Chapter 7: Venetia
Unravel Us Playlist on Spotify.
Song; (Secession Studios- The Untold II)
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We don’t break eye contact.
We hold gazes.
This continues, until he breaks it first. “You gonna let me sit down?”
I cleared my throat and debated for a moment before scooting to the other chair, allowing him the space to settle beside me.
He takes my offer and slowly sits down.
The two of us don’t talk right away. We simply stay silent and let the atmosphere rise up in tension.
“How did you find me?” I ask, going to initiate the conversation.
He shakes his head, huffing. “How do you think? I spent the whole day goin’ through hospitals. Times like this, I wished you had a phone.”
“Too bad,” Snorting, I pull up my knees to my chest and rest my chin. “Don’t want to make things easy for some people.”
“Am I one of those people?”
“You tell me, Marlen.” Staring at him, I hold his gaze until I can’t anymore. “Are you... one of those people?”
There’s a string that’s unraveling between us and it’s unraveling fast. If I wasn’t careful, I might just open a whole other nightmare.
But nightmares don’t scare me anymore.
“How’s your friend?” He asks.
It’s admiring that he tries to ease the tension, that by distracting me, perhaps the outcome of our conversation will have a smooth landing.
I know better.
This is all smoke and mirrors.
Nothing is real here, just a facade.
Did he even care?
“Hailey got third-degree burns, broken bones, possible paralysis, the list goes on-” When the Doctor had told me the extent of her injuries I knew if Hailey made it, her daily life would never be the same.
She may not be able to walk ever again.
Leaning forward, I rest my forehead on my clasp hands. “If she doesn’t wake up tomorrow, she never will.”
Marlen’s expression remains blank.
I know he’s being careful. One wrong misstep and I would be on him. He’d rather take the risk of pretending to be oblivious.
Any other person would be.
But I wasn’t, any other person.
I, was Vanessa Vail, and I had enough, of waiting.
People are screaming.
Everything is disorienting and tilted. I cannot tell where things ended and begun, but just beyond the blockade and panicked civilians, I see something.
He was there.
He was there when the explosion hit.
I recognized that figure anywhere.
All that’s left is for him to tell me what he was doing there, what he was hiding, what this invisible string between us is unraveling.
“Marlen,” My Sponsor knows where this is going, he knows what I’m going to ask him. “I only need to know one thing.”
He takes a deep breath and prepares himself. I can see how his fingers shake, how his whole body locks up, how his eyes, blankless as there were, is unable to hide anything.
The time I’ve spent by myself this past day was more than enough for me to hash out my own conclusions, but some pieces were still missing.
As hard as I tried, I couldn’t figure it out, until eventually, I realized I didn’t have to look so far.
The answer was right in front of me.
“That night, at Manhattan when the fire broke out and the guys were cornered,” The memory is fresh, fresher than it was before after everything that’s transpired. “One of them said something... something I couldn’t get out of my head.”
Blondie smiles his pearly teeth and tips an imaginary hat at Marlen, intending on driving the proverbial knife deep. “Better keep them close, or you’ll lose them Venetia.”
“Your name,” I say. “He said, your name, Marlen.”
No, it wasn’t that Blondie didn’t know our names, hell, he practically shouted that he knew all about us, but something about the way he said Marlen’s name... like it was intended for him, like it was something only my Sponsor could figure out by himself.
I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it and it drove me absolutely mad.
There are alarm bells going off at the back of my mind and I can’t, for the life of me, make it stop.
“I’m giving you one chance,” The truth needs to come out, the revelation, the thing that’s been keeping us from understanding what we’re up against. “What do you know... that I don’t?”
He’s become rigid, un-moving. If I reach out to touch him, I was sure he’d fall over like a statue.
The crease in between his eyebrows deepened, his adam’s apple, bobbed up and down. “Red, I wasn’t sure-”
“Don’t bullshit me, Marlen, answer the goddamn question.”
No way out.
No more secrets.
I’ve let him off during that time at Skuro when he hesitated to say something. I hadn’t realized it then, but he was probably trying to give himself the courage to tell me the truth.
If numerous civilians’ lives weren’t lost, if Hailey wasn’t in the ICU fighting for her life, If Elios hadn’t gotten critically injured-I would have left him be and waited for him to man up and confront me.
But I’m not going to do that, now.
I’m going to force it out of him, even if I have to kill him myself.
And he sees it, the bloodlust I’m showcasing, the threat I’m proclaiming, he sees, I will not hesitate if he doesn’t give me what I ask for.
“Say it,” The hiss slips out of my mouth. “Say it, Marlen, say it, give me an answer-”
“You’re right.” He blurts out, exhaling harshly as though the confession had taken everything inside him. “He did say my name, Red.”
I expected to feel relief, maybe even solace. Instead, something else befell me.
Anger and rage. Malice and disgust.
“I don’t know how he found out, I don’t know anything-”
The laugh is out of me before I can stop it, the air is coated with darkness. “If you didn’t know anything, you wouldn’t be sitting beside me right now, you wouldn’t have spent all day trying to find me, lets face it Marlen you’re guilty.”
He clamps his mouth shut, watching as I turn my body to face him, so he could see the bandages, the cuts, the bruises, the absolute hell I’ve been through.
“But what are you guilty of Marlen...? That’s the question.”
The very, important one.
My sponsor is digging a deeper hole for himself the more he tries to delay the inevitable.
Did he forget who I was?
I was Red Devil, the Queen.
And right now, my throne is in shambles, my people are misplaced, and the only way for me to help them, the only way for me to amend what happens next all depends on what his decision will be.
“What do you want me to say Red?”
“I want you to tell me the truth.” Before it’s too late.
“The truth?” He chuckles out loud, almost hysterical. “You want me to tell you the truth?”
The temper in my chest exploded.
I reach for his collar and dug my nails into it, forcing him to see the absolution in my gaze. “Give me the truth, before I kill you, right here, right now.”
There is no more room for geniality or manners.
No more room for mercy.
“You don’t know what I’ve gone through this past day, Marlen, you don’t know what I’ve had to do, what I’ve had to experience, what I’ve had to sacrifice, so if there’s even an ounce of humanity left inside you, tell me what you’re hiding before you lose my trust.”
Because at the end of the day, Marlen, just like any other person, was human too.
He needed something to fight for, he needed something to live for.
He told me himself that he only started to live when I came into the picture. I gave him a purpose, I gave him the will to continue and if he loses me now, he’ll go back to being nothing but a shell-less old man.
My sponsor does nothing to remove my hand from his collar, he lets me hold him there as he goes slack and his features sunk in. “Marlen Venetia, that’s my full name.”
“I know it very well,” I say sarcastically.
“No.” He stops me, shaking his head slowly. “You don’t.”
Openly frowning, my grip on his collar loosened but didn’t let go. “Explain,”
He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to turn away. “It’s already there, Red-”
“Explain it to me, Marlen!” I don’t let him off, not even for a second. “Spit it out!”
"AITENEV!" He bellows, finally revealing it whole. ”Aitenev Red! The name, it’s the goddamn name, it’s my name!”
Shock paralyzes my whole body.
I let him go, stumbling back on my feet until my back hits the wall across from him.
He’s breathing erratically, his fingers are shaking, his whole body is trembling.
I’m staring at him in utter desolation.
It was his name.
“How?” The lump in my throat grows. “How, Marlen, we’ve been fighting them for months, years, how?"
He doesn’t answer me, he can’t. He’s resolved to silence because he can’t say anything else.
It would hurt too much.
My brain starts to rack up the revelation, adding, calculating, making connections and dots.
Didn’t we wonder about this before?
Didn’t we ask how it connects?
We never asked why, we asked how, how, so many things happen.
All those events, all those painful memories, they are coming back to me, they are reminding me of so many things I’ve never realized, so many things I’ve never bothered to see.
“There’s only one person... who has my name, Red,” Marlen mutters lowly, almost to the point that I can’t hear it. “I don’t know how it’s possible, I don’t know how she’s-”
“Rose,” I gasp.
“Yes... you’re Red Devil.... yes, I’m scared of you.”
“But I’m more scared of what she’ll do to my family than I am scared of what you’ll do to me.”
It was her.
“Red, please.” Marlen has just realized, I’ve connected the dots and he’s utterly scared, of what I’ll do next. “Please, I’m begging you-”
“She’s alive...?” I shake my head, seriously doubting what my mind is trying to tell me.
How is that possible?
Wasn’t she dead?
My men put a bullet through her skull, no one could survive that, yet why were the facts so clear? Why can’t I think otherwise?
All those terrible memories, all those painful times I had to go through, it was all because of her. She planned it, right from the start.
And all the things are coming together, all the pieces, clicking in place.
Her name had been everywhere.
Backwards, everything was backwards, I was just too blind to see it or maybe... I’ve always known?
That dream was trying to tell me something, conjured by my own subconsciousness into realizing the truth.
“Won’t you join me?”
We were so similar, right down to our hair, what we like to do, the fighting, the skating, getting involved with the men, having Marlen as a Sponsor/father figure.
Was that why she targeted me?
Did this all start from Marlen? Had I gotten her attention because Marlen starting staying by my side? Maybe she felt angry and dug up about my life, in the process got Travis involved, then Karen, then things escalated after Malorie became collateral damage.
Maybe she thought it would end there, I’d learn a lesson.
She didn’t realize Thomas and Mason would get involved with me, but they did, so now it was a whole other thing, a whole other circumstance.
I was suddenly the woman that took her place, I was the one that stole her men. I was everything, she couldn’t be.
That must have pissed her off.
So she found Veronica, did everything in her power so I would be surrounded with lies and deceit. Maybe she was planning on using my only family member against me, but she hadn’t expected I’d go off the deep end.
I was the one that revealed her schemes much earlier and dismantled them. I didn’t show mercy to Veronica or Travis, I didn’t break, I simply became consumed with revenge.
She couldn’t stop me, I was always in the way, it didn’t matter how many people she threw at me, Jonas, Marvin, because my men had been there to ensure I wouldn’t be alone anymore.
And now, after all that is done and over with, and all her resources were spent, she couldn’t have felt good about it at all. It didn’t help that I was now actively trying to take Aitenev down.
She wasted so much time with me, she wasted so much effort.
So she began to think differently.
Instead of approaching me directly... she went straight for the people around me, the people, who once knew her, the people I’ve grown to care for.
The building rigged to burn down in Manhattan and the blueprints Mason bought, and the fire on Mazereen Apartments... this was her way of showing me that it was her turn to pay back all the damage I’ve done to her.
“How long did you know?”
“How long did you know?!” My scream is shrill, much too loud for a hospital. “You kept it from me, you endangered the people I cared about, you are the reason, Hailey is in there, fighting for her life!”
He’s on the verge of tears when he stands up and tries to reach for me, hold me, in response to the outburst I’ve thrown at him.
“What would I have done if my men got hurt? What would I have done, if any one of them died? It be on me, Marlen, their deaths would have been on me!”
“Red, from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry, I don’t mean for this to happen, I don’t mean it at all-I never wanted your friend to get hurt, much less the boys-”
“Don’t fucking, lie to me!” Pointing a finger at him, I can feel the cold clutches of rage, grip at my spine.
“If you didn’t want us to get hurt, then why didn’t you say anything? Why the fuck were you at Mazereen before it blew up?”
Did she approach him?
Did she tell him about the bomb?
Did he planted it?
“I’m no bomber Red-” My Sponsor is desperately trying to salvage the situation but knows it is pointless. This is the moment our trust will never be the same. “I swear to God, it wasn’t like that!”
“Then what was it like? What was it like Marlen, tell me, because innocent people have died, my home is nothing but ashes, tell me what it was like!?”
“She’s my daughter!” He roars.
The silence that stretches after that is undeniable with the only sound being environmental noises.
Marlen is unable to look at me in the face.
I don’t think I’d want to either.
I’m livid and filled to the brim with fury.
Yet as I stare at him now, with cold eyes and harsh intent, I don’t do anything to enact the terrible things I wish to do.
“Red... she was dead, but now she isn’t, don’t you see?” He mumbles agonizingly. “She’s still my daughter, she’s all I have.”
“She used my own mother against me, hurt my friends, destroyed my home and it doesn’t matter to you at all?” Biting my lip, I cross my arms over my chest and chuckled dryly.
“The others were right. You’re still the same old man that used people to get what he wanted, maybe that’s why Rose turned out this way, like father-like daughter.”
I turn away. “Get the fuck out of my sight.”
He cannot win.
The Marlen I know would have stayed, he would have fought, he would have done everything in his power to defend himself and make things right.
But not this time.
He gets up and does as I asked wordlessly, his lone figure receding down the hallway.
Betrayal is something I’m all too familiar with.
I’m hurt at what he’s done yet I’m so numb I cannot feel it.
“She wasn’t all you had,” I can’t help but say out loud, pressure filling my lungs as my voice carries across the halls. “You had the men, you had Hailey... you had me.”
What more did you want?
Marlen didn’t look back.