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            Michael pulled her away after her father drew his last labored breath.

            "Call the police," he said not looking away from her. Chris nodded and grabbed the phone. He explained to the operator that they'd found her father dead when they walked her home and that he suspected that someone was trying to kill the family. Shell found herself alone in her room later packing some of her stuff. She saw her journal for English class open on her desk and grabbed a pen from the coffee cup on her desk.

                Sometimes sight is a curse. Sometimes you see something that tears away everything, leaving you with shreds. You're left to try to paste the shreds together to make something new. Hopefully, you end up with something bright again, but what if what you're left with is dark and scary? What if it makes you want to run and hide? What do you do then? Maybe then the only good thing to do is to throw it all away and start over with the individual threads. I-

            Michael walked into the room. "Almost done?" he asked.

            "Yeah," she said tossing her journal into her duffel bag. What she had been writing didn't make sense anyway. She was just rambling.

            They sent her to her father's sister's house to live. Aunt Tibby didn't know anything about demon hunters and demons. Sure, she had the 'gift', but she thought she was a witch. She sold love potions and told fortunes for a living. Her potions might not have worked, but she was good at telling fortunes.

            Shell just tried to be normal, but it wasn't working so well. She wasn't able to make new friends since it was the middle of the school year. She was like a pale version of her old self.

             Looks like I did a shitty job with those threads, she thought bitterly as she looked over her journal. She hadn't written in it since that night and didn't feel the need to.

            "Shell, you want to help these customers? I've got a reading in five."

            "Sure."

            "Thanks, hon."

            "May I help- Liz, Michael? What are you doing here?" she asked frowning in confusion.

            "We're here to warn you," Elizabeth said in an exaggeratedly ominous fashion.

            "Cut the dramatic crap," Shell said leaning toward them over the counter.

            "Okay, look. We just wanted to let you know that the demons and the hunters have gotten wind of who and what you are. You're not safe."

            "It's been five months! If they were going to find me they already would have."

            "Not necessarily. At first each side thought you were just half human. They didn't realize that you were half demon and half hunter."

            "They're not too bright are they?" she asked sarcastically.

            "They're smart enough," he said sharply. She wasn't taking the threat seriously enough in his opinion.

            "Whatever. There's nothing I can do about it, so why bother?"

            "But Shell-"

            "Shut the fuck up! I'm trying to think."

            "Let me help you since you seem to have lost that ability since I last saw you," Michael said. "The way I see it you have four choices. Choice one is that you do nothing and probably die a very slow and very painful death. Which side you're caught by doesn't matter. Choice two is joining the demons. They might let you join them, or they might kill you. It depends on what mood they're in. Choice three is similar except you join the hunters. They'll either train you or kill you. Both are terrible fates."

            "So I die no matter what?" she asked disbelievingly.

            "There is one more option," Elizabeth said quietly.

            "What is it?" Shell asked.

            "We stay here and protect you, but there is a catch. If the vampires ever go to war you must join us. It was the only way we could get the Selected to agree to let us come."

            "Fuck that!" Shell said angrily. She could tell they were trying to manipulate her, and she didn't like it at all.

            "Shell-" Michael said condescendingly.

            "Shut up and get the fuck out of here. I've had it with your kind!"

            "But-"

            "Get out," she hissed turning her back on them and walking into the storage room. She heard them leave minutes later, but she didn't move. She stared at a pile of tarot cards and tried to stop the bitter tears from escaping.

She walked through the building. It was nearly empty, but music was playing very loudly for some unknown reason. The screaming rock only made her surroundings creepier. She continued to walk, her hand touching the boxes stacked along the edges as she went.

            She was searching for something. She looked around and finally found the source of the music. She bent down to look at it. There was a peach rose next to it. She picked up the rose even though she knew it meant trouble. It felt soft in her hand.

            "You've accepted the challenge, I see," a placid voice said from behind her.

            "Of course," her dream self said.

            The scene suddenly shifted, and she was sitting under a golden-leaved tree next to Michael.

            "Hello," he said leaning back in a relaxed manner. She felt more relaxed, too.

            "Hi," she said looking up at the blue sky. It was a perfect day. The clouds looked like cotton floating against a blue background. Hours seemed to pass.

            "Why didn't you just listen to me, Shell?" he asked sadly. She was startled by his voice in the silence. The sky began to slowly darken as he turned toward her and looked into her eyes. His green eyes bored into her until they were all she could see.

            "Michael, you're really scaring me now," she said fearfully.

            "Why didn't you listen?" he repeated as if he hadn't heard her, "Now we'll have to do this the hard way." She tried to back away, but the tree seemed to be holding her in place. Michael gripped her shoulders and pulled her toward him. She tried to pull away, but he was too strong. He gave her a chaste kiss before plunging his fangs into her neck. After that all she felt was white-hot pain.

            "No!" she screamed as she awakened. For a moment she was afraid to even open her eyes, but she finally regained her courage and looked around the room. Seeing nothing there but the creamy walls and the stark furnishings, she relaxed. There was something about the color of the wall that disturbed her, however. She forced herself to forget it, and after many minutes of restlessness fell asleep again.

Note from Shadow: Sorry this took so long. No excuses. I've been writing for other people instead of myself, and I had to gain perspective. I think I've got it now. Tell me what you think of this.