I stood in the doorway of
my bedroom, staring at the walls I'd grown up in and wondering when
I'd see them next. I fought back the urge to collapse into my
bed and crawl under the covers, turning instead to my wardrobe.
I pulled clothes from my drawers without looking at them and shoved
them into a random sports bag, my mind wandering. Once the bag
was stuffed full of clothes, I pulled a sheet of paper from my desk
drawer and sat down.
at the blank page I felt my eyes burn as I tried to think of what to
write to my mother. I knew in my heart that I couldn't say
goodbye to her in person, or I would never be able to leave.
Minutes stretched to what seemed like hours before I decided that I
couldn't make myself lie to them.
I'm so sorry.
not safe for me here, so Conner's taking me someplace where he can
look after me. I'll come back really soon, I promise.
Someday I'll explain everything to you. It's going to be
okay. I love you, so much.
tears rolled down my cheeks, blurring my vision as I reread my short
note. I lay my head down on the desk, clutching the paper in my
hands. I knew I should get up, but my limbs felt like they were
full of lead. Suddenly I was so tired; I could feel everything
that had happened earlier catching up with me.
managed to lift my head when a soft knocking sounded from my door,
and I saw Conner standing in my doorway, his expression painfully
sympathetic. He crossed the room in a couple of steps, pulling
me from my seat and onto my bed. I curled up on top of it,
sighing as the mattress absorbed my weight. Conner sat at the
foot of my bed, his hands rubbing anxiously up and down his thighs,
like they always did when he was agitated.
happened today?" he asked; his voice oddly rough.
pushed myself up so that I was sitting and turned to face him.
I'd known I would have to explain to him, but I'd hoped I would
have more time than this.
"You won't believe me,"
I murmured, thinking of Sebastian's eyes, and the way they seemed
to absorb the light.
promise," he said, reaching to take my hand, "I'll believe
everything you tell me. Just promise me the same thing."
course," I replied, knowing that nothing he could possibly say
would be less believable than what I was about to tell him. I
pulled my legs in towards my torso, wrapping my arms around my
knees. Taking a deep breath, I told him everything that had
happened earlier, the words tumbling from my mouth in near
incoherency. I left out the fact that I'd walked to school
with Sebastian; I knew that Conner wouldn't take that
listened in silence, his only visible reaction a slight narrowing of
his eyes when I talked about Sebastian's apparent transformation.
But it didn't look shocked, or even horrified, as I'd expected,
only took me a few minutes to tell him everything. When it was
over I could feel my legs quaking in my arms, and pulled them closer
in to my chest. I scrutinized Conner, confused by his lack of
reaction. He stared down at his hands for a long time, his
eyebrows pulled together, shadowing his eyes.
you going to say anything?" I asked finally, afraid that he must
think I was crazy. He looked up at me then, his eyes surprisingly
lifeless, and I chewed on the inside of my cheek,
there's something I've never told you," he began, his gaze
falling back to his clasped hands. I stayed silent, waiting for
him to continue. "I'm not like you," he said,
I asked, confused. I moved to sit next to him on the end of the
bed. We sat in silence, Conner still staring down at his
hands. After several minutes, he continued.
are different people in this world, Stella. People that have...
disabilities, or... abilities.... Diseases." He said finally.
Sebastian; and others that are much, much worse." I turned my head
to stare at him, unable to keep the incredulity off my
people?" I asked, wincing as I heard the note of sarcasm in my
voice. "I never said Sebastian had a disease. There's
something wrong with him, sure, but, I mean, he's still normal."
Conner looked up at me, his eyes
suddenly hard. "No, he's not. He does have a disease
and he isn't able to control himself, Stella."
disease? What" I asked confused.
a terrible curse, your heart is unable to pump its own blood anymore
and you will have to have a daily injection of blood." He
scowled, his eyes narrowing as he stared into the distance.
I have no idea what you're talking about."
an animal. He stalks and he... feeds off of humans. He can't
control himself, even if he refuses to, his instincts just take
he's like, a demon?"
didn't answer for a moment.
"No. I don't know what
he is. He doesn't fit any usual profiles."
stood up, a nervous laugh forcing its way from my throat, coming out
like a bark. What he was saying was ridiculous, completely
absurd. But Sebastian's teeth... an image of his face flashed
through my mind again, those black eyes filling his face as they had
stared into mine, and the blood on his bottom lip where his canines
had sliced into it, they looked sharp as knives. I strode
across the room to stare out my window, my back to Conner, trying to
get rid of the image that filled my head.
a shock I realized that it wasn't the existence of monsters that I
wanted to deny, but the fact that Sebastian was one. Stronger
than my want to deny that Sebastian was a monster was the knowledge
in my mind that Conner would never lie to me, and I knew that what he
said was the truth. I looked at the street below me, grappling
with what Conner had told me. I could feel him standing behind
me, waiting until I was ready. I turned back to him, and tried
to keep my voice steady.
said you weren't like me," I began, searching for the right
words. He nodded sadly, and I thought he must know what I was
going to say next.
"Does that mean..." my
voice cracked and I took a deep breath, forcing the words out, "are
you like him?" Shock flickered across his face, quickly to be
replaced by rage. I knew that this wasn't what he'd been
he spat, his voice shaking. "I am nothing like him. I
am not a monster." He took a step towards me, reaching for my
hand, and without meaning to I flinched back, away from him.
Instantly I wished I could take it back, as pain replaced all the
rage in his expression, his face falling.
dropped the hand that had been reaching towards mine, and I stepped
forward, trying desperately to think of something to say to make it
better. I reached my hands up, placing my palms on his chest,
but his entire body was rigid.
sorry," I murmured. "That was unforgivable."
shoulders slumped, and he wrapped his arms around me. "I
would never, ever hurt you," he whispered, his breath warm against
know," I replied truthfully. I rested my head on his chest
and listened to his steady heartbeat, trying to reconcile my image of
Sebastian with that of the bloodthirsty monsters I'd seen in so
many cheesy blockbuster horror movies, but I couldn't wrap my mind
around it. More than that, I tried not to think of what Conner
had meant when he'd said that he wasn't like me, afraid of what
he might tell me. I sighed, pulling myself out of his arms and
moving back to sit on my bed.
on, then," I murmured, staring up at Conner, still standing by the
window. He sighed, looking past me, his eyes distant.
don't know where to start," he said, running his hands through
his hair. "I didn't think I'd ever have to tell you
can tell me anything," I murmured, hoping desperately that it
was the truth. Conner took a deep breath, steadying himself.
am part of a group of specially gifted children. We call our group
He paused, as if expecting me to say something.
I asked, trying to keep my expression blank.
closed his eyes, a pained expression crossing his face, and
a group vowing to use our superior strength and gifts of the mind and
the body to protect the people in our land from the lesser known
evils of this world. Because, as well as Angels walking the
earth, there were also Demons. For years, my people have
protected the people here from the scum that hides in the shadows,
lying in wait.
he sighed, pausing for a long moment.
He stared down at me, his
eyes suddenly fearful. "So now you know," he murmured.
"And I can only begin to imagine what you must think of me."
tried to keep the shock off my face, absorbing what he'd said.
I moved from the bed to stand in front of him, taking his hands in
mine. "You're still Conner," I said, forcing my mouth
into a smile.
looked down at me, his eyes sad. "You're afraid of me."
It was a statement, not a question.
looked down, away from him, unable to meet his gaze. I wanted
nothing more than to lie to him, to tell him that I could never be
afraid of him, no matter what he told me about himself, but I
couldn't make myself do it. I couldn't help but think of
Sebastian and wonder if Conner could be hiding another darker side of
himself. I shuddered, pushing away an image of Conner with
pitch black eyes and elongated teeth from my head. Whatever he
was, it couldn't be that.
pulled his hands from my grasp, stepping backwards to look at me.
"It's okay," he said, his voice heavy. "I understand
completely if you don't want to be around me anymore," his voice
cracked, but he continued, the words tumbling from his lips.
"But you need to get away from here, far away. This place
isn't safe for anyone, especially you, and even if you don't want
to be anywhere near me," he paused, his voice dropping to a
whisper. "I'll always be close to you, protecting you from
monsters like Sebastian."
I choked, stumbling forward, closing the gap between us. "I
will always want you near me."
broke out across his face, but it was coupled with confusion.
"But you're scared of me," he said, his eyes searching mine.
"You're so scared..." he broke off, his voice troubled.
"Stella, I told you that some of the people in the group were,
gifted" he said carefully, and I felt the blood drain from my
face. I was sure I couldn't handle any more incredible
revelations from him today.
I whispered, fighting the sudden horror that gripped my chest, biting
down on the inside of my cheek. I barely noticed the metallic tang of
blood in my mouth. "Not today."
sighed, his expression softening. "Of course," he replied.
I'd packed everything I could carry, I made the long walk down the
hallway towards my front door, dragging my feet the whole way.
Conner followed close behind me as he had all morning, probably to
make sure I didn't curl up into a ball on the carpet where I
stood. I'd tried to tell him that it wasn't necessary, and
even though he'd insisted that he believed me, he continued to
ignore my protests and follow me around the house as if I hadn't
said anything at all.
had insisted we leave as quickly as possible, and I was far from
arguing with him. When I'd started packing things, I'd
wanted to drag out my time at home for as long as possible, stalling
for as much time as I could manage. It hadn't taken me long
to realize that each extra second I spent contemplating leaving made
my heart ache more and more painfully, and then I'd begun packing
though I was only packing a couple of bags, Conner said I wouldn't
have room for more than that. It seemed to take hours as I tried to
sort through my things and choose those most vital. Conner
insisted that I only needed a few changes of clothes, but when I
pressed him about how long we'd be away for, he reluctantly
admitted that it could be weeks.
he'd revealed that, my packing slowed down again and became more
careful as I packed my favorite books from my room, as well as my
only stuffed animal, a little white wolf called Tobey, who I'd had
for as long as I could remember. For years when I was little
I'd slept with him in my bed because my mother told me that he was
a warrior wolf who would protect me from all the scary night time
monsters I'd imagined as a child. I hadn't slept with him
for years, but when I found him lying at the bottom of my wardrobe. I
realized that I when I went to bed that night I was certain to be
visited by monsters as I slept, and surely a stuffed animal wouldn't
the time I was finally sure I'd packed all the necessities, I was
physically and emotionally exhausted. I glanced at the clock in
the hallway on my way out the door for the final time, and was
startled to see that it was almost two o'clock, five hours since
I'd left the house that morning.
was shocked at how much time had passed, and realized that I must
have spent longer huddled up on the sidewalk than I'd realized.
My head swam momentarily as I remembered what I'd spent all day
trying to forget, and Sebastian's coal black eyes flashed into my
mind. I swayed slightly and had to reach for the doorway to
was by my side in an instant, his hand under my elbow, always ready
to catch me if I fell. "Stella?"
fine," I mumbled, regaining my balance. "It's all
just..." I searched for the right words, but couldn't find
know," he said, sighing. I could see that he was worrying
about what he'd told me earlier, but I'd been trying not to think
about that almost as much as I'd been trying not to think about
all my rushing to get packed, I was suddenly reluctant to leave with
Conner. Some small portion of my mind was still holding onto
the possibility that this was all some elaborate joke, but whenever I
dared to hope that, the image of Sebastian's face flashed across my
vision and I knew that it wasn't.
pulled my elbow from Conner's grip, trying to escape his suddenly
think I just need a bite to eat," I said, turning back into the
food in the car." he said impatiently, glancing at the clock as I
had a just a few moments before.
nodded resignedly, trying to keep the pout off my face. I
followed him obediently as he led me back outside and winced as I
heard him lock the door behind us.
I began, suddenly desperate not to take another step away from my
the only way I can keep you safe," he said, answering the question
I'd been about to ask. "This isn't up for debate,
Stella. I'm taking you away from this town whether you want
me to or not."
heart sank at the finality in his voice, and the walls I'd managed
to keep my sorrow behind until then threatened to crumble. I
nodded, not trusting myself to speak without bursting into tears, and
stumbled across my front lawn without looking back. Conner
passed me, carrying my bags to an old black Ford that was parked
across the street, throwing my things into its bed before climbing
into the backseat.
stared at the unfamiliar vehicle for a moment before I recognized the
driver as the boy who had been with Conner when he'd found me
earlier. I'd forgotten entirely about the two strangers until
now, and I paused before opening the door, looking to Conner for any
further explanation. He just nodded absently, his attention on
the street outside. I hesitantly opened the door, sliding onto
the backseat next to Conner. The driver turned in his seat to
smile warmly at me, his messy blonde hair and blue eyes making him
look like he'd be well suited to a swimwear catalogue.
he said, reaching his arm around his seat towards mine.
I replied, returning his smile tentatively and quickly shaking his
turned to look at the girl in the passenger seat; a lean blonde with
high cheekbones and furious cold blue eyes. Her upper lip
curled back as she stared at me, her expression full of unvoiced
malice. I recoiled unintentionally, pushing myself backwards
into the seat.
Olivia," William said, rolling his eyes. "You'll have to
forgive her for her rudeness. Usually she can at least manage
civility." He shot what looked like a warning glance at the
woman, but she ignored him and continued to stare furiously at me.
I just shook my head wordlessly at him, stunned by the unprovoked
venom in this woman's glare. I wondered what I could have
done to incite such hate in someone I had never met
Conner barked from beside me, his voice angry.
turned her stare to him, the fury in her expression softening
noticeably. She rolled her eyes at him and turned around in her
seat to face forwards, and only when I felt my muscles relax did I
realize how tense they had been.
her," Conner said, making no effort to keep his voice
laughed from where she sat, but there was no humor in the
sat in uncomfortable silence for several minutes, and I wondered why
we weren't going anywhere. William kept looking back towards
Conner, as if waiting for something.
you sure about this, Conner?" he finally asked, glancing
apologetically in my direction. I chewed the inside of my cheek
and leant my head against the window, staring out into the
Conner's tone made it obvious that the subject wasn't open for
discussion, and William finally started the car's engine.
was still staring out the window when I heard the familiar hum of my
mother's car pulling into the end of the street, and I gaped in
horror at her outline through the windscreen, returned home early
from work. I heard Conner curse beside me before urging William
watched my mother's car pull into our driveway, and fought
desperately to hold the cracked walls in place that were all that
kept me from breaking down completely in front of these two
strangers. I felt Conner's hand slip into mine as we drove
away and bit back tears as I watched my house disappear from sight as
we sped around a corner.