XIII. FAMILY FEUDS AND APOLOGIES
The bright light of the basement caused a weird irritation on my skin as a heavy feeling settled on my eyelids. I was sitting on the floor leaning against the cold wooden surface of the coffin, my thoughts going overdrive with each passing second. Christina was pacing around the room with fidgeting her fingers and frequently intaking sharp breaths. Carter, on the other hand, was completely still. He kept on clenching and unclenching his jaw, his eyes gleaming dangerously as they were fixed on the scenery outside the window.
I wanted to cry, to scream. But my throat felt closed as tears were stinging behind my eyes, threatening to spill any moment now. My heart was in a frenzied overdrive and I didn’t know what to do. I could blame them, shout at them but truth be told, I was equally at fault. I didn’t stay with Maria. Instead, I was busy with my life, discussing crushes, teasing Latan, and having the moment of my life.
The echo of heavy footsteps jolted me awake from my train of thoughts, causing me to look up through my heavy lids. Cameron walked into the room, his red-colored shirt wrinkled in the bottom and his dark black hair ruffled atop his head. He looked distressed as his deep grey eyes wandered frantically around the room, finally settling on the dark brown wooden coffin. A wisp of air escaped his thin and purple lips as his grey eyes met my hazel ones, a storm raging within them.
“Where’s she?” he asked, taking in all of our faces with utmost bewilderment.
“I don’t think we would be standing here if we knew,” I retorted.
Carter, who had been dead silent for the past half an hour, finally broke free of his stance. There was a deadly and almost murderous glint in his blue eyes as he took a deliberate step towards Cameron.
The constant ticking of the clock and my deep breaths were the only things that pierced through the vacant and thick silence in the room. The air suddenly felt quite suffocating as I realized that I was witnessing a stand-off between Carter and Cameron, the latter one having an equal challenging glimmer in his lustrous grey irises.
“Why don’t you tell us where’s she, little brother?” Carter drawled, his eyes fixed on his brother.
However, before Cameron could open his mouth, Carter had already pinned him to bright yellow walls of the basement - his large fingers grasping the wrinkled collar of his brother’s shirt.
Cameron’s eyes widened ever so slightly, but he quickly morphed it into a glare of his own. His slender fingers immediately wrapped around Carter’s tanned wrist, but he didn’t try to move it.
“What the fuck?” he gritted through his teeth as a feral look settled in his gaze.
“Weren’t you supposed to keep a watch on Maria? And now she’s missing? This isn’t coincidental at all" Carter retorted with a sneer, his eyes holding an equal menace.
There was a sinister air of tension between the brothers. Something in their stance and the way they were glaring at each other didn’t seem like it was new-founded. It was more of a look that held a grudge for ages.
A loud ping in my phone pierced through the thick blanket of animosity and silence in the room, but I did not dare look at it. Instead, I let my eyes fall on Christina who had an equal worried look plastered on her face. Her soft and brown eyes were fixed on the brothers as she dragged her perfect white teeth across her plump bottom lip.
“You can’t seriously think that I had to do anything with this? You’re insane,” he gave Carter an incredulous look, a muscle ticking in his jaw. And in one swift motion, he pushed Carter away from him, his breaths coming short.
Carter seemingly, having caught off-guard, staggered a bit – his hip knocking the small wooden pen-stand off the glass table, causing it to land on the ground with a hard thump.
“Well brother, you can’t seriously expect me to put anything past you,” Carter hissed at him, his blue eyes darkening with anger.
I soon realized that this accusation was more of a family feud than anything to do with the present situation. Feeling the desperate need to break this unnecessary family drama, I spoke up.
“Guys seriously. Cool it off. We could do this testosterone match later on,” I grumbled.
I heard a slight snort from Christina, who soon covered it up with a cough – considering the seriousness of the situation.
Carter gave me a steely glance – his blue eyes lacking its natural playfulness, and instead, replaced with a raging storm.
Cameron raised his hands in mock surrender, an easy smile smoothly slipping onto his face.
“I never started it,” he shrugged as his lips quirked up, despite the brooding situation. That was the thing that I liked about Cameron. He always knew how to lighten up the mood, even in the darkest of situations when everybody else would have given up on hope.
And so unknowingly, a small smile took over my lips, but that was soon wiped off when I saw the everlasting scowl on Carter’s face.
“Where were you then?” Carter snarled at his brother.
“I could ask the same to you,” Cameron replied, his grey eyes once again turning vicious.
Surprisingly this time, a smirk lighted up the corner of Carter’s lips. His blue eyes had turned an inky shade, and the thunderous look in his eyes was replaced with a knowing glint.
“I was with Chris, little brother. She called me for a lift because,” his chilly gaze fell upon me, “Hazel was busy,” he intentionally dragged on the last word, indicating the purpose of me being busy.
My blood boiled and my palms itched to slap him again, but I knew that it would be irrational of me to do that now. So, instead, I focused on Cameron, who had an agitated look on his face.
“Fuck. Fuck!” he growled. His grey eyes glimmered in the bright light of the basement as a look of astonishment overtook his features - like he just realized something. Fisting his palm tightly, he slammed it straight onto the yellow wall behind him – causing a small crack to form on the surface, just where his fist collided.
Both Christina and I gasped at his unusual behavior. This was not the calm and collected Cameron that I’ve grown to known. I let my gaze slide over to Carter, who had an impassive look on his face. However, his jaws were clenched shut and lips pulled into an excessive thin line. His grip on the glass table beside him caused his knuckles to turn white and he looked as if he was containing an enraged hurricane within himself.
“We need to go to Taylor’s house. Right now,” Cameron declared, his eyes looking desperate and pleading.
An uncalled heaviness settled in my chest at the mention of Taylor’s name. If anything I’ve learned in a couple of days about her, it’s that she is the pure spawn of Devil. I looked up to meet Cameron’s deep grey eyes, heart almost beating out of my chest.
“What do you mean?” I mumbled, my voice cracking at the end as I could not decide whether to be scared or relieved.
“We don’t have time-” he started to proceed outside.
“What.Do.You.Mean?” I asked again, this time my voice steadier and laced with pure anger.
He stopped by the doorway, heaving a huge sigh that showed pure melancholy and guilt.
“I’m so sorry Krystal. Taylor was here...when I wasn’t. They led me to a trap and I stepped right into it,” Cameron muttered, his eyes focused on anywhere, but my face.
“What kind of trap?” Christina spoke up for the first time.
Cameron dragged his fingers through his jet black hair. His breathing was labored and the red shirt barely fitted his chest right now.
“Erik called me to the church. Saying that he needed something to discuss. But when I reached there, no one was there.”
“That bastard,” Carter gritted through his teeth.
“Hold on. You didn’t see anyone exiting the house?” I voiced.
“No. And that’s why I thought everything was normal. So I just went out for a short while to get some books from the library,” Cameron revealed.
Somehow this still didn’t make any sense.
“But how did Taylor even get to know about her?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.
The look on Cameron’s face and the silence that ensued after my question, was enough to tell me what happened.
I felt dread and worry ballooning within me, as we all exited the basement wordlessly.
The moon shone brightly, washing their driveway in a ghostly light. The sky looked clearer and brighter, a stark contrast to the one when I entered their house. However, the glow of the moon was too bright for my liking and somehow it felt like a spotlight – focusing entirely on me and my ignorance towards Maria. An irritation crept up on my skin at the pale glow, as the feeling of being judged by the entire nature washed over me.
Hence not paying any further heed to the unwanted guilty feeling, I got inside Carter’s car. I grumbled once I seated myself in the soft and plush passenger seat of his Audi. I hated this, and I knew it would not at all help my situation of being worried when I’m sitting beside this infuriating vampire. But I became helpless when Christina decided to go with Cameron in his motorbike, cause she didn’t want to leave him alone after the outburst. And honestly, after witnessing the strong animosity between the brothers, I could not blame her too as I knew that keeping them apart for the moment might be the best of the decisions. So, that’s why, I sacrificed myself and decided to take this trip with Carter, praying that things don’t get awkward between us – since we haven’t had the best relationship within the past few days.
The strong scent of masculinity and aftershave filled my nostrils as Carter got in the driver’s seat beside me, his large frame barely fitting in the seat. His shoulders were tense and rigid, biceps flexing under the thin fabric of his t-shirt – causing it to strain against his muscular build. He looked anxious as his chest rose up and down heavily. There was a glint of vulnerability and sadness in his blue eyes as he closed them and leaned back onto the headrest.
For some reason, I felt bad for him. I wasn’t familiar with this kind of Carter and a part of me was desperate to know the reason, the cause that affected him so badly. I think the confrontation with Cameron had affected him more than he was letting on. A part of me irked to reach out to him, to comfort him; but I restrained myself as I knew how horribly inappropriate and stupid it would be.
So instead, I asked, “You okay?”
There was a brief moment of silence before he opened his eyes. His blue eyes widened slightly for a moment when they met my hazel ones, almost as if he just realized my presence. However, quickly recovering from the shock, he gave me a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Yeah,” his reply was terse, indicating that he did not want to talk about it anymore.
I didn’t push him any further. I hated it when people forced me to talk about my parents - a topic that was very sensitive to me. And I didn’t want to put him in an uncomfortable position.
So instead, I focussed on the scenery outside the window, as Carter maneuvered the car out of the driveway.
The roads were moderately populated. The jostling of the vehicles, the shouting, and hooting of the high-schoolers on the street, somewhat made life look so normal. The town buzzed with life and enthusiastic spirits – not having any clue about the deaths lurking in the shadows.
The rough and warm winds flapped against my face - playing with the brown strands of my hair, as I hastily tried to tame it and prevent it from getting into my face.
“Do you think Maria is safe?” I asked once I had tucked my hair behind my ears. My gaze was fixed on the beautiful city lights outside the window. The bright neon sign of the diner ‘Freaking Chicken’ blinked a few times – probably due to the constant poor condition of electricity, while we passed by it. The beautiful scent of the food, filled my nostrils as I heard a small grumble in my stomach.
Hotness crept up my cheeks and ear, and I decided not to look at Carter, considering his supernatural hearing ability. Although, thankfully, he decided not to tease me about it as he spoke up, “I think she is alive.”
“Well, that’s a lot reassuring,” I replied, still not looking at him.
“I don’t see why Taylor would kill her.”
“Well, I don’t see any reason to kidnap her either, to begin with,” I retorted.
“That’s fair I suppose,” he mumbled.
The car came to halt at the Victoria Falls intersection, the bright red light of the traffic signal washing over us.
“How long have you known Taylor?” I asked, turning to look at him properly.
The red light devilishly shadowed his face, highlighting his sharp jawline and causing his eyelashes to cast a dark shadow on his high cheekbones. His breathing had become normal a while ago, but his grip on the steering wheel and the rigidity of his shoulders was an indication of anything but calmness.
“I don’t remember. In case you haven’t noticed I’m not exactly a fan of her. But maybe two or three years. The time Cam and she dated,” he replied, a large yawn escaping his lips right after.
“Well, I can’t blame you for that,” I trailed off, trying to lighten up the mood despite the horrible anxiousness building up within me.
Carter didn’t reply. His eyes were fixed steadily on the red light as if he could manipulate it to turn into green. His blue eyes tinted a light shade of purple under the bright glow of the red light.
“Krystal,” Carter called out.
For a moment, I was surprised that he called me by my real name. It was funny how my original name sounded so foreign on his tongue.
“I’m...I’m sorry,” Carter continued without noticing my surprise – his voice barely audible over the busy chatter on the street. But I didn’t have any problem with hearing what he said. It rang in my eardrums, causing me to look back at him in pure surprise.
“What?” I asked, my brain unable to form any coherent thoughts.
Did Carter Harvey just apologize?
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. Slowly and steadily this time, thinking that I didn’t hear him earlier.
I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Well, there are a lot of things. Being particular might be a good start,” I replied.
He heaved a huge sigh and ran a hand over his mouth.
“That night, when I forced you to come with us,” he started and I could feel the instant anger flaring within me. However, I chose to stay calm and hear him out.
He continued, “I wasn’t being serious. I mean, I didn’t actually mean what I said about drinking your blood. Or killing Maria. I don’t kill people without any reason.”
I wanted to ask him what possible reason he could give for killing people. However, seeing the sincerity glimmering beneath his blue irises, I decided against it – allowing him to continue his apology.
“I was fucking desperate. I knew how stubborn you could be. So Maria was my only bet, considering the relationship you have with her. I know what I did...was wrong and fucking selfish. But I couldn’t let you stay there, knowing that the hunters have got to know about your place. They had put on a fucking cloaking spell so that no one but you can see Maria. So I just...I just couldn’t risk it. And I know, I know that you can’t forgive me. I’m not even asking for it. But I just...I just wanted you to know that I’m not the monster that you think I am. I’m just...,” he seemed to be struggling for words as he sunk his teeth into his soft lips.
You are a mess. An absolute disaster.
It’s true that I didn’t forgive him, nor trust his apology. But right now, I didn’t have the heart to be mad at him either. He looked so shaken up, so fragile and yet so disastrous. And somehow, his terrible condition temporarily made me forget about my problems, about the heavyweight of dread knotting in my stomach.
So tentatively, I wrapped my fingers around his bulging bicep – feeling the corded muscles underneath his fair skin. He tensed at my touch but didn’t move his arm away.
“You’re right. I would be lying if I said that I forgave you,” I said and saw him inhaling deeply through his nose.
“I can’t forget that. And even if I did forgive you, it’s gonna be anytime soon Carter. But I do believe you’re not a monster, since a monster never feels remorse,” I said, feeling his shoulders deflate with relief.
“But I do think you’re an incorrigible ass,” I said, my lips twitching at the corners.
Carter looked at me. The sparkling city lights reflected on his blue irises, making them look as bright as the ocean.
He smiled – that of relief.
“No arguments there,” he chuckled faintly.
A peaceful silence settled over us. I remembered Maria’s words of how talking to others, even if it’s their problems, helped one to forget about their own.
In my case, it didn’t soothe the anticipation or the coldness I felt under my palms. But it did feel good to hear someone apologize for what they did, something that I deserved. And judging by the tone of sincerity and perturbation on Carter’s face – which was gone now, I knew that he meant some of it, if not all.
Apologies make you feel worthy.
Maria always used to say that to me.
A tiny smile took over my lips as memories of us kept rushing into my brain - making me forget about the dreadful reality.
I didn’t realize when I fell asleep until Carter shook me up.
“Wake up Hazel. It’s morning already,” he said, his orbs glinting mischievously in the darkness.
The earlier trace of sadness and vulnerability was gone, now that I looked up at him. In fact, he looked quite okay. And now I wondered whether he was acting that way because of his confrontation with Cameron or because he wanted to apologize to me.
I rolled my eyes at him and got out of the car, noticing that we were in a stranded lane. I was about to ask him where the others were when I spotted Christina and Cameron walking towards us – their faces shadowed by darkness creeping in the area.
“This way,” Carter stated, his voice suddenly devoid of any emotion.
I took a deep breath as I felt my palms clammy with sweat.
A horrible feeling washed over me as I turned to follow Carter. Somehow, this felt worse than the time of Maria’s death. The intensity of dread coiling in my stomach had thickened and I found it hard to keep calm, now that we were actually close to finding her.
Christina marched up beside me as we fell into the same pace. None of us uttering a single word.
Walking into a psychotic vampire’s house, praying that my intuition turns out wrong for the first time.