War of Destiny 3: Between Darkness & Light

By Theresa Van Spankeren

Paranormal, Hybrid & other, Historical fiction

Paperback, eBook

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112
17 mins

Prologue

My name is Julia Smith. Seventy-five years ago I was married to a man named Gregory. He had been a cruel and violent man. One night he murdered our daughter and nearly killed me altering my life forever.
I was rescued by a vampire named Samuel, the leader of the Vampire Resistance. They desire to interact with humans more normally than just using them as a food source.
I agreed to join his group to overthrow the King of the Vampires, Valentino. In doing so, I was reunited with my soulmate and childhood love, Adam. We learned that our group was different from others. We were ka-tet, souls bound by destiny for a purpose.
I was happy. The eight of us were like family. Besides Adam and Samuel, there were Samuel’s older fledgling, Matthew, and his soulmate, Christy. There were also Mary Anne and Jeffrey who had become part of the ka-tet long before we did. Finally, we had been joined by Samuel’s teacher, Valerie, who wasn’t ka-tet, but was as close as anyone else could be.
A few years ago, everything changed. Valentino came after us, determined to eliminate the threat to his power. Our only warning came to me through a dream from a ten-year-old human girl named Kali. Valentino kidnapped and tortured Matthew. When we fought, it was a disaster. We rescued Matthew, but we both lost our soulmates.
And that wasn’t even the worst part. I had been able to see into the future before, but when I needed it the most, my power inexplicably failed. Instead, I had nightmares with voices that insisted I was the one who had bungled everything because I had really wanted my group dead. Eventually I started to believe the voices. And when Gregory appeared to me for the second time since becoming a vampire, he backed up those claims.
It’s hard to explain why I did what I did. I betrayed my ka-tet to Valentino. I nearly destroyed everything I loved. I had killed Jarod, a member of the Resistance’s Council and a friend. I had attacked Samuel and almost killed him. I heard a female voice then that reminded me that this wasn’t who I wanted to be. Was it my conscience as I believed? I don’t know. I thought I saw my dead bastard of a husband. Does that make me insane? I honestly don’t know the answer to that either.

Chapter 1

Five years later, I found my situation only slightly changed. I had explained to Mary Anne and Jeffrey about seeing Gregory again, and they had accepted my account warily. I did not tell them about the voices or dreams. Having attempted to tell Samuel about it several times, I had learned to keep the information between Kali and me. All three of them believed my sanity is fragile at best, although I suspected Samuel thought I was completely insane now.
Mary Anne and I talked regularly, while Jeffrey barely spoke to me. It was she who was teaching me Italian. I found out quickly that no one in Florence spoke English. In reality, they thought anything English was pretty much venom.
Matthew still wasn’t living with us. About a year ago he started coming by occasionally, but it was only to see Samuel, and they left soon after he arrived. I never tried to get close, fearing what reaction I might receive from him, especially considering that we were still connected through the ka-tet.
Yes, that’s right. Five years later, members not speaking to each other, and the ka-tet still holds. I am sure Matthew’s thrilled; considering anytime he was at the villa his thoughts were shielded. I could still pick up a stray emotion sometimes. If I truly wanted to, I probably could read some of his thoughts or track him with the ka-tet, but that hardly seemed worth the trouble. Truly, how could I damn him for not wanting to deal with me after what I had done?
Samuel’s and my relationship had continued to deteriorate. When we had arrived five years ago, he would still carry on a halfway decent conversation with me. Now though, he rarely speaks to me at all. He would have been the logical choice to teach me and the children Italian, except Samuel had stubbornly refused. It was hard to believe he was still connected to us. Matthew shielded his thoughts quite well, Samuel shielded perfectly. Thoughts, emotions, all of it. Actually, it wasn’t only me he did not talk to; he had withdrawn from everyone but Matthew.
Tonight, I sat in my room as I usually did nowadays; staring at a wilted white rose I had placed on the table a few days ago. It was my tribute to my soulmate Adam, the anniversary of his death having passed seemingly unnoticed by anyone but me. With a sigh, I wiped a few tears from my cheek. I missed him terribly, although I questioned if I had any right to mourn after the destruction I had caused. For the millionth time, I wondered why the ka-tet was still intact and why I was still alive.
A soft knock startled me out of my maelstrom of dark thoughts. It echoed through the empty villa. Nobody was home tonight. They had all left shortly after sunset, separately. Other than Stephen who was going to a tavern, I had no idea where any of them went. I was not privy to that information anymore.
“Julia? Are you awake?”
“Yes,” I answered as I recognized Kali’s voice. She was now fifteen and had turned into a slender pretty young woman. Neither I nor the others quite knew what to think of her because, despite her age, she seemed more like our equal in both maturity and to a lesser degree, in power.
My door opened a little and Kali slipped inside, carefully closing it behind her. She turned to me, studied the rose on my end table, and sat down on my bed. “How are you feeling?”
I glanced at her from the chair in front of the table. “I’m alive,” I answered with a sigh.
She smoothed the skirts of her simple black dress and said, “Thinking of Adam again, I see.”
A couple yellowish petals came off in my hand as I shrugged. There was no point in answering her, she already knew. “What do you want, Kali?” I questioned tiredly.
“Have you had any more dreams? Or have you heard the voices again?”
I closed my eyes and thought, There’s the Kali I know. All business when what I really want is a friend. “No, Kali. There have been no dreams or voices. At least, not dreams like that.”
“Have you had any strange dreams lately?”
Turning in my chair, I glared into her gray eyes. “I have only had dreams about my own foolhardiness. I can assure you that I am perfectly sane at the moment.”
“I never said you were not sane, Julia.”
“You are the only one,” I mumbled as I watched her. She was still, her hands clasped in her lap. She smiled slightly, her posture relaxed as she regarded me in turn.
“Have you tried to explain the dreams and voices to one of the other vampires?”
“You know I have. Samuel thinks I am even crazier afterwards.”
“Have you ever considered that you are trying to explain it to the wrong person?”
“I am quite certain Mary Anne and Jeffrey would be inclined to agree with Samuel if I try,” I replied and picked up the half-dead rose again. My thoughts drifted back to the last time I remembered being happy, the last time Adam and I had danced together at the White Hart Inn. If I closed my eyes, I could almost feel his hands on mine.
“Julia?” I looked blankly at Kali as I realized I had missed what else she had said entirely. “What if you tried?”
“Tried what? I am sorry, my mind was somewhere else,” I replied.
Kali frowned slightly. “What if you tried talking to Matthew about it?”
Studying her face, I waited for the laugh, a trace of a smile to show she was jesting. The expression on her face remained solemn, the frown deepening. Good Lord, the girl was serious. And they think I am the insane one.
I matched her frown. “How much wine did you have tonight, Kali? You are either drunk or more delusional than I am.”
“Neither, I am afraid,” she answered.
I tightened my right hand and felt rather than heard a soft squishing sound. When I opened it, there was whitish yellow pulp where the rose used to be. I dropped it back on my small table. “That would be the most futile attempt of them all,” I said with a scowl. “Matthew has not talked to me in five years. There is no way he will now.”
“He does not have to talk. He only has to listen.”
“Matthew is not going to listen. He did not want to hear anything I had to say then; he is not going to want to now. He despises me and I honestly cannot blame him,” I whispered. “Why are you insisting that I explain that to someone?”
“If what I suspect is true, you need help learning to control your abilities, Julia.”
“If you suspect this is a power of mine, why don’t you teach me?”
Kali sighed, as if she was explaining something to a child who did not understand. I hate it when she sounds like that. “Julia, I realize you seem to believe I know everything, but I do not. I think I have figured out what your gifts are, but I haven’t the faintest idea how to teach you to use them safely. One of your ka-tet would have a better idea than me.”
Sharp pain lanced across my forehead and I winced and rubbed it. “If you have it figured out, why don’t you explain it to one of them?” There was a moment of silence and I glanced up at her. Her expression told me everything I needed to know. “You already tried and failed, I presume?”
“I have tried to discuss it with Samuel. I did not get very far,” she said.
I snorted and replied, “Yet you somehow think I should talk to Matthew about it. Forget it. He has more right to hate me than anyone else since I nearly turned him back over to the people who had tortured him. Why would he listen to me? Why would he even care?”
“He is different than Samuel and time may have given him a new perspective. He can help you. You and he are still connected through the ka-tet. You should try, Julia.”
“Hmm . . . about that. Why are we still connected? Why do you think Matthew will not only listen, but help me when he has the least reason to?”
The expression on Kali’s face changed, became unreadable. “Your destiny is still entwined with theirs. I see what I see, Julia.”
“What is it you see, Kali?” I asked. She shook her head. “Could I see it too?” Again, she shook her head.
I glared at her and tried to read her mind to no effect. “Just try to tell him,” she repeated.
Frustrated, I rubbed my temples, oblivious to the mush of flower still in my one hand. “I am tired. It is time for you to leave.”
“It is barely three hours past sunset.”
“So? My head hurts and there is nothing better for me to do but sleep.”
Her eyes narrowed to smoky gray slits. “When did you feed last, Julia?”
“Get out!” I snarled and pointed to the door. Kali sighed, rose gracefully, and left my room.

*   *   *

A couple nights later found me using a mirror to finish lacing up my black sottana. I enjoyed the Italian dresses better than the ones I had worn in England. The bodice was lower and higher collars weren’t as popular yet. Using the valuable item has become routine for me since I rarely had help dressing anymore. It was the only luxury I had in my room. The rest of my furniture consisted of a small bed, a clothes chest, an old chair, and my end table now bare except for a single candle.
For a long moment, I stared at my reflection in the mirror, then shook my head. I did not know how to rectify this situation, how to repair the damage I had done. I simply prayed I would not have another nervous breakdown. That would be disastrous. With a sigh, I turned and went downstairs.
Mary Anne was serving supper to Kali and Stephen. Stephen was now twenty years old. The scrawny boy I had met a few years ago had turned into a well-built young man, capable of duking it out with most human men. Yet, I still thought of him as the son I had never had. They welcomed me with warm smiles, familiar words of friendship. In the villa, we still spoke our own dialect of English, whereas outside of the building, it was Italian.
After greeting the humans, I looked directly at Mary Anne. “Where’s Samuel?”
“In the library. As usual.”
I heard the faint hint of both disapproval as well as worry in her voice. I sighed, mostly to myself. “Thanks,” I murmured and headed down the hall. I stopped outside the closed door and steeled myself for any mood. I never knew what to expect from Samuel anymore. Usually, I received icy indifference, but occasionally he would be in some sort of rage.
I did not bother to knock but walked right in. There were still smoldering embers in the fireplace and the faint orange glow was the only light in the room. Samuel was sitting in the darkest shadows, staring into space. “Who is it and what do you want?” he demanded.
“Well, good evening to you too, Samuel,” I said.
There was a heavy sigh, then he turned to look at me. His eyes were frosty. “What are you doing in here?”
“I came in to see you,” I replied and took a couple of steps closer to him.
“How thoughtful,” he said with maddening indifference. “What is it you need, Julia? I’m going to be leaving in about an hour to have a drink with Matthew.”
I bit my lip in surprise. None of us had heard from Matthew in almost two weeks. Was it a coincidence that Samuel was supposed to meet him two nights after Kali’s suggestion?
“How is he?” I asked.
“He’s having the time of his life. Florence has never been dull, you know.”
I hid a smile with effort. That might have been an understatement. A few years after we had arrived, the Duke Francisco and his second wife Bianca had died of fever; however, almost everyone in Florence believed that Bianca had accidently poisoned her husband and then killed herself out of grief.
Samuel resumed speaking. “He is on good terms with the Medici family, including the Grand Duke, Ferdinando I.”
I was silent a moment. The Medici family has ruled over Florence for over a hundred years. I was slightly surprised Samuel had mentioned Matthew and even more surprised he had answered my question. However, if he was willing to talk about Matthew, I was certainly not going to deter him. It would be the first decent conversation we had in about a month. “He’s gotten involved with Florentine politics? How did he manage that?” I asked, sinking down in a chair beside him. I moved slowly, trying not to draw too much attention and ruin what civility there was between us.
“Oh yes. He’s up to his neck in Florentine affairs. I do not know how he became acquainted with the Medicis,” he replied staring at the fireplace. “He has obviously done well on his own.”
“Very much so,” I said hesitantly.
Samuel swung his eyes back to me. “No thanks to you.”
I sighed. Clearly, our brief little moment was over. “I cannot change what I did, Samuel.”
“No, you cannot. Get out.”
“Samuel, we’re worried about you! Please talk to me,” I pleaded.
“We have nothing to talk about,” he informed me coolly.
“I might not, but you do. Go ahead, tell me what you think of me. Get angry – do something!”
“I told you to get out!” he yelled, getting to his feet. “We have nothing to discuss.”
“Yes, we do. Of course you’d rather hide from your problems, wouldn’t you?”
“My problems?!” Samuel laughed and shook his head.
“At least I do not hide from mine.”
He smiled bitterly. “No, murder and adultery are more your style, aren’t they, Juliana?”
My mind blanked with shock. No one had called me by my full name in years. “That is low, Samuel,” I said softly.
“It’s the truth though. And you cannot deny it.”
“I’m not talking about what you said I was like. I’m talking about calling me by that name.”
Samuel feigned surprise. “Oh, my. I must have been mistaken. I thought I was talking to Juliana, the murdering whore I met five years ago.”
As soon as his insult sunk in, I jumped back to my feet. “Damn you, Samuel! Damn you to hell!”
“I’m already there,” he whispered. He stared into the fireplace.
I looked down at him, as I heard the faintest glimmer of agonized pain in his voice. A sharp remark was on the tip of my tongue but I bit it back and tried again to get through that wall he had put around himself. I realized the distant hostile stranger he had become was only his way of protecting himself. “Go ahead. Tell me.”
“I thought I told you to leave.”
“You did. Samuel . . .” I started again.
“Why can you not leave me alone?” Samuel said. “I have no desire to talk to you any–” He broke off in midsentence when the library door unexpectedly opened.
“It is all right, thanks, Mary Anne.” The voice was hauntingly familiar. I turned toward the door to see Matthew, looking every bit like the Italian aristocrat he had become. His black shirt and red doublet were made of silk and other fine fabrics. His eyes were impassive as he studied us. “If you are busy, Samuel we can always reschedule.”
Samuel quickly got to his feet. “No, I’m quite done here.” He turned to pick up his jacket from the floor.
I looked back at Matthew and found he was still staring at me with cool regard. It was our first face-to-face encounter since he had left us. As I said before, I had always kept my distance when he showed up. I wondered if it would be too much to hope, for him to answer me civilly. I sighed, and said, “Ciao, Matthew.”
He arched an eyebrow but replied just as calmly. “Ciao, Giuliana.” He pronounced my name in Italian but it was said with surprising politeness. He hesitated a moment, then looked at Samuel. “Are you ready to go?”
Samuel nodded. He glanced at me. “Do not bother to wait up,” he said and walked out. Matthew turned and followed him.
I stared after them, shaking my head. I left the library myself and glanced toward the front door. Mary Anne stood in front of it. She turned to me with a frown when I shut the library door behind me. “Did you and Samuel have another fight?”
I nodded bleakly. “He hates me, Mary Anne. I might as well face it. No matter how sorry I am, how much I wish I could undo all my mistakes, it’s not going to matter a damn bit. I’ve already been tried and hanged by him.”
“What was Matthew like when he saw you?”
“He was actually quite civil.”
Mary Anne glanced back at the door. “Good. It’s a step in the right direction.” She paused, then continued, “You know, we had been so worried about how Matthew was reacting, but maybe we’ve been worrying about the wrong person. Maybe it was Samuel we should have been worried about.”
I glanced at her. “Why weren’t you worried?”
“Because initially he seemed to be dealing with everything so well. It was Matthew who seemed to be having problems handling things. However, now. . . Julia, maybe we interpreted their reactions all wrong, maybe it’s Matthew who is better off. He has reacted to what happened and now you said he acted fairly polite to you. That means he must have been dealing with it – in his own way.” She looked at me thoughtfully. “He never hid what he was feeling about the . . . incident. He made his feelings very clear about the matter.”
“And what do you think of Samuel now?”
“I do not think he has dealt with any of it. He hasn’t shown his pain or even his anger. The only anger he shows is in uncontrollable rages. Name calling, furniture-throwing. Nothing productive that has anything to do with the problem. The rest of the time he’s totally reclusive.”
“Why do you think he’s not dealing with it? Everyone else is trying to.”
“I don’t think he knows how to.” She gazed back at me, not with contempt, but with sorrow. “You’ve hurt him deeply, Julia. He simply does not know how to cope. So he’s withdrawn from everyone instead and built a fortress around himself. And the only person who seems to get through his walls is Matthew, his other fledgling. Yet, I wonder how far he’s even got through Samuel’s bloody shield.”
I looked toward the door. “I never thought I would miss being called Sunshine but I do. At least then I knew he called me that out of affection and love. Now he either calls me Julia to be civil, or Juliana just for spite,” I said.
“It’s a way for him to hurt back.” Mary Anne turned severe eyes to me. “He doesn’t know how to react to you, Julia.” She gazed toward the library, looking defeated. “I do not know if anyone can reach him now.”
I sighed and put on a cloak. “I’m going out for a drink.”
“Is that the polite way of saying you’re going to follow them?”
“I want to know if Samuel has confided in Matthew and if Matthew has done the same.” I suddenly slammed my fist against the wall and stared at it. “Mary Anne, I know very well that I cannot change what I did. However, we’re not going to get anywhere in dealing with it if they won’t talk to me. I know they’re both hurt, like everyone else, but I do not know what exactly they are thinking or feeling. I need to find out somehow.”
“Don’t let them see you. I know you told me about what you saw, but sometimes I still do not know what to think. It is difficult to understand, Julia, and I think you can grasp why we are still a little –concerned.”
I paused on my way to the door. “Honestly, Mary Anne, I wish I could make you understand. If one of you could hear what I . . .” My words trailed off as I remembered my conversation with Kali. As much as I wanted to confide in her, I already knew she was not the right person.
Mary Anne sighed. “Why is it I’m getting the impression you are still not telling me everything?” She walked over and gently put a hand on my shoulder. I flinched a little.
“Julia . . . is it that you’re afraid to tell me? Are you afraid I’ll get angry because of it?”
I nodded, not quite meeting her eyes.
“There’s nothing you can say that would be worse than what I first thought. When it happened, I thought you did it for the hell of it.”
I shook my head. “No, I did it because at the time I thought what Gregory said was right. I wish I could explain it better, but I simply cannot.”
Mary Anne stared at me with guarded eyes. “I wish you would tell me, but it is what it is. Be careful, Julia. You know I cannot guarantee your safety when you are out there alone.”
I nodded. Many of the Resistance considered me an enemy now. Without her or Jeffrey with, they might be emboldened to attack. And I doubted I could count on Matthew or Samuel for help. “I’ll be back later,” I said and left.
It didn’t take me long to find out where they had gone. I pulled up the hood of my cloak so it covered my hair and most of my face, then quietly entered a tavern across town. Samuel and Matthew were sitting in the front of a deserted area of the tavern. I made my way over and sat down at a nearby table. I turned my attention to the other two.
Matthew was sitting with his head in one hand, a glass of mostly untouched wine in front of him. “Go ahead. Talk, Samuel.”
Samuel lifted his wine glass and downed its contents. After signaling for an additional drink, he said, “Do you know what she told me the night she disappeared?”
“No, what?”
Samuel picked up the newly filled glass and downed the wine again within seconds. Matthew raised his eyebrows as he watched Samuel immediately order another.
“She told me: ‘Samuel, even if he took me, I wouldn’t join him willingly . . . I would be a prisoner to him, not a mate.’ What a lie that turned out to be.” He slammed his fist against the bar counter with enough force that I was sure he had broken a finger or two at least. “Damnit, Matthew, she was intimate with him willingly!”
“I know, Samuel,” he murmured as Samuel downed this glass as well. Concern crossed his face. “I think you should slow down. That is the twelfth glass you’ve had in half an hour.”
“So what?” Samuel slurred.
“You are drinking too much.”
“It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters anymore. How could she do this to me? She said she loved me,” he said, looking stricken. “How could she be with the murderer of my family and still say she loves me?”
“Her actions speak for themselves. Stop agonizing over the twisted girl, Samuel. If she had really loved you, she wouldn’t have hurt you like this. Ignore her and focus on something else.”
“What? I have no one left.”
“Now, I know the alcohol is talking,” he muttered. “Samuel, wake up. You still have friends who care. I’m here; you are staying with Jeffrey and Mary Anne. What about the children? They still need some guidance. They look up to you.”
Samuel made a face at him. “Mary Anne and Jeffrey do not need me. And you’re doing fine on your own. Kali comes to us on her own terms. Strange little girl, that one is. Stephen – Stephen and Julia have bonded quite nicely.” He grimaced. “I have nothing left.”
“You need to get out of that house. Come stay with me,” Matthew said, sipping his wine.
Samuel ordered another glass. “I do not think so, Matthew. You are doing fantastically, all things considered. I’m not going to ruin it for you.” He lifted the glass and gulped down the wine.
“Come on, Samuel, getting away from Julia will be good for you. Maybe you’ll even meet someone.”
I winced at hearing the pain and hopelessness in Samuel’s voice. The anguish hinted at the depth of his emotional wounds, but by the shield still cloaking his mind, I worried they were even deeper than I suspected. I have no one to blame but myself for the wounds Samuel and the others carry. I hate myself. I really do.
“Perhaps I will go away somewhere. But I’m not interested in finding another lover. Everyone I have ever loved is lost to me in some way. Honestly, Matthew, I am not sure I care anymore. There’s nothing keeping me here. Maybe it’s time to go happily on my way to whatever comes after this. Maybe I’ll see Valerie in hell. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Matthew frowned. “Nothing? What about the Resistance itself? So maybe Julia isn’t the one we are looking for. We’ll find someone who has the strength needed to overthrow Valentino. Right now the movement needs their leader to guide them.”
Samuel stared down into his glass. “You haven’t been to many of the meetings either.”
“That’s true, but I’m not the leader. Mary Anne said you hadn’t been to a meeting in over a year. Why?”
Samuel downed more wine a moment later. “There’s no point. It’s all falling apart.”
Matthew looked as confused as I felt. He leaned in closer. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t understand why she is still connected to us. It would be much easier if the telepathic bonds had broken! Everything we’ve worked for . . . I have tried everything I could think of to keep the ka-tet and the Resistance intact. I’ve only made things worse.”
Matthew sighed. “Samuel –” His voice suddenly trailed off.
I blinked back tears and glanced up. Did he see me? Was that why he stopped speaking? I followed his gaze and saw it was fastened on the door. There was a man standing in the doorway, wearing all black. I thought I saw a stake tucked into his belt.
Matthew grabbed Samuel’s arm. “Come on, we’re leaving.”
Samuel tried to resist, but his movements were uncoordinated. “I don’t want to leave,” he mumbled. Matthew hauled him up and dropped some money on the tabletop.
“That’s not your choice to make.”
“Why do you want to leave? I was just getting started.”
“He’s a Hunter, Samuel. Of course, if you were not so drunk, you would have noticed. We’re going . . . now.” He pulled him into the crowd toward the door as the newcomer sat down at the bar.
I got up as well and used the same crowd to provide means to leave without attracting the man’s attention. As soon as I got out, I sighed in relief. Matthew had gotten Samuel and himself out. He helped Samuel into a wagon and left.
I turned and started for home. I finally had a real glimpse into the extent of the pain Samuel was in, but his words only frightened me more. Matthew’s words and attitude were about what I expected, although it made me question Kali’s suggestion to talk to him. Other than the politeness he greeted me with earlier, I did not see any indication that he wished to talk to me or that attempting to explain things would do any good.
I’m so angry at myself, at what I had caused, filled with self-hatred. Lord, I have to wonder why I didn’t kill myself. When I arrived back at the house, I hung up my cloak and immediately escaped up to my room without seeing anyone. Once inside, I shut the door and proceeded to pace my room like a caged cat.
After a few minutes, I sat down on the bed. Reaching underneath, I pulled out a piece of sharp wood. I rolled up my sleeve and made large cuts up and down my arm. Putting my fist through the wall would be a better way to vent, but the last time I had done that Samuel had a fit. He had told me that, just because I was angry at myself, it was no excuse to take it out on everyone and everything else. I realized he had a point. It wasn’t the house, him, or anyone else that I was angry at. I was upset at myself, so it made sense to take out my frustrations on myself. The sleeves of my dresses are so long that no one will know I cut to punish myself.
I made another deeper cut barely below my elbow. And even if they did find out, it’s not like they’ll care anyway. I rolled down my sleeve again and thoughtfully pointed the sharp end of the wood at my chest. It would be easy to do, and if I kept from screaming while doing it no one would find me for hours. Then I would be dead and they wouldn’t have to put up with me. I smiled a little, then moved the wood until it was above my chest.
I was exhausted. Weary of the fighting, of the mistrust, the isolation. I had no help, all of my desperate prayers and pleas for help and forgiveness have been met with silence, both by the people here, as well as by the God I had known and worshipped while human.
Looking down, I debated shoving it in. Before I could make a decision, I caught a glimpse of someone with black hair standing by the far wall. “Oh, Lord, Gregory, will you just leave me alone already?! I swear if you do not go away, I’m going to use this –” I said as I turned toward the person. I broke off in mid-sentence and whispered, “Kali?”
The person who was standing by the wall wasn’t Gregory. It was a young woman who was about Kali’s age, but it was not her as I first thought. This girl’s eyes were a beautiful shade of blue-green, not gray. She wore a lovely white dress. “Who are you?” I asked in confusion. “How did you get in here?”
She pointed at the wood I held, shook her head, and vanished. I dropped the wood and jumped backward with a startled scream, nearly falling off the bed.
“Julia? Are you all right?” Mary Anne called from down the hall.
I stared at the spot where the young woman had stood. I was equally surprised by Mary Anne’s inquiry. I do not remember the last time someone had checked in on me. “Yes,” I managed to call back. “I’m fine. I – I was only dreaming. Do not worry.”
After a second, I took a shaky breath and got up. I re-hid the wood and glanced back to where the girl had stood. For some reason she seemed vaguely familiar but I had no idea who she was. Nor did I have any idea why she appeared to me the way she had. She had startled me, but now I realized I hadn’t felt any fear or anxiety when I realized it was her and not Gregory.
Shaking my head, I wondered if I should be worried. The young lady I saw was not really here. Was my sanity failing yet again? I blew out the candle and climbed into bed. I expected apprehension would keep me awake. To my surprise, I fell asleep quickly.



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