Chapter one: My Brightest Hour
I know you'll understand what I'm going to say. I know it because I know you. But I'm a coward. I can't bring myself to look you in the eyes and tell you what I've wanted to say for so long.
It always lingered in the back of my mind. When I woke up in the morning, as I left for school, even when I was laughing and having fun; it was still there. Those nagging thoughts that told me something was wrong. Different.
Sis, I tried so hard. I wanted to put on a smile and pretend that I'd be fine. I wanted to believe that things would get better. I still do. A part of me believes that it will. But I stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago.
This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
I don't want to leave you and Jeremy. I love you both so much. I don't want to go, but I need to, Elena. I hope you can understand. Every day I try to ignore it, a piece of me is breaking, disappearing. Elena, I'm so afraid that if I stay, I will fall apart. Mystic Falls is my home, it will always be. But there is something I need to figure out, something that has been calling out to me. It seems crazy, I know, but there's no other way to describe it.
I need to figure out who she is, Elena. When I do, I'll come back home. I'll come back. I promise.
"Are you reading your letter again?"
Taylor glanced up from the letter gently gripped between her small fingers. She had been sitting for hours on a small park bench under a beautiful tree with newly blooming flowers. Smiling at her sudden visitor, she watched as a flower broke off in the wind and slowly floated downwards. It twisted and turned gracefully until it finally landed on the grass near her feet.
"Actually," she said, a glint of mischievousness present in her eyes. "I am. You see; I was waiting for someone to get here."
The visitor merely smiled and took a seat on the bench, crossing her hands across her lap.
They fell into a comfortable silence. Both girls stared straight ahead, a soft, sad smile on their lips, watching as the sun slowly began to rise, bringing light to the world around them.
In the illumination of the sun, the striking similarities between the two became apparent. It was almost as if they were twins. They shared the same long black hair, styled the same way – in light curls cascading down their backs – and the same piercing eyes. Their mannerisms were different, one was kind-hearted and outspoken, the other rude and arrogant. Yet, they accompanied each other perfectly.
As the sun rose higher into the sky, people began to appear. Most were earlier risers, up for their morning jogs through the park; somewhere late night partiers, finally heading home. The once quiet atmosphere was filled with the bustle of busy people.
Taylor turned her head to face the girl who had spoken, a sudden pang of sadness striking her, knowing it would be the last time they were together sitting on that bench. "Yeah?"
"Do you really want to go back there?" There was such contempt in the way she spoke.
"Why do you want to? What is so special about Mystic Falls?"
Taylor thought for a second. "It's my home. I grew up there and the people I care for are there."
Her words angered the other girl. Her body tensed and she spoke with a harsh tone. "The people who care for you? Taylor, they lied to you all those years. How can you possibly believe they care about you at all?"
It would have been easy to get upset at her words, but they'd had that conversation many times, and she was prepared. Instead of blowing up, Taylor simply shook her head. "Don't go there, please. You know how I feel."
"I may know, but I don't pretend to understand."
That was such a typical reply, Taylor thought as she stood up, the letter folded and held in her hands. She reached up with her right hand a tucked a few loose strands behind her ear, just as a gust of wind swept past them. She fixed the skirt she was wearing and stood up straight, the same sad smile on her face.
"We should get going."
Reluctantly, the other girl nodded her head in agreement and stood up as well. She reached out her hand for Taylor to grab, and she did so. The two walked away from the bench for the last time, headed to the car that would get them to their destination.
By the time they reached Mystic Falls, Taylor's nerves had begun to get the better of her. She wondered if she was doing the right thing. Coming back after a year of being away, was that fair? After cutting her self off completely from her family and friends, she didn't know how they would react, she could only guess.
"I'm scared," Taylor voiced, filling the empty car with the sound of her soft voice. "This feels bad."
A laugh erupted. "How many times have we spoken about this?"
"Exactly. There's nothing to be afraid of. You are powerful enough to handle anything that comes your way."
Taylor shrugged her shoulders. "I suppose so."
"You're still worried."
She nodded her head, looking out the window into the darkness. The sun had fallen hours ago. "I mean, Aunt Jenna said it was fine, but I'm not sure what Elena and Jeremy will think. I left without notice. I couldn't even give Elena the letter. They had no clue why I left and Jenna probably hasn't told them I'm coming home, either."
"I don't like them, Taylor. You know that. But if they love you as much as you love them, you have nothing to worry about." There was a tone in her voice that said something more to Taylor, something she could catch only because she knew her that well.
"Katherine. I can't do that."
"Do what," she questioned, turning her head to look at the girl in the passenger seat.
"I won't compel them."
The car came to a slow stop and Taylor realized that they were there. She was home. After a year of being away and months of anxiousness, she felt at ease and at peace. All of her earlier worries were stifled. Inside she could sense her sister's presence. Turning, she smiled one last time at Katherine, flooded with memories.
"Thank you, Katherine. For everything."
Taylor gave her a confused look.
"Don't get all sappy on me."
She smiled, reaching over and pulling her into one last hug. This was the girl she had seen every night for as long as she could remember; she was the reason Taylor left in the first place. And she was the very one who was able to befriend her and help her become whole again. Katherine was nothing like what she had expected. Although she was rough and harsh, she could be kind and Taylor had gotten closer to her than she had been to her adopted mother. It was hard to walk away from her. It was like walking away from a sister and she knew all too well how hard that hurt.
"I won't. Good bye, Katherine."
"Good bye, Taylor. We will see each other some day."
Taylor smiled, wiping away the few tears that spilled out despite her struggle to keep them back. She opened the car door and stepped out, taking one last glance at the girl she knew she wouldn't see for a long, long time.
In the seconds it took for her to reach the door, she heard the screeching of the tires against the pavement. She was gone.
Taylor reached out and rang the doorbell, waiting impatiently for someone to answer. When Jenna appeared, a wave of relief flushed over her. She'd prepared a long explanation of why she had left in case it had been Elena or Jeremy to answer. Now she could wait until later to deliver it.
"Taylor! You came back!"
The young girl smiled as her aunt pulled her into a hug. "Of course, Jenna. I said I would. Can I come in?"
Taylor nodded her head, stepping into the house she had missed while she was gone. Everything was the same, the furniture hadn't changed and there was nothing new. But she could feel the emptiness of her parents – adopted parents – death.
"You arrived so late. I was just about to head off to bed. Elena is in the living room with her boyfriend and his brother. I can stay up if you –"
"It's okay. You can go to sleep. I'll just go say hi."
Jenna nodded, pulling the girl into one last hug before she disappeared up the stairs.
With a deep breath, Taylor turned and walked slowly into the living room. Elena, who looked exactly the same as she had left, only happier looking, was in mid conversation with one of the two boys.
"I know you're hurting –" she started.
"I'm not." The older of the two shook his head.
"You miss her," she argued.
"Elena, there's someone here." The younger of the two brothers shifted the attention in the room to her.
Elena turned her head, curious as to whom it could be. A gasp escaped her lips as her eyes landed on her sister. Instantly she sprung up and rushed over, pulling her into a tight hug that Taylor happily accepted. The thousands of questions that sprung up in her mind where pushed to the back of her thoughts, she was so happy to see her sister again.
"Taylor, you're back!" Elena cried, tears falling from her eyes.
Her sister nodded her head, wiping away her own tears. "Yeah. I missed you guys too much." Taylor smiled, pulling her sister in for another hug.
It felt so good to be home.
"So, who are the boys?" She asked, once the two had managed to get their tears under control.
"Oh! This is Stefan, my boyfriend. And this is his brother - "
"Damon," Taylor interrupted. "Stefan and Damon Salvatore."
Elena stared at her sister shocked. Stefan and Damon had finally decided to pay more attention to the girl and that was when they noticed how much she and Elena looked alike, or rather she and Katherine. But there was something different. Something more like Katherine about her and, yet, at the same time something so different.
"Taylor? How did you know who they were?"
Taylor wanted to slap herself. How did she not recognize them earlier? Katherine had described them so perfectly that she knew every little detail; she'd seen pictures, too. Yet, something about being home had warped her observation skills and she was left standing there, shocked. Damon and Stefan Salvatore. Never would she have thought she'd meet them in Mystic Falls. With her sister, of all people, whom she knew first hand looked like Katherine. She wasn't one to speak; she looked like her as well.
"I know because - "
"Where did you get that," Damon asked.
Taylor looked around, confused. "Get what?"
"That," he demanded, pointing to her neck. His anger was rising. He recognized that necklace. He'd seen it many times.
She looked down to where Damon and Stefan were staring. It was Katherine's necklace.
Disclaimer: I, unfortunately, do not own the Vampire Diaries. I only own Taylor Gilbert and any other original characters that I come up with along the way.