The violin croaked as I hit the high notes, the bow steady in my hand as I smoothed it over the strings. The sound of the soft melody echoed in the silence of the woods, so much so that I was sure even the animals were quiet, listening to me pulling at the strings when a pizzicato part arrived. When I finally reached the climax of the piece, I then returned in diminuendo to the beginning, and let the last note reverberate and dissipate into the horrible silence.
Arms came around me and grabbed the violin and bow from my hands. “Good job, little wolf,” Damon said, putting the instrument on the wooden chair at the open balcony. “It was marvelous, indeed.”
I didn’t reply. Instead I turned around and stared straight into his wild hazel eyes. “Is it time?”
He smiled, and his hand grabbed my chin. “I’m going to miss you,” he told me, voice lowering, “it was fun while it lasted.”
Stepping away from me he face the cabin and closed his eyes. The air shifted and my gut twisted like it did every time Damon worked his magic. Then, when the air stilled and he opened his eyes, I knew he’d done it. “The barrier’s gone,” he said unnecessarily, and gave me an odd look, cocking his head. “My debt is paid.”
More laughable words I’d never heard. “Are you sure they’ll be able to find it here?” I asked, ignoring him and his debt.
“They’ve been sniffing around the area of Portland,” he said, stretching his arms, “Kalypso is the Deity of the Art of Concealing. Nothing escapes here except a barrier like the one I put in place here. But now that it’s gone, they should be here in the next hour.”
I nodded. “And are you going to be here still?”
He shook his head. “I have no will to fight young, angry werewolves. Which means,” he swiftly took out his black pocket watch and flicked it open, “I’ll be gone now.”
Nodding again, I watched as he stretched again and grabbed his coat. Then he looked me one more time and grinned. “It’s been a pleasure, Daisy.”
Since I couldn’t say the same, I chose to say nothing at all. Then I watched as he disappeared into thin air, teleporting away. Only then I allowed myself to say, “Can’t say the same, Damon.”
Because I still had time, I went to the bathroom. There, I looked at the mirror. I wore a new pair of jeans and a simple V-neck tee. My worn-out sneakers were even wearier. My hair was too long, however. I grabbed a pair of scissors I’d been given by the Deity, and braided my hair. It reached my butt.
Not thinking twice, I cut it at the neck. It was a blunt, asymmetrical cut, but I didn’t care much. Dropping the braid to the floor, I put the scissors away and washed my face. While I looked just the same as I did three months ago, my face lost something. I could tell. My eyes were a little more sunken than before, and my lips were paler than they used to be. But nothing I could do about it, so I didn’t bother with it.
After I was done scrutinizing myself, I went back to the balcony and grabbed the violin. It was a fine instrument, finer than the violin I owned. Damon had got it especially for me; he’d injured himself one time and wanted to see my amplified healing magic in action. He’d bought this violin in more money than one should spend on a violin, and I’d healed him. He let me keep it, said it would be a reminded of him.
As if I needed a reminder.
Grabbing a lighter Damon had left behind – he was a smoker – I flicked the flame to life and lowered it to the wooden instrument. It caught fire quickly, and soon a bonfire was lit on the chair, burning it with him. I added the bow into it, and then hopped off the balcony and into the muddy ground. Then I watched as slowly but surely the fire began lighting up the balcony, spreading into the cabin, and burning it all until it was one big flame. It was a beautiful sight to behold; as the sun was setting, the fire built into a wondrous visual.
Giving it one last lingering look, I then turned my back to it and began walking. It would’ve been easier in wolf form, but since my wolf was in a different place than the human, I didn’t want to push her limit. It wasn’t the right time for her to run free. She needed to feel safe.
Even though we would never be safe again.
The air was cool as night slowly came. I walked and walked, deciding not to wait in place. I needed to be on the move, stretching my legs. It’d been a long time since the last time I got to exercise. It was better than nothing.
The greenery around me seemed brighter as night unfolded. The flowers were more vivid, lit up by the fireflies; the trees seemed to gleam under the dawning moonlight; and the forest creatures were all roaming, unseen but audible. It would’ve been a beautiful sight to behold, but honestly, I didn’t know what beautiful meant anymore.
Beautiful had become a pretty shallow word.
Something rustled behind me and I came to a pause. My legs were numb by the nonstop walking, and my feet were tender. I only realized that now that I paused. Then I heard, “Daisy?” and I turned around.
A woman like no one I’d ever seen before stood there. She was tall and slender, as though her body belonged on a cover of a magazine, and the skin was like honey, all smooth and golden. Her hair was chestnut and thick, falling in waves to her waist. But her eyes were the oddest feature she had; slightly uplifted at the edges and their color a vivid turquoise. I guess she was someone who should be called beautiful. But I didn’t know what beautiful was anymore.
Next to her was Shade.
It felt like ages since the last time I saw him. He looked just the same; his hair the same light brown, only longer than I remembered, its tousled edges reaching his shoulders. His eyes were still the very strange jungle color of green mixed with brown, gold, blue and silver. And he was just as tall and toned as he’d ever been. He was also a man whom people called beautiful. In my eyes, however, no word could’ve done him any justice.
My wolf stirred, seeing her mate. But she was too numb to feel anything either than awareness that he was here. I, too, only stared at him blankly. Other than the knowledge that this man was supposed to be my mate, nothing else came inside me. No other emotion. No other feeling. It didn’t surprise me; after the first month in Damon’s care, emotions became something of a different life, belonging to a different person.
The woman sighed in evident relief. “We finally found you,” she said with a smile, seeming like she actually cared. “I’m Kalypso Hel Velia. I’m the Deity of – “
“The Art of Concealing, I heard,” I cut her off, “Damon told me about you searching for me with Shade.”
Kalypso’s smile dropped. Whatever she heard in my voice, she didn’t seem to like it. Worry entered her face.
Shade stepped forward, drawing my eyes to him. His face was completely blank, almost carefully so. That was interesting. The Shade I’d come to know didn’t need to force indifference upon himself. “We’ve been looking for you nonstop, Daisy,” he said, not stopping walking, “I’ve been looking for you.”
“You couldn’t have found me until today,” I informed them, “Damon put a barrier over the cabin we stayed at. He said it was the only way to prevent Kalypso from using her great detecting skills.”
Kalypso said something in a foreign language I didn’t recognize. It sounded like curse. “Fucking Michelangelo.”
Shade stopped only a mere few inches from me. Then, his calm exterior seemed to break, and for the first time since I’d known him, Shade’s face contorted in sorrow, actually showing what he truly felt. “These past three months had been hell on Earth, Daisy,” he said, and his voice, while still collected, cracked a little when he said my name.
I said nothing, just stared at him unblinkingly.
Then he’d done another thing out of character for him; he put his arms around me and hugged me close. I stiffened. He squeezed me tight. “Don’t ever do that again,” he whispered angrily into my hair.
As if I had any choice in the matter, I wanted to say back, but I didn’t. What was the point? Stating the obvious was moot.
“It’s getting late, Shade,” Kalypso said softly, almost gently, and Shade, still hugging me, stilled. “Where am I taking you?”
Withdrawing so he could look at my face, his eyes searching mine, he said, “To where we agreed on.”
And, as Kalypso put her hands, one on Shade’s forearm and one on my shoulder and teleported us away, I realized that this time, too, I didn’t have any choice in the matter.
Free will was no longer a part of my existence.