Author: Araina Richardson PM
Once upon a time, a girl named Geraldine ran off to San Francisco with her "prince" and lost everything. Now, years later and bitter, Geraldine discovers just how deep her prince's betrayal ran, and she steals his child. Now the child, Anne, is a teenager and the past catches up to Geraldine and Anne in the form of a tall, mysterious man and his two children.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Supernatural/Horror - Chapters: 20 - Words: 67,398 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 05-02-13 - Published: 06-24-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3035656
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It's late, the moon is full and Anne's hands are aching. She's sitting on her bed, cross-legged and facing Loren, who sits in the same position while he gently rubs her hands. A week has passed since Nina's accident, and Harold is outright ignoring Anne. He hasn't even asked her to draw money, and because of that the pressure, the urge to draw is building to an almost painful ache in her dominant hand. As for Nina, she's practically been a hermit; staying in her bedroom and only coming out for meals. Even then, she doesn't speak much.
"I'm going to take you away from here, Anne," says Loren. "Just as soon as I turn eighteen. I promise."
Anne smiles. It's not the first time she's heard Loren say this, and she's sure it won't be the last. She's heard it in all kinds of moods – breathless from kissing, angry with his father, sad when Anne is tired or in pain. Tonight it's the sad version, and so Anne pulls her hands away and leans over to kiss him. It's a gentle meeting of mouths, no real heat to it as they comfort each other. Anne pulls away and begins tracing patterns on Loren's bare chest with her right index finger. It helps to relieve some of the pressure.
"I wish I had some paint," she says, wistful. "I'd love to paint you."
"Paint my picture or paint me?" Loren quips with a wry smile.
"Either," Anne says, her voice quiet. Loren takes her hand in his and squeezes it.
"Are you sure you don't want me to find you a pen and a piece of paper or something you could draw with?"
"Yes, Loren, I'm sure," Anne sighs. "I'm sure your dad will want me to draw something soon. Besides, I don't know how he'd react if he caught me, and I don't want to deal with that."
"I kind of hate him, you know," Loren seethes through tight lips. "I hate what he does to you. You shouldn't have to-"
"Shh," Anne holds a finger up to Loren's lips as a strange, faint sound wafts into her bedroom through the vents. Anne and Loren share a curious glance before sliding off her bed and quietly crouching next to the vent. Loren tilts his head, almost puppyish, and Anne bites her lip to keep from telling him how adorable he can be sometimes.
"What is that?" Loren asks, his brow knitting in confusion. Anne leans closer to the vent. It almost sounds like someone humming, although terribly off tune.
"I think – I think that's Nina!" Anne covers her mouth with her hand to stifle her giggles. "She's singing!"
Loren makes a face but there is mirth in his eyes. "That's singing?" His expression becomes pained as the humming continues, horribly off-key and somewhat shrill. It gets boring pretty quickly, and Anne vaguely wonders how long Nina intends to keep it up. They stand and walk back to the bed. Anne looks at her clock.
"Hey, it's after midnight," she says. "You'd better get to your room and sleep. Don't you have that job interview tomorrow?"
As if on cue, Loren stretches and yawns.
"Yeah, I guess I better get to bed. Maybe I'll just sleep in here." The corner of his mouth twitches and he wiggles his eyebrows at Anne in an over-the-top leer. Anne laughs and points at the door.
"Get out," she says, smiling. Loren smiles back at her.
"Last time you said that to me you were serious," he remarks. Anne rests her hand on Loren's back and starts to push him towards the door.
"Alright! Alright!" he exclaims. "I'll go!"
Loren leaves the room after Anne kisses him goodnight, and then she returns to her bed. The obnoxious humming has stopped, and now a strange grinding noise is coming through the vent. Anne walks over the vent, her brow furrowed as she stoops to listen. The grinding stops for a moment, and then starts again. Shaking her head and a little afraid to know what Nina is doing to cause such a sound, Anne retires to bed.
Anne wakes to a familiar discomfort in the early hours of the morning. It's still dark out when she reluctantly rolls out of bed to go use the bathroom on the second floor, the one situated between Nina and Loren's bedrooms. It's silent – whatever was making that strange grinding sound has ceased. Anne walks to her bedroom door and hesitates when she reaches for the doorknob. The metal is smooth and cool under her hand, and she feels like she should stay where she is, safe in her room.
Grow up, she chides herself before opening the door. She really does need to use the bathroom and it's not like she has anything in her bedroom she can relieve herself in. Treading softly she descends the staircase to the second floor of the house and handles her business. On her way back, she notices that Nina's door is ajar. Strange, she's kept it shut tight almost all week, Anne thinks. She shrugs, unconcerned. Nina's behavior has always been erratic. Really, it's no big deal that Nina's door is open, but what is odd is the splash of light shining from the kitchen downstairs. There's the faint sound of plastic rattling as well, and Anne leans over the railing to peer down into the dining room. She can't see into the kitchen though, and that's where the sounds are coming from. She starts down the stairs, slowly and a little nervous, because it's unlikely, but what if it's an intruder?
Three more steps, and Anne takes them slowly. She walks around the dining room kitchen, stopping short when she reaches the archway that leads into the kitchen.
"Oh, Nina, it's you," Anne breathes when she sees the girl sitting on the cool laminate of the kitchen floor. The door of the refrigerator is open, illuminating the room in its soft glow. Nina looks up at Anne, and Anne's eyes widen in horror.
Nina's long black hair hangs disheveled over her shoulders and in her lap sits an opened package of ground beef. Nina's hands are covered in it; blood from the raw meat runs in rivulets down her forearms and stains the sleeves of her floral print flannel pajamas. Streams of blood also decorate Nina's chin and neck. Pieces of meat litter the floor around her and stick to her face and arms. Nina brings a large wad of beef to her mouth, which is still full of half-chewed beef. Anne's mouth opens and her nose wrinkles in disgust.
"Nina!" she exclaims. "What are you doing?"
Nina smiles widely, bits of raw meat stuck between her teeth. It's a feral, sinister smile and Anne takes two steps back before she realizes just why that smile seems so wrong. Nina has filed her teeth into points. They glint wickedly in the light from the refrigerator. So that's what that grinding noise was, Anne realizes with a start. Nina holds up a handful of meat, as if offering it to Anne, and in her most innocent, little-girl voice says, "I was hungry Anne. Aren't you hungry?"
Anne turned on her heel and ran into the living room, calling Harold's name before pounding on his bedroom door. Nina, however, is not pleased at Anne calling for her father and she leaps up and runs after, snapping her sharpened teeth together like a rabid dog as she ran. And is she growling? Eyes wide, Anne runs around Nina, back through the dining room and up the stairs.
The commotion has woken Loren, who is now standing on the second floor landing. He sees Nina, bloody and in pursuit of Anne and he grabs Anne's wrist and hurries her into his bedroom, slamming the door and locking it hurriedly.
"What happened?" he asks, wide-awake. Anne doesn't get a chance to answer before the sound of fingernails scratching at the door combined with a piteous mewling sound distracts them.
"What the hell?" Loren gasps, alarmed. "Is that Nina making that noise?"
Anne simply nods, her face pale.
"Nina? Baby, what's wrong?" It's Harold. His voice grows louder as he approaches his daughter.
"Daddy I'm messy," Nina giggles, and Harold's sigh is audible even through the closed door.
"Loren? Anne? You all right in there?" Harold asks.
"Yes sir," Loren responds mechanically.
"I'm going to take her into the bathroom and clean her up, and then I want to talk to Anne."
Anne bites her lower lip, a little scared. What if Harold blames her for this too? What if he hits her again? She settles scared eyes on Loren and he gathers her tight in his arms.
"I won't let him hurt you again. I'm so sorry I ever let him lay a hand on you to begin with."
"I know," Anne snuffles against Loren's shoulder.
Minutes pass, each one longer than the last. Finally, Harold raps on the door with his knuckles and Loren and Anne walk slowly into the hallway. Harold motions for them to follow him to the living room and they follow in silence.
"What happened?" asks Harold, looking weary. Anne can't help but notice that at three in the morning Harold shows every bit of his age. He looks old, sad and defeated.
"I came down here to use the bathroom, and noticed the kitchen light on," Anne says. "Nina was sitting there eating raw beef and – well, she scared me." Anne's voice is small; she doesn't like admitting that she'd been pretty much terrified when she'd seen Nina like that.
Harold ignores the admission. "What did she do to her teeth?"
"My guess is she filed them," says Loren. Harold runs a hand through his hair.
"Can you fix it, Loren?"
Loren looks unsure. "I – I don't know. Maybe? I mean, it's not technically an injury so-"
Loren is interrupted by Harold grabbing his hand and pulling Loren behind him, toward Nina's bedroom. "You can try, right?"
"Yeah, of course," Loren says, flustered. Anne follows then back up the stairs but hangs back a bit, not wanting to go to close to Nina's bedroom. She's obviously unstable, and Anne doesn't want to get attacked.
Harold doesn't bother to knock on Nina's door and she wasn't allowed a lock, like Loren was, so he just opens the door and tugs Loren in behind him. The door shuts, and Anne waits.
The noise is alarming. Nina shouts, "No!", and Harold and Loren are both shouting back, their voices blending together into a cacophony of sound. It only lasts a minute and then Loren and Harold spill back into the hallway, their breathing labored. Loren's hand is bleeding from what looks to be teeth marks. He looks down at his hand in dismay, sighs audibly and rests his other hand over the wound. When he lifts his hand, the wound is gone.
"Did it work?" Anne asks breathlessly. Loren looks at her sadly and Harold just looks at her, his emotion indiscernible.
"Anne, I need you to draw."
"Right now?" Anne asks, receiving a sharp look from Harold. Harold apparently doesn't think that question is deserving of a response. He simply walks downstairs and returns presently with pencils and paper in hand. He hands them to Anne lap and walks away, leaning on the hallway wall.
"Can I do this in your room, Loren?" Anne yawns, and Loren nods. In the next minute Anne is sitting at Loren's desk sketching a rough portrait of Nina. In it, she's smiling, and her teeth are even and straight, not sharpened and bloody. Harold watches ever movement of Anne's pencil, and once she's done, he snatches the picture up and marches it to Nina's door, sliding it under.
"That should do it," he breathes. "Now, go to bed."
"Daddy?" Nina's voice is small on the other side of the door. "Can I go play down by the river?"
Harold looks horrified. "Absolutely not!" he spouts, his tone harsh. It's the first time Anne has ever heard him speak to his daughter in that tone. He is obviously confused and worried by what's happened. He turns to Loren.
"You're not going to your job interview tomorrow. I want you to call around to some different therapists and see if they can't give you any advice about what's happening to Nina. I'll call and make an appointment after I get back from work. We need to fix whatever's wrong with her."
Loren frowns and Anne winces. She knows Loren's been looking forward to this job interview all week; that being cooped up in this house has been driving him nuts. And now Harold is just going to toss it aside as if it's nothing. Loren narrows his eyes at his father, his anger simmering in his eyes. It looks like Loren's finally reached his boiling point.
"She died, Dad!" he says. "Who knows what happened to her brain while she was gone? I shouldn't have brought her back."
Harold goes still, like Loren's words stole the breath from his lungs. He takes two steps toward Loren, his hands balled into fists at his sides. His calm is terrifying, and Loren shrinks away from his father.
"Don't you ever say that again," he says. His voice is quiet. "If you do, I'll kill you."
And with that he turns, and walks down the stairs. Anne and Loren watch his back as he goes, neither of them moving until Harold is out of sight. Loren doesn't say anything, but he takes Anne's hand and leads her into his bedroom. He shuts the door and locks it, and without speaking to each other, they walk to the bed and sit. Anne leans close to him, feeling safe and protected. Loren wraps his arms around her and buries his face in her hair. He sighs, and Anne feels him shaking.
"I shouldn't have brought her back, Anne," he says. "I'm not even sure that it's her that I brought back. Nina would never – god, her teeth! Nina would never!"
Anne tries to hush him; holds him tight. "I didn't do it for her," Loren continues to ramble. "I love her, of course I do. She's my sister. Of course I love her. But I was so worried about how my dad would treat you if she really died, that I did it anyway. Something told me not to, and I did it anyway. God, Anne, what did I do?"
"Oh, Loren," says Anne. "I know. I thought you did the right thing too; that it was a miracle, but now I'm not so sure."
She lifts her face so she can look up into his eyes, and he catches her mouth with his, kissing her gently. It's a kiss that begs for reassurance, and Anne reciprocates. She wraps her arms around his neck and pulls him down until they're lying side by side on the bed.
"I love you," she whispers between kisses. Loren doesn't answer her with words, but the fervor of his kisses more than make up for it.
The next morning Anne wakes up beside Loren. He's propped up on one elbow, just looking down at her. His fingers rest lightly on her cheek and Anne smiles at him, at least until the panic of discovery kicks in. In a moment she's out of Loren's bed, trying to remember all the events of last night that led to her falling asleep there.
"Calm down, Anne," Loren says, his voice soft. He holds out his arms. "Dad's left for work already. There's nothing to worry about right now."
Anne slowly climbs back into bed, where Loren promptly wraps his arms around her. He kisses the top of her head and she sighs, contented.
"You're so beautiful, Anne," Loren says. "We do have to be careful though. I don't want dad to know how much we mean to each other. He might make us forget – like he did with the dog."
"I shouldn't have fallen asleep in here," Anne says.
"Yeah, I'll make sure I fall asleep in your room from now on," Loren laughs, lightening the mood. Anne smiles.
"It's nine o'clock," says Loren. "Come on, let's go downstairs and get some breakfast."
Anne agrees, and together they walk downstairs. On the kitchen table, secured under a box of Cheerios is a lined piece of notebook paper. Apparently Harold has left them a note. Loren retrieves the paper and reads it aloud. Anne doesn't miss the sarcasm in his tone.
"Please see that Nina gets something to eat. I put a lock on Nina's door this morning, and I want you to leave her locked in her room today, unless she needs to use the bathroom, and then I want you and Anne to escort her to and from the bathroom. I expect a full report about the therapists when I get home." Loren sighs and throws the note in the trash. "I can't believe he put a lock on Nina's door."
Anne doesn't respond to that, after all Loren wasn't the one who was chased by a feral Nina. "Let's eat breakfast first," she says, "Then I'll take her something to eat while you start making phone calls. You might want to call that place you were going to interview at, see if they'll reschedule?" Anne phrases it like a question, a little afraid to bring up the interview because she knows Loren has got to be pissed off about it. Loren's brow creases and he frowns, but then waves it off.
"Yeah, good idea," he says nonchalantly, but Anne can see by the look in his eyes how upset he really is. Loren obviously doesn't want to talk about it though, so Anne drops it.
After a breakfast of cereal, Anne takes their bowls and rinses them in the sink. Loren's located the phone book and is thumbing through the relatively small list of psychiatrists and psychologists.
"How am I going to know who to call?" he murmurs to himself. Anne shrugs.
"Dunno," she admits. "Maybe just call one of the offices and see who they recommend. Maybe give them a quick description of how Nina's been acting?"
"Yeah, ok," Loren agrees. He starts chewing on the cap of the ball point pen he's using to circle numbers. "Will you take Nina some breakfast? I can go with you if you want but I was going to start making some phone calls."
Anne feels a wave of apprehension but shrugs it off. I can't live my life afraid of Nina, Anne thinks, so she takes down a bowl and pours a sugary cereal in it, topping it off with milk. Grabbing a spoon, she climbs the stairs to the second floor. Reaching Nina's door, she taps softly, in case Nina is still asleep.
"What do you want?" comes the accusatory voice from the other side of the door.
"I have breakfast for you," says Anne. "Do you want it?"
"You're not Rapunzel, you know," Nina says, her voice harsh. "I don't care how long your hair is or how many times you sleep with my brother. You're just Anne; stupid, insignificant Anne. You're only a means to an end. Once Daddy tires of you I'll be his princess again. I'm going to throw you from your precious tower."
Anne sighs at the threats, not wanting to open the door. Still, when she responds, she makes sure her voice is neutral, leaning towards bored.
"I don't have time for this, Nina. Do you want your breakfast or not?"
Silence. Then, softly, pleadingly, Nina's voice becomes audible.
"Fine," says Anne. With one hand she unlocks the door and opens it just wide enough to offer Nina the bowl of cereal.
Really, Anne was expecting this, so she's not sure why she's still so surprised when the door is literally ripped from her hand and flung open. It offsets her balance and she lurches forward, dropping the bowl of cereal upside-down on the carpet. In this moment, Anne is done with Nina.
"Dammit, Nina!" Anne shrieks. "I was just trying to give you your breakfast!" Looking down, Anne sees the mess of cereal has landed next to a torn up piece of paper and immediately Anne knows it's her drawing from last night. Nina giggles madly and grins at Anne. Her teeth are still sharpened into points and Anne starts to back away. That's when Nina lunges.
She's heavier than Anne – stockier. Anne feels herself fall; feels her hands burn on the carpet as she twists onto her stomach to get away from Nina. Then Nina's on Anne's back, holding her down. Nina presses one hand to the back of Anne's head and holds Anne's face down into the carpet. Anne screams Loren's name and for help and then just screams. There's a snapping noise and then Nina grabs hold of Anne's hair with her free hand and starts hacking away at it with the pair of scissors that Anne realizes she's holding.
Anne twists and turns, desperately trying to get away from Nina. Her screams of terror turn into screams of pain when Nina's scissors close down on the lower lobe of her right ear rather than her hair, and Nina doesn't stop; doesn't even flinch. It's just another snip for Nina, and Anne's sure that Nina has amputated a good portion of her ear. The world goes quiet much like it did when Nina fell down the stairs, and Anne feels the hot rush of blood down the side of her face. Nina throws the shorn hair in front of Anne in contempt, completing her gruesome task. She crows in success and releases Anne, retreating back into her bedroom just as Loren reaches the top of the stairs.
Anne pushes herself to her knees. She's sobbing, loudly, as Loren crouches beside her. With one trembling hand she touches her mutilated ear, her sobs becoming hysterical when she realizes that her worst fears are confirmed and part of her ear is, in fact, missing.
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who left a review on the last chapter; hope you're still enjoying the tale. So yeah, it wasn't Loren't best decision to let Anne go upstairs and deal with Nina. Tune in next time to find out what happens! ;)