1. Coming Home
As I drove past the Welcome to Mystic Falls sign I felt butterflies in my stomach. I felt like I was betraying my parents by being here. But I didn't have a choice. Growing up here with my parents had been hard. Don't get me wrong, I loved both my parents and I knew that they both loved me. To this day I'm convinced that they never stopped loving each other, but they argued non-stop when I was younger. I never knew the full story but I knew it had something to do with my dad being on the Mystic Falls Town Council. I thought back to when I was younger, to an argument I overheard. I woke up one night to raised voices and snuck out onto the landing; I sat on the stairs and listened. Mom was shouting that it wasn't safe, that living in this town would end up getting them killed. I must have made some sound, I think I gasped or something, because they stopped talking abruptly. I ran to my room as quietly as I could and jumped into bed. Two seconds later I heard my door open as my parents looked in on me. I kept my breathing easy and my eyes closed, pretending to be asleep. The door closed again and I opened my eyes, I couldn't sleep the rest of the night. What could get us killed? What had my mother, one of the strongest people I knew, so scared? The next day was my 15th birthday, and my last day in Mystic Falls. My mother wasted no time in moving me out of the only home I knew and to New York City. How the hell was that safer than a small town in Virginia where the only people that died unnaturally were people that were killed by animal attacks? I mean yeah, sure, we had more than our fair share of those. But we were surrounded by forests and mountains. What do you expect?
Somehow, my parents separating made us more of a family. Every second weekend my dad would come and stay with us. He spent every summer, thanksgiving and Christmas with us. I remember back to the one time I asked my mom and dad if I could go visit him and my old friends. I missed Caroline Forbes more than anyone. All my life my parents had never given me any rules to follow. They never felt the need to. I was an honour student, never stayed out past curfew. Never fell in with a bad crowd, and although I'm convinced they knew I drank underage never said anything to me about it, as I would never come home drunk, or get in trouble. I was a good kid. But that day, as I stood in front of them, asking, no begging to visit my old friends, they put their foot down and made me promise to never go to Mystic Falls. I had no idea what the big deal was, but my parents were wonderful people whom I would do anything for. I was told my friends could come to visit and stay with us, as long as I didn't go to them. So I promised. And I kept that promise until today. Today I come home to Mystic Falls, and tomorrow I bury both my parents here.
I pulled up to the family home. The house my family have lived in for over a hundred years. Of course it's been modified and changed over the years. I unlocked the front door, taking a deep breath and thinking back to this morning. The phone call from Sheriff Forbes of Mystic Falls;
I answered the phone with a smile on my face, a smile that was about to disappear.
"Jennifer, is that you? This is Sheriff Forbes, Caroline's mother, Liz. Do you remember me?"
Of course I remembered her. The hardest part of leaving Mystic Falls was leaving Caroline. She had been my best friend from she was 5 and I was 8. At first she had been the annoying little girl who followed me around, but in the end I grew to love her like a little sister. I spent all my free time growing up with Elena and Jeremy Gilbert, Caroline, Matt Donavon, Tyler Lockwood and Bonnie Bennett. They were all two or three years younger than me but I always felt so much more comfortable around them as the girls my own age only cared at the time about makeup and boys. Don't get me wrong, we did as well but only to a certain extent.
"Of course I do Sheriff. How are you? How's Caroline?"
I hadn't yet thought about why she would be calling me after all these years, or more importantly why she would ring me as the Sheriff and not just say hi it's Liz.
"Jennifer, I don't know how to... I have to tell you..."
Her voice kept faltering, breaking up as she tried to tell me something, now my heart was racing. I didn't like where ever this was going, "Is Caroline ok? Has something happened to her?"
I could hear the pain in the older woman's voice, "No Jennifer, it's your parents; there was an accident... they're dead..."
That's all I heard as the floor rushed to meet me and darkness took over.
I looked over the house without really looking, I just felt empty. All the years I had wished to be here again, but not like this, never like this. I sat down in one of the armchairs and stared blankly ahead. There was a small part of my mind thinking I should be crying, screaming, something. But I couldn't. I just kept hearing my mom's voice shouting from this very sitting room six years ago today, "Being in this town is going to get us killed." She had come back to sort some stuff out with dad. She was only supposed to be here for one night. Apparently that was all it took. They were coming back from a town meeting and a dog ran in front of the car. Dad had lost control of the wheel and the car had flipped. Apparently it was such a bad crash that it couldn't even be an open casket service. A noise brought me back to the present. Someone was knocking on the front door. Numbly I got up from the seat and answered it. Elena, Jeremy and Caroline were standing there, sorrow and pity on their faces.
Caroline spoke first, "We didn't know if we should come over. We heard you got back today and just wanted to..."
"Come in guys!" I said, cutting her off. Caroline and Elena looked almost relieved. They all followed me to the sitting room where I sat back in my dad's armchair. They sat down on the sofa across from me, not saying a word. I stared at them for just a moment, and then my whole world came crashing down. As the tears finally began to fall my oldest friend came rushing over to me and took me into her arms, she rubbed her hand up and down my back, but thankfully didn't try to say anything. I didn't want to hear that it was going to be ok, or that everything would be fine.
For nearly an hour we all sat like that, nobody saying a word as I cried, and then as suddenly as the tears started they stopped. I noticed them eyeing me, as if expecting it to start again. But I just stood up. I couldn't be here right now.
"I need alcohol and lots of it. Let's go."
They all followed me, not saying a thing as I led the way out of the house. I was planning on not being able to remember my name soon, so instead of driving my own car I climbed into Caroline's, myself and Jeremy in the back, Caroline and Elena in the front. We drove in silence until we pulled up outside Mystic Grill, which was really the only place worth going in this town. Whether it was to eat, drink or just hang out. This is where everybody ended up. I let them walk in ahead of me; taking a deep breath I followed them. I was only in the door and strong arms were around me, "Jennifer, I'm so glad to see you, I'm just so sorry it's under these circumstances." I gently pulled myself out of Matt's embrace. I tried to smile at him, but just couldn't, "Thanks Donavan. I am glad to see you too. Now lead me to the bar."
They sat down at a table while I went to get the drinks. Matt was behind the bar, I hadn't realised he worked here. "Bottle of vodka and four glasses please Matt." I asked, putting the money on the counter.
"Jennifer, you might get away with it under the circumstances but if the others are caught, I could lose my job. I'm really sorry." Matt answered.
I thought about that for a second. "Ok, give me a bottle of vodka and a bottle of tequila, to go. And throw in some plastic cups for me." I put more money on the bar and waited while he went to the stock room to get the drink. I called the others over. Told them we were heading to the lake. Matt came back with the drink and gave me my change. I told him where we were going and told him to meet us there after his shift if he wanted. I just wanted to act like it was a normal night, a normal night going drinking with my friends.
We all got back into Caroline's car and headed out to the lake. We sat down on the walkway that jutted out over the lake. I looked out at it, the way the moon was shining, and reflecting on its surface was so beautiful, almost peaceful. I turned to the others and handed them the bottle of vodka and the cups. The tequila was for me. I opened the bottle and took a swig, welcoming the burning sensation in my throat and stomach. Pretty soon, it was almost like old times. I told them about the life I had after I left here. I had graduated high school at sixteen and college at nineteen, and thanks to an inheritance left to me by my father's parents when they died which came into effect on my eighteenth birthday I had basically travelled the world. I wouldn't have to work for years and still live in comfort. I knew I would though; I wanted to teach more than anything. I asked them about their lives. Jeremy was a junior, and the others were seniors. Jeremy, I found out was dating Bonnie, and Elena was dating Stefan Salvatore.
"Actually Jenni, do you mind if I ring him and ask him to join us?" Elena asked, I told her of course. Elena smiled at me softly as she got her phone out to ring him. I sat looking at the lake again, remembering all the underage drinking that had gone on here when I was younger. I hadn't always taken part, and never more than one or two drinks but I smiled a sad smile remembering all the good times. I remembered when I was fourteen being here with my cousin, who was four years older than me. But she disappeared on me, went off with some guy and left me on my own. Everyone was so drunk I actually got a little scared. I know, sad huh. I snuck off and rang my parents asking them to come get me. I walked off from the crowd and met my parents on the road. I didn't want them seeing anyone drinking that shouldn't be drinking. I was so sure when I got into their car that I would be in trouble but they had just smiled at me and told me how proud they were of me for ringing them. Of course they never let me go anywhere with my cousin alone again. I felt something wet drop onto my hand and realised I was crying again. Shaking my head, I stood up. I put the bottle on the ground and started to undress.
"Uh, Jenni, what are you doing?" I heard Caroline ask behind me. Not answering her I stripped down to my underwear, walked to the end of the walkway and dived in. I swam out a bit then turned and floated on my back, looking up at the night sky. I could hear my friends talking. Elena and Caroline were worried about my mental state, and didn't know whether to come in after me but Jeremy told them not to, I heard him say I looked peaceful. He was right in a way. I could feel the effects of the tequila running through my body and knew I should get out of the lake but I didn't want to. I heard new voices, male voices. Elena's boyfriend must be here with someone. Sighing I started to swim back. I grabbed onto the edge of the walkway and pulled myself up. I could feel six pairs of eyes on me. Matt had also arrived. I hadn't realised it had gotten so late. They had moved off the walkway and started a small bonfire. It was a good job I wasn't self conscious, as I stood there in my underwear pulling my clothes back on. Elena introduced me to her boyfriend Stefan and his brother Damon. Damon couldn't take his eyes of me, but it wasn't a lustful look in his eyes. It almost looked like regret. Under normal circumstances he looked like someone I would normally be all over. He was taller than my 5ft 7. Had dark wavy hair and piercing blue eyes. And well to be honest one hell of a body. But I just wasn't bothered with that right now.