I climbed the stairs, lugging my suitcase behind me, taking them two at a time. I had to go find Viktoria, she had motioned for me to come talk in private once I was finished greeting the family. It upset me that Yeva rejected me so harshly, but the woman was mysterious and always had her reasons, even if they were unknown to the rest of us.
Seeing the family reminded me how lonely I'd been for the past two years. Ever since Rose left, the gaping hole in my heart was unable to be filled. Princess Vasilissa tried to cheer me up, she truly did her best, but she had her own grief to handle and could only do so much.
The guilt and regret of my time as a Strigoi and after I'd been restored consumed me every moment since I let Rose walk out of that church. Not only had I pushed away my savior and love, I'd ripped her away from her family and friends. I'd wounded her so deeply that she was unable to remain at home. It was entirely my fault, every second she was away. Shame washed over me for the millionth time during the two years of her painful absence. I'd treated her horribly and I deserved every moment of my punishment.
I made it to the top of the stairs just as Viktoria's door slammed forcefully. I sighed, that girl would never learn. She reminded me so much of Rose with her sarcasm and witty quips. It never failed to earn her a sad smile.
I set my luggage down next to the dresser, examining my old room closely. Something seemed off. The room looked lived in. I was expecting a pristinely made bed, dusty shelves, and an empty trashcan. I noticed a empty water bottles in the waste basket, a messily made, rumpled bed, and only a thin layer of dust on the book shelves, not enough for a few years. I laid down on the bed hesitantly, testing to make sure it was the same. I snuggled my pillow to find it had a familiar odor to it. I just couldn't place it. It reminded me of someone, it was on the tip of my tongue.
Rose. That was it. Rose had been here recently. I must've just missed her. When I asked my family if they'd seen her they'd told me that she was in Russia and had visited but knew nothing more. I'd searched for a month but found nothing. Not a trace of a Rose Hathaway anywhere. Finally I'd tracked down a Marie Mazur, only to find that she'd stopped going under that name a few days after I'd started looking. She was gone. That was one of the hardest days of my life.
I sighed once more, breathing in her scent deeply, committing it once more to memory. It gave me comfort to know she was still alive and well. I loved how she got along so well with my family. They spoke so highly of her. It made me even prouder to love her so unconditionally. I heard a thud coming from down the hall and remembered my secret chat with Viktoria. I internally groaned, hauling myself up from the bed, and made my way toward her room. Knocking on the door I thought of the day that Rose left. It had been the worst day of my life, knowing that I was the reason she had intentionally abandoned everything she'd ever known to escape me and the pain I caused her. I felt a sharp twinge in my chest as I remembered finding the letters.
I burst into her room, Lissa, Christian, Adrian, Janine, and Eddie hot on my heels with a lazy Abe lagging behind. I quickly scanned the room, finding it barren, just as I suspected, except for six envelopes on the desk, each one with a neatly printed name on the front. I felt my stomach do a flip-flop as I picked up the bundle with a quivering hand. I passed them out quickly, one for each of us. I ripped open my envelope to find a single sheet of paper and a stack of photos.
I'm sorry. I'm so incredibly sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't give you the support and patience you needed. I'm sorry for pushing you. I'm sorry for leaving. I'm sorry I couldn't face you in person. It was just all too much for me, Comrade. I couldn't bear to be at Court, knowing that your love has faded. I don't regret our relationship, no matter how painful it is. If what you said is true, then I'll be fine. I'll hang in there. Love fades, right? Well, if love truly does fade, than mine will. It'll hurt, but I'll get through it. I'll learn to forget you and everything we had, just like you wanted. I won't be returning, there's nothing left for me here. I'm sorry it had to end this way. Take care of Lissa for me. As much as I hate her right now, I never would have left if I didn't trust you with her life as well as my own. Thank you for helping me and being the greatest mentor I ever talked back to. You'll always have a special place in my heart. I wish you nothing but the best in your life.
With fading love,
I sank onto the bare mattress, gripping the letter to prevent punching a hole in the wall. This was my fault. All of it. She had such a bright future. I had singlehandedly destroyed her future as a guardian. The one thing she'd always wanted. I reached back into the envelope, pulling out a small stack of photos. I almost lost it, they were photos of us around campus. On the back of each one was a short description. There was only one without a description. It was one of her and I hugging after she'd finally beaten me in hand to hand combat. It looked worn, as if touched and looked at many times. I flipped it over and read her loopy scrawl on the back.
I promised you I'd always love you. I lied, and I'm sorry. Love fades, and mine will. Please, don't look for me. Don't even consider it. You won't find me, so don't bother. Some part of me will always love you, but that part of me died that day at the church, and honestly, it's better that way. Thanks for the memories, but no thanks. They're all yours to keep. Guard them well, they're all you have left of me.
I let out a deep breath. I'd lost the one person I cared about so deeply, I'd die to keep them alive. I'd lost the one woman who'd captured my heart so effortlessly, and I loved unconditionally, yet pushed away out of pure idiocy. Now, my heart lay in ruins, yearning for my soul mate. I reread the letter and the note, picking apart every sentence. I studied the paper and the writing, the ink was smudged and there were patches of water stains across the page. I had a feeling she'd been crying as she wrote it. The thought of her crying because of me made me feel even worse.
"Oh, dear God, what have I done?" Lissa choked out, her voice a strangled gasp, barely audible in the silent room. I shook my head.
"It's more like what all of us have done." Janine stated before wiping away a stray, single tear, folding up the letter, and marching out of the room. I reread the letter, desperately trying to search for any clue of where she might've gone. I came up with nothing. I sighed once more before making my way to my room and falling asleep. That night I dreamed of her, I'd never woken up feeling so depressed.
I knocked on the door, aware of how long I'd most likely spaced out. No answer. Viktoria was in there, though, I saw her go in.
"Viktoria?" I called. No answer. I started to turn the knob until the door flung open and there stood the impossible. Rose. The love of my life stood there in all her glory, a mischievous twinkle in her eye, and a smirk on her face. To say I was shocked was an serious understatement.
"Hey there, Comrade." I stood there, incapable of speech. She looked even more beautiful if it was even possible. Rose at 20 years of age was a slightly more matured looking version of herself. She was most definitely not a teenager anymore. She was a strong, independent woman and she looked the part as well. Her sarcastic tone, however, proved that not much had changed. She studied me expectantly for a moment before brushing by me with a half smirk, half smile lighting up her gorgeous face. My stomach clenched and I gripped the door handle tightly, my knuckles turning white. I felt time slow down as she flounced out of the room and down the stairs, her feet making a soft thumping sound as the descended down the stairs. I felt my face drain of color as I realized that she'd been right under my nose this entire time, and I'd been an idiot not to have found her in my own house.
It took me a moment, but finally, I realized that I was still standing there, gripping the door handle as Rose made her way quickly out of the house. I spun around, almost knocking into Viktoria.
"You and I will talk later. I can't believe you never told me Rose was here! How could you?" I snapped before crashing down the stairs after the love of my life. I left Vika with her guilt and shame. There was no way in hell I was letting her off that easily.
Rose was sprinting, pushing herself as fast as she could go. I sighed, realizing that she was faster than I remembered and that it'd take quite a bit of effort to catch her. I groaned before throwing myself into a full sprint, pumping my arms ferociously, pushing my legs as fast and as hard as they would go. I mentally cursed when I realized she had headphones in, making it impossible for me to slow her down by talking to her. I was slowly closing in on her, she had steadily slowed down into a run, while I had sped up, my speed increasing as my legs warmed up. I grabbed her shoulder and she spun around, throwing herself in a defensive stance before realizing it was me and relaxing, but not completely. She pulled her headphones out, letting the loud music break the still silence.
"What?" She snapped, her eyes locked with mine, steadily glaring at me with a bitter hatred. I felt guilty. I'd made her this way, this bitter and cold. It was my fault, all of it.
I felt her staring at me as I stood there uncomfortably. I had no reason to talk to her, I'd just felt this need to chase after her. Something compelled me to sprint after her.
"Where have you been? We've been looking for you for two years. What the hell, Rose? You don't just walk out on your life like that without a reason!" I knew I had no right to chastised her like she was still my student, but I couldn't help myself. It frustrated me that she left.
She took a threatening step forward, getting in my face. "You have no right. No right whatsoever. I had my reasons and I owe you no explanation. You're lucky I didn't slip out the back door while you weren't looking. The only reason I'm still her is for Viktoria. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to finish my training. I have a team to lead." She had a team? She was training? Was she hunting Strigoi? I need to finagle her real address out of her before she put her guard back up.
"You have a trained team? Where?" I knew it was a long shot to get that much information out of her at once, but it was the only thing I had.
"That's none of your concern. Why don't you go back to the house and talk to Viktoria? I have a feeling she's dying for some answers." Her voice was as cold as ice, venom filling every word. I felt like someone had punctured a hole in me, I was deflated.
I had no right to expect anything but anger and bitterness from her, but some part of me had secretly hoped she'd come running up to me and hold me tight. I felt sick to my stomach, knowing that my one and only hated me with a burning passion. I nodded slowly, understanding that she needed space. Walking off towards the house, I threw one backward glance to see if she was watching me. That was the second time today that my heart broke, she was already sprinting off in the other direction, headphones in.
It was as if I no longer meant anything to her.