, really wanted to show Katherine up, if we want to view her absence from the tomb in a more positive light, we can say that now you get more time to stage a really memorable encounter. Because let's face it; if the new you is the last thing she's going to see, you really want to leave an impression, right?"

Selina shifted slightly and smiled. "You know, you're absolutely right." She pulled away. "Do you think I'm stupid for making such a fuss like this?"

Damon shook his head. "Absolutely not. If I thought I was going to finally get to beat the pulp out of someone I'd hated for years and then was denied the opportunity, I'd be upset too. But you're better now?"

She nodded. "I am."

He smiled. "That's good. Do you want to come back downstairs? Stefan and I have started a game of poker if you want us to deal you in." They heard a door opening downstairs. "And it sounds like your father is back from taking Elena home."

"Lead the way," Selina said simply and followed him downstairs.

She won six games of poker quite handily and only went upstairs with Damon after both brothers decreed that they didn't have anything else to lose to her. "Are you really going to be all right?" Damon asked.

"Yeah," Selina nodded. "Mainly because of you. Did you know you were so good at giving pep talks?"

He nodded. "I knew I was good at giving you pep talks. I know you too well not to be good at it."

She grinned and put on a night gown, then climbed into bed. "I think I'll sleep well tonight, and things will look much brighter tomorrow."

And things did seem much brighter when Selina opened her eyes the next morning. She sat up, took a deep breath, hopped out of bed, dressed, and much to her surprise, as well as everyone else's, she was downstairs just as her father, who was always the first one up, was coming into the kitchen,

"You seem much better today," he observed, grinning at her.

She nodded. "I am." She sat down at the table. "Do we have any orange juice?" she asked.

Matthew nodded and brought it out along with a glass. "I'm surprised to see you up. Stefan says you usually sleep in awhile."

Selina gestured toward the window. "Why waste such a nice day? In fact, I feel the urge to do something childish outdoors. Something childish and fun."

"Like what?" Matthew asked curiously.

"Oh, I don't know," she shrugged. "Maybe I'll go to the park and blow soap bubbles, or look for shapes in the clouds."

Matthew grinned. "If you want to throw people off about your being a vampire, that's the perfect way to do it."

"I'm not doing it because of that," Selina replied after taking a drink. "I've been careful. I'm doing it because I think I take myself too seriously sometimes and I occasionally need to lighten up a little."

Matthew sat down. "I see. Well, I think it's wonderful. Have a good time."

Selina nodded. "I will."

"Oh my God."

Selina looked at Stefan who'd just entered the kitchen and at Damon who was standing right behind him. "Good morning, boys!"

"Damon," Stefan said, "do you see what I see?"

"You mean Selina being up before us due to some miracle of nature?"

"Exactly."

"It's nice out and I wanted to enjoy the day, that's all. In fact, I'm going to spend it at the park in celebration of my new sense of self-worth." She drained the rest of her orange juice and grabbed her purse. "Don't expect me back before dark."

"Don't forget to eat," Matthew reminded her. "And call every once in awhile to let us know you're alive."

Selina rolled her eyes and grinned. "Who do you think you are, talking to me like that?" she said playfully. "My father or something?"

"Yes," Matthew nodded. "Now you go on and have a good time, and we'll see you tonight."

Selina decided to walk to the park. But first, she stopped off for soap bubbles. The cashier gave her a strange look, but it didn't throw her off at all.

By the time she got to the park, it was already bustling with activity: People walking dogs, mothers with little kids in strollers, and the older people who sat on the benches by the pond with bread crumbs feeding the geese. Selina found an empty bench and pulled out a container of bubbles. She screwed the cap off, pulled the wand out of the solution, took a deep breath, and watched as the bubbles came forth. That went on until the container was empty, then she grabbed the blanket she'd brought and took it to an empty square of grass and la down on it to study the clouds. In five minutes, she found a castle, a duck, a dragon, and a dinosaur. But before she could see anymore, however, somebody interrupted.

"Hi Selina!" he said, standing over her.

Selina sat up. "Tyler, my God. Are you divining where I'm going to be now? I know why you're here, and the answer is still no. I don't want to meet whoever it is that you're trying to set me up with."

He sat down next to her. "What if I told you that I wasn't trying to set you up with him? What if he just wanted to see you again? It's been an awful long time since he's seen you and he's missed you horribly?"

"So it's somebody I know?"

Tyler nodded. "Of course it is. I wouldn't bring you to meet a total stranger. So will you see him?"

Selina thought a moment. "Do you promise that this isn't a trick to get me away from Damon and into the arms of somebody else?"

"Yes," Tyler nodded. "Selina, we're family; would I lie to you?"

"Yes," Selina muttered under her breath. To Tyler, she said "Is he an ex-boyfriend of mine?"

Tyler shook his head. "No."

"Okay," Selina said. "I suppose if this isn't an ex of mine that you want me to meet, and you promise that you aren't trying to get me away from Damon, I'll come with you and meet whoever it is."

"Excellent," Tyler grinned. "My car's this way. Unless you brought yours and want to follow me back to the Museum."

"No," Selina shook her head. "It was such a nice day that I walked." She followed Tyler to his car, and sat in the front passenger's seat while he took the wheel after throwing her blanket in the trunk. "So," she asked eagerly as soon as they were moving, "who is this guy?"

"It's a surprise," Tyler said smiling. "But I bet you'll be happy to see him. He was very happy when he first saw you again."

They pulled up the drive to the Lockwood Mansion a few minutes later and Tyler parked in the garage.

"Where are your parents?" Selina asked, noticing that both of their cars were missing.

"They're at a couples' retreat," Tyler answered. "Trying to make another fruitless attempt at saving their failing marriage."

"Sorry," Selina said. "Touchy subject."

"No matter," Tyler opened the front door and they stepped inside. "Now," he said turning to her. "I want you to shut your eyes."

"Okay," Selina obeyed, shutting her eyes tight. She allowed Tyler to take her hand and lead her to a parlor, seating her in a red velvet overstuffed chair opposite his guest. "Can I open them now?" she asked.

"Yes," Tyler said.

Selina opened her eyes and gasped when she saw who was sitting opposite her.

"Hello, my dear Selina," he said, gazing at her rapturously.

Selina couldn't speak. It was several minutes before she got out the word "Michael?" she looked at Tyler, then back to the boy sitting across from her "Cousin Michael?" And then, she fainted.

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