It'd been a year. A full year since I'd walked away from that house, from that family, from him. Yet, it felt like yesterday. The wounds inflicted upon that decision were still fresh and painful. The guilt chained me to the memories, unwilling to let me forget, to move on, the very thing I'd wanted to do.
No, I hadn't moved on. I relived every mistake, every second, of every day, regretting every bit of it. I didn't even bother deluding myself with the falsities I'd tried to convince myself of. It was pointless, no matter how hard I chanted in my head that I was over him, I wasn't, and that was all there was to it. But it wasn't.
I hated myself. Not myself as a whole, but one very frustratingly stubborn characteristic that I possessed, a trait that coexisted in every fiber of my being. Pride. Pride was what held me back. I refused, after all this silent time, to go crawling back to them like the weak, pitiful, emotionally unstable wreck that I was. I absolutely refused. I would not eat my words, nor would I beg for them to take me back. I was above that. Either that, or I was a coward. I chose to ignore that resolve; unable to fully think it through for fear that I may convince myself to 'nut up' or 'get a set' and march back to Court before I can stop myself.
I was eating dinner with the team, spaghetti and meatballs. I ate it without tasting, something that was common practice for me. I'd grown numb to anything that could comfort me or bring me any sort of pleasure, which food usually could. A world without Dimitri or Lissa wasn't a world I wanted to be, sadly, I didn't have much of a choice. I sighed once more, depressed at how repetitive my life seemed.
Wake up. Get an assignment. Plan. Execute. Clean up. Go to sleep. Repeat. It was a hard life, but I liked it, knowing that each mission prolonged the life of many people who'd been destined to die by the hands of a Strigoi.
"Hey did anyone grab the mail? I forgot to." I groaned, not wanting to get up and walk through the snow to get the junk mail that piled up in our inbox. They all shifted uncomfortably in their seats, letting me know that something was up. I attempted to raise an eyebrow, failing miserably.
"Well? Anything good?" I asked suspiciously, curious as to what was wrong. Artur shifted his gaze to the crumbs on the table, unable to look me in the eye. I shifted my suspicious glare to Lev, he coughed uncomfortably, avoiding my eyes.
"You're not bullshitting anyone. What's the deal? One of you better tell me before I choke it out of you." I threatened, making myself sound as menacing as possible. This time I glared at Denis, knowing he was the easiest to break.
"Denis?" He gulped nervously, unable to continue eating. He put down his fork slowly before turning to get up.
"You sure?" Artur asked him, "It's not going to do any good telling her. You know that." Denis shrugged.
"She'll kill us if we don't." He stated as if it was the simplest resolve he'd ever come up with.
"Alright." Artur shrugged, doubt encompassing his face. I noted this exchange, trying to decipher what they were keeping from me. Denis walked over to the kitchen, grabbing a torn open envelope off the counter. He set the envelope in front of me carefully before backing away quickly.
I picked the envelope up, flipping it over and reading the return address. The name read Naomi Gorbachov. Who was that? The address was the Royal Moroi Court. It also contained the Belikova's address, it must've been forwarded. I flipped it back over, pulling out a thick highly decorative piece of paper. My stomach dropped as I read it.
You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of
On the 12 of December
At 11 o'clock
The Royal Moroi Court Church
Followed by a reception in the Royal Ballroom
"Oh." I stared, and stared, and stared, the invitation gripped in my shaking hands. I felt the tears welling up. No, I couldn't cry in front of my team. I was a leader. I needed to shrug this off. Pretend it doesn't matter.
"Rose?" Artur asked tentatively, as if I was a fragile doll, a touch away from shattering. I wiped away a loose tear quickly, setting down the invitation. My mind was in overload, making me unable to process a coherent thought, therefor crippling my ability to speak.
"Oh." I uttered, my capacity to speak at its limits. I couldn't function, think, speak, I couldn't even pretend nothing was wrong, as desperately as I wanted to.
"Come on, Rose. I think you should go lay down for a little while, the assignment can wait, you're not looking too good." Lev gave me a concerned look before trying to pull me up out of my chair. I was dead weight, unable to move, my brain couldn't currently process that.
"Come on, Rose. Let's go lay down." They talked to me like a child. This time Lev picked me up, he was strong enough of course, I wasn't that heavy. He carried me to my room, laid me down, changed me into sweats, he'd obviously seen enough of me to no longer consider it weird, tucked me in, shut off the light and left. I stared at the wall, completely in shock. I could hear them whispering in the hallway, but I didn't really care to know what about, knowing that it was most definitely about me.
Dimitri was engaged. Engaged. To someone else. Someone that wasn't me. Naomi Gorbachov. He moved on. He forgot me. Just as I'd foolishly asked him to. His love had officially faded, and the invite was probably his way of telling me so. The tears started to pour. I'd lost everything. Friendship. Family. My home. Love. And now hope.
Naomi Gorbachov. Just her name made her sound beautiful. I pictured a slightly Russian looking girl with high cheekbones, slightly tanned skin, long, thick black brown hair, just like mine, and naturally rosy lips. I envisioned her as a more mature version of me, but more foreign looking and cultured.
I wonder if Dimitri loves her even more than he ever loved me. I wonder if she makes him laugh like I did, or if his smiles light up her day as they did for me. I wonder if he twirls her hair in his fingers, or if she is has an attitude like mine, or if she's kind hearted and loving. I wonder if he thinks she's brave, and I wonder if she's Moroi or Dhampir. I couldn't see Dimitri with a Moroi, so I guessed that she would most likely be Dhampir, and if she was a Dhampir, I wonder if she takes her Guardian duties as seriously as Dimitri and I do. But most of all, I wonder if he's truly happy with her.
That night I cried myself to sleep, counting down the days until I'd die inside, until the wedding. I drifted off with thoughts of how dearly I missed him and woke up with the same mindset, completely devastated and absolutely hopeless.
The knock came around 11 AM. I groaned, knowing that they either wanted to get going or talk. I guessed the latter, and how right I was.
"Come in at your own risk." I called, earning a chuckle from Denis as the three of them barged in and jumped in my king size bed, the very thing I demanded I needed.
"Morning, sunshine! How'd you sleep?" Lev sing-songed. I raised my eyebrows, surprised he'd even asked.
"Are you sure you want to ask that question?" I snapped playfully, trying to avoid a talk. They were having none of it, though, and immediately became somber and serious.
"Yes. We need to talk about this. Now. No avoiding it, we will pin you down if necessary. As badass as you are, I don't believe you can take all three of us at the same time, especially before coffee." They knew how good I was at avoiding talking about anything. My sarcastic humor was a perfect defense mechanism and had saved my ass on many occasions.
"Judging by where this talk is going, I'm almost tempted to take my chances." I joked, trying to lighten the mood. They stared me down, not even cracking a grin. "What do you want me to say? Hey, my ex is getting married. So what?" I tried to play it down, but who was I kidding? Ya, no one. They all watched my breakdown last night. There was no avoiding this talk.
"Don't even bother Rose. You're not getting out of this talk, so take all the time you need to gather your thoughts, we have no assignments today and I can clear tomorrow's if necessary." Denis warned, sounding very much like my former instructor, Stan Alto.
"Fine. You want to talk? Dimitri is getting engaged to Naomi Gorbachov. I don't know her, but I'm sure she's wonderful and everything I'm not and more. You want to know how I feel? Horrible. I'm devastated and broken hearted, thanks for asking. I regret leaving, but guess what? I don't get a redo, and it can't be fixed so I lose and that's that. I fucked it all up like the reckless idiot I am and now I've lost everything. Everything.You three are all I have left but I'm sure I'll find a way to screw this up too, I'm known for doing the impossible. I was naïve and hurt and wanted to be free for once in my life and now I've lost my friends, my family, my home, my love, and my hope, excluding you, of course. I hate myself, okay? I'm too damn proud to go back, but I'm depressed if I don't. It's a lose-lose situation. I'm unfixable, broken for good. So now that I've completely embarrassed myself, can I please go get some coffee? Unless you have anything else to say?" I ranted, wiping tears and snot as I went.
"Do you still love him?" Artur asked tentatively, cautious in case I might explode in my fragile state. I thought for a moment on how to answer. Could I admit the truth? Would I let my pride hold me back and pretend he means nothing? I had no idea, so I blurted out the first answer that came to mind.
"Yes, I do. It hurts so badly, but I still do, and I think I always will. I'm not sure how after all this time and all that's happened, but I do. I love him." I spoke slowly, stumbling over my words, the admittance setting my heart on fire.
"Then I think you should go." Lev stated. What in the hell was he talking about?
"What?" I was shocked. He actually wanted me to go to the wedding? Was he absolutely nuts?
"I think you should go to the wedding. You were invited. You have every right to be there. Besides, you never know what may happen." He gave me a mischievous wink, which was returned with a disapproving glare.
"Absolutely not. I wasn't invited. The invitation was his way of telling me that he's moved on as well. Just like I asked him to." My voice rose a few octaves as I started to panic. They really weren't going to force me to attend the wedding, were they?
"Oh yes, you are! Otherwise you're going to regret it forever. And if I'm stuck with you forever, I don't want to hear you bitching and moaning about that wedding that you should've gone to. You're going, now start packing, we board our flight in two days at noon which gives us a whole day before the wedding. Got it?" They'd already booked tickets! How dare they!
"You booked tickets? You're all assholes, but I guess you're right. That doesn't change the fact that you're all still total assholes. Now someone grab me some coffee, a box of donuts and my suitcase. I hate you all, by the way." I sighed, defeated this was going to be one hell of a trip. I just hoped it turned out successful, though I highly doubted it.