As I stood outside of Laurel's door, I couldn't help but feel strange. Since I had first arrived here I hadn't felt like I belonged. I saw the way Keya had looked at me, grabbed my wrist a little too tight.
She was afraid of me.
The door opened and Laurel's smirk drew me out of my shaken thoughts. She was so openly shameless it astonished me. She bowed to me dramatically, extending her arm as if to invite me in, a glass of wine dangling in her hand delicately. As my eyes narrowed on her outfit - or lack of - I was half tempted to turn and run the other way.
Laurel was wearing a sheer bodysuit that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. I knew now why Paeris volunteered to sit in at the Council meeting for me. He claimed it would give me a more relaxing atmosphere to learn in, but I could see now that it was probably just less distracting for him.
"Well, I feel over dressed." I stated slowly, moving to sit on the chair at the end of her bed. "Do you normally answer the door when you're not dressed?"
"Every time, if I can help it." She retorted teasingly, the smirk on her face never wavering. She looked like a hungry wild cat, her white teeth flashing in the light filtering through her window. "Something tells me you aren't here to enjoy my outfit, Your Highness."
She sat on the bed in front of me, her legs tucked daintily under her.
"Paeris had the idea that you could help me with my... well, your specialty."
"Ah, Paeris thinks you need a lesson in love." She drew out, biting her lip. "I can tell from the way you say his name that I was correct."
"You fucked him."
Heat crept up over my cheeks, suddenly making the room a little too warm for my liking.
"I..." I started, not knowing if I should deny or confirm our relationship. Could she tell I was lying if I told her nothing happened? "Paeris and I are friends." I repeated to the second person so far, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear.
"Right. So you wouldn't mind if I invited your friend over later tonight then?" She asked dryly, clearly toying with me.
"If that's what you both are interested in." I snapped a little too quickly, flames dancing across my fingertips causing Laurel to yip in surprise.
"Ray, calm down before you set my room on fire!" She exclaimed, holding up her hands. The look on her face mirrored her mother's from earlier today.
I sighed, shaking my head.
"You have got to get ahold of yourself. You can't let your emotions take you over like that." She said softly, moving up off the bed to kneel in front of me. The closeness made me feel a little better, a wave of calmness washing over me. "Your fear can either make you powerful and in control or destroy you." She sighed, reaching out to touch my hand.
"Paeris clearly wants you to understand your fears, your darkness." She continued, her voice suddenly sounding velvety and warm, my eyes feeling heavy. "Let's see what is making you so afraid."
Suddenly, I was sitting in a field of wheat, the stalks bend lazily in the wind and the breeze smelled of rain. I turned my face to the sky, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my skin. The sky was cloudless and beautiful, a vivid mix of blues dancing above my head. I dug my feet into the cool soil, enjoying the feeling of the moistness on my skin. I caught the sight of a glistening in the distance and walked toward it to investigate.
A mirror stood in the middle of the field, elegant gold carvings around the outer edge. I moved toward it, almost gliding, to look at my reflection. As I peered into the reflective surface, I could see myself, but it wasn't me looking back. My eyes were wide and afraid, as if I were trapped on the other side of the glass. The image of myself moved her lips as if she were speaking to me, but I could not understand her. Her eyes were black as night.
Like Lorelei's soulless gaze.
I shook my head, backing away from the image and bumping into someone behind me. I turned quickly, a breath of relief gushing from my lungs as I took in Paeris' strong shoulders. He was turned away from me, but I could tell it was him.
His hands were shaking and his voice came out like my own, but younger. There was a roughness about it that I didn't understand, as if I had been chewing on glass.
"I had a bad dream.... There were these two people in the forest and... I was so mean. Then there was this lady that looked like me but she had these dark horrible eyes...."
A groan ripped through my lips, recognizing this all too well as the first time I had relayed my nightmare to my mother, Nym.
I gripped Paeris' shoulder, turning him slowly before gasping and jumping backward in fear. His eyes were dark, his mouth covered with a grotesque smile that made my skin crawl.
"Don't you love me, Ray?" His voice echoed, sounding all wrong.
I ran then, fleeing in the opposite direction, my stomach twisting with nausea as I ran. I ran through the field until, suddenly, I was standing in my kitchen back at the Enclave. My mother sat at the table, her face so sad, while Merith and Jonas sat stiffly beside her. They both were dead, the vacancy in their eyes pushed bile up into my mouth and I hovered over the sink, emptying the contents of my stomach into the basin.
My eyes widened as a mix of blood and dirt covered the sink. It smelled of death.
My mother sobbed louder, my body freezing.
"I knew this day would come. I have feared it since she first became my daughter. But I couldn't fight the love I felt for her. I thought maybe, if I loved her hard enough, it would change her destiny." Nym recalled, a new level of sadness in her voice that shook me. "She always preferred the night - even when she had such horrible nightmares. There were times I would wake up to find her sitting outside, counting stars and talking to someone who wasn't there."
Suddenly, her voice too, sounded odd.
"She will always be more content in darkness."
The hair lifted on my arms, goosebumps spreading over my skin. I turned to face her, fighting off another wave of nausea as she too, sat stiffly along with Merith and Jonas at the table, her eyes empty and her skin ashy and unnatural.
I ran from the house, the ground around me shook as I ran.
I ran until I came upon my sister, crying with her back toward me, cradling something in front of her just out of my sight.
I walked to her slowly, a scream ripping through the air in my voice as I looked down at Cage's lifeless body, his head in her lap. I covered my mouth, a strange liquid covered my fingertips.
My nose was bleeding.
"You did this! How could you?! He loved you!" Allie screamed, anger and sadness dancing behind her eyes.
A loud cackling filled the air around us, a shiver racing down my spine and caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up on end. The cackling noise grew in volume until my ears felt as if they would explode from the force.
She was there, then. In front of me. Commanding my attention.
Lorelei looked different than I remembered her, almost as if she had become more ghastly in appearance. The smile on her face looked pained and amused at the same time.
This time, I didn't run, didn't scream for help as I had before.
Cold bony fingers dug into the skin of my throat, squeezing off the air to my lungs. I gasped, fighting against my mother's grip.
The feeling burned into my memory like a brand, scarring me.
"Alaray! Wake up!" Laurel's voice screamed.