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|
Anne's sobs have ceased and her heart is the only sound that she can hear right now, and it is beating too fast, too fast. Her hand is pressed tightly to the side of her head and she can feel the blood seeping through her fingers, trailing down her arm. Anne wants to scream, to cry and even laugh a little because it's ridiculous, that her life has come to this. She can't do any of those things because she can't breathe. Her breath is nothing more than little hiccups and wheezes as she tries to pull air into her lungs. It seems too daunting a task, and Anne's vision starts to go dark.
"Anne! Hold still!"
She feels Loren pull her hand away from the side of her head so he can take a look at the damage. He bites off a curse as he peels Anne's shorn locks out of the wound.
"Oh, Anne, she cut off part of your ear!" he says, distressed. "Did you maybe see where it landed?" That pulls Anne out of the shock she was probably heading into. She starts to shake, her body shivering as if it is cold. Loren lifts his hand to Anne's ear and starts the healing process.
There's a strange vibration in Anne's ear as it begins to knit back together. She stops shaking and her breathing deepens to a regular pattern. She turns to Loren with watery eyes.
"Why?" she breathed. "Why does she hate me?"
"I don't know," Loren says, wrapping his arms around Anne. He's probably going to get blood on his shirt, but he doesn't seem to care. "I'm so sorry I didn't get here sooner. I shouldn't have let you come up here alone. God, that was so stupid of me."
Anne stands, Loren helping her to her feet. "No, it's not your fault," she says. "I should have known she'd do something like that. I didn't expect that, though! What's wrong with her?" Anne recognizes the high pitch of her voice; knows she's about to slip back into hysteria any moment. She knows Loren doesn't have the answers, but she wants to know why. She needs to know why. Loren just looks at her sadly, shakes his head and leads her into his room.
Anne looks in the mirror and nearly starts crying again. Her hair is uneven and ragged. Anne doesn't think she's vain, not really, but she hadn't realized just how much she liked her hair until it was gone. Well, she reasons, it's not entirely gone.Most of her hair is almost to her shoulders, with only a chunk or two about an inch shorter. The side of her head and her neck is covered in blood. It's starting to dry and Anne looks like an extra in a zombie movie.
She trails her hand over the crusting-up trail of blood and notices the missing notch in her ear. She wonders if a piece of her ear is just lying in the hallway like a piece of meat. She wonders if Nina took it. Her stomach flips as she remembers Nina in the kitchen with the raw beef. Surely not, Anne forces herself to think, and fights to quell the sudden rush of nausea. She hopes that Harold will let her fix that later with a drawing. Knowing him, though, he'll prefer her imperfect, and not let it happen. Even if Anne is forced to live with it, it's such a small piece that it might not be noticeable at first.
"You should take a shower," Loren says, resting his hand on her shoulder. "You'll feel better when you get the blood off."
Anne nods silently and starts to tug at her shirt. Loren leaves the bathroom and shuts the door. She peels off her clothing and lets it fall where it may before stepping into the shower. She makes it warmer than usual, letting the hot water flow over her shoulders and down her body, helping cohesive thought patterns return.
I need to get out of here, she realizes. She'd thought she would be alright living with Harold until she turned eighteen and free to go where she wanted, but the situation with Nina has turned dangerous. Anne isn't sure how much longer she'll last if she stays. What if Nina's attacks turn deadly?
Anne finishes her shower and then wraps a large bath sheet around her body – one of the few things Harold had her draw that Anne actually benefits from. She hears Loren softly rapping on the door and he says, "Are you coming out?"
Anne does, and Loren escorts her up the stairs so she can put fresh clothes on. She veers away from Nina's door as they pass, and Anne can't help but notice the puddle of milk soaking the carpet from under the door. Once in her room, Anne quickly dresses and drops the used towel in her laundry hamper. She walks downstairs, unsure of what they're going to do now. She's met in the dining room by Loren who's holding a pair of scissors. He reaches out and takes her hand, pulling her gently out of the house and sitting her down in an aluminum folding chair.
"I'm not going to cut you," he says. "I'm going to try and fix it so your hair doesn't look like, well, like Nina cut it. Just hold still so I can get it even, ok? I know I'm not a hairdresser but I don't think I can mess it up worse than it is, right?" Anne frowns, thinking that Loren's attempt to lighten the mood just fell flat. She's not going to tell him that, though, so she manages a small, tight-lipped smile and nods.
Loren goes quickly, snipping off more and more hair. He keeps taking a step back with a critical eye before setting in again and before too long he declares himself done. She reaches up and runs a hand through her hair, wincing. How short did Loren cut it?
Loren leans in and kisses her, softly. "You're still pretty, Anne, don't worry," he says, and Anne feels her heart swell with love for him. If she's had any doubts about Loren loving her back, they're gone now. She has a feeling he'd still think she'd be pretty even if Nina had disfigured her face. That's a chilling thought, and Anne remembers what she decided in the shower.
"Loren," she says, and Loren mistakes her saying his name as an invitation to kiss her again. He presses his lips in and she returns the kiss, but pulls away after. "Loren," she says again. "I have to get out of here. I have to. What if Nina . . ."
"I won't let that happen," Loren says. "I promise I'll keep a better eye-"
"Loren, no," Anne interrupts. "I can't live like this anymore. I thought I could; that I could just ride it out until I turned 18, but – I just can't do this anymore. I want to run away. I just want to go home! There's got to be a way. Will you help me?"
"Of course I will," Loren replies as if he's offended that Anne even thought she needed to ask. "Just let me think about it for a little bit, okay? It's not like Dad's just gonna let us pack up and go. And I can't just leave Nina here alone either. Maybe before her accident . . ." Loren pauses and bites his lip, and Anne knows where he was going with that when he looks across the river at his beat up old car, the one he'd driven to San Francisco. That seems so long ago now. It seems like a different lifetime, even though it wasn't even a year ago. Anne shivers. It's cold out. Anne realizes she can see her breath and she takes Loren's hand, this time being the one to lead the other back into the house.
She walks to the downstairs bathroom to see just how short her hair is now and flips on the light, almost afraid to look. She knows she might be being a bit prideful, but she's always loved having long hair. Her eyes widen when she catches her reflection in the mirror. It doesn't look bad, but it's barely past her chin and so much curlier without the length to weigh it down. She turns her head to the side, trying to see how visible the notch in her ear is. It's pretty visible. Loren grimaces a little.
"Would drawing fix that?" Loren asks, their eyes meeting in the mirror. Anne shrugs.
"I don't know. I don't even know if your dad will let me fix it. It's not so bad, I guess," Anne's only slightly lying. She hates it, she always will, but she's not going to let Loren know that. She's pretty sure he's still beating himself up over the fact that it happened in the first place.
"Let's go back to my room," Loren says as he leaves the bathroom. Anne follows and soon they're ensconced in his room. Loren walks to his closet and rummages through the various boxes he still has in there until he produces an old composition book he'd used in school and a ballpoint pen. He hands it to Anne.
"I'd forgotten I kept these," Loren says, a little guiltily, as if by remembering earlier it would have done any difference.
"I think your dad went through everything when we moved and threw out all the extra art supplies," Anne says as she takes the proffered items.
"Wouldn't surprise me," Loren says in a bitter tone. "Can't have you drawing unsupervised. You might draw Dad getting eaten by a monster. Hey, maybe you should draw Dad getting eaten by a monster." Loren only sounds like he's maybe halfway joking and Anne arches an eyebrow.
"You know, I may have considered that, but then I'd be unleashing a monster on the world," Anne says with a small smile.
"Yeah, well," is Loren's less than eloquent response as Anne starts to draw. It's a quick, rough sketch and Anne doesn't even know if it will work.
"If it works, do you want to draw your hair back?" Loren finally asks when Anne is finishing up her sketch.
"Let's just do this for now," she says. "It's kind of weird to think that this might fix my ear. It would be even weirder if my hair suddenly started growing. What if it didn't stop?"
Loren smiles at Anne's worries. "Okay, but if you change your mind just remember you have to do it before Dad gets home. I don't really want him knowing I have this. He'd probably confiscate it."
"Is there anything else I should draw while Harold is at work?" Anne asks. "I wish there were a way to draw the truth about him and my family. I know he told me but-"
"You think there's more to it than that?" Loren finishes her sentence for her. "Yeah, I do too. I wish my Dad was a good person. I'm sorry, Anne. You shouldn't have to live like this."
"It's not your fault, Loren," Anne says, looking at him. He has a faraway look on his face and it startles her when he jumps up and snaps his fingers.
"I know! I think Dad used to keep journals of his 'research'! Could you draw that? Like, here?"
"Harold doesn't seem the type to keep a diary, Loren," Anne says wryly. Loren frowns at her.
"Journal, not diary," he clarifies and Anne wants to argue with him a little bit, about how a diary is the same thing as a journal. She holds her tongue though.
"We could at least try, Anne," he sounds a little annoyed now. "Draw it hidden under your bed. Then we can go see if it's really there."
Anne looks skeptical, but picks up the pen and begins to draw again.
They leave the drawing upside-down on Loren's pillow once it's finished.
"We should probably go check," Loren says. Anne sighs and walked out of the room with Loren, feeling a little ridiculous. They walk together up the stairs to Anne's room, and look under her bed. There is nothing there. Loren gives her an encouraging smile.
"Well, it was worth a shot, right?" he asks. He sounds disappointed and Anne feels like she let him down. "Let's go back downstairs. I have those phone calls to make or Dad's gonna kill me."
Anne doesn't doubt it, so she stands back up and walks downstairs again. Once they reach the second landing, Loren returns quickly to his room, telling Anne that he needs to hide the notebook and pen so that his dad can't find it. He's gone only a minute, and Anne waits patiently by the staircase, keeping a wary eye on Nina's door. It's still closed and locked from the outside, which actually does a lot to calm Anne's nerves. Suddenly Loren cries out, and it startles Anne so much that she jumps back.
"What is it?" she calls, running to his room. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing!" Loren says, grinning. "Look what was on my bed!"
Loren is holding up the journal Anne had drawn. Anne laughs in relief and takes the heavy, leather bound journal from Loren's hands. She sits down on the bed, Loren beside her, and opens to the first page.
"I'm kind of scared to read this," she admits when she sees Harold's handwriting on the first page. It's just the year of Anne's birth in Harold's messy scrawl as if he couldn't be bothered to write it neatly.
"April fourth," Anne reads aloud. "Nina's dreams are surprisingly accurate, for a two year old. Her dreams have located the next gifted child to be born, and the power I can sense emanating from Jessica Merriman's womb is extraordinary. Either it's twins or the baby is going to have a gift unlike any other I've seen. I'm curious as to what that gift is going to be, so I'm trying to find a way to weave my life into theirs. Her name is Jessica and she and her husband seem gullible enough, so I'm hoping it will be fairly easy. I'm not worried about that senile old grandmother, Geraldine, either. She'll be easy to persuade of anything, I think. I'm sure they'll want to set up a college fund or something for the brat. Why, I'm just a concerned friend who knows all about that stuff…"
Anne stops reading, her face crinkled in disgust. "You know what; I'm kind of regretting this." Loren takes the journal from her hand and flips through the pages.
"We don't have to read all of it," he says. "Let's skip to when you were born." Loren takes over reading.
"The baby was born today. I got to go see it in the hospital and hold it. It cried when I held it, and Jessica took the baby back as if I'd done something wrong, like they all knew what I have planned, which is impossible. They named her Anne Elizabeth. She will be mine, in one way or another."
Loren inhales deeply, and looks at Anne. She is staring blankly ahead, taking it all in.
"Are you okay?" he asks, placing his hand on hers. She nods and Loren turns back to the journal.
"February Second. I am not making any more progress with the Merriman's. They won't even allow me to babysit despite having two children of my own, and I overheard Jessica telling her husband that she gets bad 'vibes' from me. Whatever that means. I'm trying to find a way to get custody of the child. That would make it so much easier to find out where her power lies and how to best use it. Yes, custody is the only answer.
"March eighteenth. They have made it very clear that I am not to come around them anymore. Very well, but that is their biggest mistake. I will have their child's power for my own use, mark my words. If that means that they meet with a small accident, so be it. It will be easy enough to manipulate the memories of the grandmother once it's done.
"Stop," says Anne. Tears are streaming down her cheeks. "I've heard enough. I'm leaving. I have to. I have to."
"I know, Anne," Loren says. He closes the offending journal and sets it aside. "I'll take you away as soon as I can." He leans over and touches her ear with his forefinger. "Your ear's better."
Anne reaches up with her right hand and runs her fingers over her earlobe. It is better. She touches it three times just to be sure. The notch is gone, and her ear is whole and perfect.
Loren spends most of the day on the telephone, calling therapists and psychiatrists. Each one insists that Nina be brought in for evaluation. They can't diagnose over the phone or even offer advice due to liability issues and Loren gets more and more impatient after each call. Finally Anne reasons with him.
"Look, Loren," she says, resting a hand on his arm. "You've done what your dad asked. Just tell him the truth – they won't talk unless they see Nina."
"He's not going to accept that, Anne," Loren snaps, and Anne flinches.
"God, I'm sorry," he says, running a hand through his hair. He sighs and sets the phone down. "You're right. Dad won't be happy about it but there's nothing I can do."
Anne sighed and flopped down on the couch. "Any thoughts on how we could get out of here?"
"What if you went by yourself?" Loren says. He's leaning back on the couch, pressing the heels of his hands to his closed eyes.
"By myself?" Anne's voice is small.
"Yeah," Loren says. "I mean, it would be easy for you right? I mean, you could draw yourself money, a fake ID . . ."
"I could draw myself a fake ID, sure," Anne says. "But what if it became real? What if I became someone else?"
Loren opens one eye. "Do you really think that could happen?"
"I don't know," Anne concedes. "Besides, I don't have a drivers license or even know how to drive. Gramma was going to sign me up for Drivers Ed over the summer, but –"
"I could teach you," Loren offers. "I mean, I know it's not the best car but at least it's not a stick shift, right?"
"I don't want to go by myself," Anne says softly. She rests her hand on Loren's arm. "Please. I mean, I'd love to learn to drive, but not if it means I have to leave you here."
Loren surges up and places a line of kisses on Anne's brown as his arms tug her closer.
"I didn't mean you had to," he says. "We'll get out together, I promise."
Anne doesn't say anything and lets herself be distracted by how safe she feels in Loren's arms.
We're going to get out of here, she thinks. Everything will be alright. It has to be.