The sounds of cutlery clinking and scraping against dinner plates was the predominant sound in the otherwise quiet dining room. For Preia, the scene was an unpleasant reminder of the very last time she had eaten with her family. It was eerily similar, and it made her feel a little queasy. Not that she would tell her grandfather that. He already seemed upset with her for some reason, and she didn't want to make it any worse.
Preia jumped in fright as her grandfather cleared his throat rather loudly. "How's the food?" he asked. "Do you like it?"
"Very much," she answered, her voice coming out as little more than a squeak.
He grunted as he turned his attention back to his meal.
They weren't eating anything out of the ordinary or particularly adventurous. It was a common synthetic meal, with imitation potatoes, carrots and sauce. The meal itself was fairly light, and Preia was used to eating more, though she wasn't about to complain. She was honestly too scared to in fear of how he might react. Would he accuse her of being ungrateful?
"You'll be starting school next week," he said. "There's one here in the Esporia District, so you'll be among your peers."
"Uh, okay," Preia said.
"You'll be going under the name Preia Lomas, understand?"
"I understand," she said timidly.
Not another word was spoken for the remainder of the meal. When they had both finished, her grandfather took the plates and put them in the washer before he swiftly made his way out of the room, leaving Preia sat alone in the kitchen. She was unsure whether she should go up to her room, or follow him. Unable to make up her mind, she ended up remaining where she was.
A few minutes passed before he returned, a deep frown on his face. "Why are you still sat at the table?" he asked.
Preia shrugged nervously. She didn't have a decent answer other than she was a little frightened of him.
"You can come and sit in the lounge with me if you wish," he said. "I'm going to relax to some music. Do you want to join me, or are you happy sitting in here alone?"
"I'll join you," she said quietly.
"Come along then," he said as he strode out of the room for the second time.
Feeling nervous, Preia stood up and followed him to the lounge. He sat down in his recliner while she sat on the small couch, resting her hands on her lap.
Her grandfather closed his eyes and leant back, reclining in his chair. "SI," he began, addressing the simulated intelligence that ran the household, "play playlist fifteen."
Almost instantly the sounds of an orchestra began to fill the room. It was slow at first, and Preia found it rather soothing. She sat back, getting herself more comfortable as the movements of music alternated between sweeping low melancholic points to intense crescendos.
It was a particularly slow point in the music when Preia's eyes drifted closed. She felt tired as she hadn't been sleeping well since the attack, and when she did, more often than not, she had unsettling dreams or horrible nightmares.
Without intending to, Preia drifted off, only to be met by the same nightmare that had plagued many of her nights.
She was back in the safe room aboard the yacht with her family huddled around her. Something was pounding on the door, hard, and the room around them shook with every thump.
Preia dared not breathe, hoping that they would believe the room was empty and leave them alone. That didn't happen. Instead, the door was torn open like paper and monstrous men rushed in clutching equally monstrous weapons. With their rifles raised, they began their onslaught, which was both blinding and deafening.
Preia held tightly onto her mother's hand, tears streaming down her face. She wanted it to stop, she wished for it to be over, and soon it was, but not in the way she wanted.
Streams of plasma turned the world red with an intense heat that threatened to melt the flesh from her bones. With mortal terror, Preia tried to hug her mother only to find her once beautiful face was distorted, her eyes deep dark hollowed-out sockets.
Preia screamed out as she stumbled back, letting out another scream as her mother's body melted away like a wax figure.
That was when Preia jerked awake still on the couch. The music had stopped, and her grandfather was no longer in the room. With shaking limbs, Preia made her way up to her room where she sat on the edge of her bed. She hated the nightmares, but there was nothing she could do to stop them.
Preia hated her life. There was nothing left of her old one, and she deeply missed it. Hugging herself tightly, Preia began to cry. She had thought not all that long ago that she had shed all her tears, but there were so many more pleading to be set free. She obeyed, allowing the emotion to flow out of her.
There was a light tapping at the door. Preia sniffled and wiped her eyes, expecting her grandfather to enter. He didn't, though he did knock again. "Are you decent?" her grandfather asked.
Preia didn't want to talk to him, so she remained silent.
"Is it okay if I come in?" he asked.
Knowing that it was very likely that he would only become annoyed or angry if she continued to not say anything, she decided to answer. "Sure."
The door opened fully, and he stepped into the room. "You had a nightmare," he said.
"Yes," she muttered, keeping her eyes pointed at the floor.
"I know it must be tough. I can certainly relate. I-I never expected to outlive my daughter. I was angry. Still am I suppose."
Preia began to play with her fingers as she nervously glanced up at him. He didn't look angry, rather he looked upset.
He held out his arms. "Before I said that I don't do hugs. Well, maybe I've changed my mind."
Preia stared at him, unsure whether she should or not. He looked almost hurt when she didn't immediately take him up on his offer. Feeling a little guilty, she stood up and accepted his embrace, hugging him tightly around his waist.
"I have not been good to you," he said, his voice cracking. "I'm sorry about that. I just wasn't ready to face reality. This is your home now, and I want to make it the best it can be. I promise."
Preia hugged him tighter, and he hugged her back, tears flowing.
"Know that while I might be grumpy, I do love you, understand?"
Preia nodded again.
"If you need to talk about anything, I'll try to be there to listen. I helped raise a young woman before, so I know a thing or two."
"Okay," Preia said with a sniffle.
Her grandfather released her and took a step back, wiping the tears from her eyes with his thumb. "It's late," he said. "Get some sleep. Tomorrow is a new day. I promise that I will do my best to make sure things get better, okay?"
Preia nodded. "Goodnight, Granddad."
"Goodnight, Preia. If you need anything just ask, okay?"
He left, closing the door behind him. Preia sat on the edge of her bed feeling strangely upbeat. Perhaps things wouldn't be as bad as she thought.
One could hope.
And there it is, the end of this short story. Hopefully, the ending was fulfilling. Thanks for reading.
This is also sort of a prequel for a story I put up on Kindle about a year ago. Can't post links here, but if you are interested then it's "Of Their Blood - Obsession" on Amazon. From Tuesday 21st April 2020 till Saturday it'll be free (or should be). If you're not interested, then thanks for reading anyway.