Chapter 32: Just Like Him
It was quiet and peaceful.
For the first time, in a long time, I was comfortable right where I was and for a moment, I would’ve believed I was back home. I would’ve truly believed I was back to being behind the safe walls that my parents and my grandparents assured me since birth had I not opened my eyes and spotted the royal canopy that reminded me that I was far from it.
I couldn’t remember how it was that I had managed to go back to sleep. I told myself that I would do my very best to get out of this room as soon as I possibly could because I wanted to avoid Erebus’ presence as much as I could—if I could anyway.
After I confronted him about him sitting in his own little world where everyone but him is to blame for all of the wrong in his life, I remembered nothing but looking into his eyes. Those damned beautiful hazel-green eyes… I wondered how such beautiful things belonged to someone with the power to reign so much terror upon another.
Speaking of the devil…
My gaze fell to that of the doorway. There was no one there, but as I turned my head to my left side, my eyes landed on a very still and silent Erebus. He was sitting, kicked back on the very same chair I found him sitting in the first time I awoke from my long...long slumber. His head was resting on that of the chair’s and his arms were crossed right beneath his chest. He had a blank expression—innocent one would say. His eyelids were sealed shut and his breathing was light and steady, so much so that when my eyes first landed on him, I thought he wasn’t breathing at all.
He must be asleep…
Cautiously, I pushed my elbows back, shifting my weight to move closer to him. I tried my very best not to make any noise, because if he was asleep, I didn’t want to wake him. However, if he wasn’t asleep, I didn’t want him to notice that I was awake.
Though, truly, if he was awake, I don’t think it would take me actually moving for him to notice that I was no longer resting...even with his eyes closed.
After a moment, I let out the shaky breath that I had been holding in. I had waited, still, but he never did give me any signs that he was in fact awake. So, as gently and lowly as I possible could, I whispered, “Erebus?”
I tried calling his name again, but he never responded. And, after the third time that I called for him and received nothing, I sat up completely. I was debating—in my mind—whether or not to simply get up and run out of here while I had the chance. Then, I wondered just how long I’d be able to run before being caught—if I could run.
Briefly, my eyes shifted to that of the clock on the nightstand that pointed six o’clock.
It was either too early or too late to start running, because the sun was either ready to fall or rise. Whichever it was, I couldn’t tell. I had lost track of time, and unfortunately, Erebus’ bedroom was windowless with only a pair of glass doors that lead to a balcony which were covered in large, black drapes.
I sighed, reverting my sight back to him, and for a while, I looked at him. I looked at every inch of him and I oddly felt peace. Maybe it was because I knew that being locked in a room with him unconscious was probably the best way I had been forced to be in a room with him since the day that I met him.
In what seemed like only minutes passed before I was distracted by a sudden throb in my heart that had me stirring my attention to that of my physical state. I noticed that Erebus had decided not to replace the needle into my arm that was once dripping blood into my veins, and there was a scar left on my chest. It was small, almost completely faded, but it was there.
It frightened me.
For as long as I could remember, I never worried about actually coming face to face with death. Well, after meeting Erebus, that thought was one that I came across quite often, but after the incident with Kevin, I figured that perhaps the next time—if at all—I came face to face with death again, it would be sudden, just as this scar was.
I would never see it coming...I’d simply die.
How did I end up this way..?
I drew my bottom lip between my teeth as I glanced back up at Erebus. “Is this really all on you?” I asked myself. Partially, I felt guilty for always looking to blame him for everything going wrong in my life. Maybe, at the end of the day, I was just like him—childish, ignorant.
I was in here because of me, so why did I keep looking at him as if everything that had happened had been his fault? Me leaving my home was my choice, so...me ending up in his was a result of my actions.
He wasn’t all to blame.
No, not for a second did I think he was purely innocent, but somehow, the more I looked at him the more I felt sorry for him. I had found it in me to pity him because I soon came to realize that maybe the reason he was the way that he was was because he needed something more than what he already had.
Maybe...King Erebus needed more than what he could demand for as a king—something he couldn’t get through the only thing that he knew how to do to get what he pleased.
Quietly, I sat up. I threw my feet over the edge of the bed, positioning myself so that I’d be completely and directly facing him. He never gave me any sort of sign that he’d be waking up soon, so I hesitated pausing my movements and I continued to take the blanket sitting on the foot of the bed. With this, I rose to my feet and cautiously moved to near him.
I had taken no more than a step forward before I felt my blood begin to rush, an adrenaline pumping through my veins. It was as if I was nearing an untamed beast and if I made any wrong movements I’d be dead—or at least that’s what it felt like.
With a shaky breath, a gently placed the blanket on him.
For a few minutes, there was nothing but silence and stillness. I felt a brief relief—one alike that of getting away with committing a crime. However, just as the feeling came, it left.
“What did I say about you getting off of that bed?” Erebus murmured as his eyelids slowly rose.
I didn’t know what to say. Me putting the blanket on him was a kindly odd gesture that I never thought twice as to why I did it. I knew all that I had to do was hold my tongue and lay back down to get myself out of what felt like a mess; however, when the time came, I somehow felt like I owed him an explanation for my actions.
“I just… You were asleep so I—”
He stood up, his actions cutting me off. I wasn’t afraid of him, I just truly didn’t know what to say. So I silenced where I stood and watched him until he took a step to near me, closing the distance between us, then I chose that I no longer wanted to look into his eyes—I couldn’t.
Usually, his intoxicating scent was enough to throw me off. However, this time, it wasn’t the strong smell of spearmint that nearly made my collapse where I stood, but it was the way he stood before me. He was a strong man, clearly, but it wasn’t his strength either. It was just…
...it was him.
All of him.
Why don’t our hearts ever grow? We despise those who torment us...but in the end...if we are made to love them...if we were meant to admire them in some sort of way...we do exactly that or more. We are forever alike children: a few acts of kindness and within that moment, we forget all that was done to wrong us.
We love to like what is no good for us.
A string of chills shot up my spine as if I felt the tips of Erebus’ fingers brush my chin. I felt great anxiety and the mere thought of having to look into his eyes but I knew that I had no choice but to do so.
“You what?” he asked as my eyes found his own.
I excepted sarcasm or arrogance; however, nothing but pure curiosity and gentleness glinted off of his eyes. With this, I felt a warmth in my heart—a warmth for him. It made me wonder if I could ever look at this man, my king, with nothing but love, sympathy, and respect—as I should.
This doesn’t change a thing...
Maybe deep down he could be a good person, but showing me kindness a handful of times doesn’t make up for the thousands of times that he tried to break me down.
He is still the same monster.
“Nothing,” I breathed out. “I don’t owe you an explanation.”
I turned my head away from him, pushing his hand away from my face with my own. I knew he’d react in one of two ways—which I cared not for—but would nevertheless end badly for me.
And, as expected, his hand firmly grasped my upper arm, forcing me to turn back to him and face him.
At first, he didn’t seem too angry. He had that usually blank expression, but the moment he spoke, I knew he was otherwise and my reaction didn’t make him any less pissed off than he already was.
“You still recovering doesn’t mean a thing,” he spat. “I can —”
“You can what?” I hissed. “Kill me?” There was a brief pause, both of us breathing hard and unevenly. “If you wanted to kill me...you would’ve done it already. So, Erebus, lets cut the bullshit. You won’t touch me. You won’t do a thing to me.”
His grip tightened, his fingertips digging into my skin and imprinting bruises that I pretended didn’t hurt for the sake of pride. After a while, though, I believed that if he had continued to press his fingers into my arm, I would’ve broken the “tough-girl” act; however, he didn’t have to. He didn’t have to nearly break my arm to have me nearly scrambling to my feet to figure out what I was going to do or say next as his next words were, “Who are you?”
His eyes narrowed on me, my heart dropping to my stomach as he held his deathlike grip and continued, “You should know your place among superiors...regardless of where you’re from. In fact, you should know your place very well...your superiors of the other world are the Seekers. Why does it seem as if you’ve never known how to show respect to anyone? Regardless of whether they deserve it. And, you seem to know a lot about a lot that I don’t. So tell me, Hope, who are you?”
I panicked and I knew that he could tell. There was no point in trying to hide that his question had thrown me off and there was no way that I could answer it truthfully.
This is it…
I let out a shaky breath, lowering my sight to the floor. In his eyes it looked like submission, but in truth, it was me doing what I had to do to keep my cover.
I didn’t have a choice.
“A woman who’s never been given the place of authority,” I stated. “There’s always been someone stronger in the room. I found power in standing my ground, regardless of the consequences.”
There was some truth behind it...it is why it wasn’t so hard to say. I left my home because I was nothing next to every single person I lived with—for the exception of Celic, her mother, and her mother’s brother.
“The reason you’ve never been given the place of authority,” he said, “is because you don’t deserve it. Learn to fight for the things that you want...the correct way.”
And in that moment, I felt embarrassed. Though he had no clue as to what I had gone through prior to me being here, he had said the exact words that my father and everyone who tried to stop me from leaving told me.
Running away wasn’t the way to get what I wanted, and I knew that in that moment. Disrespecting those above me wasn’t the way that I’d get what I wanted either, but I always did it to make myself seem tough. Though...in the end...all I did for myself was make myself look ignorant and arrogant without reason to be so.
“Get back on that bed,” he sighed. “The sun will be rising soon.”
I couldn’t argue with him—I was in no place to do so. So, I quietly did as I was told and watched him as he pulled the shirt off of his body. He tossed it at the foot of the bed, letting out another soft sigh as he glanced back at the chair he had been sitting on.
It wasn’t hard to catch onto what he was doing—he didn’t want to make me feel uncomfortable. Despite him more than likely still being frustrated by me, he was going to sleep on the chair so that I’d be comfortable though in a way...I didn’t deserve it.
I’m the one that is being cruel now…this isn’t even my place.
“Y-You don’t have to sleep on the chair…” I whispered.
I should’ve known better...because the moment those words left my mouth, a sly smirk broke upon his lips and he stated, “If you want me to get in bed with you, you can just say so.”
I narrowed my eyes on him, glowering at him as I huffed, “Alright then. Sleep on the chair.”
Without another word, I turned my back to him. I don’t know what bothered me more...the fact that I did want him to sleep beside me or the fact that he was joking about it. Nonetheless, I didn’t let it bother me too much because no more than a couple of seconds later, I heard him chuckle and the light from the only lamp that lit the room was shut off.
I felt the bed sink behind me and a sigh of exhaustion met my ears. I don’t know why, but that very same sigh made my muscles tense and I ended up exactly how he nor I wanted me to be: uncomfortable.
“Don’t worry,” I heard him murmur. “I promise not to near you. I’ll stay on this side of the bed if that’s what you want.”
And that was all that I needed to hear because just seconds after those words left his mouth, I found just enough comfort to fall into a peaceful sleep.
Thank you...my King Erebus.