After biding the family goodbye, I walked back to the house with the twins. Khloe and Keaton retired to their rooms while I raided the fridge for a much-needed bedtime snack. I placed the bread, jelly, and peanut butter on the table, noticing the dim light and petite figure sitting at the end of the leather couch. Mom was in the living room with a large book in one hand and a glass of red wine in the other. Her silence could only mean one thing- something was bothering her.
I watched her as she sighed and drank her wine. I could always tell when something was heavy on her mind and vice versa. I quickly made my snack and poured a glass for myself before sitting next to her.
“Cut diagonally and no crust, just how you like it,” I said, offering mom half of my snack. She giggled and took her time choosing only the half shaped perfectly. She’s weird like this, perfectionism at its finest.
“Mmm,” She hummed in approval after a bite, giving me a thumbs up, “You used the good jelly.”
“Of course. Dad always buys that healthy stuff that tastes like cardboard,” I grimaced. Because of his obsessive need to eat the same healthy foods for months on end, I will never touch salmon or broccoli ever again.
“He does, and it tastes awful,” She chuckled, “Is he still out there with your uncles?” She asked next, waving towards the backdoor. I nodded.
We ate our snack in silence before I curled up under the plush cover and laid my head on her lap. I’d done this ever since I was a pup. It’s our way of bonding, and sometimes she’d massage my scalp (my favorite part) until I fell asleep.
I turned my body and snuggled deeper into her lap as she ran her fingers through my long hair. It was then I’d noticed the open photo album on the coffee table.
“Who are these people?” I asked her curiously. I’d never seen the photo album before and judging from the people in the pictures and their outdated clothes, these were old photos.
“Some of our ancestors are in here, and the others are old friends of mine.”
“Can I look at them?”
“Sure!” Mom said, handing me the photo album. I took it and shuffled on my back so we could both see. She played with my hair as I asked her about some of the photos.
“Is this grandma’s mother?” I asked shockingly. It amazed me how much my mother and grandmother looked exactly like her. Almost identical. Her genes were dominant throughout my mothers’ side of the family.
“It is,” She confirmed, grinning after learning the reason behind my expression, “Why are you so surprised? You look exactly like me.” This was true.
Strangers mostly confused my mother and me as sisters, twins even. I inherited her height, wavy black hair, and fair skin. Even her attitude came out of me now and then—everything except for one small detail.
“Almost exactly,” I pointed out the apparent difference between her and me. Heterochromia is something I inherited from my grandfather. Only my left eye is blue like moms’ and the other multicolored. It’s usually the first thing about me to catch people’s attention.
I skimmed through a couple of pages, scanning over all the different faces of our ancestors. Meanwhile, mom hummed to herself as she continued braiding my hair. It wasn’t until I turned the page to some photos of a blonde-haired woman that she stopped mid caress. I peered up into her eyes; a mournful expression crossed her face.
Mom smiled lightly though it didn’t reach her eyes. She sighed, “Loretta Blackburn.”
I paused before looking back to the first photo of Loretta. She was pictured wearing a grey sweater with a pink heart sketched on the top corner, her curly blonde hair in a high ponytail. Her silver eyes shined almost as bright as her smile. She was breathtaking, even at a young age.
“You never talk much about her. Were you two close?” I asked.
“Very,” She answered short, the hurt audible in her voice, “I don’t like talking about her because of your father’s opinions on the Blackburn’s.”
I frowned, feeling bad about the predicament my father forced upon her. It couldn’t have been easy to be friends with someone your mate loathed.
The next page held various pictures of Loretta and mom, posing creatively. I smiled as I saw the two of them making funny faces and Loretta on mom’s back. All their happiest memories kept inside this book. I could tell they’d shared many secrets and made many promises. It instantly reminded me of my friendship with Nicole.
Mom smiled, pointing to the one with their faces both covered in cake, “My brother took this at my 15th birthday party,” She giggled, “I was so mad at Lorretta for scheming with your uncle to smash my face into the cake. I ended up throwing the whole thing at both. Your grandmother was furious with me because it was expensive.” I chuckled.
I listened attentively and smiled after she’d give me a backstory for each one, although I felt even worse for her. I never realized how much Loretta truly meant to her. They weren’t just friends; they were best friends. Loretta made a huge mistake, and she paid the price greatly for it. She was now nothing but paper memories in my mother’s photo album.
“Why’d she do it?” I asked suddenly. It bewildered me to think about all the possible reasons she gave up her perfect life for some forbidden love affair. She was destined to be the next alpha of Blood Rose, but in an instant, everything was taken away when her family found out about the secret pregnancy. Loretta was banished and on her own from the time she gave birth to her first hybrid son.
They say she lived a horrible life until her death seven years ago. The burned remains were found at the cabin she and her sons resided in. No one knows exactly what happened, but all red flags pointed to her chosen mate, who disappeared after the incident.
Mom stared off into space, deep in thought. The silence stretched longer before she finally spoke, “He was good to her in the beginning. He wined and dined her, bought her the most expensive jewels. He even brought her back to his royal home, which is forbidden to our kind,” Royal? She trailed off, gathering her thoughts, “Everything took a turn for the worst when she became pregnant with his son.”
The skin between my brows pulled in, “Why? Wouldn’t having a son make him happy?”
“Oh, he was pleased about his creation,” She corrected, “But for all the wrong reasons. He only wanted to have a child to impress his family. Afterall, the dark prince needed a son to be the next heir.”
“Dark prince?” I stared at her with my face contorted in confusion. She kept talking about this demon as if he were of some higher power. It made me want to question further about his identity, and why he killed the mother of his child.
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“Who is he anyway?”
“Oh honey,” Mom sighed, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Was all she said before getting up from the couch.
“Try me,” I said without missing a beat. She held my hand and sighed heavily. She opened her mouth to tell me more, but nothing came out. Instead, she bent over, kissed me on my forehead, and wished me a good night’s rest. But I wasn’t tired anymore. I wanted to know more about this, but she threw out our wine and turned off the lights. I knew she was done with the conversation, so I gave up.
“Astrid,” She called before I could head upstairs.
“Yeah?” I turned to see her blue eyes swirling with mixed emotions as she stared at me. I couldn’t decide whether she looked sadder or concerned though her features schooled over as she tipped her chin and spoke grimly.
“You may not believe in all the stories told from our past…” She trailed off, climbing up the steps, “But those events did happen, and there are much greater forces of evil among us, and we must not underestimate its power,” She stopped at the railing, looking at me over her shoulder.
“I want you to remember that. Always,” She said before leaving me alone with my puzzling thoughts.