𝐼t was 1:25pm when I stretched out a cramp from sleeping in the same position too long. I glanced around watching as Zanz emerged from the bathroom after using the piddle pads and Abraxas resting on his perch I had made for him. It was a new day, new choices and decisions, a new look on things. I flipped the blanket back then stood, arching my back for once more stretch then remembered the events that had taken place the night before and things that were said. I sighed pushing the flashbacks aside as I reached for my phone checking for messages; there were some but nothing major that needed my immediate attention.
Laying it on the table and approaching my wardrobe picking out my outfit for the day, I laid it gently on the bed. Passing by the fireplace there it was, the single red rose sitting in its perfect place. I smiled, then entered the bathroom taking a hot shower. The hot temperatures felt so good that my skin began turning red and realizing how hot it became I winced loudly, then quickly turned it off. Sighing as I wiped steam off the glass door from inside I slid it open, grabbing a towel off its rack next to the shower. Wrapping it around my petite body, I approached the mirror that hung above the sink left of the bathroom door when you entered, also covered with steam. I stared at its cloudy appearance then wiped it clean; my reflection free of makeup and stress stared back at me.
“It’s a new day, Yza...you can do this.” I instructed myself then tapping the sink I walked away but my reflection remained in place before her head followed after my form. She smiled then vanished.
Once dressed into my steampunk outfit (leather, buckles, studs and chains within reason and feminine taste) I strolled downstairs with Zanz and Abraxas, where my mom sat at the kitchen table yet again, drinking a cup of hot tea. Hiromi sat with her; bruises grazed his jaw and a few smaller scrapes were visible on his hands.
“Good morning.” I greeted them, “Or good afternoon.” I smiled.
“Good...whatever.” Hiromi returned the smile, “And where are you off to looking so lovely?”
“Um, nowhere. This is how I dress.” I placed my hands against the front of my black bustier, “But I can say the same about the two of you?” I gestured at my mom and Erik’s father who both wore elegant attire.
My mom was dressed in the plum-purple flowing steampunk dress I had purchased for her and I knew it would become her tastes and style. Her hair was combed into a twisted French-style bun with little jeweled clips to accompany its flair. It hugged her fuller figure just enough along the waist and not too much where she’d feel subconscious of her appearance. Her favorite clip was clasped on the cinched tie that hung with its beads down the front. The faint swirled pattern throughout the deep purple fabric glistened with its silver threading here and there from the lights above. It really was a beautiful dress.
Hiromi too, was dressed to impress. His white crisp button-down shirt with an Asian-style collar was worn beneath a leather steampunk buckled vest. Black pants with faint pinstripes fitted his average-heighted frame and leather boots were tucked away along the hem. His black hair was combed back neatly. An Asian pin was visible along the lapel of his vest but I didn’t pay much attention to its design.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” my mom offered.
“No, I’m fine thank you. I have to get to the study and make some calls, so I’ll grab something small in the kitchen up there.” I revealed, “Thank you.”
“Yzavela…” Hiromi stood slowly.
“Yes.” I asked.
“What’s going on between you and my son?”
His words caught me off guard.
“Um…” I searched for the words, “nothing.” I shrugged.
“So things are alright with you?”
“No, see...when I say there’s nothing going between him and I...Hiromi, I mean there’s literally nothing going on. I ended things last night because I was sick and tired of his drama.” I slurred, “Now, excuse me...I have to go. Mommy, see you later?”
She waved in farewell with a smile watching as her daughter excused herself from the conversation. Hiromi turned to her, unknowing of what to say for he was out of the loop of what really took place.
“Sit. I’ll tell you.” Lady D urged, tapping the table next to her to indicate his seat.
“What have I missed?” Hiromi questioned with a higher than expected tone to his voice.
“Well…” my mom sighed, then went on explaining the issues between her daughter and his son, “I respect her decision.” she finished.
As I strolled across the grounds following the path to the manor, small remnants of debris laid among scorch marks in the grass but had managed to damage the iron gate surrounding the manor; bars were pushed and broken from their place. I worried the fountain was damaged and walking around its massive length, I found nothing out of place. Frogs grew frightened of my passing by and jumped into the water, creating small splashes along the ponds’ surface. I sighed then entered through the manor doors that were left open for the fresh air to fill the downstairs interior. As the heels of my boots echoed along the floor, I heard faint voices creating a chorus from the dining hall and standing in the doorway, there were my friends and others who partook in last night’s events, dressed in their loungewear or p.j’s as they clustered at the tables. Glancing down at myself, now I felt overdressed but I pushed the thought aside as I approached the nearest table. I was the Keeper, so I guess being dressed nicely came with the territory.
“You look how I feel.” I joked, sitting next to Sarah and Jon whose hair was slightly messy.
“Why are you dressed so…so…” Sarah replied as she looked at me.
“What?” I asked as I looked at my mom who shrugged, “So…what, Sarah?”
“Dressed so bloody fancy and look good without makeup?”
“Genetics, I guess and I dress like this everyday. It’s expected, I guess. Didn’t Marxus dress nicely? I added.”
“Yes, Yza looks nice as always but let’s change the subject?” Jon interrupted, “Have a sleepless night?” he continued, looking at me across the table.
“I think I can speak for everyone and say yes.” Caleb’s voice muttered as he, Nick and Wyatt entered the hall dressed in their loungewear as well, completely unlike the Wraiths and Demon that always dressed neat and Gothic, or in their guard uniforms. It seems everyone slept in a little late.
Nick’s blonde hair wasn’t spiked or dyed and I was glad because I got to see its natural color; a beautiful shade of platinum blonde looking like spun silky gold. I offered my compliments and once doing so, he shyly ran his fingers through it, stating he never allows anyone to see his natural color. With his blonde hair slightly messy, big brown eyes and darker blonde eyebrows, he was adorable.
“Hey, Caleb...Wyatt…no bunny slippers or onesies?” I teased.
“Funny, very funny…”Caleb smiled sarcastically, “and I wish I could say the same about you love, but clearly you’re not the onesie type.” he winked. “You look nice!”
“And my girlfriend’s more of the onesie bunny slippers type.” Wyatt added, “Sh*t, don’t tell her I said that yeah or she’ll kill me!” he joked.
“Secret is safe with us.” Jon chuckled.
Suddenly, the Giovanni brothers entered the hall.
Turning my head there they were laughing about something they found humorous and once greeting friends, they joined my friends and I at our section of the long table. I stood greeting Anthony with a friendly smile, pleased to see he had healed from his wounds.
“All healed?” I asked.
“Si...si...thank you.” he nodded.
“Good. Um…” I felt awkward and I didn’t know why, as my heart began to beat faster than it should, “I got your little late-night gift.”
“Wasn’t sure you were awake to receive it.”
“I was, I was. And I did. It’s beautiful. Thank you.”
“Why not appreciate the beauty of rarities in the world while we have them, no?” he grinned.
I smiled turning away shyly then took my seat changing the subject,
“How did, uh…” I cleared my throat as Anthony sat across from me alongside Thomas, “the clean-up efforts go last night? I saw the grounds were cleaned when I came in.”
“It went alright, I guess…” Wyatt shrugged, “despite the minor outbursts from Lancaster, but what else is new when it comes to that man, hmm? But the debris was piled up outside per your instructions and as I’m sure you can see by the smoke outside the wall, it’s slowly fading from memory.”
“As honest as that proclamation is, nothing can erase what happened last night from memory.” Anthony added leaning forward, “Not even I can believe this happened.” he reached for his cup, taking a small sip.
“Neither can I.” Sarah worried.
“Who’s to say what’s coming next?” Thomas uttered.
Erik had appeared in the foyer; voices from the dining hall attracted his attention and approaching the doorway, he stood watching his friends and the young half-breed sitting at one of the tables engaging in a moment of sincere laughter. He frowned then grew startled from a sudden presence appearing behind him. Turning around in a jump, there stood Azir and Natash dressed in their finest.
“Erik…” Natash slurred.
“Good morning. Or should I say afternoon.” Azir groaned walking past the young Demon, entering the dining hall.
Natash followed after then humored as she approached the tables,
“What’s this? A pajama party and I wasn’t invited?”
We all looked up, seeing them dressed in tribal knee length coats, making the others feel shabby and out of place.
“Sorry.” Jon muttered.
“Don’t be.” Azir replied, “But that’s not why I’m here, so let’s change the subject yes?”
“Yes, please.” Sarah complained, combing her blonde hair behind her ears, showing off her pink Pearl earrings.
Taking notice they wanted to sit across from me, Jonathan, Thomas, Anthony Caleb and Sarah moved aside, allowing space for them. Natash examined all the faces staring at them in admiration then glanced at Sarah, taking notice of her earrings.
“Dear girl, I love your Pearls. They’re lovely. Given to you by someone special, yes?”
“Yes...yes, they were.” she gushed as she and Jon exchanged flushed expressions.
Natash smiled then began placing fruit and buttered toast on her plate, giving her guards a break, as they too piled their places with breakfast treats and tea.
“Yzavela, after this meeting, I’d like to speak with you about when you’d like to...deliver the package.” Azir’s golden eyes stared at me across the table after pouring himself a glass of orange juice.
Forgetting that was the code terms we set for HEADS, I almost spat my drink but contained it. I coughed while swallowing it down. Placing the glass alongside my plate, I gazed into his golden eyes, knowing what he meant. I nodded in reply while still catching my breath. The drink went down the wrong pipe.
“Wow, that went down the wrong way.” I slapped my chest, “Sorry.”
“Are you alright?” Anthony leaned across the table.
“Yeah.” I smiled through a cough, "Thank you.”
“Morning.” Erik’s voice interrupted our groups’ idle chit-chat. He took a seat at the end of the table near Wyatt, Nick and Caleb who slid down a ways because they wanted to discuss other guy-related things. He kept glancing in my direction but he took notice I paid no attention to his presence. Not because the young woman was being rude, but she was engaged in a discussion with Azir and Natash.
“Alright, well...we can have that talk now, if you’d like?” I instructed.
“If you’re done here?” Azir wondered.
“For now, yes.” I stood, “Excuse me, guys…”
“No problem.” friends muttered.
As Azir and I exited the hall I tuned, glancing back at the table observing Erik sharing laughter with his male friends then turned my gaze toward the Italian brother who sat quietly finishing up their bagels and coffee. I sighed hoping my heart wasn’t putting itself on a love triangle between Erik and Anthony but shaking my head, I dismissed the idea knowing who or what I wanted.
“Everything alright?” Azir interrupted my thoughts.
“Hmm?” I turned to him, “Yes. Let’s go?” I gestured toward the stairs.
Azir raised his left eyebrow then followed after the young woman when the front doors behind him swung open; a young man entered walking in slow shuffling steps but the Jinn didn’t pay too much attention as he disappeared around the curvature of the staircase upwards.
Nathan ran the fingers of his right hands through his messy blonde hair, giving his scalp a rough scratch as he entered the dining hall. Shadows encircled his tired blue eyes and his clothes were wrinkled as if he slept in them. Leonus appeared behind him moments after, pushing past him as he grimaced at the sight of others in the hall. Taking his seat at another table where other Lycynians sat, he reached for a cup pouring himself a cup of coffee, drinking it black. Nathan walked over plopping on the bench across from Leonus.
“What’s with the scorch marks outside!? Have a wild party I wasn’t invited to?” Nathan rubbed his eyes then sniffled.
Leonus studied the young man before him, shaking his head for he wasn’t a sight to behold. Chewing a stick of gum Leonus barked,
“Passed out from a drunken stupor!? You reek of Whiskey and Cannabis.” he sniffed the air.
“To each their own, Leonus and yes...I was.” he grinned as if proud of his addictions, “But seriously...what the bloody hell happened!?” and before Leonus could answer, the alpha straightened his posture as a figure approached behind Nathan.
Suddenly, a punch hit against his shoulder by a rough slap to the back of his head. Leaning forward growling aggressively Nathan turned; there stood Sarah with anger in her blue eyes as she folded her arms across her chest waiting for him to say something. Nathan groaned as he glanced at the other Lycynians sitting around him; they turned away with grins before they stood, marching out of the hall with Leonus leading their pack.
“Thanks for that, sis! You just made me look like a…” Nathan argued.
“Like a what!?” Sarah quickly sat straddling the seat next to him, “Made you look like a total a** or a joke!? Oh, no brother of mine...you’ve done that all by your bloody self. Where were you!?”
“You’re not the first to ask.” he barked, “But I, uh...had other matters to attend to.” he eyed her position on the seat, “I’m sure you could have used me last night and in any which way you would have liked.” he reached for her left hand, gently stroking her soft skin.
“If you mean by other matters, I’m guessing smoking, drinking and sex? Or jerking off to your nudies?” Sarah protested pulling her hand away feeling nauseous for even though they were related, his actions disgusted her.
“I see. So that’s how it’s going to be?” Nathan scolded and knowing the Wraiths and Demons sitting at the table behind them could listen to their conversation, he removed a pad and pen from his pocket writing his next words, “You want me when you want me, but when I want you...I revolt you. Which is it, Sarah? You can’t have your cake and eat it too!” and once writing the words he continued verbally as he stood leaning in to whisper in her ear, “But yes, dear sister of mine...that’s exactly what I was doing. I was smoking, I was drinking and mostly definitely I was having fun with myself! Tell me something though before I go. Are you really happy with that carrot-top Saxon? Is he a better lover than me? Does he satisfy you in ways that make you let out those little squeaks after you…” he flickered his eyebrows implying something of the sexual nature.
Sarah stood pushing him back, growing tired of his disrespect.
“That’s none of your business, you sick bastard!” she swore then reached for one of the cups on the table, splashing the contents into his face and onto his shirt. Dropping the cup that shattered on the ground, she stormed out of the hall with tears in her eyes.
Nathan stood, grabbing a handful of napkins, trying to dap the coffee from his clothing but it had stained the fabric too quickly. He had derogatory thoughts running through his mind of how complicated women can be under stressful circumstances. His feet slipped on the liquid that splashed to the floor with the shards of the clay mug.
Jon looked over at Nathan then chased after Sarah and entering the atrium, she sat crying.
“I’m guessing this is about delivering the heads back to Drakuul.” I asked, as Azir and I entered the study of which he politely closed the door behind him, “God that sounded a lot better in my head than it did aloud, sorry.” I smirked, taking a seat behind the desk.
“Indeed that sentence was unsettling.” Azir replied with a smile sitting across from the young woman, “But the meaning was there, of which is why I’d like to know when you’d like to do this and how you’ll go performing such a task.”
“I was thinking about delivering it, or them, tonight. The guards on the wall don’t like having the chest up there because so far, I’ve received countless messages from them that whatever Ravens survived the assault from the Shadowed Ones, are trying to peck away at it to get inside.”
Azir gulped; that image didn’t present pleasantly in his mind. Adjusting his tunic while shifting in the seat he proposed,
“I must admit, that…” he cleared his throat, “that image is unsettling to imagine, but I can meet you in the center of the maze tonight at 1:00am once everyone has retired for the night.”
I tapped a pen against the desk’s surface feeling nervous of the deed we’d perform, knowing we’d have to venture into the Great City; a place I swore I’d never return to.
“Alright. 1:00am...center of the maze. It’s a deal, but I’ll be bringing someone extra.” I revealed laying the pen alongside the calendar and folders that laid atop the desk, "And can we agree to stop calling it a PACKAGE…” I made air quotation marks, “and call it what is it? A chest full of heads?”
“Preferably.” the Jinn grinned.
“Good.” I leaned back in the chair.
Later that day I visited my mom in her room, explaining the details of tonight’s events. She worried, not wanting me to venture anywhere near the Great City but trusted Azir and definitely Abraxas and having them accompany her daughter put her mind at ease. She worried nonetheless and I didn’t blame her for I was terrified myself.
“I’ll be fine.” I reassured her, “Trust me...I’ll be fine. And if worse-comes-to-worse, Abraxas has been told to return to the Isle if god for bid, something does happen but Azir and I aren’t planning on anything happening.”
“Don’t say that, please…” my mom reached for my hands, “and be careful. I know it’s something you need to do, even though it’s something I never expected.”
“I will.” I leaned forward giving her a comforting hug.
“It’s been some time since we’ve been back there, I wonder if our home still stands.” she wondered as she softly pulled away.
“I don’t know.” I wondered; my eyes staring at our feet.
“Well....” my mom sighed heavily, “let’s change the subject. What’s going on with you and Anthony?”
“Me and Anthony?” her words caught me off guard, “Where did that come from?”
“I’m just asking.” my mom shrugged, “Because from what I’ve heard…”
“And what have you heard?” I grew annoyed by the island’s gossip mouths, “What’s going on between him and I that I don’t know about that others around here seem to think is happening?”
My mom realized there was a riddle somewhere in my rant but continued,
“Well, he was seen leaving our dwelling last night after visiting your room at late hours.”
“Wow!” I stood in disbelief, “First off…” I turned to her, “nothing happened. He dropped off a gift and left. I didn’t even know he was in the building until I read the note that came with the gift.”
“And what was this gift?” my mom grew curious, inching closer to the ledge of her chair.
“I know what you’re thinking and no. Nothing like that.” I ended her curiosity, “It was just a rose.”
“Just a rose.” my mom teased.
“Yes. And it was just a kind gesture of…” I paused trying to think of words that could justify the meaning behind Anthony’s actions, “I got nothing for that one.” I sat there quietly.
“Mmm. Well, it was a gift nonetheless and sometimes they can be given without motive. Just out of friendship, but a rose? That’s, uh...a little more meaningful but it’s between the two of you.”
“Yes, yes it is.” I grew agitated by her constant pursuit of answers that I had many questions to, “Now, I have to make sure vendors in the village square aren’t giving Thomas an aneurysm for any or all damage that might have been caused by the ship’s debris. Do you want a ride, or are you staying in for the day?” I stood, tugging gently on the hem of my bustier finding myself doing the one thing all people do when they’re nervous.
My mom remained sitting watching as her daughter grew nervous. She grew a smile then glanced at her feet, declining the offer for she was going to meet with Katrina and the other Wiccans for the rest of the day. She stood adjusting her skirt then escorted her daughter to the door and giving her another brief hug, she watched as the young woman strolled across the lounge, always with a mother’s concern and worry, but also full of pride.
I walked to the garage retrieving the personal Jeep that was designated for the Keeper’s use. I was greeted by Samuel Benard, Beth’s brother and one of the Isle’s top mechanics that Marxus entrusted all the island’s vehicles to. I had arrived at the village square where luckily, no damage had been caused by the debris. Only smoldered rooftops, chipped buildings and out of place cobblestones along the street were seen. No sooner did I step foot out of the Jeep, was I bombarded with questions, pleas and complaints; Thomas standing toward the rear of the crowd with Anthony and Louisa of whom attempted to settle the arguments.
After hours coming to agreements and settling refunds from vendors that wanted to leave the Isle before their contact ended, I needed a drink and I’m not one that uses alcohol to solve my problems. Sitting outside the pub at small tables, Thomas and Louisa invited me to their home for lunch. Knowing I had nothing else planned for the rest of the day, except for plans with my mom, I accepted.
“And you must invite your Ma-ma.” Louisa urged, “She’s such a lovely woman.”
“I’m sure she’d love to, thank you.” I accepted the offer, “Let me see if she’s available?” I removed my phone sending her a message of which she replied seconds after it was received, “It’s a yes.”
“Excellent.” Louisa smiled, “Are you and your Ma-ma allergic to anything specific?”
“My mom? No, but I’m allergic to lemons.” I revealed.
“So are the twins.” Thomas added, referring to their children.
“So it’s a date.” Anthony, sitting next to me, leaned in with his Italian charm.
“It’s not a date. It’s lunch with friends...” I attempted to justify his flirtation, “at a specific time.”
“Sounds like a date to me, no? Friends or not.” Thomas teased.
“Thomas…” Louisa nudged her husband and for Anthony and I sitting across from them, we smiled for their love shone between them, even in a glance.
Anthony and I exchanged a glance and I knew my face was blushed red.