I wish I could touch the stars. This is what went through my mind as I laid on the long grass, life slowly slipping from me. I stared up at the twinkling lights, seeming like diamonds in the sky. That song was an excellent observation. I felt so weak as I tried to raise my arm into the air, to feebly reach for sparks in the night sky. It took everything I had to move my arm even an inch, but it gently rose up. My breathing sped up, chest rising up and down as I struggled. I managed to raise my arm up, outstretched up to sky. The red on my arm gleamed in the light of fire nearby. I felt the heat touch my skin, warming my cold body. I knew I had not long. As I looked up, desperately reaching towards the stars, tears streamed down the side of my face, leaving clean marks through the blood. I could not understand how it had come to this. Only a few hours ago my life had been perfectly normal. Well, it hadn’t been perfect, and it had never been normal, but it had been far from this. I had been walking to my grandmother’s house upon her request. I had never been on good terms with her, mainly because of her own faults. She was ridiculously conservative, berating anything she deemed a danger to her way of life. She always found a way to justify her actions. I called bullshit every time. It didn’t help she disapproved of my mother’s lifestyle. My mother, she was a free-spirit, someone with an open heart and mind. I always wondered how my mom had grown into the person she was while living with the nightmare she had been forced to call her mother. I never even referred to her as grandmother. It was always Mrs. Black to me. We hardly spoke to one another. I knew if we saw more of each other, we would always be butting heads. Whenever she did see me, Mrs. Black would list everything that was wrong with me, from my choice of clothing to my friends, even how I spoke. She always criticized my strange hair color, but that wasn’t my fault I had been born with stark white hair. And I don’t mean blonde-white like platinum, I am talking about winter-white. But did that stop her? No. It was like she looked for anything she could find “wrong” with me. On one occasion, it had snowed and I had forgotten my hat. She went into this lecture about how dumb I was, forgetting my hat, and that I deserved to have my ears freeze and fall off as punishment. Luckily, my hair was long, it always has been, so it wasn’t that bad. But the fact she made such a big deal about it was what annoyed me the most. My mother had told me Mrs. Black had always been that way ever since she could remember. My grandfather had tried to reason with his wife, in order to make his daughter’s life a bit easier. After a while, though, it had gotten too much for him. Mrs. Black was overbearing to an insane level. She always accused him of affairs, of being such an imperfect husband. Eventually, he left her. My mom had said he had come to say good-bye to her in the wee hours of the morning. He gave her a present, a music box that had been in his family for generations. It was a beautiful antique, made of soft silver with delicate patterns of flowers embellished on. Mom had kept it hidden from Mrs. Black for fear of the older woman taking it away for good, or destroying it all together; a constant reminder of the man who had let her.Despite how I felt about my grandmother, I still went to visit her that day. I don’t know what possessed me to follow through the promise she forced me to make. The last time I had seen her, Mrs. Black made me promise to visit her at the end of the month, the day after my birthday. I had no clue why she would want me to come to her house. I didn’t call it a home because it had never felt inviting and warm as a real home does. It was always so cold and sterile. I hated being there. However, Mrs. Black was my grandmother, and somewhere deep in my heart, there was spot that felt the need to oblige her with a visit. She had no one. My grandfather had left her, when she had been old enough, my mother had left her. I suppose I was trying, in my own way, to show her she still had a chance to get to know me before she drove me away too. I had been making my way down the street, the sky ablaze with reds and oranges as the sun was setting. The temperature dropped with the change above. I rubbed my arms to stay warm, berating myself for not remembering to take my sweater. Mrs. Black lived all the way across town, on the very edge of the city. I figured with how her attitude was, my grandmother liked her privacy. I didn’t really ask. I didn’t really care. And I felt guilty each time I said that, even to myself. I knew I should have been more understanding of her, but then there was another part of me that said it was perfectly fine to act that way as she never changed, never even tried to. I neared her house, the old brown roof tiles already visible. I had been surprised by how quickly I had reached the house, it normally felt like an eternity just to get halfway there. I stood there, looking up at the house. It was two stories, not counting the basement and attic, build in the early 1950’s. It had a very antique feel to it, and it could have been more welcoming had my grandmother actually tried to make it homey. It was a beautiful building, with old-fashion glass windows, walls of strong oak. If only I had any good memories of it. I let out a heavy sigh, thinking I might as well get it over with. I took a few steps forward before stopping. I had seen a figure move from the corner of my eye. That was odd. My grandmother had owned the land surrounding her home for quite some time, and she didn’t like trespassers.“Ophelia! You are late,” Mrs. Black yelled from her doorstep. I rolled my eyes at her, “I’m only late by a few minutes. How in the world is that a bad thing? Please explain this to me in excruciating detail as you always do.”She merely frowned at me. I just looked back at her with apathetic eyes. This was our standard greeting. “Are you going to stand out there all evening?” she asked annoyed.“I was planning on it, but if you are inviting me, then I could change my plans,” I replied smugly, not hiding the smirk on my face.Mrs. Black was not amused, but I certainly was. She huffed with irritation, walking back inside and leaving the door wide open. This was her way of telling me to come in. I casually walked in, gently closing the door behind me. I went into the living room, the fireplace dancing with embers, the grandfather clock chiming as it reached 6 P.M. There were two soft-red sofas placed in the middle of the room with a long coffee table between them. The light of the fire brightened the color of the mahogany walls, but it did little to brighten my mood. Mrs. Black was sitting up on one of the couches, straight as an arrow, with a cup of tea in her hand. She sipped her tea rather loudly, slurping the liquid as much as she could. I frowned irate, knowing she was doing so on purpose. I had wondered why she would want me to come over if she so disliked my presence.“Let’s get this over with,” I finally said. “I want to leave just as much as you want me to.”“Ophelia, manners,” Mrs. Black said sternly. “This is my abode, and you will behave properly while you are here.”“As you wish,” I mumbled, glad I didn’t live with her.I took my seat opposite her. She was kind enough to make me a cup of tea as well, I use that term loosely, as she was well aware the particular tea she had given me was my least favorite. It was too bitter for my liking, but she didn’t care. I didn’t bother to touch my cup. I just sat there, waiting for my grandmother to finish her drink. One thing I did like about Mrs. Black was that she took the time to appreciate the small comforts of life, like enjoying a cup of tea or taking a moment to watch the sunset. But that was about it. I remember what she wore that day. She had on a gray suit, a white turtleneck underneath, her surprisingly still blonde hair in a long braid. Her one-inch black pumps lightly tapped the exposed wood of the floor where the carpet ended. She hardly wore any other colors, except for the deep-blue scarf she almost always had on. My mom speculated it had been a gift from my grandfather. I never thought to ask, mainly because I knew it was a touchy subject with my grandmother, but also because…of my own father. I knew what it was like to try to keep some connection with someone you lost, no matter how small it could be. Other than that tidbit, there was another thing we shared in common: our eyes. We had the same wild topaz eyes. I pulled at my black skirt, smoothing the dark trimming at the hem. I sunk back into the couch, my hands over my white shirt. I thought it was humorous that Mrs. Black and I were both wearing white. But my shirt was more, contemporary. It had short, puffy sleeves, tightening at the middle of my stomach, with small black buttons down the middle. I looked down at my black boots, which reached only an inch or so from my ankles. My black leggings stretched as I swung my legs in boredom. “I’m done,” Mrs. Black announced as she set her cup with a sharp clink. “About time,” I sighed. “Now will you tell me why I’m here?”“Whatever do you mean?” Mrs. Black asked, actually sounding offended. “You’re my granddaughter. Why wouldn’t I want you to come for a visit every now and again?”“Because you hate me,” I blurted out, realizing too late what I had said. I looked at the fire, burning so brightly, not wanting to see her reaction. “Ophelia, I don’t hate you. I just wish the best for you,” my grandmother said in her usual cold tone. “You could have fooled me,” I replied with light bitterness. “You hardly make an effort to reconcile with my mom, and you always put me down. But enough of that, what do you want?” I hated myself for acting so rudely towards my grandmother. She never tried to understand me, but I shouldn’t have been so thoughtless. “Very well,” Mrs. Black stood up, turning away from me. Yet as she turned, I could have sworn I saw a tear in her eye. Again, I thought it was my imagination. Again, I was wrong. But I wouldn’t have known that until later, when it was too late to apologize. “You turned 16 yesterday. In my country, you would be considered a woman now,” Mrs. Black strode towards the farthest window. “Where exactly are we from?” I asked, for once curious about my roots. “My mom said something about Europe.” “Somewhere close to it,” she responded cryptically. “Ophelia, I needed you to come because I believe it’s time for you to understand the truth about our family.” I shifted in my seat, hands clasped on my lap, “What do you mean?” Mrs. Black didn’t answer me right away. I could see the pensive look in her eyes as she gathered her thoughts. This had been something she had not found easy to speak of. I was getting nervous seeing her in such a state. If she was hesitant to talk about it, it must have been extremely serious. “I need you to understand, what I have done, what I have said, it has all been for your mother’s welfare, and yours,” Mrs. Black spoke with her back to me, the sky now the evening blue before the night. “I never wanted to hurt you, but certain circumstances forced me to act otherwise.” My grandmother kept her right arm in front of her, as though she were holding something and wanted to keep it hidden. She turned her head slightly, looking over at the table where my untouched teacup sat. She let out a heavy sigh. “Now, I am forced to do the one thing I swore with every ounce of my power never to do.” The grave tone in her voice sent a flashing alarm to my head. Something was amiss. My slowly rising-in-beat heart told me to leave at that very moment, but I did not listen. “Mrs. Black?” I stood up but did not approach her. She turned around, her right hand now behind her back, “Ophelia…” There was a huge crash as glass shattered everywhere. I instinctively backed away, jumping over the couch to try to reach the front door faster. Mrs. Black spun around as the hooded intruder stood right in front of her. She swung her arm at him, the man agilely dodging her jab. He quickly pulled out a long, thin sword from his coat in one fluid motion. I could tell it was dangerously sharp as it shinned. He held it as only a master would. I recognized the sword immediately, it was a samurai sword. Mrs. Black ran at him, trying to jab him again. I had wondered what she was thinking, attacking a man with no weapon of her own. It wasn’t until I heard the clink that I saw the large knife she had been holding. The blade was formed like a crescent moon, the hilt appearing to be gold. What the hell was she doing with a dagger? I tried to back out of the room, but as I took one step, the intruder looked at me, making me freeze on the spot. He stared at me for a few minutes, almost like he recognized me. He turned his attention back to my grandmother just as she lunged at him with surprising speed. He blocked the attack with ease. However, my grandmother would not back down. Her reflexes were outstanding for someone her age. She swung at him with such force. She wasn’t trying to scare him off; she was trying to kill him! I had no idea what to do. I recalled how in movies or shows, a character will say witnessing such a scene paralyzes one with uncertainty and fear. You cannot budge an inch, your muscles refusing the messages sent by your brain. You can only stand there, frozen, until you snap out of it. That was not what happened to me. I was not frozen with fear. I was not uncertain of what to do. I was not frightened for my life or my grandmother’s. I was perfectly fine. I just stood there and watched. I don’t know why I didn’t scream in terror, or why I didn’t faint when the intruder burst in. I wondered why I felt so calm, why it felt natural to me to watch the two of them fighting and not even consider calling the cops. My grandmother remained steady as she attacked, again and again. But I could see she was starting to lose her patience as her face began to scrunch in frustration. And the intruder was stronger. “You can’t do this!” my grandmother screamed. She took one step forward as she swung the dagger as hard as she could at him. I gasped as he literally caught the long knife with his wrist, blood dripping onto the hardwood floor. The intruder then sunk his sword deep into her chest. Mrs. Black stared at the wall with wide eyes, her mouth agape as the steel ripped into her. Her hand gripped at his shoulder, clenched in pain. “I think I can, Theodora,” the man said in a cold yet smooth voice. He sunk the sword with one strong thrust, right into her heart. She turned her head to the side, looking straight at me. Her eyes were glazed over. Tears gently flowed from her eyes as our eyes met. It took me aback seeing her like that, so weak and frail. She used the last of her strength to say one last thing to me, one that would stay with me forever. “Forgive me.”Mrs. Black gasped as he swiftly removed the blade. She released the dagger, falling as though in slow-motion. Her body hit the floor with a heavy, resounding thud. It echoed in my ears. I had never seen a dead body before, let alone someone die right in front of me. I looked at her for what seemed far too long. I should have cried, right? I should have felt like my whole world was crumbling. I didn’t. I shed not one tear. As I had said earlier, we were never close; we weren’t even what would be considered acquaintances. Now that particular thought was sad. I was too preoccupied with my thoughts to see the intruder walked towards me. I looked up as I felt his shadow fall on me.“Are you going to kill me too?” I asked boldly.There really was no reason not to know. I should at least know what he was going to do if he was going to kill me anyway. What else could I do? I was just another defenseless girl. What harm could I do? “No, I could never hurt you, even if I wanted to,” he replied, removing his hood, revealing jet-black hair and silver-eyes.“Wait, I know you!” I said as I recognized him. “You’re the new kid from New England, Abel Reinhardt?”“Yes, we have quite a few classes together,” he said as he pulled out the dagger and throw it across the room.I then recalled the shadow I had seen on my way to my grandmother’s.“Why are you here?” I demanded. “Why did you follow me? Why did you kill my grandmother?”He looked at me with slight confusion, “Why you ask? I was ordered to follow you, until the time to reveal myself was appropriate. As for Theodora, I was under the impression you were on bad terms with her, or rather, non-existent terms, to be exact.”I glared at him, “That didn’t answer my question. Why?”I added more force to my voice. He looked over his shoulder, to my grandmother. She was so still, her braid undone in the struggle, hair now splayed over the floor and her face. It was then I noticed her blue scarf was no longer around her neck. I looked down and saw Abel holding lightly onto it.“I didn’t want it to get stained by the blood,” he said softly as he tried to hand it to me.I didn’t take it. It was odd, but somewhere in the back of my conscious, a voice told me it was not mine to take yet. My mom had told me the scarf held great significance in our family, but she never revealed what. I always thought that was strange, after all, it was just a scarf. What could be so important about it?“Don’t you want it?” Abel had still held the scarf out for me.I shook my head, “It feels wrong.”His eyes never left me. I walked around him, to my grandmother’s side. I knelt down, closing her eyes with light fingers. “She may not have the best mother, or grandmother, but she was still family.”“Was she?” I looked at Abel, who stood like a statue by the wall. “She may have had the same blood running through her veins as you, but that does not mean she was family. A real grandmother, a real mother, does not treat her relatives with such contempt. Proof me wrong.”I said nothing. I couldn’t because he was right. “For example,” he went on, “who do you think that dagger was really for? Because I have a feeling it was not meant for me.”“What?” I looked at the dagger, shining with his blood, now laying by the fireplace. “You don’t mean…?”He gave me a sympathetic look. That was all I needed.“She…she was going to kill me?” I said stunned. “I know she didn’t like me, but to kill me?”“It goes beyond that, Ophelia,” he walked over to me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “I will answer all your questions, but first, we need to leave. Others will be here to finish what Theodora could not.”My eyes went wide with horror. So, not only had my grandmother intended to kill me, but there were others in on the conspiracy? Yes, I was calling it a conspiracy because that was what it was seeming like more and more. “Come on,” he held out his hand, “we have to go now.”I didn’t know if I could trust him, this boy who I had only seen walking in the hallways and in my classes but never spoken to. However, after seeing all the evidence, I knew what he had said was true. Mrs. Black had been acting out of character. Her sudden request of my presence, speaking of our family, something she disliked even mentioning, it made sense. I truly swear I have no idea what possessed me to do so, but I took his hand without a second thought. With a simple nod, he led me through the house to the backdoor, pulling a coat hanging from a hook nearby. As we walked out into the night air, I took one quick glance at the place, remembering we had just left Mrs. Black lying on the floor, dead, not even bothering to cover her. It was too late now, but I still felt like I should have at least done something.“Don’t think about it,” Abel said as we walked into the woods behind Mrs. Black’s house.“Are you reading my mind now?” I said melancholy. “We shouldn’t have left her like that.”“You may think so, but believe me when I say, she wouldn’t have wanted to died anywhere else than in the comfort of her own home.”I couldn’t help letting out a sarcastic laugh. A home, that place? That part, among all that had happened, was the hardest to believe.“Where are we going?” I inquired, noticing how deep into the woods we were heading.“We need to get far, they’ll be looking for you as soon as they find out Theodora is dead,” Abel answered, tightening his hold on my hand. I looked down at our linked hands. He wouldn’t let go even if we had to cross a small river or climb an overturned tree. As we walked, my mind when back to Mrs. Black. What would people think happened? What would they say? No one had seen me visit her except for Abel. What would my mom do? My mom…My mom!! How could have I forgotten?! I came to an abrupt stop, Abel stumbled back.“What is it?” he asked concerned, seeing the terrified look on my face.“My mom! What’s going to happen to her? I haven’t even called her! Those people who are after me, won’t they go after her too?” I sobbed as I held back the tears.“Your mom is fine,” he simply said.Before I could ask, he answered quickly.“You don’t think the ones whose orders I follow wouldn’t think about that, now did you?”He wore a small sly smile. The confidence in his eyes was enough to quell some of the pressure in me.“Okay, now what---,” he placed his hand on my mouth.I gave him an indignant glare as he shushed me. Something was up. Abel scanned the area, as if he could see more than I could. His silver irises sharpening as he sensed what was in the night air. Without so much as a warning, Abel pulled me away as fast as he could.“We need to get away! They found us sooner than I thought!” he yelled with alarm.I tried to keep up, but I was never much of a runner. I panted heavily as we ran through the brush, my leggings getting torn as branches snatched at them, tugging at my skirt and ripping some of the fabric off. Abel pulled me closer. He could tell I wasn’t going to make it if he didn’t do something. We reached a vast opening, a meadow filled with various flowers. We reached the middle of it when a group of men appeared in front of us.“Abel, give us the girl,” the front man said, instantly giving away his status as the leader.“NO! You know I can’t do that!” Abel declared. “I won’t let you!”“Fine,” the man said. “We will kill her and you then.”The other men came right at us. Abel pulled out his sword, easily dispatching the first two. Another came at him from the very air. Their swords clashed, sparks flying everywhere. A few fell on the flowers, causing a small fire to come alive. While Abel was occupied with more foes, I stood as far away as I could.“Looks like I have to get the job done,” my heart dropped as I turned around to see the leader right behind me. “I am sorry for this, but it has to be done.”I could only watch as he swung his sword at me, I closed my eyes and wondered why. At first, I had felt nothing. Then, my nerves registered the cool metal slicing my skin just above my heart. I fell back, crushing the flowers beneath me, petals flying all around me. I faintly heard Abel screaming my name, but the blood loss was too much already. The cut hadn’t hurt as badly as I had thought. Soon, my body was cold, motionless. I was dying. Is this how Mrs. Black had felt? But her death had been quick. Abel had been merciful, this man had not. I could barely hear the sound of sword against sword, Abel’s yelling, the leader yelling back. The fire had grown now. It spread along the meadow like a river of embers, consuming the trees along the edge of the meadow as well. “I…I…I don’t want to die, not like this,” I cried. “Please…I still…need to know. Please, help me…someone…”It was then, as I slipped from this world, that I looked up at the starry sky. The stars seemed so close to my hand as I reached up. When I was a little girl, I always thought the stars were like guardian angels, observing everything below. Whenever I saw a shooting star, I would imagine it was an angel leaving the heavens in order to help someone. I just wanted to know why any of this was happening. Couldn’t an angel come and save me, even if it was only little help they could offer?“Ophelia!” Abel kept calling out to me as his opponent tried to keep him from helping me. “OPHELIA!!!”I had wished to ask him more about what he knew, and about himself. He seemed to have done so much for me already; me dying was the ultimate insult for all his hard work. And my poor mom…what would become of her after having lost both her mother and daughter in the same day? Closing my eyes, I wished for a miracle. As my breathing became shallow, a sudden warmth burned in my chest. Soon, it spread to every inch of my body, engulfing me in its comfort. A moment ago, I was ice cold; now, it was like the very Sun had touched me. “What?” Abel and the other man stopped fighting as a great light emerged from deep inside me.“It can’t be!” the leader exclaimed.“It is,” Abel said, standing at ease. “You failed. Ophelia is awakening to her destiny.”“I will not let that happen!” the older man dashed at me in an attempt to stab me yet again.But as his weapon came into contact with my skin, the light grew with intensity, acting as a shield. He was sent flying into the center of the fire, screaming with bloody force. Soon after, the light dissipated. I felt Abel at my side, taking me into his arms. I was barely conscious throughout the whole ordeal, yet retained a clear memory of what had occurred. As the flames grew, Abel made a clean escape through the dense forest, the smell of burnt plants and ash replaced by the refreshing scent of the calm night. “H-how…?” was all I could ask.Abel kept running, but quickly looked at me with a proud smile, “You’re special, Ophelia. Very special.”The only one who had ever called me that was mom. I let my eyes droop as exhaustion finally caught up to me. I had no idea what was going on, but deep in my heart, I knew that I could trust him.“Call me Lia.”
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