Scars, Pain, & Despair

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Chapter Sixteen

Proserpina

Hallow. That's what I was now, nothing but guilt gnawed on me like I was lunch when I look at Astera. After everything had happened I had to avoid Astera. She placed wet towels and ice packs onto her bruises that I couldn't bear to look at anymore without guilt gnawing at me. She tried to embrace me grateful for what I knew was nothing. Instead of letting her, I put distance between us and ran to my room.

I sat up against the door with it locked so Kaden or anyone else couldn't follow. I didn't want to talk anymore than I wanted to run. I knew Astera was going to be confused of why I was doing this but I felt noting but guilt. I couldn't help but watch everything go down again. How she was hurt and crying on the floor at the feet of a cruel person. How I didn't get to her and didn't try hard enough even though I wouldn't win. I could've fought past Kaden and everyone else but I didn't. I had let a friend endure such pain while I watched. I just sat and waited for it to end and now I was left with the feeling that I couldn't dismiss or face.

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Astera

After everything had began and ended I was grateful and full of anger for two different reasons. I had spotted Proserpina fight to get to me but didn't make it before she was removed from the room ending the pain for me just like that. Owen had wanted to help me even as Proserpina tried but he stood there knowing the consequences would worsen for both of us. I was surrounded by friends whom wanted to help me more than ever even if it was against Uncle.

Now I wanted to prove my worth for everyone. I knew how I looked with having Proserpina defend me more than once and me cowering before this ruthless man but I didn't mind. My friendship has never been for sale for anyone but Proserpina had bought it the first time with Thia. Even now the need to prove I was worth her friendship and protection was driving me to make it up to her.

I was nearing Proserpina about to embrace her forever grateful for her bravery but she had backed like I had a disease. Everyone was watching us by this time making more tears prick in my eyes when I met the hardness in her eyes. Shaking her head she stomped away leaving me behind. Checking the others' confusion I tried to see if there were any bruises from when she was dragged away on her retreating back but couldn't to set aside my unease.

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Kaden

The next day, Proserpina refused to go on the run to get the supplies for Aunt Katherine, raising concern. It was her daily run that she never could refuse for anything but now she avoided Astera, and stayed to herself. John and Nathan didn't push the issue anymore than I tried but it didn't seem to help. There was no more fire in her eyes, confidence in her step or spirit in her speech. It was like she wasn't there anymore just a clone that brought heartbreak when I saw her.

Uncle was still unforgiving and struck her for the last vicious things she said to me and for fight Nathan and Donny in the hall. Even then Proserpina rose up again and again but it wasn't the same as the defiance there was last time. Her gaze always was empty and distant and now I couldn't watch anything she did without the disappointment I had for myself. I couldn't understand why such a change in her will to fight anyone who wronged her.

Now I ran for the supplies that Aunt Katherine needed, hopefully just until Proserpina figure outs what happened. People looked upon me with glee and joy for once giving me a break. A woman approached me with her two boys bringing me back with her words.

"Where's that girl that usually goes out for the groceries?" She asked both her boy and her looking concerned.

"Umm... you mean Proserpina; yes she is busy right now so I'm making the runs for her."

"Ah that's nice of you but could you ask her when you get a chance if she could come for supper one of these days. She is just a joy to have around the house you know?"

"Joy?"

"Yes that's what she brings."

"Hehehe I'm sorry ma'am but we've always had disagreements so I don't know."

"Oh I see but you still like her don't ya?" She didn't say as a question more as a statement or a tease.

"What? No ma'am we just fight."

"Hahaha! You are just too innocent you can tell her to join us one of these days and you may come too. Maybe you are right." Nodding her head, her boys raced off with a baseball to get play catch and she head to her spot on the bench on the side of her house to watch.

I returned home dropping off the stuff then to go tell her the message. I had found her wondering the dirt road not even attempting to run but just stroll. She ran her on the wooden fence, memorizing the curves and bumps in it when I joined up with her. Her eyes were kept in the lawn in front of the houses as we walked.

"Umm...hey?" I greeted her uneasy.

"What is it Kaden?"

"You know that family the mother and two boys?"

"Yeah the ones that hit me with that ball."

"What? Oh never mind, she is wondering when you would like to have supper with them."

"Oh."

"Umm can I get an answer of when, before I head into town for supplies tomorrow?"

"Hmm..." That was all she had to answer me with. Not once did her demeanor change or brighten at the mention of the family though I knew it should've.

"What's wrong?!" I couldn't help but demand even though it came out angry.

"Nothing."

"Yes there is, you would've said it wasn't any of my business if there wasn't." I accused her definitely.

"You know nothing about me."

"Then tell me why you acting like someone died?"

"Oh get out of my face, Kaden!" Tears pierced her eyes when her head snapped towards me abruptly.

"There it is! What's wrong?"

"Leave me be!" Proserpina shoved against me weakly but I didn't budge.

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Proserpina

"Just leave!" I yelled at Kaden now. He had came up not even a few moments ago, refusing to leave me be to my guilt. Indeed I should talk about it to someone but no one would understand why I was filled with blame. I push, shoved even hit him but Kaden was relentless against it all and I knew it was because I was trying hard enough. I was tired of trying that was all I did but Astera was still hurt.

I was just a baby playing a grown up game that involved some much hurt I didn't know if it was worth the game. Tears came down my face in a storm, in a battle. I still pushed against him until my legs and arms grew tired and all I could do was yell at him. Kaden just stood there showing no sign of judgment instead a glimmer of understanding. That was enough for my guilt to rush from me and escape my lips.

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Kaden

Proserpina's overflowed with tears and she shook with sobs as she told me. I didn't really push the subject anymore not with her crying. I just couldn't do it but she told me anyway.

"Astera, she was being hurt and I wanted to stop it. I couldn't get to her but I could've. I should've fought against you, Uncle and anyone else but I didn't. I didn't because I wouldn't win but I still should've helped her or at least went to her side. I hate it when people are hurt and I didn't try hard enough when I knew I could've. Now I have nothing but guilt!" She mumbled and stuttered at me with more tears. She pulled away from me while she told me as though I would was judge her thoughts harshly. Soon enough she calmed herself to understand what she told me and I didn't judge her for it and we walked on some more.

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Donny

I was coming outside to get some fresh air from the baking kitchen. When I heard sobs and crying nearby curious and concerned I had jogged from the house and spotted Proserpina with tears streaked face with Kaden. Ready to go make him stop antagonizing her, I started forward when she didn't fight or hit him when they hugged for a moment, I stopped.

Watching I realized she was telling him what was wrong. Kaden soothed her until what seemed she stopped crying and they continued to walk together with their backs to me.

Why does she put her guard down? What is could possibly be wrong that she talks to Kaden instead? My head was left spinning on the way back with uncertainty if I should've let her confine in Kaden or confronted them there. Still I headed to the kitchen to continue helping dismissing it from my mind as nothing.

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Thia

"Astera, I hope you understand what I had to do was for your health." Uncle spoke his famous line to Astera like she deserved his pity. We had returned back to the motel room after a day had passed after Astera's discipline and humorous rejection by Proserpina.

"Yes sir I understand but one thing sir. I was wondering was Proserpina disciplined for acting out."

"She has been dealt with."

"Thank you sir."

"Astera would you do me a favor?"

"What favor sir?"

"Thia leave the room, this is none of your concern." Nodding like to a king I swiftly glided out the room and placed myself at the door. Hoping to hear their conversation I pressed my ear to the door.

"You need to lose her, consider it a test of sorts. I need to know if she'll make it back on her own."

"Sir that will be difficult everyone will be sure to know."

"Yes indeed but it seems she hasn't been around people since your example so make it possible."

"What purpose will this help the group?" Astera foolishly asked Uncle. With her fresh wounds I could even hear her cry out when she hit the floor.

"Go now!" Uncle ordered her signaling to move myself to lean on the wall beside the wall. Astera appeared in the door way closing the door behind her then practically running out of the motel trying not to show me her misery.

"Hey wait!" I caught up to her with my leg getting better, "So you need to get rid of your body guard huh?"

"No," her voice held a slight whine but otherwise was flat.

"Don't lie. I heard it through the door so how you going to do it?"

"Go back to hell Thia!"

"Not before you tell me Astera."

"I'm not going to do anything for that man. She doesn't deserve it," Halting she faced me, giving me a long hard stare.

"You're such a pansy and with the way she didn't really try to help you I say she does."

"NO!"

"Hahaha! Now Astera, you understand I am in Uncle's favor and we also made a pact. You do something to hurt both us then I will watch you burn up in the mess."

"That pact has been long over since the day, you turned on me."

"Fine then I guess Uncle would love to know that you know all this time where Kaden's father is."

"Damn it Thia! I won't do it and you won't tell him."

"Oh yes I will and you will fulfill your promise to Uncle. You will do this test or deal with the situation that I could cause."

"Why you doing this?!"

"Why did you leave me to this life?! Why did you leave me in the dust to join Uncle's side?!" I screamed at her, silencing her altogether. Remorse made her eyes drop from mine but I kept mine on her, years of anger fueling me to hurt the one true friend I use to have.

"I told you, I was sorry Thia," Her voice came as a whisper when she lifted her eyes back to mine.

"And I told you, the pain they caused me and the scars I'll never be rid of. Like I have told you before you caused this yourself and until you make up to me what happened then I'll forgive you." She dropped her head to her chest defeated. "You don't deserve loyal friends, Astera, not ones like Proserpina and Nathan. Not after what you would do to save your own skin."

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Astera

Even after Thia had left me there, I couldn't lift my head. She was right, I didn't deserve good friends not as long she still suffered. The pain of memories hurt but so did the thought of what I had to do. The last time was also a test but she asked for help from the wrong people. Though that shouldn't be my fault it was because the day before I was upset and I told her the wrong direction into the place no girl should enter. I told her to ask the first people that she saw, knowing who she would meet.

Sobs mauled me for a while until I got them under control. Slowly I sauntered back to the house, taking the time to wipe my face of the tears and place a smile on my face so I wouldn't be confronted by the others.

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Proserpina

It was almost impossible not to see the bruise on her jaw was swelling again when Astera returned probably from Uncle. Shame reddened my face when she approached sorrow marking her eyes that deepened the pit of guilt in my stomach. Scared I might I would fall into, I searched for Kaden with my eyes but he wasn't here to help me.

Since this morning I was glad I had told him why I was so distant enough that I caused some trouble with John afterwards chasing the chicken until they turned back on us. Now Astera trapped me with no escape in the kitchen where for once Aunt Katherine wasn't with Thia lounging on the counter unconcerned, munching on an apple.

"Proserpina?" Astera leaned into my line of sight to bring it back to where she stood.

"Yes Astera."

"I would like to know why you have been avoiding me; I think it is my right to know if I did something."

"Ah well I haven't so you can relax, we're fine. You didn't do anything."

"Proserpina, come on I know you are. We were having so much fun hanging out, getting to know each other until we went to Uncle. It ended there and I don't know why. We were growing to become such good friends, what happened?" Her eyed peered up at me from beneath her eyelashes where she showed her own embarrassment unsure if she wanted to hear the truth.

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Astera

My muscles were tense; I hoped that she wouldn't see right through me. Horrible feelings tightened my chest even as I knew I really wanted to know why she was avoiding me. I wished it was more for this reason than doing a favor for Uncle. Almost as I was sure I was about to blurt out everything to her and Thia coughed behind me, Proserpina gently explained.

When Proserpina had finished her explanation, I knew I shouldn't have asked for it was going to make the job a whole lot harder. Great happiness filled my chest batting away the misery and disappointment I held for myself, I thrown myself into her.

Proserpina stumbled back but caught both of us with great ease when she settled her arms on my back. She hugged me to her tightly reminding me of what I was to do so now I hugged her for a different reason. I embraced her while sorrow overwhelmed me and tears soaked her shoulder even as her reassurance presence soothed it. She hung onto me thinking me as a long lasting friend but I clung to her as a farewell to the kindness she granted me.

"We should go somewhere," I wiped my last tear from my face, stepping away from her putting on what hopefully was something that contained nothing about what I was to do.

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Proserpina

We went more than blocks away from the house; Astera brought me out of town and into one that seemed to be completely away from the place we came from. The directions we took, I had lost count when they all flooded my mind. Confused danger alarms went off hesitantly in my mind but I wasn't going to leave Astera here by herself.

The people here weren't the same here with their glares, tattoos and injuries. They all eyed us like easy targets, no matter where we went I saw no friendly faces. Astera strolled the streets without worry like she knew they wouldn't hurt her. Not all the people glared but some glanced at me nervous and concerned. I couldn't pin point if they were trying to warn me but either way I could tell Astera wasn't going to budge on heading back.

Confidently Astera guided me over to a little café to sit in the little seat outside. Muttering to me about getting drinking I planted myself there still tense under the stares. Not soon enough she returned with drinks of iced coffees, paranoid I scanned her for injuries severe or no.

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Astera

"Are you okay? You don't look well Proserpina." I nervously sipped my iced coffee noticing how suddenly pale she appeared. Everyone gave quick weird looks at us then moved on in hurry. We sat outside at the rusted table that was made of mental, bent into a design. The chairs were the same not made for visitors to stay long more for decoration than anything else.

Most of the town was dirt paths that led from anywhere to homes of dangerous animals to small counties similar to this one. Most of the people on the street had recent wounds from whatever event occurred here not long ago, some were decent looking proper with their top hats and button up shirts. Very few women were in sight even with the daylight shining bright today, all of them hiding afraid of whoever hurt them last.

"Yes, I'm fine but are you sure this place is safe for us?" Her voice revealed nothing of what her observant eyes did.

"I have been coming here for a long time, nothing has happened to me." I replied with the truth leaving out the part why I was here most of the time.

"How did you find this place?"

"Oh umm... I believe Uncle showed it to me when I joined the group." Proserpina tensed at the mentioned of Uncle though she stopped analyzing people here. Quickly I found the person I was looking for, watching me waiting for the signal. Regret catching my throat I stood trying not to alert Proserpina even more.

"Proserpina would you excuse me? I need to use the restroom." I let the lie fall off my tongue, "You can go look around but be careful who you associate yourself with. When I'm done I'll be sure to find you." Straightening her spine she nodded, not giving away if she heard my warning at all.

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Proserpina

Astera swiftly and a little too hastily slipped back inside the little hut of a café. I didn't dare get up from my seat even as others sent me even more pitied looks letting me know she wasn't returning. Still I sat there hoping she would come back to prove them all wrong but I must've been sitting there for a good hour when it began to become painful to sit.

"It is not wise to come here alone," A gentleman sat down in the spot Astera vacated. He didn't have the top hat like others like him have but he did hold an oddly cane. He wore long, black slacks, a white button up and a dress coat over it all.

"I didn't. My friend will be back soon," I stated with as much confidence I could muster into my voice.

"Oh dear, we both know your friend will not be returning. People have been staring at you with such pity for as long as you sat here, my dear. She will not be coming back; your friend has left you in a terrible place." He stated what I already knew but that didn't stop me from snapping at him like a toddler.

"She will return and how people look at me shouldn't be any of your concern! I am sure she would never abandon me in such a place as this...at least not on purpose."

"Then your friend clearly has you fooled into her game."

"No I protected her from harm; she would never do this to me."

"That may be but it seems that didn't stop her from leaving you here. Friends or not it clearly didn't matter to her."

"No...she wouldn't she isn't a cruel person...she is a nice, sweet person that thinks of others."

"Or so you thought," The man echoed my thought.

"Or so I thought indeed."

"Well come on, it's getting dark nothing good from the night." Standing he gestured for me to follow. Stubbornly I stuck to my chair this time with distrust of the man, glaring at his hand that demanded me to follow him.

"Don't you understand, your friend is gone," he growled at me ungentlemanly like.

"That doesn't mean I'm going to follow you into the night because she is not coming back. I will allow my emotions or events control me!" The man returned to being calm and collected before walking off like he never spoke with me.

Nothing got better when the darkness hit and the light, my last protection against the horrors left me cold and alone. No one was on the streets now but I could still feel eyes from places, watching me, gathering information, waiting to strike me down. I dared not to move anymore than I did when Astera was with me, I didn't care if they saw me tense with fear.

Though sitting there in the open didn't help anymore than calling out when a figure stood directly behind me. It didn't move, or speak but listened to my breathing get more rushed, my heartbeat try to break out of my rib cage and watched me be aware of everything he did.

"Missy, it's after dark." A voice crooned at me. The voice was slippery like an insect or snake, trying to soothe its prey before it ate it. "No one is safe in the dark," A hand slid onto my shoulder making me shiver.

"Don't touch me sir," I immediately said to him, fear putting a whine into my tone.

"No nothing good comes good from the dark," It echoed back at me, its grip tightening until it hurt.

"Don't touch me!" This time I growled threatened at him. The hand loosened in surprise then reestablished its tight grip.

"Hehehe! You're a spicy little one aren't you? Well no one will mind that at all. No they won't....they'll love it!"

"I said don't touch me!" I jerked away snapping my teeth at its hand until it jumped back putting distance between us.

"Hehehe! They'll love you alright! Spicy, spicy you are. That may come in your favor."

"Hey!! Leave me alone!!" I roared at him but instead of getting farther away. It lunged at me, covering my mouth while he seemed to scan the streets.

"You need to be quiet, you'll attract the others. That won't be good, not good at all. Argh!!" Getting my mouth as close to his hand I could, I bit down hard. He snatched his hand back but relentless I punched him in the jaw then kicking him in the leg, I took off down the street searching desperately for anyone's help.

Mid stride I hit the ground into the dirt and rough rocks digging into me. Bucking and hitting the figure above me, I fought to get free but my desperation making me weak and panicked, he easily caught my wrists. Wiggling I pushed with my feet finding a way to get free but pain struck my temple and I was gone.

"I told you nothing good comes from the dark," the slippery voice came one last time. The last thing I saw was his oily face with a long pointed nose in the middle of his face. His eyes were small but wide, the color of the gold. Next to me I could hear the rock he used, drop hard and fast, the force making smaller rocks to splash up and hit me in the face. My consciousness giving out before I could register the pain from the rocks, I sank into the sweet lull of sleep.

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