Watered Down

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Chapter Thirty Five

Theon looked confused for a moment, but finally he slid into the cab beside me and told the driver to take us back to his room.

I kept my eyes trained out of the window beside me, trying to sort through all of the insanity that was my emotions right now. I needed to get a hold of myself before I ended up having a panic attack or something from all of the crying. I watched the neon lights of the city flash across the windows and in short instances it would light up just right for me to see Theon’s reflection in the glass.

He was sitting on the far side of the seat, his eyes cast down at his hands in his lap and I could see he was still rubbing his sore knuckles. He looked over for a spilt second and caught me looking. We both looked away just as fast and I kicked myself for letting him see me. How many nights now had I cuddled to his shirt, desperate to smell the smell that was now filling this little cab, or dreamt that he would actually be here? Now, here he is, the boy I have been thinking about for weeks, and everything is different now. I can’t trust him again. I thought he had done all of the things he did for me because he was such a good and selfless person, when in reality, he was probably only ever nice to me because he was carrying the guilt of what he had put me through.

My face felt hot when I thought about how forward I had been with him, realizing now that he most likely never harbored any of those type of feelings for me. Then it got even hotter when I remembered that I told him I had thought I was in love with him. It took a lot for me not to groan at myself.

The ride was long, awkward, and silent. I wasn’t really sure why I had thought that going back to Theon’s hotel with him would be a good idea, but I do need to know what reasons he has for completely and totally ruining my life.

The taxi finally pulled into the Sunny Palms Motel in the valley, and I fought back my urge to diss how nasty this place was. It was right in the middle of hookerville. I knew though that Theon probably couldn’t afford much better, especially since he had to have flown here. He opened the door for me and I crawled out of the backseat, staring blankly at the flickering neon vacancy sign while I waited for Theon to pay the driver.

I followed him up the stairs and into the little room.

The wallpaper was awful, covered in little pink flamingos, and the carpet had an unnatural squish to it when you walked, but the bed surprisingly didn’t look too bad. Either way, I sat down very tentatively, making sure that the skin of my legs didn’t actually touch the thin quilt. “So talk.” I said finally, breaking our hour long silence.

Theon closed the door and stood at the foot of the bed, leaning back against the rickety dresser. “Can I please just apologize again first?” He asked and I narrowed my eyes, cursing him silently for wearing the nice grey shirt and black shorts that made him look so handsome.

“You can just tell me what I want to know and then I can go home and so should you.” I said flatly. “Where is Tally, anyway?”

“She’s with Ms. Kay.” He responded, pushing his hair behind his ears. “She wanted me to tell you she loves and misses you.”

I almost smiled, but I reigned it in. “Tell her the same.” I nodded, then stopped. “Why wasn’t she able to call me? Were you keeping her from me?”

Theon sighed, shaking his head. “Alana.” He said simply, and that was almost enough of an explanation. “She brought me down to her cavern, and usually she protects me from the water, like you were, but this time before I was out of it, she took away the protection and fried my phone.” He explained. “When I got your message from the bar, I knew she must have been trying to make you hate me or something.”

“Yeah, well, you did that all on your own.” I snapped and he looked over at me like a wounded animal, his eyes big and sappy and his mouth going slack.

“I’m sorry, Serena.”

“You’ve said that already.” I told him. “Please just tell me everything so that I can go.” I said. “I’m really tired and I just want to go home.”

He nodded his head, putting his hands back on the dresser behind him. “It’s not a nice story.” He said lowly. “And I’ve never said any of it out loud, although the people on the island act as if they know it is fact.”

“How did you end up in Alana’s debt, Theon?”

He sighed, covering his face with his hands. “I was fifteen.” He whispered. “I was strong willed, difficult, and I thought I knew everything. I thought the world revolved around me, and I didn’t care that my actions had consequences.” I could hear the pain in his voice, but I just couldn’t picture Theon as being that way. “I went out one night, to a big party at my friend’s house, even though it was Tal’s fourth birthday and we were supposed to be having dinner as a family that night.” Theon was staring straight ahead of him, facing himself in the mirror that was hung over the head board of the bed. He stared into his eyes stoically as he spoke and the intensity in his glare made chills run up my spine. “My dad told me I couldn’t go, but I stole the car and went anyway. My friends and I were drinking all night long, shot after shot, which should have alone been enough to kill me, but then we had the idea to go pick up another one of our friends.” He shook his head, his voice catching a little. “Everyone else was too scared to drive, but I was fearless. I got behind that wheel like it was nothing, and I wrapped that car around a tree not even two miles up the road.”

“When you got your scar?” I asked softly, and he nodded.

“I didn’t just get a scar though.” He sighed. “My friends didn’t have seat belts on, and they were all killed on impact, but for whatever reason, I had actually thought to put mine on.” He said. “I was airlifted to the hospital, and the doctors tried everything, but they told my parents that there was just no way for me to overcome my injuries and that within a few hours I would be dead like my friends.”

My jaw was hanging open, but I wasn’t breathing anymore. “Theon…” I whispered his name with the last of my breath, and he refused to look down to me. He just kept going while he looked himself in the mirror.

“I was supposed to die, but…But my parents couldn’t bear to let go of their perfect first born son.” He said with a twisted look on his face. “They acted like I was the perfect child, even though I was the furthest thing from it.” He spat. “There have always been rumors on the island about a witch that lives in the waters. That’s why no one will dare to go to that cove, because they know it’s cursed.” He explained what I already knew. “My parents went there, and they found Alana.”

I shook my head, not wanting to believe what I was hearing. “Your parents traded your soul to Alana to keep you alive?” I said in horror, but he shook his head.

“No.” He whispered. “They traded Tally’s.”

My jaw dropped and my eyes were bugging out of my head. “No.” I whispered, but he just nodded.

“They traded that innocent little girl’s life for mine.” He said sickly, his shoulders shaking. “They made a deal with Alana, that if she’d heal me, they would give her Tally when she came of age.” He told me. “Alana is going to use her as her pure siren and keep her forever.” He whispered. “She’s going to force her to stay with her so that she never has to find another pure one. Tally will never be free from Alana.”

The tears were already falling down my face and my heart was pounding in my chest. “No, there has to be something someone could do, Alana cannot have her.” I choked out.

Theon walked over to plop down on the bed beside me, tears running down his face matching mine. “I wish there was, but the deal is final.” He shook his head then dropped it down into his hands. “My parents had made the deal that they would turn Tally over when she turns eighteen, and Alana saved me.” He said. “A couple years later my parents grew a conscience and tried to save Tally. We tried to escape the island, but Alana brought down the plane, and I couldn’t save them. It was them or Tally, and they had already betrayed her once, and I wasn’t going to do it again.” He said firmly. “I got Tally out of the water, but my parents were drowned. Right after though, Alana tried to take Tally, saying that my parents had messed up their deal and that Tally would be living with her now. She was going to corrupt her, and I couldn’t let that happen. So in turn for me to be able to keep Tally with me, and at least raise her until she turns eighteen, I offered my services to Alana.” His voice shook. “That’s why I do it.”

“Tally, oh my god.” I stood up, unable to contain my emotions any longer or sit still. I paced the length of the room over and over until Theon inserted himself into my path, and as much as I wanted to be mad at him, and hate his guts for the rest of my life, I walked into his arms and we held each other. The steady beat of his heart that I’d missed so much was what I trained my mind on, anything other than thinking of my poor sweet Tally being put through what I was put through. “How could a parent do that to their own child?” I asked.

Theon shook his head over mine. “I don’t know.” He admitted. “But I am always researching, trying to find any loophole or way out of it. I will work my ass off right up until her eighteenth birthday and beyond to do what I need to do to free her.”

“She’s lucky she has a brother like you.” I whispered, but his breath caught.

“If it weren’t for me, she would have never been put in this position in the first place.” He whispered sadly. “Everything that has happened to her or will happen to her is entirely my fault.”

I leaned back and looked into his wet golden eyes, the pain of the past still raw in them. “You cannot blame yourself, Theon.” I told him. “You were just a stupid kid. Plus it wasn’t you that tossed her life away, that was them. What you did was stupid, but kids make stupid mistakes, and truly, it should have killed you. That should have been your price, but instead your parents made the selfish decisions that they did. You cannot let their burden weigh you down, because it isn’t your guilt to carry.”

Theon let out a small cry and clung closer to me. I’d never seen a man really break down before, and if I’m being honest, I used to think that would be a sign of weakness, but not with Theon. Theon is the strongest person I have ever met, and probably ever will meet. Him finally breaking down and letting out his pain just shows how strong he really and truly is. I can’t imagine carrying the things he does on his shoulders.

I sat back down on the bed and held his head in the crook of my neck and let him let it all go. Let go off all that pain and guilt and regret that he has carried alone for years. I let him give some of it away, letting me carry some of it for him. “You don’t always have to be strong.” I whispered, brushing back his hair. “I forgive you, Theon.” I kissed the top of his head. “I promise that I do. I would have done the same thing as you for that little girl.” I told him. “I don’t blame you.” I sighed, holding him closer. “In fact, I am going to do whatever I can, spend whatever amount of money I need on research, so that you and I can save that little girl.” I promised. “We will not let that be her fate.”

After an hour, Theon leaned away from me, his breathing now more regular and his eyes were out of tears to cry. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

He sighed, almost a smile, but not quite. “I still am.” He whispered.

I wanted to take away his pain, but I didn’t know what else I could do other than to be here for him. My head was still in a spin from the change of emotions. I had come here hating him, cursing him for what he had done to me, but now I don’t harbor any ill thoughts for him, and I wish that by me being taken it could have done more. It’s a weird feeling, wishing you could give your life for someone else’s.

“Theon?” I whispered, needing to get my mind someplace else for a minute, not able to take the pain of thinking of Tally anymore. “Why did you come here?” I asked him. “You didn’t know who had traded me off, so you couldn’t have been coming to warn me.”

He looked up, our eyes meeting, and the few inches between us feeling like less and less. “I just had to tell you.” He whispered.

“Tell me what?” I asked breathily, and I didn’t miss the way his eyes dropped to my lips.

“I just wanted you to know…how I feel about you.” He said with that little touch of shyness creeping back into his demeanor.

I leaned in slightly, without even consciously doing it. “How do you feel about me?”

He sighed softly, looking me in the eyes. “I tried to let you go, and I wanted you to be happy…but, I needed you to know that I think about you all the time. I missed you for every second that I wasn’t with you, and I know I should have told you so much sooner, because I have felt like this for so long, and I have to say it.” He said in a rush. “I think I love you, Serena.” Then he shook his head. “No, I know I do.”

I grabbed his face quickly and pulled him to me, my heart going wild just before our lips melded together. I’ve thought about kissing Theon more than I have thought about any other thing, and it didn’t disappoint. He kissed me back without any hesitation, pulling his hands up into my hair and I held tightly to his neck, reveling in the feel of his skin beneath my fingertips. Kissing Theon felt like I had been drowning for months and his lips were the air I had been needing and craving all this time. He was air. He was everything.

He leaned me back on the bed, leaning down over me to kiss me deeper, and I had never been so moved by a kiss in all of my life. I almost wanted to cry at how happy I was. All of the tension between us, and the insane amount of buildup to this exact moment only made the kiss that much better. He pulled away breathlessly. “Oh, god, I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I breathed. Levi and Cassandra had been right. “I have the whole time.”

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