“The Blood Family and the True Family.
The Emptiness of the Lack of Love and the Desire to be Loved.
The One who reaches out his hand and Supports the Warrior.
And the One that hides a Trap amongst the stones of the Path.”
- The Prophet of Truth
Sarah put down the book that had kept her company all afternoon. It was one of the few books she’d found written in letters that she could actually understand. Most books she’d found around the house were filled with strange characters that didn’t belong to any alphabet she knew. Since there was no TV, radio or computer, reading was all there was left to help spend some time.
With a sigh she looked out the window. The light outside was slowly dying, and as night time grew closer she couldn’t help feel apprehensive.
It’s almost time for the monsters to leave their caves …
The sound of male voices coming from the ground-floor told her she’d been right.
Standing up she stopped in front of the mirror for a moment.
It’s okay. There’s nothing to fear. Everything will be fine. And then you’ll be able to leave all this madness behind and go on with your life.
Pulling two locks of hair that had escaped her ponytail behind her ears, she straightened the collar of her shirt, hoping to hide the bruises on her neck, and left the room, making her way to the stairs.
“Farran arrived yesterday,” she heard Alexis’ unmistakable voice and her heart skipped a beat in reply. She couldn’t help feeling more at ease, now that she was sure he was there as well. “And he already knows about everything that’s going on. I had a brief encounter with him last night.”
Sarah stopped by the door. That wasn’t a strange name anymore and she immediately identified it as belonging to the leader of the rebels that Alexis and the others were hunting down. She recalled the bloody wounds she’d helped him patch up and was sure they were a result of said encounter.
“Alex, it would seem your guest has arrived,” said the monochordic empty voice she had no doubt belonged to Aaran, and her cheeks grew warmer from the embarrassment of having been caught eavesdropping. Still she raised her head and entered the room giving each of the presents an unwavering look.
“Good evening,” she greeted them and Aaran stretched his lips in a courtly but obviously fake smile.
“Good evening, Sarah.”
Hale folded his arms over his chest and looked away, as if he’d rather ignore her presence, and Alexis avoided having to face her.
“Aaran and I will be going out. We can’t just sit here and wait for them to make the first move. It will be much easier to develop an attack plan if we learn where they’re hiding. Hale will stay, in case something happens,” he said in one breath, as if he were eager to leave the room as soon as possible, and Sarah just nodded, although Hale was obviously against that plan of action.
“You mustn’t leave the house, Sarah, no matter what,” Aaran added, persistently keeping his fake smile in place, and once more she couldn’t help shudder before the cold, dark emptiness that filled him.
“I know. You don’t have to worry,” she declared and the waves of despise coming from Hale became even stronger. Her attention, however, was focused on Alexis’ emotions. He was calm, now, no shadow of the fury that had consumed him before. Maybe because Aaran was there, she thought. But the pain was still there … the sadness and the loneliness too.
“See you later,” he simply told her and, before her incredulous look, fused with the shadow of the closest couch and disappear. Her gaze flew to Aaran that slightly bent his head before disappearing in a similar fashion.
Sarah clenched her fists, feeling as if someone had just punched her. Why was she surprised? They weren’t Human! And that was hardly the first time she saw them do something unbelievable like that. But if that was the case why did her heart refuse to accept such obvious differences?
They feel like us, and need help like us … but are nothing like us …!
And the sudden emptiness stole her breath away. Alexis wasn’t there anymore. He’d simply disappeared without so much as glancing her way.
Although she hadn’t seen him all day, knowing he was somewhere in that house had left her an implicit sense of safety. Even more so because, even though he’d warned her he wouldn’t be able to protect her during the day, he still had come to her when she’d needed him. No matter how much she hated to admit it, the fact was that without his help she’d never been able to escape John’s cruel hands. And she’d even gotten angry at him, and told him all those things … And sure, it was psychologically painful being close to him. But he could have equally and justifiably returned those same words to her, since all the wounds that now marked his skin had been sustained because of her.
“Are you going to stand there, staring stupefied into nothingness?” Sarah was startled by the acid critic tone that dragged her from her thoughts and looked at Hale who was still avoiding her. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”
Well, it’s no use thinking about these things now. All I can do is tell him I’m sorry when he comes back, she decided turning her mind towards her present situation that, in itself, presented some challenges of its own.
Hale was annoyed, she verified, in a sour mood, lacking patience and suffering from an acute crisis of jealously.
“Are you going to stay here the whole night?” she asked in her softest tone, trying to appease him.
“I’m staying here until I’m told otherwise.” He faced her with a profound expression of disgust. “What is it about you that makes you so special?” he practically spat.
“Well, I’d really like to know that myself. My life, before all this mess, was rather common and simple,” she declared with a sigh and Hale jumped to his feet, so nimbly and fast that Sarah couldn’t help be startled. His dark-green eyes took on a ferocious gleam and the malice that surrounded her made her heart beat urgently. However, contrary to Alexis, Hale was in complete control of his emotions and so she decided she wouldn’t show him just how much he was scaring her. If his objective was to intimidate her it wouldn’t work. All she had to do was believe in what seemed to be an indisputable hierarchic system, according to which Hale would never disobey Aaran’s word.
“It would be much easier to simply kill you and be done with it. We could then go back to Italy and leave Alexis to take care of Farran like always,” he declared in what could only be translated as a threat.
“Well, I can’t say you’re wrong, although I really don’t want to die,” she replied in an unwavering tone, determined to hide her weakness. “Still, from what I’ve come to understand, Aaran sent you to look for Alexis way before any of you even knew about my existence.” Hale growled, the reddish bangs of his hair falling over his forehead, and Sarah took a deep breath. “From all of you, you’re the one who hates me the most.”
“What do you know about what I feel? You’re nothing but a useless Human!”
Sarah smiled subtly and took a look around. His emotions were so strong that it was almost as if she could actually see them, floating everywhere. And yet, because they were kept under control, closing her mind to them, the same way she’d always been able to do in order to shield herself, wasn’t all that hard.
“I just know. Not all Humans are the same.”
“Heh! As far as I’m concerned you’re all vermin! Gaea would be much better off if we could only get rid of the whole lot of you parasites,” he spat angrily and Sarah faced his inhumane bright gaze.
“Well, I guess that you’re on the wrong side then. Isn’t that line of thought what led some of you to rebel in the first place?”
“And don’t think for a minute that they’re wrong!”
“But I’d never betray my King!”
“King …? Oh… Aaran,” she concluded. The empty one. As if nothing inhabited him. As if his body were merely an empty shell. Only darkness ...
“Aaran is a great leader! If only he wouldn’t make a point of follow the Law so fiercely … And then you show up!” he accused once more, taking a step towards her. “To bring hope to where there’s no hope. And what for? Nothing! You’re just a freaking accident of nature! And once the others see it as well you’ll only leave them in a much deeper despair!” Sarah blinked, unable to understand. It wasn’t the first time she was called something like a freak, but hope? What was he talking about? Hope of what? All she wanted was to get her old life back. And that was what Alexis had promised her. Nothing else.
“What are you talking about?”
Sarah clearly saw how much he wished he could tell her, and, on the other hand, the order he’d received not to talk about it. And from the hate emanating from him she was sure that she wouldn’t like his answer.
The ringing sound of her cell broke the tension that had filled the room, and Sarah took it out of her pocket.
“Sarah …?” The whispering, hesitant voice that answered from the other side left her heart beating faster.
“Selena! What is it? What’s wrong?” she inquired urgently and the brief silence that answered her only made her more anxious. “Selena?”
“Please Sarah, can you come and get me …?”
“Why? What’s wrong? Aren’t Martha and Raphael there?”
“Yes …” The girl’s insecure voice answered again. “Everyone’s here … Martha is fixing dinner. And I’m playing hide and seek with Miriam and Karl …”
Sarah took a deep breath as relief relaxed her tense body.
“What’s wrong then?” she asked softly and Selena was silent once more.
“Nothing …” she finally admitted and Sarah found herself smiling.
“Don’t worry, Selena. We’ll be back home in two, three days at most. Everything will go back to normal, you’ll see,” she assured her.
“That’s not it! Please! Please come and get me …” Selena pleaded again, almost crying, and Sarah felt as urgency coursed through her body once more.
Selena had never been a crybaby. Quite the opposite. She’d always been too proud and it was rare to hear her ask for help or even complain. Even at the funeral, she’d kept her head tall and hadn’t shed a single tear. Only Sarah knew how the accident had torn her up inside, and of the nights she’d cried herself to sleep. That being said, her insistence was starting to worry her and, in a certain way, frighten her. Suddenly she couldn’t help remember how Selena had desperately held on to her arm, pleading with her to convince their parents to stay at home on that tragic weekend. If only she had listened to her …
“Okay, Selena,” she decided. “I’ll go and get you. I’ll be there soon, so please don’t worry, okay?”
“I’m leaving home right now. I’ll be there in forty minutes max.”
Sarah heard her take a deep breath and her relief left her more at ease as well.
“I’ll be as fast as I can. And you can always call me again, whenever you want, okay?”
“Hum … okay …”
“See you soon.”
“See you …”
Sarah tuck the cell back inside her pocked and rushed to the door and up the stairs, climbing them two at a time.
“Hey! Where are you going?”
“To put on my shoes,” she replied as the sound of footsteps told her that Hale had followed her.
“You’re not thinking about leaving the house, are you?”
“You were in the living room just now, right?” she replied in the same tone, throwing her slippers to a corner as she put on her sneakers.
Alexis had brought them from her home, the same pair she’d wore that day, when she’d saved him from that warehouse, and although there were no traces of blood anywhere, she still hadn’t had the courage to wear them. Right then the idea didn’t even cross her mind.
“You have got to be kidding me!”
“Sorry, I’m not.”
“Didn’t you hear what Aaran said?”
Sarah tied the last lace and stood up, grabbing her handbag where she knew she had enough money to pay for a cab.
“Aaran may be King, but he is your King! I have nothing to do with that and have no obligation to obey him! Selena is my sister and she needs me! So either you tie me up or you get out of my way!”
Hale seemed shocked for an instant at how fierce she looked and Sarah took advantage of his stunned expression to escape from that room, running down the stairs before he could stop her.
“It would be much easier to just kill you and be done with it!” she heard him shout but by then she was already at the door. She opened it urgently, ready to run like crazy down the street, and stopped in the next second since he was now standing right in front of her. “Stupid, annoying Human! Are you that eager to die? 'Cause if you are I can take care of that right here, right now!” he roared and Sarah took a step back. She still hadn’t gotten used to having them appear and disappear just like that. In truth that ability was what freaked her out the most in all that not-Human business.
“Then you should be happy to just let me go!” she argued. “Like this you can’t even be blamed if I die.”
“No. I’ll only be blamed for letting you run away!” Hale replied sarcastically and Sarah raised her head.
“It wouldn’t be the first time, anyway! Alexis also let me escape, so …”
“I am not Alexis!” he interrupted her and his eyes lit up for a second, but his emotions were completely under control the next instant. Hale straighten his back, looking suddenly taller, and tuck his hands inside the pockets of his blazer. “I’ll take you,” he told her and turned around.
“You’ll take me …?”
“Either I take you or you won’t leave the house. Your choice!” Sarah didn’t have to think twice as she ran to catch up with him. “You’ll go there, say hi to your little sister and come back, understood? I won’t give you more than ten minutes. And no one ever has to know about this, are we clear?”
Sarah smiled softly.
He acts like an annoying kid, but actually has a good heart.
“Don’t thank me! I’m just doing this so I won’t have to put up with you screaming and shouting the rest of the night! And this because I’m not allowed to touch you!” he added sarcastically. “Or you may break or something. Otherwise I would have already knocked you out and be done with it!”
Sarah laughed and had to run again to reach him. His footsteps were too wide and fast, making it difficult to accompany him.
“Either way, thank you Hale,” she insisted, smiling when he peered at her from the corner of his eye, and immediately turned his gaze away, looking kind of embarrassed, which only made him walk even faster.
“Get in!” he commanded, indicating a brand new, bright red Ferrari California, and Sarah stared at him in disbelief.
“Is this yours?” she asked as she saw him jump over the door and nimbly land on the driver’s seat.
“I didn’t steal it, if that’s what you’re wondering. Are getting in or what?”
Sarah rushed to obey him and put on the seat-belt as her body leaned against the soft and comfortable leather seat.