Death of a rose garden

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A shocking discovery

I thought I was going to be sick. "You what?"

"I was with her that night when it happened, I was supposed to be protecting her but she disappeared when we ran from two guys. I tried looking for her for over an hour after that but all I found was her phone in a pool of blood and a bullet shell. I assumed the worse when I read the last message she sent, which was to you." He seemed close to tears and looked away to prevent me from seeing a single tear running down his face. I couldn't help but gently touch his arm in a supportive gesture.

"Markus..." My voice trailed off as I didn't know what to say to him. I only realised I was crying when he took me into his arms and held me. "What happened? Why were they after her?" I barely managed to whisper before I had to bury my face into his chest to prevent a wave of hysterical crying from escaping.

"They were after you." He said with little emotion in his voice. I immediately pulled back and looked at him with shock hoping that what he had just said was some sort of sick joke, only to find no sign of humour in his eyes. Me? Why me? What had I done to deserve possible death?

"H-How do you know that?" My tears were replaced with trembles as fear overwhelmed me.

Markus simply pulled me back into his embrace and gently rocked me to try and calm me down. "At first it was confusing. Mattie kept getting these death threats signed by a guy called the Red Mask, then it started getting weird when practically everything Mattie owned decorated itself in twirls and vine-like patterns in blood red that vanished whenever she touched it." He suddenly stopped and sneaked a peek at me only to find me smiling with relief. "Okay, not quite the reaction I was expecting. You're actually buying this?"

"I'm just so glad I'm not the only one, I seriously needed to talk to someone but I didn't know who. No one would believe anything weird like that." I suddenly remembered the leather book and its pattern and wondered if it was the same pattern Mattie saw. I started scratching through my backpack hoping that it would reappear now that I actually needed it, luckily it decided to make an appearance. As I pulled it out I saw how Markus stared dumbfounded at it, obviously recognising the pattern etched on it. "By that reaction I assume it was this pattern Mattie kept finding?"

"Where did you get that?" He asked in an exasperated voice.

"It's been following me around all day. The weird thing about it is that I recognise it but I'm not sure from where." I looked down at my hands clutching the book.

"You had a dream about an old guy giving it to you." He said it more as a statement than a question.

My eyes went wide as the realisation hit me. "You're right! I remember it now, the old library and the big oak doors." Another realisation hit right then. "Wait a minute, how do you know about that?"

Markus dug through his own backpack and pulled out a book that looked exactly like the one I had in my hand except his was decorated in a deep shade of purple designs. "Because I had that dream too." He looked at me with excitement. "What's your gift? Mine's charm, glamour and deception."

I started to feel the excitement building up as all the details of the dream came back to me. "Power and control, which is kind of ironic as it is far from who I am." I found myself giggling after that, "Charm, glamour and deception? That's really feminine for the popular guy."

He just smiled. "Laugh all you want, but quite frankly I'm very good at what I do, and it fits me perfectly. Besides, yours is pretty spot on."

"What do you mean?" I said with a cocked eyebrow. He couldn't be serious that he thought I was a type of dictator when he hardly knew me.

The corners of his mouth pulled playfully into a hint of a smile. "Don't get me wrong on this, but you're pretty much a control freak, and this is just from scraps of information I got from the few weeks I've been dating your sister." The smile left his face and his tone changed to a somber one. "And even though this is probably the worst thing to say about Mattie at this point, but I never really wanted her. I only did it for the image and because it was expected that the most popular people were an item. The truth is, I've always loved and admired your stubbornness and determination. I've always wanted you..." He finished as his voice became a whisper.

I just stared at him dumbfounded. My brain refused to process what I had just heard. "Me? But I'm so... Not Mattie. She's the pretty one. Why would you even notice me when I was so low down on the social food chain? And I always thought people found that annoying about my personality." I blurted out in a stream of consciousness before realising how stupid I felt for asking such things, and so clamped my hand over my mouth to keep myself from rambling even further into humiliation. I could feel my face burning with the intensity of the sun that even my ears felt hot.

Markus just stood there and watched me as another smile crept onto his face. "You're really cute when you blush, you know that?"

It was all too much for me to handle, so I automatically put up my defenses, which included rude comments and a death stare. "Stop it. You may be potentially really sweet, but after five years of being treated like dirt from you isn't going to change how I see you. How do I know this isn't some kind of sick joke and this is all just a way to humiliate me? You never even bothered to try and treat me like a human being before, what makes you think I should believe you now?" I immediately felt bad for putting him on the spot like that, but I didn't care anymore. My emotions felt so raw at this point that I just wanted to crawl into a hole and wait until all of this just went away. I felt the familiar lump in my throat forming and turned to walk away before I burst into hysterical crying in front of Markus. There was no telling where the hidden cameras were to capture my best humiliation yet.

"Come on Lucy, don't be like this now!" He called after me but I refused to slow down. "Lucy! Stop would you? Just listen to me!" He tried to grab my hand and spin me around to face him, but a bolt of electricity shot through my hand that stopped me dead in my tracks. I grabbed my hand back and held it tight against my chest and turned to face him with anger strewn across my face. "What the hell was that for?" I screamed at him but caught myself short when I saw the shock on his face, obviously showing he had just felt the same jolt as I did, but he was focusing intently on his right hand instead of me. I redirected my attention to his outstretched hand and took a sharp intake of air at the sight. His entire palm was decorated in intricate purple swirls and patterns that seemed to form the shape of an eye at the center of his hand.

We both just stood and gawked at his hand for what felt like forever before my brain pulled me back to reality. I shook my head in an attempt to dislodge what I was hoping was an hallucination but was taken aback again when I opened my eyes only to see the pattern had not disappeared from his hand. I suddenly felt the need to look at my own hand to see if I might have had the same blow. With a lot of shaking, I pried my hand away from my chest and took a peek at it only to feel the world start spinning. Luckily Markus had snapped out of his trance by then and caught me before I doubled over onto the floor. He took my hand in his and we both stared at the jade coloured swirls that now decorated my palm of my right hand, finishing into the shape of a fist at its center.

We both just looked at each other in silence. Neither one knowing what to say to the other while we stood holding hands. The sound of laughter brought us back to reality and we pulled away from each other and straightened ourselves out to fill up the awkward moment. The silence dragged on until I couldn't hold it back anymore, "What the hell just happened?" which was answered with silence again. It suddenly came to mind that I could unlock the leather bound book, and before I knew it I had whipped it out and stamped my right palm on the lock and I felt it click with the rhythm of my heart.

Markus and I shared a look as he did the same to his book and then eyeing each other to figure out who had more courage to open their book first. "I can't take this tension anymore!" And ripped mine open. "What's it say?" Markus asked while peering at the pages of his own and trying to make sense of it all. "It's going to take at least two days to get through all this reading." I said paging through and hating the tiny font that would probably require a magnifying glass attached to a telescope to read. "Two days? More like two years." Markus said with a sour tone in his voice. "Not one for reading, are you? Proves why your scores are so low." I replied nonchalantly without registering what I had just said, and when it hit I felt terrible. I lifted my eyes from the pages to look at a hurt face standing in front of me. "I'm so sorry, I-I didn't mean to say that..." I whimpered while my voice trailed off with no attempt to improve my lame apology. I seriously needed to learn to use a word filter with what I say. I tried to put a hand on his shoulder apologetically but he flinched away. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He replied gruffly avoiding eye contact and stalked off.

“I’m such a dumb ass.” I mumbled among other unintelligible words as I walked back to Black Lightning.


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