Chapter 3 - Eden
I slather sunscreen onto my arms, shoulders, and legs as I sit by the pool. Aunt Beatrice flips burgers on the barbeque a few feet away from where I sit on a chair near the side of the pool with a book in my hands. For two days now, Aunt B has seemed to be a little on edge, not to mention sad. She’s refused to go anywhere but here and when I suggest going to get groceries or to the book store, she tells me that she’d rather stay in. She blames it on a cold, but I know something else is wrong.
For the fifth time today, my dad texts me to check up on me. I glance from Aunt B to my phone, pursing my lips to the side. Something is weird, but I don’t have it in me to pry for more information. I’m really bad at digging for information, and it usually ends up turning back on me in the end.
“Oh shit!” I hear my aunt growl and I whip my head to see her clutching her hand that, even from where I sit, looks to have a crispy third-degree burn. I jump to my feet and run to her.
“Aunt B, are you okay?” I ask her, my voice soft but still urgent. I reach for her hand, but she pulls it away from me.
“Yes love, I’m fine.” She replies with a cool tone, pulling her arm close to her side to block it from my view. For a second, I’m fairly certain I see her eyes flicker between crystal blue and ebony black and I stagger back.
“But I just saw you burn your hand, it looked third-degree.” I press. If the burn is as bad as it looked when I first saw it, she needs urgent care.
“No Eden, it was just a graze I’m fine.” She says with a voice more stern than I’m used to.
“Aunt B I saw your arm,” I reach for her arm and snatch it in my hands. My heart sinks into my gut as I realize that her arm is free of any burn or mark. Her skin is perfectly smooth and tan. “That’s not possible, I saw the burn…” I trail off, making my mind to recall what I had seen.
“It’s hot out here sweetheart, your eyes must be playing tricks on you.” She strokes my long hair and curls an end in between her fingers. “Foods ready, let’s go eat inside where it’s air-conditioned.”
We eat in silence, often exchanging watchful glances at each other. For her benefit, I play dumb. I pretend like I saw nothing, however, I know what I saw. She had burnt her arm on the barbeque, badly, but now there was nothing on her skin. How was that even possible? Thinking about it made me feel as though I am going crazy, but I’m more sure than anything of what I saw. I feel the urge to call my dad and ask him if he knows anything, but I have a feeling that I’ll only get a similar reaction from him.
My aunt has never been so quiet or standoffish toward me. Mind you, we’re both quiet people, but when we’re together we tend to not shut up. It’s awkward actually to not be talking to each other, but I can’t find anything to say to her. Whenever I try to talk to her, she only offers me a small yet sad seeming smile. I’ve tried to come up with an excuse for her sudden grief, but all the justifications I’ve come up with are lame.
On my computer in my room, I type into Google how somebody can heal instantly. All the results that come up have to do with Wiccans and Vampires. Aunt Beatrice? A Witch? First off, I don’t believe in that sort of stuff. Secondly, there isn’t a thing that I don’t know about Aunt B. The woman has never kept a secret from me. With a sigh, I shut my laptop and begin to chew on my thumbnail. There has to be something I’m missing.
“Eden? Can I come in?” Aunt B knocks on the threshold of my bedroom door and peeks her head in. It’s not shut, but she’s just being respectful.
“Of course,” I respond quietly with a soft smile on my lips. She cautiously walks into my room and takes a seat beside me on my bed. I can’t help but stare at her arms as she fiddles with the fuzzy purple blanket that I’m sitting under.
“So, I have to go to this party type thing tonight,” she takes a deep breath in, seemingly stressed.
“That’s fine Aunt B, you know I don’t mind being alone.” I shrug and offer her a kind smile.
“That’s not it Eden, I was actually hoping you’d come with me.” Her smile is timid and a little glum.
“Oh, I’d rather not Aunt B, you know how I feel about going to parties.” I press my lips into a frown. I’ve never actually been to a party of any sort before, and I have no intention of starting now. The idea of crowded places and loud music make the hairs on the back of my neck and arms stand up. Crowds aren’t ideal for me, under any circumstance. I can handle the bustling crowd of the train station now, but that's more than enough to last me a lifetime.
“It’s not that type of party, is more like a ball actually. I curated it, and it would mean the world to me if you came with me, Eden.” Aunt Beatrice says, turning her lips down into a theatrical frown. With her hands covering her face she pretends to cry and flops over into my lap.
“Aunt B,” I sigh, looking down at her. My fingers find their way into her hair and play with her tangled curls.
“Please Eden, I’ll never ask you for anything ever again and you’ll be my favorite niece forever and ever.” She begs, elongating the ‘e’ in please. As she pleads, she peeks between her fingers at me before she continues to fake cry.
“Fine, fine I’ll go.” I groan and collapse back onto my bed. “And I’m your only niece Aunt Beatrice, obviously I’m your favorite.”
“Yay!” She squeals and pounces on me. “This means you have to wear a dress!” She jumps to her feet and parades from my room.
“Hey, wait!” I call behind her, springing up from my bed. “I didn’t agree to that!”
Aunt B put me in a rather simple, floor-length grey gown. It’s made of satin and clings lovingly to every curve of my body. The neckline hangs just below my collarbones and the back is open, exposing my back down to the dimples at the bottom of my spine. In a weird way, I feel as though I’m naked since the slippery fabric feels like it’s hardly there.
I don’t enjoy wearing makeup much, so Aunt B only dusts a light touch of eyeshadow and mascara on my eyelids to give them a smoky appearance. She also gives me a sparkly silver clutch to match my dress that I could put my pink-tinted lip gloss into for reapplication later on. Too frightened of what I might look like, I refuse to look in the mirror. I know that I’ll want to wipe the makeup off of my face.
“You look stunning if I do say so myself.” My aunt smiles smugly from the driver’s seat of her car. She puts the hood of the convertible up so that neither of our hair gets ruined in the wind. Tillamook is nearly an hour and a half drive, so both our hair would become tangled messes by the time we arrive. To be honest, I’m actually quite fond of the gentle waves Aunt B curled my hair into. Usually, my hair just falls straight with no body or volume whatsoever, so this change is nice.
“Thanks, Aunt B,” I smile softly. “You look amazing.” And she does. Her long coppery-brown hair is pulled into a high, messy but sexy ponytail and she wears an emerald green gown that makes the green on the inside of her iris’ stand out. Aunt Beatrice has an amazingly curvy body, and her dress hugs every last one tightly. As a young girl, I always hoped to have a body like my aunt, but I inherited one more like my mothers. Short and slender, but my thighs are thick like my aunts. I don’t have much to account for breasts, but Aunt B always said that my bottom end makes up for it.
That comment never fails to make my cheeks burn fiery red.
We’ve been driving for almost an hour and the sun was setting in front of us. With about thirty minutes left until we reach Tillamook, I rest my head on the window and shut my book. In the distance, I could see a sign that read eighteen miles until we reached our destination. I smile to myself until I hear my aunt flick on her indicator.
“Where are we going?” I furrow my brows. “Aunt B, we’re not even in Tillamook yet…” I point out my window to the sign as she turns.
“Sorry, I forgot to mention that the ball isn’t in Tillamook, it’s in Tillamook forest.” She shrugs, a smug grin crossing her matte red lips.
“It’s outside?” I ask, confused. What kind of ball is outside?
“No silly, the house is in Tillamook forest.” She laughs as though she’s trying to mask another emotion. I’m still frazzled. As far as I know, Tillamook forest is a state forest, so doesn’t that mean nobody lives there? We drive further and further down a dirt road that seems as though it goes nowhere until suddenly it becomes paved and smooth once again.
Lampposts line the sides of the road and string lights hang in the trees above us. I can’t help but gawk at the extensive setup of the lights, and we haven’t even gotten to the house yet. When we reach what seems to be the end of the driveway, tons of cars are lined up out of it. Aunt B zips around the cars and pulls hers up front. My car door is opened for me by a young man who looks at me with a frazzled look on his face. He quickly glances to my aunt who gives him a look of disapproval. I awkwardly glace back and forth between each of them.
My eyes widen as I peer up at the house, that actually looks to be more like a castle. My jaw drops as I take in the dark green spires and grey brick walls. Is this the place that Aunt B has been disappearing to all the time? A literal medieval castle? I turn to my aunt who has a smug relaxed smile on her face.
“Aunt B, what is this place?” My glance changes from the cast-iron lamps to the elegantly dresses men and women being welcomed warmly into the mansion.
“My bosses house,” she winks at me before linking her arm in my own. She walks us up the wide steps of the house to the front door where another young man stands with a list of names. He looks up from the list, giving me the same confused look as the previous boy did. What is with them? My cheeks burn red as I avert my gaze away from his stare. “Beatrice and Eden Grimmwolf.” Aunt B tells the boy, who nods and waves us through the door. Grimmwolf? Whose last name is Grimmwolf?
“Everyone keeps staring at me,” I whisper in a timid tone to my aunt who holds me close.
“It’s because everybody here knows each other Eden, they just don’t recognize you.” She replies, pulling my arm tighter to hers. “You might notice that everybody here is a bit different. Just try to keep to yourself and don’t talk to anyone too much.” She whispers lowly into my ear.
“No problem there Aunt B.” I chew my lower lip and lamely attempt to tuck myself behind my aunt. She pulls me along with her through a grand foyer, and I stare wide-eyed at the magnificent marble staircase. She leads me past the stairs and down a long, red-carpeted hallway buzzing with people. My heart pounds in my chest at the crowd grows denser and I cling to my aunt as though she is a safety vest and I’m drowning in deep, dark water.
Soon, we enter a great ballroom crowded with bodies. People are everywhere, chatting, laughing and drinking. The room is decorated splendidly with large yellow flowers and the same string lights that lined the road hang from the center of the ceiling and drape down to the walls elegantly. In the entryway, there is a banner that reads ‘United Together in Harmony & Trust’ in dark blue swirly letters.
I follow Aunt B closely as she strides confidently into the ballroom, peeking over her shoulder at the people packed into the room like sardines. I feel tiny hairs prick up on my skin as some of the people turn and stare at me with an unidentifiable look on their faces that I can only assume to be disgust. My cheeks burn red hot with embarrassment and shame. Why did I let my aunt drag me here? The people are making it obvious that I don’t belong here.
“Aunt Beatrice…” I squeeze her arm tighter and feel as tears begin to well in my eyes. “We need to leave,” a single tear falls from one of my eyes.
“I’m sorry Eden, but we can’t.” She looks at me with a sorrowful glance and uses the soft pad of her thumb to wipe the tear from my cheek. “Be brave, sweetheart. As soon as we find him, we can leave.”
“Find who?” I question breathlessly, my voice is strangled as though someone was holding me by the base of my throat. Then the scent hits my nose. A sweet musky fills the room like a dense fog and I begin to feel as though I’m floating. Now I pull my aunt through the ballroom, pushing through people like a savage to find the owner of the scent.
“Eden, what are you doing?” My aunt growls, the sound is low in her throat and sounds almost inhuman. I’m too busy to care, I feel as though a thick haze has clouded over my mind. I’m hypnotized, but I can’t help but follow the smell. The sane part of my brain tries to tell me that I’m acting crazy, to leave it be, but I feel like I’ve been taken over by something or someone else.
“I-I have to find it…” I murmur, my eyes scanning the room urgently. I feel animalistic, like a dog on the hunt for its prey.
“Find what?” My aunt calls after me. “Eden stop this now.” Her voice is strained as she takes me by my arm and yanks me backward, so we stand face to face, and she cups my cheeks in her hands and navigates my eyes with her own.
“Let me go,” I hiss lowly, unable to control myself. “I need to find him!” I cry out and struggle to free myself from her grip, but she’s too strong for me to break free.
“This can’t be possible,” she mumbles, her eyes widening.
“What can’t be possible?” I scan her eyes as my body begins to shake uncontrollably. “Aunt B, what’s happening to me?” My voice is a low whisper among the crowd, however, I’ve noticed some people turn to look at me, scanning me with their judgemental eyes.
“You,” I hear his voice boom above the crowd and the scent grows unbearable in my nose. Goosebumps rise on my arms as hot shivers trembles down my spine. I whip my head around and look for the owner until my eyes land on a pair of eyes the color of obsidian.