Issiryth's Curse

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

The Mermaid

As we sat on the beach, we could see a head popping up out of the water then going back down once more. As her head ducked down, it was followed by a giant blue tail. Unfortunately, it was all too familiar. I hadn’t reasonably been able to overcome my fear of the mermaid considering our past. She had been depicted as a murderous creature created to do the bidding of Issiryth and I really had no idea where I fit in. Stark’s chest bowed out as he sat up to observe her swimming toward us. He positioned himself in front of me out of protection.
“Calm down. She won’t hurt you,” he comforted.
“She did try to kill me. Are you forgetting that?” I asked.
“How could I?”

He rolled his eyes. As she pulled her body onto the shore, she drug her blue tail behind her. Her long, wavy hair just covered the nipples of her breasts as her mesmerizing blue eyes looked up at us.
“Hey Stark, wanna have some fun?” she asked, then turned to look at me. “You can’t handle him, honey.”
“Simmer down,” he said, trying to loosen the tight grip I had on his arm. “How about you meet me later sweetheart. I’m a little busy right now.”
“It’s fine,” I said getting up, glaring at her. “I was just leaving anyway.”
“See Stark baby? She’s leaving. Now get over here!” she dictated. Stark pulled my arm to sit me back down next to him.
“No, she’s not,” he said, holding me into place. “I’ll see you later okay?”
“Why do you have to be like that?” she said with her bottom lip protruding into a pout.
“Because we have business to attend to,” he said. My arms were still wound around his steel arm while his hand was firm on my leg.
“What kind of business?” she asked.
“The kind that doesn’t involve you,” I barked.
“You better keep your bitch on a leash,” she said addressing Stark.
“Serena, get the fuck out of here,” he said.
“Okay, fine!” she snorted, lowering herself back into the water and glaring at me. “You better hope I never catch you on that boundary again, or I will kill you this time. That’s a promise.”
“Just like Sid?” I asked glaring back.
“That...that was different. You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Does that make you uncomfortable?” I asked in a low, stern voice. Her body shifted as she looked away from me. It was almost as if she felt guilty.
“You shouldn’t be reading that book Liza and you certainly shouldn’t be provoking a cold-blooded killer like me,” she sneered.
“Serena! Get out of here!” Stark commanded.
“With pleasure,” she responded, lowering herself back into the ocean. I was relieved but haunted by her words at the same time. She couldn’t swim away from us fast enough. The further her body propelled away from us, the more I released my grip on his arm.
“Don’t listen to her,” he said.
“I have to get back now. Can you please give me the book? I wasn’t finished reading it.”
“I told you, I don’t have it, but I know who does,” he said.
“Don’t play with me. Blane said he didn’t mind my having it,” I responded.
“Blane’s a liar,” he retorted.
“Why can’t you just give him a chance?” I asked.
“Because he’s full of shit. Didn’t you see what he did to that little girl?” he asked.
“I’m sure he has his reasons. He took me too and Leila and he hasn’t hurt us,” I said.
“I don’t trust him,” he responded. He turned toward me on the warm sand, grasping each of my hands in his. Our eyes mirrored the clasp of our hands, making it difficult to look away.
“I.. um...” I started. I could feel our faces drifting toward one another as if on an inevitable collision course. The thudding of my heart beat like a drum as his lips pressed against mine. I couldn’t allow myself to push him away this time. The softness of his lips captivated me in an entrenching passion.
“Your eyes....” he said as if he were caught in a vulnerable, yet pleasing position.
“What?” I responded.
“They’re so chocolate. It’s like you have a mystery underneath the darkness,” he said. Who was this man? Certainly, it couldn’t have been the man who had so blatantly told me that manipulating me into bed would be easy.
“Um....” I started. His finger touched my bottom lip. With his hands still wrapped around my shoulders, he continued with his passionate, fire-burning stare. My heart skipped a beat, knowing that the feelings were stirring inside of me, yet not wanting to show my cards.
“I want to know you. It’s like those eyes are windows that I can’t quite see through. You’re a puzzle. I love a good puzzle.” he whispered.
“That sounds like a line,” I said again wriggling free of him.
“Liza wait, please. I’ll help you get the book. I know where Blane is,” he said.
“In the village?” I asked. He could sense my sarcasm.
“Yea, but I know exactly where he is. I know what he does while he’s gone, but you’re not going to like it,” he said.
“Oh really?” I asked.
“Yes,” he responded.
“Then, why don’t you go ahead and tell me?” I asked.
“Because it’d be better if I showed you,” he said.
“Showed me? How do you know Blane so well anyway?” I asked.
“Well, um... I don’t. Not really anyway,” he said while he looked away.
“Not really? Why do I get the feeling you’re keeping something from me?” I asked. He turned away just like the boys did when they didn’t want me to see the expression on their faces.
“I don’t,” he said.
“For God’s sake. I’m not a child. What is it?” I asked. I could see in his eyes that he was contemplating what he would tell me next. He would have to choose his words carefully if he wanted me to trust him at all.
“I..I’ve been here before,” he said looking at me in the eye this time. He could see the puzzling look as the questions began to race through my head.
“What? You’ve been here before? What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean.... this isn’t the first time I’ve been to Sedania. I’ve been here before,” he said.
“How did you escape?” I asked as tears began to fill my eyes with the possibility of answers.
“It’s a long story Liza, but I came here as a teenager. Blane was my friend,” he said.
“Friend? But he hates you,” I said.
“Well... that wasn’t always the case.”
“Tell me what happened!” I commanded, tugging at his arm.
“I can’t tell you, but suffice it to say that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to Blane,” he said. His head hung down as he stared at the ground. His fingers brushed through his golden hair as he let out a heavy sigh of grief. My eyes were swollen and brimming over with the emotion in light of the news.
“I have to get my boys back Stark. I’ll do whatever it takes,” I said.
“Do you trust me?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Then, let me show you,” he said rising to his feet and extending out a hand. There was a brief feeling of hesitation as I placed my small hand in his. I thought I had loved Blane, but here I was telling another that I trusted him. What if Blane had been lying to me? Had I allowed myself to be seduced and duped by yet another man with horrible intentions?
“I’m scared,” I whispered.
“I know, but you have to be strong. We’re going to get the boys back. Okay?” he asked. I nodded, not quite certain that I could take comfort in that.
His feet pressed into the sandy beach as he pivoted away from me and scuttled off to a nearby tree. I couldn’t quite see what he was doing, but it was apparent he was rummaging around in secrecy. A small vial rested in the crevasse of his right fist. His other arm wrenched backward, concealing a large object.
“Rule number one,” he started, extending out the red book to me. “Never trust anyone in Sedania.”
“Why you...” I gasped in anger.
“Listen, I didn’t want to lie to you. It’s just that...” he started.
“Save it,” I interjected, snatching it like an activated bear trap. The temperature of my blood was slowly rising to a boil. My skin grew flushed with anger, yet my feet were planted in such a way that I couldn’t convince myself to move them.
“Don’t be mad Liza. It’s just...” he started.
“Just what?” I asked.
“I need it too and Blane he---”
“He what?” I glared at him.
“He doesn’t like people knowing things,” he said. It was clear that Stark was holding back, but I couldn’t place it. What was it that he knew?
“Let’s just keep reading it. Okay?” he asked. The sun hung mid-way in the pink sky, complimenting the shimmering water.
“It’s almost time for me to go back,” I observed.
“Okay, I understand. Just for a little bit,” he coaxed. The vial rolled around between his fingers as he fidgeted, awaiting my answer. I wondered what purpose he had while I watched his wheels spinning. I refrained from asking more questions however as I lowered my bum to the sand.
“Thanks,” he said, finding a comfortable spot next to me. His large finger wedged in between the pages of the book as it cracked open to reveal a mess of words.
“Stark’s Story...” he began.

Stark’s Story
On the eve of his final project due date, his eyes stood open gazing at the computer screen in front of him. He hadn’t written a single word. In between the war at home with his father and the burden of being the star pitcher for his baseball team, he didn’t find a lot of time to focus on his studies. There he sat, dissatisfied with his walk in life at the tender age of 16 merely because he hadn’t been able to juggle it all.
The sound of his father’s booming voice through the paper-thin wall didn’t help the situation. The muffled screams of his darling mother infuriated him enough to stuff it down deep beneath the surface of his skin. Any display of emotion was not well-received. His toes tapped against the carpet as his fingers clicked on the keyboard to write out a single word. ‘The’ His hand brushed up over his golden hair as he hung his head in contemplation.
“Goddamnit,” he exclaimed, smashing his fist on the desk in front him. He sat back in remorse, hoping he hadn’t drawn the attention of his father. Thankfully, the dull screams from behind the wall continued without consequence. Perhaps tonight, he thought, he could simply be a normal teenager. Tuning out the anger that ensued, he continued to type. ‘The man with raven black hair,’ he wrote. His fingers shook with each keystroke in the hope that his father would not come bursting through the door. Little did he know, that Pandora’s box would soon be opened, testing his strength in the face of the impossible.
“I see you,” he heard a whisper from the dark corner of his room. His body jolted from the chair forcing it to spin around and around as he stood, staring at nothing at all.
“Get a grip,” he said out loud, seating himself once more, perplexed at the words he had typed. ‘The man with raven black hair,’ that was curious. What did it even mean? His head shook as his finger pressed down on the delete key, erasing the strange words away.
“I see you,” the voice said once more.
“Who’s there?” he posed the question to the corner, standing up once more. This time his hand had a tight grip on the baseball bat resting against his desk.
“Let’s get out of here,” the voice boomed.
“Who are you?” Stark’s trembling voice mustered.
“I am the man with the raven black hair,” it said.
“Come out and face me,” Stark replied, bowing out his chest.
“Certainly, but first you have to do something for me,” he said.
“I’m not a man to be bargained with,” Stark lied. “Either come out and face me or I’ll...”
“You’ll what?” he asked.
“I’ll... I’ll kill you!” he declared. Boom went the bedroom door from the other side. It was a sound more invoking of fear than any mysterious voice from the dark corners of his room. It was a sound that promised him of an eminent ass beating.
“Okay, what do you want?” Stark surrendered, as his hand wedged the chair beneath the rattling doorknob.
“I’ll tell you when we get there,” it said. From the shadows, a creamy-white hand grabbed hold of his arm, pulling him downward into what can only be described as a waterfall. As Stark embarked on his descent to Sedania, he wondered what he’d gotten himself into. His head rested against the warm sand as the waves swished on the shore. He felt as vulnerable and ignorant as a newborn baby, yet grateful he had escaped the wrath of his father.
“Come on, it’s time to get up,” a voice said from behind him as he felt the strength of fingers prying themselves beneath his shoulders to prop him up into a seated position. A young man with dark black hair, pale skin, and tall stature was standing there beside him. He recognized the hand that belonged him. It was the same hand that pulled him down into the waterfall.
“You saved my life,” Stark said.
“Did I?” he asked. “I didn’t know.”
“Yea, thanks man,” he said extending out his hand. The man’s black eyes looked down at Stark’s extended hand, then attempted to mimic the gesture.
“It’s a handshake. See,” Stark demonstrated. “That’s what men do.”
“You’re not a man. You’re only 16,” he answered.
“What’s your name?” Stark asked.
“Blane. What’s yours?”
“It’s V-, they call me Stark,” he responded.
“Stark? That’s a funny name,” he said.
“Well, Blane isn’t the best name I’ve ever heard either,” Stark retorted.
“Fair enough,” Blane said, his hands raised in front of him. “What do you want to do first?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what do you want to do first? This is Sedania, where all your dreams come true.”
“I’d like to just rest if that’s okay.”
“Rest? That sounds boring.”
“Why did you bring me here?”
“You seemed like you needed my help. That’s what I do, I help people,” he said. There was something sinister in the blackness of his eyes that Stark couldn’t quite put his finger on. Perhaps it was the way his fingers tapped together when he spoke or the poise he had in invading his bedroom that night, but Stark wasn’t buying it. Not for a single second.
“I want to go home now. Thanks for saving me,” Stark said.
“Home?” he asked.
“Yes, please take me home,” Stark reiterated.
“You can’t...I mean I can’t.... nobody ever wants to leave,” he said.
“I do. You need to take me home now. Please,” Stark asked.
“I can’t...” he started.
“Well, why not?” he asked. From the distance, the waves of the ocean were rising up to crash against the sandy shore. With each wave that came an angrier one would follow. Crash, crash, crash. Blane began to shift at their display as they drew closer and closer to the young men.
“We had better get out of here,” Blane warned.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on!” Stark demanded.
“There’s no time for that!” Blane exclaimed. The waves had grown massive as they rose up in the water. Stark’s eyes grew wide with amazement.
“No,” he said as the waves grew to tower over them, threatening to swallow them whole. Stark wasn’t all too keen on playing Blane’s game but felt a bit short on choices. Grabbing hold of his pale arm, Stark’s strong hand pulled him away to safety as they bolted away from it. Their bodies fell backward on the sand, barely missing the wrath of the wave.
“You saved my life,” Blane said extending out his hand. “Let’s shake hands. That’s what men do.”
“I’m not a man. I’m only 16.” Stark smirked, walking away from him.
“Wait. Where are you going?” Blane asked.
“Anywhere, but here. You saved my life and I saved yours. We’re even now...” Stark said.
“Just give me a chance. Please...I don’t have any friends,” said Blane. It wasn’t often that he felt the weight of someone else’s burden, but in this case, Stark’s empathy was getting the best of him. Even in his 16-year-old mind, he could wrap his head around the pain of exclusion.
“Okay...” Stark said.
“Okay, what do you want to do first?” Blane asked. Stark smiled.
Several days had passed on Sedania and the two young men had found themselves in quite a few indulgences including booze, fast cars, and beautiful women. The exchange they’d had days before was becoming a distant memory as Stark’s reluctance grew thin. He was beginning to forget the life he had left behind. He had forgotten the feel of a leather baseball glove covering his hand when he caught a baseball. He had forgotten the way his alarm clock would blare in the morning as his hand attempted to smack the snooze button but instead hit his bedside table.
He had forgotten the way his mom would rush around the kitchen in her torn housecoat trying to make him breakfast after she’d been up all night fighting with his dad. Her raccoon eyes would strive to stay open as she poured his orange juice, but she always managed. He’d forgotten the feel of her salty tears dousing his lap when she cried. Her fingers would slip into her messy hair while he wiped away the running mascara from her face. He would comfort her in those times, but on the inside he resented her. She hadn’t saved him. Nobody had. Perhaps his mistrust of Blane had been misplaced. He did fulfill his promise after all.
His bum settled into the warm sand beneath him while his right hand propped him up. His left hand was wrapped around an ice cold bottle of beer that was tilted toward his lips. The fizzy bubbles trickled down his throat while the round flavor of the fermented beverage quenched his thirst. There was a breeze floating through the shade of the palm tree allowing him to enjoy the sunny day with perfect ease. The calming sound of the ocean waves gave way to the comfortable silence as the two sat in their satisfaction.
“Blane?” he started.
“Yea buddy?”
“I miss my mom,” he said. There was a shade of disappointment that cast over Blane’s face as the words came out of Stark’s mouth. While Blane had hoped that he had successfully stifled Stark’s memories, he soon realized he had been unsuccessful.
“Your mom?” he asked in a low voice.
“Yea. I need to get home,” Stark replied.
“You can’t,” Blane said. His hand tightened around his glass bottle making his already pale knuckles as white as the winter’s first fallen snow. His dark eyes looked out into the horizon with an intentional, sharp gaze.
“I can and I will,” Stark replied, rising to his feet and smashing his beer bottle against a nearby tree. Blane was stoic, never deviating from his eye contact with the distant horizon. His hand twisted around the beer bottle as if he was wringing out a wet towel. As Stark tried to move his feet beneath him to challenge Blane, he noticed a heaviness. The more he tried to move them, the heavier they became, sinking into the sand. Rising his hand above his head and heaving the broken bottle in Blane’s direction, Stark made a final attempt to fight off the man who was holding him captive. It rendered him unsuccessful as Blane dodged the bottle without even looking up. As the sand rose to his knees and above his naval, Stark began to panic.
“Okay, you win. I’ll stay!” Stark blurted. Blane’s hand grew still, rubbing the bottle up and down with a single finger, but still never looking toward him. The clouds in the sky grew dark as they hovered over them and began to crash into a terrifying wrath. The ocean waves began to rise up and down as Stark still found himself sinking.
“Did you hear me? I’ll stay!” he yelled.
“Mother...” Blane whispered under his breath. Stark was puzzled by this response given Blane had wanted very much to prevent him from reuniting with his mother.
“No, it’s fine. My mom will be fine without me,” he said. Blane’s head pivoted toward him. A single tear had managed to escape his eye, but Stark had observed something even more odd. His black hair was riddled with strands of silver and his face had appeared more haggard. He still said nothing, rising to his feet. He was looking out into the dark, churning ocean.
“Damn you Mother!” he exclaimed with each of his balled up fists extended to his side. He covered himself with a hooded cloak as he bolted away from a sinking Stark.
The sand had made its way all the way up to his chin now as the waves of the water grew closer. It was apparent that Blane had left him for dead with no remorse. As Stark looked up at the gigantic wave towering over him, it was evident that he would not only be swept away but buried alive. He closed his eyes and remembered the feel of the leather glove on his hand as he caught the baseball. He thought of his mother’s swollen, raccoon eyes as she poured his juice. He remembered the way she pulled tight to her hair as he wiped away her tears. Each memory was bittersweet, yet deeply missed. As the waves engulfed him, he held on only to the memory of his life. Had he done all the things he wanted to do? Could he have been a better son? Could he have been all this father wanted him to be?

-End

My eyes grew heavy reading the book at the realization that Blane may not have been the man I thought he was. Was he a man at all? I could see the anticipation in Stark’s eyes while he loomed over my reaction. There was a heaviness in my chest, like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t oblige Stark with a reaction. I would have to decide for myself what I wanted to believe.
“If you believe me, that Blane isn’t who he says he is, then give him this. It will put him to sleep. Then, you can meet me later and we can come up with a plan to get your kids back. We don’t have much time, Liza.” His hand extended out to me, holding the mysterious vial of poison.
My head buried itself down into my knees as the book slipped from the clutches of my hands. My arms outstretched, embraced my trembling legs. He dropped the vial down next to me in the warm sand. I could see the purple potion moving about as it rolled down beneath my legs and into my view. My eyes fixated on the concoction as his footsteps became faint while he walked away from me. Deep breath Liza, I thought. Deep breath.
My eyes stood open as I gazed out the window. The hard wooden floor beneath my feet was the only shred of stability I had. I had been contemplating the things I had read about Stark and Blane. I felt utterly lost. I was in no position to become clouded over with the notion of romance. These two opposing forces left me with a difficult decision, one which must be weighed carefully. My eyes stood open, entranced by the conundrum.
“So, did you get your book back?” Leila asked. My dark, brown eyes fluttered about as I rummaged through the chaos in my mind.
“No,” I lied.
“He’s such a jerk, Liza. I don’t even know why you talk to him,” she responded.
“Because I have to Leila. He has the answers I need. I’m going to get the boys back.”
“How do you plan to do that?” she inquired.
“With Stark,” I blurted.
“Stark?!”
“Promise me you won’t tell Blane what I’m up to Leila,” my voice shook.
“Haven’t we kept enough secrets from Blane?” She asked.
“Please Leila, don’t say anything okay? Do you promise?”
“Yes, okay. Whatever you want Liza,” she said. I questioned her coerced promise. Leila’s loyalty had been sealed to Blane, of this, I was well aware.
My stomach twisted in knots, hearing the car door from outside slamming shut. I moved toward the window to get a better look at him. He was smiling from ear-to-ear, with his shiny, white teeth glinting in the sun. He rested his arm on my mother’s shoulder, leading her up the path to the house. He turned to her and mouthed something as they walked together. To my surprise, her expression was not quite so enthusiastic. She was putting her hands out to each side as if to question the things that he was saying to her. Her eyebrows were furled with a look of discontent I had only seen when she was in an argument. Perhaps, I had underestimated her ability to control herself. Blane pulled her close to him, squeezing her for a bit of side hug. Her shoulders shrugged and twisted, encouraging his pale hand to fall away from the embrace. She turned toward him with the same unpleasant expression. Her bony finger pointed straight in his face as she mouthed some strong, yet inaudible words. Blane’s eyes grew as wide as frying pans, looking back at her. I jumped backward as his eyes traveled over in my direction. My back pressed up against the cold wall. My chest felt as tight as a drum as I labored to collect myself. The footsteps from outside the door clopped against the concrete as the doorknob rattled and swung open. A single tear was streaming down my mom’s smooth cheek, which she wiped away at the sight of me.
“Hey sweetie,” I said to him. Then, I turned to my mother. “Mrs. Ward.”
“Hi, Liza! How are you? I was just telling Blane that I feel like I’ve lost something and I don’t know where to find it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is I’m forgetting, but I’m forgetting something. I’m not going to leave until I remember what it is. Do you have any idea what it could be?” On the inside I wanted to scream it from the rooftops, but I knew I shouldn’t.
“No ma--- I mean, Mrs. Ward. I can’t imagine what it could be,” I leaned in close to her. Then, all at once, I gave her a hug. My chest tightened into a long cord of stressed nerves entering the pit of my belly. I choked back tears while my arms constricted around her. Her timid arms gave me a flimsy reciprocation, however. Then, her questioning eyes looked back at me as she slid away.
“Oh, well...that’s nice,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’ve forgotten anything after all I guess.”

She shrugged. The tears pressed against the back of my eyes, but I did not let them escape this time. I watched her walk away once again, like I had so many times before.
“What’s the matter, Liza? Why are you standing there as if you’d seen a ghost?” Blane scoffed.
“I just want my family back the way it was,” I whispered.
“I’m going to give myself up to mother tomorrow,” he announced. “I’m going to die for you. Isn’t that enough?”
“It’s more than enough. Let’s just enjoy ourselves tonight my love. The present moment is all we have.”
His hand pressed into my back, arousing a comforting sense of companionship, as he led me into the living room. We stood there a while staring with a blank expression. His hand was still in its secure place on the small of my back. The crackling fire danced about in the fireplace. He slid his hand around my waist, pulling me closer. I turned my body toward his. My hands slid up over his arms and shoulders, feeling their way into his silky locks of black hair. I became enchanted with his dark eyes and doll-like resemblance. Each feature of his smooth, white face was as flawless as porcelain. His lips drew near to mine, making a deep impression on my soul. I closed my eyes.
I shifted around as he attempted to feel the skin from beneath my dress. His hand came close to my pocket, scarcely missing the vial of poison. My heart was pounding. The rush of fear filled my pores with sweaty anxiety. I clasped my cold, clammy hands around his, guiding them to the softness of my breasts. I pressed my lips against his once more, feeling his tongue dancing along with mine. I rested my arms on his broad shoulders as I pulled him in for an embrace. The thumping within his chest synched in perfect harmony with mine, two hearts beating together in the stillness of the moment. Soon, the sensation of the floor beneath my feet dissolved into a feeling of nothingness. As we kissed, we became weightless. A cool, hazy fog tickled against our skin as we ascended into the sky. Now a distant twinkling light, the rooftop of his house was growing smaller. The sea creatures in the shallows of the water illuminated in brilliant colors as the waves of the clear ocean crashed against the sandy beach. Pulsating with its own magic, each star in the sky was complemented by an equally flattering reflection against the surface of the water. My eyes lit up like a child looking at thousands of twinkling lights on Christmas Eve.
“I love you, Liza,” he said. Frozen in the enthrallment of the moment, my heart clenched. The corners of my lips turned up, giving him a small glimmer of affirmation. My fingers clasped into the back of his head, weaving into his hair as I pulled him near me to feel the softness of his lips.
“Tell me you want me, Liza. Tell me you’ll stay here with me,” he pleaded. Again, my heart clenched.
“I....I.....” I started. His fingertip met my lip to stifle the words.
“Say nothing,” he said. His head rested on top of mine, as we stared down at the beautiful illuminations. His arms wrapped themselves around my waist again. There was a quiet comfort in his arms that snaked its way into a corner of my heart.
As we floated in closeness, his hands again began to reach down to the hem of my dress, pulling it up to my thigh. The vial of poison in my pocket slid up my hip as he did so. He hooked his fingers around the top of my panties, pulling them down around my ankles. I watched as they fell into the air, parachuting to the ocean surface. My heart was racing. I adjusted my dress back down as I slid my hand into my pocket and clasped the vial of poison. The breeze blew up my thighs and into my now naked lady parts. I pulled the hem of my dress down around my thighs and crossed my legs.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing. I... just don’t want to right now,” I said.
“This may be the last time we can be together,” he said, sliding his hand down the front of my dress. I grasped his hand, yanking it away.
“I don’t want to,” I said, my eyes wide-open, giving him an intense glare.
A dark fog began to embrace us. I squeezed my arms around his neck, with eyes wide open. My heart thudded like a tennis ball against the concrete. The dark clouds became all-consuming as I was unable to see beyond the shoulder I was burying my head in. The clouds began to swirl and crash together, making a horrible cracking noise as they did so. Flashes of bright light were all around us as if the paparazzi were trying to get a glimpse of Hollywood’s latest scandal.
“What’s happening?” I asked, looking up into his stoic black eyes. The far-off look he had would not break away to look back at me. I held on to him, but his hands had slipped away from my waist. Some of the strands of his black hair began to turn to strings of white as the smooth skin around his eyes began to crease. A small droplet of salty water began to form in the corner of his eye.
“What’s happening Blane? Talk to me,” I said, now shaking his shoulders with each of my hands. I could feel the hard floor beneath my feet again as the dark cloud around us dissipated across the room. His eyes, unwavering looked across the empty room we now found ourselves in. The red book was propped up against the fireplace with a single light shining down upon it. He extended out his hand toward it with a magnetic pull.
“No!” I shouted as I slid across the floor on my tummy. As the book slid toward his hand I extended mine out to intercept it. With each of my arms wrapped around it, the book wriggled and pulled itself away toward him, but I wouldn’t give up without a fight. Like a wrestler in a match, I was unrelenting in allowing it to pull away from me. Blane’s eyes were still fixated on the book. It flew away from my grasp, dropping open on the floor in front of me.
“No!” I cried. Blane opened his mouth with a large booming voice.
“Liza’s story,” he started.
“No Blane, No...”
・She was a love-addicted single mom whose sole purpose in life was to find ‘the one.’ As she sat alone in her father’s worn-out shoe store that day, she wondered if her idiot boyfriend would ever contact her.・
“Blane! Stop it!” I yelled.
・So, she sat in her grievous state, tormenting over the sound of her dinging cellular phone.・

For once, I felt the forceful push of anger welling up in the pit of my stomach. Like the lava of a volcano, it was festering beneath the surface, just waiting for the right moment to erupt. The words of the book hovered off the page in a silver ink in the sky as he read.
“The raven-haired man watched from a dark corner of the room; unseen and unheard. What she didn’t know, was that he loved her very much. He had watched her ripen over the years to the shiny, red apple she had become.”
I jumped to my feet, unafraid of the consequence. I placed my hands over each of my ears as I looked him square in his dead eyes.
“I won’t hear anymore Blane. My story isn’t written yet!” I shouted as I kicked the book closed. His eyes broke away from the trance and softened toward me as he took my face in each of his hands.
“I’m sorry Liza,” he said as he pressed his lips to mine. I wanted to push away but knew I mustn’t. I slid my hand down into my pocket, squeezing it around the vial of poison. I felt his hand covering mine all of the sudden. My stomach clenched.
“What do you have there?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I lied, keeping my grip on it.

His forceful hand pulled my arm out of my pocket. He twisted my palm up and pried my fingers away from the vial. As I pulled away from him, he twisted my arm behind my back with one hand and held the vial with the other. His breath grazed against my neck as he whispered into my ear.
“Is this what you think of me, Liza? After all I’ve done for you?”
“I....I’m sorry,” I screeched. He pushed me forward from behind as he let go of the grip he had on my twisted arm. As my body moved forward, I turned around to look at him. He had the vial of poison in his hand. He had uncorked it.
“Please...” I started. He pulled the vial up close to his face.
“Is this what you want? For me to die?”
“No...I just want my kids back,” I said. The corners of his lips turned down as he pulled the vial toward them and allowed the poison to trickle down his throat.
“If this is what I have to do to prove my love to you...” he choked as his knees buckled. He collapsed on the hardwood floor beneath him, his head bounced upon the ground. I stood over him in disbelief shaking his lifeless body.
“Blane! Wake-up! Wake-up!” I yelled. His body moved like a rag doll as I shook it. Footsteps clopped against the wooden floor in the hallway, confronting me with the question of what had happened. I pulled on his heavy arms, dragging his body toward the couch.
“What’s going on?” Leila gasped.
“Oh, he’s just had a bit too much to drink,” I giggled.
“Oh,” she responded.
“I’ve got to go. I’ll be back,” I said.
“Wait. Where are you going? You can’t leave him here like this,” she said.
“He’ll be fine Leila. He’s only sleeping. I’ll be back,” I said.

With her eyes wide open at me, she had an obvious look of disbelief. My eyes fixated on the kitchen door as I marched past her. I grabbed a flashlight off the countertop and turned the doorknob. My stomach clenched as I left the two of them behind. I knew it was quite possibly the last pleasant interaction we would have. Even more troubling was the knowledge that leaving them behind was the right choice. My feelings for Blane were often combated by that little voice that told me that something was wrong.
There was something comforting in the touch of his hand, yet sinister in his smile. His embrace felt like I had nothing else. My common sense eroded away in the pleasantries of his tongue. My strength was smothered in the generosity of affection. My soul was crushed in the fist of his control. I was under his spell, mind, body, and soul. He had a finesse in the way he whispered sweet lies in my ear. It sounded as if it was almost true. If only it was, my troubles would dissolve away without the residue of defeat. If I could forget the uncomfortable tinge of unfulfilled promises, perhaps I could find contentment. If I could only ignore that tiny voice inside of the pit of my anxiety. If only I could accept it....but I couldn’t!

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