“Where were you?” were the first words Adelina heard when she entered her door.
“Out,” she replied curtly, reaching down to unzip her boots.
“Out where?” was the swift response.
“And why would you care?” she snapped, turning around to face her mother.
Adelina Roman was almost identical to her mother. Rosalina Roman had a slightly lighter shade of Adelina’s auburn hair, and her blue eyes were mirrors of her daughter’s. Luckily for Adelina, she hadn’t passed down the gene of freckles to her. They were practically the same height, a generous five feet and six inches, with curvaceous bodies that turned heads.
Adelina hated it.
She knew she was beautiful and had no complaints – except the fact that she had gained it all from her mother.
Rosalina sighed. “I heard today was Elizabeth’s birthday,” she ventured.
“Yeah, so?” she replied nonchalantly.
“Is that what took you so long? Because you threw that party for her?”
“So what if I did? It’s none of your business anyway.” She began to head for the stairs.
Rosalina followed her. “I’ve told you this before, Adie. You shouldn’t spend –“
Halfway across the stairs, Adelina spun around, a furious expression on her normally cheerful face. “Don’t you dare,” she hissed, eyes sparkling with an emotion familiar to Rosalina.
She reared back. She had to end this now. She was running out of time. Steeling herself, she ignored her daughter’s harsh gaze and announced her reason for coming back.
Adelina seemed to grow even more furious, her face contorting horribly. For once in a very long time, Rosalina was nervous.
“How dare you.” Her voice was filled with vicious anger and cold steel. “How dare you come in here, after months away and think you walk in again and suddenly become my mother again?”
The fire in her eyes burned brighter with every word she said.
“You waltz in here, demand my presence, ask who I spend my time with and think you can drag me back with you to wherever the hell you came from? You should have never come back.”
The air around them seemed to go from weightless to oppressive. Rosalina gasped, her lungs struggling for air. Her vision seemed to dim, and she fell to her knees, faint and breathless. Her heart sunk as she looked up at her daughter. Her power was obvious and potent, and she felt her very Essence leave her. It wouldn’t be long until she dissolved.
She couldn’t help but think that she had failed her daughter right before darkness took her over forever.
Adelina woke up to the absolute chill, bright lights, beeping and the hum of medicinal machinery in a hospital.
“What the hell…?” she thought, her eyes slowly fluttering open, taking in her surroundings.
Like she thought, she was lying in a hospital bed, with several other pale looking teenagers in beds around her. The room was bright and quiet, with beeping constantly breaking the silence of the room.
Adelina felt so weak. She felt like all the energy had been sucked out of her. Was that why she was here? She didn’t even remember how she got in here.
“How did I get in here…?” she questioned aloud, searching for someone she recognized.
A door she hadn’t noticed suddenly burst open, startling her. A motherly looking nurse bustled in, humming pleasantly under her breath.
Glancing at Adelina, she beamed when she realized that she was awake. “Good morning!” she greeted happily, making her way towards the foot of her bed. “How are you feeling, Ms. Roman?”
Adleina was extremely confused. She couldn’t recall anything about getting admitted into a hospital. The last thing she remembered was stepping out of her car and into her house.
“I – um –“ she found herself struggling to respond. “I feel fine, it’s just –“ she paused, attempting to sit up, “ – where am I exactly? And how did I get here? I don’t remember anything –“
The nurse tutted at her feeble attempts, reaching out to assist her by handing her an extra pillow. “Of course you don’t remember, everyone is almost definitely hazy after their Awakening. Our scouts found your unconscious body in your house and brought you here, she explained.
Hearing this, Adelina began to panic. “Unconscious? How did that happen? Who are your scouts and how did they find me? How did they get into my house, of all places? And what the hell is ‘The Awakening?’”
“Hey, relax.” The nurse reached for her hand and rubbed it pleasantly. “There’s no reason to panic. Just calm down, close your eyes, and relax.”
Her tone of her voice changed as she said that last word, but before Adelina could tell her to shove her soothing words somewhere unpleasant, she felt herself slowly lose consciousness.
“What’s happening to me?” she thought as she drifted back into oblivion.
When Adelina came to, the first this she noticed was that she was in a much comfortable bed than she had been before. The second she noticed was the buzz of people quietly chatting all around her.
Dreading what she found, she slowly opened her eyes and discreetly glanced around her. She had been right in both of her observations. She had been moved into a bedroom whiles she had been out. It was a very classy, yet very haunting looking room, with dark woods and blood red upholstery.
Concerning her second observation – and she was very concerned – Adelina prayed that she was in more than the hospital gown under the sheets. Then again, that would mean someone undressed her…
Pushing her courage forward, Adelina sat up in the bed, clearing her throat at the crowd. The room was suddenly silent, and every eye turned to her.
There went all her bravery. “Hi,” she said meekly, ignoring the way they all intensely stared at her. “Where am I?” she asked.
One of them pushed past the rest of the crowd. He was a very regal looking man, with slightly greying hairs standing out on a head of dark auburn hairs and the presence of a royal.
“Miss Roman,” he greeted. Adelina blushed. She felt like she should curtsy – his presence seemed to demand it.
“Hey,” she replied lamely.
Chuckles went through their audience. He sent a scathing look back at them, and they immediately quieted down. Satisfied, he turned back to the thoroughly embarrassed teenager. He smiled kindly at her. “My name,” he began, his gaze pining her down, “is Augustus DeVaine. You may address me as sir, or Lord DeVaine. Are we clear?”
She reared up, her eyes flashing in anger. Who was this stranger to tell her how to address him when he had kidnapped her? She was about to tell him exactly what she thought, when his regal-looking eyebrow went up.
Inwardly pouting, she slumped back down onto the bed and muttered, “Yes…sir.”
Looking pleased, his gaze seemed to soften and he walked to the side of her bed, holding a hand out for her. “Come,” he instructed. “We have a lot to discuss, and you must be starving.”
As he said those words, she felt her stomach growl, and she inwardly winced. She hoped that wasn’t as loud to others as it had seemed to her. Drawing back her covers, she realized – with plenty of relief – that someone had put a silk dressing robe over the hospital gown. It was a simple, ankle-length black robe with silver embroidery on the edges.
Reaching out, she accepted his hand and allowing him to pull her out of the bed. She hadn’t realized it lying down, but he was extremely tall. He looked to be at least six feet tall, and he completely dwarfed her.
She was slightly startled when his hand rested on the small of her back, but she immediately obeyed as the hand gently led her towards the door. The crowd of people parted for them, and she was led out of the room and into a hallway of doors. The slight pressure from the hand made her turn left. The hallway was just as haunting as the room: it was filled with dark woods and picture frames, which the white paint on the walls contrasted with.
At the end of the hall way, they entering a large room at she recognized to be a dining room. A long, rectangular black dining table that could hold at least ten was in the center of the room. Surrounding it were large French windows that showed the surrounding area of the mansion – she knew it was too big to be a house, and that was no common backyard.
“Sit,” Augustus invited.
Adelina almost grinned when a butler seemed to pop out of nowhere and hold her chair out for her. Sitting in what she hoped was a gracious looking manner, she turned to say thank you to the butler.
To her surprise, he was gone.
She glanced around her. They sure were fast, she thought to herself, impressed.
She turned her eyes to Augustus, who had his head propped on his hands, coolly observing her from the opposite end of the table.
“Sir,” she began. She didn’t know why, but she was suddenly too scared to find out. “What exactly happened to me? I don’t remember much –“
“Come now, don’t lie to me, or yourself,” he interrupted calmly, holding his hand up. Several butlers appeared from doors she hadn’t noticed. They began to place different mouth-watering dishes on the large table. One of them – she recognized him as the one who pulled her chair for her – placed a tiny serving of each dish on her plate.
“You’re beginning to remember aren’t you?”
Adelina tensed up, hesitating before replying, “Yes. But…not much. I only remember flashes. I had an argument with my mother and…” she looked down at her lap. Why couldn’t she remember? It was so frustrating.
“Please, eat,” Augustus said, after a minute or two of silence. “Yes, that’s only natural after Awakening.”
She twitched as she brought her fork to her mouth. It was that word again. What the hell did it mean?
If Augustus noticed her reaction, he didn’t comment. “I suppose I should start from the beginning,” he declared, more to himself than her. Glancing at her, he commented, “It’s a long story, but please do save any questions for the end.”
Not knowing anyway else to reply to that, Adelina simply nodded.
He looked satisfied. “I suppose this started the same way Earth did, a Big Bang –“ Adelina already had questions. “- but with different results. The Earth’s created conditions suitable for life, and possibly those first prokaryotes. But ours created something much more complex.”
“Ours? Our what?” she thought, thoroughly confused.
“Our Big Bang created a planet suitable for life as well, as well as prokaryotes. But there were two types of prokaryotes: the regular, bacterial kind that had brethren on Earth – and parasites,” he continued, pausing in between sentences to eat and take sips of what looked like wine.
Adelina’s eyebrow rose. If she was following this story correctly, he was talking about another planet. Another planet with the same beginnings as Earth, with one exception. She immediately concluded that he was crazy.
“So evolution occurred there, as it did here, and some of those prokaryotes became eukaryotes and those parasites became more complex as well. They fed of everything, from plants and tiny animals to their counterparts. I suppose they would be the equivalent of humans here. Feeding from them gave them special perks. These parasites were at the top of their food chain, and everyone knew it.
“But suddenly these parasites noticed a slight problem. They were growing too rapidly, and their planet was beginning to feel the strain of feeding them all. So they looked for a solution. It took centuries, their planet got more and more barren, but they finally found it.”
Adelina understood. “Earth,” she breathed in disbelieving, her food forgotten.
Augustus looked impressed. “That’s right. We found Earth. Where the most dominant species had spread all across the land like a plague, and there was plenty for us parasites to feed off while our home recovered.”
She noticed the change of pronoun from “they” to “we” immediately.
“Of course, not all of us came to Earth. That would overwhelm this planet as well. Some of us stayed to look for another planet to us as a safety net. But I digress. This story is about those parasites that came to Earth.”
He paused, delicately wiping his mouth with his white napkin. “It’s been about six centuries since the Journey. We immediately assimilated with the humans – it helped, of course, that physically, we looked exactly like them. But in the shadows, we created our own community, since we noticed their fear of everything supernatural. We weren’t supernatural, but the benefits of our feeding: the enhanced strength, the speed, the specialized skills – they were nothing like the humans had ever encountered in their dull lives. So we hid, fed, and lived happily. Then the unthinkable happened.”
His face darkened, and the room seemed to darken with him. Adelina shivered.
“Someone was stupid enough to mate with a human. Tell me Adelina,” she jumped at being addressed so suddenly, “how good are you at biology?”
“I get by,” she answered, wondering why he asked.
“Would you happen to know what the textbook definition of a species is?”
She didn’t reply immediately, but thought back to the last ecology and evolution class session she had. “A group of organisms that can produce fertile offspring,” she answered, sure of her answer. She remembered because her teacher had used the example of a liger, which was the offspring of two different offspring, not being able to produce any more ligers, even if it mated with another liger.
He smiled at her, pleased. “That textbook definition is exactly correct. The offspring that came from that mating session was useless to our race. So we Purged it, and got rid of the human parent.”
She raised her eyebrow. Purged as in…?
“We got rid of its human blood,” was the blunt response to her questioning face.
She reared back, shocked. How was that even possible? It was absolutely inhumane!
Augustus smiled, but there was no humor in his expression. “And you can see the problem with that method of Purging. But hear me out – this child was both a feeder and one to be fed on. With human blood and human DNA, he didn’t need to feed like the rest of us did. So if he grew up and suddenly decided to leave our society, he would be taking all our secrets into the open. The human parent was an obvious threat to us. We couldn’t allow that.
“So we Purged, so all that would be left was there parasite blood, keeping them in our society. It also ensured that they would be able to produce offspring later in life. Survival of the fittest, you see. Unfortunately, the Purging and our isolationism gathered some unwanted reactions. People began to get angry, they wanted to be able to mingle with humans as themselves, and mate as they pleased, without interference. As always with these types of stories, there was a war, followed by a rift. Since the 1600’s, there have been two societies: the Isolationists and the Enlighteners. Those foolish ones who believe that humans can be more than just food for us.”
Adelina could understand both sides of the argument. From the perspective of one of these parasites, intermingling with humans would dilute their blood. On the other hand, living in a secret society for your entire life must be very tiring.
Augustus switched the topic of his story suddenly. “I had a sister,” he began, his tone and facial expression unreadable. “She came to Earth at a very young age, she was still practically a baby.” He chuckled humorlessly. “She grew up watching us fight each other; there was no peace or sanctuary for her in society. So she found what she was looking for in the arms of a human.”
He looked like he was in so much pain and despair, Adelina wanted to stop him from saying anymore. This was a very personal story and she didn’t see what she had to do with it.
Nevertheless, he carried on, “When she was sixteen, she packed all her things and ran away with him before any of us realized what had happened. She knew exactly what would happen to this guy if he was ever caught, so she kept him hidden. That was one thing she was very good at: hiding things and people. But I, of course, wasn’t going to allow her, my sister of all people to live such a wayward life. I got our best tracker to find her.
“It was a decade before we received any news of her. To our surprise, she had a child. The human was dead. The cause was unknown. In any case, we needed to find her even more urgently now. That child would be the downfall of centuries of secrets if they lived with humans. Once they went through Awakening, and they most certainly would, they would be so very confused and very clumsy in hiding when they fed off someone.
“We put more trackers on the case, and finally, we found her. She was a tiny twelve-year old half-parasite who lived unhappily without her mother who was always away working. We knew exactly how to keep an eye on her.”
Dread began to build up in her stomach. She desperately hoped this story wasn’t about her. She had been twelve when she met –
Her head shot up, her eyes immediately locking onto Augustus’ pale blue ones He smiled at her, except it wasn’t a kind smile. It was one of regret and anger, and most of all, hatred. With a start, Adelina realized that this story was about her and her mother. She was sitting, eyes locked, in front of her uncle. And he hated her.
The chair screeched loudly against the floor as she stood up. “You’re crazy,” she declared, her hands visibly shaking. Her memory was coming back to her, but not in flashes anymore. Her head was pounding with the influx of sounds and feelings and remnants of sheer power she had that night. But what she remembered – there was no way it could be true.
Her eyes flared up with power once more. “Where is my mother?” she demanded. “Lead me to her, and we’re leaving this crazy place.”
Augustus didn’t reply to her, only breaking their gaze on each other and returning to his food. She stood in silence, not noticing any different, when suddenly the air around her changed. It was purposefully chocking her, and she gasped silently. Her hands went to her throat, attempting to grasp hands that weren’t there. Falling to her knees, she looked up at Augustus, who had gotten out of his seat and was now looking down on her.
“She’s dead,” he said emotionlessly. The hands tightened their hold, and she gasped again, clawing at the floor. “In your violent Awakening, you sucked every last essence from her body. All that was left was her dust.”
The hands fell away from her neck and she gasped loudly, taking in large breaths of air. She looked up at him, in anger and shock.
“That’s impossible,” she whispered – not just because she was recovering from being throttled, but also in despair.
Augustus walked away from her, his form sweeping to the door. “Believe or not,” he stated matter-of-factly, “she’s gone. It will do you good to acknowledge this as soon as possible and move on. Elizabeth will show you back to your room, and when you are ready, show you the rest of the Mansion.”
Still in shock, Adelina barely noticed as Augustus left the room and disappeared into the hallway. She hardly resisted as strong hands gripped her arm and hauled her onto her feet, pulling her to a different direction. Every time she stumbled on the carpet, it didn’t register in her mind. Neither did it when the hands gripped her arm tighter with every stumble. She didn’t recognize the bedroom she had occupied only about an hour before. She didn’t complain when she was unceremoniously thrown into the bed, and left there. Footsteps she barely heard walked away from her and a door she didn’t perceive slammed shut.
Adelina lay still, in a perpetual state of shock, for the rest of that day.
Elizabeth once again stood in front of the council. This time however, she wasn’t being interrogated, but rather rewarded for her latest mission.
“”You did excellently,” Augustus complimented. “Although the death of the rouge wasn’t expected, we might actually benefit from it. It will force her to open her eyes…”
She tuned out the rest of the speech. Like she cared what their plans were for that little spoiled brat anyway. All she wanted was –
“…and pertaining to your release,” Elizabeth noticeably straightened, her hunter eyes gleaming with hope. “I’m afraid that’s going to have to wait. The setback of not capturing the rogue –“
“I don’t care what the setback was!” she hissed, eyes blazing. “We had a deal! I got your stupid rogue leech and her daughter and you let my brother and I out of here! How dare you –“
Augustus smiled. The air around Elizabeth pressed against her from each side, and she lost her voice.
“I’m sorry.” Augustus didn’t sound sorry at all to her, and she would have pointed this out if she could. “You seem to be under the illusion that you have some say in when we release you and your brother back. Let me clarify this now.” He leaned out of his chair, locking eyes with her. She couldn’t breathe.
“You are our prisoner. You leave when we want you to. Do you understand?”
Elizabeth surprisingly had enough strength to nod. Augustus broke eye contact, looking pleased. The atmosphere lightened around her, and she wasn’t suffocating anymore.
“Now, as I was saying,” he began, acting like nothing had just happened, “Adelina will need a friendly face around in order to adjust. You will continue to play the role of her best friend, and you will guide her as we instruct of you. When we feel like she is independent enough, we will once again discuss your release.”
“Yes, Lord DeVaine,” she intoned.
Elizabeth bowed once more and left the room. She barely made it into the hallway before tears spilled from her eyes.
Joseph looked up at her from his waiting post at the door. One glance told him all he needed to know.
“They’re never going to let us go,” he whispered, his head falling despondently.
Elizabeth crouched in front of her younger brother and hugged him.
“They will,” she assured him, running her hand through his chocolate locks. “They will.”
Adelina’s eyes snapped open, gasping slightly in shock. Her eyes snapped up, and she saw Elizabeth staring down at her, her hand on Adelina’s shoulder and her face expressionless.
“Elizabeth,” Adelina whispered. “Is it true?”
The brunette said nothing, but rather pulled the blanket off her and hauled her to her feet.
“Go take a shower. There will be clothes for you when you return here. I’ll be back in exactly thirty minutes,” she ordered.
The redhead frowned, confused at her best friend’s tone. “Ellie,” she began, “why didn’t you tell me?”
Elizabeth glared at her with such hatred that Adelina felt like she had been struck.
“Don’t you dare call me that,” she snapped. “Let me make this clear to you: we are not friends, and we have never been friends. That Elizabeth Monroe you think you knew? She’s just a fake, a lie, a trap. She never existed and neither did our friendship.” She spat the word out like it was a foul substance that had forced its way into her mouth.
She drew herself up, removing her hand from her shoulder and turned to the door. “I will only say this once more. Be ready in thirty minutes, or face your dear uncle’s wrath.”
Adelina stared in shock, uncomprehending. The door slammed shut and she stared ahead.
Slowly, without thinking, she took slow steps and made her way to the bathroom on her right. Her robe fell unceremoniously off her body into a pool of silk at her feet. As if unsure of her actions, she stepped into the bathtub and turned on the faucet. The heat of the water burned her skin; turning it a bright red and she took no notice. She sank into the corner of the tub, knees slamming hard into the ceramic.
She stayed in that position for a good minute. And then finally, Adelina cried.