Twisted Fate

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Chapter 66

Astrid

“Daddy, who is this lady?” My little fingers graze over the crinkled film paper. I’m looking at an old photo album in daddy’s office. Sometimes if I behave, he lets me play in his office while he gets some work done. Today is one of those special days where he spends the entire afternoon with me.

My father beckons me with a wave of his hand and sits me on his lap. I giggle when he tickles my sides and takes the photo album from me, setting it on the desk.

“Sarah Collins,” he says, pointing to the woman in the photograph. She’s wearing a white dress with her long hair in a braid. I can’t keep my eyes off the glowing red diamond wrapped around her neck. It’s a big and shiny diamond.

“Who’s Sarah?”

“She was the first female of the River Ash pack,” Dad answers. “She died at a very young age when she was pregnant with her daughter.”

Hearing that makes me sad. “What happened to her?”

“You’re still too young to hear the full story, but an evil man made her disappear in the night.” Dad keeps it short and goes on to tell me about the man photographed in a suit next to hers. His name is Lucas Collins, and he’s Sarah’s brother. Lucas used to be the alpha like my daddy a long time ago.

“How come Lucas didn’t help his sister? Didn’t he love her?”

“I’m sure he did, sweetheart. But the bad man made Lucas and his family forget about Sarah like she never existed. This picture is the only proof we have left of her.”

I make a weird face that makes dad smile. “Well, that doesn’t make sense. If everyone forgot about her, then why do we remember her?”

Dad chuckles. “You never fail to surprise me with your intelligence.” He pets the top of my head. “Lucas’ son became concerned after he found this picture in a box of old things. Something about her face just made him feel like he needed to find out who she was. However, Sarah’s identity wasn’t discovered until years after her family was gone.”

That makes me feel even sadder. “You’re right, daddy. I don’t like that story. It’s very sad.” I take the picture out of its film to admire her beauty and that stunning necklace.

Dad notices my interest in the diamond and further explains to me that Lucas gifted the necklace to his sister on her birthday.

Something occurs to me, and I hop off daddy’s lap to open the closet where he keeps his sword. He doesn’t use it much, but the sword is a family air loom. Each alpha in my pack gets to claim the sword when they become alpha.

I can’t wait until it’s my turn! I’m going to be the first female alpha of my family.

Dad comes to take the heavy case off the bottom shelf before I can drop it on myself. “No, Astrid. I’ve told you plenty of times you cannot play with this sword. Your mother will skin me alive if you hurt yourself.”

“But I want to look at it,” I pout.

Even though I’ve seen it a hundred times, he still opens the case and lays it out in front of me. I find just what I was looking for and hold the picture next to the hilt. He looks down and sees what I see.

The same ruby colored diamond shines on Sarah’s neck and the ancestral sword. I like to think Lucas specially had the necklace made for her to match his sword.

“Sarah was never forgotten. She’s always been a part of us.”

I reach inside my scabbard, tracing my fingers over the gem on my sword as the memory re-plays in my head. The woman standing in front of me reaches up to touch her ruby red necklace at the same time.

“Sarah Collins?” Blair breaks the silence first, and I’m holding my breath as the woman nods. The hallway goes silent and for a while, I hear nothing. Not even the hushed conversations or traveling footsteps of the hospital staff who pass us by as if we’re nothing. All I hear is my heartbeat thundering in my ears.

As silly as it sounds, I feel like I should fall to my knees and beg this woman for forgiveness. I’m not really sure why, but I have this feeling of guilt deep in the pit of my stomach. I was just a crazy little pup when I first found out about Sarah, and I remember thinking somehow… I could have saved her.

Weird, I know.

But even more weird, I feel that way about every single woman who is standing in front of me. There’s about ten other women with Sarah and they all look so alike. It would not surprise me if they held relation to me too. One of them even has heterochromia eyes like mine.

I can’t describe the sadness and pain I feel for them. It goes beyond my relation to Sarah.

I feel… connected to them?

Sarah steps forward and I can barely make eye-contact with her. But I’m not sure if it’s because of my mixed emotion or because every time I see her face, she’s screaming bloody murder in my dreams. She is the first woman to connect me to the curse of Lamashtu and the first to have died at the hands of Jackson Blackburn.

“Why are you here?”

Her ice-cold fingers lift my chin and I have no other option but to look into her green eyes. “I should ask you that question,” she says, her hand still touching my face. “You’re not supposed to be here, my child. It’s a dangerous time for you and your witch friend.”

“We were brought here by a secret portal in Salem. I’m head priestess of the coven there,” Blair informs.

“I know who you are, Mrs. Rosales,” Sarah acknowledges.

Blair looks at me pointedly and I can see her saying bitch speak up. This is your ancestor, but I’m still too stunned to make conversation, so I let her do the talking. “We were just leaving-” she continues. “-but maybe you could help us understand why we’re here in the first place. Did Jackson Blackburn have some sort of blackmail over the doctor?”

“Railridge hospital didn’t have the funds that required Dr. Smith to continue his work. Jackson was a very wealthy man, thanks to my brother’s business skills. Lucas could always make a dollar out of something.” Sarah smiles, looking back on her memories, and I swear I see my grandmother’s face in that small expression. They really do look alike.

“Jackson bought this hospital a few months before they were going to shut down on one condition. The patients were to be examined on their strengths, and the strongest of the bunch got to be his loyal followers. They were forced to work for him, which resulted in selling their souls to the dark mother of beasts.”

Scanning over the women, I feel their apprehensive stares as Sarah mentions the dark mother. I catch the eyes of the woman standing on Sarah’s left and try to remember her.

“It’s why he makes them transform into a beast. To show their dedication to Lamashtu.” Blair is putting the pieces together when some women cover their mouth in shock.

“We don’t speak her name, witch,” The woman I played staring contest with speaks up tersely. I finally remember her round face and doe eyes in my father’s old photo album.

Sorry.” Blair covers her mouth like a child who said a bad word.

“You’re Lucas’ wife. Clara, isn’t it?” I finally get the courage to find my voice. She doesn’t have to answer my question to tell me I am right. Her face says it all. Then it occurs to me. “You’re all the previous Luna’s of my pack.”

I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out. I’ve gone down to the River Ash memorial hall since I was a pup, admiring all the portraits of our alpha’s and luna’s. I spent so much time there wondering when I’d get my picture up on the wall of greatness. Their faces should be burned in my memory.

“Clara, Ramona, Elizabeth, Josephine…” I list off their names one by one. I feel like that same pup who would sit and talk to the portraits for hours, except this time they’re real. Back then, when things were simple, and the only worries I had involved what color shirt I’d wear to school the next day. I miss those days.

I really shouldn’t be asking this, but my mouth speaks on its own. “What happened to your daughters?” It’s insensitive of me to be asking why every Luna of my pack has miscarried their daughters. But it’s a question that has haunted me for so many years.

“Our daughter survived,” Josephine speaks from the back with a wide smile.

This news confuses me. Our? “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“We’ve passed on, but our daughter has lived.”

“Where is she?”

Sarah steps forward and wraps her arms around me. And although her skin is cold, the gesture is warm and inviting. “We’re looking at her,” she whispers, sending chills down my spine. I am at a loss for words.

I open my mouth to speak when the light above our heads flickers and everything goes eerily still. Blair grabs my arm. Her breathing raged.

“What’s going on?”

“We need to leave now. Something’s about to happen.” She speaks so fast, I almost can’t comprehend what she says.

“She’s right,” Clara agrees, taking my hand in hers. The contact gives me the same feeling I did when Sarah touched me. I shift on my feet once before I’m being dragged by her to the opposite end of the hall. “There’s a secret way out back. We’ll get you and your friend out of here.” It’s the only warning we get before everything turns to shit.

The lights burst above our heads, causing us to stop running and take cover. Sarah hovers over Blair and me to shield us from the falling glass. It’s when I hear the screaming bounce off the walls and echo in my head.

The patients are running out of their rooms, and for a moment, I think they’re running from the nurses. But then I see the fearful faces of the nurses and Doctor Smith, trying to assist everyone out of the hospital.

Suddenly, I look up and see a cloud of black mist flowing down the stairs before it forms a human figure. Their glowing emerald eyes lock with mine and I spot the feminine outline of her face and the ruffles of her black dress as it slowly sways in the mist. Sarah pulls me up to my feet and runs. Many times, I try turning around to see who’s coming after us, but the girls keep pushing us forward, running down the halls like a couple of maniacs.

When we come to a dead end, the red door appears, and Sarah throws it open. “Go now,” she urges me forward.

“Wait.” I catch her arm before she can push us into the portal. “Was that Cassandra? How did she follow us here?”

“Astrid, we have to go!” Blair is tugging on my arm. I’ve never seen her so scared in my life. She’s got one foot in the portal and one foot out. “That’s not Cassandra. I don’t know who that person is, but trust me when I tell you, I can feel their power. You and I wouldn’t stand a chance.”

Sarah’s face turns dark. “She’s right, Astrid. She can’t harm you in the present time, but you’ve traveled to the past. You’re on her time now.”

“Who?” I wish someone would tell me what the hell is going on.

This time Clara’s hands come up to cup my face, whispering. “My dearest daughter…I carried you in my womb for nine months and had you ripped away from me the day you were born. We all suffered great loss for the first time. Please, don’t make us lose you a second time.”

Goosebumps travel down my arms the minute she lets me go. The emerald-eyed monster running towards the portal is the last thing I see. I’m speechless as Blair pulls me inside the portal and spits us out on the floor of Ms. Hattie’s giftshop.

We’re both breathing hard with our cheeks planted to the floor as if it’s the most comforting thing we’ve ever rested on. I’m still in shock, laying on the floor when Blair recovers. “You’re right,” she says, standing to her feet and dusting off her jeans. “I’m never going through that fucking door again.”

Eventually I follow her into the backroom where Louisa is found wearing an apron and goggles, mixing a boiling pot. “I didn’t hear you guys come in.” Her eyebrows draw together at the sight of me. “What’s with the look on your face? You look as pale as a bloodsucker.”

I was just told by my ancestors that my whole life has been a lie. Apparently, I have nine lives like a cat and now I am questioning my entire existence.

“She’s just tired, hon,” Blair answers for me instead.

When I stare at Louisa a little too long, she flips me off with her gloved hand. “Take a picture, bitch.”

Blair shakes her head. “Leave her alone, Louisa. I’m not in the mood to hear your sarcasm.”

“Fine. Let me try being a little more polite.” Louisa smiles at me. “I still hate you.”

“The feeling is mutual,” I mutter on my way out. I have no energy to fight with her or look at her stupid smug face any longer. I’m not sure I’ll have energy for anything for the rest of the year.

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