“Leave the lost and dead behind; now’s your chance to run for cover."
November 23, 1984
The light, yet cold, rain drizzled down over me, shocking awake those weird bumps on my bare arms.
“Come on,” I whispered, rocking back and forth on the damp porch step.
The wind picked up, letting loose a shrill howl that caused my heart to skip a few beats. If I weren’t waiting for her
, I would have rushed inside and huddled underneath my blanket until the creepy sounds stopped. But no, I had to sit out there and wait. She had to make me wait by being late. Again. It was supposed to be the last time she’d be late, the last night I had to spend alone. But if it would allow me to see them again, my grandparents, then I would gladly wait out in the cold, dark night instead of sitting in that house with him.
The sky rumbled, jumping my heart and nerves again. Sighing deeply, I pulled my knees closer to my chest, rocking a little less than before, but still refused to go inside. Any second, and she’d pull up in that busted car of hers. Any second and—
“Morana, what are you doing out here?”
The sound of that abnormal, deep voice sent a chill through my body that the weather couldn’t dare touch.
Turning around slightly, my eyes slowly traveled up from the thick, bare, hairy legs and into his dark eyes. The white in them were red; he had been drinking that nasty-smelling drink too much again.
“I was waitin’ for mom,” I muttered, quickly adverting my eyes from him.
“She’ll be here,” he said, stepping back inside the house while holding the door open for me. “Come inside before you freeze your ass off. I won’t have your mother getting pissed at me because you decided to catch a cold out here.”
I did what I was told without a beat of hesitation, ignoring the stale stench radiating off of him as I passed, and felt a slight bit of comfort at the warm heat that slammed into me. Wiping my shoes off on the mat, I moved to rush up the stairs, wanting to get as far away from him as possible. Reaching the stairs, I nearly collided into a much too-tall woman with nasty bleached hair.
“Oh, she’s adorable,” she said, leaning down to grasp hard at my cheeks. I flinched away, only causing her to laugh. “Nick, you didn’t tell me your daughter was going to be a knock-out.”
“She’s not mine,” Nick grunted from behind us.
The woman reached out for me again, and a slight fire lit up in my chest. She had been at the house before, I saw Nick sneaking her out. The ugly woman had been in my mother’s bed. I knew she had.
“Don’t touch me,” I said, slapping her hand away.
The amusement in her died. “Excuse me?”
“I said don’t touch me,” was my last response before squeezing past her and jogging up the remaining stairs.
I rushed into my bedroom, not bothering to listen to whatever else she or Nick had to say about my snapping. Gently closing my door, I threw myself on the bed, burying my head in my rough pillow. That kind of reaction from me would usually have her in the room, sitting quietly at the end of my bed until I calmed down and fell asleep. But no. She was late.
“I wish you’d hurry,” I whispered into the pillow.
But she wouldn’t hurry, she never did. She’d hurry if it was Allen, she always made sure to run to his every call for the past five years.
“Morana!” came a shout just as my door was yanked open.
My hands clenched around the pillow, but I wouldn’t sit up; not looking at him always did me better in the end.
“Morana,” Nick repeated, quieter that time. “What did I teach you about manners?”
“Nothin’,” I muttered. “You don’t teach me nothin’.”
A weird laugh came out of him and he moved closer, the horrible smell pouring off of him and suffocating over me.
“I do hope your mother gets here soon,” he said, placing himself at the end of my bed, “for your sake more than mine.”
The room quieted as my nails nearly dug into the old fabric of the pillowcase. Nick suddenly stood with a sigh, and made his way out. My body refused to relax though; he’d be back. He always came back.
I cuddled up on my small bed, alone sans the ugly, dark brown teddy bear she made for me that I nearly strangled the harder my arm would wrap around it. I hated Nick. I hated
him...but hate was such a strong word, one my grandpa always says not to use. It was a strong emotion—perhaps stronger than love—and can take you over. He says I should never let that happen....
“Morana, come down here,” Nick called from downstairs, his voice hardly heard through my closed door. “I have dinner on!”
I squeezed the teddy bear tighter to my chest, my arm growing weak at the intense pressure I applied. No, I hated that man. I hated his voice, the alcohol-smell that drenched him; I hated every reason he existed.
Knowing Nick would intrude in my room if I waited any longer, I tossed the teddy aside and headed toward the door. Stalling, I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was well after eleven; seeing my grandparents wasn’t an option any more. She had never been that late coming home before, not even if she was picking up Allen from Nick’s father’s house.
“I don’t need her,” I muttered to myself, pulling open the door.
Trudging out into the hallway, a bitter laugh crawled out of my mouth. Of course I needed her; she may hardly spare me a look, even if she sat in my bedroom at night, but she kept me fed and I needed to eat. I needed to live.
Descending the stairs, I crept into the living room, plopping myself down on the cushy sofa in front of the TV as Nick cooked away in the kitchen behind me.
“Hungry?” he asked.
I shuddered at his voice despite it being a good distance away. “A little.”
“Good. I’m making hamburgers.”
Hamburgers, they were my favorite. That laugh came out again, but softer that time. Nick, of all people, knew to fix my favorite meal when she probably didn’t even know.
Stinging met my eyes in seconds, and I swapped at the tears that threatened to fall. I wanted my grandpa. More than anything, I wanted him. I wanted, needed
, him to perform a cool magic trick to make me laugh again; a real laugh at that. Or maybe just have him do a spell to make Nick disappear; that spell would be nice.
Nick’s rough footsteps against the hard wood floor jolted me from my thoughts, he was coming. As he approached, I pulled my knees up to my chest, not bothering to look up from the dark television.
“Here,” he said. Looking up, he held a small bowl filled with dark, purple grapes. “You could use a snack before dinner.”
I only stared at the bowl, my thoughts racing until coming to the conclusion that he was sobering up quicker than usual.
Letting loose an annoyed sigh, he placed the bowl by my side on the couch and reached for me. My body instantly recoiled, and his hand hung in the air. A confused expression crossed his face before being replaced with anger. No, not exactly anger, he seemed upset.
“Just eat the grapes, kid,” he said, lowering his hand and going back to finish in the kitchen.
With a shaking hand, I grabbed the bowl, shoving one large, juice-filled grape into my mouth. My eyes went back to the blank television, and the burning sensation alerted me of the tears that wanted to fall again. If only...if only I had magic powers like my grandparents, like her
, then I could get away from Nick. Get away from all of it.
Keys jingled at the door, surprising me. Placing the grapes aside, I jumped up off the couch as the door opened. A twinge of excitement struck me as she walked in looking as if she hadn’t slept in days. Allen ran in after her, dragging his small backpack on the floor and meeting me by the couch.
“Hey, Ana,” he said in his high-pitched voice, wrapping his tiny arm around my waist for a second. “Let’s go.”
“Go where?” I asked, staring at our mother as she placed her purse down, her body trembling with every movement.
“Vena, you’re home early,” Nick stated, walking up to her.
Vena ignored him, eyes locking on me and Allen. “Allen, go up and do what I told you.”
“‘Kay,” Allen said, locking his hand into my own. “C’mon, Ana.”
Despite his small, weak frame, he managed to tug me along. I gave Vena one last look before we rushed up the stairs.
“We gotta get our stuff,” Allen explained, stopping at his bedroom.
“Why?” I asked, stealing a look at the stairs.
“‘Cause mommy says.”
That excitement bubbled up in me again. “We’re gonna see grandma and grandpa?”
Allen shook his head, his eyes dark blue eyes shining with eagerness. “Nope. Mommy says we’re doin’ somethin’ else.”
The smile that had almost come vanished, and my shoulders slumped. “Then I’m not packin’.”
I turned to go into my room, but Allen grabbed at my arm. “But mommy says--,”
“I don’t care what she says,” I snapped, snatching out of his hold.
A deep frown formed on his face that would usually have me apologizing in seconds, but it didn’t. “I hate when you be mean.”
With that, he tore into his room. Rolling my eyes, I strode into my own, heading to the dresser to yank out various articles of clothes. Before long, my bed was littered with everything I had in my drawers and my closet, which wasn’t much to scream about.
My door creaked open, freezing my heart for a split second before I turned to see Vena. The heavy bags under her eyes and paleness of her skin worried me. If anything, she almost always looked her best.
“Ana,” she gently said, moving in closer. Her hand reached out, causing me to flinch as she brushed aside a strand of my long dark hair. The flinch didn’t go unnoticed as she lowered her arm to her side. “I really need you to pack.”
“Why?” I asked, taking a step back from her. “Allen says we can’t see grandpa and grandma.”
Vena shook her head and spoke with a slight shake in her voice, “N-no, we aren’t going to see them. We can’t.”
“Not right now?”
“No, not ever.”
Confused, I asked, “Why?”
“Because they’re gone.”
“Gone where? Gone in Europe again?”
Vena shook her head once more, eyes slowly brimming with tears. “No, Ana, they’re--,”
A deafening ‘bang’ from downstairs shook us both from the conversation. I opened my mouth to speak, but Vena shut me off, snatching at my arm and pulling me out toward Allen’s room.
“Mommy?” Allen asked as we entered.
“Get in the closet with your sister,” she ordered, throwing us together.
“But mom--,” I tried.
She whipped her wand out, and I was flown back into the open closet along with Allen. “Stay.”
The doors slammed close on us before we could say another word. Allen tried to open them, but I pulled him back into me, holding him almost as tight as I did that teddy bear; Vena hardly ever used magic, and never against us.
“What’s happenin’?” he asked.
“I dunno,” I whispered. “Just be quiet.”
For once, he listened to me. Though that stupid whimpering he did whenever he was scared came about, it was soft; no one could hear from outside.
The noise below us intensified; glasses broke in the kitchen probably at the sound of what seemed like a body fell into something. In seconds, silence took over.
“Ana?” Allen whispered.
“Shh,” was all I could say to him.
The sound of gentle footsteps coming into the room caused him to back into me a bit more before the closet door was flung open. A wonderful wave of relief fell over me at the sight of Vena, but it quickly went away after seeing how frazzled her hair was and the redness of her face as if she ran a few miles outside.
“Come here, both of you,” she said.
Allen rushed into her arms before she could finish speaking. “What happened?”
“Not now, just hold onto me even if you start to feel a bit dizzy, okay?”
“Ana, you too.”
I hesitated, but the loud sounds of more footsteps approaching caused me to latch onto her. She held us tight before the uncomfortable feeling of something yanking at my stomach took me over along with the tight feel of a large hand wrapping around my arm.
“No!” Vena cried as the room began to spin.
In seconds, Allen’s room vanished and was replaced with the dark outdoors and cold rain that poured down. I was thrown down before I could everything in, and heard more cries from Vena. In seconds, a startling green light and a gust of wind blew just over my head, awaking more of those little bumps on my arm. Jumping up from the mud, I spotted Vena trying to wrestle away her wand that a rather large man had been trying to point my way.
“Get your brother and get Christopher,” Vena called to me as she struggled with the man.
Looking around, I spotted Allen pulling himself up from the ground. He wasted no time in turning and running. I followed him, seeing we were near a large log cabin. Christopher, Vena’s magic friend, lived there. We had only been there once, but she seemed to trust him enough to take us there again.
“Chris!” Allen called, banging his little fists against the back door.
I rushed forward, doing the same. “Chris! We need you!”
Our calls went unheard inside the quiet house. As Allen continued on, I turned to watch Vena as the man roughly threw her down into the ground. She cried out in surprise and pain as something cracked, possibly a rib or even her leg; with the amount of power that man held when he threw her, any bone could have broke.
“Running from the Dark Lord wasn’t a good thing, Nirav,” the man said with a light chuckle, aiming her own wand down at her. “And having some Muggle kids? Such a shame. You would have made a great Death Eater.”
Confusion wrapped over me as Vena struggled to her feet, cringing with every movement. “The Dark Lord was nothing. A weak excuse for a man taken down by a child, and you’re no better. It took you almost nine bloody years to find me.”
The man glared, raising the wand. “I’ll deal with you, then those children. Avada Kedavra
A green jet shot out of the wand at a rapid pace. My eyes locked onto Vena as she glanced my way, tears shining in her eyes despite the stone expression on her face.
“Mom?” I asked as the green light struck her chest.
Her expression hardened even more as she fell backwards without a sound. I took a step forward, wanting to see what had happened, but the large man placed his sights on me and grinned a nasty grin; worse than any look Nick could have given me.
“Well, well, well,” he said, moving slowly towards me with the wand still raised. “Little Nirav, looking just like her mother. Bad luck for you that she was such a cowardly traitor. Avada
,” came another cry.
My eyes shut tightly as a peak of green light poured in underneath my eyelids. Opening them, I caught the larger man falling down just as Vena had done.
“Morana, are you okay?”
Glancing over, Christopher had come out with his long wand at the ready.
Not answering him, I rushed over to Vena, going down to my knees by her side. “Mom?”
“What happened?” Allen asked, coming over to her other side.
“Kids, get in the house,” Christopher ordered, but neither one of us moved.
“Mommy?” Allen asked, shaking her to no avail; it was like moving a doll. “Mommy, wake up. Wake up. Stop sleepin’, it’s not funny.”
Christopher easily picked Allen up into his burly arms. “Come on kid, your mom isn’t waking up.”
“Why?” Allen asked, trying to squirm out of his grasp.
“I’ll explain in the house,” he said, moving away from Vena. “Come on, Morana, before the rain gets too bad.”
The rain, I had hardly noticed it was still raining.
Moving closer, I stared into Vena’s cold, unblinking eyes. She wasn’t sleep; she never slept with her eyes open before. There was something wrong.... Something very wrong.
The sharp tone of Christopher’s voice forced me up. I trudged away from Vena, stealing a look at her frozen body as I went. An unnerving chill rushed through my body as I kept my sights on her upon entering the cabin; she wasn’t waking up. If I was sure of anything that just happened, I was sure of that. She wasn’t waking up.
Vena and Nick were dead. That’s how Christopher explained it. That man hurt them both, killed them both. They were actually dead. Gone. Probably up in Heaven...or maybe in that other place. Either way, they were dead, and possibly my grandparents as well or else they would have picked us up. Christopher was all we had left. We had to stay with him or else more bad men would try to find us.
Only three nights went by since that last, yet Allen never spoke a single word to me. I don’t think he fully grasped the situation, and neither did I. No matter, he never spoke to me. Perhaps it was because I was so rude to him before, or because I couldn’t shed a single tear no matter how hard I tried. He wouldn’t speak. He clung to Christopher later in the day once he came back from work or whatever it was he was doing, and slept in his bed at night instead of sneaking into mine like he usually did. It was like I didn’t exist anymore to him. To him, I went to sleep with Vena that night.
Lying in my new bed three nights from the attack with the teddy Christopher had gone to receive along with our other belonging, I tried to force myself to cry, to be more like Allen, but I couldn’t. My body was all dried up like some old raisin. Right then, I wanted magic more than anything. Grandpa always told me it made the world seem a bit brighter. If I could do magic, I could fix everything.
“Chris,” I whispered. Right, Christopher. He had a wand. He could do magic for me.
Setting the teddy aside, I climbed out of bed and crept into the hall. Allen’s door was closed; Christopher was still awake.
Slowly making my way down the stairs, I rounded the corner into the living room to catch sight of the dim kitchen light on and Christopher sitting at the table.
“Would you please leave?” he asked, speaking to someone unseen.
I crept forward a bit more, catching sight of a rather large figure in the shadows bouncing on the wall.
“It’s going to be difficult without you,” said a thick voice, his accent similar to Christopher’s. “We’re bringing in a lot of new recruits, a few more women who will be honored to give for the cause, if you know what I mean.”
Christopher sighed as the man laughed, running a hand through his thick hair. “Fenrir, I have these kids and I made a promise to their mother that I’d help if anything were to happen.”
The man named Fenrir let loose another strange laugh. “Still clinging to those wizards as if they would accept you if they knew about the real
Christopher went to retort back, but spotted me and jumped from the chair. “You. Up to bed.”
“But--,” I tried to say.
He rushed over, pulling at my arm almost tight enough to break it. “I said bed.”
Wincing from his tight hold, I glanced over my shoulder to catch the shadowy figure begin to fully come into sight just as Christopher nearly dragged me back up the stairs and into my bedroom.
“When I tell you to do something,” Christopher said softly, yet sternly, “you do it. Understand?”
“Yes, sir,” I muttered, dropping on my bed and rubbing at my arm.
He frowned a bit. “Sorry I hurt you, kid. I just don’t want any strangers meeting you.”
“Okay. But I just wanted to see your wand.”
Christopher looked over his shoulder before staring down at me. “Why?”
“So I could see magic.”
“Oh, kid,” Christopher said, releasing a deep breath, “you’ll be performing magic soon enough.”
I sat up, neglecting my aching arm. “Really? How do you know?”
“Because you’re a pure-blood.”
Christopher looked behind him one last time before moving to sit by my side. “The magic that runs through your blood is pure from both your mother and your...real father. You do know that Nick wasn’t your father, right?”
I nodded. “Mom told me.”
“Good. Well, you’ll certainly be able to do magic. Once you’re eleven, you’ll get a letter to attend the more affordable school around here, and I’ll take you to purchase your first wand. How does that sound?”
I smiled a bit, but the first hint of excitement that struck me deflated; Vena should have been buying me my first wand in a few years, not a stranger. “Sounds good.”
“Perfect.” Christopher gave me a light pat on my back before standing. “Now get to sleep. Goodnight.”
He backed away with that, closing the door as he went. I crawled back under my covers, forcing my teddy up against my chest. Whoever that Fenrir man was, I didn’t like the sound of him or what he was saying about Christopher.... I didn’t want to stay there, even if I would get a wand soon. Not with him at least.
“Mom,” I whispered, clinging onto the teddy tighter than before.
Closing my eyes, a stray tear escaped, gliding down the side of my face and moistening up my pillow. I was crying. For once, I was crying. I wanted to escape, escape it all. I wanted my grandparents; my warm, always loving, grandparents.... And I wanted Vena.
A/N: Chapter image: SillyBeee at TDA
Quote: Breaking Benjamin (I Will Not Bow)