The ride back to Strangeville was deadly silent. The radio of Ava’s car wasn’t even on and that made the atmosphere in the vehicle more awkward that it was supposed to be.
Beck could still feel bad energy coming from Bruce. The young man, even as he drove, had been upset with him, and even though he knew why he felt it was uncalled for.
He was grateful that Strangeville was not so far from Knightdale as it was about half an hour when Bruce got to the very spot Beck first met his sisters. They had to take a walk towards the town as there weren’t modern roads leading to it.
They went to Beck’s house and settled in, barely talking to each other. Ava and Anna retired to the room Ava once used, while Bruce took that of Anna. Sara had gone to her place to prepare for the ritual, though she was unsure if the townspeople would participate or not. It would take a lot of convincing, especially now that the outside world could come in and there was a tendency for it to know what was going on with Strangeville.
A few minutes after dark, everyone but Beck had gone to bed, exhausted from the journey and tension of what was to happen next. Beck was too anxious that he couldn’t sleep. No matter how he tried to clear his mind to rest for the night, random thoughts filled his head. So, instead of trying to force himself to sleep, he decided to stay awake to think all those thoughts through very clearly till sleep got the very best of him.
He came outside to sit at the porch. He stared at the moon in the sky, admiring its beauty and large size. It led him to imagine how life would be for him if he’d be finally free from Annika. Then he wondered how things went wrong between them. He also wondered how he didn’t notice there were things off about her until it was too late. He had known the town she was from was known for having the weirdest people one could ever come across, but she had convinced him beyond all reasonable doubt that she was born normal. That was until she unleashed herself just because she didn’t want any woman around him. Things never remained the same for them, and soon he found out there was no way out for him.
He jumped a little at the sound of a rustle in the woods that drove him out of his reverie. He looked around the bush, his eyes searching warily. He heard the sound again coming from another side this time. He stood from the stairs, still with searching eyes.
As he climbed down the stairs, he heard a soft voice say, “You promised me, Beck.”
He froze at the sound of that voice, knowing well who owned it.
“You promised you would never leave me,” she said, her voice breaking.
He slowly turned around, careful not to trigger the vicious side of her if he didn’t give her the respect she thought she deserved.
As he faced the cabin, his dark brown eyes met her teary blue ones.
“You promised,” she whispered.
He stepped back, taking in the sight of her. She still looked the same way the day she died but different from the times she visited him after every failed ritual: her pale skin didn’t look so pale or ghostly as it did in the last fifty years. It was very obvious that she was alive—in her own body, which was unexpected.
“I promised because I thought you were human. I never would have gotten with you if you weren’t human, talk more of a dark witch.”
Her sad face became sadder. “What difference would it have made? I would still be me.”
“That’s the problem: you wouldn’t have been you if you were different. If you were more like Sara and nothing of yourself, we wouldn’t be here today. We would have had grandkids by now, probably great-grand too.”
Her blue eyes turned ice cold, her jaw really tight as well as her lips. “How dare you compare me to Sara? She’s the one who took my glory. Despite that she was a weirdo and I was normal—a rare gem in Strangeville—she took the glory simply because she could see the future.”
He glared back at her. “If you hadn’t been jealous and aspired to be great in your normalcy, you would have had all the glory you desired.”
There was silence for some time before she said, “So you’re saying if I stopped being a witch, you’d still want me.”
He shook his head, scoffing. “You’ve always been a witch; you never required powers to be one. Your manipulation and control over people is enough to make you one. So, no! I’d never want you now that I know who you truly are.”
There was that silence again. It was longer this time, and it seemed as if she were deep in thoughts. Her eyes danced from left to right as she stared at him impassively.
“What does she have that I don’t?” she said, breaking the silence.
He stared at her, confused at her question.
“Ava:” she said, “what does she have that I don’t? She’s not even as beautiful as I am.”
“That may be true,” he said though disagreeing within himself as he knew she would never concur with him. “Nonetheless,” he added, “she has the heart I need in a woman. She’s supposed to hate me because I lied about what you did in my life, but she understands. I don’t know why but I’m grateful she does, and I hope one day we could be together.”
Staring at her demeanor now it was if he was in the moment when she saw him with Sara just before she died. “You’re going to wish you never said that,” she said slowly and coldly.
She walked away towards Strangeville more furious than he had ever seen. He didn’t want to be weary of her words but seeing as a whole town was cursed because of her fury, he knew best to take her words very seriously.
He climbed the stairs, heading into the house. For now, he just wanted to rest for the night. In the morning he would let Sara know of her threat and then they’d know how to deal with her.
Before getting to his room, he decided to steal a glance of Ava, hoping to find comfort in beholding her beauty and peaceful state. He stealthily opened the door to the room, cursing at the squeaks made by the door. He tiptoed in as he didn’t want to make further noises, waking both Ava and Anna.
Once he got to the bed, he noticed there was only one person in the room. As he got closer, he sighted hair a bit darker than blonde and the body size was a tad smaller than he anticipated, making him realize it was Anna. He stared at the bed, curious as to where Ava was.
He left the room as quietly as he could, heading for the bathroom. He knocked quietly on the door several times, but there was no answer. Then he went to Bruce’s room, thinking she was there. The thought of her being in his room—as he didn’t find her in Bruce’s—triggered jolts of electricity to flow through him. He was excited that she would even consider spending the night with him. Even if she wasn’t, he was sure not to waste the opportunity to hold her in his arms for a while, to kiss her, and if it were possible make love to her before she’d join Anna again.
But then, she wasn’t lying on his bed half naked or standing by the window partially undressed and looking out to the sky as he had imagined; his bed was empty of her and his room lacked her presence. This spiked his anxiety. If she wasn’t with her sister or brother or in the bathroom trying to relieve her bladder, where was she? He hadn’t seen her in the living room when he entered so it could mean one thing: she wasn’t in the house.
Then, he found on the bed a piece of paper. He picked it up and with the aid of the faint moonlight in the room read the words on it which were, ‘Come and get her.’
His mind immediately replayed Annika’s last words to him, which caused him to stagger and fall to the floor. He put his hands on his head, his elbows resting on his knees as he wondered how Annika could have taken Ava so swiftly out of the house without anyone knowing when she had just left him. How could this have happened right under his nose?
Just then, he heard the door to his room open. He glanced there and saw Bruce approaching. He looked around the room and when it was as though he didn’t find what he was looking for, he looked down at Beck. “Where’s she?”
If Bruce could see his face clearly he sure would have seen Beck staring at him in a questioning manner. “Where’s who?”
“Ava: where’s she?”
He stood. “She’s been kidnapped, by Annika.”
He scowled. “Tell me you’re joking and she’s just hiding under the bed ’cause she doesn’t want me to see her with you.”
“If she was here you’d be staring at her because you didn’t knock.” He handed the paper to her. “I just found it on the bed after I searched for Ava.”
Bruce stared at the paper.
“I’d just finished talking with Annika outside the cabin before I came in. I wanted to see Ava before I sleep. When I didn’t see her I searched for her but found this instead.”
“You’re trying to tell me Annika is alive?”
“Yeah, she is and most likely the one behind Ava’s disappearance.”
He threw the paper and turned around. “We have to find her.”
He rushed to Bruce and held his shoulder, causing Bruce to turn to look at him. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“I’m going to look for my sister, of course. Isn’t that why I came: to put her and Anna out of danger? It’s pretty clear no one’s safe around you.”
Beck felt hurt at Bruce’s words. It was true though, but it wasn’t like he asked for things to be that way.
“You have no idea,” Beck said, “where she is so how are you going to find her?”
“If it means I’m going to tear down this forest then I’d do it.”
“By then, Ava would be already dead.” He stepped in front of him. “I know the woods and town well so it’d be easier if we went together to search for her, and if we’re lucky she’d still be alive.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Seeing as Annika has hurt Ava more than once because of me, it’s possibly she’d want her completely out of the way now that she’s alive.”
As Beck stepped out of the room, Bruce followed him, saying, “What about Anna? We can’t leave her here alone.”
He glanced at the door to her room. “Then we’d take her to Sara’s. She’ll be safe there.”
Bruce nodded. He went into the room and some minutes later came out with Anna hanging over his shoulder. Using the moonlight through the windows, they got downstairs. Beck picked up the flashlight from the sitting room, which they used to make their way to Strangeville.