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Then again…I don’t always think clearly. I’m too confusing. Let me start again. Like I said, starting is always the hardest part…but starting again is usually quite easy. When I returned to my quiet little hometown on the coast nearly everything had changed. The people welcomed me back, sure…But it didn’t feel quite right. Maybe I’d been away for too long, or maybe I’d just gone to all the wrong places, but it didn’t feel like home. I didn’t expect things to be exactly as I had left them, or for everything to be fine and dandy as though nothing bad had ever happened…But I didn’t expect this. Guess I wasn’t quite ready to come back after all. I walked into class my first day of senior year and breathed a heavy sigh of relief when I saw that nothing at school had changed. I slumped back in my seat and squeezed my eyes shut tight, recollecting my thoughts of the previous year. I’d managed to escape my small coastal prison for a much more enclosed asylum in the mountains. I lived as a recluse- my only company the squirrels and the Doc. Before I’d left for home I was pretty confident in myself; I thought that I could just go back and let bygones be bygones. Deep down inside I knew that nothing could ever be so simplistic again. Still I prayed, like the naïve little girl that I really am, that when I got back home he would be waiting for me just like the good old days and I could just run into his arms and be safe again. I missed feeling safe. The bell rang. I opened my eyes and snapped back to reality. Calculus; at least I’d be distracted. Avidly taking notes, I actually tuned in and paid attention to what my teacher was telling us. It was mostly a review of math analysis- everything I learned (or was supposed to, at least) last year. I found it quite repetitive and mundane, but like I said- it was something to focus on and would distract me. The rest of the morning passed similarly- after Calculus then Government and English. Lunch was what I was really dreading; that was when I would see him again. I crossed the lunch room, paper bag in hand, scanning the faces of the various other students…Searching… Then I saw him. I gulped- he was just as I’d remembered. Dark green eyes vibrant with life and energy flickered to and from the faces of the others who sat around him. His dark brown tousled hair still sat perfectly upon the top of his head. A coy smile settled perfectly upon his face- dark skin causing him to stand out amongst the crowd of pale teens. Dark, dark, dark…Everything about him was dark. His appearance, his personality, his outlook on life…Well now I’m just being judgmental. Taking a deep breath, I approached his table with a
smile. He looked up to acknowledge me, and showed no signs of being surprised at my presence. “Hey.” He murmured, reaching up and gently brushing my arm with the backs of his knuckles. “Long time no see.” He beckoned me closer, and I awkwardly took the seat next to him. He shifted his weight so that he was positioned closer to me, as opposed to the girl on the other side of him. As I looked around the table, at his group of friends, I tried desperately to recognize the faces that I saw. I failed. I was disappointed; and I had thought that things wouldn’t have changed here at school. Sensing my confusion, he gently took my hand and smiled, gesturing to the five people in front of him. “Sorry to be so rude; I nearly forgot.” He began with the boy next to me. “This is Sam, Alexandria, Benji, Daniel, and Patty.” He settled his other hand- the one not holding my own- on Patty’s knee. I tried not to glare resentfully at her, but I was only slightly successful. “Everyone, this is Rory.” I smiled as genially as possible at them. “Nice to meet you all.” I felt like an outsider in my own environment. They all responded in a similar way. They didn’t seem to care about me much, although Patty did shoot me interesting looks once she saw the way our hands were intertwined. Lunch ended and I quickly gathered my things and stalked off to Physics. I walked quickly, trying to avoid both him and the lunch crowd. However, my hopes dropped when I walked into my classroom and saw him sitting in the back corner. Reluctantly, I walked over and casually sat down next to him, sighing audibly as I did so. “Is there a problem?” He asked, not bothering to look over at me. He was too busy writing something down in a blue spiral notebook. “No.” I said quietly. I spoke too softly for anyone else to hear me, but I knew that he got the message; I also knew that he was aware of my lie. He didn’t address the matter, much to my dismay. I’d been gone far too long- I was craving some sort of attention. The teacher walked into the room and began the class. I tried desperately to pay attention as I had done earlier that morning, but his presence next to me was distracting. “Aurora Lockhart?” I raised my hand. “Dane Warren?” He raised his. The sound of his very name sent shivers down my spine. I was almost positive that my name had the same- if not at least a similar- effect on him as well. I refused to look at him for the rest of the period from there on. The bell rang, releasing me, and I headed quickly for Film Studies, where I was able to put my head down and rest. So much had changed. So
much. By the time the day was over (after Film Studies, and later Dance) I was more than eager to head home, maybe do some homework, and then take a long, reflective walk on the beach. I had been away from the open sea for too long. It beckoned to me as a mother beckons to her child. Alas, once again, my bubble was burst as I was approached by the person I was trying to escape from. Nevertheless, I smiled politely as Dane grinned and appeared at my side. I was trapped. “Yes?” I asked, hoping my tone of voice would indicate how little I wished to converse with him. If it did, he ignored my silent request. “How was it?” He skipped the niceties and went straight to the point. He was always very straightforward- glad to see that part of him hadn’t changed. “I don’t want to talk about it.” I said simply. I hoped I didn’t sound rude or angry. I shrugged nonchalantly just in case. “Just drop it.” A slight frown crossed his features for only a fraction of a second- long enough for me to notice, but not long enough to steer our chit chat in any other direction. “As you wish.” He murmured, walking away. His tone was one of disappointment, and though it pained me to cause him any sort of discomfort, I was glad that he was gone now- it had been hard for me to concentrate on anything while he was around. The walk from the school to my small home on the beach was also very distracting for me. It would’ve been nice to have been able to walk home in peace and quiet, or at least with something relatively legitimate to think about. Instead, I dealt with “welcome back” and “good to see you’re back in town” from every single person that I passed on my way. That’s the problem with living in a small town like I do- everybody knows everybody else and their business. There’s no privacy, unlike in the mountains where you’re lucky if you even get to meet your neighbors within the first week. By the time I got home, I had seen nearly everyone in my town… The door swung open easily; I hadn’t bothered locking it when I’d left in the morning. I stepped inside and the absence of shoes in the front hall indicated that nobody was home. I dropped my bag on the kitchen table and grabbed an apple on my way back out the door. I bit into it and began my walk down the beach, taking as many deep breaths as possible to take in the salty sea air. I’d left my shoes back at the house- the sand felt good as it squished familiarly between my toes. The wind whipped gently through my hair and felt cool, soothing, against my skin. “You came back.” A voice stopped me dead in my tracks and removed all traces of blissful nostalgia from my mind. “I wish I could say that I’m surprised.”
I took another deep breath, trying to focus not on the speaker, but rather his words. “Why wouldn’t I come back? This is my home just as much as it is yours.” “I’m not blaming you. I’m not accusing you. I’m simply not surprised.” He kept his voice level and calm, which only angered me more. He wasn’t supposed to be the one in control here- he wasn’t supposed to be the innocent one. That would be me. “So then what do you want? Did you really need to come hunting me down to verify that I’d returned? Couldn’t you just ask around?” I asked. I shouldn’t have egged him on; I should’ve just given him a straightforward answer so that he’d go home. “How fun is that? You know me well enough- I like to do things myself.” He snickered arrogantly. I resisted the urge to turn around. “Fair enough.” I continued walking. He stayed persistent. I ignored him. “Are you going to muster up enough courage to turn around and face me?” “No.” I know, I seemed cold, but he deserved it; trust me. “Please leave me alone- it’s my first day back and I’d rather not spend it here with you.” I stopped again; this time he was closer to me than before…much closer. I could almost feel his smirk upon the back of my head. “So you’d rather spend it here alone? Or somewhere else with me?” He sneered. I turned around slowly- he was just as I’d remembered as well. Crystal blue eyes winked at me in a mocking manner. Nearly platinum blonde locks were set perfectly in place, framing his face down to the tops of his ears. Paper white skin gleamed in the sunlight of the crisp September afternoon. Every time I saw him I had to make a comparison to Dane; whereas the latter was the personification of darkness, the former was that of light. I found irony in this observation, as they were merely surface level judgments. Once you got past that, I found it to be quite the opposite. People are funny that way. “Nathaniel, I want you to get out of my face.” I said quietly. “I’m going to walk past you and go home, and you’re going to let me go whether it’s what you want or not.” He stepped to the side, granting me access to the straight path back to my house. “You’re lucky I’m granting you this.” He said as I started back home. “Unlike your little dog, I have my own free will.”
I glared at him and said nothing; I knew he was right, and that’s what pissed me off. When I got back home I immediately closed and locked the door behind me. I noticed a pair of shoes sitting next to mine in the front hallway. The doctor was in. “I’m home!”I called out; I didn’t get a reply. I wandered into the kitchen where the crock pot was sitting on the stove simmering nicely and providing a very tantalizing scent that wafted gently through the room. Through the back window I spied a white lab coat on the back of a lawn chair out in the yard. I opened the screen door and went back outside. “I’m in the garden!” I heard a voice call back to me. I located the source- a man in his mid twenties was kneeling down in the small patch of dirt on the side of our house, trowel in hand, digging small homes in the ground for the package of flowers sitting delicately beside him. When he noticed my presence, he looked up. His glasses were smudged with dirt- I couldn’t hold back a sigh. “What took you so long? I expected you to be here by the time I got back.” It wasn’t an interrogative tone he used with me, rather one of concern. I suppose living with me in an enclosed environment was different than when I was given space to roam, which I was known to do. He was just inexperienced. “I took a walk on the beach; I should’ve left you a note, I’m sorry.” I said. It did kind of make me feel bad- hearing the slightest hints of worry in his voice. “It won’t happen again.” I added for safe measure. He smiled softly. “That’s fine.” He stood, brushing his slacks free of soil and fertilizer and placing his hand shovel gently beside the remaining flowers. “Are you hungry? Dinner should be ready soon.” My stomach rumbled audibly. I felt my cheeks reddening. He chuckled and ruffled my hair, which I immediately scowled at. I swung playfully at him, and barely grazed the back of his arm as he led me into the house. He grinned back at me, quickening his pace. Did he think I’d actually meant to hit him? No. Did he believe I’d try to hit him again if he antagonized me? Yes. Was he right? Absolutely. I ran after him, slamming the screen door behind me as I entered the kitchen, and grabbed him around the waist, spinning him around before he could reach the crock pot. “No fair!” He gasped, caught off guard. “You’re young and agile- I’m old!” I released him, and he coughed weakly in mock agony. I rolled my eyes, sitting down at the small circular table in our kitchen. As he served up our meal, I thought about him. Doctor Anthony Scarborough had been my legal guardian ever since I’d retreated to the Sierra Nevada last summer in order to escape…well we can come back to that part. Point is, Tony was supposed to be like a father figure to me; the key word being “supposed”. It was more like I was being watched
by a cousin, or a very lenient drill sergeant. It’s difficult to explain the relationship I’d managed to build with him over the past year. Sometimes he was my best friend- the guy I could (never mind had to) tell anything and everything to. We had similar interests (perhaps that was why he was chosen for me) and neither of us was above forfeiting an evening out with our own friends to spend some quality time together. On the other hand, he never forgot that he had a job to do- these weren’t just all good times and laughshe was legally responsible for me, and that meant not screwing up when it came to teaching me a life lesson. We rarely fought, but disagreements weren’t unheard of, and I could recall going days without speaking or even looking at him before one of us cracked and apologized. It wasn’t your normal parental situation (then again, Tony wasn’t a parent, nor was our situation normal in any conventional sense of the word), but we got along pretty well and nobody had died yet… He set a bowl of stew and a slice of French bread down in front of me and I inhaled deeply, the aroma causing my stomach to growl once more before I could mollify it. A tall glass of milk followed- my dry throat panged with delight. I took a large first bite. “How was school?” Tony asked carefully. He knew by now how I would react to most situations- he was a smart one. I took a few more bites before answering him. “Fine.” I gulped down some milk and took another bite of stew. “I saw you-know-who.” He raised an eyebrow. “Which you-know-who?” “Both.” He said nothing. I told you he was smart. Instead, he ate his own food and glanced out the window. There was a perfect view of the church from our backyard, and you could see the steeple over the trees from our back window. We finished our meal in silence, and he resumed conversation while I was doing the dishes. “When you’re done I’ll take you down to the cemetery…If you want.” Of course I wanted to go. That was the first thing I wanted to do, but Tony’s word was law in my life, and he decided that school had to come first. I nodded wordlessly and quickly finished the dishes, leaving them in the rack to dry instead of hand drying them like I usually did. He laughed and we exited the house together, smiles on both of our faces. Walking along the beach towards the town, I must’ve done something to indicate my happiness, because he chose to speak again. “Glad to be back, I see.”
I really was. I loved my hometown- I loved the beach, the sea, the people…Everything about it was just perfect. I disliked change, so moving away- even if just for a year- was difficult for me. Now that I was back, it was kind of disheartening to see the changes that had occurred while I was away, but comforting to return to my niche. We reached the cemetery- right beside the church- and I took a deep, shaky breath. “I’ll be in the church. Come get me when you want to leave.” Tony said quietly, turning from me. I was alone now. You’re never alone. A cool wind blew through the open gates, as though gently coaxing me inside. I followed its orders. I’d only been to this cemetery once or twice- I considered it a blessing- yet I still was confident that I could maneuver to my destination with my eyes closed. I wasn’t about to try it, just in case, but that confidence got me there quicker. I sat cross legged down on the grave, peering solemnly at the head stone. Collin Matthew Stark, December 30 1990-June 17 2006 “The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep” I sighed, tracing his name. I mouthed the words as I did so, silently calling to him. That took me back to better times- back before I went away; back before Nathaniel and the Clan and…Everything else. I felt my face growing hot and my eyes began to sting. I refused to cry- Collin hated to see me cry. I did less of it now that he was gone, which was pretty darn ironic. The wind blew again, raising goose bumps on my arms. It was getting colder…and darker. “It’s bad luck to be in this cemetery after dark, you know.” The wind died down, but my goose bumps stayed. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?” I asked, squeezing my eyes shut and keeping one hand on the head stone. The other hand found comfort in the damp earth; as though the closer I got to his corpse the closer I got to him. “Why are you still chasing ghosts? That isn’t normal for a teenage girl.” I could feel each of his footsteps as he came closer and closer towards me. I nearly smiled. “What? Are you telling me now that you don’t believe in ghosts? Or that I’m a normal teenage girl? Don’t kid yourself NathanielI’m not stupid.”
He chuckled. “I nearly forgot how smart you are. Good thing you came back to remind me.” “I didn’t come back for you.” I spoke a little too quickly. “Well just so you’re aware- more has changed than you think. He’s got himself a girlfriend now.” Yeah. As though I didn’t know. He even introduced us. “What’s that supposed to change?” The wind blew again, masking a cold laugh that resonated throughout the air, cutting the innocence of the area like a hot knife through butter. “You think everything can just go back to the way it was? You’re wrong- nothing will be the same, I’ll see to that.” I made a fist in the dirt. I wanted so badly to stand up, whirl around and hit him, but I remembered all that Tony had taught me, and I instead took a deep breath. He continued to speak. “Me telling you won’t do anything, though- I do know that. I’ll let you find out for yourself. Tomorrow, I promise.” Then he was gone. I wanted to cry. Oh c’mon Aurora, don’t be like that. Another voice from nowhere made me jump slightly. Once I recognized who it was I calmed down. “Don’t be like what?” I asked aloud. “What’d I do?” Well for one you’re talking to yourself. “So? I’m also talking to a ghost.” Yeah and you’re talking to a ghost. I could nearly see his grin. And for two you’re starting to cry again, and I hate that. For three, you’re sitting on my face. I shifted so that I was lying down on my stomach and rested my head on my hands. “Well when that ghost is you it’s anything but normal, and I’m not crying.” Still, I wiped my cheeks just in case. “Better?” Yeah. But I wish you’d stop crying. “I’m not crying!!!” I nearly shouted, hitting the dirt with my fists. Well not outwardly. You don’t need to talk out loud by the way. I only hear your thoughts.
That explained it. Now I could stop making a fool out of myself. I wanted to leave soon anyway, but I still had one more burning question that needed to be answered. Why wait until now to talk to me? It’s too complicated, Aurora. Besides, you weren’t in the healthiest state of mind until recently; I didn’t want to upset you. I have bad news. That figured. It’ll be harder to stay away from them this year, and don’t count on Dane to protect you. I’d do it myself, but I’m kind of dead. Just remember who they are and what they did. Stay close to Tony and stop by every now and again to check up, okay kiddo? I didn’t like it when he called me “kiddo”, but I guess there wasn’t much I could do about it. Okay. I stood, letting my gaze linger on his head stone. “But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep” I walked back to the church. Tony was waiting for me- sitting down on the steps. He stood and pulled me close to him; I couldn’t help but let a few tears escape and roll down my cheeks. “Everything will be okay, Rory.” He said softly as we made our way back home. “Trust me.” I wanted to, but I couldn’t. Collin had told me otherwise, and unlike Tony, Collin couldn’t lie to me even if he wanted to. It just didn’t work like that. Collin and Dane were a package deal, so to speak. If I wanted one I got both. They were polar opposites which was why they worked so well together; which was why they were meant to go together. Collin was unable to lie to me- everything that came out of his mouth directed towards me in a conversation could only be the truth. However, it didn’t matter what I said to him: he did what he wanted. He could refuse to speak to me if he so chose in order to keep important things from me. Dane, on the other hand, couldn’t refuse me at all. If I told him- even asked him- to do something, he had to do it. He walked the walk just as Collin talked the talk. Both of them were sent here to protect me; both had succeeded, but it cost Collin his life. Now that danger was back, what would happen?
That lingering thought made it difficult for me to sleep that night. I considered going and sitting on the beach, but Nathaniel would probably end up finding me, and that would be bad. I considered going on a jog through the town, but that would wake me up more than anything- not make me want to come back home and fall asleep. Sighing, I swung my legs over the side of the bed, staggered out to the hall and pulled on a sweatshirt while slipping on a pair of shoes. I allowed my feet to carry me away from my house on the beach, and wasn’t exactly surprised when I found myself on the steps of the church. I half laughed before walking inside. I missed being home. I wasn’t what you would call a religious fanatic, but I did attend regularly. Not mass- I usually went while no one was there. Amplifies the experience, if you know what I mean. I sat down in the front most pew on my right and gazed up at the crucifix before me. I was waiting to have an epiphany- maybe once I did I’d know how to fix everything- but nothing would come. I’d prayed every single day I was gone…maybe this year I’d be rewarded. “Hey.” A soft voice welcomed me. I could feel the air shift as a figure slipped in beside me. “You should be in bed.” I shrugged. “What does it matter to you? You have enough to be worried about- you shouldn’t bother with me.” But I wanted him to bother with me. He was doing exactly what I secretly wanted by chasing me. “But that’s why I’m here.” He wasn’t only speaking of being in the church. “For you.” “I don’t need you.” I snapped, keeping my head turned away from him. I wrapped my arms around myself, as though I might fall apart if I didn’t hold myself together. Instead, I felt his hands guide my own down to my sides and his arms replacing mine around me. His cool breath ticked the nape of my neck as he continued to speak to me. “You do. Collin can’t protect you any longer, so now it’s my job.” So now he wanted to step up and take some responsibility? Now that Collin was dead and there was nobody else to do his job for him? “I can’t believe you.” I breathed, uncomfortable in his grasp (if I can use a word with such violent connotations) yet willing to struggle out of it. Why not just order him to leave? Did I really miss him that much? Apparently so. “I can’t believe you would do this to me.” “I don’t understand you.”
“Get off of me!” He automatically recoiled and I jumped to my feet, nearly enraged. “You don’t understand me? Then tell me what you don’t understand.” Could he refuse such an order? No; I was glad. It seemed as though the words were ripped from him forcibly, against his free will. “Why did you leave? And more importantly, why did you come back? If things here were too dangerous for you, what brought you back?” “I wasn’t supposed to go!” I tried to reason with him, but I knew it wouldn’t take long before I cracked. “Why would I want to leave right after Collin died? If anything I should’ve stayed nearer to you- it would’ve done me better emotionally. Leaving was all the hospital’s idea- they didn’t, still don’t, think that you’d be able to take care of me like Collin did.” “I could.” He sounded hurt, and with good reason. I’d already mentioned that Collin and Dane were a package deal, but that doesn’t mean that they were completely equal and opposite. Both of them cared for me, but that care was different. To Collin, I was like a sister. I’d lived with him for as long as I could remember, and he’d taken care of me. Dane and I, on the other hand, had a more romantic relationship. It hurt me returning to see him with another girl, but I suppose I wasn’t in any sort of position to complain. It was I who’d left him in the first place. I knew that Dane cared about me, but I wasn’t too confident that he could take care of me like Collin could. “Dane, I don’t think that I trust you like I used to.” When I spoke, my voice was so soft even I could barely hear it. Before I even realized it, his arms were wrapped around me again, pressing my face into his chest. “Dane.” I tried to speak again, but my voice was muffled. He was smart enough to know that if I couldn’t speak audibly, he wouldn’t be forced to obey me. This meant it was his turn. “I won’t tell you not to lie to me, but I really wished you wouldn’t.” His voice was still strong, and gave me no indication of whether or not he was losing it as much as I was. “Collin might’ve been able to tolerate it, but I can’t.” “Dane, let-“ I was cut off again as his arms constricted me tighter. It didn’t hurt, but I didn’t appreciate being interrupted. “Now, I’m glad you’re back.” I didn’t believe him. “And I need you to trust me when I tell you this.” “Then don’t lie to me.” I managed to say before he cut me off again. “I love you more than anything else in this world.” Yeah, in this world. “And when I found out that you’d returned I cried because I was so happy. But…I love Patty, and let’s face facts Aurora.” He took my shoulders and moved me an arms length away from him so that he could look into my eyes.
His green eyes pierced right through my blue-gray ones and directly into my soul. I shivered. “We don’t work together.” I began to cry. It hurt too much to hear him say that. Secretly I’d always known it- we weren’t supposed to have a romantic relationship; we were breaking the rules. I thought, truly believed, that we could do whatever we wanted. Collin thought so too. “There was never any hope for us…as a couple.” He paused to take a long, shuddery breath. His voice nearly cracked. “We aren’t exempt from the rules he set, Aurora. We don’t get any special treatment. I’m sorry.” I saw it in his eyes that he was on the verge of crying. It made me feel bad. “Dane, I love you.” He pulled me closer to him once again. I closed my eyes and tried not to let many tears escape. I expected him to do the same. We stood together like that in the church in front of the crucifix for what seemed like no time at all before he pulled away from me. “I spoke with Collin earlier today.” Both of us said at the same time. I considered laughing, and then decided that it really wasn’t that funny. He spoke first. “I’ve got to step up and protect you now. And I promise you that I will do my job.” He said solemnly, as though my life meant something to him. “That’s what he said.” I verified. “Tell me what danger he was talking about.” “I don’t know.” Perfect. “He was the mind reader, not me. I don’t even think he knows for sure. The only threat I see around here is Nathaniel, and he isn’t stupid enough to try anything ever since…” He trailed off; I was grateful that he didn’t finish his sentence. I hadn’t yet confronted the event that led to my departure that summer, and I wasn’t ready to either. “I’m still keeping away from him.” I muttered. “But he’s been worrying me. I’ve seen too much of him in the past day. He’s trying to instigate something, but I haven’t figured out what it is. Maybe he’s-“ A beep interrupted me. My eyes flickered to the watch around Dane’s bare wrist. I was freezing- it was at least in the fifties- but here he was in a short sleeve shirt and track pants. I’d nearly forgotten that about him… “It’s nearly four.” He said to me. “I have to be up in half an hour.” “Why do you set your alarm earlier than you have to get up?” I asked. He never used to do this. The Dane I knew slept as often as he could- I thought at one point he was borderline narcoleptic.
“Four thirty is the time I need to be up, not the time I do get up.” After seeing the puzzled expression on my face remain he continued. “I don’t sleep very well these days.” Too many late nights with Patty? I thought bitterly. Instantly, I scolded myself. I shouldn’t be like that. “I should get you home.” He took my hand- as he had earlier that day in the lunch room- and escorted me out of the church. As soon as we hit the night air, I felt colder and clung to him out of pure reflex. He chuckled, finding it amusing, but I thought it to be inappropriate. He was almost nothing to me now- only a protector. I had to get over him. “Dane,” I said once I began to spot my house. I had to make this quick and relatively painless. “You have to do something for me.” “Anything.” The reply was automatic. “You have to let me go.” His hand dropped mine instantly. “You have to move on and stop worrying about me. If I’m going to get over you it needs to be a clean break.” I spoke slowly, trying as hard as I could to keep any sort of infliction out of my tone. “I can’t do that.” He replied just as slowly. “I have to protect you- you know that. It’s the only reason I’m here.” He kept his focus straight ahead, trying not to look at me. I wished I was strong enough to do the same. “I know, and I’m not asking you to not do your job.” I kind of was, I realized, so I revised my order. “I want you to stop thinking of me as someone you care about. Keep doing your job, but think of it as just that- a job. We have no relationship other than employer and employee. Stop loving me.” By now we had reached the steps leading to my house. He’d slowed down, giving me more time to speak. Now, he had almost stopped completely- I was the one walking away from him. When I reached my front door I turned and looked back at him. His head was hung and his arms hung limply at his sides. “Dane?” He slowly looked up at me, but as the moon shone upon his face, my mind registered a significant change in him that frightened me: his once beautiful dark green eyes were now a powerful, illustrious gold. He cracked an eerie grin and flashed too-white teeth at me as he spoke in a low, distorted voice. “As you wish.” Shivering, I quickly retreated inside the house. When I looked out upon the front yard from my bedroom window, he had gone. Even his footsteps had vanished from the sand. I settled back into bed, praying that sleep would come. I couldn’t help but continue to worry about him. Would he follow my orders with an air of
reluctance? Tomorrow, would I catch him trying to look at me no matter what his orders were? That final image of him flashed through my mind, making me shiver again. I’d brought this upon myself- I couldn’t complain. Still, I knew that giving him up wouldn’t be easy for me. Luckily, that night at least, the sandman came for me. I had the most bizarre dream. I think I was at some sort of amusement park…but there was a volcano in the middle of the roller coaster that I was in line for. As I got onto the roller coaster, but before I had sat down in my seat, the volcano began to erupt. I panicked, and tried to get off of the ride, but I couldn’t move. I looked back over my shoulder at the explosion, and I felt someone gently take my hand and lift me up out of the car. I turned my head in time to see a black gloved hand guide me onto the back of a motorcycle. I immediately wrapped my arms around the back of the person who’d saved me, pressing my face into his back as we rode on the roller coaster track. He stopped the bike once we were back on the ground and I dismounted. “Thank you.” I remembered thinking to him. He turned and grinned at me. He had wild, blood red eyes and white, shaggy hair that brushed his ear lobes. If Dane and Nathaniel were to have an illegitimate child together (do NOT ask me how that would ever happen), this man would be that child. You know how in dreams you know things without knowing how you know them? Well I knew this guy was an exact combination of Dane and Nathaniel…But what was his name? Daniel? No. It was Dante. I reached out towards him, and his hands met mine. “Catch ya later Rory.” He spoke without moving his lips. He turned and began to walk towards the volcano. I watched him go, wanting to follow, but knowing if I did then I would regret it. My dream continued, but ceased to remain interesting. When my alarm went off at six thirty, a mere two and a half hours later, I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes. I was not ready to face the world that day. Nevertheless, I got out of bed and got myself to school. I arrived twenty minutes before the bell rang. Still drowsy, I leaned against the library and shut my eyes. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Dane with his new group or Nathaniel and his smug face. I missed the usual suspects- the friends I’d had two years ago who graduated while I was gone. Lea and Max and Zak and Casey and Tiffany…Good times don’t last forever; I had to learn that the hard way. “You came.” I didn’t open my eyes. Seeing his face would only anger me, and I kind of wanted to stay lost in melancholy.
“Of course. You aren’t worth skipping school.” I tried to stay calm. I took a lot of deep breaths. Nathaniel never used to bug me this much, but maybe that was just because of Collin. Nathaniel hated Collin. “I’m not, but I know someone else who is.” I didn’t move. It was easy to not react too hastily while Nathaniel was around. Just the thought of him kept me in check. I needed to be able to be this calm with everybody…especially Dane. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I said with a slight shrug. I let my eyes open very slowly. The sight of him repulsed me, but maybe if I only took in a little at a time it would be tolerable. “Don’t you have someone else to torture?” His smirk was almost too much for me. “Why would I seek out another when I have you?” I glared at him now. The way he said that last sentence unnerved meit was the way he said ‘when I have you’…it almost sounded endearing, as though I belonged to him. “You don’t have me.” I muttered, carefully straightening my back and leaning away from the building. Maybe if I was lucky I would be able to escape. “Not yet.” I stopped; he had more to say. “Do you think that I’m completely stupid? I know what happened in the church last night.” His blue eyes were narrowed; no longer was he smirking at me. “Devil.” I accused, allowing some fear to creep into my voice. He laughed, a low, hollow, cold sound that chilled me to the bone. “Oh Aurora…” He crooned my name; I flinched. He walked towards me until my back was against the wall again. “Get away from me.” I ordered, squirming and feeling uncomfortable under his gaze. I brought my hands up to my chest. He laughed again while I prayed for someone- for anyone- to walk by, but no one would come. Nathaniel wouldn’t have dared to confront me if there was even the slightest possibility of someone stumbling in on us. A thought occurred to me; that if I called out for him to help me he would have to come. I took a deep breath and prepared to yell, but I couldn’t. Nathaniel stopped me- pressed his hand to my mouth and pulled me close to him. “Listen.” He murmured. He kept one hand clamped firmly over my mouth and one hand against my back as his arms kept me in place. “You’d be better off without that mutt, so hurry up and get over him.”
I pushed him away from me. “You don’t know anything.” I’d meant to shout at him, but the force of the push alone drained nearly all of my strength. “That’s none of your business. Haven’t you caused me enough grief?” He stepped back- my push seemed to do little but momentarily faze him. He quickly recovered. “If you’re talking about your other watch dog, I’m surprised you haven’t gotten over it already.” The bell rang. Both of us stood unmoving, glued to our spots, glaring at each other. I wasn’t about to move first; I could afford being late to class. “Rory!” I didn’t recognize that voice. I didn’t turn, and soon enough, the girl who’d called me grabbed my arm from behind and started to drag me off to class. It was Patty. I quickly turned my head away from Nathaniel, hoping he would leave. “What were you doing, just standing there? Do you want to be late for Bjurman’s class?” She asked. Her red hair was in her eyes, despite two perfect braids that settled on either side of her head. She seemed childlike to me, but she had to be a junior if she was in Calculus and I’d never seen her before. That meant she was, how old? Sixteen? At least. “Oh, um, I was just…” I stuttered. I was horrible at making things up on the spot, and I was unprepared for someone to catch Nathaniel and I there like that. Thank God I’d pushed him away when I did. She shook her head, either out of impatience or to get the hair out of her face, I couldn’t tell which. “Well anyway, here we are.” She walked me into Calculus and took the seat next to me. She was pretty smart for a junior, then. “Thanks, Patty.” I managed to spit out. I knew my manners were horrible, but I was still getting used to this whole “human interaction” thing. She smiled at me; she had green eyes too, just like…him. “Anytime. What are friends for?” Friends? Since when had we become friends? I’d only met her just yesterday, and I’d gleaned hatred from the looks she’d been shooting at me during lunch. Then again, now that Dane wasn’t holding my hand as though he was my boyfriend…Maybe he’d given her some sort of explanation about our relationship- he was pretty good at talking him way out of trouble, at least from what I’d remembered. Surprisingly enough, when Patty insinuated friendship, she meant it. It was just like having Lea or Tiffany sitting beside me; we asked each other for help, double checked our answers together, and snuck in some small talk when Mr. Bjurman had his back turned. It reminded me of old times and
almost gave me hope for the future. Then she reminded me about her relationship. “He’s so sweet. When he asked me out last year I was just ecstatic.” She beamed, it was sickening. “He makes me so happy.” I fake smiled to appease her. “Sorry about lunch yesterday; I can get a bit territorial sometimes.” Oh really? I wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t point it out. “But then he explained everything and now it all makes sense.” I half wondered what “everything” entailed, but then decided that I really didn’t care. Maybe convincing Patty that I meant nothing to him would help him convince himself. Thankfully, she dropped the subject once Mr. Bjurman turned around and didn’t return to it. When the bell rang and I gathered my things to go to Government she flashed me another bright smile. “See you at lunch, Rory!” I returned her smile and waved. When I first met Patty I instantly hated her just because she was Dane’s girlfriend. Now I was beginning to like her… Maybe I needed to learn how not to judge people so quickly. “I’ll say.” A voice smooth like honey made me jump. I was right at the door to my Government class; so close, and yet…I sighed, more tired of dealing with him than angry. I turned, but it wasn’t Nathaniel who was behind me. It was Dante, the boy from my dream. I stared, shocked, with my eyes wide and my mouth gaping. He grinned back at me, and laughed when he saw my expression. “What’s up babe? Not used to people reading your mind like an open book?” He put his arm around my shoulders and led me inside. His strong hand guiding me felt oddly comforting; I supposed that any sort of guidance was nice at that point. Still, I was puzzled by his sudden appearance in my life. “Why are you here?” I managed to ask through my surprise and confusion. He took his arm back as we both took seats in the back. “Because I need to learn about our government.” He said very rationally. As I listened to him speak, I wondered how I could’ve mistaken him for Nathaniel. Sure, he didn’t answer my question, but that doesn’t really matter. I let it slide. I rolled my eyes in response, allowing a small smile to cross my lips. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a similar expression on his face. Our teacher was absent that day and the substitute was incompetent, so I turned to Dante. “So now that your purpose is no longer to learn about the government, what are you doing here?” I asked, laying my head down on the desk.
He shrugged, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head. “To be honest I don’t’ know why or how I got here. I just kind of tend to go with the flow, if you know what I mean.” He closed his eyes. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. His blood red eyes, white hair and coy smile…He really was a mix between Dane and Nathaniel. His skin was light, but not as pale as Nathaniel’s. He had striking, distinguished features, but not as much as Dane’s were. He had Nathaniel’s arrogance and Dane’s smart mouth. He hardly seemed real to me; as though if I reached out to touch him I would grab nothing…or I would wake up again. Reading my mind for a second time, he sat up and took my hands in his. “Calm down, Aurora. I’m here. Ain’t going anywhere.” I felt like I could trust him, but I couldn’t afford to make any decisions based on gut feeling alone. I should’ve been wary of him- a strange man from my dreams shows up outside of my government class reading my mind. It sounds strange, but when you’ve lived through some of the things that I have you kind of get used to it. I mean, I’d only been back in town for a few days and I’d already spoken with the dead. I wasn’t too shocked to see my dream man live in person. The bell rang, snapping me out of my thoughts and waking Dante from his slumber. “C’mon.” He said as I headed out. “I’ll walk you to English.” He took my hand and led me out, walking at a slower pace than I was used to. I kind of missed the feeling of being romantic with someone…Wait, what was I thinking? I wasn’t romantically involved with Dante- I wasn’t even positive that was his name- but I suppose you reach a point after speaking with the dead and dealing with the devil and just acting on impulse to where things like this just really aren’t a big deal anymore. We got to my English class and he let my hand go. “This is where we go our separate ways.” He said. I pouted playfully. “Oh Dante, how could you leave me? You said you weren’t going anywhere.” I was laughing to myself as I spoke; I wasn’t serious. He looked at me with a sad look in his eyes. They seemed lighter nownot so much a blood red as almost a purple color. “Yeah, I wasn’t quite expecting this to be honest with you.” He admitted. “Sorry babe. I’ll be near though. Just call for me if you need me.” He leaned in and kissed me forehead. I was too much in shock to recoil or tell him off. “What…What are you talking about?” I managed to ask.
He rolled his eyes at me. “Just go.” I turned to obey his orders, and hesitated before going inside the classroom. “Rory, go.” His voice sounded different now, almost like Nathaniel’s… I turned around, but he was gone. I went inside, following someone else’s orders for once. I really hoped that I would see him again soon. English passed quite easily- it was still early in the year, so we hadn’t gotten too in depth yet. Lunch came, and I found myself not dreading returning to Dane’s lunch group. Patty’s kindliness helped, and so did Dante. I approached their table in the lunch room with confidence, smiling amiably at them. They returned the friendly gesture and I took a seat in between Patty and Daniel, where I didn’t have to look at Dane, who was sitting on Patty’s opposite side. All eyes were on me; just like old times…It was pretty creepy. “So who’s excited for the party this weekend?” Benji asked. It was apparent that he was, if his large grin was any sort of indicator. “Party?” I asked. It crossed my mind that it really wasn’t my business, but I was no longer an outsider- at least in my eyes. “Danny’s having a party on the beach Friday night.” Patty explained to me. “Bonfire, barbeque, a house boat, the works.” I didn’t comment on it. Not many teenagers lived in houses on the beach- I was one of the lucky few- and if you were it meant that your parents made a lot of money. Tony and I didn’t have a lot of money- we were funded almost completely by the hospital- so I didn’t like to tell people about my place of residence solely because I didn’t want people making that false assumption about me. “Alex and I are going together.” Patty continued. “Wanna come over after school on Friday and go with us?” I’m good at reading people…It’s just a skill I’ve picked up. Not just surface level stuff, like “He’s smiling but he’s really depressed” or “She isn’t really having problems, she just wants attention”, but the stuff that most people don’t even realize about themselves. When I first met Tony I got away with reading him for about two months before he called me on it and embarrassed me. He has OCD, and he didn’t realize it until I pointed it out. It’s easy to spot OCD, but why he developed it was not so easy to identify. People in the hospital told me that he wasn’t always like that. Tony was raised as an only child by a single mom; everything wasn’t kept very neat and tidy both at home and in his life. He wasn’t very messy himself- that would almost be a too simplistic psychoanalysis- but he wasn’t as OCD as he is now. When his mother died everything changed.
“It’s because you don’t want to end up like her.” I’d told him. She’d died of lung cancer- from smoking. “You don’t realize it, but that’s why.” Two months later he found me out. Patty was a little harder to read, just because I didn’t know her on a personal level. From what I could glean, she was trying to get on my good side. An underclassman looking up to an upperclassman- I was someone she automatically assumed deserved her respect. That bugged me. “Sure, thanks Patty.” I said politely. I didn’t really want to go. Dane would undoubtedly be there and that would just make things uncomfortable. I didn’t have anything better to do, though, so I accepted her invitation. “Make sure you bring a date.” Alex said, winking at me. I instantly turned red, mostly because when she said “date” the first thing I thought of was Dante. “Hey, no! She’s got me or Ben to choose from. We don’t need any more competition.” Daniel said, shaking his head. That made me turn even redder- they laughed. “Cool your jets Danny, Rory’s already got a boyfriend.” Patty said. She looked over at me. “Right? That guy I saw you with during the second passing period was your boyfriend, right?” She meant Dante; I laughed. I almost wanted to look over at Dane to see his reaction, but I wouldn’t. “Oh you mean Dante.” I confirmed. “No, he isn’t my boyfriend. He’s…” What? “Just a friend.” “A close friend.” Patty laughed. “You should bring him along anyway. It’ll be fun.” I doubt Dane would be able to handle it if I brought Dante along. I think I wouldn’t be able to handle it if Dante came to a party with me. I wasn’t a very social person…This thing would be awkward enough and I didn’t exactly need the stress. “What about that guy you were talking to this morning?” Benji asked. My blood ran cold. I was almost positive that nobody had- or could’ve- seen us. I would’ve thought, however, that the way we were conversing would’ve conveyed the message that we were not having a very friendly conversation. “What about him?” I asked carefully, trying to keep any sort of infliction indicative of my feelings towards him out of my voice. Benji shrugged. “Well he started acting weird ever since you showed up, Rory. Then I saw you guys arguing this morning and he didn’t show up for
Statistics third period. I just thought it was kinda weird. Did you eat him or something?” I was nearly speechless. “I don’t know. I didn’t do or say anything that bad to him.” “You know what was weird though…” Benji continued, leaning in as though he only wanted us to hear what he was about to say. “There was a different guy there who claimed to be Nathaniel. He looked totally differentwhite hair, red eyes- and had a completely different demeanor. I knew there was no way this guy could be Nathaniel, but everybody bought it.”
It could only have been Dante. But…Benji’s story didn’t make much sense to me. “Maybe we’re the only ones who can see him.” Sam said. I’d almost forgotten about him- he’d stayed silent for so far. “We’re the only ones who…” He trailed off, nervously glancing from me to Dane. “Maybe he is Nathaniel.” Daniel suggested. “No.” Dane spoke for the first time. “He’d have no reason to do something like this. The imposter is posing as Nathaniel for his own purposes. He too is a devil.” The group reacted with little surprise and more panic…but they weren’t panicking because of what he’d said. “Dane! Now she knows!” Sam hissed, enraged. Chaos broke out as soon as he spoke. Everyone else had something angry to say about Dane’s words. I realized that they were talking about me. “What do I know?” I asked. “Quiet!” Dane commanded harshly. They all became silent. The bell rang. Nobody moved. “We’ll continue this discussion after school.” He stood; everybody except for me followed suit. “Go.” They departed, leaving Dane and I alone. I was scared.
He began to walk to Physics and I trailed along behind him. When we reached the class he took his seat beside me again. “After school.” He said without looking at me. “Go to the harbor.” “Why?” I was surprised he was talking to me. He didn’t answer. So much for that. I sleepwalked through the remainder of the day, curious and eager about going to the harbor. I assumed when he told the others “we’ll continue this discussion after school” that was what he meant. The final bell rang and I was probably the first one gone. My house was right by the harbor, so I stopped at home first and left a note for Tony. “Down at the harbor with Dane.” I wrote. “Don’t wait up.” I left my things- and indicator that I wouldn’t be gone long- and headed back out. When I got there, everyone was waiting for me. Their positions were hostile- heads bent, hands in pockets, backs turned. Dane stood proudly behind them as the head of the pack. I thought of Max, and my heart panged. “Okay, I’m here.” I said fearlessly. I had to muster up and rely on every shred of dignity I had left. “What do you want?” I don’t know if I would call myself a courageous person. I wasn’t completely helpless, but I did have my damsel in distress moments…more so now than ever before. “You know.” Sam said bitterly. He pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and sat down on the harbor, letting his feet dip into the ocean water. The sea should’ve been freezing, and this minute detail piqued my interest. Dane ignored him. “We’re here because they’re aware that you know.” When I gave him an even more confused look he continued. “I didn’t tell them that you know who you are. They were under the assumption that you weren’t supposed to know.” “Oh.” I said flatly. That was kind of confusing. Why would he lie about something that ridiculous? “Well of course I know. That should’ve been obvious to all of you. After all, I could see the not-Nathaniel.” I caught myself about to say “Dante” but was careful not to. They stood, staring dumbfounded back at me. It was kind of intimidating. “Granted,” Dane said, somewhat amused. “I didn’t tell them everything.” That made me feel better. I wasn’t too comfortable with a bunch of strangers knowing everything about me. “What did you tell them?” I asked warily. Though he didn’t tell them everything, I was still not keen on his idea.
“Just everything that they were supposed to know.” He said simply. “What happened, who you are, who I am.” “You told them what happened??” I asked. “Why would you do that? Nobody needs to know…about that…” Swiftly, he approached me and took my face in his hands. I expected him to be angry with my near-hysterics, but his touch instead was gentle and soothing. “Take a deep breath, Aurora. It’s alright.” He reminded me of Collin. I obeyed his words and took a deep breath. I didn’t want to look at Patty’s reaction; I knew it wouldn’t be a very happy one. Once my heart rate had slowed he released me and continued. “These people are like…me.” He said slowly, pausing a bit after each word. “But each of them is different…They are us.” My thoughts raced to the “us” that Dane was talking about: himself, Collin, Max, Lea, Zak, Casey and Tiffany. There were seven of them, and now there was one. “No, now there are six.” “Seven.” Sam said. “The not-Nathaniel.” Dante made seven. Dane, Dante, Benji, Sam, Alex, Daniel, and Patty. Dane, Collin, Casey, Zak, Max, Lea, and Tiffany. Everything was starting again- it was coming past full circle and continuing. “How much do you know?” I asked, somewhat absentmindedly. “How much?” They all looked at each other, unsure of how to respond to me. They obviously didn’t get it. Dane didn’t tell them enough. “Tell me!” I commanded. “How much do you know?” When I still got no response from them I looked to Dane. “Well?” “One of you tell her.” He growled impatiently. “We went over this!” Well apparently I was wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. “Well what do you know?” Alex challenged, ignoring Dane. “Pride!” Dane snapped. Alex froze up and shut her mouth. Pride? Max was pride. “We…” Patty started. “We know who we are and why we’re here. The seven of us are the mortal representations of the seven deadly sins: envy, pride, sloth, lust, wrath, greed, and gluttony.” I was somewhat surprised that she actually knew what she was talking about. I kind of had an idea of which one she was, but wasn’t about to say anything and ruin the rest of the surprise. “And we’re here because in past lives we didn’t pass judgment to get into heaven, so now we’re trying to earn our wings.” She looked to Dane
for verification. He nodded slightly and she finished. “We’re doing this to replace the six who already earned their wings: Collin, Max, Lea, Tiffany, Zak, and Casey…right?” “Wait, stop.” Something didn’t seem right to me.”The six? Only Collin…” I couldn’t finish; I already had an idea of what my answer would be. “Aurora,” Dane said softly. “They’re gone too. Last autumn.” “Gone? No- they graduated last summer, right? Just in June…that’s what happened. What do you mean last autumn?” I already knew what he was going to tell me, I just didn’t want to believe it. “No. They all vanished. These five took their places. I’ve been guiding them for the past year.” I looked to the five he was speaking of and refused to accept the fact that these were the ones who replaced my best friends. It seems like not too long ago when we were all together last; sitting on the harbor with our feet in the water, Collin and Dane on either side of me, laughing and joking. We’d known each other practically our whole lives- Lea and Tiffany were like sisters to me. Max was our all-knowing leader. Casey was the fun guy- the jokester who kept us all lighthearted and grounded. Zak was the logical one; always kept us (especially me) in check. There was no way that these five kids replaced my family. “Who’s who?” Dane sighed. He was growing tired of me; that was a good sign. “Open your eyes.” I did. Max was the true leader of our pack; always had every answer to every problem, always bailed us out when we were in trouble. He was cocky and thought he knew everything. He was pride. Alexandra. Casey was always the one to have the last laugh- he never knew when to stop or when he’d gone too far. That’d given him problems when he was nearly kicked out of school, but he kept coming back for more. He was a glutton for punishment; gluttony. Benjamin. Zak was the quiet kid in the back of the room who always had his head down but always had all of the answers. Whenever we’d break out into hysterics he was always the one who spoke up at the last minute to provide a rational solution…sloth. Samuel. Tiffany was the wild child; green hair, self pierced, tattoos. She was always out partying and we rarely saw her on weekends. I’d heard at least a thousand stories of her wild nights and unreliable lifestyle. Lust. Patricia.
Lea- my best friend, my sister- always wanted what she couldn’t have. Always longed for his grades, or her looks, or his this or her that. Lea who never shared anything and never told me anything, even though we were practically sisters. Lea Stevens: greed. Daniel. Dane: the one I thought was my soul mate, the one I’d be with forever. Hostile to everything and everyone around him, not trusting- even of me at times- and quick to anger. Quick to jump to conclusions and snap. Dane “Wrathful” Warren. That stayed the same. That left Collin; my Collin, my soul twin. The only person who ever really understood me. My Collin who wanted me all to himself, who secretly despised Dane- his partner in crime; his blood brother- for simply the way I looked at him, the way I loved him. My envious Collin Matthew Stark who sacrificed his life in order to keep the peace and save both Dane and I. My Collin who earned his wings and died two summers ago underneath the blue moon. Who replaced him? Of course; Dante. “Rory?” I looked up, a blank expression on my face. Patty was looking at me with a worried expression on hers. “I asked if you wanted me to continue. We only know a little more.” She said carefully, as though if she spoke too loud or said the wrong thing I’d do something unexpected. I wasn’t that unpredictable, jeez. I nodded. “Well…and we know about Nathaniel and the others. How they’re going through the same thing…but that’s it. We don’t know why, or anything specific about him and them.” So Dane didn’t tell them about me. I was a little disappointed; and here I thought I was special. “So then you really don’t know much.” I finally said. I’d suspected it ever since I knew they knew, but I had to be sure. Maybe this was Dane’s way of showing me that he still cared enough about me to respect my wishes. I hadn’t told him to do anything concerning this. How…thoughtful of him (as unordinary as that was). They allowed me this victory. “Well then why don’t you explain it to us?” Benji asked, raising his eyebrows. “Or do you not know yourself?” I was miffed by his tone. “Why should I tell you?” Again, I kind of knew why it would’ve been better if I just told them, but I wanted to see what they would say. “Well…Because, uh…We…have a right to know?” Daniel tried. “Or something.”
Dane sighed in frustration. “Yes, yes. Tell them.” “You’re here- here in this town- to serve out your punishment of course…But because of me too. You’re all here to watch me. Protect me.” It was awkward saying out loud what I’d known all of my life, subconsciously. Truth be told, the others weren’t as protective of me as Dane and Collin were, and if they were they didn’t show it. I didn’t mind; I had my boys. “Protect you from what?” Alex asked, challenging me. I was starting to see an annoying resemblance between her and Max. “Or who?” I didn’t even know the answer to that question. Collin was the only one who knew, and he refused to tell me. He thought it would make me cry, and like I’ve said before, he hated to see me cry. “That’s enough of that.” Dane cut into the conversation before I could answer her, not that I knew what I would say. “That doesn’t matter right now. What is important now is the Nathaniel situation.” “Dante.” I said after much thought. “His name is Dante.” “You know him?!” Daniel asked, bewildered. “And you didn’t tell us?” Sam accused. “Why would you dare to with hold information?” “Hey, shut up.” I said to him, glaring. I wasn’t about to take any more of his crap. Technically, I wasn’t the outsider here: they were. “Until like ten minutes ago I didn’t know that I could trust you guys with this kind of information, so don’t get on my case about it. Besides, I wasn’t even sure he was real until you brought him up.” Sam turned from me sullenly. “Dante…” Patty repeated. “Dane, Dante. They sound similar. Connection?” “Well he’s similar to Dane.” I provided. “And Nathaniel. He’s like a mix of the two.” Benji turned his head to the side to look at Dane. “Now that you mention it…you two have a similar face shape and bone structure…although Dante wasn’t quite as lean as you are. I think he had Nathaniel’s facial features though; like nose and eyes and stuff like that.” “They’re similar attitude wise, too.” I said. “You’ve talked to him?” Benji asked.
I nodded. “He was the guy I was walking to English with. He was in my Government class instead of Nathaniel.” Now that we were all on the same page it was a little easier to talk about him. “And he was in a dream that I had last night.” The dream itself was fading, but I still remembered him clearly. “Here’s what we do.” Dane spoke. “We play it by ear; see what he does and see what happens with Nathaniel…wherever he is. We’ll resume this discussion after school tomorrow.” He began to walk away, and everyone followed him like dogs. It was perturbing. Patty instantly joined him at his side and he wrapped his arm around his waist. Goose bumps rose up on my arms and I turned away from them, heading home. When I got there, Tony had left a note in reply to my own. “Rory, went back to the office, be back late late late. You’re on your own for dinner, love Tony.” I rolled my eyes; it figured. I made myself a sandwich and headed back out- to the cemetery. This time I did walk to the grave with my eyes closed. It was getting dark and I was starting to get spooked. All of my troubles vanished, though, when I spied Collin’s head stone and read the familiar words of Frost that he’d always whispered to me when I was distressed. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” “Hey Collin.” I murmured, sitting down on top of the grave. Hey babe. How’s it hanging? “I’m stressed. You?” Dead; what else is new? Hey- how’s Big D? I haven’t talked to him in a few months. A few months? I was under the impression that Dane talked to Collin right around the time I did- yesterday. ”He’s alright. Got himself a new girlfriend.” Yeah sorry about that, doll. I hear she’s Tiff’s replacement…That’s a drag. She’s got some pretty big shoes to fill there. I stifled a laugh. “Do you see much of the old gang…you know, in heaven?” Oh man, I forgot you’d been gone for so long. I didn’t make it to heaven. I thought my heart had stopped. Aurora? Aurora get a grip on yourself, please.
“You…didn’t make it?” I asked softly with a wavering voice. I was trying my hardest not to cry, but the news had hit me like a ton of bricks. Collin didn’t make it to heaven. Hold your horses. That’s not to say that all hope is lost for me. I’m in limbo; like purgatory I guess. The big man upstairs decided I needed more time, so I get to chill here for awhile. It’s why I can talk to you guys. I’d thought Collin could talk to us though he was dead because he could do that even when he was alive. See, some of the seven deadly sin incarnates had a tweak; a little special power that set them apart from the others. Collin could alter mental communications; he could talk to you, you could talk to him, you could talk to each other, you could talk to other people, or he could block everyone out…or he could let everyone in. It was pretty nifty, but he liked to mess with people and would often do just that. But don’t sweat it- I’ll get there eventually. The others all made it through just fine. I guess they really were holier than thou. That calmed me a bit. But enough about me; tell me about you. “There isn’t really much to tell.” I paused. That was a lie. “Well, not much that I suspect you don’t already know. You know all about Patty and her new crew, right?” The fab five who replaced our usual suspects? Sure, sure; I know all about them. “And you know about Dante?” …Oh. Him. I should’ve known to go to Collin first about this. He always had outsider information that was ridiculously useful. Yeah…how do you like him? Should I be honest? “I love him.” I could picture Collin as he spoke- a sad look in his eye and a forced smile on his face to hide the fact that he despised sharing me with anybodythat he hated the relationships I had with other people even though I loved him more than anybody else in the world…and he knew that. Good. I’m glad you’re happy, Rory…I want you to be happy. Of course he did; he would even sacrifice his own life to make me happy. It was his destiny. He’s a good guy… A little unorthodox, yeah, but he’s a good guy. Got a big heart and all that jazz. Much better than I ever was. Pretty envious though. “Wow Collin; you just described yourself.” I could picture his face lighting up in wonder as he contemplated my words. Yeah I suppose. Bet he’s better looking than me though.
I compared Dante to Collin: my pale skinned, dark haired, freckle faced Collin. Collin with his thick glasses and thin wrists, the dimples that popped up whenever he smiled wide or laughed too hard and his big brown Bambi eyes that he used to get what he wanted because I could never resist them. “He’s more attractive, I suppose.” I said thoughtfully. “But you’re cuter.” I smiled. I heard him chuckle. Thanks Rory. Limbo needs more people like you. Everyone here is so… “Dead?” There I go again, trying to make light of the situation. He actually laughed. Yeah, that. How did you know? I laughed with him, but it was bittersweet. “I really miss you Collin.” I was beginning to tear up. Oh c’mon now, and you were doing so well. Cheer up, honey, things aren’t that bad yet. Well that made me feel better- yet. “Don’t cry.” I hadn’t even realized that my eyes were closed. I was so absorbed in our conversation that I hadn’t noticed leaning forward on my knees with both of my hands on his head stone. When I heard that voice- the one that made me seethe with anger- my eyes shot open and my hands instantly turned to fists. “Leave me alone.” I hissed. Hands were suddenly on my shoulders, gently guiding me to my feet. They rested on my upper arms, gently rubbing circles with his thumbs to soothe me, I assumed. “Relax, Aurora. It’s only me.” “How is that supposed to make me feel better?” I clenched my jaw. He chuckled. “Oh c’mon now, babe.” Not the voice, but the attitude was what made me turn around. Dante was there, grinning at me in the darkness. A wave of relief washed over me. “Oh thank God.” I breathed. “I’d thought you were Nathaniel.” His breath caught in the back of his throat. “Him. Why would you think that?” “Because you are him.” I automatically replied. Did I know if it was true or not? No; but at least I had something to go on. He sighed. “We need to talk.”
That was fairly obvious. I took his hands and walked him away from the grave and out of the cemetery. I began to head towards my house, but he steered me towards the church. We settled on the front steps. “I’m not allowed inside.” Of course he wasn’t; only the people I saw worthy were allowed to enter, and I’d only chosen two so far. One was dead, and the other…well we already saw how well that turned out. “And yet I feel compelled to come here. Why?” “You think I know?” I did know, but I wasn’t supposed to tell- that was part of it, figuring it out for yourself. “I know you know.” He challenged me, his blood red eyes staring into my gray blue ones. His look was different from both Dane and Collin’s- theirs looked right through me; saw me for who I was, whereas his simply looked at me. It made me feel safe, as though I was hiding behind something that made me untouchable. “Who are you?” I hesitated. “You don’t know?” “Babe, I don’t know much except for what I feel. And right now I’m feeling you and this church.” His hands were beginning to be warmed up by mine, but were still cold- cold as death. “It isn’t my place to say.” I looked away from him, a sure sign of my bluff. “I saw you at the harbor today.” That didn’t surprise me. “Well…he saw you. I saw through him.” That did. “What?” I snapped my head back to face him, though I already had a hunch as to what he was getting at. “What do you mean?” “Nathaniel.” He said simply. “I saw through Nathaniel. We’re in the same body. No; I’m in his body.” He grinned sheepishly. “I’m just a visitor, I guess.” I knew that already, but his verification made me feel better about the assumptions the group and I had made earlier. Now I felt compelled to tell him everything. “You’re envy.” I said. I spoke fast, hardly allowing him breathing room, let alone enough time to get a word in edge wise. “One of the seven deadly sins sent to the world of the living from hell in order to repent and try and gain entrance to heaven. You’re here to protect me, in the place of Collin Stark who died two years ago trying to save me. You’re in the body of Nathaniel Reeve, who is also a sin- wrath- and who is doing, or at least trying
to do, the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing. I don’t know why you’re in his body, but I do know that Collin didn’t…make it…to heaven…” A thought occurred to me at that moment, leaving me speechless. If Collin didn’t make it to heaven, then Lucifer couldn’t send another to take his place. He only made it half way, so… “You’re half way here.” I said. Surprisingly, Dante seemed to have followed my rant. “Half way here?” “Yeah- see, Collin didn’t make it to heaven; he’s stuck in Limbo, so that means that Lucifer couldn’t send someone to take his place because he didn’t pass the judgment test…yet. So instead of sending you as a full, able bodied individual, he sent you to be a part of Nathaniel, probably until Collin gets into heaven.” However long that would take. I still didn’t know all of the details about Collin’s saving, but I guessed he wouldn’t get his wings until the “danger” he was talking about had passed…Not that it helped not knowing what that danger was…
The two of us stayed silent for a long time, standing in front of the church, holding each others hands and staring into each others eyes. Had anybody been passing I was sure they’d have mistaken us for lovers, and sadly that was not the case. Finally, he spoke. His words were shockingly out of place. “Hey…I know I shouldn’t be asking you this, but…This weekend. Would you want to take a trip out of town with me?” I was taken aback and didn’t know how to respond or what to say. I stuttered like an idiot, and he grinned at me. “Just for a day- like on Saturday. It’d be nice to get out of this town for a little while. I wanna spread my wings.” He stretched his arms out, taking mine with him, as if to emphasize his point. “Dante…I don’t think that would be such a good idea.” I said, choosing my words carefully so as not to offend him. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a sweet offer, but given the circumstances, I just don’t think…” He cut my off by placing his finger on my lips to shush me. “Forget about Nathaniel. I’ll take care of him for the day.” He was grinning slyly now, providing a contrast to his broad smile before. “You can do that?” I asked, almost completely baffled. I had assumed that everything for Dante was involuntary when Nathaniel became involvedit was Nathaniel’s body, so shouldn’t he have nearly complete control over it? I tended to assume a lot of things; it was a habit in dire need of breaking.
He nodded triumphantly. “Yes, of course. We have something worked out, I guess you could say. He’s reasonable enough- he lets me stay and I don’t screw up what he already has going. We help each other out.” That sent up a red flag in my mind. We help each other out. How was I to know that this wasn’t some Nathaniel plan cooked up and delivered to me in a beautifully Dante wrapped package? Why should I put my trust in someone I hardly knew that was affiliated so closely with the one who… I shook my head, dispelling those thoughts. I had Collin’s word, I had Dane’s facts. Surely that would be enough evidence as to why I should agree to go with him. “Let me think about it.” I said instead. The weekend was still two days away- plenty of time. “And when I have my answer I’ll come give it to you.” “No. Don’t find me. Let me find you.” He said sternly, all seriousness now. “I don’t need you catching me- or Nathaniel- at a bad time. True, we have an arrangement worked out, but that doesn’t mean we can control when who has the body.” So I was right about one thing- their control over the body that they shared could not be determined by either of them. It was up to someone else, and I had a good idea of who that someone was. Dante’s words were a sign that he was trying to protect me- from Nathanieljust like all the others…Especially like Collin. It was reassuring. “It’s getting late.” He murmured. I hadn’t realized how quiet the night had grown. “I’ll walk you home.” And that he did, gently holding my hand and leading me towards my home on the beach. It reminded me of the walk I had the previous night with Dane…but at the same time it was completely different. There was no tension in this air- no nervousness and apprehension even though I was with a stranger. When we reached my home he paused again to hold both of my hands and look me in the eye. “Promise me.” He said, even softer than before. His voice was beginning to change again, and in the moonlight I could see his once blood red eyes beginning to lighten and become a very light, crisp, baby blue color. “Promise me that you’ll just let me take care of you and try not to take care of things yourself.” I was a bit surprised at his request. I liked to do things myself, although they all usually ended in disaster. They say some people never learn…I guess I’m just one of those people. I nodded and he gently pulled me into a warm embrace, comforting on such a chilly night, and I noticed that he too was not wearing a jacket or a long sleeved shirt. In contrast to Dane, where his skin was always ice cold as though he were a corpse, Dante’s skin was very warm- very human. I liked it. I closed my eyes and rested my head against his chest. My mind registered an oddity- something that I was not used to, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. After awhile whatever it was went away, but the thought stayed in the back of my mind for me to later dwell on.
“You should go inside now before you find yourself in even more trouble.” I instantly pushed him away from me. Nathaniel retreated from my sight, but I knew he was smirking to himself. He always was. I went inside, locking the door behind me. Tony’s shoes weren’t in the front hallway, so I knew he was still out working. I slipped into bed and lay there unable to sleep for a good thirty minutes. I was still trying to figure out what had been out of place while Dante was holding me; I assumed whatever it was had stopped or changed the second Nathaniel regained control of his body. Right as I was beginning to drift off into dream land, listening to the gentle, erythematic lapping of the ocean’s waves against the shore, I realized what it was. Dante had a heartbeat. All of the others did not- not even I had a heartbeat. What made him so different? Again I had assumed that because he was one of them- especially because he was not completely here- he would not have a heartbeat. The presence of one baffled me again…not knowing this much was unbelievably frustrating. I had to know more. At that moment, I had my answer. Saturday, I had a date. I slept surprisingly well that night. The next day, however, I was in for it. Dane and company did not appear to be very happy with me as I approached them early in the morning. I slowed my pace as soon as I saw them and continued apprehensively. “What?” “I saw you with him last night.” Sam hissed. For sloth he wasn’t very… sloth-like. He was beginning to get on my last nerve. Dane quieted him. “Perhaps we should establish some ground rules…for this new situation.” He said very slowly and calmly. “Might I suggest not socializing with neither Nathaniel nor…Dante?” The others seemed to agree with him; clearly they’d been over this before I’d gotten there. “I see no problem with it.” I said equally as calmly. I was challenging him, and I saw it in his eyes right off the bat that he was not okay with that. “What does it matter if I was with him last night? I was with you the night before, Tony the night before that…I know a lot of guys.” I kind of chuckled, trying to lighten them up, but it didn’t work very well… I kind of expected that. “Rory, this is kind of different.” Patty started. It didn’t seem as though she wished to continue, but when I looked to her expectantly she saw that she had no other choice. “I mean…this is kind of dangerous, and we’re only looking out for your safety.”
“Why? Because you have to?” I shot back. In truth, I didn’t like the five of them. I wanted to, I started to, but I just couldn’t. They were trying to like me too, I could feel it, but the natural chemistry just wasn’t there. The original five I had known all my life. I met them when we were all really young, back before any of us were old enough to understand the mechanics of our situation. Maybe that was why we got along so well- there was no sort of pretense behind our friendship. When we all later found that out it only intensified the bond we all had…Not like this. Nobody knew how to respond to my question. Dane sighed heavily; I could tell that he hadn’t been getting much sleep lately. It was evident in his appearance and his demeanor. “Fine then.” He eventually said. The others all turned to himcaptivated by his every word. It still freaked me out. “Do whatever you want; I don’t give a damn anymore.” He turned abruptly and walked away from me and the rest of his group. Now that their leader was gone it seemed like none of them knew what to do with themselves. They stared at me awkwardly until I politely waved good bye and stalked off to Calculus. Luckily, Patty didn’t follow me. When class did start, she sat far away from me at the back of the room; for that, I was grateful. After Calculus was Government and as I took my seat Nathaniel approached me. He looked annoyed and reluctant to see me. “You have an answer.” He said blatantly. “And Dante wants to know now.” “Yes.” Was all I said. That was good enough for him, and he left me alone, surprisingly. English was uneventful, and at lunch I hid out in the library, hoping that no one would come looking for me- not Dane, not Patty, not Nathaniel nor Dante. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anybody. Instead, I opened up my copy of Inferno and began to read. The name Dante stood out every time it appeared on the page. Was there some sort of relation? Where was Virgil? I doubted any of it was connected, but it still intrigued me. Deciding that I had enough to think about at the moment, I forgot it and moved on to something else. When the bell rang, I considered ditching Physics, but knew I couldn’t. When I got there I simply sat on the opposite side of the room from Dane and tried my best to not steal glances at him. It was hard, but it was getting easier. I had better things to think about than him… Like Saturday. That thought certainly helped me through that day as well as the next. By Friday night, Tony knew something was up. “Okay kid, spill the beans.” He said to me at dinner. I was never good at keeping secrets, and Tony knew by now how to see right through me and practically read my mind. He was grinning though, which was a good thing.
“Oh I’m just going out tomorrow with a friend of mine.” I said quietly, keeping my head down to hide both my blush and my own smile. “We’re only going out of town for the day- I’ll be back by dinner time, and if things change I’ll call you.” I tried to tell him as much as possible at once so that he’d drop the subject and not ask me anymore potentially revealing questions. “Is this friend…a boy?” He asked. I was able to gauge by his tone that he wasn’t being apprehensive or judgmental, just curious. When I nodded he nodded in reply and changed the subject- now he was talking about something that happened to him at work. I kind of tuned him out; I was used to this by now. I didn’t want to tell Tony about Dante. Tony wasn’t part of my little Satan Circle, as Tiffany used to call it. He didn’t know anything about my situation or the seven deadly sins, or anything. The people at the hospital knew, but they all decided that it would be better for everyone if Tony, my guardian, had no clue. If they had consulted me, I most likely would’ve agreed, but they hadn’t, so that shows how important my opinion is. I slipped into bed early that night- I could hardly wait for the adventure that I was bound to have the following day. For the third night in a row, for the first time in…well since I could remember…I slept soundly and without any sort of disturbing dreams. I counted that as a good omen, just as I counted all of my bad dreams as bad ones. If history was any sort of reference, I would be right. My alarm went off at seven thirty- I was out of the shower and ready to go by eight fifteen. At eight thirty, Tony still sleeping, a very quiet knock was heard at the front door. I was impressed that he would be so courteous…or maybe he was being too careful. Either way, it was a thoughtful gesture. I opened the door just as quietly and slipped out before either of us could say a word to each other. When the door was firmly closed and locked behind me, I smiled up at him- he grinned back down at me, reflexively pulling me closer to him. “Hey babe.” He breathed, blood red eyes darker than I’d ever seen them before. “How’ve you been? It’s been awhile.” I rolled my eyes and began to walk with him. “Oh don’t ask; I’ve been trying my hardest to forget it so that I could just go and have a good time today.” We naturally intertwined our hands and walked down the beach. The only car I saw was a green pickup truck, and I assumed it was his. Though my assumptions weren’t always accurate, as we’ve seen previously, this one was. He opened the passenger’s side for me and closed it for me when I was buckled in. He slid in the driver’s side and started the engine. The car was dingy and looked like it was going to die any day now. It wasn’t a very old model, but it was obviously well used.
“It’s Nathaniel’s father’s car.” Dante said. I had nearly forgotten that he could read my mind, just like Collin could. I hoped that he would be as polite as Collin was and not read it on a regular basis. I had once asked Collin about that and when he replied he smiled warmly at me, shrugged, and said, “I skim.” That had made me feel better. “It’s run down, but it’ll get us to where we want to go and back without any problems.” The car ride there was silent, yet there was absolutely no tension in the car’s stale air. Both of us were equally as relaxed and I remember him reaching over at one point during the trip and taking my hand in his, placing it on the center console. Whenever he had to shift gears he would use both of our hands- his on top of mine- and gently squeeze my own. Dane had never done things like this when we were together. Everything was much more strained, almost forced. Every silence was an awkward one and every touch was hesitant and very apprehensive. I liked this much better. Finally he exited off the highway and pulled into a small shopping center. “What’s in here?” I asked him as we both got out of the car. He shrugged. “Hell if I know. I just kind of followed the road until I knew we should probably get off. I’ve never been here before; neither has Nathaniel.” I’d nearly forgotten his situation. How was he supposed to know about places like this if Nathaniel didn’t? Was there no privacy? Did Nathaniel hear my thoughts too? That thought sent shivers down my spine, and Dante placed a reassuring hand on my back. All worry vanished instantly and I relaxed. We walked around the shopping center, just browsing and seeing what there was for us to do. “Sorry this is turning out to be kind of a bore.” Dante said to me. “I really just wanted to get out of that town. I feel like I’m trapped- like it’s suffocating me.” I thought it pretty funny for him to be saying that when he was sharing a body… But then again I understood what he was talking about. Personally, I had never felt trapped by my little hometown by the sea, especially since my little mountain retreat. However, Collin often talked about the need to get out and always expressed the desire to run away- not necessarily to a big city, but to just get out of our town. The similarities between the two of them were beginning to get easier and easier to spot. I shrugged. “I don’t mind. I needed a little vacation.” I smiled at him, and he smiled back at me. “Here’s a coffee shop.” He said to me, motioning to the building we were next to. “Let’s go.” He pulled me inside, keeping one hand in his jacket pocket and the other hand firmly keeping a firm hold on mine. As we stood in
line he kept me close to him, and so I rested my head on his upper arm. It must’ve looked like we were some sort of couple, and that made me question the relationship we had. Why was this all so natural to me? It wasn’t like any sort of relationship I’d had before- not like the soul twin one I’d had with Collin, and definitely not like the soul mate one I’d had with Dane. I liked this much better than either of those. We got our coffee and departed the small shop, hot drink warming my cold hands just like his hand had done. I sipped slowly at my coffee as he quickly gulped his down; tossing the cup in a trash can as he passed by it. “Slowpoke.” He teased as I carefully drank mine. I rolled my eyes and ignored him. We circled the center two times before getting bored and retreating back to the truck. It was ten thirty, and we still had the whole day ahead of us. “Let’s go see a movie.” Dante said, turning to me with a large grin on his face. “Which movie?” I asked. “And where is there a theater around here?” “Let’s just drive around for awhile until we find one.” He suggested. “There’s bound to be something good playing. I’m in the mood for a gory horror.” Again he resembled Collin, who loved scary, bloody movies. I hated them, but somehow always wound up going to see them with him. I usually spent the entirety of the movie with either my hands over my eyes or my head in the toilet in the girl’s restroom. I did not have a very strong stomach for that kind of stuff. Instead of getting back on the highway we drove through the town, passing libraries, schools, more shopping centers, and finally stumbled upon a small movie theater in a larger shopping center. Luckily for him, and unluckily for me, there was a slasher flick playing. He dragged me inside against my will and sat the both of us in the back. He sat on my left. “You can escape easily if you need to.” He said reassuringly. “But you’ll be fine. Trust me.” I sighed and slumped into my seat, dreading the moment that the movie would begin. The previews weren’t half bad…except one that caught my eye. It was about a girl who moved to a rainy little town, kind of like mine, only with more rain, and ran into a lot of vampires and a lot of werewolves who were trying to protect her from even more vampires… It seemed ridiculous and boring, but something that the general public would be interested in. “Kind of like you.” Dante said, leaning over to whisper to me. “How everybody wants to protect you; how everybody’s fighting for you.” I hated
how nearly everything he said to me made me think. He had a point- usually did- and this one made an even more lasting impression in my mind. It made me look at things from a different perspective- it wasn’t about who was right and who was wrong, they were just different views. Maybe Nathaniel and his clan wasn’t necessarily “evil”, as we had all originally assumed (there I go assuming again; nothing but trouble it caused me), they just had different intentions. But what about what Nathaniel did? What about all the harm and problems he’s caused? I didn’t know his motives behind them. I didn’t know anything about him- who was I to pass judgment? My thoughts on that subject quickly dissipated as soon as the movie began- I drew my hands up to my chest and my breath hitched in the back of my throat. I didn’t enjoy being scared- I’d had enough life threatening scares in my life, and I didn’t need some movie to recreate those feelings for me. Dante reached over and took my hands in his, across the arm rest. I relaxed a little bit, but was still nervous and tense. He released one of my hands to move the arm rest up and pulled me into his arms so that I was lying across his chest as well as my own chair. He draped his arms around me, letting his hands rest on my right shoulder and rested his cheek on the top of my head. “See?” He said. “This isn’t so bad.” Which it wasn’t, until the first person died. I squeaked and buried my head in his chest. I felt it rumble gently, and knew that he must’ve been laughing at me. I remained in that position for the remainder of the film and only moved when the lights came on and Dante stirred. He gently lifted me off of him and guided me out of the theater back out to the shopping center. “Well that wasn’t horrible. Not a lot of blood, but it was suspenseful enough.” “Well not horrible for you. I can’t stand those kinds of movies.” I admitted, shaking my head. “So let’s not do that again.” He smiled at me and nodded in agreement. We got back in his truck and I looked at the time; it was now one forty five. “Hungry?” He asked; I shook my head. “Good; neither am I.” I kind of wondered how anybody could be hungry after watching a movie like that, but then decided that I didn’t really want to know. “Want to go up to the observatory?” He asked me, starting the car and pulling back onto the highway. “Sure.” It was my turn to grin. Ever since I was a little kid I loved to go to the observatory, but trips up the mountain there were limited since it was so far away. We were already pretty far out, and it was kind of a trip on a whim, but it seemed appropriate. I hadn’t been there in years- Collin took me on his motorcycle the last time we went. From our town by the beach it was a three hour round trip to the observatory on the top of the mountain, not counting any sort of traffic or potential roadblocks due to the weather or
anything else like that. The route was a very scenic one- mostly trees and cliffs showing down to the valley or a view of the ocean and our town as well. Dante turned the heater on and I prepared to ride the rest of the way- only about twenty five minutes or so- in silence, but he began to speak. “Nathaniel explained everything to me.” He said. “About what happened, and…Dane and the rest of the group. He talked to me about the seven deadly sins thing some more, and I think now I understand it all better… But I still don’t know one thing. Nobody seems to know this.” He looked at me expectantly, as though he wanted me permission to continue. He must’ve seen my approval in his eyes, because he continued. “You. You confuse me; everybody feels this need to protect you- even me- but nobody knows why. I want to know why. Who are you? What do you like? What do you hate? What do you want? Where did you come from? Do you get what I’m saying?” The saddest part was I did get what he was saying- I got it better than he thought. My whole life I’d wondered the same exact thing. Why me? What made me so special? I’d begun to feel it ever since I had joined the general public. Everybody had moms and dads, maybe even brothers and sisterspeople that they lived with who took care of them, cared for them: their family. I had Collin and Dane. I’d grown up with Collin- he was my mom, dad and brother all rolled into one. Collin was four years older than me, and for awhile we’d lived with someone from the hospital- just until Collin turned thirteen. He’d learned enough responsibility by then to take care of me by himself. It’d been just us against the world until I met Dane and the others; that’s when I began to feel like I had a family. Nothing had ever been normal in my life, but with them I felt like I was getting closer and closer to normal every day. Until… “Yeah, yeah I get you.” I said softly. “But I can’t say that I have a good answer for you. Who am I? I’m Aurora Lockhart. What do I like? I like my family- I liked my family, until they all left me; but I can’t blame them. I would’ve done the same thing if I had been in their shoes. What do I hate? Not much. I don’t like to hate things- I’ve seen what hate can do to people. What do I want? I just…” I stopped. What did I want? I wanted my Collin back, I wanted the hospital to go away and leave me alone, I wanted for Dane and I to be compatible, I didn’t necessarily want to leave my hometown forever, but I wanted to escape all of the crazy that seemed to surround it. I wanted to be normal. I skipped that one. “Where did I come from? I don’t know. I’d always been here- in town, I mean- with Collin and the hospital.” “The hospital?” He interrupted. “I don’t know what that is- Nathaniel doesn’t either. Could you tell me that? Or is it too much?” Oh I could tell him- I could tell him all that I knew, at least. Truth be told I didn’t know much myself; I didn’t know how helpful to him I’d be. “Well…I
know that the hospital isn’t a conventional hospital. It’s more of a codename, I suppose. It’s monitored and controlled by Lucifer, kind of like the CIA. It helps to regulate the distribution of all sets of seven deadly sins. Its main hub is in Seattle, but it has small sub hospitals all over the country. The observatory is one.” I said. “If anybody knows everything about me, it’s them. They’d helped Collin to raise me, took me and put me in a special asylum after what happened last year when I broke down…I live with one of their representatives now, but he doesn’t know a thing. It’s probably better that way.” He stayed silent for awhile, in what I assumed was deep thought…But then he began to change. I looked at his eyes, and now they were a very very light purple. “Dante?” I asked carefully. He took awhile to answer. “No.” He said at last in a grave voice. “No not anymore.” My blood ran cold. This could not be happening to me. Nathaniel turned and sighed heavily, staring at me with cold blue eyes. “I’m sorry.” I was trapped. “What happens now?” I asked very quietly, almost afraid to speak. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t about to take me home and just let me go on my merry way. “We go to the observatory. It’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” He asked coyly, returning his attention to the road. “Hospital representatives are there twenty four seven; we’re bound to run into one or two. They know who you are; they know who I am. I have questions that I need answered, and they will answer them for me.” He told me. “Perfect.” We arrived at the observatory on top of the mountain and I quickly got out of the truck. He followed and steered me toward the entrance. “Summon someone.” He ordered me; I knew that I was in no place to argue with him or deny his requests. “And bring them out here to me.” Was he not allowed inside? Was this place like the church- only those who were chosen were allowed to enter? I went inside- just like I had when Collin would take meand was greeted at the front desk by a nurse. She recognized me. “Long time no see.” She said with a smile. “How was your trip to the mountains?” Word traveled fast amongst hospital employees. “It was nice. It helped a lot.” I said. “Can I speak with one of the doctors? I have a question.” She nodded and buzzed someone with a name that I failed to recognize. Soon, an older man with a standard white lab coat, glasses, and a gray mustache entered the lobby area, smiling at me. I recognized his face, but not his name. He was the man who had lived with Collin and I until I was nine and Collin had begun to raise me on his own.
“Rory.” He said, smiling. “It certainly has been awhile. Almost ten years, I imagine. I’ve heard a lot about you through the grape vine, though. You certainly are doing quite well, given the circumstances.”
I was nervous. Certainly, if I'd had a heartbeat, I'd have been able to hear it growing louder and faster. "Doctor," I said, my voice surprisingly clear. "I need to speak with you. Could we go outside, please?" As I've previously mentioned, I've never been a good liar. I felt his apprehension and he hesitated.
"Of course, Rory." He said, walking towards me. He glanced back over his shoulder and at the nurse at the reception desk. "I'll be right back. Hold all my calls." I had a sneaking suspicion that he was wrong- he would not be right back. I closed my eyes as we exited the observatory.
"Who is your friend?" He asked me, once the cool air hit my face. This immediately registered safely in my mind. He didn't recognize the person standing there, which meant that he was...
"Dante." I said automatically, smiling up at him as he approached us.
"Right- I'm Dante." He said, shaking the hand of the doctor.
"Ian Woon." The doctor replied- the name still sounded alien to me. "How can I help you two?" He then asked.
"He wants to know." I spoke for the both of us. "He wants to know who I am." I already knew who I was, despite how clueless I was and could appear to be, and I was not going to tell anybody about it. As far as I was aware, the only two people- outside of the hospital- who knew about me were Dane and Collin, of course.
Dr. Woon sighed. "Which one are you, then?"
Dante glanced over at me and I nodded at him. It was okay to tell. "Envy."
Dr. Woon looked from me to Dante, then back at me. "Is he here in place of Collin Stark?"
I really didn't want to explain this situation again, but it was starting to look like I'd have to. "Kind of."
Dr. Woon sighed again. "I think we'll need to talk to your father about this."
"No!" I instantly shouted. Dante turned to look at me, alarmed. I remembered then where I was and who I was with, and calmed down. "Please don't contact my father." My father...now that was something that I
literally never talked about. It wasn't that I hated my father...no, I hated my father.
Dr. Woon began to shake his head. "Aurora, Aurora, calm yourself, please. No need to make a scene."
Make a scene? Whatever; I wasn't making a scene. My father, he'd make a scene. Always did.
"Now, we're going to call your father." Dr. Woon continued. "Because this is somewhat of a serious situation."
Serious situation? If Dante was here then obviously Lucifer ratified his existence, so why need to panic? I could see my distress would not change his mind, however, so I gave up protesting. Dr. Woon led the both of us inside. The reception desk nurse greeted us, giving Dante a strange look. Dr. Woon continued to take us into the back.
I'd been there with Collin many, many times. We'd always taken this path into the back and talked with the doctors. As we got older we came less often- we no longer needed to come here- but they still checked up on us, frequently, as a matter of fact.
Dr. Woon left us in a hall. "Wait here." He said. "And I'll call your father." He went behind a closed door, leaving us alone.
Dante turned to me. "Your father?" He didn't know about my father- he was the only one who didn't who probably should've. It was standard that everybody important knew about my father- anybody of immediate importance, anyway- but apparently both Dante and Nathaniel did not. Like my own identity, I wasn't about to tell.
I heard my teeth begin to chatter- was I really that afraid? Yes. It'd been a little over a year since I'd last seen my father- I saw him right before I went
off to the mountains after Collin had died. I'd always been afraid of my father- he wasn't good for me. That was why I didn't live with him. I didn't even learn about him until I was nine.
Dante pulled me to him- his warm embrace helped to quell the chattering. "It's okay. We'll be fine." He said, gently rocking me back and forth. Yeah- I'd be fine; I couldn't say much about him. "How bad could it be?" Poor fool. If he only knew.
A loud crash was heard in the room that Dr. Woon went into, and smoke flooded out from underneath the door. I guess he was about to find out. I jumped and a small scream escaped me.
"He's here!" I tried to get behind him. "Oh no, he's here."
"Who's here?" Dante asked, trying to get me to face him. "What am I missing?"
"Oh you'll find out." That could've been the only reason why he decided to come here. My fear intensified.
"AURORA EVE LOCKHART." A voice boomed from behind the door. "GET IN HERE. NOW."
I latched onto Dante's arm and shuffled my feet as I made my way to the door. Slowly, very slowly, I turned the handle to the door and pushed it open, equally as slowly.
"Hi Dad." I managed to say, still partially hiding behind Dante. "You wanted to see me?"
The second I saw him my blood froze and a chill ran down my spine. He stood in the center of the room, arms folded neatly in front of his chest, brow
furrowed, a frown pulling the edges of his mouth down, down, down; straight down to hell. He was wearing a red suit with a pitch black tie and an equally black fedora. He sighed after I spoke.
"Yes. I wanted to see you. Correct." He spoke with very precise diction, a hint of a British accent, and as though each word was very carefully selected. "And, Aurora, why do you suppose I wanted to see you?"
I took a deep breath. "Because of Dante." I said, presenting the aforementioned to my father.
He nodded and began to slowly pace back and forth in front of us. "Yes...Dante...And who is Dante?"
I didn't want to stutter or hesitate- I wanted to show him that I could manage myself...kind of. "He's Collin's replacement." I struggled with that last word. Nobody could replace my Collin.
My father stopped nodding. "Ah, yes. Collin Stark- I remember him. Did you know that he didn't make it to heaven?" He knew I knew, but just liked to annoy and test me. "So then...wouldn't it be odd that he have a replacement? Especially a replacement that I neither assigned nor approved?" He asked.
That one got me. See where assuming usually got me? Yeah. "Dad, I thought-"
"Yes- you thought. You didn't know. You assumed. Again." He continued to frown. "Please explain your logic to me- I'm confused."
I was too. "Dane told me about the five new sins, and they told me that Dante was one of them too, as Collin's replacement."
"And you believed them?" He interrupted, bewildered.
"Well...it made sense..." I lowered my head.
"Um...sir?" Dante spoke up- I'd nearly forgotten that he was in the room with us. "Not to sound rude, but...who are you?"
My head shot up in alarm, waiting to see how my father would react. How could Dante not infer? Was he that thick headed, or what? Perhaps he was just being polite... Or just not assuming like I was so accustomed to doing. My father lifted an eyebrow in amusement.
"I couldn't expect you to know." He spat out the word "you". "And I'm not surprised that Aurora didn't tell you. She isn't exactly proud of me." How could I be proud of him? Did he want me to be proud of him? After all, he was-
"Lucifer." I said, the sound of my own voice surprising me. I quickly clasped my hands over my mouth to prevent any unnecessary words from escaping.
Dante half laughed- so did my father. Neither of them was being unpredictable, and I decided to just sit this next one out and let them go at it. I'd never gotten to experience bringing home a boyfriend to meet my father for the first time- after he'd learned about Dane and I (whom he'd already been well acquainted with, believe me) I'd neither had the chance to nor the desire to keep trying- but I imagined it would be a similar experience.
"That kinda figures." Dante said, smirking. "She gets her charm from you." That was insulting.
"Well aren't you a sharp one." My father said in retort. "So tell me, Dante, do you enjoy having only a partial existence?"
Dante's eyes flashed. They were beginning to lighten again, but I wasn't alarmed. Despite my hatred for him, I knew that my father would keep me safe...at least, while he was in the room with me and said danger.
"Do I get to see Nathaniel again?" My father continued. "It has been awhile. I'd like to see how well he's been upholding his part of the bargain."
The corrupt bargain- I'd nearly forgotten all about that. Nathaniel hadn't gotten off scott-free after what he did. In exchange for not sending him straight back to hell for all of eternity, he had to leave me alone. Of course, what Nathaniel didn't know was that my father couldn't damn him forever after he'd already spent time repenting here on earth as a mortal, and the crime he'd committed wasn't large enough to completely cancel everything out and earn him eternal damnation... Nathaniel also couldn't not do what he'd been sent back to earth to do, which was be around me. He'd been tricked, in a way. It seemed corrupt to me.
Dante turned away from my father, burying his face in his hands and hunching his shoulders forward. I kept my distance. He shuddered, stayed still for a moment, then returned to face my father again as Nathaniel Reeve. My father grinned.
"Nathaniel, my dear boy!" He greeted him warmly, outstretching his arms in a friendly gesture as though they were the best of pals. "It really has been too long. How is your sister doing?"
"She's in a coma." Nathaniel automatically replied. "Still. Thanks to you."
Jessica Reeve was in a coma? Since when? I used to babysit her, back before... I shook that thought from my mind before it began to spiral out of control.
My father smiled fondly at the memory. "Ah, yes. That was a rather proud moment of mine. Can't say the same for you, or poor Vladimir. Is he still in Russia?" He kept his tone very lighthearted, as though speaking to someone equally as jovial.
Nathaniel answered him through a clenched jaw. "He's to be executed next month. I'd fly out to say goodbye, but..."
"I can imagine fundings would be low due to your sister's medical bills." His voice was dripping with false sympathy- it was sickening. He really was the devil. "I feel as though I'm forgetting someone...Care to remind me?"
Nathaniel couldn't hold his rage in anymore. "What about Tessa in the insane asylum? Or Lacy- you left her somewhere in Nepal. Tracy and Sidney, I imagine, couldn't outrun all of those tigers, and if they did I'm sure that the cannibals got to them." He seethed. "I can only imagine what you have left in store for me!"
My father began to laugh- the most grating, bone chilling noise you've ever heard. Had I not been used to it I probably would've clamped my hands reflexively over my ears in an attempt to shut the sound out. "I'm sure you can't. But, we're straying from the matter of my arrival."
"Care to let us in on your plan?" Nathaniel asked sullenly.
"Can I leave?" I asked quietly.
"No." I'm pretty sure that I could've just snuck out and he wouldn't have even noticed that I was gone if I hadn't said anything, but I just had to go and open my big mouth. It always got me into trouble. I crossed my arms and leaned against a back wall.
"Who is Dante?" My father asked, directed towards Nathaniel now. "Who is he really?"
"He's me." I closed my eyes. "A split personality I developed after last year. Sometimes I black out and he takes over, but mostly he remains somewhat dormant. He's become more and more dominant as of late, however. He likes you." He was talking to me now, but I couldn't look at him.
There was a pause in the conversation- my father was thinking. Finally, he spoke. "What would you suggest I do?"
He would suggest my father leave him alone, and of course, he did. My father laughed again.
"Of course, you know I can't do that." Again, he spoke with an immense amount of false sympathy. "But here's what I can do."
I slowly opened my eyes- curious as to what was going on. I saw my father pull a small bottle from out of nowhere.
"I can keep one soul in this bottle. Whose shall it be?"
Nathaniel hesitated- his eyes darted nervously around. As he spoke, he did something that caused me to blurt out, "He's lying."
The stillness in the room was terrifying. "Pardon?"
"He's lying." I repeated for my father. I hadn't even heard what he'd said, but I knew he was lying. THat was my thing- I always knew when people weren't telling the truth. It was something I could just do. It was my thing.
"Lying." My father repeated. "Nathaniel, is this true?"
He looked more nervous now. "Don't lie again." I said. I'd know.
"Yeah, it was a lie. I'd rather you not take my own soul."
"The selfless approach. Nice try. Reverse psychology doesn't work on me- I expected you to know that... After all, I invented it." Wasn't that the same as assuming? I thought so, but apparently my father did not. "So you've decided your fate. Come with me." He began to lead Nathaniel away. I stayed rooted to the spot, scared stiff. I watched the clock intently to distract myself and tried not to listen to what was happening behind the closed door that I wasn't allowed into. The room within the room.
Lucky for me, I didn't hear anything, and was quite startled when the door swung open and both my father and Dante walked out. My father was leading, of course, with a very smug smile on his face and his fedora in his hands. Dante looked happy, I suppose, but it was a forced kind of happy, as though he really wasn't happy and was just putting on some sort of happy facade in order to... placate me? I really hoped not. That was almost as bad as lying, but not quite. At least not in these circumstances- if I was happy, he was happy, so it wasn't technically a lie. I hated loopholes.
"Fun is fun and done is done." My father said mysteriously, although I was pretty sure he quoted that from somewhere. "And now we're all straightened out. Nathaniel has been taken care of, and that means that Dante is the proud owner of one soul and one body." He grinned. "You kids have fun."
I winced, but then remembered Collin's words. He had said that when he earned his wings, Dante would come into possession of his own body. Did this mean that Collin had made it to heaven? Could I stop worrying about him (although I'd had so much on my mind lately that I wasn't really worrying that much about him, and it kind of made me feel just a tad bit guilty)? Would I never get to speak to him again? Would Dante truly take Collin's place? That thought scared me- I didn't want a Collin Stark replacement. I wanted Collin Stark.
That made me think of something else. Would the same happen to Dante? Would something happen to necessitate a replacement for him too? I didn't want to lose both my Collin and my Dante- I don't think I'd be able to handle myself after that. Then again, maybe I'd like his new replacement. But...then
eventually he'd be replaced as well. Would it never stop? Would it all continue in a vicious cycle like this? And what of Dane and the others? Would Dane be replaced to? Had I a heart, I'm sure it would've stopped at that thought. I couldn't lose both Collin and Dane. What would become of me? What about when I died? Would everything stop, or would I be replaced? Could I be replaced? My father was certainly crafty enough, there's no doubt that he'd be able to seduce another woman (or other women) and produce more than enough children. So then why hadn't that happened already? Was I the only one? I was pretty sure I was the only one of me-or at least the only one of his children. Why was that? So many questions...I knew if I'd even begun to ask he wouldn't even consider answering them all.
"Such a pleasant visit." My father said, placing the fedora back on his head and securing it safely there. "We really must do this again very soon." I thought differently.
It wasn't that I never wanted to see my father ever again, it was just that I preferred less frequent visits. The hospital I could tolerate. Him...not so much. Dante and I cordially said our goodbyes before heading out the door. I noticed that while I couldn't get out of there fast enough, his feet dragged. Dr. Woon was nowhere to be found, which I didn't think odd at all, but Dante kept looking around as though he was either looking for the doctor or he was paranoid of the doctor finding us... I didn't bring it up until after we got into the pickup truck and were headed back to town.
"Are you okay?" I asked, glancing nervously over at him.
He kept his eyes trained on the road. They were blood red- a good sign. I hoped they would stay that way forever. "I'm fine."
"Don't lie." I said sternly, frowning at him. I'd have to give him the lie talk.
He sighed heavily. "Rory...I'm sorry."
"Why?" I asked. For a split second I thought that I'd done something wrong, or that my father had made a deal with him just like with Nathaniel and the
others, but then he glanced over at me and smiled, and all of my fears melted away. He reached over and took my hand. My heart soared.
"I'm sorry for putting you through that. I didn't realize what would happenforgive me."
"Of course I'll forgive you." I laughed. "You didn't know. If I was really that bothered by it you would know." I told him. "You would feel it." He said nothing, so I kept talking. "It wasn't that bad, was it? We came out ahead in the end. Nathaniel is in a bottle in the observatory, where he belongs." I said bitterly.
Dante sighed again. "Rory, that hurts." He said. For a moment I was confused by what he meant by "that hurts", but then I knew. "Nathaniel was me. I was him. We were the same person- not like the others. It wasn't what we had thought at all."
"Why didn't Nathaniel tell you that?" I asked, shaking my head. I really could not figure out how to get into Nathaniel's head and figure him out, and that was one of the most frustrating things. "Why would he let us just keep believing that lie?"
"Just because I was him doesn't mean I understood him. He had his own motives- he only shared with me what he wanted. It wasn't as though he was reading my mind and I was reading his. I can read everyone else's mind but his." I saw pain in his red eyes- my mind flashed to Dane and the pain sewn into his green eyes. I shook him from my mind. I had to forget about him- I had Dante now, and this was much better. My father seemed to approve.
"What do you think?" I asked. "About...me?"
He pulled off of the highway and into an empty parking lot. He cut the engine and turned to look at me. He kept a playful smile on his face. “What do I think of you… Hmmm….” I rolled my eyes at him. “I don’t know Aurora, honestly. You're the girl of my dreams- everything I've ever wanted and ever hoped and dreamed for...Everything that I could ever imagine a girl could be.
But your father is..." He hesitated. "He's Satan; seriously. Your father is the devil, and I don't know that I can cope with that."
I almost felt like we were talking about marriage already. Was it a given that we were now a couple? I thought so- it seemed to me like he thought so too. Guess that answered that question.
"But I will for you." He took my hands. "I love you, Aurora." His red eyes burned into my own, lighting me on fire. I felt light headed, as though I was free falling fast. "I really really love you." Then he surprised me, which I thought was nearly impossible to do at this point in time. Gently holding my hands, he leaned in and pressed his lips to mine. I squeezed my eyes shut and grasped at his forearms, digging my nails into his flesh. He quickly pulled back, and I opened my eyes to see a puzzled expression on his face.
"What's wrong?" He asked. "I'm sorry- I'm sorry. That was out of line, I'm sorry." He took his hands back, running them through his hair and then draping them over the steering wheel, staring almost intently out at the vast parking lot in front of us.
"Dante, stop." I said softly in what I hoped was at least a somewhat reassuring tone. "It's fine- better than fine." I put my hands on his shoulder and turned him towards me again. "It's perfect." It was my turn to gently kiss him, with almost a fleeting touch. He allowed his hands to linger in mine before starting up the car and heading back towards the highway. The both of us smiled.
"So what are we supposed to do when we get back home?" He asked. He rolled down the window, allowing a pleasantly cool breeze to drift through the car. "How are you going to explain this to your little group of friends?"
"'Ch." I looked out my window, leaning on my arm which was propped up against the car door. "They aren't my friends. They want to be, but they aren't."
"What about Dane?" He asked.
"You know about all of this because of Nathaniel?" I asked. I didn't want to assume again- that always got me into trouble, and perhaps now I could learn to, you know, not assume. At least I wasn't a liar- boy would that be ironic.
"Yeah, and your father explained it all to me." He nodded. "So what will you do about Dane?"
I frowned. I didn't really like how my father told Dante everything. I wanted him to know, but I wanted to be the one to tell him. "I was going to just try and stay away from him, but it probably won't work..." I trailed off, thinking about what I'd just said. It probably wouldn't work because Dane would try to protect me at all costs. He would try to protect me from the evil that Collin had said was approaching and that we should look out for...But, now that Nathaniel was out of the picture would that change? Collin couldn't see the future- how would he have any way of knowing? Did he have some other sense or source of precognition? Maybe I would be able to ask him...Maybe; but only if he hadn't gone to heaven yet.
"So what will you tell him about us?" He asked, smirking. "You know...if it comes up."
Oh it'd come up. Dane would just know- he had a weird way of doing thatand he would definitely confront me. If I was lucky he'd at least wait until Monday and not come seek me out just to harass me...But knowing Dane, that's exactly what he would do. I sighed heavily and closed my eyes, allowing the gentle lull of driving to calm me down. "I don't know. The truth, probably; that's usually the best thing to do." Telling Dane the truth would hurt him a lot- probably more than I could imagine- but it was what needed to be done; it was what was best for everybody; especially for him. I’d do it with reluctance, but I would tell Dane the truth. I was in love with Dante. The aforementioned soon pulled off of the highway and onto the main road that would take us back home. “What about Tony?” He asked me. “What will you tell him?” I shrugged. “That I have a boyfriend; no big deal. I’m sure he won’t mind…much at least. He seems overprotective but I think he really just wants whatever the hospital wants him to want.” I realized he was kind of a
pawn- his lack of knowledge of pretty much everything was the main indicator of that. “Think he wouldn’t mind if you invited me over for dinner?” He asked, grinning. “No. But he probably would mind if you invited yourself owner…And as a matter of fact, so would I.” I laughed lightly. “But I’ll invite you. Would you like to join us for dinner tonight?” “I’d be delighted.” He pulled onto the beach and opened the door for me once he’d gotten out. We walked along the beach, hand in hand, until we reached my doorstep. As I opened the front door he let me hand go, but winked at me when I gave him a confused look. We entered together- Tony’s shoes were in the front hall- and I called out to him. “Hey- would you mind if my friend stayed for dinner?” His reply came from out back, in the garden again. All the windows in the front room and the kitchen were open, so it was a lot easier to hear him. “Yeah, as long as it isn’t your boyfriend.” I knew he was joking from his tone, but wondered secretly if he’d say the same thing had he known that it was indeed my boyfriend. Dante looked at me sideways; I smiled and lead him out back. As I’d known, Tony was gardening, like always. “Tony, this is Dante. Dante, Tony.” I introduced the two. Tony stood, brushed his work slacks free of any soil, stuck his trowel in the dirt, and shook Dante’s hand. “It’s a pleasure. So how long have you two been going out for?” He said it as a joke, but Dante answered him with complete seriousness. “All week.” I didn’t know if it was an estimation or the actual number of days, but it sounded pretty good to me…and by pretty good I meant that I had no idea he’d be so forward and it alarmed me. I was almost afraid to see how Tony would react to this. There was no way he’d be able to think that Dante was joking along with him, although the latter did tend to surprise me with his demeanor. “All week.” Tony repeated, as though he didn’t believe it. “And this is the first I hear of it?” He didn’t seem angry; more or less disappointed, but not angry. He was rarely ever angry at me. Nonetheless, I shrunk back away from him, trying to hide behind Dante. “Well we’ve both been busy this week…And hey, at least I brought him home within the first month- most parents aren’t treated this well. I’m so good to you.” I tried to keep the attitude of the situation very lighthearted, but it didn’t seem to be working very well. Tony narrowed his eyes at me.
“Let’s come into the house and talk about this.” He gestured to the door. “Please. After you, sir.” I pouted slightly, but he ignored me. Luckily, Dante listened to him and went first into the house with Tony following and me after that, closing the door and locking it behind me. Maybe I shouldn’t have locked the door, just in case we needed to make a quick escape. It was a joke, but it could’ve easily become a realistic situation. Tony led Dante to our kitchen table and motioned for him to sit, which he did. I did as well, next to Dante, and I carefully put my hand on his knee, showing Tony that I was serious about this and that I cared for him. Maybe this gentle display of affection would get through to Tony and he’d go easier on the two of us. “So you two are dating.” He said, leaning up against the kitchen counter, staring at us. “I guess I’m not shocked or anything. You’ve been gone a lot lately- I’d thought a boy was involved, but I’d never guessed you had an actual boyfriend. You don’t seem like the boyfriend type.” What was that supposed to mean? “Like I would be more inclined to sleep around than to actually date or commit?” I asked. “Tony, that’s insulting. Take it back!” Tony stayed serious as well as Dante had. “I never said that- I only said that you don’t seem like the boyfriend type. That could mean a lot of different things.” “Well what do you want it to mean?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. I liked how easily I was turning the tables on him, but didn’t expect it to last very long. Tony sighed. "That doesn't matter right now. I want to have a serious talk about this whole 'boyfriend' thing. You've never had a boyfriend before, and I want to lay down some ground rules." He was talking as though Dante wasn't sitting right there in front of him... Oh, and I had had a boyfriend before; just not while he was in charge of my life. Collin was much more lenient with me, but then again, he understood the circumstances... all of them. Maybe if Tony was in on it then he'd be more understanding and be a little less harsh on me, but since that wasn't the case... Well, a girl can dream, can't she?
"I'd be more than happy to abide by any kind of rules that you'd want to lay down for us." Dante said very helpfully. "Sir." He added, just to be safe. It was a good mood- Tony liked to be recognized for his greatness as a doctor.
"Good. First, I have a ten o clock curfew for weeknights. Midnight for weekends, but I expect you to check in with me at ten at the latest. Second, if you take her out I need time periods, methods of transportation that you plan on taking, and the locations you plan to be at and directions on how to get there from this house. Third, permission is to be granted for any sort of date. No more of this 'oh hey Tony, I'm going out with my boyfriend'- NO. No spontaneity. Fourth, if you take trips out of town, I will go with you. End of story. Does that sound reasonable for now?" For now? Yeah that sounded pretty reasonable, but did that 'for now' mean that he would be adding more later, or that he would become more lenient as time went on? I really wished for the latter. The both of us nodded and replied with a "Yes sir." He seemed placated. "Good. Now, who wants dinner?" The both of us smiled at that prospect and agreed to dinner. "Then get out of my kitchen." He waved his hand impatiently at us and we scampered out and into the living room.
"See? Wasn't that fairly painless?" Dante asked me once we were safe on the couch.
I shrugged. "I suppose; fairly painless. Too many rules though, if you ask me." I never really liked rules. If he'd worded it differently though, like "I wish you wouldn't just spontaneously tell me plans you've already made" or something like that then I'd still abide by his wishes, but since he said the "r" word I was less inclined to listen to him.
Dante laughed. "I thought it was pretty reasonable. We still get to spend our school day together."
"Yeah- around the vultures." By vultures I meant Dane and his crew; he got the hint. He dropped that subject like a hot potato- he was a fast learner.
He wrapped his arm around my midsection and pulled me closer to him. "Would you like to try that again?" He asked me coyly. For a split second I thought of Nathaniel, but the warmth of his arm around me reminded me who I was with, and I instantly calmed.
"Try what again?" I asked lazily, my eyelids beginning to droop. It'd been a long day, despite the fact that it was barely five thirty. I was hungry and tired- all I wanted to do was eat and then fall asleep in Dante's arms... Although I doubted that Tony would let that happen. Oh well; you can't win 'em all, and I knew better than most that you can't always get what you want.
"This." He shifted so that I was no longer leaning against him, but now sitting up a bit. I opened my eyes, a little peeved that he'd disrupted my comfortable position, but all of my ill feelings vanished when I saw the look in his eyes.
"Oh, that." I said nearly breathlessly as he tilted my head up with his index finger guiding my chin and pressed his lips to mine again. This time I didn't panic- this time it wasn't my first kiss- and I melted into his touch. The sound of someone clearing their throat made us jump. Tony was standing in the hallway between the kitchen and the living room with his hands on his hips.
"I don't want to see any of that. I don't care if you do it, but I don't want to see and I don't want to know; got it?" He asked. We both nodded quickly- I could feel my cheeks growing redder in an embarrassed blush. "Dinner's ready."
Well after that the night would just be terribly awkward. We sat down and ate in a horrible silence, and when we were done Dante decided to leave. I didn't blame him.
"I'll walk you out." I told him. "I mean..." I winced and turned to Tony. "May I walk him to his car?"
Tony groaned and dropped his head to the kitchen table. He waved his hand at me. "Just go."
Grinning, I grabbed Dante's arm and nearly dragged him out of the house. Now it was dark outside, and I clung madly to him. I'd forgotten a sweater, and his warmth was very comforting.
"I suppose I owe you a thanks." I said as we slowly walked along the beach towards the pickup truck, reluctant to let each other go. "For convincing me to invite you to dinner. It was good we got that out of the way early. I suppose the worst is over now."
"See? I know what I'm talking about. Kinda. Most of the time. It's about fifty fifty."
I laughed at him; I couldn't help it. He laughed too, so that made it okay, and he pulled me into his arms and we both walked very awkwardly along the beach in each others arms. When we eventually made it to the truck he kissed me quickly once more before winking and getting inside of the truck, then driving away. I watched him go with an immense amount of reluctance before heading back to my own house, quietly closing the door behind me. When I got back, Tony was at the kitchen table sipping from a steaming mug. I assumed it was coffee, but there I go assuming again. I really needed to figure out a way to break that habit and fast. I couldn't afford to get in any more trouble like I had been lately.
"I like him." He said to me without looking up once he noticed that I'd entered the kitchen. I got my own mug from the cupboard and poured myself some of whatever was sitting in the pot on the counter. It was coffee. I took mine black and joined him at the table.
"Really?" I asked. "Because you couldn't tell." To myself I sounded angry at him, which I kind of was, but I didn't want to be angry at him. He really hadn't done anything to deserve my scorn- I knew he was only trying to look out for me, which was really a very thoughtful gesture.
"Well you know; I don't want him to get too cocky." He said with a slight smile as he continued to sip. "But I do like him. I like him for you- it looks like he really makes you happy."
I didn't say anything; only sipped at my own mug. Eventually, fed up with the silence, I stood and went to my room, closing the door, turning out the light,
and climbing into bed to turn in for the night. I slept ridiculously well that night, despite it only being about seven o clock when I decided to hit the sack. I woke up early though, at about six thirty. I opted for a walk on the beach. While I was out, who would I happen to run into but Dane. Oh goody, just the person that I did not want to see.
"Good morning." I said cordially. I didn't want to see him, but I wasn't going to be rude about it. I wasn't that sort of person- not a Nathaniel or a Tessa (I really hated her; I think she deserved whatever horrible punishment my father bestowed upon her... if I wasn't already Lucifer's daughter, I was pretty sure I'd be going to hell for some of the things I thought and wished upon people).
"We need to talk." No beating around the bush for Dane Warren; not now, not back then, not ever. It was kind of annoying how blunt he was, but it was also one of the things that had initially attracted me to him. Funny how those things work. "Now."
I decided to play innocent until he came right out and accused me, because I knew he was going to do it eventually; sooner rather than later. "Talk about what?" We began to walk along the beach together, very slowly, past my house and towards the harbor.
"Nathaniel." He said. Well that was close enough. Or was he referring to what my father had done to Nathaniel? Would he have known about that? Did my father tell him? Probably, but I wasn't about to start assuming again. I made an oath to stop assuming, starting that day. "He's gone."
"Did my father tell you that?" I asked, just to be sure. Nobody said I couldn't have hunches. Nobody ever really got in trouble for having hunches, just as long as they didn't act upon them, and I was definitely not about to do something stupid like that; I'd learned my lesson.
Dane nodded. "He came to me last night. I was very shocked- I did not think that I would see your father in circumstances such as these, and I was not exactly pleased by his visit." I don't think I ever knew anybody who was or
would be pleased by a visit from the devil. "And then he explained the whole situation to me."
The whole situation? What was 'the whole situation'? I asked him so.
"The whole situation about Nathaniel and Dante." He said very slowly and carefully. His speech now began to remind me of my father- each word selected very carefully from a plethora of others in order to convey a very specific and precise point. "And your relationship with Dante." My dad gave my ex boyfriend all of the dirty details about my new boyfriend. Nice.
"Okay." I really had no clue what to say to him at this point. What did he expect me to say? Did he want some sort of justification for my actions? If so, I really was going to disappoint him. What was I supposed to justify? Loving someone more than him? He really needed to learn how to deal; especially since I ordered him to. "And? What do you want to know from me? You said we needed to talk, but it sounds like you have all of the information that you need. What do you need me for?"
"Dammit, Aurora!" He suddenly exclaimed, stopping very abruptly and turning towards me. "This isn't working!" He said. "You are not working!"
I wasn't working? Working like what? How was I supposed to work? How did he want me to work? I wasn't aware that I was beginning to malfunction. I stayed calm, despite how worked up he was becoming. "Could you explain that to me, please? I don't think I understand." I tried to maintain a neutral expression on my face, and judging from his reaction, it was working pretty well.
He struggled with himself for a second, grabbing his head and turning himself away from me. "I can't!" He said through a clenched jaw, as though he was fighting with himself. For a moment in time my heart panged and called out to him like it used to. Back in the old days, when he got really bad, I would feel this ridiculously horrible ache in my heart and all through my chest for him and I would try to do anything and everything to make him feel better. Now that I was feeling this again, I worried. I was not having second
thoughts- I was definitely choosing Dante over him- but it was causing old, good memories to resurface.
He eventually took a long and shuddery breath to calm himself, and turned back to me. His eyes were narrowed and his breath was coming along unevenly through a clenched jaw still, but he still faced me. I was impressed. "I can't tell you."
"You ordered me not to tell you!" He snapped, golden eyes furious.
"Forget what I said before- tell me."
He closed his eyes and his jaw relaxed. "Forget what you said before." When he opened his eyes again they'd returned to their typical green, much to my disappointment. That meant that he'd forgotten everything I'd told him before. I should've been more specific. "I can't stop loving you." He said very slowly. I closed my own eyes and felt his arms wrap around me, smothering me in his frigid embrace. "I want you back."
I was really hoping he wasn't going to say that. Since when did he want me back? Since Dante came into the picture and I started loving him? Yeah that figures. But this put me in between a rock and a hard place. I loved both of them. Who did I love more? It was difficult for me to tell. "I can't." I managed to say. "I can't take you back."
"Why?" He snorted. "Because of Dante?"
I was mad that he was trying to pin this on Dante- it wasn't his fault. "No." I replied angrily, worming out of his grasp. "Well partially, yes. What am I supposed to do? 'Thanks but no thanks- I thought I loved you but I really love Dane more so I'm going back to him even though it's forbidden and will only
end in disaster again'." I asked mockingly, knowing that was kind of what he expected me to do. I laughed bitterly.
He scowled at me. "I didn't ask you to do that." He had implied it though, and I knew him too well to think anything else. It wasn't an assumption, it was a hypothesis I'd developed based on previous evidence... or something like that.
"But it is what you want me to do." He had no comeback for that one; I was right, as usual. "And I'm telling you that I won't do it."
"So then what will you do?" He asked, carefully raising an eyebrow.
"I'm going to keep walking and pretend that this conversation never happened." I almost added 'and so will you', but I wanted to see first how he'd react to that.
"So you'll lie to yourself?" He asked smugly, now smirking and folding his arms in front of his chest.
A look of shock crossed my face. "Lie? Me? I don't lie; especially not to myself. I thought you of all people would know that." I didn't lie to myself, did I? Not intentionally, anyway.
"You don't typically." He admitted. "But you are now. You love me more than you love him; maybe you don't realize it now, but I know you do. Ask anyone and they'll tell you the same exact thing."
"I don't believe you." But he wasn't lying to me; then again, it was his opinion, and unless he was lying about what he believed to be true... Just because he believed it didn't make it a fact, and I was relying on that. "You have no idea what you're talking about- you don't even know Dante."
"I knew Nathaniel, and I believe that is good enough." He said simply. "Please forgive me for wasting your morning; I'll leave you to your thoughts now, and you can give me your final word tomorrow; physics." He said, walking away from me. By now we had reached the harbor. I sighed. I’d already given him my final word, yet he insisted I think about it. Was he hoping I’d change my mind if I thought about it over night? Obviously. He was in for a rude awakening. I headed back home.
When I got there, an old lady that I sort of recognized but couldn’t name was sitting at my kitchen table with Tony. Benji, Sam, Alex, Daniel, and Patty were sitting on my couch. I looked awkwardly at them as I passed through the living room and entered the kitchen. “Hello?” I asked. Tony had his head hung low and was clutching a cup of coffee in both of his hands. His knuckles were white. “What’s going on?”
The woman turned to look at me. “Who are you?” She asked. “Who are you?” I shot back, glaring at her. “This is Madame Mari Nowon.” Tony said, still keeping his head down, “She came here to explain things to me.” My breath caught in the back of my throat. “Things? Like every thing?” I asked. I was scared now. Did Tony know about every thing? What would the hospital do if they found out? Would my father have to intervene again? I don’t think I could handle seeing him twice in the same week. He sighed. “Yes, Aurora. She told me every thing.” I winced, and was instantly enraged at Madame Nowon. Who was she to come into my home, my life, and disrupt things like this? “Why are you here?” I asked her, my hands tightening into fists. “The poor boy needed to know.” She replied simply. “That he was living with the daughter of the Prince of Darkness.” That was another reason I didn’t really like my father- I was always guilty by association. What had I done wrong? “You don’t understand.” But who was I to try and explain? It wasn’t my place.
“Don’t understand what?” Tony asked, looking up at me. I recognized the look in his eyes- it was fear. He was afraid of me? Or was he afraid of my father? “Rory, you lied to me.” “I never lied to anyone.” I said quickly, defensively. It wasn’t like he’d asked me, “Rory, is your father the devil?” That’d be something entirely different. “She must be laid to rest!” Madame Nowon suddenly proclaimed, standing up and raising her arms into the air with her palms facing the ceiling. “I shall exorcise the demon!” She closed her eyes and began some sort of chant. I wasn’t sure if she knew what she was talking about, so I didn’t expect it to work, but I still didn’t like it. Tony stood by wide eyed and open mouthed, simply gaping at her ritual. A loud buzzing noise rang in my ears, and I squeezed my eyes shut while clamping my hands over my ears. Maybe whatever she was doing was working; what was happening to me? I heard a loud crash, followed by a thud, and the buzzing noise stopped. I opened my eyes. Madame Nowon was lying on the ground, unconscious, and Patty was standing over her body with the table amp from the dining room in both of her hands. She was breathing very heavily. “Oh my God.” Tony managed to say. He hadn’t fainted yet- I never knew he was the strong willed. Patty turned to me. “Go find Dante.” She instructed. “I think you’ll be safest with him.” I was puzzled. “Dante? Why would you think-“ “I saw you with him.” She said. “A few days ago.” Was she spying on me? Creepy. “You two are really in love; I can tell.” Yeah, as though I was going to trust her judgment on this topic. “So I trust him. He’ll take the best care of you; now go.” She didn’t have to tell me a third time. I bolted. Having no idea where to go, however (I failed to think this plan through), I instead went to the cemetery. What I saw there made me physically ill. Collin’s grave had been dug up. His head stone was split in half- the dirt surrounding the grave up turned. “Wh-Who..?” I feared that if I opened my mouth I’d throw up. “It was me.” I recognized that voice. All of my fears, my anxiety, all of my ailments had vanished. That voice made all of the demons and all of the monsters go
away. I turned around, tears in my eyes, to a grinning Collin Stark- my Collin Stark. “Hey babe. Miss me?” I ran- propelled myself into his arms. He wrapped them around me and a warm, old feeling returned- came flooding back to me so fast that all of the blood rushed to my head. I felt safe. “I guess so.” He laughed. “You can let go now.” “No.” I whispered in his ear. “No I can’t let go now- not again.” Very gently- with more love than I’d ever received from anyone else beforehe pulled me off of him and took my face in his hands. His chocolate brown eyes sparkled at me. “I’m not going anywhere anymore.” He said before kissing me warmly on the forehead. I felt a few tears sill onto my cheeks. He carefully wiped them away with his fingers, brushing his knuckles against my cheeks before pulling me back to his chest and holding me. “God I missed you.” He murmured. “You just can’t stay out of trouble, can you?” He asked; his was tone light and playful. I scowled, burying my face in his shirt.” Sure I can.” “You just don’t seem to like to.” He knew me too well. That was my Collinknew me inside and out, and that was how I wanted it. Wouldn’t have had it any other way. “So that’s why I’m here.” “My dad brought you back?” I asked. I’d completely forgotten all about the situation back at home with Tony and Madame Nowon. “I was surprised too. Never thought your old man liked me so much.” I could practically see his smile in my mind. I looked up and saw it with my own two eyes. A smile forced its way onto my face. “I should get to work, then.” He sighed, letting his arms fall glumly to his sides. The perfect smile remained on his face. “Are you coming with me?” He already knew the answer to that question. I latched onto his arm and followed obediently as he made his way out of the cemetery and towards my house back on the beach. When we stepped inside, Madame Nowon screamed. “There he is! It’s the Lord come to vanquish the evil in this house! He has the girl with him..See how she clings to him as though begging for forgiveness?!”
The Lord? What was she talking about? I knew that she meant Collin, but Lord? I looked up at his face- it was a mask of stony indifference. Did he know what she was talking about? Well, he could read her mind, so of course the answer was a yes. “Mari, leave this place.” He said slowly, in a low voice. “Leave and never return- you must train your mind to keep your thoughts out of this town.” She looked up at him, wide eyed, with a certain kind of reverence. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Tony standing in the kitchen with his back up against the refrigerator and Patty’s crew huddled together in the corner. What had she done to them? The same thing she was trying to do to me? I felt bad for them. How long had it been since she’d regained consciousness? “Yes, master.” She said slowly, after mulling the idea around in her head for a moment. “I shall leave now and never return if it is what you wish.” And she did. Slowly, she walked past us and out the front door, vanishing as she turned out onto the beach. I sighed in relief. Collin was sighing too. “Who was she?” I asked. He shrugged. “A psychic, I guess. No one that significant though. Your old man and my old man both wanted her out of the way.” The first part of his last statement made sense. My dad wanted a lot of people out of the way. But Collin’s father? Who was that? “Don’t worry about that right now.” He told me. “We should take care of them.” He nodded towards Patty and the others. “Is that Big D’s new fling with the red hair?” He asked. I nodded and he winced. “Sorry.” “It’s okay.” I muttered. It really wasn’t okay, but I had to put on a fake smile, for them at least. Collin knew how I really felt. We walked over to them. “Can you stand?” Collin asked. They all stood. “What happened?” “She threatened to send us back to hell if we didn’t listen to her.” Benji said. “So we did.” He glared at me. They were all glaring at me. “This is all your fault.” Sam hissed. His words didn’t surprise me. Everything was always my fault. “If it wasn’t for you then maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess… and he wouldn’t be alive.” When Sam said “he” he nodded towards Collin. “What do you mean?” I asked. I didn’t understand their hatred for Collin. He hadn’t done anything to them. “He’s just like you- he’s envy.”
“No.” Alex said. “Not just like us. Dante is just like us- he’s the real envy. Collin isn’t one of us.” “They’re right, Aurora.” Collin said gently. “But they should mind their own business.” His voice had an edge to it. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge. “Let’s go.” Daniel said, leading them out. As they filed one by one out of my house, Patty caught my eye. I thought I saw…jealousy? Why would anybody be jealous of me? I ignored it. “What about Tony?” I whispered. He was still standing by the fridge in the kitchen. “Walk with me.” We too left the house. It was warm and sunny on the beach. We walked to the harbor and both sat down on the dock. “I’m not who you think I am.” Collin said to me. “But, in my defense, I didn’t know who I was until after I’d died, so I never lied to you.” That much I knew. Collin was incapable of lying to me. “Dane isn’t either.” He continued. “But he doesn’t know it; let’s come back to him.” I nodded in agreement. “I’m not one of the seven deadly sins. I’m not a sin- I’m not even a sinner.” He confessed. “I’m the son of God.” The son of God. I replayed those words in my mind over and over again, but I was still unable to fully comprehend them. “Pardon?” “I know how it sounds. I didn’t believe it at first either. Rory, I’m the reincarnation of Jesus.” He said. He was trying to mask a smile, but it wasn’t working very well. He wanted to smile- he was proud of who he was. His happiness was contagious; I found myself beaming at him. “Collin, I’m so proud of you.” He’d gone from a little boy whose sole purpose in life was to protect the daughter of Satan to the son of God. When I thought about it, it all made perfect sense. Who else would Lucifer entrust his only child? He pulled me into his arms again. “Things are going to be a lot better from now on. I promise.” He didn’t need to promise me. I already knew it to be true. “What about Dane?” I asked. “You mentioned that he’s not who I think he is…So who is he?” “He’s the anti Christ.” Now that I had problems believing. “The anti Christ.” I repeated. “How?” “Oh come on Rory- you know him better than that. Just think about it for a second; he’s a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. And that only makes sense, doesn’t it? The son of God and the anti Christ as the two protectors of
the daughter of Satan.” He said, lying back and folding his arms behind his head. “So what does the anti Christ job entail?” I asked casually, lying back with him. The sky overhead was a perfect, cloud less blue. A good omen? I hoped so. “I understand the Christ position and I’m Satan’s daughter, so…” I trailed off, letting him fill in the blank. “He’s kind of like Lucifer’s apprentice.” I closed my eyes. “Oh. Does he know who he is?” “Probably, but I’m not sure. My father didn’t tell me.” The way Collin spoke of his father was the exact opposite of how I spoke of my father- with pride and respect. I was kind of jealous. “Should we tell him?” He sighed. “We should.” I heard him stand up, so I followed him with a bit of reluctance. I kind of didn’t want to see him. “He’d probably be at the church.” He said to me. “He’s been spending a lot of time there recently. I think the only reason he’s even allowed to go in there is because you gave him permission to in the first place.” “Why am I allowed in there?” I wondered aloud. “Kind of odd, I think.” Collin smiled at me. “You aren’t guilty by association, Rory. You haven’t done anything to deserve banishment from heaven.” This was news to me. Then he continued. “That isn’t to say that your father won’t fight tooth and nail to keep you out, though.” I saw that one coming, and conceded silently. When we got to the church and went inside, Dane was there, standing in front of the crucifix and standing upwards. I was almost afraid to speak or interrupt him- he almost looked peaceful… but not quite. Collin cleared his throat and Dane turned around to face us. A look of shock quickly crossed his face, before returning to its typically stoic expression. “Collin.” He said simply, approaching us. Collin grinned. “Hey Big D.” He said, warmly embracing Dane. Their relationship always amazed me- they were like brothers. “Or should I start calling you AC now?” “Very funny.” Dane grunted, not looking at me. So he did know. “He’s always known.” Collin said. Dane looked away from the both of us. “You should’ve told us.” I said to Dane bitterly.
“I wasn’t supposed to say anything.” He grumbled defensively. “It was part of the big plan.” “The big plan to do what?” I asked. “Me.” Collin said. “To kill me and then bring me back to life.” I really didn’t understand that, but I don’t think I’d fully comprehend it even after a bunch of people tried to explain it to me. “Well we just wanted to let you know what was going on.” I said quietly, even though I wasn’t entirely sure of that myself. It was silly, but I was afraid of angering him. I shouldn’t have been- what would he do to me? Well for one he was the anti Christ… Did that change things? Collin put his hand on my shoulder, to calm me down, I suspected. “We’ll be going, then.” Collin said, taking my hand and beginning to leave. “Wait.” The sound of Dane’s voice stopped the two of us. I felt his hand take my free one. “We need to talk.” How many times had I heard that in the past week? Too many times. Collin was hesitant to let me go, but he did it eventually. “I’ll wait for you outside.” He told me. I caught his gaze, held it for a brief moment, and then turned to Dane. His dark green eyes were hard like emeralds and pierced straight through me. In that one moment I’d lost any ounce of confidence that I’d ever had…which wasn’t very much to begin with, but still. “Yes?” I asked meekly, bringing my free hand up to my chest. He still had my right hand, and it didn’t seem as though he was planning on letting go any time soon. His hand was cold- much colder than I’d ever remembered it being before. “I don’t like this?” He said vaguely. “Don’t like what?” I asked. I was used to his nonsense, so this didn’t quite come as a surprise to me. “Giving you a choice.” That one kind of threw me off guard. “I left you with a choice… the last time I saw you.” Oh. That. “But to be fair, I haven’t been completely honest with you.” Here we go again. “You have not had the power to control me ever since Collin died. I had to put on a show for you so that you wouldn’t find out.” “So when I ordered you to forget me…” I started breathing faster, shallower. My eyes widened and my hands began to tighten into fists. The one holding his hand couldn’t make it, so I dug my nails into the flesh they found.
“I did not.” I kind of saw this coming, but I still didn’t wish to hear those words. He pulled me by the hand and into his arms, wrapping them tightly around me. “I can’t let you go.” “You have to.” I said blatantly, standing limp in his arms. I wasn’t going to struggle out of his grip, but I wasn’t going to reciprocate his affection either. “We’ve already tried this- it doesn’t work. You said it yourself: we aren’t supposed to be together.” “That was a lie.” I remained still, though my shock was probably evident through my subtle body language: how I went rigid in his arms and rocked backwards. “But you-“ “I didn’t know it either. Your father is the one behind this whole thing.” As if I didn’t already know that one. He was usually behind everything. “Think.” I thought. Why had I left Dane in the first place? Because of what had happened leading up to Collin’s death. But what had really happened? It’d started with Nathaniel… He was supposed to protect me too, but from what? Collin and Dane were already protecting me from him. So then what’d he do? He killed Collin Stark. He thought that if he killed Collin he’d be able to get closer to me, but Dane and Max had figured out what he was up to and tried to stop him…They failed. Collin died and the resulting trauma that I’d had was what caused the hospital to decide to send me off to the mountains to recuperate for a year. I’d left Dane to protect him- I didn’t want what happened to Collin to happen to him. “You love me.” He whispered. I squeezed my eyes shut to trap the tears that were trying to escape. “I do.” I whispered back. “I do.” I had to. We were meant to be together. I’d seen it from the beginning, and now it would only make sense, right? Satan’s daughter and the anti Christ. “Then marry me.” My head shot up and my hands flew to his chest. “Marry you?” I repeated. I was eighteen- sure it was legal for me to get married, but that didn’t mean that I wanted to. “I’m not-“ “You might have to.” My father wanted us to get married. “Do you want to get married?” I couldn’t believe I was actually asking him that and being serious about it. “’Ch.” He turned his head to the side. I heard his neck crack. “It doesn’t matter to me. I can go without but it really wouldn’t be the end of the
world…” He trailed off and sniffed. I knew him well enough, and I knew that he wanted a wedding. I sighed in defeat and rested my head back on his chest. “I guess it wouldn’t kill me.” I mumbled, praying to God that he wouldn’t hear me. Of course, he did. “Thank you.” I wiggled out of his grip, as nice as it was to be in, and took his hand. “Collin’s waiting outside.” I reminded him. Dane nodded and allowed me to lead him out of the church, but stopped me before we exited. “Let’s not tell.” He suggested. “To keep up appearances for… the others.” “Collin will know.” I said. “Not from him.” He meant Patty and the others. I frowned. He sighed. “This is a need to know situation and they don’t need to know.” He explained. “But she likes you.” He meant Patty again. “And you know what’s real and what isn’t.” He leaned in and kissed me very gently on the lips. My face grew warm and I felt tears sting at my eyes again. I quickly wiped them away as he opened the church door and the sun shone down on us. Collin was there, waiting patiently. “You guys ready to go?” He asked, taking his hands out of his pockets and draping his arm across my shoulders. “I’m thinking lunch? I’ve been alive for…” He checked his watch. “Fourteen hours now, and I have yet to have eaten everything. Blue Moon alright with you guys?” The Blue Moon was the only diner in our small town, so it wasn’t as if we had any other choice. “Just like old times, right?” He asked, grinning. Both Dane and I laughed. He’d been gone for way too long. “Just like old times.” Dane repeated, taking my hand. I recognized this feeling- the same feeling I’d had when I first saw Collin earlier that day. I felt safe. The three of us spent the rest of the night together- after eating at the diner we went to the harbor and all sat down on the dock. “Do you think we’ll have more moments like this from now on?” I asked as we all laid back and watched the setting sun. “I hope so.” Collin said, yawning. “Definitely just like the good old days.”
I silently agreed. I’d grown used to believing that good times don’t last forever, but now I was starting to think that they could. As soon as the sun fully set the three of us stood. “Where will you go?” I asked Collin. “It isn’t like you can just crawl back into your hole in the ground for the night.” I wanted to bring him home with me, but I needed to see how Tony was handling things thus far. I didn’t want to push it. He kissed my forehead. “I’ll be at the church tonight. Come visit me if you can’t sleep.” I nodded, gave him one last hug, and then he was off. That left Dane and I alone together. “I’ll walk you home.” He said, taking my hand. In truth, I was very glad that things had returned to the way they used to be. “Thank you.” I said to him once we’d reached my doorstep. He leaned down and gently kissed me again. I kissed back. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He said. “Good night.” “Good night.” I kept my eyes on him for as long as I could while I slowly opened the door and slowly went inside. Reluctantly I finally closed the door. Walking into the living room, my mind registered something odd that I didn’t pick up on right away. As I wandered through the house looking for Tony I realized what it was: his shoes hadn’t been in the front hall when I’d walked in. He was out… or gone forever. I went into the kitchen and saw a sticky note on the fridge. “Aurora-“ It said. “We’ve taken care of him, don’t be alarmed. Starting tomorrow Collin Stark will be your guardian again. He will also start as a teacher’s assistant at your high school so as to watch over you while you are there as well, along with Dane Warren.” It wasn’t signed. I knew that it was from the hospital. I sighed and walked to my room, not bothering to close the door behind me. It was good that the hospital came to get Tony. Sure, I would miss him, but it was for the better. Not long after I climbed into bed, I fell asleep. Things in my life had calmed down drastically. At about two in the morning a knock on the front door woke me up. I groggily stumbled out of bed to answer it. It was my father. “Good morning Aurora.” He said cheerfully. His fedora was covering his face. “Dad?” I asked sleepily. “Why are you here?” I asked.
“I’ve news.” He said excitedly. “Please, don’t invite me in, for I’ve many other important things to do today.” I blinked. “I’ve just stopped by to let you know about your friend Dante.” Dante! I’d nearly completely forgotten about him! I felt really bad, my father could tell- that was why he was smiling. “What about Dante?” I asked. “Choose.” My father said; his once cheerful tone was now solemn. “I have already chosen for you, but he insists on you being given the final say.” He did not sound happy about that. “What will happen to Dante?” I asked. I was still half asleep. ”Nothing.” My father said simply. “So choose.” I glared at him. “You know who I pick.” I said simply before closing the door in his face. I stumbled back to my room and fell back asleep. Yes, things were getting much better.
Part Two: Which Is Confusing and Told from the Third Person The next morning passed normally for Aurora; she went to Calculus and sat next to Patty as per usual, went to Government but stayed away from Dante as she’d previously done with Nathaniel, and then went to English and took a nap before lunch. When lunch came she spied a familiar face searching for someone in the halls. “Collin!” She called out. He turned to her and grinned, making his way towards her. “You have to call me Mr. Stark here.” He said, walking with her towards the lunch room. She rolled her eyes. “Sorry Mr. Stark. I didn’t remember that you’d be here.” “The note on your fridge?” He asked. He didn’t need to ask- he saw the picture perfect image of it in her mind… But he always made it seem like an assumption by accident, and he knew how much Aurora hated assumptions.
She nodded as they approached the table where Dane was already seated with Patty and their other four friends. Aurora took a seat next to Dane and Collin sat on her opposite side, in between her and Alex.
Patty looked over at Aurora, who was grinning from ear to ear. Collin was grinning in a similar manner, his arm around her shoulders. She wanted to frown, but knew better than that. Patty knew that Dane still liked Rory- a little more than she was comfortable with- and in order to stay on his good side she had to be friends- or least try to be friends- with Aurora. It sucked, but it was worth it. Collin Stark heard everything in Patty’s mind. He was used to listening in, keeping tabs on everybody, but once he heard Patty he tuned everybody out. It was just like eavesdropping…but there was no way he would get caught. “Thinks she’s so perfect.” Patty thought bitterly. Collin could tell that she was only jealous- she noticed the subtle things: Dane was less stoic and was more open with his group of friends- he sat closer to Aurora than he sat to Patty, and though their hands were intertwined, there was no meaning behind it. She felt alienated. Collin sat, watched, and listened as Patty remembered how she’d first met and fallen hopelessly in love with Dane Warren… It’d started a year ago- she’d known previously who he was from her freshman year, but he’d failed to notice her at all as a sophomore… It was all because of his girlfriend- Aurora Lockhart. She’d been the one everybody wanted to be friends with, the one who’s name everybody wanted to know, the one who’d just been everywhere doing everything. Patty instantly hated her- she wanted what she had (Dane) and simply just wanted to be her. So during that first year she lurked- she had her team of Alex, Benji, Sam, and Daniel- and they watched their counterparts, especially Dane Warren and Collin Stark. Nathaniel had come out of nowhere to them- they were still in training to replace Max and the others- and so Collin’s death was much more than a surprise. None of them shed any tears for him- he wasn’t connected to them in any way. He was more of an outsider than Patty had become. That summer, Aurora disappeared, and Patty saw her chance. Patricia Lovelace would replace Aurora Lockhart at Dane Warren’s side. She approached him one late night when she saw him going into the church. She followed him in and saw him on his hands and knees at the altar in front of the crucifix, head bent low, and praying- mumbling under his breath. At the time, she thought that he had been crying. Later, she learned that her guess was very accurate. She never saw Dane Warren cry again; she looked back on that moment with a certain fondness in her heart. She stayed silent in the church that night- she knew he knew that she was there- and waited very patiently until he stood, collected himself, and walked over to her. Her breath caught in the back of her throat as he approached her. “What are you doing here?” He’d asked; his eyes were livid, voice stone cold and low; low as hell.
She hadn’t known how to respond to that, so she stood there, trembling. “I only- I just thought that…” She trailed off, unable to continue. He surprised her, then, by doing something that she’d thought he’d been incapable of since Aurora’s sudden leave and Collin’s death: he smiled. He smiled at her and gently put his hand on her head, looking deep into her eyes. Here eyes were green too, just like his, and he smiled fondly down at her. He walked past her without another word and lingered at the entrance of the church. “You can find me here on most nights.” He said to her, hinting at something. “Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if you started to.” Patty toyed with the idea as he left her alone in the church. If she started to find him on most nights? That was an invitation. He was inviting her to him, wasn’t he? What did this mean? She became more excited. The next day, she went looking for Dane. School had already gotten out, so it was a bit harder to find him. She knew he wouldn’t be in the church during the day- there were people in there, priests included- so she tried everywhere. She finally found him on the beach, at the harbor, sitting down on the dock. She silently sat down beside him, waiting for him to speak first to recognize her presence. “I see you’ve taken my advice to heart.” He finally said to her. “At least in some way. Not exactly what I’d expected, but maybe you’re just the impatient type.” He tried to chuckle, but she could tell that it was half hearted and bitter instead of warm and from the heart. “She was never as impatient as you.” The way he spoke of Aurora was though she was dead- he didn’t speak of Collin at all. He was reacting to this situation very radically. It disturbed Patty, but made her love him even more. She wanted to fix him, make him smile again like he did when he was with Aurora. She felt that she’d be more suited for the job of making him happy. “How am I supposed to respond to that?” She asked him. “You know who I am, don’t you?” Of course he knew who she was. He told her that. “And now that the others are gone, it’s my job to guide you and the others until she returns.” Until she returns? That mean that Aurora wouldn’t be gone forever, and that put a damper on Patty’s mood. She knew what he was talking about, though. Now that Max and the others had done their part, it was Dane’s job to guide Patty and her friends to reach the same goal. She was partially thrilled; this meant that the two of them would grow closer to each other.
Dane put his arm around Patty’s shoulders, and she reciprocated the affection by resting her head on his arm. “I should walk you home now.” That was her hint- he needed to be alone. She allowed him to do so, and as they reached her doorstep, he gently kissed her forehead before turning and wordlessly walking away. From that moment on, for every day, they met wordlessly at the harbor and sat on the dock, just watching the ocean’s waves as they lapped against the shore. An unspoken bond developed between the two of them, and their relationship silently progressed. He first told her how he felt the day before school would start- her sophomore year and his junior year. They were at the Blue Moon, for dinner, and he finally reached over and took both of her hands in his own. “Patricia,” He said. “How long has it been?” Since she’d known him? About a year. Since they’d known each other? Three months. She’d chosen the latter as her answer. “It might be too soon.” He said. “But I, too, am impatient. I love you.” She’d been so happy that she began to cry. He leaned across the table and kissed her, very gently, on the lips. She kissed him back, and saw him smile for the first time in three months. She felt her heart swell, knowing deep in her heart that she was the one, not Aurora, who’d caused that smile to resurface. She had successfully fixed him. Collin Stark, after watching all of this in her mind, began to feel a little differently for Patty. His first impression had been that she’d only felt contempt for Aurora, and was only attached to Dane in order to hurt her. Upon witnessing her beginning, he learned that she truly did have feelings for Dane, and that in return had caused disdain for Aurora. Now that the aforementioned was back as a prominent figure in his life, Patty’s hate for her had only intensified. She was doing a good job at hiding it, and she’d never truly lied to anyone about her true feelings, but Collin could tell. Collin was just inherently good at learning things about people. His only question was when would Patty learn about the repaired relationship between Dane and Aurora? Hopefully before the wedding… after would just be rude. He laughed to himself. Maybe Dane and Aurora would invite Patty to the wedding. “I’ll let her down gently.” Dane’s voice suddenly jumped out at Collin. It was always easier to hear people’s thoughts when they were directed at him. “Today. After school.” Dane and Patty had last period together: Photography. That would make things easier for him… hopefully. “That’ll be best. Do it soon and make it a clean break.” Collin said back, silently.
Dane said nothing in return. That meant agreement. As lunch ended, Collin silently passed the word on to Aurora, who silently approved. He felt the happiness radiating from her as she walked away from him, and he in turn felt happiness swell inside of him. He loved his job. The last three periods of the day passed quickly for Dane Warren, and before he knew it it was the end of the day, and he needed to break the bad news to Patty. He wasn’t looking forward to it. “Patricia.” He said softly after the bell had rung and she was beginning to exit the class room. “We need to talk.” The minute those words left his mouth, Patty knew that something bad was going to happen… to her at least. She began to tremble slightly, but then Dane rested his hand on her shoulder and made her feel alright again… if only for a little while. He walked her to the back of the school, where no one was to witness, and sighed heavily. His hands dropped down to his sides and his head dropped down. He kept his eyes trained on hers: both of them green, one pair livid and the other pair monotonous. “Patricia, I have to be honest with you.” Patty’s blood ran cold. She could practically taste a break up coming. “I can no longer be with you in such a romantic way.” He was sugar coating it. Collin would’ve frowned upon him, and he would do it later when he found out how he’d done this. “It would be in everyone’s best interest if we broke up.” “Is there still a chance for us?” She asked desperately. “Maybe later, if-“ “No.” He said. Hopefully now he could redeem himself. This would be the clean break part. “There is no chance. “We’re through forever.” “Dane, no!” She struggled with words for a moment before speaking again, desperately. “Not forever? Dane, I love you…” “I don’t love you.” He said finally, looking away. He squeezed his eyes shut. He was being semi truthful: he did love Patty, but he loved Aurora more. He was meant to be with Aurora, and he was very happy about that. He enjoyed choosing the greater of two evils; it was in his nature. “So go.” As soon as he was sure that she was gone he turned around again. Collin was there in her place. “You did good, AC.” “Don’t call me AC.” Dane grumbled, beginning to walk away. Collin laughed and followed him. “Alright then Big D. No more AC nickname- no need to tell me twice.” Even as Dane groaned at him and
began to walk towards the beach and Aurora’s house, Collin laughed whole heartedly and followed. Aurora had already left for home, and when they reached the small house on the beach the front door was open. Dane, ahead of Collin, ran inside and slammed the door. “Hey, no fair!!” Collin complained, knocking on the door yet still laughing. “It’s my home too! Dane! Rory! Let me in!!” Dane’s face appeared in the window. “No way.” He said, smirking. Aurora’s laughter could be heard from inside. “You snooze, you lose. We need some alone time together.” “No!” Collin continued to protest and pound on the front door. “You’ve been alive! You could’ve had her to yourself plenty of times! I’ve been dead!” “You live here with her! You get her all to yourself for at least nine hours more than I do!” Dane retorted, closing the blinds to the windows and going back inside of the house. Collin groaned, resorting to sitting down on the porch and resting his head against the front door. Inside, Dane returned to Aurora who was sitting on the couch and laughing so hard that tears were coming out of the corners of her eyes. “Oh poor Collin.” She sympathized, standing and peeking out of the peep hole on the door. His black mop of hair resting against the door made her laugh. Dane came up from behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “You two lovebirds make me sick.” Both Dane and Aurora jumped and turned around to see Lucifer standing in the living room with his arms folded neatly across his chest and his fedora neatly atop his head. “When’s the wedding?” Dane and Aurora looked at each other. Aurora was hoping that they’d dropped the subject and would pick it back up later… sometime after school, and then they’d have a small wedding; her father and Collin would be there of course, but other than that it wouldn’t be a big deal. Apparently her father had other plans. “Never mind.” Lucifer said. “I’ll decide for you. End of the week: Saturday. Go up to the observatory in your nice clothes and we’ll do it there.” Aurora opened her mouth as if to say something, then closed it and frowned, her eyebrows furrowing. Dane sighed heavily, averted his gaze and rubbed his forehead with his fingertips. “What time on Saturday?” He asked, keeping his head still turned to the side.
Lucifer grinned. “Noon. One thirty at the latest.” An hour and thirty minute window? That made sense to neither of them, but then again it was Satan who was organizing this wedding. Lucifer grinned when he saw both Aurora’s and Dane’s reactions. “Why don’t I talk to you? Each of you. Separately. Alone.” He raised his eyebrows at Dane. “You first, son in law.” Dane followed Lucifer into the back hall so that Aurora wouldn’t hear and so that the two of them could be alone. They turned the corner and entered Aurora’s room, closing the door behind both of them. “Let’s talk, son in law.” He said, pacing back and forth. Dane nodded and then verbally agreed. “Let’s talk.” Lucifer sighed. “My prodigy… You have no idea how hard I’ve worked on you.” He chuckled again. “Would I be putting it all to waste if I married you off to my only daughter?” Dane looked at him. “Is she really your only daughter?” Lucifer found himself at a stalemate. “You are a little too smart for your own good.” “Tell me who she is.” Dane demanded. Lucifer laughed heartily. “Nobody needs to know. Not even her, not even you, and especially not Aurora. This is why I’ll not tell you, and by proxy you will not tell Aurora.” Dane grimaced. “Logical enough, sir. Very well played. Is there anything else you need to talk to me about?” Lucifer thought about it for a moment. “No.” He led Dane out of the room and down the hall. “You pass, son in law. Good job.” When they got back to the living room he motioned for Aurora to join him. “Your turn, daughter.” Aurora slowly followed him into her own room. “I’m not in trouble, am I?” She asked warily as he let her into the room and closed the door behind him. “Because if I’m in trouble I may want to have a witness in here with us.” “You aren’t in trouble.” Lucifer said to his daughter, laying down on her bed and folding his arms behind his head. His fedora tipped forward, covering his eyes and nose but leaving his mouth free so that he could still talk to her. “I just want to… clarify a few things for you.” She sighed and leaned up against the wall, folding her arms across her chest. “Go for it. Clarify away.”
“You’re getting married in five days.” He said. “To my prodigy. Would you like any tips for living with him? I imagine it’ll be a lot like living with me.” “Which I’ve had no experience of what so ever.” She reminded him. “So yes, tips for living with the anti Christ might be helpful.” She said sarcastically. Although, she’d spent a lot of time with Dane herself so she figured that she’d been fine. “Here’s some helpful hints. Don’t pry. Don’t lie to him. Don’t expect too much. Don’t-“ “Okay dad, I get it.” She said, rolling her eyes. “I was being sarcastic.” Her father lifted his fedora and raised his eyebrows at her. “I know that. I invented sarcastic; I’m SATAN. Don’t get smart with me young ladyI’m onto you.” Aurora said nothing- there wasn’t anything that she could really say at this point. Lucifer stood and fixed his fedora, straightened his shirt and dusted off his pants. “Other than that, I really have nothing left to say to you.” “Yeah dad, that came as a huge surprise to me.” She said. Lucifer looked at his daughter. “More sarcasm? Really, I’m shocked.” The tension in the room could’ve been cut with a knife. “Love you, daughter.” He swung the door open and walked through it, leaving her alone in her room, replaying those words over and over again in her head. Love you, daughter he’d said. She was shocked. He’d never said any of those words to her before: never said “I’d love you” and never referred to her as “daughter”. She was somewhat put off by it and disturbed. It’d been what she wanted when she was younger and now that he’d actually said it she discovered that she didn’t like it much. She followed him out and rejoined Dane in the living room. Now her father was gone. “Did you have a nice conversation with your father?” Dane asked her as she walked into his open arms. She didn’t answer, and he didn’t press the matter any further. “Should we let Collin in now?” She nodded and he gently let her go, crossing the front hall to the front door and opening it. Collin fell backwards inside and hit his head on the linoleum, laughing as he did so. Both Aurora and Dane laughed along with him. “Hey, Rory, Big D.” He said, rolling over onto his stomach and propping his chin up on his hands. “At your wedding can I be best man and maid of honor?”
Dane stifled a laugh and Aurora pinched the bride of her nose, squeezing her eyes shut. “You’d be my gentleman of honor, Collin, not my maid of honor.” She corrected him. “And the wedding’s on Saturday at noon. Be ready by eleven thirty.” She pointed at Dane. “Are we inviting any of our friends, honey?” Dane asked sardonically. “What friends? You guys don’t have any friends.” Collin interrupted, rolling his eyes. Both Dane and Aurora glared at him. “No, we aren’t inviting anybody.” Aurora said to Dane. “Collin’s partially right- we don’t really have what I would call ‘friends’, and those Junior idiots are not going to our wedding.” She still didn’t want to even have a wedding, but it wasn’t looking like she had a choice in the matter anymore. “So that’s the end of that discussion.” Collin said, getting to his feet and then collapsing on the couch. “Big D, care to stay the night? As long as you guys practice celibacy it’s fine with me.” Dane and Aurora exchanged quick glances before Aurora spoke. “Oh… about that…” Collin groaned, covering his eyes. “No! No! I don’t want to hear about it! Do whatever you want as long as I don’t have to hear it!” He buried his face in one of the pillows on the couch as Dane and Aurora laughed at him. He blocked out their thoughts as well as their voices. It was going to be a long week. Saturday didn’t come soon enough for Collin Stark or Dane Warren, but it came too soon for Aurora Lockhart. Before any of them knew it, it was eleven thirty in the Lockhart/Stark house hold and both of the residents were standing in the front hall by the door, waiting for Dane to arrive. When the aforementioned finally did burst through the front door, both Aurora and Collin groaned at him. “You’re finally here!” Aurora exclaimed, grasping him by the shoulders. She stood back, examining him. “And you… look good.” She said, as though surprised. “You clean up pretty well yourself.” He said in response. “Shall we be off, then?” Collin already had one foot out the door. He had rented a car just for this momentous occasion, and he was driving, so he was eager to be on the road to get this thing done and over with. “Let’s go!” Dane was right behind him, and Aurora was too, lingering just a bit. “Excuse me for wanting to enjoy my last few moments of being a single woman.” She said, rolling her eyes and shuffling her feet.
Dane put his hand on her shoulder. “Everything will be fine… and if you keep shuffling your feet you’ll scuff your pretty little shoes.” When he turned his back on her she stuck her tongue out at him. The three of them arrived at the observatory at about twelve fifteen. The entire place looked to be cleared out, and as they entered the building they spotted Lucifer in the lobby by himself. He was wearing a red suit with a black tie and a matching red fedora. In his hands were a crucifix and a bible. He was also wearing black leather gloves. “Good job, monkeys.” He said as the three of them walked inside. “We have our bride, our groom, and our witness. Perfect. Shall we begin?” Reluctantly, Aurora nodded. Dane consented more willingly. He took both of Aurora’s hands in his own and stood facing her in front of Lucifer. “I have a shortened version of the traditional wedding vows.” Lucifer said, not even bothering to open the Bible. “Do you, Dane Warren, take Aurora Lockhart to be your wedded wife?” Both Dane and Aurora shot Lucifer a side glance. He gave them a look that said “I’m serious, now say ‘I do’.” “I do.” Dane said, staring lovingly into Aurora’s eyes. She looked back at him with the same sentiments, searching for exactly what she found: refuge. “And do you, Aurora Lockhart, take Dane Warren to be your wedded husband?” She sighed heavily. She really did love him, but was reluctant to marry him forever. “I do.” She smiled. Lucifer tossed both the crucifix and the Bible behind him. “Cool. Congratulations, love birds. Get out of my hospital.” He turned on his heel and walked into one of the back rooms. Collin clapped as Aurora nearly jumped into Dane’s arms. He wrapped them tightly around her and kissed her cheek, lifting her up off the ground. “Such a happy couple you two are.” He said, smiling fondly at them. “I am so proud.” Dane rolled his eyes at Collin; Aurora laughed and buried her face in his neck. When she had thought that her life was beginning to improve she was most definitely correct… if at least for awhile. She was both right and wrong; her happiness would not last long. Meanwhile, while Collin was driving the newlywed couple home, someone else was discovering their own supernatural powers, and testing
them. Within the hour four criminals on death row dropped dead before their time. Patricia Lovelace smiled. It was only a matter of time. She knew that she needed to wait; if she acted too soon she would be suspicious. Besides, the more she practiced the more she would discover about herself and the more fun she could have with her target before she killed her. Months passed- Patty seemed to handle the break up well enough, and when both Dane and Aurora returned to school nobody noticed a change in their relationship. They decided that they would not wear rings and that they would continue to keep their relationship a secret. June came quickly- almost too quickly for them, and soon enough they were on the same stage Collin would’ve been on two years ago in their caps and gowns to receive their graduation diplomas. Two weeks after that and Collin, Dane, and Aurora were relaxing in their living room (Dane had moved in with them, much to Collin’s dismay… he had wanted to get some sleep since returning back to life) when it happened. “I think we should all take a vacation.” Collin was saying, loafing on the sofa and flipping through a magazine. “Go into the city, or something, just to get out of this town.” That made Aurora think of Dante, and she winced briefly. She closed her eyes, and then inhaled sharply. That was her triggershe didn’t know that Dante had killed himself three months earlier, and her death was set to occur the moment that she thought of him. That moment had finally come. “Guys!” She gasped. Her eyes opened wide, and then squeezed shut again. She clutched at her throat and her chest as she convulsed while lying on the floor in front of the couch. Both Collin and Dane jumped to their feet and rushed to her side, propping her up and desperately trying to figure out what was going on. “She’s dying.” Collin concluded, backing away. He briefly heard a voice- a voice commanding her to die. It was a voice he’d heard before… Not recently, but he’d heard it before, and recognized it. He turned and approached the front door, opening it so forcefully that he nearly ripped it off its hinges and flew out the door, heading out onto the beach and towards the source of the voice: the cemetery. He got nearly halfway there when the voice spoke again: to him this time. You’ll say nothing. It commanded. His vision blurred and he heard all of the voices now: every voice he’d ever heard in his lifetime, even the ones he’d chosen to block out, both temporarily and permanently, bombarding him all at once. He couldn’t take it- he fled. Back at the house, Dane could do nothing but hold Aurora in his arms as she died. He didn’t know that it was possible for her to be killed, but he knew that this was not natural. Someone had murdered her, and now it was
his duty to figure out who that person was. As he looked up, he saw Lucifer standing beside them. “Well this was an unexpected and unfortunate turn of events.” He said with a sigh. “Give her to me.” Dane did as Lucifer had instructed. “I’ll deal with things from here on out.” He said. “All you need to do now is your job.” Without another word, he was gone in the blink of an eye. Lucifer returned to hell with his daughter’s corpse in his arms. He had a feeling that something like this would happen, not that he exactly saw it coming or anything… Still, he sighed heavily when he thought of all the paperwork he would have to fill out and decided that it would not be worth it. If he consulted God, then maybe- MAYBE- he would allow him to bring her back to life. But I wouldn’t be able to send her back up to earth… He thought to himself, grinding his teeth together. That would most definitely be considered cheating, and whilst I am a cheater, He would never allow it. He sees everything. So Lucifer decided that, to avoid the nasty piles of paperwork that were bound to be waiting for him when he returned to his office, he would consult God, bring his daughter Aurora back to life, and keep her with him in hell to assist with all of his duties as Prince of Darkness. She would be just like his own personal secretary- it would be great. He got to his desk and ignored the humongous pile of paperwork that he had predicted would be there, turning instead to the small intercom sitting beside his jar of pens. He pushed the small red button on the intercom and spoke into it. “Hello, Big Man Upstairs?” He asked with a smug smile on his face. He’d placed his daughter gently in his own overstuffed swivel chair. “Yes, it’s me God.” He could practically see those omnipotent eyes rolling at him. “Would it be alright with you if we brought my little turtle dove back to life to be my secretary?” “Back to life to be your secretary?” The voice on the other end asked in reply. “Why don’t you just use her soul?” Lucifer sighed, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. God always aggravated him. “Because I don’t have her soul.” “Would you like her soul?” God asked, already knowing the answer. He was omnipotent, omnipresent, of course he knew everything. “Because if you want her soul I would have to ask her about that first. She earned her right into heaven, Lucifer; I am not going to take away that right because you want her as your secretary.”
Lucifer groaned and hit his head on his desk. “I have her body with me! If we ask her opinion she’ll say no!!” He hit his head again and again. “I’ll put her on the line. Let’s all talk about this.” There was a pause before Aurora’s voice was heard over the intercom. “Dad? You had something to ask me?” Lucifer sighed again. “Yes, dearest, God and I were wondering if you would be willing to let me have your soul to put back in your body and live down here in hell with me. You know, to help daddy out.” He smiled, even though he knew that she couldn’t see them. God could see him, but God also knew that it was a fake smile, so it didn’t really matter what he did anyway since God always saw right through him. He was just like that annoying Collin Stark kid. Lucifer never really liked him. Aurora hesitated. “Why do you want my soul?” She asked. “Because daddy has a lot of paperwork to do and he’d rather have an assistant so that he could do other fun things like kick puppies and deprive third world countries of clean water.” Lucifer explained, covering his eyes with his hands. “And who better an assistant than his own daughter? That’s you, baby.” He grinned bitterly before resting his head on the table. Someone coughed. Lucifer assumed it was Aurora, but it could’ve been anyone. He was very careful about his assumptions, unlike his daughter. “Alright Dad.” She said. “I’ll do it.” Lucifer was in shock. God had expected her to agree, so it didn’t come as a surprise to him, but he was impressed with her decision. Lucifer had never imagined that she would agree to eternal damnation, but apparently he didn’t know his daughter as well as he had initially thought he did. “You’re going to come down into hell?” He asked to double check. “Yes.” Her voice was quiet. She’d been dead maybe an hour; he supposed that she had a lot of questions to ask him. “When would you like to send me down?” Lucifer straightened his back. Aurora’s body was still in his swivel chair, propped up. He snapped his fingers and Aurora’s body shuddered. Her eyes shot open and she clamped her hands down on the arms of the chair. “Where am I?!” She demanded to know. Lucifer turned to look at her, raising his eyebrows as he did so. “Oh good, you’re back. You’re in hell, in your body. I took it away from son in law and brought it back down here just for you.” He grinned eerily at her.
“So what do I do now? I’m still dead, aren’t I? How did I die?” She asked, holding her head and leaning forward in the swivel chair. “All I remember was a choking feeling… my chest got tight and I couldn’t breathe. What happened?” Lucifer sighed and sat down on his desk, nearly knocking a rather large stack of paperwork off of it in the process. “I’d rather not tell you. It wouldn’t be very fair and you wouldn’t like me very much for it.” He said. “I already don’t really like you.” Aurora said, leaning back in the swivel chair and spinning around. “So you might as well tell me anyway, Dad.” Lucifer sighed again and hung his head. “I’ve lied to you.” He said. Aurora laughed loudly. “Yeah as though I didn’t know that.” She said with a snort. “Dad, you’re Satan; I kind of expected that from you. There isn’t really much you can tell me now that will come as a huge shock to me, so just say it already.” Lucifer supposed that she was right. He looked at her with a certain fondness- his daughter was a smart one… At least, this one was. “Aurora, you aren’t my only daughter.” She stopped spinning- the back of the swivel chair was facing him. He knew that she was still listening intently to him, so he continued. “You’re my first daughter. I have another one.” He continued. “Patricia Lovelace. She’s my second daughter- your sister. She was the one who killed you.” Aurora was not surprised that Patty was the one who murdered her. She was, however, a bit shocked that Patricia was her sister. Half sister, to be more accurate. “How?” She asked. “You see…” Lucifer explained. “Similar to your little friend Collin Stark, Jesus two point oh, Patricia Lovelace has a gift of her own. She can will a death or other physical or mental condition upon someone. When she first discovered her power, she immediately knew what she would do with it, so she practiced and practiced until she became so good at what she was doing that she could wait no longer to kill you. She assigned you a trigger word: when you thought that word, you would instantly suffocate and die. When Collin made you think of Dante- the late tumor I extracted from the late Nathaniel Reeve- that’s when your death begun. Genius, isn’t it? I’m quite proud of her too.” Aurora began to swivel again. Her father was proud of her half sister because she was evil. He wasn’t proud of her because she wasn’t evil. God seemed to favor her over Patricia, but now she’d chosen a life of eternal
damnation, so it didn’t really matter too much, did it? She hung her head and said nothing. She missed Dane and Collin. “Where’s Dante?” She quietly asked. “Heaven.” Lucifer replied. “And I doubt he’d come down here for anything; no bribe, no threat, nothing. He’s pretty much got immunity, the lucky little-“ He trailed off and began to mumble to himself. “Anyway, my point is that he’s in heaven and that’s where he’ll stay. You’re down here with me and whoever else lands themselves down here by accident.” As if anyone would try to go to hell on purpose. “Sorry honey.” Aurora groaned at stood up, letting the swivel chair rotate freely now that it was free of her mass. She began to wander off on her own. “Well is there anything for me to do down here?” Lucifer grinned gleefully. “Why yes! Yes there is.” He jumped down off his desk, grabbed a pen from his pen jar, and handed it to her. She looked at it quizzically before he continued speaking. “Paperwork! Mostly yours and lots of it. Get to getting, girl.” He laughed and walked away from his desk. Frowning, Aurora sat back down and started in on the massive piles and piles of sheets of paper. She had no idea what she was doing, but she imagined that she was in hell and it didn’t really matter, so she just began to write down whatever she thought was appropriate…she figured she’d be right about fifty percent of the time, and how bad could her punishment be? She was already in hell and she was the daughter, or a daughter, of Satan. Bring it on. Up in heaven, Gabriel was flitting around worried, as always. As an angel, he was very warm and happy all the time, but he was the most worried and preoccupied out of all of the angels. He was always bothering (although God wouldn’t use the word bothering) God about the most minor of things and overreacting to the most minute of situations. Now, he was most worried about our good friend Dane Warren. The anti Christ. “What do we do? I wasn’t worried about him when both Collin and Aurora were on earth with him, but now that Aurora is down in hell and Collin has disappeared, I don’t know what-“ “Gabriel, calm yourself.” God said to the angel. Gabriel obeyed him. “Now, you mustn’t worry about such things as this. They are out of your control. They are out of my control. Even Lucifer has no say in what shall happen now.” “But, there must be something we can do! Even indirectly! If we just sit by and let this pass, then the anti Christ will-“
“Gabriel, I know what he will do. All evil is predictable, in a way that all good is not. I know Dane Warren better than anybody… better than Lucifer, better than he knows himself.” Gabriel, of course, knew this. After all, he was talking to God. “And therefore, I know that he will not do anything rash or endangering to the human species…or any other species for that matter. Whatever he does will not have any heavy impact on the world he lives in, and so there is no need for any of us to be alarmed or worry.” Gabriel was still not convinced. He decided to leave God alone, for the time being at least, until something drastic did happen. But, he did know that God would be right. He was all seeing and all knowing, after all. Lucifer, however, had other thoughts. He was under the assumption (which he knew he shouldn’t be doing but was anyway) that Dane Warren, under such circumstances, would begin to lose his mind and fulfill his duty as the anti Christ. He was right- Dane Warren was losing his mind, and was formulating a drastic plan. A very drastic plan. Collin Stark, in the mean time, was very very disoriented. When Patty had spoken to him, commanded him, changed his mental condition, he had become crippled- handicapped, even; mentally. He wandered around his small home town- went to the cemetery first and stumbled around there for awhile, unable to find his way out or find someone else to help him. Even if he had found someone, he wouldn’t be able to communicate with them well enough to convey the message that he needed to convey. He needed help, and it didn’t look like he was going to get it any time soon. “What are all of these rocks doing here?” He asked himself, not even close to coherently, as he stumbled around inside of the cemetery. “And why are they sticking up out of the ground? I’m not understanding any of this. Where am I?” He continued to wander around the cemetery, tripping over head stones and running into the mausoleums once or twice before he finally found the exit and wandered into the church. The light coming through the stained glass windows made his eyes and heart hurt in ways that he didn’t understand. He grew frustrated, with himself and with the place he was in, and plopped down in one of the pews, holding his head in his hands. “How can the Lord help you, my son?” A priest approached him, sensing the frustration and anger radiating from him. Collin looked up. He didn’t remember who he was, where he was, or anything else of importance. Luckily, he still knew how to talk, just not how to convey a coherent message to anyone. “Lord? Which Lord? I… am Lord?” He asked. His head hurt and the priest wasn’t exactly helping him as much as he thought that he was. “No, my son. The good Lord- God in Heaven above us.” He said to the poor disoriented boy sitting in front of him.
“I’m your son?” Collin asked, looking desperately up at the priest. “Father? Where am I? Who are you? Who am I?” He asked, his voice beginning to crack. Was he going to cry? Could his mind even register what crying was or if he was doing it? Probably not. A tear rolled down his cheek. Neither him nor the priest paid it no mind. “No, dear boy.” The priest said gently. “You’re confused.” Collin slowly nodded. “Yes… I am very confused. Can you help me?” “Can you tell me what happened? Anything you can remember at all will be helpful.” The priest sat down beside Collin. Collin furrowed his eyebrows in concentration. “I remember…a large place… Open sky with grass… And rocks poking up out of the ground. Nothing before that though. Nothing at all.” He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed against them with the heels of his hands. “Who am I?” The priest leaned back. “The cemetery.” He said. “The place you were in was the cemetery. Right beside this church. You don’t remember how you got there?” He asked gently. Collin shook his head. “No. I don’t remember anything before thatnothing at all. I don’t even know who I am.” He said again. The priest got a feeling from this boy: a feeling that he was someone important, or should’ve been someone important, at least. He felt a sense of reverence when he looked at Collin; it was almost like being in the presence of a saint, or someone saint like in the very least. He felt the need to take this poor confused boy in and give him the guidance that he so obviously needed and deserved. It was as though God was gently pushing him, guiding him to make the right decision: the decision to take this boy in. “Stay with me, here.” The priest said. “I am Father Arbuthnot. I will help you; keep you here with me and take care of you until you either regain your memory or… until the day I pass and join our Lord in Heaven.” He said slowly. It didn’t seem to him as though Collin was easily comprehending all that he was saying. “Does that sound alright to you?” He asked. Collin blinked very slowly. “Does what?” The priest sighed very patiently. “You should live with me.” Collin looked up at him quizzically. “Are you my father? You called me your son.” “I am a priest.” Arbuthnot said patiently. “I refer to most of the people I preach to ‘my son’ or ‘my daughter’.” He said.
“I had a daughter.” Collin said, his focus was neither on Father Arbuthnot nor anything else in the room. He was staring off into spacehaving a moment. “But she died…“ Now he looked at the priest. Tears were still rolling down his cheeks steadily, but he was not registering them. “Today.” He furrowed his eyebrows. “Can that help you find me home?” He asked. “Find out who you are or find out where you’re from?” Father Arbuthnot asked. “Or both?” Collin blinked slowly again. “Both? Maybe this is a bad idea.” “What’s a bad idea?” Father Arbuthnot asked. “Helping me.” Collin said slowly. “I’m not helpful.” He meant that he wasn’t someone that Father Arbuthnot should help, but his mind was unable to form coherent sentences for his mouth to convey to the man sitting in front of him. “I’m not alive.” Father Arbuthnot sat back in the pew and looked forward- straight ahead at the crucifix. The image on the cross reminded him of someone, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on whom it might be. “It is my duty…” He said slowly, carefully choosing the right words to say. “To help people. Especially ones who cannot help themselves like you.” “I cannot help.” Collin said quietly, not looking down. He coughed very loudly and harshly, not covering his mouth, then sneezing. Father Arbuthnot studied him carefully. “I don’t know.” “That’s alright.” The priest said to the boy. ”Like I said, it’s what I’m here for.” Collin smiled fondly at the priest who smiled fondly back at the boy. “If I remember,” He asked. “What will you do?” The priest sighed. “Whatever you want me to do. You can stay here with me… or you can go back to your old life.” He smiled at Collin while standing up and walking back to the altar. “It’s ultimately your decision.” Collin put his head back down and folded his hands behind his neck. “Confused. Sleep.” He fell asleep with his head down. It seemed to all who filed into the church for the evening mass that he was merely in deep prayer. The priest knew otherwise, and asked everyone to not disturb him. The church goers obeyed his request and left the confused, sleeping boy alone. The priest thought that if he got some rest more would come to him as soon as he awoke. He was wrong, but it was a hunch. He led the boy to his quarters in the back of the church and allowed him to continue his rest there.
In hell, both Aurora and Lucifer were aware of Collin’s situation. They had a flat screen in his office and were watching virtually his every move. “I miss Collin.” Aurora told her father, pouting. “Is there anything that we can do to help him?” She asked. Lucifer looked at her with a certain amount of unbelievability on his face. “Daughter, I’m Satan. I’m not about to help anybody let alone the son of God, my immortal enemy.” He rolled his eyes. “You’re a rather smart girl; will you ever learn, or do you just enjoy pushing my buttons and pointing out the obvious?” He asked. Aurora shrugged. “Well it was somewhat worth a shot, I suppose. I’m already in hell, how worse are things going to get for me?” Lucifer knew that she had a point. She was his daughter and he wasn’t about to let her suffer for eternity, although he was sure that spending an eternity working as a secretary for him was similar enough to torture. Things were not going to get much worse for her, unless she had to watch Collin or Dane- somebody that she loved- suffer. She hated to watch people that she cared about suffer. He had no answer for her. “Is he going to be like this forever?” She asked her father. He was bound to know at least something. “What did Patty do to him?” Lucifer picked up his favorite creation and began toying with it- the rubix cube. “Maybe forever. I’m not too sure about that. Patty just rewired him. She didn’t experiment much beyond killing people, and so things probably didn’t turn out exactly how she’d planned them to. I don’t know how he’ll act after this, but it’ll probably be erratic and unpredictable and very insane.” He grinned. “I might actually begin to like him after this, thanks to your sister. Maybe we should bring her down to hell.” “She doesn’t like me.” Aurora said, frowning. “So why would we want to do this? This is already hell.” She’d already mentioned that, hinting that she couldn’t get any more miserable. From Lucifer’s point of view, he could do whatever the hell (literally) he wanted because this was his domain and she’d chosen of her own free will to join him in hell. “But she’s your own flesh and blood.” Lucifer began to argue. He always won arguments, and therefore loved them. “So you two need to get along. It’s part of my whole plan. If you don’t get along then the whole thing falls to pieces.” Aurora groaned and rolled her eyes. “Then that gives me even more reason to hate and never want to see her ever again. You like her better than you like me anyways.” She grumbled.
“I’m obligated to.” Lucifer explained very rationally. “First of all, she’s the second born child. I’m obligated to like my second child more than my first child, especially if she’s a girl, which she is. Second of all, she’s pure evil. I like pure evil: you’re too good. Too much like God and your mother.” Aurora looked over sideways at her father. “Too much like God and my mother…” She repeated. “Dad, who is my mother?” She asked. Lucifer looked down and coughed. “We shouldn’t have this conversation. Let’s get back to watching your little friend suffer.” He returned his attention to the flat screen television in his office. Aurora interrupted him. “No, now is the perfect time to have this conversation. We do have eternity to discuss it, so why not get it out of the way now? Dad, who is my mother?” She repeated, staring intently at him. Sighing heavily, Lucifer turned off the television and threw the remote down onto his desk. “Fine. We’ll talk about your mother. God makes exceptions to rules- especially the ones that he makes himself- you know that much, don’t you?” He asked. Aurora nodded and so he continued. “She’s dead. In heaven. Killed herself though. Most suicide victims come straight here, but not her. What a disappointment.” He grimaced in remorse. “Wait, she killed herself? And she’s in heaven? I was in heaven for at least an hour… Why didn’t I see her? Why did she kill herself?” Aurora asked. Lucifer sighed again. “I don’t know how things work in heaven- I’ve never been there, so I don’t know why you didn’t see her. Maybe God isn’t as wonderful as you think and didn’t want you two to ever meet or see each other.” Aurora rolled her eyes. “I doubt that. What happened? Why did she kill herself?” “She killed herself right after she had you. The hospital took you from there and that’s where your wonderful protected life began.” “That isn’t what I asked.” Aurora said. “I asked you why she killed herself. How did you two meet? I thought as Satan you weren’t capable of feeling love.” Lucifer sighed… again. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately- ever since he began co existing with his daughter. “She killed herself because she was raped and couldn’t live with herself… but she waited until she had you because she knew she’d feel guilty about taking an innocent life… although I imagined that she had already known how not so innocent your life would become… In any case, she didn’t want to kill anybody else, so that’s why she waited, if that answers your question.”
“Who raped her?” Aurora asked now. She’d fully launched herself in their conversation and was leaning forward, hanging upon his every word. “And how did you meet her? Why her? Did you love her? How could you let someone rape her?” “I don’t quite remember how I met her.” Lucifer admitted. “But I remember why it was her- it was her eyes. You have her eyes.” Aurora blinked slowly. She’d always liked the gray blue color of her eyes. “And I was the one who raped her.” Aurora’s mouth dropped open, gaping at her father. She shouldn’t have been surprised, but she still was. She couldn’t believe him. She was almost enraged; almost. “You… raped her?” She could barely speak, she was so angry. “I cannot believe you! How could you?!” “Aurora, I’m Satan. Think about that for a second please and pull yourself together. I’ve raped so many other women that you wouldn’t be able to even comprehend it. It happens all the time- you know when I left you alone for a few hours yesterday? Want to guess what I was doing?” Aurora winced and shook her head. “I didn’t think so. My point is that it isn’t very uncommon… not with me, anyway. She was just the lucky one. I thought that it was time for me to have an heir, and she just so happened to be that night’s lay. I only remember her as the one because you remind me so much of her… That isn’t a bad thing, but it is the truth. A year later God and I had a little chat and that was when I learned how good you were becoming. I was quite peeved, as you might imagine, and so I decided that I needed an evil heir. Of course, I found a more evil woman and had sex with her… consensually, that time, and Patricia came into being. Happy now?” He asked, standing up and walking away. “We’ve bonded enough for today.” Aurora groaned and rested her head down on her father’s desk. “This sucks.” She muttered to herself. Then again, she realized that she was in hell and that she had chosen her fate. She really wasn’t surprised that she was miserable… But at least she didn’t have to deal with Patty any longer… And she did get to watch over her Collin like a guardian angel. She turned the flat screen back on and returned her attention to Collin. “Am I being watched?” He asked as soon as the audio came on. Aurora nearly laughed- it was too ironic and perfect. She really missed him, just like before, but now their positions were reversed. How was being dead like for him? Was it anything like this? She hoped not, but then again, he’d been in limbo and not in hell. That might’ve had a large effect on his circumstances. Father Arbuthnot turned from his spot at the altar and looked at Collin. It was night time on earth, and they were alone in the church with all of the candles lit. The light still hurt his eyes, but he was getting more and more used to it. “God is watching you, my son.” The priest replied. “Both God and Lucifer are always watching you, deciding on when you die whether you go
to heaven or whether you go to hell. This is why every decision you make is crucial and needs to be thought all the way through.” Collin slowly nodded. “I understand, Father, but you’re wrong now.” He meant that the priest was wrong in that instance. “Not Lucifer. Someone else.” As Aurora continued to watch Collin after Patty had rewired his mind, she figured something out. Patty’s influence on his mind had either locked away or permanently gotten rid of his ability to mind read. However, that didn’t mean that he didn’t have some sort of cognitive ability. This made her smile fondly at the image on the screen in front of her. Her Collin was still in there somewhere… It was just a matter of time and hard work to bring him out again. She just wished that she could be there to help speed things along. “God and someone else are watching you?” The priest asked for clarification. “Who is that someone else?” Collin stood still for a moment, deep in thought. “I don’t know who exactly. A girl. Pretty girl with blue eyes. Love her… Think I really love her.” The priest stopped what he was doing and turned to look at Collin. “You love this girl? This girl who is watching you in place of Satan?” He asked. Collin looked at him with a very confident expression on his face. “Yes. I love her. I don’t know who. I love her though.” Father Arbuthnot smiled at him. “You, my son, have great potential. Perhaps this means that you are on the road to recovery.” The priest thought that Collin was alluding to someone that he had known before he had lost his memory. When they had first met he’d spoken of a girl that he had loved but had died… Could that be the same girl? He had a hunch… But why would he replace Lucifer with that girl? That was what confused the priest most about Collin, but he wasn’t going to look too much into it. Collin smiled at the priest and returned to his cleaning of the altar. Aurora returned to her paperwork. It would be a long eternity. With Collin Stark gone and Aurora Lockhart (more recently, Warren) dead, Dane Warren became a very warped and twisted person. Not only was he remorseful, as he had been the first time something like this had happened, but he was bitter and well, evil. Patricia Lovelace saw another opportunity; another chance for her to heal him. This time, she went in for the kill…and she would make sure that he stayed dead. After Aurora had died and Collin had disappeared, Dane had stayed alone in the house and in the dark. Patty and the others of course all knew what had happened, but nobody wanted to try and check on him for fear of
their own well being. Patty had her own hidden agenda, of course, but knew that it would take some time before she could implement her plan. She waited three months before knocking on that door. He begrudgingly answered it. “What?” He asked in a stale, gruff voice that she could tell hadn’t been used for quite some time. “I heard what happened.” She said softly, tenderly. “Everybody’s hear what happened.” Dane said, beginning to close the door on her. She put her foot in the way of the door, preventing him from closing the door on her. He glared at her, but didn’t continue, if he would’ve, her foot would’ve been broken. “Can we just talk?” Patty asked him, inching her way into the house, squeezing past him. Once inside, without her foot as a door stop, the door slammed shut. Patty collapsed on the couch and Dane turned to glare at her. “I just want to talk.” She said again. “I’m listening.” He said, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Talk.” He commanded.
Patty took a deep breath. “I want to help. I still love you.” Dane laughed very bitterly before speaking. “Love.” He spat the word out like poison. “You don’t know the meaning of the word.” “Then teach me!” Patty nearly demanded, jumping off of the couch and propelling herself towards him, latching onto his arm. “Dane, I love you!” He shrugged her off of him and threw the front door open. “Get out of my house.” He commanded. “But, Dane-“ “Now! Get out!” He yelled. His hands began to shake as he pinned his arms to his sides. “Get out before I hurt you.” He growled. Patty took another deep breath. Why couldn’t she just get into his mind and force him to love her? Because she actually did care about him and
because her mind altering techniques wouldn’t work on him. She knew who he was. So, maybe if she told him that he would reconsider her offer… “I know who you are.” She said quickly, before he could force her out of his house. “Anti Christ.” Dane froze. “How do you know that?” He asked, his voice deathly low. For a moment Patty thought that he was going to try and kill her. Patty smirked- now she had his attention. “There’s much more fun in not knowing.” Dane stood there, staring at her for a moment, before he swung the door shut. “You can stay here.” He said, walking away from the front door and back into the house. Patty smiled to herself as he disappeared down the hall. Her plan was working perfectly; she’d gotten rid of the three major things that had stood between her and Dane, and now she had her man. Life was good. It took awhile for him to warm up to her again… or become as warm with her as he was going to get. Things would never return to the way they used to be- before Aurora had returned- but they were close enough for Patricia. Dane had progressed from not speaking to or acknowledging her presence to speaking to her in mostly monosyllabic phrases and noises. She was quite pleased that things had progressed so far, and surprised at exactly how far things had come. Actually… “I have an idea, my dearest.” Dane announced, one ironically sunny morning while practically waltzing into the kitchen. Patty was seated at the small, round table in the room and eating a piece of sourdough toast. She was very surprised at his words- most shocked at how he called her “dearest”. “An idea?” She asked cautiously, not wanting to say the wrong thing to upset him or make him go any crazier than he already was. “Yes, an idea.” He repeated, grinning. “You want me to live up to my name, don’t you?” He asked her. She looked at him warily. “Live up to your name… Do I want you to be the anti Christ?” She asked for clarification. When he nodded impatiently she quickly continued, knowing that she couldn’t let on to who she really was. “Well that depends on what you were planning to do. How evil are you?” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Would you rather me tell you or would you prefer a demonstration? Are you volunteering yourself?” He asked. “It’s for the greater good.”
She shook her head. “No, no. Let’s not be hasty in any decisions that we make, now. I was merely asking- only a bit curious.” “Curiosity killed the cat.” He reminded her, keeping both of his eyebrows raised in amusement. She gulped and took a deep breath. “Well, then… My answer is yes, I do want you to live up to your name… but I’d be able to make a more accurate judgment if I first knew what your plan was… Don’t you agree?” He nodded very slowly in response to her words. “I do agree, which is why I will tell you of my plan.” Now his idea had progressed and mutated into a full fledged plan, thanks to Patty. “Have you noticed any changes in this town recently?” He asked her. She had to take a short moment to think about what he was asking her. Any changes? “What kinds of changes?” She asked him. “Any kinds of changes.” He said impatiently. “Any at all.” She took another short moment to think. Was this a trick question? She began to just say anything. “Housing projects being built on the other side of town…” He shook his head. Now he was pacing in the kitchen, back and forth in front of the table where Patty was seated. “The Blue Moon going out of business, the new motel over by the gas station-“ He snapped his fingers and she stopped. “Bingo.” She gave him a confused look. “So?” “What does the sudden existence of a motel mean?” He asked slowly, as though speaking to a small child. She thought hard, frowning. “More people coming in and out of town?” She tried. “Try again.” He told her. He gave her a hint. “What do we live on?” “A beach.” Her eyes lit up; she got it. “Tourists.” “So, what?” She asked. “You kill a few tourists? Soon the tourists will stop coming.” She wasn’t too sure that Dane was cut out for this anti Christ thing. He laughed- low and deadly. She shivered. “I’m not as stupid as you think, darling.” He cooed. She was shaking now, as he drew nearer and nearer to her, still laughing to himself. “We kill one at a time- make it look like an accident. Every single one will look like an accident; do you see where I’m going with this?”
She was shaking so violently that he could barely tell that she was shaking her head “no”. He continued. “Mortal humans are attracted by fatal accidents- especially the sites at which they occurred. This will bring in more and more tourists- more and more for us.” “What will killing innocent people prove?” Patty asked, finding her voice. “Nothing!” Dane announced loudly with another raucous laugh. “But won’t I be doing at least someone a favor? Nobody is ever completely innocent, Patricia.” Patty thought of someone when he said that. “She was.” She said quietly, timidly. Dane’s look intensified. “She was.” He repeated. “And her life was taken away from me, so why should these miserable sinners get the privilege to live?” He asked, glaring at her now. Patty had no answer for him, so she sat there in front of him, shaking and wide eyed. “And besides!” He went on, laughing now, his green eyes wide and crazed. “What more evil could I do but destroy and take away the lives of the seemingly innocent and pathetic miserable fools who so unluckily find themselves in this doomed little town?” He asked, directing his voice upwards as though asking God himself. “You’re absolutely right.” Patty said, afraid to say much else. “When do we start?” She’d noticed that he’d already begun to use the word “we”, lumping her into his plan as well. Dane turned away from her. “Monday.” Patty’s breath caught in the back of her throat, but she said what she was about to say anyway. ”Today is Monday.” She told him. She wasn’t sure if he’d forgotten or just didn’t know, but she thought it would be best if she reminded him anyway… Just in case. “I knew that.” He snapped at her. “I meant next Monday.” And with those lovely parting words, he left her alone in the kitchen again. With that, Patty began to brood. Dane had expressed an expectancy for her to help him with his plan, but how exactly would she help? She hadn’t told him of her abilities. Did he already know? Wouldn’t that knowledge lead him to suspect her in the case of Aurora’s death?
“Calm down, Patty.” She told herself. “He doesn’t know- there’s no way he could know.” She took a deep breath and felt a little bit better. Her only other question was what did Dane want her to do? Or, more importantly, what was Dane going to make her do? She was prepared to do a lot of different things, but not knowing still scared her. There was another thing that she was still worried about: Collin Stark. What had happened to him? What had she done to him? Was he dead? He had to be- he hadn’t come back around looking for Dane. He must’ve known that it was Patty who killed Aurora- she was one hundred percent sure that he knew it was her- so he must’ve been dead… Dead or insane. Maybe he’d lost his mind… Or did he have amnesia? That would be almost too convenient; he had to have gone crazy… But, if that was the case then he couldn’t possibly have gotten very far. If he was still in town… That was bad. That meant that Dane was at risk of seeing him and asking questions. But how often did Dane go outside, let alone into town? Never, but now that he had this shiny new plan to implement? Maybe he would start going out again, more often. That was very bad. Patty groaned and rested her head down on the kitchen table. “I can do this.” She told herself. All she needed to do was see for herself… That and make sure that Dane never left the house alone, but that was perfectly feasible. “First thing’s first.” She said out loud, sitting up straight. “I need to see for myself.” Standing up, Patty put on a jacket, her shoes, and a scarf. She quietly exited the house and stepped onto the beach, heading for the town. She planned to check the cemetery first, circle the town, and then end with the church. She didn’t get very far. Collin Stark was standing outside of the cemetery gates- simply standing there- absorbing the sunlight. At first, Patty didn’t recognize him. His usually mop like mess of black hair was cropped short. He was wearing glasses. He’d aged considerably in the time since Patty’d last seen him. It took awhile, but Patty did realize that it was him. “Good afternoon miss.” Collin said to her, cheery as always. “Beautiful weather we’re having, isn’t it?” He didn’t look at her when he spoke… Not directly at her, anyway. More like slightly to the left. “Do you know who I am?” She asked, standing back a bit to get a better look at him. Collin shrugged. “Can’t say I do. I don’t even know who I am, as a matter of fact.” He blinked quickly- three times in a row. “Do you? Know who I am?”
Patty shook her head. “Sorry, no. I must be going now.” She began to walk away. “Lovely weather we’re having!” Collin repeated as she retreated back to her house on the beach. That solved that mystery- he had definitely lost his mind. Patty was confident that no one- especially not Dane- would recognize him. Collin Stark, on the other hand, did recognize Patricia Lovelace. He furrowed his eyebrows, the corners of his mouth turned down into a frown. Father Arbuthnot came out from inside of the church, bearing a similar expression. “What troubles you, my son?” He asked once he saw Collin and the look on his face. Collin continued to stare off towards the beach. By now, Patty was long gone, yet he still looked. “I know her.” He said softly. The priest joined Collin’s side and looked out onto the horizon, hoping to see what he had seen. “There’s no one out there.” He said, squinting. Maybe there was someone there… in his mind. Collin shook his head. “No, she’s one now... But there was a lady here. She stopped to talk to me… About the weather.” He sighed. Father Arbuthnot was pleased. This meant that he was starting to get better if he remembered faces, at least. Collin continued to frown. “I remember something bad about her. She’s bad. Not good.” He shook his head. “Ah… I can’t remember.” The priest put her arm around Collin’s shoulders. “Do not strain yourself, my son. It’s alright if you don’t remember right now.” He began to lead Collin back into the church, but the boy resisted slightly. “I think I should remember who she is.” He continued to protest, twisting his neck around to see the beach. “I think she’s bad- very bad.” He repeated. Father Arbuthnot sighed heavily, releasing Collin who immediately clung to the iron wrought cemetery gate. “Maybe I should find and talk to her again.” Collin mumbled, fidgeting with his glasses. “Or kill her.” His eyes lit up and began to glow. “No.” The priest said sternly, gently taking Collin’s hand in his own. “Not violence. That is never an answer.”
“But she killed her!” Collin suddenly cried, clutching desperately onto the priest’s hands. “She killed her and so she deserves it herself!” He was nearly begging now. “It isn’t fair!” Father Arbuthnot once again tried to lead Collin back into the church. This time he was slightly more successful. “My son, you must learn. God is kind, loving, and merciful... But God is also cruel. If this young woman did anything in her lifetime to incur God’s wrath, then our fair and just God shall rightly punish her in due time. We should not, as mortals, tamper with nor meddle in our Lord’s affairs.” He was trying to console him, and it seemed to be working. Collin’s breathing had slowed and he was now walking alongside the priest, instead of being dragged like he had been previously. “What about the other girl?” Father Arbuthnot had heard of this mysterious other girl on more than one occasion now, and was more than one hundred percent certain that she had been a key component in his life before he’d lost his memory. Perhaps whatever had happened to her was the cause of his current condition… That certainly made sense. “What other girl?” The priest asked the boy. “The one…” He scrunched his face in deep thought. “The one not with God. In the other place.” He concluded. “What about the other girl?” The priest repeated. “Oh her.” Collin said, nodding knowledgably. “She’s dead.” He said it as though it was an obvious fact. “How did she die?” The priest asked. Now they were at the entrance to the church and he stopped on the front steps. Collin stopped too. “That woman killed her.” “The woman you saw today?” Father Arbuthnot asked. He was beginning to make connections now. Collin nodded. “Yes her. I forget her name. Something with a ‘T’, I think.” He shrugged and walked into the church. The priest followed. “Tanya?” He offered helpfully. “Tara?” Collin sat down on the floor in front of the crucifix hanging on the wall behind him. Father Arbuthnot studied him. Again, there was a certain sense of familiarity… but he still couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. “No. Not those names… ‘Ti’ I think.” He sighed. “I wish I knew.”
“You do know.” Father Arbuthnot said silently. “Tiffany?” He tried again. “Tyra?” “Three!” Collin suddenly exclaimed, hitting his hands on the ground. “Three something!” Three something? That didn’t make much sense. Maybe that wasn’t what he meant… Three… Tyra… “Try…” Collin said. “Try three.” Try, Tyra.. “Tri.” The priest said. “It’s ‘Tri’ something, isn’t it?” Collin nodded. “Yes. Tri… Tree… Three…” He closed his eyes. “My head hurts.” Father Arbuthnot sighed. “Then rest, my son. Don’t worry- it will come to you eventually. I believe that practically-“ “Trish!” Collin exclaimed, his eyes snapping open. “Her name is Trish.” The priest was a tad disappointed. He didn’t recognize the name “Trish”, so he couldn’t help Collin. He smiled nonetheless. “Good job, my son.” He said. “Now rest. That kind of strain on your mind is not a good thing.” Collin smiled as well, nodding and standing, and then walking back to his quarters. Father Arbuthnot furrowed his brow as soon as he was sure that Collin had gone. “Trish.” He mumbled to himself. He knew no Trish. Father Arbuthnot had moved into town after a mysterious death had driven the old priest away. That had happened about three years ago. Since that time he’d grown close to the residents of the town and knew each and every one by face and by name… Everyone except for the young boy in his quarters and the girl he was referring to… Trish. “Unless.” He told himself. “Trish is not her proper name.” A nickname would explain, but he’d been so sure… Had he said something to set his memory off? Trish… “I believe that practically-“ Practically, Trish… Patricia. Patricia Lovelace. Father Arbuthnot sat- nearly collapsed- in the front most pew. The woman that Collin had been referring to was Patricia Lovelace. Most people just called her “Patty”, but “Trish” was an understandable nickname as well. Thinking of Patricia Lovelace made the priest think of Dane Warren- a boy he’d heard mentioned once or twice, and hadn’t seen in the last few months.
People were saying that ever since his wife died (which was a rumor in itself, but had to be true) he’d locked himself up in his house, becoming a recluse. Something odd stuck out to Father Arbuthnot. He’d always seen Patricia Lovelace and Dane Warren together, but knew for a fact that they did not get married, which meant that Dane had married a different woman. Who could it be? “That girl.” A small voice in the back of his mind told him. “That girl who died. She’d been gone the first year you preached here.” Now that he remembered the face- the girl with the blonde hair and gray blue eyes. What was her name? “She made you think of Patty.” The small voice said to him. True, there was a certain resemblance between the two… their mannerisms, not the way they looked. Their names were similar as well, though… Patricia Lovelace… Patty… Lovelace, love. Love, heart? Hart. Lockhart. Patty- Rory. Aurora Lockhart. That was her name. She must’ve been the one who’d married Dane Warren… But she… died? Yes, she died. How? How did she die? What had the boy told him? “That woman killed her.” The priest’s blood ran cold with realization. Patricia Lovelace had killed Aurora Lockhart- Dane Warren’s wife. His mind racing, Father Arbuthnot thought back to the last time he’d seen Aurora Lockhart. “About three months ago.” The voice told him. What else had happened three months ago? He knew that something had happened… something important, or at least significantly relevant. “The boy.” The voice said. “That was when you’d first seen the boy. He was here, in the church, and you spoke to him for the first time. Do you remember now?” Yes, Father Arbuthnot remembered, but it was obvious that the boy was still having memory problems. Who was the boy, anyway? The priest had never seen him before, and yet he knew- knew Patricia Lovelace had killed Aurora Lockhart and knew her name… knew her name and her face well enough to forget it due to some sort of trauma. How? Who was he? There was only one solution: he had to find out for himself, and there was only one way to do that: he had to investigate. Father Arbuthnot stood and made his way back to his quarters. He was young for a priest- only thirty two- but had a very close relationship with God and was used to following his heart and soul; they rarely led him astray. He opened the small door leading to his room and noticed that he curtain separating his space from Collin’s had been drawn closed shut, indicating to him that the boy was asleep… or, at least pretending to be. Father Arbuthnot
often caught Collin Stark up late at night standing by one of the graves in the cemetery in the moon light. On this particular night, the priest lay in bed, unable to sleep and heard the boy rise from his bed, walking out into the cemetery. The priest decided to follow the boy. The boy stopped in front of a grave that was slightly upturned- the earth in front of the head stone looked disturbed, and the head stone itself was in no better condition. “Who am I?” He asked quietly. He remained standing in front of the grave for quite some time before silently parting. The priest approached the former burial site with caution. It was nearly impossible for Father Arbuthnot to read what was written on the head stone; the way it had been broken nearly straight down the center had destroyed most of the writing upon it. However, he was able to make out the epitaph quite easily. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep/ But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep” He recognized the quote: one from Robert Frost’s famous poem Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. For a brief moment he wondered what possible significance it could have, but decided he had better things to investigate. He paid little more attention to the epitaph and moved onto the name. The dates were completely illegible, but he paid that no mind. The name- he needed the name. “Collin.” He read quietly, breath appearing before him in tiny white clouds. He had no knowledge of anyone in town, or anyone who had lived in the town, by that name. “Collin Matthew Stark.” He shivered. That name feltnot sounded, felt- familiar to him. He said it again. “Collin Matthew Stark.” He shivered again, and hurried back inside. Lying down in his quarters, Father Arbuthnot knew that sleep wouldn’t come for him that night, but he tried anyway. He tried anyway. “I cannot believe he actually figured it out.” Lucifer marveled as he sat in his overstuffed swivel chair watching both the priest and Collin Stark and Patricia Lovelace and Dane Warren. He was quite proud of all of them… except for that Collin Stark boy. No matter how much trouble he was in, Lucifer could not bring himself to feel any sort of positive emotion for that boy. “Why not? He’s a pretty smart guy, I suppose.” Aurora mused, sitting on top of her father’s desk. She didn’t enjoy watching her friends as much as her father did, but she really had no other choice or say in the matter.
Lucifer frowned. So maybe he did believe that Father Arbuthnot could figure things out… but that didn’t mean he liked it. He always preferred it when people never figured things out- he always enjoyed leaving people hanging. “I didn’t want him to figure it out.” He muttered, spinning around in his overstuffed swivel chair and continuing to pout. “Why not? Because you know what he’ll do next?” Aurora asked, rolling her eyes. “And there isn’t much you can do about it now anyway.” She smiled smugly. Lucifer stood up angrily. “You’re wrong.” He hissed. “There is something I can do about it.” He began to storm away, grabbing his coat and fedora from the coat rack by the door of his office before exiting the small room. Aurora immediately hopped down off of the table and ran to catch up with him; following him. “What are you going to do?” She asked, joining him as he stepped casually into an elevator. He pushed the “up” button. “None of your business.” He told her, sniffing. “Yes, it is my business.” She insisted, stamping her foot. “Now what are you going to do?” The elevator stopped and she followed her father out onto the streets of her familiar former little hometown. “You’ll find out.” He said. He led her to a familiar church that was right next to a familiar cemetery. “You can stay out here if you want- nobody will be able to see you.” He told her. “Or you can come and see me in action.” He smirked as he threw open the door to the church and waltzed inside. Father Arbuthnot was seated in the frost most pew, head in his hands. He didn’t look up, not even as Lucifer’s obvious footsteps grew closer and closer. “I suppose you know why I’m here.” He said to the priest, who kept his head in his hands. Aurora stood silently nearby. She missed being in the church- missed everything about being alive, really. She missed Collin and Dane… she missed Dante (who was surprisingly sent to Heaven, although his death wasn’t exactly a suicide) and Tony… She even missed Patty, although she had no idea about how evil her younger sister really was. She missed life in general. She longed for a glimpse of her Collin, but knew that the boy wasn’t around at that moment. It didn’t matter too much- he wouldn’t be able to see her anyway.
“Of course.” The priest said, his voice muffled by his own hands. “Only Lucifer could come for me now. Why?” The devil was confused by his question. “Why? Why what?” He asked in reply. “Why did the girl murder her?” Father Arbuthnot asked. “Who?” Aurora asked her father. “Who did Patty murder?” Lucifer hushed her. “Only you- relax.” Aurora pouted and was silenced with a huff. It wasn’t any sort of news to her, but that didn’t mean that it still didn’t bug her. Lucifer continued. “Vengeance, mostly, if I assume correctly.” Which I’m not supposed to do. He silently added. “I don’t know for sure. I’m not her keeper.” “You are her father- you are the father of all evil.” Father Arbuthnot said bitterly, still refusing to look up at his visitors. “But why are you here? Why have you come for me?” He asked. His shoulders were heaving as though he was having some sort of difficulty breathing. “Because I can’t have you ruining all of our fun, now can I?” Lucifer asked with a smirk on his face. “The answer is no; no I cannot. That wouldn’t be very fair to the other players of the game, now would it?” He asked. The priest sat in silence for a moment, not speaking and hardly breathing… hardly breathing noticeably, in any case. “Will you come quietly?” Lucifer then asked him, shifting anxiously from foot to foot. If the devil was anything, it was impatient. “I need an answer; I don’t have all day. I’m a very busy person, you know.” He began to tap his foot on the carpeted floor. Father Arbuthnot sighed heavily and stood up, heaving himself to his feet, and wearily rubbed at his eyes with the palms of his hands. He looked older- as though he’d aged considerably since the previous day. It seemed to be his time to go. Lucifer smirked. “Excellent, then. Let’s go.” He led Father Arbuthnot towards the doors of the church, and opened them to an elevator. Aurora followed closely behind, standing beside the priest during their trip in the elevator back down to hell. “How do you think he’ll be?” She asked him softly. Her father paid no attention to them- he was too busy being preoccupied thinking of other things.
“The boy?” He replied. “I’m honestly not sure. I don’t know if he’ll be able to make it on his own or not. He isn’t mentally stable enough.” “That’s what I was afraid of myself.” She said, averting her gaze. She was silent for a short moment before speaking again. “I can get you into heaven.” She told the priest, looking at him only out of the corner of her eye. She felt his excitement radiate out in waves. “You can?” His tone didn’t let on, which was good. Lucifer continued to ignore them. “How?” He asked. Aurora sighed. “God is cruel, but not heartless. He knows who deserves salvation and who doesn’t. Just because my father tries to drag souls down to hell doesn’t mean that they belong there.” Father Arbuthnot recognized the girl speaking to him- it was Aurora Lockhart, the girl who’d been murdered by Patricia Lovelace. “Your father?” He asked. “The devil.” She told him, nonchalantly. The priest was surprised. Now he had to rethink his original judgmenthe had looked down upon Patricia Lovelace for killing Aurora Lockhart, the daughter of the devil. Maybe that was why he was going to hell. “Don’t worry.” Aurora told him. “You were completely right- that’s why my father wants you out of the way. Patty and the anti Christ cooked up some sort of evil scheme, and now that you know all about her he was afraid that you’d try to stop them or something ridiculous like that.” She snickered and rolled her eyes. “Can you read my mind?” Father Arbuthnot asked her. “No.” She said in reply. “I was watching you on a flat screen television in my father’s office… There were subtitles.” She flashed him a small smile to reassure him. The elevator stopped, the doors opened, and Lucifer led the priest and his daughter out into hell… or, rather, the administrative center of hell. He walked them over to his office and sat them both down inside of the room next to the door. “Wait here.” He instructed, walking back out of the door and away. As soon as his footsteps faded Aurora hopped up out of her seat and sauntered over to Lucifer’s desk. “What are you doing?” Father Arbuthnot asked in a hushed voice, eyes wide with fear.
Aurora waved her hand at him. “Oh it’s no big deal. I’m just going to buzz God and ask him to transfer you.” She talked as if she was still in high school, simply requesting a schedule change. Father Arbuthnot blinked. “I beg your pardon?” Aurora sighed. “I’m going to buzz God and ask him to transfer you.” She repeated slowly; she felt as though she was talking to a five year old. “It’s no big deal, really.” She reassured him. The priest didn’t believe her, but didn’t protest. Strangely enough, he did feel as though he could trust her. Aurora pressed the big red button on the intercom on her father’s desk. “Hello?” She asked cautiously. “Hello Aurora.” The voice of God replied peacefully. “How may I help you?” Aurora knew that God already knew what she was going to ask, but she understood why he chose to ask anyway. “Could you transfer Father Arbuthnot into Heaven, please?” She asked with a bright smile on her face. She didn’t speak as though it was God on the other line; she spoke as though she was talking to a secretary… perhaps the secretary of the school where she was requesting a schedule change. Both she and the priest could feel God’s smile in reply. “Of course. He is the priest who took care of my son, after all.” He said. “Your son?” Father Arbuthnot asked. The boy. The voice in the back of his head told him. “The boy is your son?” “Yes.” God replied. “Collin Matthew Stark.” The priest had heard that name before- where had he heard that name before? Then it came to him: the head stone in the cemetery with the upturned grave. Collin Matthew Stark. “Yes…” He said very slowly. “I did look after your son.” “Thank you.” God said to the priest. “If you open the door to your right, an elevator will bring you up. I’ll see you soon, my son.” Aurora took her thumb off of the big red button on the intercom on Satan’s desk and took her seat again in one of the chairs next to the door. “You heard him.” She said, smiling at the priest. “The door to your right.” Quite warily, Father Arbuthnot stood up and gently placed his hand on the door knob to the door on his right. When he turned the handle and slowly pulled the door open, an elevator was revealed. The only button inside of the elevator was an up button. Just as slowly, Father Arbuthnot entered the
elevator and pushed the up button. He smiled and waved to Aurora, who smiled and waved back. The door slowly closed and Aurora sighed. The same door swung open, nearly hitting her in the face, and in stormed her father. “Where is he?!” He roared, eyes blazing, fire practically shooting from his fists. “What did you do?!” Aurora sat angelically and calmly answered him. “I made things right and I sent him up to heaven, where he belongs.” She said. “Where he should’ve gone in the first place.” She added. Lucifer stood there, motionless in the door way of his office, seething at his daughter as she continued to sit complacently in front of him. “I cannot believe you.” He hissed through clenched teeth. “Why? Because I swindled the devil out of an innocent soul?” Aurora asked, crossing her arms in front of her chest and standing up. “You don’t belong here.” The devil said to his daughter, a fiery rage present in both his eyes and his tone “Get out.” “Where do I go?” She asked, desperation creeping into her voice. “I don’t care.” He said, his anger continuing to grow exponentially. “Just get out.” Aurora slowly began to inch towards the closet door across the room. “You don’t care where I go?” She asked for clarification. “I can’t bring you back to life and you can’t stay here. You don’t belong here in hell with me. I am ashamed to call you my daughter.” The devil replied. “I am ashamed to be your daughter.” Aurora angrily told him, approaching the closet and throwing the door open. Inside was an elevator. There was only one button inside; it was labeled “up”. “I hope I never see you again.” She added, stepping inside of the elevator. “You won’t.” Lucifer replied, glaring at his oldest daughter. He didn’t need her; after all, he still had Patty. Aurora pushed the button labeled “up” and the door to the elevator closed. Back on earth, in the dead of the night, Collin stark suddenly awoke with a fright. He sat up in bed, breathing heavily, and noticed that the priest was still gone.
“He’s never coming back.” He said out loud to himself. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but he was one hundred percent certain. Father Arbuthnot had left him alone. What was he supposed to do now? How was he going to survive? With a very heavy sigh, Collin stark lay back down and allowed sleep to over come him once more. Collin enjoyed sleep- most of all, dreams. In his dreams he wasn’t confused any more. In his dreams he was sane again. On this night, he dreamt about an open place- an empty space. It was peaceful; it was familiar to him some how. Where am I? He wondered. “Purgatory.” He said. The word was heavy on his tongue, in his mouth. He said it again. “Purgatory.” It sounded better a second time. “Why am I here?” He asked out loud. Because I’m dreaming. His mind reasonably concluded and told him. He frowned. If he was dreaming, that meant he would have to wake up eventually. He didn’t want to wake up- he wasn’t in his right mind when he was awake; he was sane again in his dream land. “But why am I here?” He asked again. “In purgatory.” Because he hadn’t done his job yet, obviously; otherwise he’d be in Heaven… or Hell, depending on what that job was and how well he accomplished it. “My job? What is my job?” Maybe he was supposed to figure it out for himself. That was why he was here in his dream land: in Purgatory. So he sat and he thought. He had to do all of his thinking while he was asleep, because he certainly wasn’t going to get any of it done while he was awake. “Well, who am I? I’m talking to myself; no, I’m not crazy.” Well you aren’t exactly the KJ experiment. A little voice in the back of his head piped up. He shushed the little voice. “Shut up little voice.” And resumed thinking. “I’m Christ.” He said in conclusion. That felt just right. He said it again; slower this time. “I am Christ.” Maybe that was all that he needed to know. Maybe that was the key to what his job was… What it was and how to do it. What did Christ do? He saved people; that much was fairly obvious. But what was Collin Stark supposed to do? Specifically. He still didn’t know- how disappointing. Sighing, he stood up. His dream was beginning to fade fast- that sucked. He supposed that it was time for him to return to the world of the living and awake and continue to be confused. He’d just have to wait until he fell asleep again and began dreaming next to figure out what his job as Christ was. He woke up and sat up in his bed in the room at the back of the church next to the cemetery in the small town on the beach. The sun shone brightly in through his window and very peacefully onto his face.
“The priest is gone.” He said again. “I don’t know why.” He said to no one. He almost didn’t care why. He didn’t think that the reason was significantly important in any way, shape, or form (although it was), but the simple fact of the matter was that he was all alone now. That’s all that was important. Slowly, Collin got out of bed and walked out into the church after carefully getting dressed by himself. He peered outside through one of the stained glass windows depicting a scene from the Bible (he knew that much; which scene from the Bible he had no clue at all) and recoiled away from it, drawing back further and further into the church. He didn’t want to go out into the world now that he was alone in it. The good news was that he didn’t have to go out into the world alone. He didn’t have to go out into the world at all, if he didn’t want to (and he knew that he certainly did not want to). Sniffing, Collin Stark retreated back into his quarters and back in to his bed. He crawled back underneath the covers and desperately tried to go back to sleep, but sleep wouldn’t come for him this time; sleep wouldn’t come for a long while. So, he lied there instead, mumbling rather incoherently and quietly to himself in order to keep the rest of his wits about him (although there were hardly any wits left to keep) while the rest of the world passed him by. Life continued on in the sunny little doomed town with the church and the cemetery by the sea. People continued living their rather dull and ordinary lives, not taking notice to any of the rather strange and hellish events that had happened to those unlucky few who had become more and more involved with the two daughters of the devil: Aurora Lockhart and Patricia Lovelace. Life continued on quietly for that small town, giving the small central evil located in the small inconspicuous house on the beach many perfect opportunities to strike out with their evil and further doom the small town… But they didn’t take any of these opportunities. Patricia Lovelace saw many windows of such opportunity for her powers to be used, but she took none of them, opting instead to listen to her current beau: Dane Warren. Dane Warren was waiting. He was waiting for the exact moment when the sun was in the correct house (or some other nonsense like that) to strike. He wasn’t aware of Patricia Lovelace’s special ability to warp the fragile human mind, and so he was under the incorrect assumption that he had to execute his evil plan using his own evil resources. As previously mentioned, he was incorrect. Dane Warren didn’t know that his downfall would be a swift one. He didn’t even know that it would happen before he even got the chance to implement his grand master plan. When it came down to it, Dane Warren didn’t know much at all. Then again, neither did Collin Stark at the moment, and he was still a key player in Dane Warren’s chess game. Neither of them knew about each others parts, or that the other was still in existence, as a matter of fact, and that fact made their destinies that much more important.
Collin Stark was the chess piece who made the first move. It happened not long after he resigned to staying inside of the church and away from the rest of the world. He slept a lot after that moment in time; a lot of sleep meant a lot of dreaming. He always preferred dreaming to being awake: even when he was in his right of mind all of those years ago before he'd died (after he died he realized that he needed to appreciate what he had and spent more time with Aurora and Dane). In his dreams, anything was possible, and his dreams often served as inspiration for what happened to him in the real world.
In his dream land, Collin was in Purgatory again. The vast expanse of nothingness was nice; it served as a beautiful template for him to just sit and to think... which was exactly what he did. He sat and he thought for what seemed like a life time- maybe even two of them- before he realized what he needed to do.
The Anti Christ was exactly what it sounded like: the exact opposite of Christ; Collin Stark's mortal (or perhaps even, immortal) enemy, and his purpose must have been to destroy the Anti Christ... or at least stop him from doing something ridiculously evil. In his dream land, where he was sane again, Collin Stark knew exactly who the Anti Christ was: Dane Warren. He'd always considered Dane his friend; even after he'd returned to life knowing exactly who he was, he never thought of the other as any different. He always assumed that Dane had felt the same way, but there was no way for him to know for sure... not now, any way.
"So my job is to get rid of Dane Warren." He concluded out loud. He didn't have anybody other than himself to talk to, and he said it partially just for the sake of saying it, and partially because he needed to make sure it made sense. Sometimes, when you only say it in your mind a plan will sound alright, but when you actually speak the words out loud it sounds much different. Sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes it isn't. This time, the plan sounded logical, but it didn't reassure him in any way, shape or form. He didn't want to get rid of Dane Warren; Dane Warren was his friend... More than that, his blood brother. Getting rid of Dane Warren would hurt him almost as much as committing suicide would... well, maybe not that much, but it would hurt him quite a bit.
The only question he had, then, was how? How was he supposed to dispose of Dane Warren when he couldn't even wake up and understand how to cross
the street? The way Collin saw it, he was limited to a few choices. He could destroy him from his dream land- that was at least a start. How exactly he was supposed to do that, he didn't know, but he'd come back to this plan if he failed at or couldn't come up with any thing else. He could get someone else to do it for him. Again, how he was supposed to do that, he didn't know either. Astral projection was one way, but Collin had never tried that before and he didn't want to bank on it working the first couple of times now when he really needed to do it. Those were really his only options: the astral projection plan seemed to be his best bet, and even then it didn't seem like it would work out really well.
He didn't really even know where to start. "Astral projection." He said out loud. It still sounded like a half baked idea (which it was), but now it seemed more tangible... as ironic as that seemed. He said it again. "Astral projection." Repeating things often made them either seem better or worse. In this case, it sounded better. How hard could it be? He wondered silently. He was Christ, after all... relatively new at his job, that much was true, but he was still who he was. Christ.
Collin Stark closed his eyes and laid down in Purgatory as though he was going to go to sleep... but he was already asleep. He wondered, what would happen if I fell asleep while I was asleep? Was that possible? Would he just wake up? He frowned. He didn't want to wake up- it wasn't his time yet... at least, he hoped it wasn't his time yet. Well, he decided that he would try it, and no matter what happened that thing had happened for a reason. God always had His reasons behind everything, especially in matters that concerned His own son. Collin Stark closed his eyes and began to fall asleep within his dream.
Collin Stark slept... but it was a sort of out of body sleeping experience. When he awoke, he could see his still sleeping body in his familiar bed in the back of the church below him, and he grinned. Sweet. He was floating above himself- the astral projection had worked. He'd fallen asleep while sleeping and awoken outside of his own body... it was a pretty intense experience.
"Now to Dane Warren." He muttered, sighing heavily. He really didn't want to even think about having to do anything to Dane, but he knew that he had to. It was his job, and it was the only way to get him out of Purgatory. Not exactly in the most graceful of manners, Collin Stark floated out of the church and into the daylight of the town. From up above, he could see where
he once lived on the beach and started to float over that way. When he reached the house he slowly lowered himself down inside of it. Sitting in the living room was Patricia Lovelace and Dane Warren: the exact two people that he had wanted to see. This was working out almost perfectly. The only problem was... he was astral projecting himself. His body was back in the church, still asleep... or at least in some sort of inert state. He was intangible: he could move, but he couldn't be seen and couldn't be touched. That was a problem, considering he had to do some work that required him to be tangible, or at least have direct access to someone who was tangible. Another thought struck him. It wasn't his, actually, it was Patricia's, which was not exactly odd, but surprising.
"I should just kill him." She thought, quite loudly, as a matter of fact. Collin knew that she was referring to him. She had seen him, and he had seen her. He knew all about her- knew exactly what she could do, and that gave him an idea. What if he possessed her? What if he possessed her and used her abilities against both her and Dane Warren? That would indeed stop the evil that was the two of them (including the evil that was the Anti Christ) and it would free Collin Stark: the Son of God.
However, he didn't know how smoothly possessing Patricia Lovelace would go. Maybe her mind abilities would prevent him from entering her mind... Maybe he couldn't even enter minds at all while he was astral projecting himself. He had no clue what he was doing, and as previously mentioned, that was a bad thing; a very bad thing indeed.
"It's worth a shot." He said as clear as day. Neither of the people below him showed any sort of recognition of his words, so he knew that he was in the clear for that at least. They had no idea of his presence. Taking a deep breath and praying to God that his plan would work, Collin Stark flew head first for Patricia Lovelace's own head and plummeted deep into the dark and rotten depths of her mind.
Collin didn't like it in Patricia's mind. It was cold in there; cold and damp like a cave. He was sucked further and further into the very core of her mind, like she was some sort of black hole that was only capable of destroying people. From his own experience, that was exactly what she was, but he didn't want to be too presumptuous and assume- look how far that was getting people. Once he had found a somewhat suitable place for him to lodge himself for
the time being, Collin Stark began to work his magic and control her mind. He took it for a test drive- slow at first.
"I am Patricia Lovelace." Collin made her say out loud.
Dane Warren raised an eyebrow at whom he thought was Patricia Lovelace. "Yes, I'm fully aware of that." He said slowly. Collin had a feeling that it would take Dane awhile to catch on to what was actually happening, and by that time it would already be too late for the Anti Christ. "Is this any sort of news to you?"
Collin smirked, making Patricia smirk as well. This would be loads of fun. "No, not news to me." He smiled complacently and sat there in silence. Dane seemed to accept this response, and continued nonchalantly ignoring her. This made Collin hyper aware of what he was saying. If he was too out of character for Patricia, then Dane would automatically suspect something and his plan would either be ruined or made much more difficult... There was always the possibility of both happening, but Collin liked to retain some sort of optimism. Now the only question was where did he go from here? He didn't know anything about how Dane had evolved into an Anti Christ character, and he certainly wasn't aware of any sort of diabolical plan about to occur.
But, before Collin had the chance to ponder this last thought any further, something peculiar and odd happened. Patricia Lovelace, the real one, decided to begin to fight back. Collin felt himself being pushed- quite literally shoved- from his lodging in Patricia Lovelace's mind and back out into the open air. He watched Patricia blink quite rapidly and open and close her mouth.
"Did you see that?" She asked Dane who seemed quite reluctant to return any sort of attention to the girl.
"Did I see what?" He asked, both his voice and tone dripping with boredom and just an over "I don't really care" attitude.
Patricia frowned. She frowned on the outside, but she was seething on the inside- Collin could see that clearer than anything else. "Oh nothing." She said. She thought something different. "Someone's been trying to tamper." Was what she thought. "Someone is meddling around in my mind." For a moment, Collin sensed confusion from the girl, but then a wave of realization hit her. "Collin Stark." She thought bitterly. Collin thought it impossible for him to be getting chills while astral projecting, but he was proven wrong as he shivered.
Patricia Lovelace began to walk towards the front door of the house. Now she'd caught Dane's interest.
"Where are you going?" He asked her.
"To the church." She curtly replied. "To take care of some business."
Curious, like a small child, Dane rose from his seated position on the couch and began to follow her. "I'll join you." He said. "I need a distraction from my mundane life, and this sounds interesting."
Not realizing what exactly was happening, Patricia allowed for Dane to accompany her. Realizing the situation to it's fullest extent, Collin grinned from ear to ear and rushed back to his body, allowing sleep to once again overcome him as he returned to Purgatory.
"This is nearly perfect." He said out loud. "Surely I'll be able to protect myself- in the least- while I'm awake... And once Dane finds out that I'm alive, maybe he'll not do whatever evil thing he was planning on doing that I'm supposed to be stopping. He'll get rid of Patricia once he sees how she's deceived him and everything will go back..." He knew better than to say that things would go back to normal. Aurora was dead- things would never be "normal" again. Collin Stark woke up just in time to hear both Patricia Lovelace and Dane Warren storm through the doors of the church. He pulled his blanket up against his chest and shrunk against the wall, cowering in fear, too afraid to move, too run, or too do much anything else. He simply waited.
"Why are we in here?" Dane asked Patricia, raising both of his eyebrows and curling his upper lip in disdain. He'd never enjoyed being inside of the church- even when he was inside of the church with Aurora. It never appealed to him- he was repulsed by the mere thought of it. And yet... here he was... again. He wouldn't even be allowed in the church if it wasn't for Aurora, and now she was dead, so why was he here? That's why he asked. He expected a prompt and concise answer, but didn't receive exactly what he was looking for.
"I told you." Patricia snapped impatiently. "I'm taking care of some business that is none of your business. You could've stayed at home and I'd have returned in less than an hours time, but because of your incessant nagging and stalling this is taking longer than I would've hoped." She griped. She paused, thinking for a moment, and then her eyes lit up with a conclusion. "He's in the back."
"Who's in the back?" Dane demanded to know. He was still feeling left completely in the dark about the whole situation, and wasn't enjoying not being a part of what felt like one big joke.
Patricia ignored his question and threw open the door to the priest's quarters, revealing Collin Stark, who promptly began to shriek at the top of his lungs. He fainted.
Dane's green eyes glowered at the back of Patricia's head. "He's still alive." He said.
Patricia, realizing what was happening, slowly turned around. Her own green eyes were livid with fear. She now knew what she had done. "He.. is alive... Dane, this isn't what it looks like."
"And you knew." Dane said, slowly drawing closer and closer to Patricia who began to shrink back until she hit a wall and had nowhere else left to go. "You knew about this the whole time. What else were you hiding from me?"
"Nothing!" Patricia insisted. "And I was only doing this for you! If you knew he was still alive, then you wouldn't have realized your evil potential!"
"And what do you know about evil potential?" Dane asked Patricia in a low and deadly voice. "Who are you?"
Patricia hesitated before taking a long, deep breath and admitting her existence to both Dane Warren and the world of the living in the house of God. "I am Patricia Lovelace, the youngest daughter of Lucifer, and I was the one responsible for the destruction of Christ and the death of Aurora Lockhart, the eldest daughter of Lucifer." She confessed. When she was through, she breathed a long sigh of relief before Dane's hand clamped around her throat.
"You knew this whole time... You were the cause of all of my pain and my suffering- my misery!" He spat at her through clenched teeth, fingers digging into her throat and her neck, cutting off her air supply.
"I did it all for you." She repeated in between chokes and coughs. "I did it all for you."
Horrified and enraged, Dane Warren threw her body by the throat into the pews. She lay limp- dead. He could nearly see her spirit rise out of her body before descending into hell to join her father- to be where she belonged. Dane let out a mangled cry of anger and sorrow before dropping down to the church floor in front of the crucifix.
"Forgive me, Father." He breathed heavily now, nearly all of his energy gone. "For I have sinned." When he lifted his head upward, Collin Stark, still not in his right of mind, was standing above him with a rather dazed and confused look on his face.
"Dane?" He asked.
Dane managed to find it in him to smile at his friend. "Yes, Collin. It's me." He did notice the knife in his friend's hand. "You've come for me, haven't you?"
Collin, beginning to cry without realizing it now, nodded very solemnly. "It's pretty up there." He said without realizing what he was really talking about. "There's a very pretty girl waiting for you. I saw her in my dream. She has pretty golden hair and she says she misses you a lot. You and me. We can go see her together."
Dane shook his head. "No, no. Someday you'll get to see her but it shouldn't be now. I'll never make it to see her. I'm going to a different place."
Collin nodded, insisting. "Yes. We can go see her together right now. She says my father is there with her. She says my father wants both of us to come."
Dane took a deep breath in and closed his eyes for a long time. When he opened them, Collin was sitting beside him. Both of them were beneath the large crucifix hanging on the wall in the church.
"She said to wait." Collin said. "She said that we should wait for her. Beneath medicine tree."
Dane looked up at the crucifix, then back at Collin. There was a striking resemblance between the two figures. "Well we're waiting." Dane told him. "Beneath medicine tree."
Collin Stark closed his eyes and never opened them again. Dane Warren decided to do the same. Maybe, he thought, if he followed suit there would be a similar outcome... But he wasn't about to get his hopes up. Dane Warren, while waiting beneath medicine tree, dreamed of a girl with gray blue eyes and long blonde hair that was waiting for him with a boy with a black mop of hair and chocolate brown eyes. Both of them were sitting beneath a tree; both of them were smiling at him.
Dane Warren was on a bridge, he realized, in his dream. He was on a bridge and had an important decision to make: he could cross and join his friends, or he could stay and live with his demons. The decision was made for him, after he had taken too long to take the first step on his own. He was pushed towards the medicine tree.
He realized something, then, with that decision made. He was no longer scared by his own desert places.
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