It was hard to mourn someone you hated... Aaron wasn’t sure how to process it if he was being honest. How do you mourn your father, a man who did nothing but hate and hit and hurt you for four years? How do you deal with the death of someone who you have only a handful of good memories of them? Do you just focus on the bad and ignore the good? Should you do what so many do and speak of the dead with reverence and adoration they probably didn’t deserve?
Aaron had no idea... all he knew was that his father was dead and he was at the old man’s funeral, watching them lower the man’s coffin into his grave. His father’s face, despite the work of the morticians, was still purple and red and worn from years of working in the harsh sun for up to sixteen hours a day. He looked pissed, even from the grave, a miserly sight that he was all too familar with even if it had been almost two years since he had last seen the man in person.
Age had not been kind to his father... grays covered his head, his face was pock marked especially his bulbous nose. He could not see it, but Aaron knew that if he looked into the man’s chest he’d see a withered and blackened heart, years of being around smokers and working around dust and dirt and outside pollutants having taken their toll. His lungs would be worse, breathing in the horrors of the world only to have them etched into every nerve, every cell, leaving the man weaker and miserable.
“I’ll miss you, I guess.” He whispered, faintly as possible as lift lowered his father, using the creaking of the wheels and rope to mask the sound. “I have a few good memories of you even if you were a bastard most of the time. I can cherish those if nothing else. Might as well take something positive out of the parts of my life you carved out of me.”
A thud signaled his father’s final rest as his coffin touched the bottom of the grave. It was a morbid sight, and one that sent a cold clutching grasp into Aaron’s heart, leaving him filled with a sense of dread and misery that didn’t match his disdain for the man being buried. He almost threw the handful of dirt he was given onto his father’s coffin before nearly running away, ignoring the stares and hateful glares that followed him. He didn’t have to be there, he owed his father nothing...
Bryce Mathews was a monster in life, death only freed the world from the tyranny he projected onto his children.
“Aaron... are you okay?
Soft and weathered, Arthur Roberts’ voice was a balm to the pain in Aaron’s chest, he turned to face his foster father, not bothering to wipe away the traitorous tears that had fallen despite his misgivings about the funeral.
Tall and kind, with weathered skin and an ashy mustache on his tan face, Arthur just radiated decency. Aaron felt better just looking at him, his quiet strength something he hoped to never lose.
“I’m fine I think... it’s just... it’s …so... I don’t know... confusing? I mean, he was a monster, but he as still my dad and not all of my memories are terrible. I can remember him being kind, decent and friendly but it feels like a different life. I can’t figure out if I miss him or not, if I mourn him or not.”
Arthur’s face softened even more and he reached out, a soft leathered hand on his shoulder. “That’s for you to figure out, Aaron. Your in a hard position, one I can’t even begin to understand... it’s not something I can really help you with. I’ll be here with you and for you, so will Tammy and Cayla.”
Oddly, even without any actual advice, Aaron felt better. That was something he always enjoyed about Arthur, he didn’t try to make things better with false promises or lies, he was honest about his shortcomings... there was a reliability in that.
“I do appreciate that... I really do.” He offered a smile to the man, one returned to him. “Can we go home?”
“Sure, Tammy and Cayla are already in the car.”
As they moved towards the car, moving past the various suit and dress wearing mourners, Aaron felt something brush by him, cold like he was dipped in ice. He turned, looking for the source but saw nothing...
But he could feel it, like something watching him... hair stuck up on the back of his neck, a sickening tug in his stomach. Something was wrong, but the day looked exactly the same.
'The hell was that?'
“Please... no...” Melione’s chest ached as she struggled to breathe, like acid burning in her lungs, panic flooded in leaving her barely standing. “No, no, no, no... not me... it was never supposed to be me.”
Tears fell as she did, landing on her knees as her eyes focused on the source of her misery, something innocuous and simple... A buttery bronze necklace shaped into a spiral, laying on her bed, radiating a searing power she was all too familiar with.
Duty called to her to pick it up, years of training and conditioning demanding she honor her apparent calling and take hold of the source of her family’s curse. Instinct told her to scream and run away, miles and miles from the horrible instrument of suffering that plagued her family for millennia. Wisdom told her there was no point in either, the damned thing would follow her regardless of her wishes, wants or desires.
“Why me?” She cried, standing and walking to her vanity with a sluggish agony.
Memories flooded her mind of the first and last time she had seen the Necklace of Harmonia in person...
Six years ago when it first appeared, gracing the neck of her Aunt Thelma...
“AH!” Melione gasped out, the air rushing from her lungs as her brother flipped her on her back. Black dots danced across her vision, leaving her dizzy and barely able to respond as his foot flew towards her face. Only instinct allowed her to dodge, rolling to the side but even the her brother’s foot scraped against her shoulder, a wheezing gasp escaping her lips as the pain took her.
“Get up Mel, you can’t just lay there!” Todd, her eldest brother, barked out. “Fight back.”
She barely managed to stand and throw herself back, dodging a fist. “I’m trying, I’m ten years old and your nineteen, it’s not exactly a fair fight!”
Her brother, handsome and tall and very angry, growled at her. “Fair won’t keep you alive if you Inherit the Necklace. We’ve all been cursed, fairness is moot in your survival. Do better, be better, live. Live for the family, for your honor, for your duty. Live so others may suffer through without the burden of the Necklace.”
Their family’s motto, the quote they were committed to, echoed in the training hall as her brother charged her, giving wings to her feet. Pride burst through her pain and she dropped to her but, closing her legs around her brother’s leg just as she threw her top half back, tripping her brother even as she summersaulted backwards back into a stance. Without hesitating she lashed out with two strikes, slamming them into his nose and chin.
As he fell, she placed her foot over his throat.
He just laughed at her, even as blood dripped from his nose.” Much better, always fight, Sissy.”
“I will.” She vowed, helping him to stand, embracing him close as she always did after a fight.
“You’ve gotten better, much better. Your already better then Tim and Alex and their six years older then you. I give you a year til your better then me.”
It was hard to push away the prideful smile that came to her lips, her brother’s praise a rarity these days. She took it in, never knowing when it would come back to her again.
Unfortunately, the sight of her Father walking down the basement stairs into the sparring room, his stoic face set into a pained grimance destroyed what little good she had been feeling. She knew what that look meant, they all did. In their family there was only one reason...
“The Curse has taken another...” Her father’s voice ached, the pain palpable in a way that made her shiver. ” Your cousian, Riley, died this afternoon... ”
Both Melione and her brother Todd stepped back, eyes wide and fear filling them.
Todd asked what she was too afraid to even think. “She was the carrier of the Necklace... who inherited now? Was it Alex, Tim, Becky?”
Her father shook his head, a relief filling her from knowing her siblings were free of the death setence and banishment that came from the Necklace’s curse. “No... my sister... your Aunt Thelma... she...she found the Necklace an hour ago. It is time...”
Pain exploded in her heart. “Aunt Thelma’s being banished!” She wanted to sob, her poor aunt... the women had suffered more then most. The Curse of poor luck had already ruined the women’s life, she had suffered six fractures, twelve concussions and a car accident and that was without the the Necklace! Her aunt had been so devistated by the curse that she decided to never have kids, choosing to not pass on their curse, the only one selfish enough to do that!
She didn’t deserve to now be banished, to never see her family until her Death... just like couisan Riley... and Grandma Lisa and Uncle Bryce!
Her father’s cold brown eyes found hers. There was no compassion in his gaze. “The Necklace aguaments the suffering of all those around it, your aunt will do her duty and take it far away to suffer alone. It is an honor to fuffer for your family, something you may have to do one day...a duty I expect you to fulfill as honorably as your Aunt has.”
Without waiting or bothering to ease his children’s pain, Donald Collins walked back up the stairs, leaving Melione alone with her brother Todd, holding him as they mourned their poor, beloved Aunt...
They would never see her again, only look at the picture of her taken with the Necklace dangling from her neck, like a prison photo... The beautiful but simple piece of jewelry staring at them, a reminder of their potential fate...
"Do better, be better, live." She shuddered as the memories broke, leaving her to look at her reflection, her expression all to similar to that of her Aunt's in the Photo. " Live for the family, for your honor, for your duty. Live so others may suffer through without the burden of the Necklace."
The family Motto and years of training took hold and she marched over to the necklacek, placing it over her head, onto her neck. In an instant she felt it bond to her, like a magnetic pull against her soul, her blood...
"I am the Carrier of the Curse..."
And now she had to tell her family.
Tell them that her Aunt Thelma was dead, that the Curse had passed onto her...
That everything was going to change.