The Beauty of Grey

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Chapter 18

The kiss was all sugar and spice and everything nice.

Sparks, exploding like fireworks, burned beneath my skin. It was a sensation so foreign, but so pleasant I wondered how I could’ve survived so long without feeling it at least once. Life before this had, for the most part at least, been so stagnant and mundane. Routine and expected—planned. This new feeling...it threw me for a loop.

When Zacharias had kissed me for the first time, I remembered him telling me I tasted sweet. I hadn’t been wearing lip balm, and I knew sweat had soaked my face, so I didn’t understand where he got off that I tasted sweet. I thought it was just bizarre—something flirty, something...uncanny.

But as my lips rested over his, I understood the sweetness he had limned. He tasted sweet, like sugar. It was so oddly fascinating, yet so silly, tasting him and revelling in it. I had despised him for so long before, breaking moral code and praying every night that he would just drop dead like a fly.

But now...I was kissing him, but it was like I hadn’t realized I was kissing him. In that moment, it just felt...natural, like second nature. The way our lips locked, like a two piece puzzle, made me feel complete. I wondered if I had, underneath all my stubbornness, felt incomplete; broken, and never repaired.

Kissing him seemed to erase all my queries from beforehand, however; as if my pain was being taken in by him. I wondered if this was what he felt every time he kissed me, secretly awaiting the day I’d be the one to pursue him.

We didn’t deepen the kiss right away. For a second I had the audacity to feel embarrassed, certain that I had started off the kiss too hastily. I was all impulse and no preparation, and I had never been the overly affectionate type. I valued personal space. But now, I couldn’t get close enough to him.

Zacharias was the first to deepen the kiss, his tongue prodding my lips to open. One arm hooked around my waist, as if sensing our close proximity wasn’t close enough, while his other hand rested on the side of my neck; the side he had marked. I felt my body grow clammy at the contact but I quickly relaxed, letting this take its course.

We had never kissed so intimately with each other before, so there was a subtle strangeness that I still, humanly perhaps, had to shake off. Zacharias, however, didn’t seem to pay heed to this new rush. From the way he held me, I knew he was grateful; anxious and prepared. He wanted this more than I did.

My arms crept around his neck, and I strained to stand on my tippy-toes, our height difference nearly acting as a barrier between us—a barrier that could be overcome, however, but not without effort. I had never expected to kiss Zacharias, and I had never expected to enjoy it.

And I was somewhat, albeit maybe disillusioned, reluctant to realize I had never enjoyed anything more. This realization hit me all at once, unveiled and unrepressed. It was so overwhelming that I forced myself to pull away, but couldn’t bring myself to break the distance between us. I needed to be close to him...to feel him, to have him rub off on me. I needed this...affection.

He didn’t object as I broke the kiss, because I almost instantly buried my chin in the crook of his neck. Still craving to observe the new world around me, I kept my eyes open and allowed my irises to carefully observe my surroundings. Everything was so clear. There was a motley of colours where there had only been a colour before. I was able to see colours that I hadn’t been able to see before—colours that differed from the thin spectrum that limited the human interpretation.

Zacharias removed his hand from my neck and wrapped it around my waist, and I felt something pulsate through my veins. Hugging him...I had never hugged him—we had never hugged. The way he held me, with such strength and deprived desperation, made me cling a little tighter to him. I let out a soft breath, feeling guilt for reasons unknown.

“I’ve waited for this for so long,” Zacharias whispered, pressing a kiss to the flesh just below my earlobe. “Now that you’re giving me what I've waited so long for, I almost don’t know how to receive it.”

I tittered, feeling my eyes sting as they welled with tears. It was impromptu, my sudden emotions. “I know,” I croaked. “I don’t know how to feel.” Which was a lie. I knew exactly how to feel, I just didn’t want to feel it.

“You feel how the bond wants you to feel,” he said, which evoked a gulp from me. “You feel what I feel.”

“The moon is assimilating my thoughts. Will I no longer be able to feel for myself?” I questioned, feeling my heart stutter with trepidation. I felt different. I felt completely flipped and jostled, but I still carried some human attributes. I was worried it was only a matter of time until those attributes completely evanesced.

I was somewhat relieved at Zacharias’ response. “You are the moons disciple, but you are not her. She will become your guide, not your dictator.”

“Of course,” I swallowed, and was surprised when my diluted humanness poked through. ”You are my dictator.”

I pulled away from him, and he had his lips pursed at my petty response to him. I couldn’t bring myself to blame him. I knew he thought that he had my devotion and upmost cooperation for a minute, but there was still some me in there; although she was only partial. It was like she—I—was being encased in a box made of one way mirror; at times you could feel and maybe hear her, but it was easy to forget she still existed.

I had to bite my tongue in order to prevent myself from apologizing to him, and I had to force myself to remove myself from him. His jaw ticked in such a way I felt the need to smooth the momentary abrasion, but I resisted. It was cruel how much energy it took for me to resist him. It was like running a marathon, but not having a reward to look forward to at the end.

I started worrying my lip, and I had to look away from Zacharias. In the absence of our physical contact, I had to stop myself from wrapping around him like a monkey. I felt sharp disapproval brew in the pit of my stomach, but felt the ache of longing stir in my chest. I felt as if I was being ripped in half, unsure of how to feel, but unable to stop myself from leaning to the side I normally would’ve favoured less.

I took a tremulous breath, my lips cracking into a crooked smile for a split second, before downturning into a frown. My brows furrowed and my skin started to grow hot, warm sweat swelling in my glands before surfacing. I felt goosebumps surface on my skin before they were obvious. I was once again overly aware of my adaptations...my mutations.

I released a sound somewhere between a whimper and a whine, staggering backwards. I rubbed my arms, feeling my body prick and tingle with discomfort. I started to shake my head, feeling my curls bounce all over the place. I was riddled by conflict and crippled by new standards that I held myself to, but could not achieve. Why was the moon so unfair?

Zacharias slowly approached me, reaching out for me. Again, fuelled by nothing but impulse, I slapped his hand away from me. “No!” I cried. “Don’t touch me. Please don’t touch me.” I pleaded.

He held his hands up, claiming surrender, but didn’t try to move away from me. “Edie—” he began.

Suddenly, I felt unnerved. Livid. Unstable. My knees began to shake and I feared I would collapse. I ended up being the one to put more distance between Zacharias and I, blindly staggering backwards until my rear hit the edge of the nightstand. I didn’t sit on it, but I used it to support myself, white-knuckling the edge of it as I dropped my head to my chest.

“Why do I feel this way?” I shrieked. “Why does the moon want me to feel this way? Have I been that neglectful towards you? Shouldn’t there be some leniency? I’m human—well, at least, I was human.”

“Edie—”

“But you—” I looked up at him with eyes brimmed full of hostile tears, index finger pointed directly at him.

I didn’t blink out of fear that the tears would fall. I had promised myself many things over my stay here, and each of those promises had been broken, but not this one. I wanted to at least hold one promise true to myself...and this one was the one most in my control. My tears were my own to play with, never to be revealed to Zacharias.

“You,” I continued. “You took that away from me! You turned me into you! A creature of the night. You know, the whole time I’ve been under this roof, I prided myself on at least being genetically different from you. But you even took that from me! Now I have nothing. Now I’m...you.”

His jaw, once again, ticked threateningly. “Watch yourself. If you think the moons cruel now...”

“The moon may be cruel, but she could never amount to being half as cruel as you are. You only marked me because you thought it would make me fall to my knees before you, kissing your feet like you’re some saint. I’m not that pathetic, Zacharias.”

“The bond will weaken you, Edie. It will make you weak.” He warned.

“No, Zacharias,” I laughed, then dabbed my eyes with my fingers. No tears fell. They were only absorbed by my fingertips, which were able to make out the brackish properties. “I may be weakened at times, but I will never be weak. Never to you. If I have to handcuff myself to the leg of the bed just so I don’t throw myself at you again, then I will.”

“Tell me, Edie, do you regret what you did?” He slowly lowered his arms, and took a small step toward me. I flinched violently, as if he had lunged himself at me. “Do you regret kissing me? Do you regret...feeling me?”

I pursed my lips. “Yes.” I squeaked unconvincingly.

“That’s what I thought,” he chuckled. “The only reason you’re lashing out at me right now, Edie, is because you know you should regret what you’ve done, but you don’t. As much as you want to feel repulsed by me, you can’t. You’re running off of instinct, not off of rationale. I know you feel remorse for how you’re behaving now. Try telling me otherwise.”

“You’re fucking with my head!” I yelled at him, but couldn’t deny his accusations. He had me pegged, and I hated him for that...but, at the same time, couldn’t realistically bring myself to hate him. “You’re picking apart my brain like you’re some psychologist. I hate it. I hate that you’re so right. I hate that you’re doing this to me.”

Zacharias took another step towards me, larger this time. I recoiled, leaning further away from his impending presence. “But, Edie, you can’t hate me.”

It was enough to raise me to my feet. Zacharias stood in place, surprised by my sudden calmness, such as I was. I was deadpan as I started walking towards him, stopping when we were only inches apart. I didn’t reach out to touch him, nor did he reach out to touch me. We were both silent for a moment, breathing lightly as if breathing too heavily would be too irritating.

I was, once again, reminded of how beautiful Zacharias was. Even during the climax of our argument, I was distracted by his handsome face. His eyes, once green, were pools of obsidian. I held eye contact, able to make out my reflections. I never had been able to when he was human, because I could never maintain contact long enough to distinguish my features. I had done it once when he was a wolf, but it’s easier to stare at a creature with four legs instead of two.

But this time...I held on. I had no urge to look away. If anything, perhaps uncomfortable from the detachment in my gaze, Zacharias looked as if he wanted to look away. I knew I must’ve looked deranged, perhaps even liable for murder if only I had a weapon. I didn’t like feeling so...postal.

The sound of flesh colliding with flesh disturbed the tranquility in the room.

Only the sting of my palm revealed what I had done. My palm stung so intensely that I was certain it hurt more than Zacharias’ cheek. His head, as if unfeeling and undisturbed, hadn’t even swung to the side. My hand, however, was shaking wildly in the air to alleviate some of the pain, or at least distract me from it.

Our eyes never lost contact. Both of us, with stares equally as enticing and deadly, glared down each other. The old Edie was resurfacing again. I felt stronger than the pull of the moon. Was I stronger than the moon? Was I able to brush her off...ignore her? Was this imprint only a placebo to keep me in line?

And I swung again, hitting Zacharias with a greater force than I had the first time. My hand stung so much worse, as if I had dipped it into a pot of boiling water. Yet there was a sick thrill in bringing pain to both parties. I knew my violence could’ve bordered abuse, given our connection, but I couldn’t bring myself to stop, or talk myself out of it.

I struck him again, feeling the pain jolt up the length of my arm, as if hot water replaced the blood in my veins instead of remaining just on the surface of my hand. The pain gave me the euphoria of being high; as unhealthy as it was, and how much I knew I should’ve stopped, I couldn’t bring myself to. I wanted to beat Zacharias’ face in, I wanted to bash his skull in, I wanted to maim him so he could no longer be beautiful.

I tensed my hand into a tight fist and again I struck him; landing a solid hook to his jaw. His head, incredibly, snapped a bit to the side, which made him the first to break eye contact. He didn’t bother to look back at me. Maybe his ego was wounded, or maybe he was submitting himself to me.

I felt little remorse as his cheek turned as scarlet as a red rose, proving the force of my blows were not weak. I doubted they did much damage, in the sense that they hurt him, but I knew I was striking with enough force to sway him; even if only by a little bit.

I raised my fist to strike Zacharias again, but his fingers were chained around my wrist before I could make contact. I let out an exasperated gust of air as his face moved within only an inch of mine. This proximity...it was too close. It made me feel trapped—claustrophobic. I felt too overpowered, and suddenly felt remorseful for my violence. Only for my own wellbeing, however.

Taking his free hand, maybe a second later, he stuck out his index finger and his thumb, digging them into the front of my neck, which caused my hand to wrap around his wrist in turn. It knocked the air out of me for a second, earning a wheeze from my mouth that fanned over his face. Had he marked me only to turn around and kill me?

His fingers, albeit gently, squeezed my trachea; not enough to cut off my breathing, but enough to make me hold my breath out of fear he was going to crush my windpipe. I stood there, frozen, unable to move. I felt that if I did as much as twitch it would be the last thing I would do. He wasn’t exactly hurting me, but I could never predict if, or when, he would. My demerits were continuously adding up.

I closed my mouth, and looked off to the side from the corner of my eye. Saliva transpired in my mouth, but I was apprehensive to swallow it. Out of all the underdog positions Zacharias had posed me in, this one was by far my least favourite. I knew that if he applied at least a little pressure, due to what a little pressure must’ve been to him, he could kill me.

“Never forget how quickly I can kill you,” he reminded me, as if I wasn’t just pondering it. “Think of yourself before you raise your hand to me.”

“I did,” I rasped, although I knew I could’ve talked normally. “That’s why I raised my hand to you.”

His fingers squeezed my trachea a little harder, and I gasped subconsciously, feeling more sweat bead by my brow. My face scrunched with fear, and I tightened my fist that was limited by his hand. I took a deep, deep breath, nearly certain it was going to be my last. He seemed somewhat pleased by my fear, his eyes crinkling in the corners.

“I could kill you.” He breathed, his words thick enough to create fog.

But I swallowed down my fear, and was suicidal enough to challenge him. “Don’t tease me. Do it.”

He growled, but didn’t apply any more pressure to my trachea. He didn’t release my neck, either. “I could crush your windpipe like a pea.”

I closed the distance so our foreheads were touching, as if he was threatening to shoot me. It wouldn’t have been the first time. “Then do it, Zacharias.” I urged, only because I knew he wouldn’t.

And I was right. He lingered for a moment, but eventually released me. He took a step away from me, looking down at me. With my throat feeling tender, I rubbed my hand over it, grimacing at him as I walked over to the window bench. I gave him my back, flaunting blunt disrespect. He left the room for a while, leaving me alone until the sky became dark.

I looked outside at the starless sky, my ears picking up on the sound of the faint drizzle of a twilight shower. The sky was weeping once again, crying enough for the both of us. My expression fell, and as I looked outside at the dewy terrain, I felt guilt for my chronic rejection to the man who owned it. I had kissed him only moments earlier, only to just nearly have my trachea crushed by him.

I was torturing myself. I knew that now. I could no longer point an accusing finger at Zacharias. I blamed myself. If I could’ve just swallowed my pride and put my differences aside, I wouldn’t be suffering as much as I was. Zacharias was only being cruel because he felt it was his only option. It was hard to say he had any fault in this situation, because I didn’t care about him like he was a lover. He was not my lover.

There was no genuine affection. He was my kidnapper, and that was all he would ever be. I had succumbed to him, but not because I loved him, or because I cared for him. I had been driven by the moon, steered towards him when all I wanted to do was navigate myself away. I should’ve started to calm down as the weeks passed, even if only to cope and survive. My bullheadedness would be my greatest downfall.

He came up behind me, placing his hands on my hips, pressing himself flush against me. “I’m sorry." He said, his words falling onto deaf ears. He sounded so torn up and dismantled. It was hard to envision someone as big and strong as Zacharias showing the same emotions as someone as feeble as me.

I swallowed and removed my hand from the base of my throat. Unknowingly, I leaned back into him, accepting his warmth. I didn’t make any moves to hold him back in the way he held me, however. I didn’t want to be too conspicuous. I wanted it to seem accidental, if it seemed anything at all.

“I want to go outside,” I blurted randomly. “I need to go outside.”

To my greater shock, he didn’t object. I thought he’d discourage it because it was nighttime, and because it was raining...and also because it looked as if I wore no pants. But, instead, he appeased me. Maybe, on some sort of level unattainable to grasp, he understood why I needed to go outside even before I did.

He said nothing, but broke away from me. I turned around, following him as he led me outside of the room, down the pitched hallway—that I could, in fact, see in—and led me down the stairs to the front door. I followed him like an obedient little puppy, watching with critical scrutiny as he undid all of the locks, before punching in the code that allowed for the release of the door.

6666. MNO.

I deciphered it to moon, and sniggered to myself. How obvious it should’ve been, and how cheesy it was. I hadn’t envisioned the code being anything like that, but yet it was. When the door clicked open, I had to bite back laughter—maybe crazed laughter—as Zacharias opened it to reveal the outside world to me.

I walked outside instantly in a mad rush, looking over my shoulder to make sure Zacharias wouldn’t follow me. Thankfully, he didn’t, because we both knew I wouldn’t run. Instead he stood in the threshold, leaning against it as he crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes riveted on me. I didn’t feel awkward knowing he was watching me. I felt numb to it; desensitized.

I walked down the stairs, feeling the cold rain cool my warm skin. I inhaled deeply as my feet met the damp grass, picking up on traces of sweet honeysuckle, peppery pine, and rich dirt amongst a concoction of other alluring scents. Everything nature had to offer billowed around me like expensive perfume. I had never smelled anything so wonderful.

I walked out into the open field, eyes closed, before I stopped. The rain, carrying down impurities from the atmosphere, cleansed me as though blessing me with holy water. It made me feel cleaner than I ever had before, completely washed of any residue that clung to me from the day. It was only then that I realized I was crying too.

Opening my eyes, I tilted my head up to the sky, at a time too perfect to be coincidence. The clouds that covered the moon peeled away from her, without insinuating the sky would soon clear so the stars could expose themselves. No, not even close. This lapse...this breach...it was significant.

The moon, with all her imperfections and craters, was ethereal as I looked up at her, clearer than I had ever witnessed her before. She was so abstract and so surreal she looked painted in the sky, with brush strokes so precise I felt inadequate as I admired her; unworthy of looking at such greatness.

I blinked, and when I opened my eyes again she was still in the sky. I felt naked beneath the brief moonlight, as if the moon had eyes and was scoping me out. She seemed too...real, so profound that my breath hitched in my throat. All at once, I was completely overwhelmed by her omnipotence...by her fierce glow that both blessed and intimidated me. This...this was acceptance.

A faltering smile tugged at my lips as I stared at her, unblinking as the rain pelted my face. There was something sentimental and spiritual about this interaction. The water that fell from the sky, and the moon that casted her light onto me. I took a deep breath, acknowledging the lunar importance.

Closing my eyes, I held my arms out at my sides as I strained my head back, allowing myself to be baptized by the nighttime cloudburst.

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