I feel the morning sun caressing my cheek as if urging me to greet the day, but today was not a normal day. No, today was anything but normal. My mind races back to the events of last night. My mother had come to my room as I lay on my bed studying for my biology test. I smiled as I looked up at her, but I immediately noticed something in her eyes that caught my attention. She was smiling back at me, but it was clearly not a genuine smile. It was the smile she flashes when she knows she is about to upset me. I am not sure if she does it in an attempt to comfort me before delivering the blow, or maybe she is not aware she does it?
“Eve, there is something we need to discuss” yep, there it is. Smiling to soften the blow. What have I done this time?
“Ok.” I close my book and turn to face her so she knows she has my attention.
“Tomorrow morning you will need to pack a bag of clothes and anything else you might need.” she pauses a moment before taking a deep breath and continuing. “I have made arrangements for you to go live with a man who may someday be your husband.” she says the words with a tone that suggests this is just a normal conversation, but there was nothing normal about it.
“What?!” I shout in disbelief at her words.
“ His name is Dante. We are to be there at 5pm sharp. Get some rest, it will be a busy day tomorrow.” she begins to head to the door when i feel a surge of questions flood my mind,
“What do you mean ‘the man who may someday be my husband’?! I only turned 18 yesterday and I still have school! I don’t understand! I can’t get married to a complete stranger!” the words come out like vomit…uncontrollable and violent.
“You can and you WILL.” she shouts at me as she quickly exits my room and slams the door.
I spent the rest of the night staring at the ceiling trying to process what my mother had said. After laying there for what seemed like an eternity I began to cry. Arranged marriages were a thing of the past. They were originally used as a way to help a weaker coven to merge its power with a stronger one. They would bind their strongest young witch with the strongest of the greater coven so they could produce more powerful witch children. The practice was archaic at best and had not been used in more than 100 years, yet here I was being told I am practically betrothed to a stranger and for what? I am not even a strong witch! My powers are weaker than all my sisters in the coven so what could anyone possibly stand to gain from this?
My mothers voice snapped me back from my thoughts as she yelled from the kitchen. “Eve, get in here and eat your breakfast! We have much to do before we leave!”
Part of me was hoping she would come in and tell me it was all some cruel joke, but deep down I know that was not going to happen. I had seen the look on her face when she was in my room last night.
I walk into the kitchen and see a plate with pancakes, scrambled eggs and 2 pieces of bacon waiting for me. I sit at the table, but I cannot bring myself to eat as the weight of everything has me feeling nauseous. She does not say another word to me before leaving the kitchen and heading to my room. I follow behind her and stand in the doorway to my room as I watch her grab my duffel bag out of my closet and begin to grab clothes from my dresser and shove them inside. I cannot help but notice that instead of looking sad or remorseful, she instead looks as though she is angry. What the hell does she have to be angry about?! She is not the one who was promised to a complete stranger! She quickly zips the duffel bag closed and turns to me.
“Time to go, we CANNOT be late.” she swiftly exits the room with me hot on her trail.
“Mom please don’t make me do this! I don’t want to go!” I cry out in an attempt to get her to reconsider.
“Get in the car NOW!” she belts out at me with an unspoken threat hanging from her words. I get in the passenger seat and slam the door.
“For the love…buckle your damn seatbelt Eve!” Her voice stern and showing clear frustration. I pull the belt across my lap and click it in place without a word. I look out my window as the car begins to pull out of the driveway. Neither of us speaks a word as we head to our destination. We drove for 4 hours as i stared out the window at the trees, streams and lakes as we drove further from home. I feel the car begin to slow which pulls me out of my trance. In front of us is a large metal gate attached to an unreasonably tall fence, I find myself thinking about how this fence is ridiculously tall as I watch the gate slowly open as we pull close as if it had been waiting for us to arrive.
As the car continues up the long winding driveway I admire the deep green of the grass on both sides of the paved path. We drove for at least 5 minutes before I saw any signs of what truly lay behind the walls. Before us now I could see a large mansion that resembled a castle in many ways. The walls were a light gray stone with ivy climbing up to the roof on all sides. As we get closer I can make out 2 large wooden doors with a large bronze door knocker in the shape of a lion’s head with a large ring hanging from its mouth. The car comes to a stop at the end of the long driveway that leads directly to the stairs of the house and wraps around a small garden with a large fountain. My mother gets out of the car and quickly walks to my door, yanking it open and motioning for me to get out. As I exit the car my eyes are drawn to the statue in the fountain. It is a man holding a woman bridal style, but the closer I look, the more I see the finer details. Tthe woman appears lifeless with her head hung back and one arm draped across her chest while the other hangs limp. Something about it sends chills up my spine. I feel my mothers hand wrap around my arm as she yanks me up the stairs toward the 2 large wooden doors. She reaches her hand for the brass ring hanging from the lion’s mouth, but before her fingers can grasp it the door swings open.