“Where did you find that necklace?” Stella asks, as soon as I answer the phone.
“In the storage unit,” I respond as I step out into the back yard, “We are in Lawrence; I’ve taken Rowaelin to her home. Do you know what the symbol means?”
“Not the first one,” Stella says, “But the second one. It was my sister’s design.”
“You have a sister?” I gape, Stella sighs and I can picture her leaning back in her chair and rubbing the bridge of her nose.
“Had,” She corrects, “Her name was Ingrid. She was killed a very long time ago. She believed in vampires and humans coexisting together. Our parents were outraged, they locked her away for several weeks, retraining her to be the best hunter she could be. On her first hunt back, she was taken by a vampire and assumed dead.”
“So what’s her design doing on a necklace?” I ask, the line goes quiet.
“I think that Ingrid is Rowaelin’s mother,” she whispers, I hear the shuffle of papers as I mull over the possibility.
“But Rowaelin’s mother’s name is Emila,” I speaking softer as I hear Rowaelin move through the house, “Why would she change her name? How did she escape the vampires without anyone knowing?”
The line stays quiet.
“Is there something you aren’t telling me?” I ask.
“No,” Stella says, finally speaking after another moment of silence, “I don’t know how she could have survived. The vampire that took her, he was vicious, I saw him tear into her with my own eyes. There must be another explanation.”
Stella hangs up and the line goes dead.
“Odd,” I say to myself.
I walk back inside and find Rowaelin standing in the doorway of an old room, by the look of it, I assume it’s hers. There is a small yellow bed in the corner, a bookcase filled with childish books near the door, and a chest overflowing with toys at the end of the bed.
Rowaelin steps into the room and kneels down by the chest, she pulls out a stuffed bear and lifts it to her nose.
“My mother made this bear,” she whispers so softly that I almost miss it, “She called it Mr Fuzzels.”
Rowaelin sits at the end of her old bed and holds onto her bear, she hums to herself, the tune sounds so familiar.
“I’m going to order some food for dinner,” I say to her, she looks up to me and her green eyes shine, I take a deep breath and walk into the kitchen.
Twenty minutes later a man knocks on the door and I pay for the pizza that he brings. I call Rowaelin to the kitchen and she comes. She is reluctant to eat.
“It looks too greasy,” she says, turning up her nose.
“Just one bite,” I smile, already halfway through my first slice, “It’s not as good as the authentic stuff in Italy, but this isn’t bad.”
I watch as Rowaelin sniffs the pizza, she takes a bite and her eyes widen.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” I laugh, as she eats the slice quickly.
Hmph is her reply as she shoves another piece into her mouth. She moans happily and I can’t help but smile.
After dinner I shower and think of Rowaelin’s reaction to the pizza, her smile was so warm and bright and I suspect it was the first time she genuinely smiled since being taken.
After my shower Rowaelin ducks in and I hear her humming the tune again.
When I walk back into the lounge room Adrian is sitting on the couch watching the television with Max at his feet.
“I’m going to bed,” I announce, feeling tired.
“Okay,” he smiles, “I’ll be right out here if you need me.”
I nod my head and then walk down the hall, I pause outside my mother’s room and then walk inside. I lay on her bed after realising that my bed is too small for me to fit on.
I lay awake, staring at the ceiling and listening to the sound of the TV in the other room. I close my eyes and fall asleep.
I awaken a short time later, my heart racing in my chest and my body feeling so cold. My hands shake as I sit up in the darkness, the door to my room remains open but it is dark out in the halls.
Any moment a vampire could come in and eat me, I pull my knees to my chest as my eyes adjust to the darkness.
“Adrian,” I whisper, my breath catches in my throat.
I slowly get out of bed, and as I cross the room I keep a cautious eye on the shadows. I leave the room and sneak down the hallway, my heart racing and my veins filling with fear.
I walk out to the lounge room and find Adrian sleeping on the couch, his sword resting against his chest and Max on the floor.
My heart races as the wind howls outside, a chill sets in and races up my spine. I sit on the floor at the end of the couch knowing that I’m safer when I am closer to Adrian and his sword, Max looks up to me and moves closer as I pat his fur.
Eventually, I see the sky start to lighten, the sun begins to rise and my fear begins to fade. I lay down by the couch and watch as the sky turns pink.
When I awaken my back aches from sleeping on the couch all night. I roll over to my side and sigh, my arm dangles off of the side.
My fingers feel skin beneath them and my eyes widen as I look down. On the floor in front of me is Rowaelin, she lays on the floor sleeping peacefully with Max laying by her feet. Her skin seems to glow from the sunlight that covers her.
“Rowaelin,” I whisper, getting off of the couch and crouching down in front of her, “Rowy.”
Her eyes slowly open and when she sees my face they widen as her cheeks redden.
“I’m sorry,” she stammers, sitting up quickly, “I didn’t mean to-”
“It’s alright,” I smile, cutting off her apology, “I just didn’t think the floor would be comfortable.”
“I’ve been sleeping on the floor for seven years,” she laughs, scratching the back of her neck.
I cannot see the humour in it, it’s sad.
“Why did you come out here?” I ask, standing to my feet and pulling her up with me.
“I-I had a nightmare,” she says, looking to the floor, “I couldn’t sleep. I came out here and must have fallen asleep after the sun came up.”
“That would mean that you’ve been sleeping for about two hours,” I gape, looking at my watch.
“That’s all I usually sleep,” she shrugs.
I stare at Rowaelin with wide eyes, it never truly hit me how bad she has had it.
“So I was thinking,” she says, looking up to my face, “I was thinking of cleaning my room out, maybe getting some food for the house or doing something.”
“Yeah,” I agree, my eyes widening in surprise, “I think that will be a good idea.”
Rowaelin smiles and then there is a knock at the door, I frown as her eyes widen.
“Who is it?” I call as I walk to the door.
“My name is Wilson,” a man on the other side of the door calls out. Rowaelin whimpers from behind me and I frown as she takes a step away from the door.
I open the door but keep the screen door shut, the man on the other side of the door is old, his face is heavily wrinkled and his hair is grey.
“What do you want?” I ask, making sure to keep an eye on where Rowaelin is.
“I… is Rowaelin here?” he asks, Rowaelin steps back, “I heard she was rescued, when I heard that you came through, I… I had to see for myself.”
“What is she to you?” I ask, the old man looks at his feet and then back to me.
“I was the last one to see her before… before.” He leaves his sentence open and I am able to put the pieces together. I look to Rowaelin and she shakes her head.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “She doesn’t want to see anyone at the moment.”
The man nods his head in understanding and passes me a tub of ice cream.
“This was her favourite,” he says as I take the tub, “I… just wanted to see if she was alright.”
“Thank you,” I smile, the man nods and then leaves.
When I close the door I find Rowaelin near the window, watching the man walk down the driveway.
She doesn’t say a word for the rest of the day, we go to the market and buy food for the house. Then we spend the rest of the day boxing her old things.
“Are you sure you want to throw all this stuff away?” I ask as she puts her old toys into a box, “You must be somewhat attached to them?”
Rowaelin sighs and shakes her head, however I notice her keep ‘Mr Fuzzels’ as well as two other items.
“What’s that?” I ask as Rowaelin puts a snow globe aside.
She hands it to me and I smile and watch the snowfall inside. Inside the globe is a stone castle on top of a hill, the globe has a golden base and a wind-up music cylinder inside.
I wind up the music key and it chimes out a melody. The same melody that Rowaelin was humming yesterday.
Rowaelin hums along with the music as she continues to pack her things away. She and I take down her old bed and clean out her room until there is nothing left.
We take her stuff into the garage and then head back inside.
“What is this song?” I ask as Rowaelin sits on the couch with her snow globe.
But Rowaelin doesn't answer, she stares at the globe with fascinated eyes.
“Rowaelin, what’s wrong?” I ask, sitting down next to her, “You’ve gone quiet again.”
“It was a gift,” she mumbles, shaking the snow globe again, “from my father.”
My heart skips a beat as I remember the reason why I am here.
“You’ve met your father?” I ask, she nods her head as she winds up the music again.
“I can’t remember his face,” she says, her eyes watch the snowfall around the castle, “But I remember him giving this to me. I remember that his hands seemed so big to me, he had such a warm smile and a soft voice.”
“The man, Wilson,” I start, “Who was he? What happened on the day you were taken? How were the vampires able to take you?”
Rowaelin pulls at her sleeve and takes a deep breath as the melody stops.
“It was hot,” she says, as she picks out a frayed stitch, “I just wanted ice cream. I went to his shop, Wilson’s shop. I went in and then… and then she came in.”
“Who?” I ask, “Your Mistress?”
“Her name was Amanda,” Rowaelin shivers, “She wore long clothes, I was confused at first, but now I understand why, it was to cover the marks. She… took me, because she was told that was the way she could earn her freedom. After twenty-five years, Mis… Thana, would make them chose someone to replace them, saying that she will let them go. But she never let them go.”
Rowaelin leans forward on her knees and wipes the tear from her cheek. She takes a deep breath and sits back again, yawning widely.
“You need to sleep,” I say to her, she shakes her head and stands to her feet.
“I’m fine,” she says, “I can’t sleep.”
“Rowy, you’ll exhaust yourself,” I warn, watching her as she walks to the kitchen.
“I’m fine,” she assures me as she puts the snow globe on the bench and stands near the kitchen window, letting the sunlight illuminate her skin.
“You’re afraid to sleep,” I say, she looks over to me and her eyes say it all, “All this time, you’ve been sleeping on the floor, and sleeping during the day. You are stuck in a habit that you don’t want to break.”
Rowaelin frowns and looks away from me.
“I want to break it,” she sighs, “I want to be able to sleep on a bed, to not be afraid of the dark. But the dark is all I’ve known; for the past seven years I’ve never seen the sun, but I know that vampires can’t stand in the sun, very few can stay awake during daylight. My dreams are filled with vampires, Adrian, why? Why did they pick me? I can’t even remember my mother’s face, I don’t know who my father is. Adrian, they broke me. I’ve been raped and fed from so many times, that now it is almost expected. I want to break the habit, I want to feel normal.”
Rowaelin cries, her whole body shakes as I stand to my feet and walk over to her.
“Let it out,” I say to her, she looks up to me, her eyes wet with tears that slowly fall, “You can cry, you can scream all you want now. Let that anger inside of you go.”
Her face hardens and she whimpers as she falls to her knees. She screams and she cries out loud, I can almost feel the pain radiating off of her. I kneel down in front of her and place my hand on her back, she sighs and moves into my touch, she looks up to me and then quicker than I can think, she wraps her arms around me, I fall on my backside as she holds onto me.
I am not accustomed to this, I have never stuck around after a hunt to console the victims, I usually leave that to the clean-up crew. But something about Rowaelin is different, something about her makes me want to hold on to her, I want to protect her more than anything in the world.
I wrap my arms around her and hold her close to my chest, Rowaelin takes a deep breath and then she screams, she screams out painfully as she presses close to my chest. I take a deep breath and comfort her softly by patting her hair and rocking her, telling her that everything will be okay.
Rowaelin cries until no noise comes out, she shivers against my chest and whimpers when I shift.
“Please don’t let go,” she whispers when I shift my leg, “Please don’t leave me alone.”
“I promise,” I whisper as she muffles her cries on my chest.
She falls asleep in my arms on the floor, her breathing becomes even and steady and when I look I can tell she is asleep. As darkness creeps over the house, I pick Rowaelin up in my arms and carry her to her mother’s room. I lay her down on the bed and watch her sleep for a while before turning to leave.
But before I get out the door I remember how scared she was to be alone. I decide to stay, I sit on the floor next to the bed and stay with Rowaelin, but I am not used to sleeping on the floor, it takes me a while to even feel like sleeping.
As I begin to drift Rowaelin starts to talk, more accurately, she starts to giggle.
I turn to look at her as her eyes open.
“Mother?” she asks, her voice soft and suppressing laughter, “Mother are you awake?”
I watch in confusion as Rowaelin sits up and gets out of bed, she practically prances to the door and leaves the room.
“Rowaelin,” I say, getting up and following her as she skips and tiptoes down the hall, “Rowaelin where are you going?”
“Shh,” she giggles, turning to me, Max looks up to me as Rowaelin goes into the lounge room, “You’ll wake her.”
“What are you doing?” I whisper as she opens the back door and skips out into the yard.
“I know where she keeps my presents,” Rowaelin laughs, finding a key under a garden gnome, “It’s my birthday!”
Rowaelin unlocks the shed and then skips in giggling as she goes all the way to the back. I watch as Rowaelin goes to a shelf and moves some things.
“See!” Rowaelin says, gesturing to the empty shelf.
Rowaelin jumps and then turns to the door.
“I’m sorry,” she giggles, racing back out of the shed and inside. I follow her and find her sitting on the kitchen bench.
“Is father coming soon?” she asks, swinging her legs, “He said he was coming right?”
Her head whips to the door and she jumps off the counter and races to the door.
“Father!” she squeals, Max looks up and tilts his head in confusion.
“Rowaelin,” I whisper, as she bounces around an empty space.
“I’ve missed you!” she giggles, no longer noticing me, “It’s my birthday! Oh what is it, what is it?”
I watch as Rowaelin goes and sits on the living room floor and tears into the imaginary present. She laughs and giggles and it is somehow adorable and terrifying at the same time.
“A snow globe!” she gapes, “Is this where you live?!”
She giggles some more and then looks to the door.
“Alec!” she squeals, she runs to the door and laughs, then her laughter fades and her eyes widen.
“Rowaelin?” I ask as she begins to shake, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry,” she whimpers before running past me into her old room, Rowaelin falls to her knees and starts scratching at the floor.
“What are you doing?” I ask as she scratches frantically.
“Shh!” she hisses, “He’ll find us.”
“Who?” I ask, kneeling down next to her.
“Rakin,” she breathes, she shivers and then looks to her door, “I’m sorry.”
“What is he saying?” I ask, trying to get as much as I can from this.
“He wants to know about my father,” she stammers, “Please, I don’t know anything! I promise! I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry for?” I ask.
“I hit him,” she gapes, “It was an accident, I ran. I want to go home! I promise I won’t tell. I promise!”
Rowaelin screams and falls as if she has been dragged forward.
I watch with wide horrified eyes as Rowaelin screams and tries to fight off her invisible attacker, I realise what’s happening and reach for her.
“Rowaelin!” I say, grabbing her and holding her close, “Rowy! You’re not there, wake up!”
Rowaelin screams out and clutches onto me, she screams out in agony and Max looks into the room.
“I don’t want to remember anymore,” she whimpers, “Adrian, I don’t want to remember anymore.”
“It’s okay,” I soothe, gently rocking her and keeping her close, “It’s going to be okay.”
Rowaelin becomes quiet after that night, she doesn’t talk at all and barely moves and keeps close to me or Max. I end up having to call John for help because Rowaelin doesn’t want to leave the house, but she doesn’t want me to leave either.
“Hey mate,” John smiles when I answer the door.
“Come in,” I say, standing aside, John strides in and looks to Rowaelin who sits on the couch staring at nothing.
“Is she okay?” he asks, looking at me with a raised eyebrow.
“I don’t think so,” I say, grabbing my keys.
“Rowaelin, I need to go out for a while," I tell her as I kneel down in front of her, "John and Max are going to stay here. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Rowaelin looks to me for a moment before looking away and nodding her head once.
“You know my number,” I say as I stand and then look to John.
“Don’t worry about a thing,” he smiles, I look to Rowaelin one more time and then leave.