Authors Note – I've been reading the Fallen series by Lauren Kate, and I wanted to write a love story similar to Daniel and Luce's, what with their love surviving countless lives, and with her dying in every one. I threw my own spin on the situation, and this was the result. I hope you like it!
Lancashire, England, 1552
The crickets were chirping in the warm summer night, and Trista Litton gazed up at the stars for a moment with her one good eye, picking out half a dozen constellations from the sparkling dots that littered the sky. Dropping her gaze, her long black hair fell over the left side of her face, hiding her blind white eye and facial scars through years of habit. Fixing her good, clear blue eye on the cluster of trees that marked the edge of their family's estate, Trista hiked up her nightdress, exposing bare feet as she quietly slipped along the ground.
"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Litton."
The voice of Hayden Sheffield broke through her thoughts, from their very first meeting at the beginning of the summer. He was travelling through the area, and staying with an acquaintance of his on the neighbouring estate, and had been the first person in a long while to treat Trista like a normal person; like she wasn't the scared social outcast that the rest of polite society saw her as. He had looked at her face – scared from a coach collision that had occurred when she was eight – and not even flinched.
"Would you do me the honour of accompanying me to the dance this evening, Miss Litton?"
What he had done that night could have made him a social pariah too, and yet Hayden hadn't seemed to care in the slightest, and when he had smiled at her, she had felt herself smiling in return. He had brought her out of her shell, and he had done it with a kindness and tenderness that had stolen her heart.
And then her younger sister Celeste had returned home from spending two months with their aunt and uncle in Derby, and everything had changed.
"Please just promise me one thing, Celeste. You can gain the affections of any eligible man in all of Lancashire with your pretty face and good nature. So please do not show Mr Sheffield any untoward affection. Promise me that you will not pursue him in any way."
"Of course, Trissy. You have my word. He is yours."
But how fleeting a sister's word can be, Trista thought, slipping into the cover of the trees. Celeste, at nineteen, had always been their father's favourite, leaving Trista, who was two years her senior, lingering in the shadows. No one expected her to ever marry, and her parents had resigned themselves to supporting her for the rest of their lives. Their family had one thousand pounds a year, yet it was always expected that the two girls would marry well, and that their parents could retire comfortably. After Trista's accident, however, they had given up hopes that any well to do gentleman would want their eldest, and had instead pushed Celeste out into society once she had hit sixteen. There was not a single boy in town that didn't fancy her, and yet Celeste would never commit to any one man, no matter how many had come calling after her.
That is, until the day that she had made the acquaintance of Hayden Sheffield.
"My sister has told me so much about you, Mr Sheffield. I am so glad that a gentleman such as yourself is acquainted with her, as she is a wonderful woman if one could but look passed what they can see on the surface, and yet sadly not many can. I commend you for that, sir."
Sweet words, and yet Trista had not missed the way that Celeste's pale complexion had flushed when Hayden had picked up her hand and gently kissed it. And she also had not missed the way that his eyes had followed Celeste, even as she had excused herself and left the room. Her blonde hair had caught in the sunlight that day, making it shimmer like gold, and for the first time Trista had felt a stab of hatred hit her. Jealously she was familiar with like an old friend, yet hatred was something that she had never felt before, especially towards her dear sister.
How she wished that that hatred had no been so justified.
The trees opened up onto a small patch of clear land where Trista and Celeste had played as children, and it was there that she finally found them. Celeste had snuck out earlier that evening, not long after she had excused herself to go to bed, and Trista had decided to follow her and see if her suspicions were indeed correct.
It was the giggling that had drawn her attention first – the soft and coy giggle that could have only been Celeste. She was standing with her back facing Hayden, with his arms wrapped around her, and his face buried in the crook of her neck. As Trista watched, Celeste turned, and her lips found his mouth in a kiss that never seemed to end. Watching them together, Trista felt something inside of her snap.
Celeste had been acting secretive for almost two weeks now, and Trista felt a sudden rage in the face of such a blatant betrayal. Celeste, who could have had anyone else. Celeste, who had broken her promise. And Hayden, who had thrown Trista away, just like everyone else had. Hayden, who was sweet and kind to her face, and yet was courting her sister behind her back. She couldn't stand it anymore.
Being mostly shunned from high society, Trista had spent a lot of time alone, and in recent years, she had delved into writings of magical natures such as any respectable young lady should never know about. With the witchcraft act of 1542 being passed in England, Trista's hobby was a dangerous endeavour, but it had made her feel strong and in control of her life in a way that she had never felt before. Now she was channelling that strength into something darker; something that was tinged with blind hatred and malice.
"I curse you!" she spat, causing both Hayden and Celeste to jump and face her direction. "You who have betrayed me, you shall be punished for your crimes! May your souls never rest, even after death. May your cursed love always bring you together in every life that you live, and in that moment of meeting, may you remember all that has ever happened to you before, so that you will know what is to come. And before the sun rises on a new day, may the one who first laid eyes on the other destroy their lover, so that your souls will become drenched in each other's blood, and you will never be saved!"
A crack of thunder sounded overhead, and Trista gasped for air, feeling drained of energy, like she had just run a marathon. In the little clearing, Celeste and Hayden were clinging to each other, and her sister looked pale and scared under the light of the stars. Hayden looked distraught, yet Trista couldn't bear to look at him for long. Her heart was about to shatter completely. She turned away and ran, tears streaming from her eyes as a cold rain began to fall.
A scream – high pitched and terrified – pierced the quiet night, and was then abruptly cut off, and Trista froze in her tracks, her breath coming in ragged, terrified gasps. That scream had come from Celeste. Slowly turning around, Trista saw Hayden stumble out of the trees, staring at his hands like he couldn't quite comprehend what he was looking at. There was no sign of Celeste.
"What did I do?" Hayden said, looking up from his hands to stare at Trista with wide hazel eyes. "Why would I- Oh god, Trista. Why?" he said quietly, before he let out an agonised scream that ripped through Trista, making her flinch away and bringing tears to her eyes once again. "Why?"
And Trista ran. She ran across the estate grounds, never looking back. She tore into the house and flew up the stairs, no doubt waking the servants, but she didn't care. She slammed her door, and sat huddled in a corner, her knees pulled up to her chest as vicious sobs racked her body. What had she done?
"I take it back," she whispered into the dark, rocking back and forth as she squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out the image of Hayden staring at his hands in abject horror. And yet her mind was full of the sounds of screaming, and nothing she could do would shut it out.
"Please let me take it back," she sobbed, and yet whatever forces had given power to her curse were no longer listening to her words. And they never would. What was done was done, and Trista couldn't undo it.
When the authorities came for her the next day, she wasn't really that surprised. She went with them in a state of numb shock, unable to look at anyone as she was lead from her home. Her sister's body had been recovered early that morning, and there were signs that she had been strangled to death. Hayden had confessed, but swore that he had had no control over his actions, as if his body had refused to listen to his mind. He had led the authorities to Trista, and the next anyone had seen of Hayden Sheffield, he too had passed over from the world of the living, driven by his grief to take his own life.
When they had tied her to the stake and lit the fires that would consume her, Trista Litton had looked to the sky and prayed. In her last moments she wished that she could see her sister and her dear friend just one more time. Just once more, so that she could say that she was sorry, and to beg for their forgiveness for what she had done, and for what was yet to come.
London, England, 2011
People were starting to dance, and Celeste Jackson hesitated in her seat. Her black sequined butterfly mask sat on the table in front of her, and she fingered the delicate jewels that adored its shimmering black surface, flicking off several specks of glitter in the process. She wanted to dance, but she had no one to dance with, and it was a rather depressing thought.
It was Valentine's Day, and the nineteen year old had decided to treat herself to a Medieval Banquet and Masquerade party at the Ivory House at St Katharine's Dock, which was across the road from the Tower of London. They held all sorts of themed occasions all year round, and Celeste had thought that it would be an interesting way to spend an otherwise boring Valentine's Day.
The Medieval banquet hall was lit up by the soft light of many candles, and the room had great pillars holding up the arced roof. The staff were all in character and period costume, and Celeste herself had even hired an outfit for the night – a sixteenth century lady's dress that looked rather regal with its form fitting bodice and flowing skirt, long, loose sleeves, with a braided circlet sitting on her head. Her golden blonde hair had been half pulled up, and half left to flow freely over her shoulders, and as her blue eyes wandered the crowd as more and more people rose to dance, she sighed and picked up her mask.
A lively jig was starting up, and people were hiking up skirts and swinging from arm to arm of the surrounding dancers. Celeste slipped her mask on over her eyes, and edged her way towards the dancers. She had a moment to stand and watch, and then someone grabbed her arm, pulling her into the fray with a little yelp of surprise. She was spun off and caught by someone else – a lanky young man in a jester's hat and colourful feathered mask – and before she'd danced two steps, she was twirled away into the arms of someone else. Round and round Celeste was twirled, a smile lighting up her face as she became immersed in the dance, until with a sudden jolt she collided with someone who had spun around at the same moment that she had, causing them to stop chest to chest in each other's arms just as the music stopped.
Celeste looked up with a laugh, ready to apologise to the man that she had smacked into, yet when her eyes found his, her breath caught, and the room began to appear fuzzy around the edges as she lost herself in his hazel eyes. His eyes widened as he looked down at her, and even behind his gold and silver mask, Celeste could see a dawning recognition appear. She knew it was recognition that she could see, as she felt the same feeling wash over her.
And then a new song started up, and the dancing resumed. Someone grabbed her arm, pulling her back into the dance, and Celeste gasped.
"Hayden!" she called, the name coming to her as if it were obvious. The man with the hazel eyes could be no one else, after all. She would know him anywhere.
"Celeste!" she heard his voice call out to her from across the ballroom, just like he had called out to her so many times before. In that moment of meeting, everything started coming back, and as Celeste and Hayden went through the motions of dancing, their minds were spiralling back through the past, and through everything that had happened to bring them to where they were now.
London, England, 1666
Central London was burning. From the Tower of London in the east, to Fleet Street in the West, and from Morgate in the north, right down to the Thames in the South, fire was destroying everything in its path. What had started as a bakery fire in Pudding Lane had turned into a raging inferno that had begun on Sunday September 2nd, and was still raging out of control by Tuesday. It was as if London had been plunged into Hell itself, yet Celeste Kingston wasn't that concerned with the fire.
She had seen him running along the edge of the Thames earlier that evening, helping where he could to try and stop the flames. He hadn't seen her, yet once she had laid eyes on him, she knew exactly who he was. Hayden Sheffield, or rather Hayden Phelps as he was now known. She had run up to him in delight, and once he'd caught sight of her, he had known her too. Even amongst the fear and panic of the flames, they had been deliriously happy to find each other once again. And then reality had crashed back in around them.
"Hayden, run!" Celeste screamed, even as she lunged for him. Her voice was still her own, and yet her body wouldn't listen to her. She felt like a prisoner in her own flesh, watching as her body tried to attack the man that she loved. Hayden knew what was happening, as it had happened many times before, and he ran as fast as he could, yet he knew that he wouldn't be able to out run her for long. The curse would see to that.
Celeste caught up to him in Cheapside, where the fire was at its thickest, yet the heat and smoke meant nothing to her. All that mattered was finding Hayden. Soon she had him cornered, and with a lump of timber in hand, she advanced on her lover. He was coughing and crouched down low, and he met her gaze with pained hazel eyes. Celeste felt like her heart was going to shatter, even as she raised the lump of timber.
"I'm sorry, my love," she sobbed, and then swung the timber. It connected with a sickening thump, and Hayden's lifeless body slumped over onto the street, blood mixing in with the ash and dirt. Celeste let out a wail of anguish, and collapsed down onto the street, not even caring as the fire found her, and consumed everything in its path.
Whitechapel district, London, England, 1888
There was a killer loose in London. A person with surgical skills, cutting up prostitutes on the streets. The name 'Jack the Ripper' was floating around, and although Scotland Yard was on the case, they weren't any closer to catching him. But that hardly concerned Hayden Daines. It was Celeste Fairfield that he was after. It was always Celeste, and it would always be Celeste.
Hayden had lost count of just how many times that they had found each other again over the years, but it always happened around the same time in their lives – when she was nineteen, and he twenty-two. They couldn't escape it, as they didn't know what was coming until they met, and by then it was too late. One would be doomed to kill the other, and then it would start all over again in another life.
Celeste was running now. Hayden tightened his grip on the knife that he held and picked up his own pace. Her cumbersome dress was slowing her down, the swishing of the heavy fabric reaching Hayden's ears. The frightened girl tripped up a gutter, sprawling onto the ground, and Hayden pounced.
"No!" Celeste screamed as Hayden pulled at her shoulder, forcing her onto her back as he straddled her waist, pinning her down. She was crying, her breath coming in strangled gasps, and inside his own mind, Hayden was screaming out his own torment to no avail. His body was no longer his own to control.
"Forgive me," he managed to whisper, and then the knife plunged down, sinking through the layers of fabric and through her flesh so easily. Celeste's blue eyes went wide with pain, and then started to dim as her life drained away. Hayden stumbled backwards, the spell broken once her life had ended, his hands slick with her blood. And not for the first time.
With shaking hands, Hayden gripped the knife, and closed his eyes. Taking in a breath of air, he rammed the knife home, piercing his own heart and ending his torment. For now.
The London Blitz, England, 1941
The air raid siren cut through the evening, interrupting what had been a rather pleasant day for Celeste Leary and Hayden Bronson. Celeste had seen Hayden throwing bread to some ducks in Hyde Park, and as always, she had known him instantly. When he had looked up and seen her, a smile had crossed his face as recognition dawned. Despite the horrific memories that had come rushing back as well, Celeste ran to him, throwing her arms around him in pure delight. Nothing would ever change the way that she felt about Hayden, not even the hundreds of deaths that she had both endured and inflicted.
Hayden held her close, breathing in the scent of her, both unbelievably happy and terrified to have her back in his arms. He knew without a doubt that he would not see the coming sunrise, and yet Celeste was back in his arms, and nothing felt more right to him.
"We may not have a lot of time before-"
"I do not care," Celeste interrupted, shaking her head against his chest. "All I care about is that we are together again."
But there was a war happening, and their pleasant afternoon in Hyde Park was shattered by the air raid siren, and with no where else to go, Hayden took Celeste's hand and started running towards the underground Kensington station not an hour after sunset. The station was full of huddled masses of people – homeless citizens, and others that had been caught out on the street with no chance of making it home – and Hayden pulled Celeste into their own little alcove. He wrapped his arms around her as they heard the planes flying overhead, and she was sobbing as the dull sound of distant explosions vibrated through the earth.
"Hayden," she choked. "It's going to happen soon. I can feel it," she whispered, and Hayden held her tighter.
"It's okay," he said, kissing the top of her blonde hair.
"I don't want to," she sobbed, her body shaking.
"I love you, Celeste," Hayden said, and with lightening fast, inhuman movements, Celeste jerked out of his arms, grabbed a tuft of his dark hair, and slammed his head back against the wall in one violent blow that ended Hayden's life.
Celeste screamed and skittered back on her hands and knees, her eyes wide as she took in Hayden's lifeless face. Pulling herself to her feet, Celeste ran from the underground station, and back up onto the street. Watching the German planes flying over, she closed her eyes and waited for the bombs to find her.
When the memories ended, sound and colour started drifting back into Celeste's world, and she realised that she was still dancing. Somewhere in the room, Hayden was also dancing. I wonder whose turn it is this time, she thought, and then gave a laugh at the irony of being doomed to destroy your lover on Valentine's Day. It was just her luck.
Twirling around, Celeste just caught sight of Hayden leaving the hall, and the nineteen year old froze in her tracks. Hayden was leaving. Celeste felt her heart constrict, and without a second thought, she picked up her skirts and ran after him.
"Hayden!" she called as she stepped out into the cool night air. Hayden stood against the backdrop of the Thames, with the lights from the Tower Bridge shining over on the right, throwing shadows along the ground. Hayden slowly turned to face her, and as he took in her pretty face, it brought back countless memories of the few fleeting moments of happiness that they had been granted over the course of many centuries.
He saw her smiling by the side of a river in the country, holding her blonde hair back with one hand as the wind played with the long strands. He saw her laughing, a sound like tinkling bells, and her blue eyes sparkling with delight. He heard her whisper tender words into his ear, and felt the touch of her soft hands on his skin. Hundreds of times, in hundreds of different places, Hayden remembered the moments that had made him fall in love with Celeste.
"Where are you going?" she was asking him now, and Hayden could hardly stand to meet her eyes.
"I can't do this anymore, Celeste. I can't bare to see you suffer once more," he said, shaking his head as images of blood and violence blotted out the happy memories. "If I have to kill you again … I don't think that I could stand it."
"And what about me? Do you think that I don't feel the same way? I hate this just as much as you do!" Celeste yelled, tears pricking her eyes. Hayden looked so utterly defeated, and she hated seeing him like that. She wanted to see him smile that little smile of his that brought out the tiniest dimple in his left cheek. She wanted to hear his soft chuckle, and to feel his warm hands cup her face. She wanted to stare into his eyes, knowing that he loved her, and hold onto that moment forever.
But he was walking away.
"Hayden!" Celeste yelled, jogging after him in her rental gown. She reached out and grabbed his arm, yet he pulled it out of her grasp, glaring at her with desperate hazel eyes.
"Don't you understand? I don't want to kill you!" he yelled, and Celeste matched his glare.
"And what if it's my turn to kill you this time, huh? Do you think running is going to help? We've tried that before, and it doesn't work!" she snapped, and indeed it was true. They had tried running as far away from each other as they could get in a single night, yet every time, defying all logic, they would find each other again before the sun had risen. Indeed, Celeste and Hayden hadn't seen a single sunrise together since the summer of 1552, and neither of them thought that this time would be any different than the last.
"Please. We've still got most of the night left. Can't we just spend it together whilst we still can?" Celeste asked, her bottom lip trembling slightly as she looked up into Hayden's face. As she watched, his expression melted, and with a sigh he pulled her against his chest, wrapping his arms around her. He didn't know what the rest of the night would bring them, nor did he know which one of them would be overcome by the power of Trista's curse before the night was through. But having Celeste in his arms felt more right to him than anything else in the world, and no matter how hard he wanted to, even for her own sake, he couldn't turn away from her.
Trista O'Connor watched as Hayden and Celeste left St Katharine's Dock and headed towards the Tower Bridge, his arm wrapped around her shoulders. A small smile curled her lips, and as she brushed a strand of jet-black hair back over her left ear, a glimpse of a plain white eye could be seen behind her glittering red mask. In every life, like a curse of its own, her blind eye had stayed with her as a constant reminder of the ugliness of her past. Just like with Hayden and Celeste, Trista didn't remember any of her past lives until the moment that the two doomed lovers met, and then it all came rushing back to her.
In 1666 she had been trying to help put out the fires that had swept London when Celeste had come running over to Hayden. In 1888 she had been the one to find the bloodied bodies of the pair lying in the street, Hayden's lifeless hands still clutching the knife that was in his chest. In 1941 she had heard Celeste scream on the Kensington underground platform, and had seen her run up into the chaos outside. And there had been so many times in between. She had never spoken to them face to face, nor had they ever been aware of her presence, but Trista had been following after them through the years, weighted down by a curse of her own.
With a sigh, Trista pushed away from the wall and followed after the two lovers. The night was still young; maybe this time around she would be able to say the words that she had been longing to say for so very long.
Celeste and Hayden barely spoke two words as they walked the streets of London, yet their hands remained joined, with neither one willing to let go of the other. They walked passed the Tower of London and continued west, following the road until they saw a little side street that they both recognised, and which caused them to both stop.
Pudding Lane was where the great fire of 1666 had started, and Celeste and Hayden both remembered the horrors of the days that had followed. And they both remembered their own demise. It wasn't a pleasant memory, and yet they both started down the narrow street, heading south and towards the Thames, stopping once again at the foot of a huge stone column. The London Monument had been built in memory of the fire, and from the top it was possible to see all of London spread out below.
"Do you want to go up?" Hayden asked, finally breaking the silence that the pair had been enduring.
"But it's closed," Celeste said, nodding towards the wooden door at the base of the tower. Hayden shrugged.
"What's the worst that can happen? We'll both be dead by morning, anyway."
"Hayden," Celeste started, but didn't know what else to say. So she said nothing as Hayden worked to get the door open, and once it was, she followed him inside. The spiral stairs were narrow and cut out of concrete, and were not the easiest stairs to climb. There were little alcoves along the walls that allowed for a place to sit and rest, and with 311 stairs, a break was definitely needed before they reached the top. But once they stepped out onto the platform that was around the pinnacle of the tower, it was well worth the climb.
All of London lay before them, with the glittering lights sparkling on the Thames. The Tower Bridge was directly in front of them, its two towers brightly lit against the night sky. Breathing in deeply, Celeste and Hayden slowly walked around the platform, catching their breath and admiring the city that they had spent so many lives in. From their vantage point, they could map out every street, and mark every short cut through the city. Although not every life had been spent in London – some had been spent in other cities across Britain – with the exception of Lancashire, this was the city that held their strongest memories.
"I think that I'm just going to sit here and watch the city for a while," Celeste said, sitting down with her back against the stone wall. Hayden soon joined her, and she shifted until his arm was around her shoulders, with her head resting on his chest. A cool breeze blew against them as down below the night continued to move towards the dawn.
It was the warmth of the first ray of sunlight that woke Celeste. She hadn't even realised that she'd fallen asleep, and a rush of fear swept through her body as she remembered the events of the previous night – meeting Hayden, and all of the memories that that had brought back with it – and then confusion took the place of fear when she saw that Hayden was still sitting next to her, breathing deeply, still fast asleep as the sun broke over London directly in front of them, chasing away the chill of the night.
"Hayden. Hayden, wake up," Celeste said, shaking the young man until his hazel eyes opened. He blinked a few times and stretched his cramped muscles out, and then looked at Celeste. Her golden hair was slightly mussed, and her blue eyes were wide.
"What is it?" he asked, his voice thick with sleep.
"It's dawn," Celeste said, and those two words woke Hayden up more completely than anything else. He scrambled to his feet and rushed to the fence that prevented them from falling off of the top of the Monument, and watched transfixed as the morning sun broke over London. It had been almost four hundred and sixty years since he had last seen the sun rise with Celeste by his side. And yet it didn't make any sense. It shouldn't be possible.
"One of us should have killed the other last night," he said, still looking out over the city.
"But we didn't," Celeste said from behind him, and Hayden spun around, confusion written across his face.
"But why? We've tried everything we could think of to avoid our fate before, and nothing has worked. So what's changed?" he demanded, but Celeste didn't have an answer.
"We don't even know who it was supposed to be this time," she said quietly, and Hayden thought for a moment.
"When did you first see me?" he asked, and Celeste frowned as she thought about it.
"During the dance. Someone twirled me around, and I crashed into you. I looked up and met your eyes, and that was the first moment I knew you," she said, and Hayden was nodding.
"I had just passed another girl on, and I spun around to catch you, but I wasn't really looking. I didn't see you until …" he trailed off, his eyes widening as realisation dawned.
"Until what?" Celeste asked, climbing to her feet.
"Until I looked down as you looked up at me," he finished. "We saw each other at the same instant," he said in a breathy voice. He could feel his body trembling from barely contained excitement, and as he watched, Celeste's blue eyes widened as she gave a gasp.
"We saw each other at the same time," she said, and Hayden nodded. A little laugh escaped from Celeste, and then she lunged at him, throwing her arms around Hayden as happy tears tumbled down her cheeks. Hayden held her tight, spinning her around as she laughed, and when he set her down, she was grinning up at him, the happiest that he had seen her in centuries.
"Oh crap," Hayden suddenly said, and the smile slipped from Celeste's face as her stomach clenched up. "We have to get off of this tower before someone finds out we broke in," Hayden finished, and the smile was back on Celeste's face as they raced to the door, and started down the stairs. By the time they reached the bottom, they were breathing hard and their legs were shaking, but they laughed as they stepped out into the square bellow. And then they froze as they saw a girl sitting on the edge of a planter box, watching them with a look of complete surprise. A girl that they both recognised.
"Trista," Celeste whispered, her hand clutching tighter to Hayden's. Trista stood up, but didn't make any move to approach them, despite her obviously knowing who they were. Her black hair was hanging over the left side of her face, and she was wearing a similar medieval gown to the one that Celeste was still wearing from the masquerade party. How had I not seen her there, she wondered.
"I'm not here to cause any sort of trouble, I just-" Trista broke off as she frowned. "How are you both still alive?"
Celeste and Hayden looked at each other, and then looked at Trista. It was clear by the confusion that was on her face that she had no idea why her curse had failed.
"We met at the same time," Hayden said, and Trista's one visible blue eye widened.
"You-" She sat down again, clearly shocked. "It shouldn't have been possible."
"Disappointed?" Celeste nastily snapped, and Trista shook her head.
"Relieved," she said, and then laughed. "You're both alive, and I'm relieved. I did not want to see you both die again."
"But you're the reason we died in the first place. You cursed us!" Celeste snapped, striding forward to stand over the girl that, centuries ago, had been her older sister.
Trista looked up into the angry face of Celeste, the sun catching her blonde hair and turning it into a golden halo around her head. Her own black hair slipped back from her face, and she saw Celeste's blue eyes flinch when she saw Trista's white left eye. She could understand her sister's anger, but could Celeste understand Trista's sorrow? She didn't know, but she had to find out. It was what she had been waiting so long to discover.
"I was hurt, and I was angry," she started, and Celeste scrunched her face up – a sure sign that she was about to start yelling again. "Please just listen!" Trista cut in before Celeste could say anything. "I'm not trying to say that what I did was justified, because it wasn't. I hurt both of you in the worst way imaginable. But you hurt me too," she said, her eyes flicking briefly towards Hayden, who was yet to say anything to her. "I've been stuck following the pair of you around, watching you die over and over again, and every time it reminds me of how stupid and powerless I am. I couldn't stop it, and I couldn't take it back. I tried. Believe me, Celeste, I tried. But I couldn't," she said, her voice growing tight as emotion threatened to overwhelm her. She'd wanted this opportunity for so long, and now she was afraid that she was going to ruin it.
"You want forgiveness," Hayden said quietly, and Trista met his hazel eyes for a moment, nodding her head slowly.
"Yes," she said, and her voice broke on the word.
"Celeste," Hayden said sharply, cutting her off before she could start. "Trista made a mistake, and we were the primary cause for it. If she wants forgiveness, then I will give it to her."
"Hayden!" Celeste cried, rounding on him with angry blue eyes. "Have you forgotten the countless lives that we've had to suffer through, killing and being killed by each other?"
"No Celeste, I haven't," Hayden shot back. "But have you forgotten how all of this started in the first place?" he asked, and Celeste froze, her words lost as one specific memory from a time when she had been Celeste Litton came back to her.
"Please just promise me one thing, Celeste. You can gain the affections of any eligible man in all of Lancashire with your pretty face and good nature. So please do not show Mr Sheffield any untoward affection. Promise me that you will not pursue him in any way."
"Of course, Trissy. You have my word. He is yours."
Celeste gulped. "I'm sorry, but I can't help the way that I feel," she said, turning back towards Trista. "I fell in love."
Trista nodded. "I know," she said with a gentle smile, and then she turned towards the young man. "Hayden, you were always so sweet and kind to me. A true friend. I guess that I just couldn't accept the fact that that was all you were to me. And I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry that I made things so impossible for you and Celeste."
Hayden smiled down at the girl, and unlike Celeste, he wasn't angry with her. It wasn't worth it, as it wouldn't change anything. The past was the past, and it was time for them to move on.
"You are forgiven, Trista," he said, and a smile slowly broke across her face. Hayden offered her his hand, and Trista reached for it, allowing him to pull her to her feet. "Celeste, it's time to let go," he said, and Celeste glared at the pair of them for a moment, before she sighed, letting her hands fall from her hips.
"Oh alright, fine. But I'm warning you, Miss Trissy, if you try anything like that ever again, there will be hell to pay," she said, yet even as she spoke, a smile was tugging at her lips.
"Don't worry, I couldn't do anything like that again even if I wanted to. I haven't been able to use any magic since that day, and I wouldn't want to even if I could. Four hundred and fifty-nine years of suffering is long enough, don't you think?" she said, and Celeste nodded.
"Definitely," she agreed, and then she seemed to hesitate, shuffling her feet slightly. "Trissy, I- I'm sorry that I wasn't more thoughtful of your feelings. And I'm sorry that I broke my promise to you," she said, staring at her feet. A moment later she was shocked by Trista wrapping her arms around her, and a heartbeat later, Celeste was returning the hug. She had thought for so long that she hated her sister, but now she didn't know what she felt for her. Not hatred, that was for sure. Yes, she hated the curse that had been put on her, but her feelings for Trista were different. Pity, she thought. I feel pity for her.
"So Trista, does this mean that we're free?" Hayden asked as the girls broke their hug, and Trista nodded.
"Yes, the magic that surrounded both of you is gone now," she assured them. "By meeting at the same moment, you broke the rules of the curse. From now on, you've got your whole lives ahead of you, so don't screw it up," she threw in with a smile.
"What about you?" Celeste asked, and Trista shrugged.
"I have a fiancée that I'm going to have to apologise profusely to when I get back to our hotel. I sort of ran off without telling him where I was going last night," she said with a smirk.
"You have a fiancée?" Celeste asked, surprised.
"Yes. So Hayden is all yours," Trista replied with a wink, and Celeste flushed slightly as she looked back at the young man in question. She had spent so many stolen moments and horrific endings with him over the years, and now they could truly be together. A rush of butterflies erupted in her stomach, and she could tell that she was going red in the face.
"Live a good life you two," Trista said, catching Celeste's attention again. "You've only got one life, so make it count," she added, before she started walking away.
"Wait!" Celeste called out, but she didn't know what to say. Trista smiled at her.
"We'll meet again, little sister," she promised, and as she walked away into the city, Hayden came up behind Celeste and wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his chin on her shoulder.
"I forgive you," Celeste whispered, too soft for Hayden to hear, and once said, it felt like a weight had been lifted from her. She felt free for the first time since 1552, and she couldn't help but smile as the prospect of having a future with Hayden opened up before her.
"Let's go home," Hayden said, and Celeste nodded. Together they walked away into the city as a brand new day began; the first day of the rest of their lives.