Watered Down

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Chapter Twenty One

“I’m so excited I am about to burst.” Levi laughed as we walked into the water.

“I know!” Cassandra clapped her hands beside her. “I honestly didn’t think we’d be able to do this.” She smiled, then grabbed mine and Levi’s hands, making us stop. “I love you girls.” She said and we all hugged again.

“I guess if I had to have this terrible experience, then I’m glad it was with you two.” Levi beamed, looking more beautiful than usual, as if it were even possible.

I looked back and forth between them and even though I was feeling a little sad, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of the two of these beautiful people being freed. Even though I feel like I may or may not be deserving of this new chance at life, I truly believe that these two girls deserve it more than anyone I’ve known.

The both of them giggled again before we went under the water and made our way to the cavern. Armela was lingering a few yards away from the cave and as we made our way her tentacles began to glow a deeper red. “Where are you guys going?” She asked when we got closer.

“We got the 100.” I told her.

She stilled, staying suspended. “Really?”

Levi and Cass nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “We just finished.”

Without saying anything else, she moved away quickly, and I felt bad for her, but I couldn’t stand to wait any longer. Cass squeezed my hand and I looked over at her. “You and Asher are about to have the cutest reunion ever.” She whispered.

I grinned and my heart leapt. “I bet it really will be pretty cute.” I laughed. Now that I thought about it, I can’t wait to call him and tell him I’m alive. I bet he will plan some big thing like he usually does. He was always the best about planning little low budget dates that would put the dates of billionaires in romance novels to shame.

As we entered the cave, I noticed that all three of us had our eyes drawn to the green orb in the center and I was glad that I’m not the only one who has such a pull to it.

“My beautiful little girls.” Alana cooed, lounging in her bone and coral throne, while she stared at herself in her hand mirror. She brought the mirror down to her face and kissed her own reflection. “To what do I owe the surprise of all three of my little demons visiting?” She asked, then turned her head to glare and Cass and Levi. “Only one of my darlings has bothered to come down to visit mommy in months.”

Levi stepped forward, ever the confident one. “We did it.” She said proudly, her shoulders back.

“Did what?” Alana asked flippantly, setting her mirror down in her lap.

I already had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“We collected the 100.” Cassandra said softly, keeping her eyes down. “We’re finished.”

Alana set aside the mirror and stood, her hair noticeably grayer at the root and near her ears. She laughed. “You have actually collected 100?” She asked, tilting her head at us and we nodded. “How lovely.” She smiled. “That boyfriend of yours really does work wonders doesn’t he?” She asked pointedly at me.

“He isn’t my boyfriend, but yes he did help us out quite a bit.” I said evenly. “Almost all of the men were murderers, drug dealers, rapist, or just all around bad people.” I said proudly.

“How nice for you.” Alana said sarcastically as she went behind the orb slowly.

We watched as she waved her hand over it, and it turned a deeper green, twice as mesmerizing as before, and I had to stop myself from walking closer to it. In the center, an older couple, both with platinum blonde hair and dark brown eyes, were sitting at a dining room table in front of a big window, the third seat vacant as they both turned to look at it sadly. I could tell from looking at them that they must be Cassandra’s parents. I turned to her and saw the look on her face, only further confirming who it was to me, but then she smiled. I looked back at the orb, and now it showed Cass sitting in that empty chair, drinking her coffee with her parents, the three of them all smiling.

Alana waved her arms again and I saw a girl, who looked familiar, but sick. She was tall with a perfect bone structure, but her electric blue eyes were dull in the deep set sockets with large bags beneath them. Her skin was a pale almost bluish color and she walked down a hospital hallway with hardly any strength, her head completely bald. “Levi.” I whispered, and I heard her sniffle beside me. The green light of the orb shifted and suddenly the girl was transformed, looking as healthy and gorgeous as the Levi standing right beside me. She walked out of the hospital and ripped off her hospital bracelet, throwing it to the ground before running to hug two people I assume to be her parents.

Alana looked directly at me, then back down at the orb with a smile.

Asher appeared, laying in the center of a bed, not one that I recognized, and the room wasn’t his, but he was laying there, looking like a perfect model in his Calvin Klein boxers. He lied there, staring up at the ceiling, his big aqua eyes sad, until the door to his left opened up and I walked in. He shot up from the bed and grabbed me, pulling me into his warm embrace and he and I smiled from ear to ear as I held him. He began to kiss me and we made our way over to the bed, falling down onto it together before the orb went green again.

“Come here, girls.” Alana said and we all walked forward. “Place your hands on the orb.” She said as she went behind her throne and came back with a tray, covered in little dirty looking vials like the thousands that filled the holes in the cave walls around us. I was nervous, but I reached out, placing my hand against the gooey surface of the orb with the other girls and our hands were all pulled in. That panic set in again when I tried to pull my hand away but I couldn’t.

Pain shot through my body, splintering my insides, starting at my neck where the amulet rested, then forking out for the rest of me. I tried to scream, but no sounds came out of me. My eyes were wide as I saw a green murky smoke like substance exit from my amulet, and move through the water, depositing itself into the little vials on the tray, filling them with a grey liquid. With the burning sensation that was wracking through me, it was hard to take note of anything else, but I could hear her laughing. Alana’s loud cackling filling my ears as she smiled, watching her souls come to her.

When it was over we all fell to the cave ground.

My breathing still hurt a little, but it was nothing compared to the pain of the soul extraction. I could feel my heart pounding, and I took that as a good sign, but I also still had on my amulet. After a few minutes I sat up, followed by Levi and Cassandra while Alana stood over the orb still. She took one of the vials from the tray and tossed it back into her mouth, her youth restored to her now.

“Thank you, girls.” She grinned as she put down the tray carefully. “You may go back to work now.”

“Work?” Levi snapped, standing to her feet. “No more work, we’re leaving now.”

Alana laughed and Cass and I stood beside Levi. “It’s only been…what? Three months? Four maybe?” Alana asked.

“That doesn’t matter.” Levi said, shaking her head. “We gave you the 100 souls.”

Alana nodded her head. “Yes, you did.” She smiled. “And I am very proud of you three, my most successful girls ever.” She cooed at us. “But the fact still remains that you will stay until your two years is up, and you will work, or else those futures that I just showed you, will never be true.”

“This is bullshit!” Levi yelled.

“You said we had two years to get the souls, Alana, not that we were bound to stay the whole two years.” I said.

“Right.” Cassandra chimed in, her voice shaking.

Alana shook her head. “No, I made a deal for two years and 100 souls.” She said. “I’ve got the 100 souls, but you three will continue to work for me until your time is up.”

“I asked you and you said yes that if we finished early we could go early.” I said, already feeling like it was a pointless attempt.

“I don’t recall that at all.” She shrugged, smiling to herself. “Sorry, girls, now get back to work.”

“You’re a bitch!” Levi screamed, and Cassandra held her back.

“Yeah.” Alana grinned. “I know I am, but just look how beautiful I am.” She laughed. “Now get lost, I expect to see you girls back in two months with more souls for me.”

I looked to see the awful defeated looks on Cassandra and Levi’s faces and it broke my heart, even though something in my gut told me that something like this was going to happen. For some reason I just knew that Alana wasn’t going to let us go so easily, and looking at it from her point of view, why would she? We’d been the best group she’s ever gotten, so to expect that she’d let us go so easily when she could still hang things over our heads to keep us full term was just wishful thinking.

I turned to look behind me, seeing how content Alana was with herself as she strutted over to her throne and sat back down, admiring herself in her mirror again made me sick. I’d like to say I wish I’d never made a deal with her in the first place, but then again, I’d never have met Levi, Cass, Tally, or Theon if I hadn’t. My emotions were all too confusing to deal with right now, so I left the cavern quietly, walking slower than was necessary.

“Are you off for home now?” I heard a voice ask and I turned to see Armela.

“No.” I whispered in response.

“I feared that would happen.” She said softly.

I nodded my head. “So did I.”

I walked up the sand bank, and found Cassandra and Levi both sitting out on the beach of the little island, both of their faces streaked with tears. My heart broke for them. “I can’t believe this.” Levi said. “We were so stupid to actually think that that bitch would allow us to just leave like none of this ever happened.” She sobbed. “I bet she never does.” She said. “Even in two years I am sure she’ll come up with something that will either keep us here, or somehow or another she’ll just cancel out our deal when she is finished with us.”

“We’re never going home.” Cassandra whimpered beside Levi, her knees pulled up to her chest and her long hair fanning out around her. “My parents are alive, and I keep telling myself that it’s enough if I know that they got to live, but seeing them just now, how sad they are…” She cried. “I never thought about it when I made my deal that they would be alive without me.” She said. “I bet they wish they were the ones who were dead, and not me.” She explained. “I bet I just made their lives harder on them.”

“I know what you mean.” Levi nodded. “I never should have made a deal either.” She said, wiping her face off. “It was so selfish of me to just up and disappear from my family, when I could have been spending what little time I had left with them. I never even told them goodbye.” She said biting her cheek.

I stood in front of them both, looking down on them. “Both of you need to stop it.” I snapped. “None of this is something you two should be beating yourself up over.” I said. “Cassandra, you gave up your life to save your parents, and Levi, you were so brave to do what you did. I don’t think there is a person out there who would fault you for making the choices you made. Who wouldn’t want to have a normal life after everything you’ve been through?” I explained. “Don’t kick yourselves for doing what you did, when it is Alana who you should be mad at, not yourselves.”

I slumped down in the sand beside them, looking up at the full moon, while Levi put her hand on my shoulder. “You’re right.” She nodded her head. “You know, you’re pretty selfless too.” She smiled at me, and I looked over at her with tears in my eyes. “Asher is one lucky guy to have a girlfriend like you.”

That pushed me over. I started to cry, as much as I didn’t want to do it. “No.” I whispered. “You two are the only ones who were selfless and did the right thing.” I told them, avoiding looking at their questioning expressions. “I was just thrown overboard on my dad’s boat when I was out partying with my friends.” I explained. “I drowned and Alana offered me the deal to live again and I took it.” I said ashamed of myself, saying it out loud making it feel even worse than when I kept it to myself. “I never did it for another person or for good reasons like you, Levi. I just did it because I wanted to go back to my stupid spoiled life and live.”

“But you said-.” Cassandra whispered.

“Yeah, I know.” I nodded. “I lied.” I told them. “When I got too overwhelmed from taking the souls, I tried to quit, and that’s when Alana threatened Asher if I didn’t continue to work for her, not before.” I explained. “I made my original decision out of pure selfishness.”

Levi and Cassandra were both quiet for a second before Cass reached over to pat my leg. “We all make mistakes, Serena.” She said softly. “I’m not perfect, and I’m sure Levi isn’t either.” She told me. “One bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person.”

“She’s right.” Levi nodded at me. “Do you honestly think you’re the same person you were when you made that deal? Because I know I’m not.”

“I’m not either.” Cass agreed.

I stood up quickly, my mind determined. “What are you doing?” Levi called out to me as I marched for the water.

“You’re right.” I said over my shoulder. “I’m not the same person I was.”

“Where are you going?” Cass yelled as I went out into the waves, but I ignored her.

I ignored both of them as they called out my name when I dove beneath the surface.

I was on a mission, and I made my way to the cavern as quickly as my body would allow.

I stomped into the cave, and Alana turned her annoyingly beautiful face to me.

“Can I help you, Serena?” She asked annoyed.

I walked over to her, crossing my arms over my chest.

“You like to make deals, don’t you, Alana?”

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