I felt like I could still hear the woman screaming at me, long after I knew she was gone already. An hour didn’t used to seem like much time before, but now that I wanted the hour to go by fast, it of course drug by. I counted the minutes with the slow beating of my heart, and the coming and going of the waves.
Finally, after a lifetime of heartbeats, my vision began to get spotty, and I could feel my death creeping up for me. I was ready. Ready to die for the wrongs I’ve done. I never should have made any type of deal with Alana in the first place, it was selfish and it turned me into a monster.
Maybe I’d been a monster all along.
I closed my eyes, picturing Asher, my parents, Tally, and even Theon.
Speaking of him, I feel like I hear his voice echoing around me.
I feel so strange, like I’m weightless and…
I snapped my eyes open as I was shoved under the water, and screamed. “No!”
“Serena?” Theon screamed back, grabbing me back out of the water by my shoulders and shaking me. “Are you alright? What the hell were you thinking?”
I flailed around until I felt the sand beneath my feet and I pushed away from him, standing in the water. The waves were up to my abdomen and I looked down, my amulet shining a bright green. “No!” I yelled again, smacking my fists on top of the water. “Why did you do that?” I asked, crying shakily. “I wanted to just…”
Theon grabbed my shoulders again and stared into my eyes, his brows pulled together and his wet hair plastered to his forehead. “What?” He asked. “You wanted to die?” He demanded.
“Yes!” I cried back and his expression softened.
“What happened, Serena?”
I crumpled my face up thinking about it. “I killed a man…lots of them, actually, but the woman with him,” I sobbed, shaking roughly. “She tried to stop him, and so did I, but he jumped in anyway.” I explained the horror. “He had kids, and I killed him.”
I expected Theon to agree with me, and call me a twisted demon too, but he surprised me by yanking me forward, cradling my head against his broad chest as he hugged me, letting me cry to him while we were hit over and over by the cool water.
I could hear his own heart pounding, long strong beats, against my ear and I linked onto the sound, focusing on nothing but the sound of his beating heart. It soothed me, having a man near me, and hearing his heart beat instead of watching his soul come out of him. My breathing became less erratic and my cries slowed as I held tightly to him and listened.
We stood like that for a long time. I could feel that Levi and Cassandra were watching, but I didn’t care, I needed Theon to hold me together right now. I jumped a little when there was a rumble of thunder, and I peered up just in time to see lightning fork across the sky, illuminating everything like it was the middle of the day, not dusk.
Theon kept one arm around me as he tugged me towards the beach, and I let him lead me. He stopped briefly on the shore to pick up a big bag he must have brought with him. He pulled out his phone and I watched in a trance like state as he put in a timer, then pulled me back towards the trees as we got pelted with big drops of rain.
We got to the little house and he pulled me inside.
The room was small, hardly as big as my bathroom was back home. The walls were wood paneled and there was a faded plaid couch along one wall, with a little coffee table in front of it, and a standing lamp in the corner giving the room a warm orange glow. There was another door to my right that went into a little kitchen area, and to my left there was a short hall with three closed doors. I turned around to face behind me when I head the low hum of a TV. There was a little old-school television set setup in the floor in front of the window, showing the weather. Apparently a hurricane would be making its way through for the next couple of days.
I heard a toilet flush and one of the doors in the hallway popped open. The little old woman who emerged was startled by me at first, but then she looked to Theon beside me and she grinned. “Little one is out cold.” She whispered coming into the little living area.
Theon walked me over to the couch, and more or less forced me to sit down while he went into the kitchen for a second, reemerging with some cash in his hands. “Thanks for keeping her Ms. Kay.” He said, passing her the money.
She grinned, her wrinkled cheeks lifting a little. “Always a pleasure, she is a special little girl.”
Thinking about Tally made my heart finally seem to start beating again, and I almost smiled. “You shouldn’t go out in this storm, Ms. Kay.” He pointed to the door. “It’s really coming down out there.” He explained, although I’m pretty sure she can hear it pounding onto the roof. “Why don’t you stay here tonight, you can have my room if you want, I hate to think of you out there walking in this.”
She patted him on the shoulder. “You are such a good boy.” She cooed at him. “If you’re sure you don’t mind?”
“Please, it’s the least I could do for you always helping us out.” He told her and she nodded, before heading down to the last room on the hall. She stole a quick glance over at me again, before she quietly went into room and closed the door behind her.
His kindness to her only made me feel worse, and I started to cry all over again. How many times had I called Fiona in on her off days, or sent her out in a storm to get me dessert from Malloan’s when I was feeling down. Fiona worked for my family for years and years and I was never as nice to her as Theon just was to his sister’s babysitter.
“You were right about me.” I whispered. “I am a bad person.”
Theon came and sat down beside me, awkwardly holding his hand out like he was going to put in on my leg before he finally just dropped it into his own lap. “Serena, I’m sorry that happened to you, but it doesn’t make you a bad person.” He told me, looking away. “The fact that you feel bad right now is proof of that.”
“I’m never doing it again, Theon.” I told him. “I won’t.” I said firmly.
He shook his head. “What else can you do, Serena?”
I looked at him, but he was still looking away. “I don’t want to be this. I don’t want to take life away from innocent people just so I can save mine and my boyfriend’s life.”
“Your boyfriend?” He asked.
I sniffled, and pulled at my stupid dress. “Yeah,” I whispered. “I’d made the deal with Alana before to save my own life, because that’s how much of an awful selfish person I am, but then I tried to quit, and she threatened to kill him if I don’t keep working for her.”
“You tried to quit?” He asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Are you just going to repeat everything I say?”
He turned to me. “Sorry.” He mumbled. “I’m just trying to understand.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but then he snapped it back shut. “Dammit.” He cursed.
“What?” I asked.
He shook his head and sighed, running his hands through his hair. “I can’t tell you apparently.”
I nodded in understanding. “Does she watch us all the time to know when to keep you from talking?”
He shook his head and clicked his tongue. “No, it doesn’t work like that.” He told me. “Alana has magic where she can look you up basically in her orb, but she can’t do it continuously, it would use too much of her power.” He explained. “She put a charm on me that keeps me from telling any secrets.”
I wiped my running nose with the back of my hand and Theon jumped up to get me a tissue box from the floor beside the couch. “Thanks.” I mumbled as I took them from him.
He sat back down beside me, resting one of his arms on the back of the couch. “What are you going to do?” He asked. “You can’t just quit.”
“I am.” I insisted.
He shook his head. “She won’t let you.” He said softly. “She’ll just continue to threaten people.” He told me. “If not your boyfriend, next it’ll be your parents, or you grandparents, or all of your friends.” He listed off. “Anyone you care about, she’ll threaten them to keep you where she needs you.”
I knew what he was saying was true, and it only made me more upset. She’d already showed once that me quitting wasn’t going to work. “I’ll just kill myself then.” I told him. “Before she can threaten anyone else.”
I was crying into my hands when I felt his hand on my shoulder, pulling me over to him. I balled my fists into his shirt on his chest and let it all out again, my tears soaking through the fabric. Just like before I let his heart soothe me, keeping me in this moment instead of letting my mind run wild on things that would only make me feel worse. “I don’t want you to do that.” He whispered over me. “You don’t want to become one of her things. At least with the deal you have right now, you still walk away one day, right?” He asked and I nodded against him. He awkwardly rested his hand on my back and I almost smiled again.
“1oo souls and two years.” I whispered.
“Ok, so two years of this, and you get out of here.” He told me. “Some people don’t have that…” He said cryptically. “You’ve got to fight, don’t give in to her.”
I leaned away from him, looking up into his warm eyes. “Theon, I can’t kill innocent people anymore!” I told him. “Even if it means I become…whatever I become. I just can’t do it.”
He looked at me hard. “What if the people weren’t innocent?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Huh?”
He rubbed his chin, squinting his own eyes while he looked at the door, deep in thought. “What if…” He mused, then nodded his head, turning back to me. “I’ve got an idea.”
I raised my eyebrows. “What kind of idea?”
One side of his mouth pulled up into a smile. “I think I can help you get people to come here who aren’t innocent.” He told me, his eyes still seeming a little far away. “I know that doesn’t make everything better, and you’d still be technically be killing them, but I could find people for you. People who…well, deserve what they get.”
“Nobody deserves to die, Theon.” I told him.
He shook his head though. “I’ve met some people who do.” He insisted. “Do you want me to help you?” He asked.
I twirled my hair around my finger and thought hard. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but if it kept Asher and the people I love alive, while not having the weight of the guilt from killing innocent people who have someone to go back to, then it sounded like a decent idea. “I’ll try.” I told him. “But if I still don’t like it, you have to promise me something.”
He narrowed his eyes. “What?”
“If I don’t like it, you have to let me kill myself and you have to get word to my family.” I told him. “Just a note or something, telling them I love them.” I sighed thinking about them again. “Deal?”
He thought for a minute, but then he turned his face back to mine and nodded. “Deal.”