Graciela sat at the lunch table, quietly eating her sandwich. Though she was assigned to Sophina’s group, all of the students still gathered together for lunch and free periods. A few days had passed and Graciela was still weary of the new kids she had just met, particularly Maric who had tried too hard to flirt with her. To what end, she had no idea, but she was sure it had something to do with humiliating her. She was waiting for the punch line that he could never think the girl who heard a voice in her head was actually pretty. That was something she had resolved to accepting a long time ago. She was average, perhaps she could wow another person, until they had heard about what plagued her and wrote her off as some crazy person. “This seat taken, Gray?” Speaking of the devil, Graciela looked up and locked eyes with Maric. Not waiting for her answer, the vampire took the seat across from Graciela.
“Now you’re calling me by my last name?” Graciela asked, slowly taking a bite from her sandwich. “That seat is taken by the way.”
“Yes, I like your last name. Is that a problem? He leaned in slightly and winked. “So who is it that I’m fighting for this seat?”
“Who was the one you didn’t like again? Tera and Arc? Them. We’re best friends now, reveling in how much we dislike you.”
“Ouch.” Maric crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back into his seat. “Can’t even pretend to like me a little? Not even to make Leon jealous?”
“Why would I want to do that?” Graciela asked. “I don’t care what Leon thinks. Let him be jealous, that’s his own fault. Besides, I see him never leaving that Tera girl’s side so…” Suddenly realzing what she was saying, Graciela lowered her eyes. “How do you know about Leon and I anyway?”
“Everyone knows about you,” Maric said. “Leon talked so much about you before you got here. He told us stories about the school you guys went to, the days you all slept over Braylen’s house, and the wedding ring thing. Go ahead and ask anyone here and they’ll tell you the same thing. Leon doesn’t shut up about you. Seems to me like you’re more important to him than he is to you. Or, you’re just stubborn as hell.”
“Leon talked about you. How cute. Why don’t we forgive him?”
Graciela refused to have this conversation with the voice because the decision was hers to make, not theirs. She was the one who was friends with Leon. This new voice hadn’t even known him when they were younger! Clutching her heart, she had to admit that being in this boarding school had afforded her a more pleasant time with the voice. Though she had still feared for the approaching darkness, the voice seemed excited and intrigued to learn more. That was probably not a good thing but so long as it was polite and allowed her to study than she could face the consequences later.
“So what you meant to say was that this seat is taken by Leon,” Maric continued. “Right? I can get up and the two of you can have your conversation about whatever it is that makes you hate him. Or, and this one is my favorite option, you can just be my special friend.”
“That sounds gross,” She muttered, snapping her eyes to him. “I don’t want to be your special anything. I want to learn what I have t and move on. I don’t care to make friends with you or Leon, or anyone else but Braylen. I don’t care.” Graciela stood up, eyes glazed with anger. “Leave me alone, Maric. I’m serious.”
“Okay,” He replied. But he didn’t seem the least bit bothered by her reaction. In fact, he was smiling slightly, happy to have gotten a rise out of the girl.
Graciela ignored him and headed to the computer room to eat her lunch . There were couches there and it was close enough to her next class that she wouldn’t be late and far enough from the cafeteria that she didn’t have to be bothered by the other students. Upon entering, she was startled to see another person there. “Sorry,” she murmured and turned to leave.
“Wait!” The woman cried, jumping up from her seat at the computer. Graciela was sure she had never seen the woman around before but wouldn’t Sophina have mentioned any extra staff members roaming about? As the woman towered above Graciela, she could only smile weakly. “Are you a student here at this academy?”
“Ohoho, this will be fun. A surprise visitor.”
The woman approached Graciela, a pained look on her face the closer she got. “Oh no. Tainted by the darkness. You poor child. Please, leave her at once, fiend.” The strange woman outstretched her hand towards Gracie’s heart, a warm golden light radiating from it.
“Ah!” The woman let out a shrill cry and cradled her hand where the light had been coming from mere moments ago. Graciela fell to the floor as her heart began to rumble in her chest. “Oh, you poor child. Touched by him? Your ancestors must have done something very very bad.”
“They act as if this is truly a curse upon you. It is an honor to bear this burden. I have chosen you and no one else.”
Graciela fought to catch her breath. She looked up at the woman with hatred dancing in her eyes as her heart began to throb with a pain she had never felt before. “Stop it, right now!” Graciela wailed. “Stop the pain!”
“I have to prevent him from spying, at least for a while longer. We have matters to attend to and my uncle needs not hear it. Your heart will hurt only for a little while longer, and then the pain will simmer away as the wall is erected.”
“Graciela, fight this. You do not want me away! I am on your side. I haven’t hurt you yet, have I? Work with me and I will leave when your task is complete. ”
“You can leave?” Graciela demanded. “You told me we are one and you can’t be removed. You said…” Her voice faltered as hope sweltered in her healing heart. “There’s a way out of this.”
“The only way out is to do as you were assigned to do, my child. But if it’s for my uncle, I am afraid of what that would entail.” The woman shut her eyes tightly. “Uncle, she is just a young girl. Can you not feel the emotions warring within herself? Free her.”
But the voice had gone silent. Enyo’s spell had worked before Graciela even had time to contemplate the choice. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Graciela demanded as she stumbled to her feet. “How do you know about this voice? What were you doing with your hands? What the hell is going on?”
“Enyo,” She replied calmly. “My name is Enyo and I have come looking for my brother, Dionysus. I had no idea I would find a school or…” She frowned. “What you are harboring inside of yourself. Please, for everyone’s safety allow me to talk to Dionysus.”
Graciela had begun to contemplate the woman’s words. Would she turn in Dionysus to this stranger? He could handle himself, surely, but was she really looking out for him? Could she be his sister? She had a feeling by the voice’s actions that Enyo was at least right about him. That made things more complicated but this woman knew the answers to her problems! “I…”
“I’m right here,” Dionysus replied from the doorframe, coldly. “I might not have my powers anymore but I can sense you anywhere, Enyo. What are you doing down from the kingdom?” As Dionysus asked this, he approached Graciela and enveloped her into a hug. She was grateful to have someone to lean on ash she clutched his shirt tightly. “You know better than to involve an innocent bystander in our messes.”
“I was trying to help her and rid the darkness from her body but it seems impossible.” Enyo frowned. “It isn’t darkness plaguing her at all. It’s Uncle Victus. I felt his presence within her and even heard his voice. He stopped me from dispelling him and placed a barrier around her heart.”
“Victus? Dionysus asked, lowering his eyes. “No. That makes no sense. The darkness is supposed to be inside of Graciela. That’s Lavinia’s curse…having her family continue to bear the darkness when it was time so that the world would be balanced yet again. He cannot defy Elora’s wishes like that.”
“That’s something you have to take up with him but I imagine now that I’ve caught him, he will not speak around me. The only way to obtain an audience with our dear uncle is to head to the underworld which you lack the power to do and I the permission. Besides, you are needed elsewhere. Back home. Father wishes to see you.”
“Really?” Dionysus scoffed. “You’d come down to fetch me, after Elora once again told me I was never to return home. Though I suppose she answers to father.” Dionysus tightened his grip around Graciela. “I can’t leave now. I made a promise to a friend that I will protect her daughter and I will not go back on that. Allow me to finish this task and I will return with you, no questions asked. I will accept father’s judgement and take the punishment he wishes for me.”
“I cannot allow that,” Enyo replied. “He would have my head for being a traitor as well.”
“Go back and tell him what you found Uncle Victus doing. Convince him to let you investigate further. Father is in no state to oppose his brother, if he’s still at the remaining power I’ve left him with at least. That will buy you some time at least. Please? I know I’ve done a lot of wrong in my life but it was never to hurt you. I only wanted out of my miserable life.”
“You’re asking for an uneven trade, Dio,” She whispered, placing a hand on her heart. “But for the girl’s sake, I will acquiesce. If Uncle has his talons in her, it means no good for the girl or her world. I will be back. But as for her…” Enyo snapped her finger as spores fell over Graciela’s head, collapsing her onto the floor. “No memory of this moment can be had. For her safety and to block out our dear uncle from this conversation.”