After their encounter with Quincy, Dionysus thought it best to pull the boat into the nearest port and take a rest. The pair had a lot to think about. “Dio, Asher let me bring my diary with me,” Graciela said calmly. She sat at the table while Dionysus stood at the counter making food.
“He did?” Dionysus mused, a grin displaying on his face. “What happened to that whole little bit at a time thing he was so adamant about?”
“He made me promise not to read too much of it and to let you know when I was going to read it,” Graciela said. “I trust him. I’m not going to rush into things. It’s a weird request, so why would he make me promise if it wasn’t something he thought was important?”
“That’s a good point,” Dionysus commented. “Are you telling me you’re going to read it now?”
“Yeah,” Graciela replied. “I’d like to read it once a day so I can finish it as quickly as possible. I want to know about who I am.”
“Well, go ahead and do it. You’re not an invalid like some of the others think you are. I hardly think you’re going to explode if you read your diary but who knows? Asher seems to know more about the darkness than I do.” Dionysus turned his attention back to the food he was cooking. If Graciela needed him, he was right here but this was a journey into the past she had to travel on her own.
I thought it was all going well, me sneaking out I mean. Let me tell you what happened. I woke up early this morning, threw on my favorite black skirt and turquoise leather vest. I looked good and I felt good. Nothing the darkness said could bring me down. I tossed my bookbag over my back and headed to my mother’s room to give her a kiss goodbye. She was sitting up when I entered. That meant today was going to be a good day for her too. “You look better today, mom.” I smiled at her and she returned it.
“I feel good,” She replied. “Are you leaving now? It’s early, are the others dressed too?”
“Oh, I don’t know what they’re doing. I’m heading out early to meet with Braylen and study for an exam we have 4th period.” Pax, Nerissa, Camilla, Braylen and even Harmony knew that I was skipping classes. They even covered for me. Pax knew how invasive and intense the darkness would get when I was attending my classes. He rather me be happy. Camilla felt the same way and convinced Harmony to go along with it. Nerissa,she just doesn’t care if it doesn’t benefit her so she doesn’t say anything about the whole thing to my parents. Anyway, my mother wished me good luck on my test and kissed me on the cheek. I checked on Emerson and Peyton, who were still sound asleep, before heading of for “school.”
On days like this, I forge a sick note for Pax to hand in for me. My teacher is a nice woman who understands my “anxieties” so as long as I don’t stop attending classes altogether and pass my exams and assignments, she said she would pass me. I had given Pax the note the night before because I had a particularly bad episode with the darkness. On my most vulnerable days I have nightmares. The trigger last night was the plastic ring on my dresser.
After cleaning out my closet, I found it buried under a pile of boxes. It’s the ring that Leon had given me. To this day, I still remember what he had said the night he had given it to me. “I’ll wait for you. But you better not let any other boy from school marry you.”
Leon would be so angry if he saw me now. He’d want me to go to school and face my fears. It’s just, I feel like the voice is louder now, taunting me every chance it gets. It induces those nightmares because I’m not strong enough to push it out of my psyche. I think, and maybe I’m crazy, but I think that the darkness is afraid of Leon. It’s like, every time I think about him, it tries to convince me that he’s a bad guy. Sometimes it’s successful. Sometimes I lay awake at night and think about why he doesn’t call me anymore or why he barely visits. But, other days I see him for who he really is. Even if it hurts me that I don’t see him anymore, I realize that he is out doing better things for himself in that boarding school. He left the walls of Fortitude, which not many supernaturals get to do. He’s doing something really really important, even if he won’t tell me what it is.
The darkness amps up it’s attempts to make Leon into the bad guy, to make me not want to associate with him anymore. When Leon is here, the darkness barely surfaces but when he’s gone, especially gone for a while, its power is in full force. Even when I just think about Leon, the darkness gets threatened and it causes these terrible nightmares, insomnia, dizziness and sickness. I think Leon might be the way to get rid of it for good, if it’s possible, but who knows?
Anyway, the night before I had a terrible nightmare. Leon was abandoning me. But not simply just leaving, but letting me get swallowed up by the darkness. We’re both on floating platforms above darkness that is lapping at our feet. I reach out for him and he pulls me closer to him. When I think I’m safe, he releases me and the platform I’m standing on caves in. I fall, and he floats. There isn’t a single word to be said between either of us.
It’s a reoccurring dream no doubt spurned on by the darkness. This particular time though, the dream had me on edge. I couldn’t sleep because it felt so real. Part of me knew it was a trick to batter my self esteem, but the other part of me kept thinking “well, what if this is a warning I’m not heeding?” Clearing it from my min,d regardless, is what I have to do. Because when I’m upset, the darkness gets stronger and I can’t fight it off so easily.
And so, there I was, out in the crisp cool air of Fortitude. We have yet to suffer a dark time like people keep mentioning and frankly, I am glad because then I could not prattle about as I normally would. Imagine, pure darkness with no light…
That day was different. As I headed toward my favorite spot near the lake, under a cherry blossom tree, I noticed someone already sitting there. I approached him and noticed that I had never seen this guy before. He was a vampire my age with silver piercings protruding from his face. I was taken aback by two things. 1) How handsome he was and 2) the fact that he was my age and I’d never seen him before. People didn’t just enter Fortitude. We were in a hidden area. To get here, my aunt Adeline and Uncle Erik had to decipher some ancient writing. We had one new kid, Wolf. He was slightly older than I was, but his entrance was admitted by Adele when Audric himself came down to ask for safe harbor for the teen who had lost his mom and disowned his dad. I remember seeing how shocked everyone was when it happened. Audric never came on foot to get things done. So, needless to say, everyone in Fortitude (those who hate hate outsiders) is keeping a watchful eye on the green skinned teen. But Wolf is staying with Callen, and I know what he looks like. This vampire, he’s different.
I imagine I debated a while in my head before he came up to me himself and asked why I was staring so intensely at him. “My spot,” I muttered. “You’re in my spot.”
“This spot right here?” He grinned deviously as he plopped back into the seat he had been in. “Don’t see your name on it.”
“You don’t know my name,” I said. “So, for all you know it could be there.”
That was when he flashed a vibrant smile and said, “Well, what’s your name then?”
“You first,” I told him. “You’re the miscreant in my spot.”
“Well, this miscreant’s name is Maric Endar. At your service, Cherry Blossom.” When I gave him a look of confusion, he pointed to the pink petals on the floor. “If your name is here, it must be Cherry Blossom.”
It was so freaking corny but I laughed anyway. “How come I haven’t ever seen you around before, Maric?”
“The same reason I haven’t seen you around before, Blossom. I’m home schooled. Can you move a little bit to the right? I’m frying out here and since I can’t sit under the shade, you’d make a good sunblock.”
I looked down to see he had actually slid over and away from my seat. “I prefer the sun actually,” I mumbled. “You can have your seat back. I just like the cherry blossom leaves/ The shade is okay.”
“A vampire who likes the sun?” He raised a brow but grinned. “I am seriously missing out not being out in the open huh? Is there a genetic mutation that makes you immune?”
“Not really,” I replied, sitting next to him in the sunlight. I shut my eyes and took in the warmth. “I’m in it so often that I think I might be building a slow resistance to it at the very least.” Maric was so…cool. I don’t know how else to explain it. He had a comeback for every remark I made and he didn’t even pester me about my actual name.
“So, Blossom, you’re not in school. Unless you’re home-schooled like me, you’re breaking the rules.” He said it with a hint of amusement in his voice. “Are you a rebel?”
“A coward, but I might tell people your version.” It felt like I had known him for a lifetime because it was so easy to talk to him. We had hit it off right away, even if neither of us really knew anything about the other. But I could tell just sitting there that we were different from everyone else here. We believed different things, and we wanted a peaceful moment to ourselves.
“You don’t seem like a coward to me, but what would a miscreant know, huh?” He laid back onto the ground, hands behind his head.
I wanted to tell him that he was funny. I wanted him to know that I was enjoying his company. I like to be more proactive like that because more than anyone, I doubt myself and my relationships. I don’t want others to have that fear around me. Anyway, I wanted to do all of these things but I couldn’t because a shrill voice had stopped me. “What are you doing here?” Nerissa.
Three girls stood in front of us now: Nerissa, Shae and Raina. “Cutting class obviously,” Shae sneered.
“You should be in class too,” I replied. “But you aren’t.”
“We’ve got passes,” Raina replied, digging up a piece of paper from her pocket. “Ms. Leango asked for volunteers to work at the library’s book drive today. Obviously, we jumped at the opportunity. Extra credit, and no boring lectures.”
“Where’s your pass Gracie?” Nerissa asked. That hurt. A lot. I might have understood if she didn’t say anything, but no. She was on the full frontal assault. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell Charlotte all about it.”
“You can’t!” I had exclaimed. “She’ll kill me. Please don’t.” It was like I was seeing a different side of her, that I had never seen before. It was ugly and monstrous. Where was the girl that I knew?
“Skipping class to be with some strange boy, huh?” Nerissa continued. “While your mom is bedridden. It’s a good thing she has me and Camilla to watch over her.”
“Wow,” Maric had said. He stood up and was now glaring at the girls. “Don’t you have a book drive to get to?”
“Yeah,” Shae said. She smirked at Maric. “I would watch her if I were you, Maric. If you went to school with her, you’d see she’s a weirdo. A freak. She hears voices in her head or something.”
I could already feel the tears forming in my eyes. “I like freaks,” Maric replied with a simple shrug. “So what? I’m having more fun with her in the ten minutes I’ve known her than the ten years I’ve known you.” He looked at me. “She’s my neighbor. A real snooze fest, I’m telling you.” That caused me to smile a little.
“Your opinion doesn’t matter,” Raina said. “You’re home-schooled. You’ll take friends wherever you can get them. Even with this freak.”
Nerissa laughed along with Shae and Raina. Then she looked at me with a devious smirk. “I’m not going to tell Charlotte about this, but you’re going to have to do something for me. Deal?” She turned to leave with Shae and Raina. “We’ll talk about it at home.”
“I can’t believe you have to live with that weirdo,” Shae replied.
“It sucks, but what can I do, right? In a few years I’ll be out of there,” Nerissa replied with a flip of her hair.
When she left, I could see my knuckles turning white. I was livid. What the hell had just happened? Maric was quick to comfort me. “They’re assholes. Listen, is it possible that you can lie to your mom or cover your tracks? I don’t like the idea of that girl having something over your head.”
“I…doubt it. I mean, Nerissa isn’t going to ask me to do anything really bad. If my parents found out about that, they’d be pissed. There’s only so much she can get away with. The whole ‘I miss my parents!’ act can only go so far. I wouldn’t worry about her, she isn’t so strong when she isn’t with her friends.” I turned to leave.
“Don’t go,” Maric said. “You can’t go back to class, right? And home will definitely bust yourself. It won’t hurt to hang out with me some more, will it? Raina was kind of right. I don’t have any real friends.”
“Shae was right too. I’m a freak, I hear a voice in my head,” I told him. “So maybe I’m not the best person to be your friend.”
“Gracie right?” He asked. “That’s your name? What they called you?” I simply nodded. “I wasn’t lying before. I’ve been having a great time with you. I can actually talk to you without you judging me for being home schooled. It’s only been a few minutes but I’ve been around enough shitty people to know when someone isn’t.”
Maric is a smooth talker. We sat together until school ended. We had both forgotten to bring lunch but I didn’t want to be caught by anyone in town, so he had gone to town and bought me something to eat. I can’t explain it, but I feel so giddy right now talking to him. He gave me his phone number and we’ve been texting since I got home. It almost makes me forget about my encounter with Shae and co. (because we all know Shae is the one in charge of the venomous group).
Mom doesn’t suspect a thing yet, so I’m going to talk to Nerissa to see what she wants from me. Wish me luck. I hope part of her is still in there and she isn’t going to ask me for something really unreasonable. We’ll see I guess.