I suggest listening to this song while reading this chapter.
She hated school. Hated it. It was always the same thing over and over: boring classes, boring teachers and boring people, talking about boring topics.
What a bunch of idiots.
She hated them. All of them. If she never had to see any of them ever again, she’d be happy. But life didn’t work that way, and she was still stuck with them for at least another couple of years. It made her envious of her siblings. Arienne was already done with school and Renard…he only had a couple of months left.
So damn lucky.
Behind her, she could hear the girls at the other table snigger. She didn’t even need to turn around to know they were laughing at her. She simply walked away, doing her best to ignore them. It wasn’t that difficult; she’d had enough practice. She refused to give them the satisfaction of knowing just how much it bothered her.
She hated being a teenager. She hated school, she hated the people around her, and she hated the expectations society had suddenly placed on her. Go to school, get a boyfriend, graduate, get a job, get married, have children.
What a boring existence.
Of course, Arienne didn’t share her sentiments at all. In fact, her sister thrived on those expectations. She only had two things left on the list to achieve, and she was well on her way to do it, having gotten engaged to her high school sweet-heart just two weeks previously.
How unbelievably freakin’ boring. Was that all people ever did? How many people even bothered to look for someone else, instead of just settling down with the person they dated in high school? She didn’t want that. Surely there was more to life than such an utterly boring existence?
Maybe…maybe it wasn’t life that was boring. Maybe it was just life in Sunset Valley. Maybe it would be a good idea to leave the town when she was done with school. Maybe then she’d find somewhere she’d belong. She loved her family, but…family wasn’t enough.
It was almost dark by the time she finally returned home. The lights were already on, its familiar glow welcoming her to enter the comforting warmth of her house; warmth that only her family had ever been able to give her. Through the glass she could see her dad and Renard talking and for a moment, just a moment, she felt like a stranger looking in.
But then she opened the door and her dad turned to her with a welcoming smile on his face and that irrational feeling of not belonging faded away like mist before the sun. She was home. In spite of the presence of the ghosts, it was the only place she had ever belonged.
“Everything alright?” her dad asked her softly, pulling her into a half-sided hug. If it had been someone else asking her, she knew she would’ve given them some kind of flippant reply, but it was her dad. He was the only person she couldn’t treat indifferently. If there was one thing she knew she shared with Renard, it was that she didn’t want to disappoint her dad.
“Just tired,” she answered him softly. Her dad gave her shoulder another squeeze, wordlessly informing her that he knew something else was bothering her, but that it didn’t matter and that he’d support her no matter what it was. After all the crap she got at school, it was incredibly liberating.
“I’m here if you ever want to talk,” her dad assured her with a gentle smile, immediately causing her spirits to lift. She gave him a grateful smile and bounded up the stairs to her room, feeling carefree for the first time that day. When she went to sleep that night, it was with the knowledge that she wasn’t alone.But time was a fickle thing, and it wasn’t long before her entire world got turned on its head.
“Lyra, are you listening to a word I’m saying? You’re the one who asked me to explain this stuff,” Renard interrupted his sister’s boredom-induced trance. She scowled at him, immediately irritated that he interrupted her thoughts. She couldn’t help not focusing on Renard’s explanation. He was terrible at explaining things.
“Yeah, sure, whatever,” she replied flippantly. Renard scowled and threw down his pen in exasperation, giving Lyra the reaction she was looking for. She was itching for a fight; had been itching for the entire week. Renard was just the perfect excuse to not hold back anymore.
“Why do you even bother asking me for help if you don’t wanna listen?” he snapped at her, finally losing his patience. Lyra glared at him and opened her mouth to retort –
“Children, if you’re going to fight, do you mind doing it where I can’t hear you?” their dad mildly rebuked them, clearly on edge, as evident by the slight scowl on his face. His words instantly stopped the fight, causing the two teens to shift uncomfortably. Their dad almost never grew impatient with them. It just didn’t happen.
For a moment the teens just stared at their dad, completely caught off guard, but then his words caught up to them and they both mumbled an apology, the fledging fight completely forgotten. Even so, a slight tension remained hanging over them.
“Uhm, is something wrong, dad?” Renard hesitantly enquired after a while; when the silence grew too profound for his comfort. Their dad sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose and for a moment Lyra was sure he wouldn’t answer them, but that notion was quickly dispelled.
“I just received some troubling news, that’s all,” he answered them tiredly. “It’s not a major issue, but…it is worrying.”
The confession was simple enough and Lyra should’ve believed him, but the haunted look in her dad’s eyes convinced her it was more than that. She didn’t think the news he’d received was such a minor matter as he made it out to be.
“Does this have something to do with the attack on the police station?” Renard asked, proving himself to be a bit more perceptive than Lyra had expected.
It was a long time before they got an answer, and when they did, it was just half an answer.
“Just…be careful, okay?” their dad requested tiredly. “Try not to go anywhere alone, and try to be back here before it gets dark. I’m probably worrying about nothing, but…I think I’ll be more at ease if the two of you do this for me.”
It wasn’t an order, but in Lyra’s eyes it just as well might have been. It was disconcerting to see her dad so ill at ease. She chafed at the restrictions placed on her, but she knew she’d obey them nonetheless, even if it did take away her freedom slightly.
In the end, it turned out her dad hadn’t been worried about nothing, but by the time they found that out, it was already too late.
“Seriously? You’re going out now?” Lyra asked incredulously, staring at her brother. “What about Dad’s request? He asked you not to go out after dark!”
Renard shrugged unconcernedly, the nonchalant gesture infuriating Lyra.
“And Ingrid asked me to come over,” he pointed out as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Besides, Dad won’t even notice I’m gone. I’ll be back before him.”
“Really Renard, would it kill you to listen for once?” Lyra once again tried to talk reason into her brother, angered beyond reason by the way he kept brushing her off, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Instead he flipped her off and left the house, disappearing into the darkness of the night. With their mom at work and their dad at a meeting with his editor, Lyra was suddenly left completely alone, with only the ghosts to keep her company.
She suppressed the urge to scream. Her stupid stupid damn brother! Why did he have to be so stubborn? Why did he have to be so irresponsible? Why couldn’t he just listen for once in his life? She knew why. It was because he thought the whole damn world revolved around him!
The winter-wind howled around the house, causing her to shiver slightly. She was alone, in the one place she was never supposed to be alone. The lights were on, but that familiar warmth Lyra found so comforting was missing, leaving her to feel cold in a completely inexplicable manner.
On the other side of town, Chantia froze in her steps. The Song she’d been hearing throughout her life had changed again; suddenly, urgently. It had once again become a dirge: one that had all blood draining from Chantia’s face.
Someone in her family was going to die.
In retrospect, it wasn’t one of the most intelligent things Renard had ever done. There usually was a reason why he listened to his dad. His dad didn’t often expect things from them, but when he did it was for a damn good reason.
How could he have forgotten that?
“Well, well, aren’t you the pretty boy,” the woman who had tied him up stated predatorily, tilting up his head slightly so she could look at his eyes. Her hand was cold against his skin, and the feathery way she caressed his cheek sent shivers down his spine. There was nothing sensual about the caress. If anything, it reminded Renard of the way a lioness would circle her prey before taking it down. The slight gleam of insanity in her eyes did nothing to dissuade him of that notion.
His heart thundered in his chest. There was no mistake about it. The woman in front of him was dangerous. Why hadn’t he listened to Lyra?
“You look so much like your father, don’t you?” the woman murmured softly, a dangerous smirk playing on the corners of her mouth. She moved her hand up his cheek and stopped at the corner of his eye, her hand lingering on his cheekbone. “Except your eyes. You don’t have your father’s eyes.”
A flash of hate appeared in her eyes and her entire face twisted, showing Renard a visage of intense hatred. She grabbed his face, her nails cutting small crescents into his cheeks.
“You were supposed to be mine,” she spat out, her voice laden with anger. “He belonged to me. Instead that brown-eyed bitch stole him from me and dared to give him hope.”
Renard flinched and closed his eyes, wishing he could somehow get away from the woman, or that somebody could save him. He had never been so afraid before in his life.
The woman gave a chortle, her face once again twisting. The slight gleam of insanity in her eyes intensified, leaving Renard with absolutely no doubt that the woman in front of him was a complete and utter psychopath. The crazed smirk playing once again on her mouth only lent emphasis to that idea.
“So you know what?” she asked rhetorically. “I’m going to take him back, and I’m gonna make him despair.” Her face lit up in delight and the peals of laughter that suddenly ran through the warehouse caused another wave of shivers down Renard’s spine.
Her laughter abruptly stopped, leaving the last remnants of the sound to echo in the silence. She turned her gaze back to Renard, that same crazed smirk still on her face.
“I think…I’ll start with you. Dear, dear Sammy will surely come for you, won’t he?” She caressed his cheek again, and despite his desire to turn his face away from her touch, he couldn’t move a muscle. He was frozen in fear; like prey caught in the gaze of a predator. “So protective over his precious little family. But he forgot: he belongs to me. And so does everything that’s precious to him.”
Her hand left his face and for a moment Renard felt relief, but that relief soon turned to dread when she fished his phone out of his pocket.
“Why are you doing this?” Renard asked hoarsely, his voice cracking with fear. “What has my dad ever done to you to make you do this to me?”
Her answer was a short, hatred-filled laugh.
“Oh, you have no idea,” she sneered. “But it doesn’t matter. All I’m doing is give him a reminder; a reminder that I don’t take kindly to being betrayed. You, I’m afraid, are only my means to an end.”
With that declaration she pushed a button on his phone, causing the sound of a dialling tone to fill the warehouse. On the screen, Renard could clearly read the recipient of the call, causing mixed feelings of gratitude and uneasiness to rise up in him.His dad would come to safe him. He was sure of it.
But why did he feel so uneasy about it?
A/N: In case there were any doubts, Valeri got a little more insane during her stay in prison. And now I will run away before anyone can kill me for the horrible cliffhanger I’ve left. XD *runs very, very far away*
(Btw, Arienne is now on the download page, if anybody is interested in her)