SEVEN CROWNS | The Black Stone

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Chapter III

Ruby and Sara just came back to Mary’s apartment after booking a table in the fanciest restaurant they could afford. Lydia and Charles, Ashley’s parents, were there too to pick the menu and order the birthday cake.

The two young girls faint on the couch and wait for Ruby’s mother to come back to eat lunch. Both of them are too lazy to cook something or even call for a pizza, they’re willing to die from hunger until Mary comes back home. The red haired rests her head on her girlfriend’s thigh and closes her eyes. No matter how much she busies herself she always ends up thinking about the mysterious purple book. Ashley’s words play in her mind once again.

I don’t think you naming yourself Ruby is just a coincidence.

She always liked the name, not only because of her hair color or because it’s similar to Rebecca as she usually tells people, but she likes it because her mother told her that her late father loved to call her that way when she was a child. She and Mary rarely talk about him, the young girl can barely remember his face.

Princess Ruby. She just remembered hearing a man’s voice whisper it when she opened the book. She gulps and close her eyes tighter, she tries to think about anything else but she fails again. Her heart beats speed up as the images of her mother laughing and playing with her surge in her mind. She doesn’t recall seeing Mary smiling that way, not sincerely at least.

As she started growing up she noticed that her mother only pretends to be happy. She can understand it because she knows how hard it is to lose someone who was important to you. The death of her husband might have caused her pain, but Ruby always found it unusual for her mother to grieve for many years. Most people usually move on and start a new chapter but Mary never seemed to have found her happiness again. She always seems like something is preoccupying her and her daughter never dared to ask about it.

“What’s wrong? You seem off lately.” Sara’s voice interrupts her thoughts. Ruby opens her eyes and find her girlfriend staring at her with her brown eyes. She gives her a smile and caresses her cheek, “Nothing to be worried about.” she whispers. “I’m just tired because of classes and work.”

Before Sara could say anything they heard the door open. Mary enters with her arms full of shopping bags and she calls them for help. Ruby hurries to check if the gifts are nicely wrapped so that she can take a lot of pictures to post later on her social account. Mary looks at the empty table and rolls her eyes, she can’t believe that two adult women can’t even fry an egg. She asks them to get her dress from the dry cleaning shop while she makes something for lunch. But before leaving to the kitchen she takes a look at her daughter and notices that the red color of her hair has become brighter as well as her green eyes. A faint smile appears on her face, she is happy that the curse is starting to go away but at the same time she’s scared for what’s coming.

“Are you alright?” Mary doesn’t realize that her daughter has been staring at her. She clears her throat and runs her fingers in her brown hair before saying, “Don’t worry, I’m doing perfectly fine.”

The red haired crosses her arms and raises an eyebrow, “You can’t fool me. What’s happening?”

Mary sighs and looks away for a while. She knows she can’t hide the truth for any longer now that the things are starting to change. Her daughter probably started getting the signs that something is going on and maybe it’s finally the moment to tell her about her real self. “Ruby, I have something to tell you my dear. But until you come back and I finish preparing what to eat.”

Ruby looks at her mother confusingly, “Is it something bad?”

Mary gives her a small smile, “It depends on you.”

Ashley is sitting on the couch looking at the TV program without really watching it while her best friend is taking a shower. She can’t take her eyes off the screen because every time she looks around she finds the purple book on the table, waiting for her curiosity to win the match.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go?” she asks loud enough for Nate to hear her.

“Yes, it’s a family time. I can’t just invite myself there!” Nate shouts from the bathroom.

“But I’m the one inviting you.” Ashley rolls her eyes.

Nate doesn’t say a word and she gets annoyed. She checks her phone and lets out a frustrated sigh when she sees no texts from her friends. She turns off the TV because she can’t stand the stupidities they’re airing. She lays her back on the couch and her eyes rest on the large book that’s innocently waiting to be opened.

She presses her lips and hesitates. It’s just a book and yet something about it is so powerful that it makes her heart pound faster.

Ashley lets out a heavy sigh and takes the heavy volume to place it on her legs. She gulps and closes her eyes while opening it carefully.

“You are our only hope.” a manly voice surges and a tall silver haired male stands up in front of her. He holds her hands and smiles, “Take care of our people.”

The beautiful woman from last time joins him and smile to Ashley, she holds her husband’s hand and both walk away, disappearing in a white light.

Ashley comes back to Nate’s couch in a blink of an eye. She throws the book on the floor and clenches her fists, hating it for making her all confused. She decides not to let it mess with her head and think about something else.

“Please, I don’t want to be left alone with my parents. The conversation always gets awkward when they start asking me about Alex.” she tries forgetting what she just saw by continuing her conversation with Nate.

She hears him opening the curtain, “Why don’t you just tell them that it’s over between you?”

The young girl sighs, “I told them plenty of times, but they keep asking me if there’s nothing we can do to solve it. I can’t tell them that he cheated, it’s too embarrassing.”

Nate get out of the shower, half naked. He wipes his wet hair with a towel and looks at his friend with a frown, “He cheated, not you. That coward is the one who should feel embarrassed, not you Ash.” he looks at her with a serious face that she’s not used to see every day. “Tell your parents that Alex doesn’t deserve you, that their precious daughter is way better without him.”

Ashley walks closer to her friend and gives him a smile. She ruffles his dark hair and says, “Not bad, Nate. Not bad at all.” she chuckles and gets her bag. “I’ll make sure to tell them tonight.” she sighs. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Nate notices her fake smile and guesses she’s not acting this way because of her parents asking about her ex boyfriend, but because no one wished her a happy birthday. Not even her best friends. He felt bad about it and he couldn’t bear the sad look on her face, so he walks to the door and whispers, “Wait.” She turns around and sees him smiling, “Happy birthday.”

She scoffs, “It took you so long.” she hits his muscled chest gently and waves him goodbye.

Later in the night, Ashley leaves her studio wearing a black dress her mother sent her this morning. Her parents insisted on inviting her for dinner to celebrate her birthday. She’s not that happy about it because last year Alex joined them and she remembers her mother telling him that he’s an angel. Little did she know.

Ashley has had enough of answering all the questions about him. She didn’t mention that he cheated on her and now her parents are thinking that she was the one to ruin their relationship.

At her surprise, the car stops in Bright Street where all the fanciest shops and restaurants are. She pays the driver and gets off the car to look for the name her mother texted her.

She doesn’t take long to find Le Papillon Doré, a place she’s been walking by almost every day and always wished she could have enough cash to eat there. “This can’t be.” she shakes her head, chuckling. She gives the receptionist her last name and the young man accompanies her inside. Before she could admire the fancy interior, she heard a loud she’s here and then people starting singing happy birthday. She widens her eyes when she sees her family and friends clapping and singing together. She starts laughing and shakes her head because she’s usually the one to surprise them.

She goes to Nate and hits his arms, “You didn’t tell me!”

“If I tell you it’s not considered a surprise anymore, is it?” he smirks and gives her a hug. “I actually enjoyed seeing you all annoyed because no one paid you attention.”

“Shut up.” she rolls her eyes and goes to hug her parents. “Thank you.” she whispers.

When she sits down she looks around and her smile fades when she spots him. Her ex boyfriend is with his family in the table in front of theirs. She clenches her fists and looks at her mother angrily.

“Honey, I’m so sorry I had no idea.” Lydia presses her lips.

“If I knew I would have never booked here.” says Ruby with an annoyed tone. One of her biggest wishes is to kill Alex for what he’s done to her friend. She only needs to hear the word and she won’t hesitate to end his life.

“Nevermind.” Ashley shrugs, “I won’t let him ruin my night. Let’s not care about him and enjoy this nice meal we won’t get the chance to taste again.”

Mary and her daughter share a worried look. Ruby is doing her best to smile and act normally for the sake of her best friend. The truth she has known from her mother earlier in the afternoon nearly made her faint. It was too much to handle but Mary asked her not to do anything or else everything will be ruined.

“Just act normal.” she whispers to her daughter. “Please not in front of this damned family.” she adds, referring to Alex’s table.

Nate keeps Ashley occupied during the entire dinner. He keeps talking to her about recent books he’s read so that her attention doesn’t turn to her ex boyfriend. Lydia changes her mind about his family when she watches his mother showing off her emerald necklace. She starts to understand what her daughter meant when she said that their family is different.

Alex’s mother asks the waiter to call the chef urgently. Lydia rolls her eyes thinking that she’s one of those rich women to always complain.

When the chef arrived, Mary dropped her fork and looked at him with wide eyes. The brown haired takes off his hat and follows the waiter. He greets the clients and asks them if there’s anything wrong with their food.

“R-ryul?” Mary gulps and hurries to pour some water in her empty glass.

“Mary?” Lydia caresses her back, “Are you alright? Do you know this young man?”

The woman shakes her head, “No, I just thought he was someone else.” she clears her throat.

Ashley notices her and Ruby share a worried look. She frowns when she realizes there’s something her friend is hiding from her.

Alex’s mother compliments the chef for the delicious meal he prepared for them. The young man smiles widely and thanks the family for their kindness. But while the woman was bragging about the many restaurants they ate at before, his eyes and mind seemed to be brought elsewhere.

Ashley sees the way he looks at the emerald necklace, the young chef is hypnotized by the green jewel. He can’t hear what the woman is saying anymore, he’s possessed by the stone’s brightness.

Ashley’s heart starts pounding when she guesses what’s going on then she looks back at Ruby and her mother who are already busy watching the young brown haired.

Nate interrupts her thoughts by touching her arm. He leans closer and whispers, “Is it what I’m thinking about?”

The black haired girl doesn’t take her eyes off Mary who seems to know a lot more than them. She frowns and says, “There’s a lot going on Nate, and we need to find out about it.” she gulps.

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