Chapter One: So Scary!
I flinch at her words. What could she possibly do? Kill me right here, right now? That’s literally all she could do.
But, would she? Of course not, no – because if she kills me, do you think James is going to help her? Oh, hell no.
As she picks up her phone, a smirk is spread across her face. Oh, so scary. She picked up her phone, what is she going to do? Throw it at me?
She dials a number and puts her phone to her ear. The entire time that it rings, she stares at me with this smirk-glare sort of thing.
She’s going to try and make me intimidated with a glare? Oh, please. I am the queen of facial expressions, especially that one.
“I bet you wouldn’t guess who is standing in my office,” she speaks into the phone, with a bite in her tone.
Oh, great. She’s calling James. Why couldn’t she just have sent me home in one of her cars? Oh, wait. I know why. She’s the bitch sent deep from hell.
She pauses for a moment. “No, I would say it would be more along the lines of your little girlfriend,” she cackles into the phone.
I am not that small. I am average. Everyone knows that.
This girl’s a real bitch.
“Well, come get her. I don’t trust her getting back by herself.”
What the hell does this lady have against me? I didn’t do a single thing to her and she’s acting like I have. If she were smart, then she would use me to her advantage by befriending me, so I could talk her up to James.
But is she smart?
Absolutely fucking not. She’s a fucking idiot.
I cross my arms as she hangs up the phone. She sets it down on her desk. A second later, she looks up at me.
“Why don’t you take a seat, Vena? It could be a while.”
I sigh and sit down in the chair in front of her desk. It’s going to take a while for James to get down here, and my legs are already sore.
She sits forward and leans on her elbows. “Now, Vena, can you tell me what brought you down here?”
I chuckle dryly. “Curious about what the hell you’re dragging James into.”
She smiles, looking down. “Well, it’s a part of who he is.”
I shake my head at her. “No, it’s not. I don’t know what you are trying to do here, but he was doing just fine until you came into the picture. Why couldn’t you just leave him alone?” I raise an eyebrow at her.
She nods, staying quiet for a moment. I suppose she’s trying to figure out how to talk with her mouth. “He’s my brother.”
I laugh out loud at her. “Oh, please, I think that you and I both know that that is not what you are doing.” It is true. Based off what I saw last night, he’s training for something, and that something could very well be something to do with Autumn’s little games.
“And what would that be, then?”
“You know exactly what I am talking about, I’m not going to spell it out for you.”
She chuckles and leans back in her chair, a pen in her hand. “You are going to be trouble.”
What the hell is that supposed to mean? If she means that I am going to try my hardest to stop James from getting himself in a mess, then yes, I am going to be trouble. For God’s sake, I am going to be her worst nightmare.
We sit in silence for a while. I don’t want to talk to her; why would I waste my precious breath? She just sits at her computer, typing.
On the wall behind her is a huge screen split into multiple squares that show video camera footage. I watch them. My eyes move across from one, to another, to another. By the look of them, they seem to be showing all the public spaces in the building. The cafeteria, weapon room, training room, the entrance hallway. Rooms like that.
What the hell is she doing with this place?
My eyes catch the entrance hallway screen. A specifically-styled brown head of hair catches my eye. James rushes down the hallway, looking quite frantic.
Well, this should be fun...
Autumn glances behind herself at the screen and chuckles. “Well, well, it’s about time Lover Boy showed up.”
I roll my eyes.
It only takes another thirty seconds for James to rush into her office. As he enters the room, Autumn stands up. “It’s about time.”
I stand up and look at him. Worry and anger are spread across his face.
I cross my arms, my face blank of expression.
“Vena, what the fuck?!”
I raise an eyebrow; I didn’t say a single thing to him.
“You better straighten her out, I can’t have people like her roaming around the building.” I can feel her eyes on me.
I am seriously considering cutting this bitch.
James shakes his head. “Autumn, just stay out of it,” he warns her.
“No, this is my building and her and her big mouth could get me shut down.”
“I don’t see why that would be such a bad thing.” I look back, shooting darts at her. Well, at least I wish I really was.
She raises an eyebrow at James. “Get her under control.”
I glare at her.
He sighs. “Come on.” He turns out of Autumn’s office.
“It was nice of you to trespass, Vena,” Autumn says as I leave the room.
I take a deep breath, trying to calm myself. James walks out into the entrance hallway. I follow him to the end of the hallway. He holds the door open for me.
I am glad to be going home, but I don’t think I will ever stop wondering about this place.
As our feet crunch against the gravel, I look back at the building. In the light, it looks so much larger and the building is grey, not black. Huh. The building carries on for a while down the road. Alongside it, there are separate buildings, but no names on them.
I look forward. James walks around to the driver’s side of his car. He unlocks it and I open the door, climbing into the passenger seat.
He gets in, starting the car. I watch the mysterious place disappear as James drives .
Soon enough, we got back into the busy streets of the city. When James stops at a red light, I feel him looking at me.
I don’t look at him. I can’t look at him. Everything has happened too fast, but I suppose that isn’t what I am angry about. I’m angry that he lied to me again. He said he was going to get out of this and instead he is going in the middle of the night to practice shooting these holograms. No, he is digging himself a bigger hole in this mess he has created.
I will not give him the satisfaction of my eyes.
The light turns green and he drives again. The journey home is a lot shorter than it feels. James parks in his usual parking spot and takes the key out and holds it in his hand.
I take my seatbelt off, unlock the door myself and get out, leaving him there, sitting in the vehicle.
As I stride into the lobby, I press the button of the elevator. It only takes a second for it to open, empty. I step inside and wait for it shut.
He doesn’t come after me, which is fine by me.
By the time, I get up to the apartment, I am feeling more and more frustrated.
I reach into my pocket and pull out my keys to unlock the door. As I step inside, the place suddenly seems foreign to me. I look at around the room, feeling lonely.
So much has changed that it feels like I can’t even recognize my own apartment. I find myself walking down the hallway without actually knowing it. I push open James’ door.
Where all this started.
I walk inside and feel my chest getting heavier. The blankets are still mangled from early this morning. My mouth goes dry.
How did our life go from something I had always hoped for to a complete mess in a matter of weeks?
I sit down on his bed, feeling my stomach tighten, almost to the point that it hurts.
I grab a pillow and hold in to my chest. I lie down on my side, feeling hopeless.
How could this happen? How could things get so messy? My college years were supposed to be fun and I’d make a lot of friends and go to parties, but no. I’m lying down on my idiotic boyfriend’s bed because that is all I feel I can do at this point.
I feel a teardrop roll over the bridge of my nose onto my other cheek, onto the sheets of his bed. I hold the pillow closer to my body, curling more into a fetal position.
What is this? I touch my cheek. I don’t cry. I haven’t cried since I saw Zeke cheat on me. This isn’t me.
I feel hopeless. I feel that I can’t help myself in any way. I feel stuck and tied up.
I feel more tears roll down my cheek. This is all too much for me. I can’t do it.
I start to weep without out even knowing it. I try to control myself, but I can’t. There is soon a spot on the bed, wet from my tears.
I clench my stomach, trying to desperately stop, but it’s no use. I squeeze my eyes tightly closed, hoping, for just one second, for time to stop so that I can have a moment to breathe. So that I can find a place where I don’t have to worry about the person I love all the time.
Of course, wishing doesn’t fix anything. Wishing is for the weak. The people who can’t handle circumstances in their life, so they turn to wishing – but it doesn’t actually work. It’s hope of others that fuel this world and I’m sure that we wouldn’t actually be able to get anywhere without wishing for nearly impossible things.
“VENA, WE NEED TO TALK!” I hear James yell a couple rooms over.
I bury my head in the pillow, trying to muffle my cries, but I can’t – it’s hitting me too hard.
“Vena, I’m serious. We—” His voice gets closer until it is right in the room.
He’s probably just standing there witnessing how ridiculous I look. I wouldn’t know, my eyes are closed, and I’m afraid to open them.
“Fuck,” he curses, and I hear his steps get closer.
I feel his presence right in front of me. I wipe my eyes and open them to look at him. He’s kneeling beside the bed, worry spread across his face.
He stands up and crawls to the other side of me. “Baby, come here.”
I turn around and he pulls me against his chest, so that my sobs get muffled slightly. He wraps his arms around me. My tears run, and soon enough his shirt is wet.
“I am so sorry, Vena. I am so sorry,” he whispers into my head.
I don’t say anything. I’m much too busy crying about my fucked-up life.
“I have messed everything up, Baby. I know.” The vibrations of his voice echo through his chest.
I move up slightly, so that my nose is buried in his neck. I feel myself calm a bit. My fast breathing starts to slow down, but I know my pulse is still beating fast.
I’m so angry at him, but I feel like he is my lifeline in a way.
“You saw me last night, didn’t you?”
He sighs. “I’m sorry.”
I want to lift my head and argue with him, but I don’t have the energy. At least, not right now. My stomach hurts and my head aches.
I feel James run his hand through my hair, massaging my scalp. It makes me feel a bit calmer and relaxed.
and slowly strokes my back, moving his hand up and down.
All of this shit makes me exhausted. I don’t know how much longer I can take it. I feel James kiss my head.
“If I go to sleep, will you be gone when I wake up?” I ask him.
He stops moving his hand. “Vena, I will be right here when you wake up.”
I sigh and let my eyelids close. He’d better not be lying to me this time.
When I wake up, I see words on white paper. I blink a few times, trying to clear my vision. I realize that I’m not seeing weird things, only James reading a book. Now, that makes a lot more sense than two floating pages.
I move my hand across James’ chest to let him know that I’m awake. I turn my head to look up at him. He sets his open book down on the bed beside him.
“Are you feeling better?” he asks.
Oh. He means about my crying. Right...
I shrug. “If you’re referring to the tears, then yes. But if you’re talking about what you have been doing, no.”
I sit up. “This is not funny, James. You lied to me again.”
He sighs and sits up, leans against the headboard. “I know, I know, I’m sorry.”
“James, I want to know what you are doing. The truth.”
He runs his hands down his face. “Vena, I’m not doing anything. Well, besides what you know. I went down to the Armory last night to – well, you saw me. I was with Kamer and we stayed down there for a while. I didn’t actually think you would follow me,” he explains.
“James, you couldn’t have just gone down there at three o’ clock in the morning ‘just because’. What are you practicing for?”
His eyebrows furrow. “Vena, I am not practicing for anything. Autumn showed me the room and I thought it was cool, so Kamer took me.”
I raise an eyebrow at him. “So, you are telling me that this is the first time you have done this?”
He avoids my eyes.
I gasp. “James! You are practicing. Don’t you realize that Autumn showed you that place because she knew you would be intrigued by it?” I pause.
He opens his mouth to talk, but I shake my head. “No, I’m not done. James, I need to tell you something. I think Autumn is using you. I think that she is trying to make you feel like you are being siblings again, but she’s getting you involved in shit you shouldn’t be.”
“Vena, she’s not doing anything. She only needs my help for a while and then this will be over.”
I shake my head. “But, what if it isn’t only going to be for ‘a while’? What if she is planning on using you for longer? James, you don’t know her plans. I think you’re just acting a bit too calm about everything.”
He shakes his head. “Vena, I know what I am doing and it’s not going to be for the rest of our lives.”
We sit in silence for a moment. He really doesn’t know what he is up against…but, then again, maybe I don’t either.
“James, I can’t do this. All of this is too much for me. I can’t handle it. You know where I come from: a wealthy family, a good home. You made sure I knew it. It’s not like I am familiar with any of this. If you care about me, you’ll understand.”
He runs his hand through his hair. “Baby, I have got this under control, just please trust me when I say this.”
I want to, but I can’t help but not.
“James, no more lies. You tell me everything. Every single thing. If you are going to that place, you tell me. You can’t just be running wild on me. I feel worried all the time because I’m afraid that if I go to sleep or leave the apartment you’ll be gone when I get back.”
He shakes his head. “I promise, but you have to promise something for me.”
“You can’t tell anyone about this. It will put us in danger.”
Oh, God. So, if I slip up, I’m going to get shot. Oh, cool.
“Now, is there anything you want to ask me?” he asks.
I nod. “Yes.”
He gives me a half smile. “Well, ask away.”
There is one question that has been weighing on my mind since he told me the story. “Who is Kamer?” It does worry me; he didn’t really mention a gender and the name is a gender-neutral name. But, also, that night, it was a guy who got out of the car with James.
“Kamer is one of Autumn’s men. She assigned him to me to keep an eye on me. I think that it’s kind of stupid, but maybe that’s just me.”
I don’t. I don’t think James realizes that at any moment he could get shot in that place.
“I can take care of myself,” he adds.
I nod. I’m not going to argue with him about it, even though I think that he might not be telling the truth about that.
A moment later and James sighs. “What were you thinking last night? You could have been hurt.”
I raise an eyebrow at him. Does he hear himself? The actual words coming out of his mouth?
“I could ask you the same thing.”
He chuckles. “I suppose so.” His face falls into a frown. “But, I’m serious. You want to know what happened when I woke up?” he asks. “Vena, I got home last night around five in the morning and I just went to bed, not even noticing that you weren’t there. Let me tell you, when I woke up, I was scared shitless. I called Grayson, he said that he hadn’t seen you in a while. I don’t think you understand how terrified I was, Vena. You would never think I would be so happy to get that phone call from my sister.” He looks at me in all seriousness. His eyes dark hold no humor. “You could have been seriously hurt, and I don’t what I would do with myself if you did get hurt, because I know that it would have been my fault.”
“James, I’m fine. Nothing happened. I only got locked in a room for five hours. I have no scratches.”
“Yes, but you could have—”
“James, I’m fine. Let’s just leave it at that.”
“Don’t ever do that to me again.”
The funny thing is that now he might have an idea of how I feel when he leaves me clueless about his wellbeing.