“Happy birthday Matt.”
I knew that it was just a cover, his mom, but I couldn’t believe that he called her mum in privacy. He must know now that I knew who he really was. His two words reminded me of my goal of coming here. I wanted to find out what he really was, and why he fled when seeing Blyth.
I could barely hold myself back from going to him right then, but I did. My fingers tapped impatiently on the sink in the dark bathroom waiting for his light knock on the wall. Each second that passed seemed like an eternity. Music started on the other side of the wall, but still he didn’t knock. What was taking him so long?
There was a knock, but it didn’t come through the wall. It must have been on his door, “Hey, I think you should…”
“I know. I’m doing it right now.”
“Alright then. See you in the morning.”
It wasn’t until the footsteps fell silent and the music turned up another notch that the knock that I had been waiting for finally came. As I closed my eyes I imagined his perfectly golden tan skin covered in the water and his dark hair soaked letting even more drops come down over his shoulders. When I opened my eyes he looked just the same as when he had in the bathroom. He didn’t dry off or even change.
I fought to keep my mind on the reason that I had come here with his eyes devouring me. “That’s not your…”
My words didn’t get far just as my eyes when I looked towards his door. I felt Matt’s fingers wrapping around my neck bringing my eyes back to his and our lips together again. I melted into his arms as his other one wrapped tightly around my waist closing the distance between our bodies. My own hands found their way to his chest hoping to bring space once again between us, but feeling his skin against mine my hopes faded into something else.
When my hand stopped just over top of his heart I could feel it trying to beat right out of his chest. His hand fell over top of mine and brought it up around his neck. Pulling away from his lips I questioned him with my eyes, but it was useless when his lips fell on my neck. Both of his hands fell down my spine creating chills the whole way through me. Slowly he began moving me backwards until his bed caught me.
I started moving up on his bed away from him advancing. “Matt, I came here to talk.”
“About what?” Matt questioned as he let his hand slide up my thigh and under my shirt, “I will be dead by the time the sun rises. I want to use what life is left inside of me with you.”
His hands began pulling my shirt off, and there was no use in stopping him. When I was able I lifted his lips from wondering up my stomach, “But Matt, you are already dead.”
With each time he placed his lips on my body his words followed, “Did you not feel that my heart is still beating? There is still some life left inside of me.”
“But you won’t die, Matt.” I tried to keep my mind off of what his hands were doing. “We done this before and I’ve seen you nearly a year from now in the future, and, and…”
“Shh.” Matt’s finger ran up over my lips stopping me. “I want to know what you are, but I also want to show you what I truly am.”
“But how is this…”
“Shh…” My eyes shifted between the curves of his lips as he hushed me to the light falling into his eyes. The fingers that he held in my hair combed through one last time then fell over my heart. I could hear it beating within my ears. The raised skin from my scar pressed against his fingers. I inhaled the air deeply and closed my eyes from his as despair fell into me.
The scar had brought back a thousand terrible memories, “Matt, I can’t.”
He touched my heart through my scar making me realize that whoever I let in will be hurt. What I was more afraid of in that moment is that the two of us together creates the world that would end Blyth’s life. Somehow the future that I had seen was flipped inside and out, but was continuing on a strange path that would lead to me being the Phoenix.
Matt’s head fell down passed my shoulder, “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve met anyone like you? Someone that would accept me as I am, especially one who knows my family. When I heard you tell him that you loved me I, well, I just hoped.”
As he rolled onto his bed I turned to face him, “And I do love you, but any future that we could have together will end in heartbreak.”
Matt’s eyes left mine as he turned them to the ceiling. His hand grasped mine and brought it up to his chest. “Do you want to feel heartbreak?”
I closed my eyes and concentrated on his heartbeat. It wasn’t beating nearly as hard as it was when we were standing together. Now I could barely feel it with my fingertips pressed against his chest. Matt inhaled deeply as I brought myself over to listen it. As he exhaled I listened to the low rhythmic beat. It began decreasing until there was almost nothing there. I waited for him to inhale again, and when he didn’t I lifted my head to look at him, “Matt, breathe.”
I felt his voice vibrating through his chest, “Ash, even if I breathe, it won’t start my heart again.”
Quickly I lowered my ear to his chest and there was nothing. He didn’t inhale or exhale and his heartbeat was completely gone. It just about stopped my own hearing nothing inside of him. As I closed my eyes it forced out the tears. I wanted to stop my own heartbeat just then knowing that there was nothing that I could do. There was no way to save him.
“Those tears aren’t for me are they?” Matt’s voice once again came through his chest making it rise. Cold fingers touched my face causing me to jerk from them. My eyes flew open to find his. He lifted his head letting his eyes find mine. They had lost every sense of light within them even when he smiled. “That is how my heart breaks.”
My tears fell for him even though he was still somehow alive, “What are you?”
“Just a dead man,” Matt answered as he pushed me off of his chest, “What are you?”
“A witch. You know that.” I watched as he stood up and walked over to a pile of clothes.
“A witch that turns five months before she turns eighteen,” While he was tossing clothes to the side I looked around his room. He had one wall just like his father’s full of books. On the other side of his room was a stereo system with thousands of CDs, cassettes, and records. Next to him and the pile of clothes that he was searching through was movies and TV. “I’ve only known something like that to happen once. So I will ask you again. What are you?”
My eyes fell on him as he cleared out a trunk that he had hidden underneath the pile. When he started pulling it over to the bed I couldn’t hold back, “What is that?”
“Something to bring me back to the man you know.” As he reached the bed the top opened exposing a whole medical supply of things I didn’t know. “So Ash how does one turn before her time?”
I watched as he began pulling out several tubes and bags. I looked at the liquid inside of them, “Is that?”
He began attaching several things to his body, and I turned my head afraid of what he was going to do. “Do you remember Friday night at the dance when I fell?”
“Yes and then you took off.”
“Well, I saw the next year and a half of my life. The Bowerstone fate. You see your fate and if you are killed within that fate you are sent back months before you turn allowing you to change the future. I’m sure that it has something to do with me turning so early.” I finally admitted to him what I was. Everything I knew.
“Bowerstone?” Matt questioned. “Bowerstone, where have I heard that name before?”
“Oh yeah,” Matt seemed to recall her now, “Marc and Mike’s nanny. So you have her gift of seeing the future?”
“She could see the future? I thought it was just a onetime thing.” I thought back to when Blyth had said about her dying, “That’s what I was told.”
“No, she saw different things almost every time I saw her.” Matt started laughing, “She was really weird. Marc liked her though.”
My thoughts swallowed me as Matt continued talking. It was obvious right then. Mary didn’t jump from the cliff like Blyth had believed. Marcus had seemed quite sincere about not taking anyone’s power. It was clear though she had given him her power which killed her. Marcus had most likely thrown her body over the cliff as a cover up.
I fell back on the bed and closed my eyes as more came into focus. My body completely stiffened as Matt’s cold fingers traced the scar over my heart. “I’m sorry. So what’s this?”
“Why are you so cold?” I turned my head to look at him now. He had tubes in each of his arms. I cringed and turned back to the ceiling.
“I’m draining my blood.”
Matt’s laugh seemed almost as cold as his fingers, “I’m dead Ashley. My body doesn’t work the same way yours does. Mine doesn’t create any blood for me to use, and it eventually wears down just like my heart. So I’ve learned after the years that I have to switch it to keep my body like it is. Keep it fresh. If not I’ll look like a corpse walking around and trust me it isn’t pretty. I did that for years until I found someone to replace my heart and blood.”
“Replace your heart?” That sounded just as disgusting as what he was doing right now, but I thought about his perfect chest without a scar on it. “How?”
“Magic.” Matt lost all enthusiasm in his voice as he ran his fingers through my hair, “When Michael took my power, it, um, exploded my heart. Since that moment I haven’t felt any kind of pain or pleasure. It is my fault though. I told him that if he didn’t try that I would end it myself. So they both tried and here I am now the dead walking. I am thankful that the power is gone, but I don’t want to be this. Marc said he was going to help me. He said he was working on a way to set it right. He’s going to bring me back for good and end this immortality thing which would allow me a normal life. A life where I would be able to love someone and have them love me in return without being afraid of what I am. I could make love to them without it stopping my heart.”
Matt’s lips caressed my forehead gently as I thought about everything that Marcus has done. He lied to me. He wanted me to believe that Blyth was behind it all, but in the greater picture he was trying to undo what he had let happen.
My fingers traced the scar over my heart that he had put there. Why did he go through so much when he knew that I loved Matt first? I had turned earlier than my birthday and with the infection running through my system Michael couldn’t touch me. It was also my blood that held that same infection that they believed would end Blyth’s life. Somehow it would break the spell keeping them all connected together giving Marcus and Matt a chance at a normal life.
“Ash?” Matt’s voice was directly over me, “Ash?”
I opened my eyes to find his once again full of life. He rolled me over and brought my hand back up to his chest. A nice steady beat was there once again. I looked around to see that he had put the trunk back and covered it up again with the clothes. My head fell back on the pillow as I stared back into his eyes. He wrapped his arms around me, “Get some sleep.”
“Damn it, Ash!” Michael’s voice cried out as I arrived. I opened my eyes to see him quickly wrapping a towel around himself just like the night that I had unexpectedly shown up at Matt’s, “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m not Jesus, but I am living in a hell. Michael, I need you to look at my leg.” My eyes fell from his directly to the scar that stretched out from his heart. It beat quickly underneath his skin and the spell was clearly visible once again. There was that beautiful light lying so gently just above his skin made me urn to touch him.
Michael slapped my hand before I realized what I was doing. My hand recoiled back from him as he moved around me to get out of his bathroom. “Don’t touch me ever.”
My eyes wanted to follow him but the bathtub caught them. I envisioned myself inside trying to get the burning out of my soul the night before I went to die. My own deafening screams echoed through my ears forcing me back against the wall. It wasn’t just my voice that screamed for mercy that night. It was my entire body that contorted angrily trying to be rid of the pain that consumed me.
“Ash,” Michael voice came in through my screams, but it wasn’t enough to pull me out of the recollection of my last night here. I felt his slap right across my face and it was used with enough force to bring me back to reality. “What is wrong with you?”
Michael’s amber eyes searched inside mine trying to find me in the past, but I was still lost somewhere inside as I spoke, “It burnt.”
“Come on.” He brought me up to my feet and pulled me from the bathroom. I didn’t completely reenter time until he sat me down on his white chair. “Let me see your leg.”
I twisted slightly in the chair and stared out the window to the city. My mind wondered as Michael ripped off the bandages. “You haven’t been taking the pills that I gave you.”
“I forgot about them.”
“Well, unless you want to die I suggest you start taking them. Look here.” I did as he said and looked down at the bite in my leg. It was swollen and red as I remembered seeing before. Several reddish purple veins were beginning to stretch up from it. “Those lines are carrying the infection to your heart. If they get up past your knee go to the hospital. They would be able to help you more than I could in this state. Does it hurt at all?”
I shook my head, “No, I’ve just had trouble walking.”
“I see,” Michael wrapped the bandages back over it. He stood up and pulled the other chair over to in front of me. “Let me see your hand.”
I coiled my arms back into my chest, “Its fine. I was just worried about my leg.”
“Well, I know if you haven’t taken care of that bite you surely didn’t take care of your hand. Now let me see it.” I didn’t have any chance of stopping him as he yanked my hand away from me. “Damn it girl. You do wish to die don’t you? Stay right there and don’t move.”
Michael dropped my hand back down into my lap. I had thought about leaving, but where would I go? At this moment I didn’t feel like moving other than slouching down into the comfortable white chair that Michael had always taken for himself. I laid my head on the arm and waited patiently for him to return.
I stared at the ceiling wondering what was taking him so long. Slowly my head fell to the side to see him sitting there vigilantly cleaning my hand. I looked down to see his skin touching mine, but I couldn’t feel it. I was happy that in this moment I was completely numb. When Michael realized that I was watching him, he lifted his hand and turned my face studying it. “When was the last time you ate anything?”
“Sunday?” Michael was shocked now, “But you threw that up? Haven’t you eaten anything since then?”
Michael went back to cleaning the cut that he had given me. “Did you forget or are you honestly trying to die?”
I inhaled deeply taking in the smell of Michael’s apartment. “He won’t let me die until I break the spell. Marcus won’t let me die.”
“Are you sure about that because right now he is doing a wonderful job of letting you quickly finding your way there.” Michael groaned.
I couldn’t stop myself from trying to rip the image out of my mind as I woke up. I searched my hand for any sign of the cut that was there, thankful I didn’t find one through the tears. As I uncovered myself I realized that I was still in Matt’s room. It didn’t matter much at this point because I was more worried about the bite in my leg. Quickly I yanked the bandage off my leg to find it was swollen and red. There were no nasty infection lines coming from it.
I sighed in relief just hoping that it was a strange dream. Fear drove straight through my heart though as I heard his voice in the other room. I pulled the blanket back over me and curled into a protective ball. I knew it wouldn’t help me at all from whatever he might do, but it was my only defense here.
“You know exactly what she is. You are just ignoring the facts Matt.” Marcus’ vile voice echoed through the hallway and into me. “Give these to her if she gets too dangerous to be around.”
“What are these for?”
“Just like cats, these will bind her powers so that she can’t use them.” I listened to them more intently now hoping that it would reveal any more information that I could use. “Now I have to go.”
“Wait, Marc.” Matt called out, “Her scar, what is it from?”
“She got it for loving a man that she wasn’t supposed to. You have to make her love you before you see me again. If not it won’t work. She must love only you.” Marcus’ last words made my heart stop.
I was still nothing more than a puppet in his plans, but if Matt was right that Marcus was doing this all to help him I would help to. There was still one thing that bothered me though. Quickly I found my shirt and noticed that my suitcase was sitting at the bottom of Matt’s bed. Marcus must have brought it when he came. I used my powers and changed.
Closing my eyes I pictured Marcus. I needed to see him before I did anything else today. When I opened my eyes to see the horrid picture that he was from his beating last night I stepped back. There were bruises covering his face with cuts here and there. His top lip was swollen and cut as well. He looked shocked to see me, “What are you doing here?”
I closed my eyes, “I loved him in the beginning. Why couldn’t you just let me stay with him?”
“Because it wasn’t right then. Now it is. Now you’ve turned early and become the Phoenix.” Marcus placed his hand on my shoulder making me shrink away.
“What do I do to help him?”
“Just love him.”
I tried to believe his words, but I still wasn’t sure that I trusted him, “Promise me that you won’t harm him in anyway physical or emotional.”
“Now that was an accident. I didn’t realize that he was driving.” Marcus grabbed my shoulders causing my eyes to shoot open, “It was an accident, but it helped you two come together.”
“How can I trust you? You keep lying to me about everything.” I shut my eyes again to get the image of his face out of my mind.
“Not lying, just hiding. Now go back to him. He’s most likely looking for you right now.” Marcus pushed me back away from him and I did just that.
“There you are.” Matt’s cheerful voice did not help my mood as I sat down on his bed. “I thought that you freaked and left.”
“No.” I sheepishly answered trying not to look at him. “I just had to find out what I was supposed to do to help you. Don’t you have to go to school?”
“Not for another hour.” Matt walked over and sat down handing me a plate. “Aren’t you coming with me?”
I shook my head, “No, I’m enrolled in a different school right now, and if I’m going to be dangerous I rather go there to learn to control whatever will make me that way.”
“Will you come back?”
I smiled as I laid my hand on the side of Matt’s face, “Every day after classes.”
I was hoping to see my smile reciprocated, but sadness dwelled somewhere inside of him as he pulled my hand away from his face, “Please tell me you aren’t going back just to see him. I could hear the pain in his voice when he thought you were dying.”
“Matt, if Marc is giving you something to protect you from me then I think I need the most help that I can get. As far as I know that is the only school for people like me.” I tried to make him understand what I was feeling, “Plus, if he treats me in any way other way than a student I’ll just take his head off with another desk, and since I’ve turned I don’t think I’ll miss this time.”
“So you really don’t like him?”
“I am beginning to think I’m the only one immune to him.” I was glad when Matt finally smiled. “You understand why I have to go though?”
The gloom echoed in his eyes again, “I just hope that it can help.”
“Why would I have to go? Honestly, I’m only going based on what Marcus told you earlier. Can you tell me?” I hoped that he would know what was wrong with me. After all Marcus said that Matt knew he was just ignoring the facts.
“Just a witch with all the powers in the world.”