"Your mother is going to be so proud when she hears the news!”
The huge glass door was slid aside by my fathers frail hand, leaving the towering forest trees and birdsong on the other side.
The house was dimly lit for this time of day; just coming up to dusk, and the jewel embedded chandeliers hanging from the ceiling did little to illuminate the patio floor.
The house had been polished in every nook and cranny, the floor shining and the mirrors reflecting a crystal clear image. I made myself into the sitting room and stood in front of the stone mirror, hanging in all its glory on the walls, and sighed at the image I was confronted with.
Frown etched onto my face and lips chapped, I traced the large tear that jutted down the side of my leggings, before running my fingers through my tangled hair. I made a mental note to wear it in a ponytail when I went on my first Eternal hunt.
My eyes were wide and the blue in them had seemed to have gotten lighter, but they were adorned with dark circles beneath them that were an unwelcome reminder of how little sleep I had gotten in the past few days.
My training was constant, last minute preparations that made sure I was ready to pass my initiation. Too many people this year had made the foolish decision of taking their initiation too early, and countless had died as the consequence. For these things; you don’t just close your eyes, count to 10, and hope you come out alive. You open them wide, follow your orders, and make sure you have gone through hell and back to ensure that bullet has landed inside their skull.
Scientists had found this the only way to drag The Eternals unconscious; but if the bullet isn’t in the right place it can render useless, and The Eternal would probably use this as an advantage to knock you to the ground and slit your throat with its nails within seconds, which are extremely sharp.
Another reason as to why sleep hadn’t been my best friend this past couple of weeks, was because of the fact that most of the city was on lockdown. The EDO had sent out an EDT (Eternal Destruction Threat) on red alert; because on more than one occasion, the agents of the EDO had sighted The Eternals traveling in groups, most of them migrating towards the forest.
I—for a matter of fact— live in a small but luxurious house in the depths of this very forest, so my house had been under the noses of pretty much every EDO agent with a hostage counting of more than 25.
Agents are always defined on their hostage counting, if it’s higher than 15 they are considered of high importance and if it’s lower than 15 you are considered a beginner. My dad had a hostage counting of exactly 762 Eternals in his 56 years of living, which was pretty damn amazing if I don’t say so myself.
But the worst thing about my dads soaring hostage counting? The fact that he had set the bar for me higher than ever before, and being the first female under the age of 18 to initiate into the EDO was a big deal. Everyone expected the world of me, yet I just felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.
“You have done great things!” my mum's airy voice fluttered through the sitting room to where I was standing; still facing the mirror with a displeased look on my face, and tears glossing my ocean blue eyes.
Swallowing the lump in my throat; I turned around to face my mum, who had her arms wide open expectantly. As I moved towards them she let out a squeal of excitement, “My baby girl” she whispered into my shoulder as I breathed in her scent and welcomed her arms around me, holding me close and secure.
She smelt of all things a mother should smell of, and her long blonde hair tickled my shoulder. It blew out in the gentle breeze that escaped into the house from the outside, as my dad opened the door to greet the EDO agents that had agreed on taking the night shifts.
I could hear him barking his orders at them; demanding what hostage counting they held and telling them to look him in the eye so that he could check they were a normal, mundane color and not the startling green that The Eternals were gifted with.
It’s happened before; an Eternal claiming to be a member of the EDO and attempting to make its way into our house. But when 56 years of your life has been dedicated to hunting these creatures, nothing gets past you, and my dad was exactly that. One of the most experienced and dedicated EDO agents there had been since when it was founded in 1901, ‘protecting humankind from the invincible, the powerful, the immortal.’
I’d heard it one thousand times before, and frankly, I was quite sick of hearing about it. But this was my life now, and it was too late to back out.
The one thing that gave me comfort though, was that standing beside me was the women who raised me. The woman who understood me and only wanted the best for me, at the same time as keeping inside the boundaries my father had set.
My family, my life was the furthest thing from normal. Some days I truly wished for a life where I wasn’t constantly under the eyes of strangers; where the house I lived in wasn’t guarded by who me and my best friend like to call ‘the men in leather’, protecting us from the unknown.
A life where I wasn’t part of an organization that both my friends and I felt so bipolar towards, where holding a gun to someone’s head wasn’t considered a normal thing to do, and taking them hostage wasn’t right either.
A life where encountering a supernatural existence wasn’t an everyday occurrence. A life where I could follow my passions, chase my dreams and be myself.
“And this is the hero everyone’s been talking about?” drawn out of my daydream and pulled away from my mother's tight embrace; my eyes trailed up a heavily inked neck, variations of different patterns swirling and twisting to create mysterious pictures and illegible words.
I was immediately drawn to the lean figure towering in front of me, sun-kissed skin seeming to glow in the streaks of light raining down upon us from the chandelier.
But then my eyes began to wander; and my heart sank when they met the tight leather pulled against his skin, defining his toned muscles and strong calves.
No wonder the EDO wanted him; he looked like the type of guy who could take down two Eternals with one bullet, maybe even with his own hands. Veins popping and nails perfectly manicured.
“I wouldn’t say hero...” I scoffed, settling my eyes on the floor and refusing to meet his piercing gaze.
“Astrid, I’d like you to meet Oscar,” my father intruded, edging closer between me and Oscar. My mum had made her way off to the side, standing and watching with eager eyes.
Just keep your eyes on the floor, I told myself.
“Nice to meet you, Oscar.” My mouth moved before my brain had a chance to process what it was saying.
“Would you like to know why I brought him here to meet you?” my father cut off Oscar’s reply and didn't bother to await mine, “Oscar is a very proud and well-respected member of the EDO-”
“figured” I mumbled under my breath.
“...and he’s been with us for just over three years now. He initiated on his 18th birthday, one of the youngest like you. When I told Oscar about you, Astrid, he was more than intrigued. Being the first under 18 female to initiate is a big deal and pretty much unheard of.”
“So I’ve been told.” I sighed, unappeased by the direction this conversation was going in.
“In other words, I was fascinated by you.”
I looked up suddenly and practically inhaled this ‘Oscar’ to the very core of his being. His dark brown eyes met mine in an instant, and a playful smirk pulled up at the corner of his mouth. Heart pounding in the back of my throat; I continued to stare, eyes as wide as saucers. An amused laugh escaped his lips at the sight of me, and I wondered if most girls reacted to him in the way that I was.
“Oscar and I have been thinking of ways in which we could reward you,” my father continued, deliberately ignoring the way both me and Oscar were looking at each other, with such intensity that made the air around us seem to still.
“We thought a party,” Oscar stated simply, finally pulling his gaze away from mine and landing it back on my father.
“A...party?” I stuttered, unsure if I’d heard them right.
“Yes, I did think the same,” Oscar replied, “I told your dad that he was crazy hosting a party full of teenagers at his house but he insisted that you do something special, let your hair down a bit. It was his idea actually.” He added.
“Well as much as I love the idea, I'm not sure there's any need.” I stuttered.
"Oh, there is a need Astrid, you've worked so hard. You deserve this." My father looked at me, eyes glossed over in a kind haze which disguised the coldness that could usually be seen in them.
"Thank you, Dad." I gave in with a smile, just wanting to disappear up into my room and forget about today's run of events. "I'm going to go up to bed now but it was nice meeting you, Oscar.” I half stumbled backward, heading towards the staircase leading up to my room.
It had gotten too much for me; Oscar, the party, my dad's unusually kind behavior. Letting a boy in the house was one thing, letting me have a party was another. The whole situation made me feel all kinds of unsettled.
“But Astrid-” my father argued.
“It’s been a long day” my eyes pleaded with him, “an important day, probably the most important and nerve racking day of my entire life. I really need to sleep and have a chance to take it all in.”
I awaited my fathers sympathetic reply before racing upstairs into my room and taking a deep breath, slamming the door shut behind me.