I sat there, sobbing, the images of Finley Merlyn’s death burned into the back of my eyes. What could I do? I had seen her. I had seen her fear, her remorse, and her unwillingness as she had flung herself in front of the vehicle, the vehicle which was driven by someone who knew what was happening. Who knew what to do to make sure the woman was dead.
Bile rose in my throat as I relived the last moments, the sounds of her bones crashing under the car weight echoing through my mind. Without meaning to, I let out a whimper which morphed into a mournful sob.
How was I supposed to face Ariel and Axel after what I had just seen? So many questions swirled in my brain, yet I couldn’t find an answer for a single one of them. My face felt wet from crying and my whole body quivered but I didn’t move; I couldn’t. My energy was gone; I was tired, both physically and mentally.
A knock on my door made me stop breathing. Maybe it had been my imagination, maybe it was the wind. But those expectations were diminished when another knock came accompanying with it a familiar deep voice.
“Jade, it’s me. Open up.” Axel Merlyn stood outside my door. I couldn’t face him, not so soon.
“Go away.” My voice came out strong and for a minute, I felt proud as Axel remained quiet. Nobody replied.
“You passed me.” He spoke out in a confused voice. “While you were running up to your room, you passed me and you looked……on the verge of…. breaking. What happened, Jade?”
“N-nothing” My voice cracked as tears gathered up in my eyes again. “Leave me alone, Axel.”
I was met with silence once again and I almost sighed in relief, thinking he had gone away but I was proven wrong after a few minutes.
“Okay” He sounded weak; his voice was heavier than usual as if it was full of remorse I couldn’t understand. “Just talk to someone, don’t bottle it up. It leaves scars behind.”
I had no reply to that and Axel didn’t wait for one, already walking downstairs. His words roamed in my mind, I knew he was right but it was too late for me. I was already tainted with many scars, the one time I had tried to not bottle it up had also backfired on me and I had no energy to go through the same disappointment again.
I knew that I couldn’t be the only one who suffered from this and judging from Axel’s voice, I am pretty sure, he had seen his mother go through the same thing I was but it was worse for me. It began for me when I was born. I had grown up with the shadows of my life, with the monsters from my nightmares and I had done so unwillingly. I had cried, thrown tantrums, ran away but all those had been hopeless. I was as stuck as I was cursed. My luck blackened from the day I came to be.
Cara was the closest friend I had who was still alive and I didn’t dare drag her into the part of my life which stole everything from me. David had been one of the people who had become a casualty because of it.
Yes, I blamed myself for his death and nobody could prove me otherwise, not like anyone knew though. The only information they had was that David Price disappeared at a young age and his family had to leave the town in grief. He was never found but I knew where he was. I knew what had happened to him, it still haunted me in my dreams, I could see his void eyes, his humorless smile all of them accusing me of one thing; Murder. Murder by telling him what he wasn’t supposed to know, murder by dragging him into a life he wasn’t supposed to know about.
And I couldn’t handle that guilt, so Cara had to stay away. Away like the Merlyn siblings who were too close to this, who didn’t realize what it could lead to if they didn’t stay away from what they were supposed to and I wasn’t going to help them lead themselves to death. Not like I had done so with so many people.
The whole night, I lingered in my position, staring ahead at the moving shadows in the corner who taunted me every night, telling me to come to them and let them play with my mind. I slept from exhaustion but my sleep was restless because of the obscurities in my life.
When the alarm went off in the morning that was when I stood up from my place, my legs wobbling like jelly as I collapsed onto the bed, turning off the alarm. I was exhausted yet my eyes were ajar, staring at the sunlight that was slowly covering my room in its brightness. Birds chirped outside and the light smell of dew filled the air.
I went to school that day, not ready to spend a whole day in the orphanage and I steered cleared of Axel, Ariel and Cara. Cara would know from my face that something had happened, something bad and I couldn’t tell her what so it was better to stay away until I looked less like a zombie. It was easy to stay away from them without making it too obvious. I never did interact with either of the Merlyn kids and Cara knew I had days where I liked to be left alone for a while and she respected that, one of the reasons she was my friend was because she trusted me enough to go along with my weird moods and habits.
After school, I wasn’t keen to go straight back to the orphanage so instead I took a drive, opening my windows to let the wind in as I drove faster down the road, going the opposite way from the orphanage. The trees rushed past me and I felt my heart beat calm down until I noticed a figure on a motorcycle behind me. I was waiting for it to pass but it kept at a specific distance from me even when I slowed down the car. Finally, I pulled the car to the side of the road and waited for the motorcycle to reach me. It did and stopped right beside me.
“Where did you get a motorcycle?” I inquired. I knew who it was even if their face was hidden by the helmet. His body posture was hard to miss.
“Stole it” Axel replied, taking off his helmet and smirking. His eyes twinkled but there was a guarded look in them, as if he was afraid I was going to read his mind. Those were the assumptions of people I had to deal with because of my ‘condition’.
The trees rustled in the slight breeze as the sky darkened with oncoming rain. I remained quiet, waiting for Axel to explain himself but when he kept smirking at me, I felt my cheeks flush and looked away. Axel was dangerous but he was still good looking despite the scar which just emphasized his dangerous look. His lean body and mysterious eyes were enough to make any girl melt but his attitude ruined that for him as he refused to even interact with anyone.
I couldn’t blame him; I wasn’t keen on interacting with the people in this town either. Especially considering what they thought about us, about me. Not all orphans stood out like sour thumbs, but me, Axel and Ariel were not one of those.
“I borrowed it from one of the kids.” He finally explained, looking straight at the never-ending road out of Old Nick’s Lascaux. I nodded, pushing strands of my hair away from my face. I waited for him to ask me about yesterday but he didn’t. He didn’t even look at me, staring only at the road. “Ariel wants to talk to you.”
“No.” I had promised myself not to help them, not to help them die without even their knowledge. I opened the car door but Axel grabbed my wrist, pulling me back. He got off the motorcycle and turned me towards him.
“It can help you. Think about it.” His emerald eyes looked into mine with an unreadable emotion. With those words, he got on his motorcycle again.
“I don’t have to think about it.” My voice was weak, I wasn’t ready for this. My life was already messed up and I couldn’t deal with anything else.
“What if they weren’t coincidences?” Axel said, I had asked the same question for years but even if they weren’t coincidences I couldn’t do anything about them. I was a part of it and I couldn’t stop myself from being one. It had always been out of my hands. “What if there was a way to stop it?”
“There isn’t.” Even if there was, my nightmares won’t let me stop it. I was destined for this like they had told me, repeatedly. I left after that, letting Axel stay there, lost in his thoughts while I made my way back to the orphanage. Mrs. D’onofrio was standing near the front door when I parked my car and got out. She seemed a bit peeved and her dark circles made her appearance scarier. When she saw me, her lips thinned.
“Where were you, Jade? Why are you late from school?” She asked; her voice lacked concern, it was only full of anger and irritation. “Were you with Axel?”
The imminent distaste caught me by surprise. Mrs. D’onofrio was very sour and hateful woman but this distaste somehow seemed almost personal.
“No, I went for a drive.” I replied without hesitation. Pushing past her, I felt a cold sense of dread already spread through me. Her hand reached out and grabbed my wrist but unlike the warmth I had felt from Axel’s contact, this had an opposite effect. I quickly jumped away like I had been scorched which I had been but internally. Mrs. D’onofrio turned towards me and her eyes were pits of hollowness while her lips turned up into a meaningless smile.
“Lying isn’t good for you, little Jade.” Her tone was melancholy, sending shivers down my back. I nodded and turned away, entering the house. Mrs. D’onofrio had distracted me and my defenses were down so when the screams pierced through my skull, I couldn’t help but stumble forwards, leaning against the wall to support myself. This was different, different from the normal screams. I stayed in my place, waiting for the screams to fade away but they didn’t, they got louder and louder until I let out a scream of my own. I turned back to see Mrs. D’onofrio looking at me with a bitter smile, her eyes twinkling in victory I didn’t understand. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to walk upstairs but with each step, the screams echoed even more in my ears. I passed the rooms of the other orphans but all of them were closed and none of them could hear my stifled cries. Finally I reached my room on the highest floor and I leaned against the door. The screams finally faded leaving me behind in an even more of a weak state.
That’s when sweet gentle music filled my ears. It was enchanting, the notes having a calming effect on me even though my stomach churned with nothing but pure dread.
We will take them from your heart
And tear them to pieces part by part
I straightened up, my hands falling to my sides. Tears still slid down my cheeks but I couldn’t wipe them away, I wasn’t in control anymore. This wasn’t right. The melodic notes carried on, and it was like I wasn’t in control of my limbs anymore. They moved forward, towards the window at the end of the hallway. My brain whirled in fear and confusion, expecting the worse. My tears kept coming as I stepped closer and closer, that’s when I saw that the window was broken. The glass was broken, jagged at the sides. Those shiny points glowing maliciously in the diming light of oncoming sunset.
My breathing faltered and I clenched my jaw. Fear, absolute terrifying peace was coursing through my body. I felt helpless, and scared. Without my content, my hand rose and reached forwards, towards the broken pieces of the glass. I let out a voluntary whimper but before my skin could touch the glass, someone’s hand landed on my shoulder and the melody vanished along with the heavy burden I felt. I had power over my body again.
Lots of things had happened to me but I had always been in control of my body. But I guess that was gone as well. The sweet melody manipulated the control somehow. I wasn’t safe from anything. I turned back to see Ariel looking at me with confusion and fear of her own. I tried to gather strength to talk to her but I broke. Tears started flowing in waves and sobs racked through my body. Ariel wrapped her hands around me, holding half my body weight.
I didn’t know when this would end, I didn’t know what I would have done if Ariel hadn’t stopped me. The creatures that were attached with me always tortured me mentally, as a punishment it would be worse but this was the first time physical pain was going to be inflicted on me. I buried my face in Ariel’s shirt as she lightly stroked my hair, walking backwards towards my room. My legs felt like lead. I didn’t know what to do. She made me sit on my bed and told me to wait as she went to the attached bathroom and came back with a wet towel. I had lain on my bed by then, I stared up at the ceiling. I felt melancholy, empty. Ariel lightly dabbed the cloth on my face, cleaning away the tears.
I was surprised by what she was doing and I wanted to know why she was doing it but I was tired, my whole being couldn’t take anymore. She turned towards me and I saw the resemblance she had with her mother, the nose, the set of her mouth. She treated me like a child, her eyes gentle yet I could see the curiosity swimming in the depths. But she didn’t ask me any questions, except if I had any headache medicine.
I fell asleep after that and I didn’t know how long Ariel stayed but it wasn’t peaceful sleep like I had hoped and wished for. The creatures visited me again and surrounded me with their vicious faces flashing at me like piranhas. I struggled, I ran but then they all disappeared. I don’t know how but they did and I felt more serene, sleeping a dreamless sleep after that.
I woke up the next morning, wrapped in someone’s embrace. My cheek rested on their well-defined chest and their arms were circled around my waist, holding me close to them. Whoever it was was definitely male. I pulled away to look only to scramble away from him and hit the back of my bed. He didn’t even stir with the movement. His eyes shut and his mouth slightly open. His hair was a mess and there were nail scratch marks on his arm. I could have said he looked innocent but that would have been wrong, he just seemed more vulnerable, unguarded and less stiff from his usual self. I crawled closer to him, inspecting his features. His eye lashes were definitely longer than mine and my hand itched to touch the scar but the next second, the door to my room opened and I backed away from him to see his sister entered. When she saw me on the floor, her eyebrows furrowed travelling towards Axel.
She signed me some words but when I didn’t get them, she slowly moved her lips, mouthing “Is he okay?” I was about to nod until I realized I wasn’t exactly sure so instead I stood up and walked towards him, shaking him by his shoulder. His eyes fluttered open and the first emotion that I saw pass through them was fear. He looked up at Ariel and the emotion was slightly dimmed by relief until he looked at me and it diminished fully. His eyes scanned both me and Ariel as he stood up and straightened his crumbled shirt.
Ariel signed him some words leaving me feeling awkward. And Axel replied aloud, “Oh, she woke up in the middle of the night and started trashing so she accidentally scratched me.”
“I did?” I didn’t remember doing anything like that.
“Yeah but you were having a nightmare so that’s why you don’t remember it. It’s also how we ended up on the floor.” He explained, not even bothering to glance at me. I looked at the scratch marks and guilt filled me.
“I’m sorry.” I blurted out, forcing both of them to look at me. “About the scratching…..”
All I got in reply was a nod while Ariel just gave me a small smile. She had brought breakfast with her and I had a few bites of the toast while Axel ate the rest, talking in ASL language with Ariel the whole time, not even bothering to include me.
“Now, Jade, we need to talk.” Axel said, once we had taken the dishes downstairs and returned to my room with a water bottle.