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The happiness of the night before lasted only til my head hit my pillow. Vague and disturbing dreams plagued me all night.

I was so shaken, I had to call home when I woke up. All was well, though.

I wasn’t really surprised to see Rory outside my door the next morning.

“Good morning,” he said, as usual.

It did surprise me that he pecked my cheek, before walking me to breakfast.

He sat with Mandy and I, which was very unusual.

Students stared at us. To my chagrin, Dana was one of them. She was staring at us furiously, and I knew it was going to be a bad day.

I said as much to Rory and Mandy.

“Pfft, whatevs,” Mandy snorted.”What is she going to do about it, huh?”

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” I replied, and pushed away my uneaten food. Rory frowned and shoved the plate back at me.

“You need to eat,” he said.”And anyway, I’m here because I want to be. Who cares what she thinks?”

He grinned at me. I smiled slightly in return, and ate a little. It still tasted strange to me, but I needed to eat, so I choked some down.

I was surprised to find that it didn’t really fill me up at all. I thought I could eat like a horse and still not have enough.

Mandy and Rory mistook my perplexed expression for worry.

“Seriously, Jade, we won’t let anything happen today,” Mandy said.”Right, Rory?”

“Of course,” Rory said, standing. He took my hand and led me to class.

___

Today was my turn to paint Rory. I was looking forward to it. He had such an expressive, not to mention handsome, face.

I wasn’t as chatty today as I was yesterday, I was concentrating so hard on my work.

“So, I was trying to tell you something yesterday,” Rory’s voice broke through my concentration.

“Oh?” I murmured.”Hey, that’s right, you were. So, what was it?”

“Well, I-“

“Jade?”

I turned to face Ms.Olivier. She had a terrible expression on her face.

“Come with me, please.”

Bewildered, I followed her into the hall, where she told me the news that absolutely shattered me.

___

I imagine my screams frightened everyone in the classroom. Probably a few classrooms. But I didn’t care.

Ms.Olivier had Rory escort me back to my dorm room.

“What is it?” Rory kept asking. All I could do was shake my head over and over.

He followed me into my room.

“What happened?’ he asked insistently as I started throwing clothes into my backpack.

“I have to go home,” I sobbed. I could barely see what I was doing.

“I’m going out of my mind here, what’s going on?” Rory yelped.

“It’s my mom,” I cried.

“Is she sick again?”

“No, she’s not,” I said, sitting on the edge of my bed. I dropped my head to my hands, weeping.

Slowly, I turned to him, tears streaming down my face.

“She’s dead.”

___

I was on my way back to Bridgeport. Dad had called and requested I come home.

I had been right all along. Mom had been sick. Very sick.

And now it was too late.

I sat and stared out the window of the bus, disheveled and dry eyed. I had shed all of my tears.

Slowly, my eyelids drooped. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. Lulled by the swaying of the bus, I fell asleep. And dreamed.

I woke, not far from Bridgeport, soaked with sweat. The same dream.

___

Dad met me at the bus station. He wordlessly held out his arms, and I fell into them gratefully.

“Oh, dad!” I sobbed.

He took me home, led me inside, and sat me in the living room.

“Why?” I asked. I didn’t need to clarify, he knew what I meant.”How?”

“Jade…” he said, his expression so full of anguish I thought he would die of a broken heart, right there. It hurt to look at him.

“Little Beauty, perhaps I’ve kept things from you for too long. I should have been straight with you right from the beginning. There are things you should have been told a long time ago, but I…we, weren’t sure you were ready to hear them.”

My heart, already aching, began to thud painfully.

“Do you know anything of our physiology?” he asked suddenly.

“No, not really,” I said.”I know we’re stronger and heal fast.”

“Fast, yes, but not completely.”

“I don’t understand!”

“We are not…immortal. Nor are we completely invulnerable to harm, it’s true.”

I nodded, wondering what he was getting at.

“But our healing can only do so much for one area of our bodies at a time. If I were to say…cut my hand, it would heal probably within a day, depending on the severity of the wound. But if I were to injure it again, over and over, eventually it would take longer each time, never quite healing completely, until it would eventually cease to heal, while other parts of my body would go on healing. You see, we can only do it so many times, per body part. And…your mother…”

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Dad stared at my expression.

“I see you understand,” he said softly.

“All those pregnancies, all those miscarriages,” I whispered.

“Yes, she could not heal properly each time. It’s my fault,” dad said in anguish. He jumped up and began to pace.”She was my soul!”

He threw his head back and screamed in pain. I waited while he calmed down, somewhat, and began to mutter, still pacing.

“I knew, and I should have restrained myself better. It’s all my fault, and I’ve lost my beloved mate, and taken your mother from you.”

“Dad, I-“

He was beginning to look like a wounded and caged beast.

“Do you hate me now, Jade?” he suddenly asked.

“What?” I said, my eyes round with astonishment.

“I’ve kept things from you, things you needed to know, and I’ve caused the death of your mother. Do you hate me for it?”

“I’m sure mom had something to do with it, too,” I said dryly.”The walls are thin, and she sounded like she enjoyed it as much as you did.”

He made a strangled sound, deep in his throat.

“No, I don’t hate you,” I continued, shaking my head.”You haven’t really done anything for me to hate you. This wasn’t your fault. Aunt Sophie and aunt Camryn did say that mom’s miscarriages were probably caused by something wrong with her body to begin with. She was born that way, and no one is to blame for it.”

“You’re taking this rather…well, under the circumstances.”

“In a minute, I’ll probably start screaming. Right now I’m too tired and too sick to care.”

“You’re ill?” dad was concerned, I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

“Not eating,” I said shortly.

Dad gave me a sharp look, but when I volunteered nothing further, he let the matter die. I went to lay down, with the beginnings of a splitting headache, and cried myself to sleep.

___

It was that dream again.

I was in a graveyard. It was foggy and dark.

I could see a hooded, cloaked figure, who beckoned me closer. When I came, it pointed to two plants nearby.

I could see them clearly. I knew what they were. Deathflowers.

I turned back. Behind the hooded figure stood a woman. It was my mom.

I tried to go to her, but the figure stopped me, and held out its hand. It wanted something. It pointed to the plants again.

I picked one of the flowers, seeing the plant wilt and die, and tried to give it to the figure, but I couldn’t. My hand went right through it.

It pointed again, and I plucked the other flower, but I couldn’t give it, once again. The figure pointed to me, and I could see my wrists now.

Blood was pouring from them.

___

I woke up, screaming. But I was alone. It was morning.

What had the dream meant? Did it mean anything at all, or was it a message?

I thought long and hard about it. I might not have been thinking clearly, in my grief, but I chose to think of it as a sign.

I was going to save my mother.

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