Waited last minute to submit this today.
Turns out that I was going to be busier than I thought.
I got a 2nd job with a crap load of hours (43 hours next week plus school. No days off)
Finals are coming up soon.
I am unbelievably tired but I hammered this chapter out last minute.
Also, the winning answer to the poll!
You guys are crazy. Both answers kept going head to head forever!
But, edging out by a mere two votes:
Edward keeps his name online!
If I ever post the rewrite online, it will have the name Alejandro though. Just a warning.
If you haven't had a chance to look at Portraits, the short story compilation, or the new website, both are up.
The website will be updated again as soon as I get more free time.
Now what you have all been waiting for!
Sweet Miseria's sequel, Chaos Reunition, is now up ^_^
Tr- road kill.
Ugh, motion sickness.
"You look like a dog," Jack commented dryly from the driver's seat, "Why don't you do a crossword puzzle or something?"
I pulled my head away from the window, the glass foggy from my breath, and stared at my mentor blankly, "I've been doing nothing but stupid crossword puzzles for the past three months. Allow me to enjoy my first trek outside of Dallas since forever."
Even though his eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, I could feel him roll his eyes. I ignored him. Besides, concentrating on the passing scenery helped distract me from the bumpy ride. We had left the city limits five hours ago, but it was feeling like forever. The roads outside of town were destroyed, the gravel broken apart and grass starting to fight its way through. Nature was taking back the land and nothing was stopping it.
Then again, nothing was going to stop me from going on this trip, even if it wasn't the best idea.
I was supposed to be MIA, dead and hidden from the world. That had been the plan for the past three months. But it was the holidays and I needed an escape before I'd go crazy. Life with Jack had its limits and watching him get to go off and play Hunter made staying at home that much more painful. All I'd been able to do recently was train, stay with the Pack, or watch TV. I was anxious and needed something new.
Plus, I felt bad for my mom and sister.
Dad divorced her only a month after I went into hiding. After that, she moved out of the house with Maiya and was now in the process of moving to New Ashford, staying with my grandmother until the winter holidays were over. The day he divorced her, I had waited for the inevitable phone call from my little sister and when it came, it tore me apart.
She didn't know why. I did. I think she got the better end of the deal.
No surprise that my father and I weren't really on speaking terms. He tried; I ignored. He didn't know I was going to visit Mom and Maiya and, unless Aki told him, he wasn't going to find out.
The trip to Charlotte, Texas under normal circumstances lasted about five to six hours. But with the rapid pace the roads outside of the cities were decaying, it was going to take almost double the time. Not to mention that we weren't sure what kind of animals or monsters were roaming the lands. A warning had been issued to travelers to try and stay near populated areas, using a plane if necessary.
Planes needed ID's and we weren't going that route.
Jack wouldn't have agreed to me taking the trip if he wasn't already heading in that direction. He was acting as my unofficial guardian and it was getting to be a bit irritating. Everything needed to be approved by him and if he wasn't around, I was stuck with Leon at the Pack House.
It didn't help that we lived close to them.
Jack and I lived about fifteen miles away from the Pack House in the Northern Forest. Close enough that the Sentries could come running, need be, but with enough distance that Jack didn't feel like they were too close. While on better terms with Leon, he hadn't adjusted to being around all the Hiddens. I, on the other hand, found it rather interesting. It kept me from being too bored.
Well, less bored.
"You sure the Ranger is going to survive this trip? If the tires pop, we're kind of screwed," I grumbled, shrugging deeper into the blanket wrapped around my shoulders. The heater kept going on and off. Winter in Texas was unbelievably cold, but luckily it hardly ever snowed. The truck wouldn't have been able to handle that.
"I have two spares in the truck bed and another one stashed underneath. We'll be fine. Stop bitching," he snapped.
I blinked at him in surprise and raised an eyebrow, "Geez, what the hell are you pissed off about?"
He glanced at me quickly, jaw clenched, "I am pissed that I let you talk me into this. This is too risky and you should have stayed with the Pack."
"It's only for a week and I'll be safe. Charlotte's too small to sustain a Hidden population. Besides, no one knows what happened to me besides Mom and Maiya and they aren't telling anyone," I reasoned.
"You don't know that for sure. They could have heard about the Dallas Massacres and your connection. You don't know," Jack argued. I could feel my own anger rising and turned to look outside instead. I knew he had a valid point, but I wasn't going to change my mind. Charlotte was safe. Safe. No Hiddens there to get in trouble with. This was simply a vacation. That's what I kept telling myself. I wasn't running from my own anxiety or from Jack or this whole situation. I was merely seeing family for the holidays and then I would come right back.
I wasn't running.
"That won't happen. I'll be safe," my reflection repeated the words back at me from the window. The tension in my back didn't go away.
Jack scoffed, "You should know better. With the way things are now, nothing is safe."
A new wave of guilt crashed into me. I was happy I was facing the window because I couldn't keep it off my face. The way things were now was my entire fault. I hadn't stopped Tera and we were living in the aftermath. Turns out that the Companies didn't need to declare war on the Hiddens; everyone was going after one another on their own. Anti-Hidden attacks were on the rise and the supernatural community wasn't sitting by and taking it. They were fighting right back.
The only thing that was keeping everything together was the government and even that was about to come tumbling down. Once they collapse, the Companies would take over and that was the last thing I could deal with.
When that happens, and it will happen, the war was going to start…and it felt like everything was my fault. Maybe it was.
I swallowed the feeling and tried to think past it. Jack didn't need to know about those sorts of thoughts and this trip wasn't going to be spoiled because of it.
"I know the risks and I'm not going unprepared. You're not going to be that far away if I need help and I have my weapons on me. But I need to see them, Jack. It's been forever since I've been around actual family- well, normal family," I tried to give him a smile. Hell, I lived with a Hunter, my father was an Original, my brothers were half-Vampires, and some of my closest friends were all shifters. You don't get more odd that that.
The frown loosened a bit and he sighed. I almost grinned. He was caving in. Besides, it wasn't exactly like he was going to turn the truck around and take me back home.
"Fine. Just don't cause trouble. Please, keep a low profile," he glanced at me quickly before maneuvering around a tree starting to grow out in the middle of the road. I winced and gripped the handlebar above my head as the tires squealed. I hated his driving.
Pouting, I crossed my arms and leaned back into my seat, "Hey, I don't cause trouble! It finds me!"
He gave me one of his looks.
"Yeah, whatever," Jack grumbled.
I rolled my eyes and scratched the scar over my heart. For some reason, it irritated me more than the scar on my leg where the bone had stabbed through. I'd been stuck in a cast for a month, hobbling around like a dumbass. It was another mark to the collection of scars all over my legs. I wasn't usually self-conscious, but I hated showing them off. Another reason why I didn't wear dresses.
…Besides the fact that I hated them.
Pants for the win.
"How much longer do you think it'll be before we hit town?" A lot of the markers I use to remember were gone. About half of the small towns had dropped off, plant covered houses like headstones in an unmarked cemetery. It was eerie, like stepping into the twilight zone. The world had gone from a period of total dominance by man to the rural days of our ancestors. Technology was advancing and regressing all at the same time.
No more cars, no more easy lifestyles.
Hell, I was gonna have to learn to ride a damn horse.
"We're almost there." Jack slowed down to drive around a bend in the road, two low cliff-faces rising on either side of us.
Almost there was actually over three hours. Not quite my definition, but maybe I should have asked for specifications. It felt like I just trekked across Narnia or Mordor.
If only I had some sort of ring to throw in a volcano.
Stretching out in my seat, I could feel my anxiety rush forward as Charlotte came into view. The town was tiny, but primarily consisted of relatives on my mother's side. A few hours away from San Antonio, yet probably not on a lot of maps. I use to spend summers and Christmases there when I was small. It'd been years upon years since I'd been back and I was positive I was gonna have to go through the old routine of meeting everyone all over again.
Nervous, who me?
"Remember, call my cell if you have any problems," Jack started off on his speech again, "Do not leave town. Don't call Aki to pick you up and go some place you shouldn't. If you run into a Hidden, shut your mouth, stay low-"
"And don't draw attention. Yes, Mother Goose," I grumbled, kicking the blanket to the floor as I smoothed out my outfit. I had attempted to wear something nice to show up in. Not such a good idea for me. My pants had powdered donut marks, my blouse was wrinkled, and the holster around my waist kind of ruined the image. Maybe Mom wouldn't notice.
Heh, like that would ever happen.
Jack glared at me out of the corner of his eye and gripped the steering wheel tighter, "I mean it, Vi. You're going through withdrawals and you're itching for a fight-"
"I am not going through withdrawals," I growled, "I wasn't Hunter Addicted to begin with so don't you dare accuse me of that." Sure, I was violent and rash and would rather use my fists than my voice, but that didn't make me one of those addicted bastards. They were murderers, mindless killers that didn't care what they attacked as long as they were killing something.
That was not what was wrong with me. I was a natural Hunter. Of course I was a little antsy that I wasn't out there doing my job. That didn't make me fucking addicted.
I crossed my arms and glared out the windshield.
Somehow, the main road in town managed to stay relatively intact. It was the only gravel road in all of Charlotte, the rest consisting of shoveled dirt. There was a forest surrounding the entire town, nothing new there except that it seemed a bit thicker. In all actuality, nothing had really changed. There were still those same two intersections, the same small post office and library. And as we drove to the center of town, my throat tightened as I spotted Charlotte's lone gas station.
It happened to be right across the street from my grandma's house.
Here we go.
"Was Maiya going to tell your mom that you were coming?" Jack asked as he turned the corner, a few stray cats running out of the way. I could see the front of the house, the garden up front protected from the chilly winter air. No one was outside. Good.
"No. I told her that I wasn't positive about coming down, but if I did I wanted it to be a surprise," I mumbled as my eyes stayed trained on the house. Jack parked in front, tires sliding a little when he stopped too fast.
We sat there in silence for a few minutes. I was nervous. I wasn't sure why, but I was. This was my family. Hell, I fought everyone to go on this trip, risked my hiding and safety. I wanted this. The fear wouldn't go away.
There had always been a divide between me and them. They stayed clear of the life I lived and the things I'd seen. My mom refused to completely acknowledge the fact that I was a Hunter, that I killed people for a living and wanted to do it. If she had been a more religious person, I'm sure she would condemn me to Hell. Instead, she avoided it. This was the same with her side of the family as well. I was never close to them, but I was my mother's first child so there was a bit of a connection there. If they knew what I did, I'm sure they would stay far away from me.
This trip was starting to look more and more like a joke.
I traveled hours to see people that probably didn't even like me. Boy, was I a glutton for drama?
Sighing, I grabbed my bags from the floor and got out of the truck. I didn't have a whole lot, just a medium bag for clothes and a small one for weapons. The latter had a lock on it in case the kids decided to snoop around.
Kids. Yeah, definitely crazy if I wanted this.
Jack got out and raised an eyebrow as I fixed my dress pants, "You sure about this?"
"Nope," I grinned, "But at least this won't kill me."
He smirked and hugged me, ruffling my newly long hair before heading back to the driver's side, "I'll call you later. Don't kill anything."
No problems there…
Dirt filled the air as he took off, leaving me to cough up a lung on the front sidewalk. Why was I friends with such a jackass? I glared at him distantly as he went on to whatever assignment he had taken. Jack hardly ever told me what he was doing. He could be a Russian spy for all I knew. As long as he bought groceries and washed his dishes, I didn't really care.
I chewed on my lip and walked up to the front porch, the antique door looming in front of me. The door was always unlocked. Charlotte had one policeman and it happened to also be the only fireman. No robberies here. Everyone entered through the backdoor anyways.
For a second, I stood there without moving. I tried to swallow past my pulse and force myself to turn the damn doorknob. Why was I so nervous? For an entire week, every place I went to had dead bodies, but I didn't hesitate going there. It wasn't like I was about to face down a psychotic Witch…
Already done that.
Wiping my palm on my pants, I gently skimmed my fingers across the CZ hidden under my blouse in my waist holster and calmed myself down. Suck it up and go in already. Be brave.
Here goes nothing.
I bit my lip and pushed open the door.
Piano music filled the room along with the sound of laughter and clapping, a voice I recognized well singing an old upbeat number from my childhood. A smile slipped onto my face and I felt like I was five years old again. I closed the door behind me gently, watching as everyone kept their eyes on the singing figure by the piano.
No one had noticed me yet.
Setting my bags down on the floor, I held my breath as hazel eyes dancing with joy found mine and the song died off abruptly. There was a pause before everyone turned around and stared at me.
Well, helloooo everybody.
I smiled and chuckled nervously as I regressed to a two year old and waved hesitantly, "Hi, Mom…"
Review please! A new poll should be up as well!