T W E N T Y - T W O
I dragged an unconscious Zephyr into his room and deposited him on (Well, mostly on) the couch in his room.
I quickly covered him with a blanket before hightailing my butt our of there.
I don’t want to believe it, considering he told me to not believe whatever he said while under the influence, but what he said shook me to my core and brought back memories that I thought were long forgotten.
I rushed to my room, nearly sighing when I got inside and locked the door.
I looked at my bed, contemplating whether I should take a shower or just go to bed after the long day that I had.
The shower won, considering that I was too wired at the moment, my brain analyzing every word Zephyr spoke to me since we first met.
I sighed, letting the bathroom fill up with steam before jumping inside the shower.
After nearly ten minutes of hot water streaming down my back, I couldn’t get his words out of my mind.
“You’re my little Phoenix” he said “Pulling me from the ashes before I have the chance to lose myself completely.”
Knowing that this was going nowhere, I hopped out of the shower and decided to get ready for bed.
Only, after I was finished with my nightly routine, I found myself staring up at the ornate ceiling.
“ARG!” I growled, throwing the blankets off of me and jumping off the bed to pace the expansion of my room “WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER EVERYTHING?”
I remember, vaguely, saying those words to someone but whenever I tried to picture that someone’s face, there is always a blur.
I also remember spending time, when I was younger, with a kid my brother’s age but my parents told me that I was always off playing on my own with my imaginary friend.
I paused ’Unless he wasn’t my imaginary friend.”
“Ugh!” I fell back into bed as a migraine started to emerge, making my right eye see auras “I just want answers!”
Which I did.
But unless I was willing to wake up a drunk and frisky Zephyr with babies on the brain, I wouldn’t be getting those answers tonight.
So I took a deep breath, willing for sleep to take over.
Which it did.
And boy, did it bring my memories with it.
Sin 7, Zephyr 10
“MOM!” I yelled from our back porch “I’M GOING OUT INTO THE WOODS TO PLAY!”
“Inside voice Serenity” Mom scolded, poking her head out from the kitchen “And take your brother!”
“Tristan’s outside playing with some girl” I wrinkled my nose “He keeps giving her googly eyes.”
Mom tried to give me a intimidating look but the giggle that broke free from her had me grinning.
Dad walked in at that very moment and gave me a suspicious look.
“What did you do this time?” he asked, sounding both tired and amused at the same time “And who do we have to send a check too?”
“She hasn’t done anything” Mom laughed before adding “Yet.”
“Then why does she look like the cat that ate the canary?”
“Because she’s trying to embarrass her brother” Mom said “He has a little crush on the new girl in the neighborhood.”
Dad peeked out of the back door curiously, grinning when he saw that my brother was looked at the girl with hearts in his eyes.
“Thatta boy” Dad whispered quietly, knowing that Tristan would hear him.
Tristan whipped his head around, found all three of us staring at him, and blushed, his face widening in horror.
I snickered and pointed, making kissy faces at him when the girl’s back was turned.
Tristan growled and turned around, focusing his attention back onto the game they were playing.
My Dad lifted me up, kissing my cheeks, and making loud smacking noises to embarrass me.
I squealed, pushing his face away with my tiny fists.
“STOP!” I laughed “You’re ruining my street cred!”
Dad paused his attack and gave me an incredulous look “Street cred?”
I nodded vigorously.
“Do you even know what that means?” Dad huffed out a laugh “Where did you learn that from?”
I shrugged “EJ.”
Dad shook his head, chuckling under his breath “That kid”
“He certainly has an...active imagination” Mom snickered “I wonder where he gets that from?”
“From my crazy sister” Dad said.
He let me down and gave me a pointed look “Be good monkey.”
I gave him a toothy grin and ran out the door.
Fifteen minutes later I was down by my favorite spot near the creek.
“Mr. Ribbers!” I squealed, watching my favorite frog jump from one stone to the other in the shallow creek.
I crossed the river, trying to catch him as he continued to hop away from me.
My foot caught the edge of one of the larger stones and I closed my eyes, ready for impact.
Only, it didn’t come.
When I peaked one eye open, I found myself hovering over less than an inch over the creek.
“I don’t think that frog was worth ruining your pretty face over” An amused voice sounded from above me “He was trying to kill you.”
“Let me go” I snarled, trying to punch him from behind.
“A ‘thank you’ would be appreciated” the voice said sarcastically before lifting me up in his arms and depositing me on the soft dirt.
I sat on the dirt, glaring up at the boy whose face I couldn’t see due to the sun glaring behind his head.
The boy shifted away from the sun and I squinted at him.
He was...what my Mom would say...cute.
He was tall, taller than my own brother, with dark brown hair and pretty eyes. If I had to guess his age, he had to have been at least my brother’s age, if not younger.
I was not my brother.
I was not some lovesick fool vying for the attention from someone.
The boy poked my cheek “Too much frowning and you’re face will get frozen like that.”
I swatted his hand away “That’s not true.”
The boy shrugged and sat down next to me.
I glanced at him, poking at the mud crusting my hands.
“I’ve never seen you before” I said “Are you new to the Pack?”
He gave me a small smile “No.”
I jumped up, readying myself in fighting position like my father and brother taught me.
“Who are you?” I asked harshly “And what are you doing on my land?”
He raised an eyebrow “Your land?”
I nodded “My father’s the Alpha who protects this land and the people on it.”
“Relax Princess” he drawled out, picking up a stone and tossing it up in the air “I won’t hurt you.”
I remained in my position, my muscles coiled tight, wondering how far I could make it without him catching me.
“If you’re going to run” He said “I’m not going to chase you.”
I narrowed my eyes “Why not?”
He raised an eyebrow “You want me to chase you?”
“Don’t trespassers usually chase their victims to keep them quiet?”
“Don’t know” He shrugged “I’m not a trespasser.”
I raised an eyebrow “You’re trespassing now.”
He shrugged again “Why are you trying to catch that frog anyway?”
I eyed him warily and kept my distance “He’s my friend.”
The boy snorted “Your friend?”
I stiffened, nodding indignantly “Yes.”
“And you don’t have any human friends.”
“I have human friends” I said “My cousins.”
“Cousins don’t count.”
“Then no” I paused “I hate people.”
The boy chuckled.
“So what are you doing here trespasser?”
The boy threw the stone he was holding.
“Visiting my grandmother” he said “She lives nearby.”
“Is she part of the Pack?” I asked, toeing the gravel underneath my tennis shoes.
The boy snorted “No.”
I narrowed my eyes “Then how’d you get so far out here if you Grandma doesn’t live on our land?”
He opened his mouth to answer but my brother’s voice called out.
“SERENITY!” Tristan called “DAD WANTS YOU!”
“OVER HERE!” I yelled back, looking behind me.
“Do you...” I turned my head back to the boy and found that he was gone.
Four Days Later
“I’M LEAVING!” I called out the next day after dinner, scrambling outside as quickly as I could while the sun was still out, in order to avoid my parents calling me back inside.
I was almost home free when my Dad came out of his office and stopped me.
I froze and turned my head to meet his gaze.
“Yes father?” I batted my eyelashes up at him “Was there something you needed?”
“Drop the innocent act” He narrowed his eyes at me “Where have you been going for the last four days?”
“To play in the woods” I said innocently “Like I always do.”
“You never go four days in a row.” He narrowed his eyes “Especially after the sun begins to set.”
I shrugged “I”m practicing my shifting.”
“Your shifting is flawless” he said “Has been since you were a baby.”
“You can never be too sure.”
He squatted down to my level and held my chin “Why are you lying to me baby girl?”
“I’m not lying” I said weakly “I do go and practice my shifting.”
“Serenity...” he sighed “Whatever it is, you know you can tell me.”
“It’s nothing Dad.” I kissed his cheek and ran out into the woods “I’ll see you in a little bit!”
“ZEE!” I called out to the trespasser, whose name I finally learned after I won a particularly ferocious game of UNO “I’M HERE!”
“ZEE?” I called, walking further from our spot, the one where we first met “WHERE ARE YOU?”
I lifted my nose up at the smell of burning wood.
Suddenly, dread began to fill my stomach.
I followed the smell and nearly whimpered when I found Zee, standing in front of the fire and looking at it blankly.
I shouted in outrage and sprinted as fast as I could as he got closer to the fire, the flames burning the edges of his t-shirt.
I tackled him to the ground and straddled him, punching him as hard as I could.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
He stared blankly at me, tears clouding the corners of his eyes.
“IT’S NOT FAIR!” He wailed and I stopped my assault, looking at him in confusion “WHY ME? WHY?!”
I bit my lip, uncomfortable at the display of emotions on his face.
I hated any type of difficult emotion but crying, by far, was the one I loathed the most.
“What’s not fair?” I asked softly, patting the strange boy’s head.
He continued to cry, screaming at the sky like if it could hear him.
A little while later, after the sun went down and his tears finally dried up, I worked up the courage to ask a despondent Zee what was wrong.
“My father took something from me” he said stoically “And he won’t give it back until after I do what he says.”
“Oh” I said simply “That sucks.”
He gave me a small smile “Yeah, it really does.”
I stood up and held out my hand to him “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“To steal back the thing your father took from you.” I tried to yank him to his feet but he wouldn’t budge.
Instead, he yanked me back down to the ground.
“We can’t Serenity” he said, patting my head softly.
“Why not?” I pouted “Usually, when my Dad takes something from me after I get in trouble, I can sneak into his office and steal it back.”
“My dad is...Different than yours.” Zee paused “What he took... I just can’t steal back from him. I have to work for it.”
“Work for it how?” I wrinkled my nose “Like doing chores?”
He gave me a small smile “Kind of.”
“For how long?” I asked.
“Until he decides that I’m worthy enough.”
“No offense” I scowled “But your dad’s kind of a jerk.”
“He is.” Zee nodded.
We were engulfed in silence until I brought up the elephant in the room.
“Zee” I whispered so soft that I was afraid he wouldn’t hear me.
“Besides your dad taking away your toy...” I began, swallowing thickly “Is everything alright at home? He doesn’t....hurt you...does he?”
“Oh Serenity...” He engulfed me in a hug “He doesn’t hurt me.”
Tears, stupid tears, out of nowhere sprung to my eyes as his hug grew tighter.
“You know you can talk to me” I said, mimicking my dad’s words from earlier “You can tell me anything. Even if something’s wrong.”
“Everything’s fine Serenity” He patted my hair “My dad’s a jerk but he’s not an abusive one.”
I paused and spoke softly “Then why were you about to walk into that fire?”
Zee stiffened, his slightly larger body tensing beneath mine.
“I...” he swallowed “I...can relate to the fire...”
I pulled back at looked at his profile, his eyes actively avoiding mine.
“It’s...free” he said softly “Free to do as it pleases, burn as it pleases, without anyone or anything trying to dictate to it how to burn.”
“But you almost hurt yourself.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” he smiled softly.
“Because I had you” he said “You’re my little Phoenix, pulling me from the ashes before I had the chance to lose myself completely.”
I gasped awake, remembering all my encounters with Zee, or Zephyr as he was truly called.
My parents had found me that night, sitting alone and talking to myself.
When I tried explaining to them who I was talking to, they immediately took my to some Child Psychologist the next day who explained that I was going through some childhood phase in which my mind was making up an imaginary friend due to my lack of social interaction I had with my peers.
The Psychologist stated that the more I began interacting with people in my age group, the faster my imaginary friend would disappear.
She recommended that my parents put me into some after-school activities, which they did, in order to stimulate my overactive mind.
While I tried to tell anyone who would listen that Zee was real, they sympathetic smiles and pushed for me to involve myself more with my peers.
Eventually, I must have got so fed up with everyone’s stares that I immersed myself in my sports, like soccer and volleyball, and must have forgotten about Zee.
I plopped back against the mattress with a small smile.
I knew I wasn’t crazy.
Suddenly, I frowned, my mind racing.
What was so important to Zephyr that Hades had to confiscate.
More importantly...Why does it seem like this mission we’re going on has something to do with it?