Thanks, Livie79 and Niko0921! You help me sooo much.
Also, I enjoy reading all of y'alls thoughts on the story, so thank you if you've left them. They're not required, but you do it anyway and I'm forever happy and grateful you've taken any kind of interest in The House.
THE PRINCESS AND THE KEY
For three more days and nights I waited while my flow waned. I carried on as if nothing had changed, and held my bargain with Aro, throwing myself into whatever I could, and hoped to be inspired to develop a plan.
My attempt would have to be perfect, all possible outcomes considered. I had one measly chance. It almost made me sick to think about it. So sick, in fact, I was almost afraid to try. If I were caught attempting to sneak out, I'd surely die. There'd be no leniency or second chances. I'd be disposed of and all my efforts would be in vain.
Until then, I'd continue with routines.
I'd just finished for the day, leaning over the bathroom sink to brush my teeth when I heard our door open and voices began to boom inside our four-walled piece of Hell. I trembled, my stomach flitting inside my cavity. I was logical, and knew they were there for one of two reasons: they were pulling a girl out of the room, but it was late and they never did this loudly; or they knew what I'd done.
Opening the door, I saw there were three of them. Demetri, Felix and a nameless face. They yanked sheets, opened the closet door and pulled apart pillows until they saw me. Then, it was Felix who stepped toward me with quick, heavy strides and put his face in mine. His voice was loud and his breath smelled of copper. He stuck his nose next to my face and inhaled.
"You stink of death."
"I'd thought you'd be used to that by now," I said through gritted teeth.
And he growled in response. "Where is it?"
I couldn't breathe, not with the stink of blood floating from him. My heart pounded from fear as I fought to keep the room from spinning. The only way to calm my nerves was to breathe. I held off long as I could. I had to lie. "I... I don't know what you mean."
He grabbed the back of my head, gripping into my hair and pulling me to his side. His solid body hit mine. My eyes squeezed closed for a second, my fingers clenched his, the cool skin repulsed me, made me angry and afraid, but still I held together through the pain. "Where is my key?!" he screamed.
I wanted to fight, struggle, push away, but I allowed myself a breath. "What key?!"
The girls huddled together in a corner, and they became blurry through the veil of tears I was unable to quell. "The one you stole from me, the one you're hiding. I know you have it! Your putrid smell still lingers in my room," he said.
"Your room is the last place I'd ever want to be! I wouldn't go in there for anything!" But I had, and he knew. I hissed under his grip. His fingers were like teeth in my hair, ratcheting and never giving up. I remembered when I'd first met him. He greeted me when I arrived here. His hands were gentle as they took mine, but now I groaned and shifted under them.
"You think you're smart, don't you?" Felix said.
Feathers billowed into the air then snowflaked down. Demetri demolished our surroundings to the point of it being unrecognizable. He continued to rip through and terrorize the mattress, flipping it off the box spring. Pillows and sheets wrapped and tangled around each other. He tore the vent covering from the wall, creating a terrible noise I'm sure could be heard several rooms away. He was being thorough and because of this, not so much the terrible pain Felix inflicted, I felt I would crumble to the floor if given the chance. I could only pray they didn't find what they were looking for.
Demetri's hand brushed the nightstand. He picked up the lamp and allowed it to fall from his grasp when he realized nothing was under the base. It hit the floor, the shade lopsided and the light flickering from impact. For a brief moment, I thought of hiding it there. I'm glad I didn't, but, I couldn't describe the way my nerves crept along my back, the adrenaline causing my skin to heat when he reached for the drawer and pulled it out.
He found nothing, of course, and I thought that would be the end of it until he ripped it from it's fitted home and revealed it's metal track and base. I moved under Felix's grip, fighting him, struggling to get away and conceal the small thing hidden there. By then, it was too late. Demetri reached in and plucked the key from its no-longer-safe spot and held it between his pale fingers. It's dark silver sheen reflected in the surviving lamps around the room.
"Well, well," Felix said as I began to end my struggle against him. "Look what we have here. You're in trouble now." I heard the smile in his voice, the satisfaction of knowing my inescapable fate would come sooner than later, I imagined. It wasn't a secret Felix didn't care for me. I'd heard so by Jasper. Felix hated I wasn't like the others, that I wasn't a square peg fitting into their square holes. A big creature like him enjoyed power over everything, and as long as I roamed the halls he couldn't control me.
He pushed me away and I nearly stumbled over the short-lived freedom before being taken up by Demetri.
Felix fought a smirk, but lost. "Take her to Aro. Show him the key, and let him know where we found it."
I pushed against the restraining grip on my elbow, but he tucked me into his side and guided me forward down the halls until we finally reached Aro's large chamber doors. He knocked twice then opened it, pulling me in after him.
Aro stood in front of the fireplace, his black robe hanging from his shoulders and arms like thick sheets of oil, his pale complexion hidden under the flickering orange glow which spread across his person. His room remained empty, like him.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" he asked
"Not you," he interrupted Demetri, turning his head to finally look at us. "Her?"
"Did you find what you were looking for? Did you find your freedom?"
I said nothing.
Aro held out his hand. It wasn't for me, but I was shoved forward as Demetri placed the skeleton key into Aro's open palm.
"That will be all, Demetri." He waved him away.
The door closed behind him as Aro ticked a finger at me, back and forth. "Shame. Shame. Shame." He lowered his hand, glancing at the object in his possession. "I've come to expect more from you, Isabella. You've disappointed me."
Again, I said nothing and kept my arms tight by my side as we fell into a staring match. Neither of us moved or spoke, only concentrating on the realization of what I'd done, what I ultimately planned to do with the stolen key. I crossed my arms and turned my head away from him. I had many things I could've said: I'm sorry I got caught; don't think I won't be trying again; go to Hell. None of them appropriate.
"When I allowed you to roam my halls, have your freedom, I thought I would be able to trust you even though someone told me it was a big mistake." His expression stiffened, a sneer beginning to take form on his lips. "And now you've made a fool of my judgement. It will be the last time."
My body vibrated. Heat curled under my skin and shook my nerves. My time had come to die, and I was sure he saw the change in my eyes. I felt it within, felt myself shift on my feet, but didn't feel as though I touched the ground.
He flicked his robe back as he took a step toward me. "What do you have to say for yourself? Anything? Or do you prefer to remain as silent as your mind?"
I chose the second.
"It doesn't matter anymore, and its unfortunate to say. I was hoping you would bring this institution to its feet again. I've barely received any of your blood, a few bags at most, but there are ways of getting more out of you. More money, a way to stabilize this institution."
He made a full circle around me while spoke, his fingers combing through the end strands of my hair. "And fortunately, we have a place for humans such as yourself while we make the proper arrangements. It's proven effective against the unruly beasts who cause nothing but trouble. Will you walk with me, or do you require a leash?"
"Where are we going?"
"A place where you can rest." He gave a grin, a grin that said I could trust him if I was a fool.
I took a step back. "I don't think I want to go."
"You have no choice, no further ways to bargain or manipulate your way out of fate. You can walk yourself, or I will have you carried. Either way gets you there."
I looked over the room, the bare room with hardly any belongings at all. There would be nothing to slow him down if I made for the window, nothing to keep me safe from him. I would further draw his anger. Then, there was the door to the hall. It would be an easy passage if I walked with him, but I would walk into the unknown. Like death, I feared the unknown, the same unknown I faced every day while here.
"When you say 'rest', do you mean 'die'?" I asked with a slight tremble.
"If you're dead, how would I get my money?" He motioned for me to go ahead of him, and after a moment of thought, I did. I had to remain strong, positive. Aro had always been open about killing me, and even though I couldn't trust him, I knew he told the truth.
We walked further from his bedroom, Demetri leading us down the quiet first floor corridors. We walked so much further than I would have imagined. Doors led to more halls, and those halls led to more doors until we were so deep within the bones of the house the light all but disappeared.
Silence consumed us as we stood in front of a plain, white door. It was unlike anything I'd seen there. Barely legible markings popped from the white, and I couldn't make them out when first stopping, but as Demetri found the key to unlock it, I put the pieces together.
"What is this place?" I asked, feeling my expression tighten.
"Your room," Aro said. Demetri pulled the door open. From what little glow the hall could muster, it spilled into the now-open entrance of the space, revealing the soft, white floors and walls. The shadows inside seemed to move and breathe with each passing second.
Curiosity turned to fear. "No." I moved back and into a pair of hands, pushing me forward. "No! I'm not going in there!"
"But this is your cage, my dear. A fitting hold for a wild animal such as yourself." Aro templed his fingers in front of him and gave me the same grin as before.
Demetri shoved me inside and I landed against the padded wall. The floor gave slightly under my bare feet, and I turned back just long enough to see the last light being cut off from me as Aro waved.
The door slammed and the locks turned over. The sound of their barely audible voices began to disappear.
Then, there was nothing, except darkness.