Krystel walked into her room and shut the door. She had been careful of that since Alessandra stumbled in. She walked in front of the mirror and sat down. The two just stared at each other before Rose finally ended the silence.
"She's getting too close," she said urgently. "We need to do something. Now."
Krystel shook her head. "Doing something drastic will only make things worse," she insisted. She was about to continue, but Rose spoke first.
"How much do you think she's already pieced together simply by finding that one invitation?" she demanded.
Krystel got distracted by the invitation. "You know, I'm kind of surprised she hasn't found the others. I mean, the royal family has been invited me to their children's christenings and coronations since Johnathan."
"We need to do it," Rose said angrily.
Krystel stood up. "Have you figured out a way how to?" she challenged. "Because we can't do anything until someone or something breaks her heart."
The two were silent again. After seventeen years, they had never figured out any way to do it.
"Why not just tell her?" Rose asked. Krystel looked at her. She had that evil glint in her eyes, the one Krystel had seen right before she was killed.
"What?" Krystel asked. She wasn't confused, she wanted Rose to explain further. How would telling Alessandra anything help their cause?
"Tell her," Rose repeated, enunciating her words. "Tell Alessandra what we've always planned on doing with her. Tell her that she's never been more than our little stand–in. It'll break her." Rose was smiling by the end of her little speech.
Krystel bit her lip, a habit she had picked up from Alessandra. "Would that work?" she questioned. "I mean, with as much as she's already figured out..."
"She wants to believe that you're not this evil person," Rose went on. "She wants to believe that I don't exist. Finding out that not only is she right, but that you're going to kill her, will be the exact push we need to actually be able to kill her."
Krystel considered what Rose was telling her. She was right. It would be enough. It would be exactly what the two had tried discovering for seventeen years. Krystel didn't know if, by doing that, Alessandra and her pure heart would be able to destroy Rose, or if she would indeed just become another victim in the Soul's cruel cycle.
Rose gasped. Krystel looked up, and watched the wicked smile spread across her face. "What?" Krystel asked. "What's going on?"
"Someone was listening outside the door," Rose said. Her voice was too sweet. "Someone just heard everything I said."
Krystel's eyes went wide. "Alessandra." She hurried to her doors, opening both of them. Alessandra wasn't there. Krystel looked up and down the hallways, but she was nowhere to be seen. Finally she looked across the hallway, and took slow steps towards the doors. She placed her hand on a door, and could feel Alessandra on the other side, sliding down to the floor. The door moved slightly as she cried.
Krystel stood with her hand on the door for a few minutes. She gathered her courage, took a deep breath, and knocked on the door. "Alessandra?" she asked quietly. "Alessandra, are you in there?"
Alessandra lifted her head, moving it around to stretch her neck. She wiped away the tears' trails on her face, then rubbed the remaining tears in her eyes away. She didn't answer, but used the door to help her stand back up.
"Listen, Alessandra," Krystel said, "I'm not sure what you heard, but you have to trust me. I know things sound scary, and wrong, but I need you to trust me. Please."
How can I? Alessandra thought. After all of that, how can I?
"I know that it doesn't make sense, and I wish I could tell you more, but it's dangerous for both of us. So please, for now, just trust me on this." Krystel leaned her head against the door, hoping she was making it through to Alessandra.
She still didn't respond, just stood there looking at the door. Finally, she heard Krystel's voice whisper one last word. "Goodnight."
Krystel retreated to the library. Not wanting to deal with Rose, she avoided anything that could be reflective. Rose would have a fit over what she just did. She went to where Alessandra had been working throughout the day, and found Johnathan's invitation to her sitting on top of a small stack of books. She gently picked it up, and waved her hand over it, restoring it from its old age. A small smile lit her face. "Why couldn't your descendant be as good as you?" she asked the paper.
Alessandra looked down, tears threatening to spill over again. She blinked them back. Something strange was happening inside of her. For the first time, she felt angry. The tears receded, and Alessandra found within her a new strength. She took a deep breath. Tomorrow, she thought, I need to leave tomorrow, before they can get me. She walked to her closet, trying to start a mental checklist of things she would need: a change of clothes, a warm blanket.
Hanging to the side was a dark blue cloak Krystel had given her on her birthday. Alessandra hadn't understood why she needed it; she never went outside. But now the gift could be used properly. Alessandra took it off the hook and held it up. It was long and made of a thick fabric. She swung it around and rested it on her shoulders, fastening it there. She looked in the mirror at her image, twisting around to see how it fit at different angles. She put the hood up over her head.
It will do, she thought. Alessandra removed it and placed it on her bed, then hand her hand over it. She put a small bit of magick in it––something she had learned on her own––to keep her hidden from danger. Whether that danger was Krystel or her friend, or something out there she didn't know, but now at least she would be a bit safer.
Alessandra stood for a minute with her hands on her hips. She was trying to think of something she could use to carry her supplies, but her mind was tired and she could feel it. She moved the cloak back into her closet on the hook, then laid down on her bed. Sleep came very quickly.
Alessandra woke the next morning refreshed. She got up and changed quickly, opting for a more simple dress than most of the ones in her closet. With a deep breath, she ventured out of the sanctity of her bedroom. She went across the hall and knocked on Krystel's door. Hearing no sound, she looked around, then went in.
Alessandra was always a bit overwhelmed whenever she went into Krystel's room. It was much darker than Alessandra's was, even with the sun shining through the doors leading to the balcony. She looked around again, making sure she was alone, then went to Krystel's closet.
Most of her closet held the clothes Alessandra had outgrown throughout the years. Only a small part of the items hanging belonged to Krystel, and it was easy to pick them out: they were all black. Now that Alessandra knew who Krystel was, she understood why.
She had only seen it once, but it had to still be in here. She pushed aside dresses, looking behind them and along the wall until––finally!––there it was. It wasn't a large bag, but it would work for what she needed. She quickly went back to her room, closing and locking the door. Alessandra took the bag into her closet, and put one dress in as neatly as she could. It still took up half the room, but she would have to make do. I won't have room for a blanket, she thought, then looked at her cloak. The cloak will have to do.
She left the bag in the closet, and carefully left her room again. This time her destination was the library. Alessandra didn't know how far away the next city was, but there was a map of the land somewhere in the room. She had a better idea of where it was than most other things in there. She still hadn't run into Krystel, but she was being careful not to get caught.
The doors to the library were already open. Alessandra stopped outside them. She slowly looked around inside, trying to see if Krystel was there. She couldn't find anything, but still. She carefully walked in, looking all around just in case, and made her way to where she knew the map to be. She turned a corner, then stopped dead.
Krystel was still in the library, but had fallen asleep on a chair. The invitation was still held tight in her hand. Alessandra looked at her for a moment, then quietly walked towards her. Krystel was laying in the chair sideways, her head against the arm and her legs dangling over the other. Her feet were resting on a stack of books. In between two of them, towards the bottom of the pile, Alessandra could see the map sticking out. She bit her lip. Getting it out was going to be difficult.
She bent down and sat on the floor next to the pile. She could hear Krystel's relaxed breathing, and tried to make her own match it. Alessandra grabbed the corner of the map, and gently pulled. The books moved with it. She held out a hand to steady the pile before they fell over. She reminded herself to keep breathing, then held her free hand a few inches away from the books, her palm facing down. She twisted her hand up, and slowly rose it. The books above the map followed, magickally raising. She didn't need them up very far to slide the map out. She brought them down again, then steadied them. She looked up at Krystel, still sound asleep.
Alessandra stood up and quickly made her way out. She rolled the map up, then made her way to the kitchen. She grabbed a small loaf of bread, some apples and carrots, and the remaining chunk of goat cheese, along with a rag to tie and carry it in.
Back in her bedroom she piled the last of her supplies into her bag. She took her cloak of the hook and swung it around, fastening it around her neck. Then Alessandra closed her closet doors. She walked to her balcony, plucking one of the roses off. She admired the view, then went back inside and laid the rose on her pillow. She walked back to the balcony, stopping to look around her room one final time.
Alessandra grew up in these walls. Part of her cried out to stay, but she dismissed it. Staying was dangerous. She closed and locked the balcony doors, then walked over to the edge. She looked over the view her balcony always gave her, then looked over her shoulder one last time. She whispered one word, then climbed on top of the railing, and dropped into the forest below.
* * *
Krystel woke with a start. Something was not right. She sat up in the chair in the library and looked around. She stood up and stretched, then left the room. While she still didn't want to face Rose, some things just couldn't be avoided for long. She stopped outside her bedroom and looked across the hall. Alessandra's doors were still closed. Krystel walked across and tried to open them, but they were still locked. With a sigh, she went to her room and sat down in front of the mirror.
Rose was sitting in the reflection of the chair, rather than standing. She didn't say anything; just looked. Krystel was concerned. "What?" she asked, breaking the silence. "No witty commentary? No snide backtalk?"
Rose took a deep breath. "I can't feel your precious child anymore."
Krystel blinked. "What do you mean?"
Rose kept her voice oddly calm for her. "Last night, I could feel her because her heart was breaking, and that registered with the black part of her soul. I could feel that. I can't feel your precious child anymore," she repeated, enunciating each word.
Krystel shook her head. "I still don't understand. Are you saying she stopped her heart from breaking?"
Rose looked away, reminiscing. "I've only ever seen it done once," she told Krystel. "It was in my early years. Some girl had just gotten her heart broken by some boy. I was going to sweep in and make my move, and then her best friend decided they would get vengeance."
"Define 'vengeance'," Krystel mumbled. She had seen many different kinds in her years.
Rose waved it away. "It was just some harmless prank, really, but it was enough to help her get over it. The next day she was out and about looking for someone new."
"Someone actually stopped their heart from breaking," Krystel said, making sure she was getting the point of the story. "What did you do?"
"Oh," Rose smiled, "I took her best friend a week later." She laughed. "Her poor lover got drunk and ended up in a bar fight. Died a few hours later. She was not happy."
"I can imagine." She brought Rose back to the subject at hand. "So you're saying that Alessandra stopped her heart from breaking, after she heard all that?"
Rose nodded. "My guess is that whatever you said to her helped her move along. So, once again, everything is your fault." Krystel rolled her eyes, though she was a bit glad at the news. She didn't want anything bad to happen to Alessandra. "My question is the same question I've always asked you: now what?"
Krystel slowly started pacing. "Now what indeed," she repeated quietly. She thought about what to do next. She looked at the balcony doors. The sun was setting, and she hadn't seen or heard anything from Alessandra since yesterday. She took a deep breath, then headed for the kitchen. No doubt Alessandra spent the entire time in her room. She was probably starving. Krystel made a light snack, mostly as a peace offering, then went to Alessandra's room. The doors were still closed and locked. Krystel knocked.
"Alessandra?" she called loudly. "Are you in there? I brought you some food." There was no answer. "Alessandra?"
Krystel wasn't shocked that she was being ignored, but Alessandra was polite enough to at least give a hint that she was there and listening. Krystel held her hand against the key hole and magickally unlocked the door. "Alessandra?" she asked as she opened the door. She looked around the room; it was clean and tidy as always, but the girl was nowhere to be found. Krystel looked to the bed, made perfectly, but had an extra item. Krystel pushed the plate of food upwards, keeping it floating there, and walked towards the bed. She passed Alessandra's mirror and Rose appeared, watching Krystel intently.
Krystel approached the single red rose on the bed picked it up. She became very worried.
"Alessandra?" she called again, more urgently this time.
"No," Rose said firmly. "No, she wouldn't have..." She didn't finish her sentence, Krystel ran out of Alessandra's bedroom and began checking any other room she could be in, then checked every other room. The castle was filled with Krystel's voice calling out one word: "Alessandra!" She clutched the rose tightly in her hand. Finally she went back to the girl's room and sat on her bed.
"She's gone," she finally whispered. "She's gone."
"She can't be gone," Rose said, feeling the same disparity Krystel was. "How can she be gone?"
Krystel shook her head. She felt herself going numb. "She's just... gone." She looked down at the rose she held. It was Alessandra's last goodbye to her.
"Krystel, focus!" Rose snapped. "We need to find her!"
"How?" Krystel demanded to know. She looked up at Rose, glaring at her perfect reflection.
"I don't know!" she yelled back. Rose took a deep breath, trying to calm down. "But, she can't have gotten very far," she paused, her face scrunched in uncertainty. "Right?"
Krystel shook her head and shrugged, not knowing what to say. They had waited too long for Alessandra, and now she was gone. She had slipped through their fingers like grains of sand. They couldn't afford to hunt her down.
Krystel looked over at the balcony doors. She got up, leaving the rose on the bed, and walked over and unlocked them, stepping onto Alessandra's small balcony. She looked down, but the forest was too dense for her to see anything beyond the leaves. She sighed. Oh, Alessandra, she thought. Please be safe.