Friends & Foes:
A Fangs & Fins Sequel
Chapter 8: "The Truth Comes Out"
The Montgomery -Lockwood wedding was "T minus one days" according to Ben. James had sent out a mass text Friday morning insisting that everyone meet at school forty five minutes before the first bell to debrief. Rose had been prodded awake by Lily much earlier than she would have liked and had spent the entire walk to school cursing James. Lily was annoyingly peppy considering how early it was, and without Arianna to keep her occupied, kept trying to engage a surly Rose in small talk. Rose simply glared at her sister while eating her granola bar and listened to Lily rattle off her opinion about windmills and other boring things.
Rose and Lily arrived at school forty five minutes early, as James had instructed. The school green was slightly damp from the rain the night before, but Lily, always prepared, had produced a blanket from the depths of her locker and spread it out in the middle of the green. Ben had promptly collapsed and threw his arm over his eyes. Rose nervously situated herself next to him, a little worried about the possibility of water seeping through the blanket and making her grow a tail in front of the whole school. James sat besides Lily and Arianna, who were giggling while watching a video on Arianna's iPhone.
"Where's Lewis?" Rose bit out, looking around. The blanket seemed thick enough and her legs were still dry. "He's never late. He loves school."
James eyed his watch. Students were beginning to make their way into the main building from the surrounding parking lot. "Looks like we'll have to start without him."
Lily clapped her hands and flipped open her notebook. "Excellent. Now, attire is an extremely important part of any wedding, so to make sure we are all in compliance with the unspoken dress code, I made some notes. For reference."
Everyone let out a collective groan.
Lily ignored them. "Now, what is everyone wearing? Remember, there are certain things you can wear to a wedding and certain things you absolutely cannot. Don't wear white, don't wear off-white, don't wear champagne, don't wear ivory, and don't wear very pale pink, yellow or blue. Don't wear a white dress with a colored pattern. If you're wearing a suit with a tie, it's okay to wear a white shirt but never a white jacket—"
"The bridesmaids' dresses are light pink." James said. Lily glared at him before turning to Arianna.
"What color is your dress?" Lily pulled out a pencil, ready to jot down notes.
"This light pink color. But not too pale. I made sure." Arianna said proudly.
Lily nodded and then turned to look at Rose.
"Mine is white, like the brightest white possible, with a huge skirt, lots of cleavage, etc." Rose said deprecatingly, grinning.
"I like this dress." Ben said approvingly.
Lily frowned. "That's not funny. What color is your dress?"
"It's red." Rose replied. "Jeez. Take a joke."
Lily considered and then smiled. "Okay, that is an acceptable color choice. As long as it's not like…temptress red."
Lily did not get to reply as Lewis came trotting over carrying several cups of coffee, looking irritated.
"I got your ridiculous coffee orders." Lewis mumbled. He held up the first cup, struggling to read the barista's messy handwriting.
"Black iced coffee for James, Earl Gray tea for Lily, vanilla latte for Arianna, a caramel macchiato for Rose, and a cinnamon dolce latte with two splenda and extra whipped cream for Ben."
"Thanks man." Ben said, accepting his drink.
"I'm still surprised you offered to get us all coffee." Rose said, wrapping her hands tentatively around her hot drink.
Lewis sighed and took a sip of his Americano. "I had to get drinks for Will's pack anyway so I figured I would order stuff for you guys too."
"You had to get coffee for them? What are they, hazing you?" Lily said, hands on her hips, ready to fight the supposed injustice of coffee fetching.
"I'm a new member, so I guess they are. It's not technically their fault, I offered to get Laurel coffee when I saw her this morning, and Will and Christian were with her and they wanted coffee too, and then Noel and Micah texted me their orders when I was in the shop. And speaking of hazing, Will was supposed to help Laurel with some marine biology project she's working on, but he and Micah won tickets to some concert, so now I have to help her. Which means I can't go to the wedding."
Arianna looked a little put out. "Oh." Then she considered. "Well that means I can take Lily!"
Lily clapped her hands. "Yes! I already have a dress and everything!" She squeezed Arianna's hands. "This is so exciting!"
Lewis raised an eyebrow, suspicious. "You already have a dress? You've been planning on going all this time, haven't you?!"
Lily glared at him. "Since when did you get so sassy? And no I haven't, it's just…good to be prepared."
"Uh huh." Lewis snapped, unconvinced, before looking at his watch. "We have free period first, maybe we could all go get something to eat or –"
"Nope. Study time." Lily waved her copy of The Iliad in the air.
"Oh. Haha. Yeah. I forget about that." James furiously dug through his backpack, looking for his copy.
Ben let out an exaggerated yawn. "Well, this has been fun. Let's get to history, Rosie."
Rose was eager to escape her micromanaging sister and everything that came with her. She slung her bag over her shoulder and walked alongside Ben towards their grade 11 history class.
"Have you started working on the vocabulary list for English?" Minerva asked. "I'm not sure which definition of appropriate we need. She wouldn't ask for the adjective, would she?"
Minerva had joined James, Arianna, Lewis and Lily on the school green after Rose and Ben had taken off to make sure everyone's invitations were in line and to dole out parking instructions and itineraries. She'd stayed to help with Honors English prep after Lily had discovered the lack of progress the others had made on The Iliad.
James looked up from The Iliad. "I copied your list last week, if that counts."
"No it doesn't." Lily snapped. "And she wants the verb. To take someone's property as your own. What does that sound like, James?"
James made a face. Minerva nodded in appreciation and returned to her notes.
Lewis leaned back on the blanket and shut his eyes. "I can't do this. If I ever start using the word 'juggernaut' then I give you all permission to kill me."
Arianna was skimming through Lily's copy of The Iliad, which was highlighted and covered in annotations and post-it notes. "Did you take notes on this? I'm a book behind."
"Same." James said, reading furiously.
Lily put her hands on her hips. "This is Honors English, everyone! None of you should be behind, James, you shouldn't be copying Minerva's vocabulary list and Lewis, you should be studying more, and Arianna, you should actually do all reading assignments."
"Hey, I have an excuse. Rose and I are in that ridiculous English and Composition class that she loves so much. The rest of you are only in this English class." James said defensively. "I only copied Minerva's list to help me learn the vocab words."
Lily raised an eyebrow.
"I am just as diligent as you, minus the workaholic tendencies." James said.
"Well, when you all get into the university of your choice, you're going to thank me. And James, you were the one harassing Rose and Ben yesterday about studying for their chemistry exam."
"Speaking of Rose and Ben, they're probably off having fun in history." Arianna put her arms on the table and rested her chin on the back of her hands. "I remember grade 11 history. That class was a joke. We spent most of it passing notes and having shenanigans and so on."
Minerva rolled her eyes. "Lily, I think you're right; we need to all study our hardest for the next couple months. Our futures are riding on it."
Lily smiled at her. "Thank you Minerva. Could you quiz me on our vocab list?"
"Of course." Minerva read off her list. "Aspersion."
"Misleading, a rumor."
Minerva nodded. "Yes. Okay, now…how about…zenith."
Lewis whispered to James behind his chemistry textbook: "How am I supposed to study for chem when Lily is breathing down my neck about English?" He motioned to Lily and Minerva. "Also, you've created a monster."
James shrugged, and glanced at the University of Melbourne pen he was twirling between his index finger and thumb. "They're right. We should be studying for our exams – my dad will kill me if I don't get into Melbourne – but I'm too worried about this Sofia situation to focus."
Lewis nodded in understanding. "Well hopefully she'll be out of your house by Sunday. The Lockwoods can't be that mean, can they?"
James considered. "Well…let's just hope they're a little more forgiving then usual. Blake Lockwood definitely has a cruel side, especially when Sofia is involved."
"Sorry I can't help this weekend. Laurel needs me to help her get to Mako so she can do her project. I have a feeling you are going to have to handle the whole thing yourself. Ben and Rose will be off together and Arianna will distract Lily."
"I'm used to it by now. Minerva can help too, I guess." James shrugged. "And if I can get Lily away from Arianna, then she'll help. Our plan is kind of vague at this point, but basically we're going to isolate the Lockwoods so that Sofia can ambush them and they can talk."
"Well good luck."
The bell rang, signalling the end of class and free period. James collected his things and headed off to Biology with Minerva, while Lewis was stuck with Arianna and Lily, who were holding hands and smiling slyly at him. Lewis knew those smiles. They were going to start harassing him any moment now –
Arianna giggled. "So, you ran into Laurel this morning and got her coffee." She poked Lewis in the cheek and he flinched.
"So? That's what friends do. They get each other coffee."
"Ooooo." Arianna and Lily chorused. Lewis grimaced
Ben and Lewis were bros. Of this, Lewis was sure. He had (accidentally) told Ben about his thing with Lily and had agreed to help Ben out with his Rose Problem. They watched Pokémon together and recreated scenes from Bruce Lee movies on the green at school during lunch. It had never even crossed Lewis' mind that his new…affliction might cause some tension between them, until Ben had seen the size of Lewis's bicep.
"Holy shit. Did you grow that overnight?" Ben asked, horrified.
"It's not that big, relax. Will said it's normal." Lewis said glibly. "We have to build up a little more muscle mass for our bodies to support the transformation."
"This isn't fair, man. You're taller and now you've got that…thing. Girls are going to be all over you." Ben pouted.
Lewis flushed slightly and Ben smiled a very evil, sideways grin.
"Who is she?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." Lewis said quickly, probably too quickly. His voice hadn't been as flat as he had hoped.
"The second I mention the female persuasion you turn red. I repeat: who is she."
Ben was nothing if not persistent. Lewis sighed.
"Okay, but don't tell anyone. I'll never hear the end of it from Arianna and Lily if you do. They were teasing me this morning just because I bought her coffee. I don't need any more of that."
Ben erupted into laughter. Lewis frowned and crossed his arms. "It's not funny!"
Ben wiped a tear from his eye. "Dude, she's sixteen and you just turned eighteen. Maybe you should look into some legal girls."
"She's almost seventeen and I don't plan on, well, you know – "
Lewis went red again. Ben broke into another round of hysterics.
"At least I'm not pursuing my brother's ex girlfriend!" Lewis shouted. Ben rolled his eyes.
"You're not going to go on one of your rants again are you? Because you're a big bad werewolf now, don't want you wolfin' up from anger or anything."
Lewis crossed his arms.
"How did this whole thing start, anyway?" Ben asked.
"We had a really strange encounter the day after the full moon."
"It was weird. She made me feel better and then she put her hand on my chest." Lewis elaborated.
"…I like where this is going…"
Lewis just shook his head.
"Well, you get to spend all of Sunday with her, right? Summon your charm." Ben said knowledgeably.
"I don't have any charm."
Ben pinched Lewis's cheek. "Yes you do! You just need to find it in you. Then summon it, like a viper ready to strike. She won't be able to resist."
"You really think so?" Lewis asked. Ben nodded encouragingly.
"This is perfect for you. You're going to spend the day together, alone. You can use your encyclopaedic knowledge of everything nerdy to woo her." Ben said.
"You're helping her out with her marine bio project, right? Show off, be a know it all. But be, like, charming about it."
"This is not helpful at all." Lewis sighed.
"God that was the most boring hour of my life." James muttered as he and Minerva left the Biology room.
Minerva's mouth curled up into a half smile. "I agree, prokaryotes aren't very interesting – oh, look. SAT scores have been posted." She strode over to the bulletin board outside the science block, which was adorned with school announcements and the top SAT scores accomplished in June.
"Aren't those private?" James asked as Minerva squinted at the bulletin board.
"Yes, but they post the top ones. If you authorize your score to be shared. So you can see where you stand in comparison to other people at your school."
James hadn't taken the SAT, but he went to stand by Minerva and read over her shoulder. There were five students that had made it into the 2000s range:
Minerva Montgomery (Grade 12)…2350
Charlotte Watsford (Grade 11)…2300
Noel Park (Grade 12)...2200
Michelle Tran (Grade 11)…2100
Ivy Johnson (Grade 10)…2050
"That's a near perfect score!" James exclaimed.
"Madeline did better than me…crap. Look at this Charlotte girl's score." Minerva put her pointer finger on Charlotte's name.
"She didn't do as well as you." James pointed out.
"She's not much off! Far, far too close for comfort. What if she's applying for that scholarship I am too? The one that's open for grades 12 and 11 students that are considering studying overseas. If she took the SAT she must be planning on studying abroad!"
"Scholarship?" James questioned. "But your house — "
"Inherited. And you know how important it is to keep up appearances. Plus, I'm the youngest and all of my other sisters have already gone to school, schools that cost a lot of money. Madeline just graduated from Stanford, Mathilda is doing a year at Stockholm University and Marie studied at Sarah Lawrence College, which is absurdly expensive. Madeline got grants for Stanford after Marie nearly bankrupted us at Sarah Lawrence and Mathilda doesn't understand the value of a dollar. I need to get this scholarship."
Watsford…James was pretty sure that family was wealthy. Did Charlotte even need a scholarship?
"Maybe she's not even applying. She's in Rose and Ben's grade, you should ask them if they can figure out if she's going for the scholarship."
Minerva nodded. "Come on, let's go find them."
Ben was laying face down on the school green, Rose sitting beside him, eating her snack. Lily, Arianna and Lewis were using break to cram in the library.
"Have you heard of this Charlotte Watsford girl?" Minerva asked immediately.
"Yeah. I'm friendly with her. I guess. Haven't really talked to her much lately. Ben is very friendly with her though." Rose made a face at Ben.
Ben rolled his eyes and spun around, hoisting himself off the grass. "Why do you ask?"
"Because right now it looks like she's Minerva's biggest competition for that scholarship the school is offering." James said.
"Could one of you ask her if she's applying for it? I need to know." Minerva asked.
Rose nodded. "Sure. I have maths with her next period. I'll text you."
Minerva let out a sigh of relief and settled on the grass next to Rose. "Thank you. I owe you one."
"If she is applying, can we sabotage her or something? I need something to do during our shared classes. They're so boring." Ben inquired, shielding his eyes from the sun.
James rolled his eyes at Ben and pulled his phone out of the front pocket of his backpack. Sofia had texted him six times since the start of first period:
James there is no type B
James what is going on please help
I bet it was Ben
You should kill him
I'M HAVING WITHDRAWALS
REPLY U LITTLE SHIT!
James looked up from his phone and glared at Ben. "Ben, Sofia says she can't find any type B. Where are you hoarding it all? Or did you get drunk last night and use all of it, along with all of our vodka? Don't think I didn't notice this morning when I took the recycling out."
"Yes, let's blame Ben. It's not like we don't know anyone else that drinks vodka and blood." Ben rolled his eyes. "Why don't you ask Arianna? She was over last night."
"I highly doubt it was Arianna." James snapped.
"Well it wasn't me, Sofia or you. So that leaves Arianna." Ben retorted.
James and Ben glared at each other. Rose sighed.
"She's coming over now." Rose motioned into the distance in the direction of Arianna, Lily and Lewis, who were trotting over. "Just ask her yourself."
"Fine." James snarled, getting to his feet. He crossed his arms. "Arianna, did you drink all of our vodka and type B last night? Ben claims it wasn't him."
Arianna looked alarmed, then slightly panicked. "No, what are you talking about?!"
Ben glanced at Arianna. She looked terrified and anxious, like she was having trouble breathing. Lily had noticed too and was eyeing Arianna, concerned.
Ben sighed. "It was me, okay? Stop interrogating her, James. It was just some vodka and type b."
James threw his arms up. "No, it was all of our vodka and six bottles of type b!"
Lily looked shocked, then disappointed. "Six? How could you be so irresponsible, Ben?!"
"Oh great, now I have you on my case too." Ben mumbled. "Don't worry about it. I can pick up some more type b from our supplier before I get home, and Sofia will be satisfied. I'm sorry, alright?"
Rose could almost feel the tension in the air. She shifted her gaze from Ben to James, whose fists were balled. Lily and Arianna were watching them too, the latter's lips pursued. Only Lewis and Minerva seemed unfazed, Lewis was on his phone and Minerva was so absorbed by a theory workbook that neither had noticed what was going on.
Finally, James's eyes softened. "It's okay. Sorry for overreacting. I just get worried that one of us is going to get too attached to it again. We need to work on portion control. Small doses more frequently are better than gorging every once in a while. We have more control when our bodies are used to only having small quantities at regular intervals."
"I know, James." Ben said, teeth clenched. He grabbed his backpack and slung it over his shoulder. "I need to get to English."
"Okay. See you later." James said. Ben waved over his shoulder.
"Well." Arianna settled on the grass and smoothed out her skirt. "That was dramatic."
Lily nodded and went to sit by her. She pulled out her copy of the Iliad and flipped through it. James went to call Sofia. Lewis continued to text, Minerva bit her lip and scribbled in her workbook. Content, Rose leaned back in the grass and closed her eyes.
Arianna sighed and turned her face up to the sun, eyes closed. It was a nice day, not too hot, not too cold. She had a slight headache from last night and felt jittery from the coffee Lewis had given her, but aside from that, it was an okay day. Her phone vibrated in her bag and she reached out to grab it, eyes still closed. Arianna opened her eyes and glanced at the screen. The message was from Ben:
You owe me.
Arianna bit her lip, the panicky feeling returning to her gut. She wrote back:
Ben remained on edge for the rest of the day, and took off immediately after school before Rose had a chance to talk to him about what had occurred that morning. She had heard horror stories from James about blood dependency and her stomach had been in knots all day at the thought of anything happening to Ben.
Rose spent the afternoon at home re-reading her favorite Vonnegut, trying to get Ben and his potential new…problem out of her head but her efforts were futile. The thought of losing Ben alone was enough to make her anxious but the idea of him completely losing himself in blood lust made her feel sick to her stomach. Rose spent five minutes staring at the same sentence in a daze before giving up reading and tossing Bluebeard in the corner, angry at her own powerlessness.
The doorbell rang shortly after and Rose slunk downstairs and threw open the door to see Ben staring back at her, looking slightly bewildered at her expression.
"You alright?" Ben questioned, maneuvering around Rose and making his way into the foyer. He had two large sheets of paper rolled up underneath his arm.
"Where did you go after school?" Rose asked him, trying to sound inquiring and not accusing.
"Brisbane. Our supplier lives there and I had some research to do." Ben shut the door and set the rolls of paper on the couch. "I have a plan to get information on your mom."
Rose raised her eyebrows, both surprised and pleased. Ben seemed coherent and less surly than he did at school, which was a good sign.
"I figure that, to confirm your mom is alive and a vampire or whatever and if my dad has had contact with her and all that, our best bet is to look in my dad's office for an email, or some paperwork, a letter – something." Ben explained. He plopped down on the couch as he was speaking and Rose moved to sit by him. "But my dad's office in Sydney is protected by a security system and it's pretty much impossible to get into."
Rose's face fell. "Oh –"
Ben continued. "But, then I thought of something else. It would make more sense for him to keep anything on Violet in the Council's library, because if she really is alive, much less a threat, then that concerns the rest of the Council."
"How is breaking into a Council library any easier than your dad's office?" Rose demanded, feeling slightly exasperated.
"It's much easier, because on Sunday we're going to be in the house where the library is." Ben said, grabbing the papers he had brought. Rose could see now that they were building plans. "The Council hasn't had a permanent meeting place since the 1970s. But I know that any paperwork, documents, books, and stuff are kept at the Lockwoods'. I heard Arianna's mom mention it once, the Lockwoods have some kind of giant library where everything is kept. But when I asked Sofia about it, she said that her parents don't have a library."
"So Arianna's mom was wrong then." Rose said, sighing.
"I thought that, but then I went to the Brisbane City Council and got the Lockwood's building plans." Ben unrolled the large sheets of vellum onto the coffee table. "And look at this." Ben pointed to a small door on the second floor. "The door leads to a stairwell, and look at the sheets for both floors." Ben adjusted the two sheets so that the thin pencil marks lined up. "The stairs connects to this room on the first floor that doesn't have any doors or windows." Ben tapped the square with his finger. "I think this is the library. The door to the stairwell is pretty small, Sofia must think it's just a closet or something. Their home is gigantic so it would be easy for an entire room to go unnoticed."
Rose was hesitant. "You really think the library will have some information on my mom? Won't it just have boring vampire junk?"
Ben nodded, excited. "If what Elisabeth told you is true, your mom...well, what happened to that vampire girl would have caused a lot of problems for the Council, there has to be something about it in there, and I'm sure they're still keeping tabs on her, right?"
For the first time in what felt like forever, Rose felt giddy with excitement. She threw her arms around Ben's neck, crushing the building plans he was rolling up.
"Thank you," She murmured into his shoulder. "Thank you so much."
James, Ben, Arianna and Sofia came to pick Lily and Rose up at seven the following morning. It was cold and damp out, and Lily and Rose huddled nervously on the porch. Rose was still half asleep, her hair a mess and makeup applied sloppily. In contrast there was Lily, who, having stayed up late last night packing both their bags, ironing dresses and making snacks for the drive to Brisbane, looked put together with neatly curled hair and perfectly winged eyeliner. Rose just grumbled to herself and regretted agreeing to go to the wedding in the first place.
When the car rolled into the driveway, Rose grimaced and turned to Lily in abject horror. James had brought the largest car they Woods owned but it was obvious they would have to squeeze to fit all six of them.
Great. An hour of playing sardines. Rose thought to herself as she tossed her backpack in the trunk and slunk over to the side door. James sat in the driver's seat with Sofia in the passenger seat while Rose, Ben, Lily and Arianna crammed themselves into the back seat. Rose was practically sitting on Ben's lap despite her attempts to shove Arianna further into Lily and claim her half of the middle seat.
"Remember everyone, just because there is blood and booze everywhere and dancing doesn't mean that this little excursion doesn't have an objective." James motioned to Sofia while backing out of the Collins' driveway.
Ben, Lily and Arianna murmured in understanding. Rose just crossed her arms.
"Watch your step." Lewis instructed, Laurel's hand in his as he helped her into his boat. Laurel held his hand firmly, and Lewis could feel her nails biting into his palm.
It was a fairly cold morning. Fog lingered around Mako and Lewis could barely make out the outline of the island in the distance. His tiny boat was docked near the juice bar, and he'd bought himself and Laurel breakfast smoothies right when the Juice Net had opened at 6:30. A red-eyed Christian had made the smoothies and thrust them into Lewis' hands before disappearing into the backroom, grumbling obscenities to himself.
And I thought we were friends now, Lewis thought to himself, now regretting buying cold smoothies when it was so chilly out. Laurel was just about to firmly plant her foot on the floor of the boat when she stumbled over a pencil that had rolled out of Lewis' bag and fell against Lewis. He steadied her before they both tumbled out of the boat, and hated himself for being thankful that Laurel couldn't see how red his face was.
Notebooks, pencils, charts, a map and two salinometers were set neatly in one corner of the boat, while food for the day and water bottles were tucked away in another. Lewis helped Laurel into her seat and went to sit beside her. He started the engine and maneuvered them out of the dock.
Laurel's hair whipped around her face. She brushed it out of her eyes and smiled. "Excited for a fun day of measuring salinity?"
Lewis nodded excitedly. "Yup! I did this project last year when I was in marine bio, I picked Mako as well, it's so varied and interesting, you can really see how salinity levels effect certain creatures that live around different parts of the island, it really is a microcosm for differences in dissolved salt content in that way – "
Lewis stopped when he realized that Laurel was trying – and failing – to hold back laughter.
"…you were being facetious, weren't you?"
Laurel smiled a toothy grin. "Maybe."
Lewis felt the heat rising to his face and stared straight ahead at Mako, squinted through the fog. "Ah…well, I really like this stuff. You know, it's fun and all…oh, I got you a smoothie by the way." Lewis twisted his torso around and grabbed one of the smoothies from behind his seat and held it out to Laurel. "Hope you like banana and raspberry."
"Thank you." Laurel reached out tentatively but immediately jerked her hand back when her palm made contact with the cold, icy surface of the cup. She rubbed her hand dry on her jeans.
"Oh sorry, it's cold. I'll wipe off the cups when we dock." Lewis said, setting the smoothie back on the floor and turning the boat slightly to the left.
The fog had resided a bit and Lewis could just make out Mako's sandy bank without having to squint.
"We're almost there!" He said, beaming at Laurel, who nodded eagerly.
Lewis manoeuvred the boat towards the shore and slowly lowered the boat's speed until they came to rest a few feet from the beach. Lewis jumped out of the boat and pulled it to rest in the sand, before safely tethering it to a nearby rock with a length of rope.
Laurel clutched the sides of the boat nervously and rocked back and forth with the motion of the tide.
"Do you want me to help you down?" Lewis asked, coming to stand by the side of the boat. Laurel nodded and held out a shaky hand.
Lewis took Laurel's hand and she put one foot over the side of the boat. The boat lurched forward suddenly and Laurel stumbled. Lewis reached out and put a hand on her waist to steady her.
"I can't get wet." Laurel's voice was soft and nervous. Lewis noticed for the first time that she was wearing jeans, knee-high rain boots and a long sleeve shirt.
"You won't, I promise." Lewis tightened his hand on her waist. "Can I lift you down? Do you trust me?"
Laurel didn't say anything for a moment, before nodding. Lewis brought his other hand to her waist and she put her hands on her shoulders. He lifted her out of the boat and set her down in the sand.
She beamed. "Thanks."
Lewis ran a hand through his hair, thankful for his newfound werewolf strength. "No problem. Wanna start with this part of the beach?"
"Sure." Laurel's grin was almost face splitting.
Lewis smiled back at her, wide and unguarded.
The drive to Brisbane was a somber affair. Lily and Arianna communicated solely via text and would occasionally glance up from their screens and smirk at each other. Sofia napped in the front seat and James' eyes never left the road. Rose's thigh was dangerously close to Ben's and she didn't dare meet his eye. Instead, she gazed out the front window and admired the skyscrapers and busy streets of Brisbane. It had gotten gradually brighter outside and now the sun was high in the sky.
James pulled the car up to a large hotel near the Brisbane River and had an apathetic Sofia dictate the parking instructions Minerva had given him. He parked the car in one of the spots designated for wedding guests and Ben pushed the door open the second the car stopped, tumbling out on the vehicle and landing face-first onto the asphalt.
"Ben!" Lily shrieked, craning her neck over Arianna's shoulder to see if Ben was injured and if she would have to yank out the emergency first aid kit she kept stuffed in the bottom of her purse.
"My legs are killing me," Ben groaned, trying to extend his leg out before recoiling and grimacing. "Nope, nope, okay, never mind."
Rose crawled over Ben and out of the car, stretching her arms out. "James, next time do you think you could get a bigger car?"
"Yeah my foot's asleep and we were all crammed back here." Arianna added thoughtfully, sucking on the straw of her strawberry and blood smoothie.
"Not that you were complaining when Lily fell asleep with her head on your shoulder." Ben said in a whisper, still struggling to stretch his legs out.
Arianna gripped her smoothie tightly and looked like she was ready to explode or toss her drink all over Ben. James noticed Arianna's face and jumped in to mediate.
"OKAY, let's just grab our things and get going, alright?" James eyed his watch. "We're a little late so we'll have to rush and change before the ceremony."
"Why are they getting married at a hotel?" Sofia quipped, her nose crinkled. "My mother has the worst taste…"
"This is a nice hotel though." James said, popping the trunk open and sliding Sofia's massive suitcase out.
"It's tacky." Sofia said stiffly, arms crossed.
Rose looked up and squinted in the sun, impressed by the large glass windows and intricate detailing on the exterior of the hotel. "I agree with James, it's nice."
Ben, who had since regained the use of his legs, added: "I honestly couldn't care less as long as there is an open bar —"
"Come on Sofia, it's fine. I certainly wouldn't mind getting married here." Lily said, digging through her Longchamp to retrieve her phone. "Hey, Lewis just texted me! Oh, he sent a photo…"
"Is it a dick pic?" Ben muttered in Lily's ear as he, Rose, Arianna, James and a disinterested Sofia gathered around to peer at Lily's phone. Lily's face turned beet red and she glared at Ben.
"How did —" Lily began, before she was interrupted by Arianna's squeals.
"Aww, that's so cute!" Arianna tapped the photo of Lewis and a beaming Laurel with a perfectly manicured finger. Lily looked at the photo, her brows furrowed and a slight frown on her lips.
"He's really bad at taking selfies. Maybe we should get him a selfie stick or something." Ben said thoughtfully, scratching his head. "Their faces are barely in the frame. And he picked an awful filter…"
"At least his thumb isn't in the photo this time?" Rose offered optimistically.
"As cute as Lewis is we need to get changed!" James said, stomping his feet. "Hurry up!"
James had booked a double suite on the third floor for the afternoon. Sofia pushed past James the second he'd gotten the door open and made her way towards the bathroom.
"Fuck man, I'm not sharing a bed with you." Ben grumbled, surveying the layout of the room with disdain.
"You're such a brat." Rose teased, pinching Ben's cheek as she dumped her bag on the king bed.
"Ben we don't even have to sleep here. It's like a forty five minute drive home. I just booked the room so we can change and Sofia can hang out in here during the ceremony instead of having to suffer in the car." James said, hanging a garment bag in the hall closet.
Ben flopped down on one of the beds and sighed. "Well since the wedding is in two hours and there is a bed here, I'm obligated to take a nap. Any of you are welcomed to join me. Except you James, you kick in your sleep—"
James grabbed Ben by the collar of his polo and yanked him off of the bed. Ben yelped and swatted James' hands away, emitting what he (incorrectly) thought was a manly squeal.
"You take forever to get ready, so start now." James ordered. "Your hair alone takes a good half hour. And we have to get there early to find our seats."
Ben grumbled to himself and sulked towards the dresser to grab his backpack. "Fine, fine." He plopped down outside the bathroom, a petulant look on his face, waiting for Arianna and Lily to finish with their makeup. Sofia had taken his spot on the bed, her arm thrown over her eyes.
Rose glanced around the room before sitting down in the desk chair and retrieving her notebook from her backpack. She hadn't written anything in a while. Writing used to be one of the few activities she enjoyed, but she hadn't been able to find the time lately. Things were too chaotic, and she'd been waiting for things to settle before picking up her notebook and pen again. But maybe that was the wrong thing to do — writing had always been cathartic for her, something to do when things felt uncontrollable, something to make sense of everything. So maybe now — in the crowded hotel room, with James and Ben bickering in the background — she could come up with something.
Lily came out of the bathroom first, having changed into her dress — long, lilac and strapless — and finished touching up her makeup and hair. She leaned down to look over Rose's shoulder. "What are you working on?"
"Nothing." Rose said curtly, covering the notebook with her elbow.
"Okay. I'll leave you too it." Lily's mouth was quirked up into a half smile. Rose half expected her sister to ruffle her hair or snatch the notebook out of her hands, but Lily turned to her suitcase to find her shoes. Rose watched her sister tug her heels on while half-shouting, half-giggling at Arianna out of the corner of her eye. Lily seemed to be in a consistently good mood these days, and Rose couldn't quite pinpoint why. Maybe it was having Arianna for a friend, but it seemed like there was something else going on.
Rose touched her pen to a fresh sheet of paper and began to write, listening to the cacophony of shouting, swearing, and maniacal laughter from Ben as she did.
By noon, Mako was uncomfortably humid, but the sun had displaced most of the early-morning fog. Lewis and Laurel had walked along the beach, measuring salinity levels every couple hundred meters, and taking photos as they went. They'd made it about halfway around the island before stopping for lunch.
Lewis had finished his second sandwich when he spotted something by a patch of twiggy daisy bush
"Look, ironsand." Lewis squatted down beside the sliver of black sand. "I haven't seen any since I was in Wellington last summer…"
"Don't touch it; it's really hot out today." Laurel fanned herself. "You could burn yourself."
Lewis nodded and scraped some of the ironsand into a vial with a stick. "I was planning on testing the magnetite levels soon, so this is perfect! And look it's everywhere!"
He gestured grandly. Laurel regarded him cooly.
"Oh…sorry." Lewis whispered, ashamed and embarrassed.
"It's fine! Just please don't touch it…my brother touched it last summer and burned himself." Laurel said.
There was ironsand everywhere on the northern side of Mako. Lewis tried to avoid stepping on it and snapped some photos on his phone, planning on coming back to look at it later.
"I haven't seen any here in ages." Lewis said excitedly.
"Are you here a lot?" Laurel asked.
"Yeah. For, uh. Science."
Laurel quirked an eyebrow but didn't say anything for a long moment, before suggesting they move a little farther inland.
"There's a stream, according to the map." Laurel said. "Will looked at it for me and made notes. We should measure there and take some photos."
Lewis helped Laurel up from the bank and instantly regretted wearing sandals. The wooded centre of the island was difficult to navigate in proper shoes, but sandals were probably the worst footwear choice Lewis could have made. Five minutes in and his feet were already caked in dirt.
"I think you made the right call with those boots…" Lewis murmured. Laurel laughed and stepped in front of him.
The moon pool was a comfortable distance away from the stream, but Lewis was still nervous as he started to hear water running, the tell-tale sign they where leaving the mangrove forest and approaching the stream and waterfall. He knelt down by the stream and stuck the salinity probe in the stream, clutching the reader with his other hand. Laurel had pulled out her phone and carefully stepped towards the bank to take photos.
"Want some help?" Lewis asked in what he hoped wasn't a patronizing tone. "Salinity is much higher than we predicted, by the way."
Laurel nodded and passed Lewis her phone so he could take photos. She lowered herself to the ground to sit beside where Lewis was crouched over the side of the stream, the soles of her rain boots just touching the water.
"I guess it connects directly to the ocean, then." Laurel scratched her head. "I didn't think there were any caves that would allow that though. The map didn't show any underwater caves, at least..."
Lewis let out a nervous laugh. "Maybe there's one that no one has found?"
Laurel nodded. "How deep is the place where my foot is?"
"It's a pretty deep stream. Close to two metres at its shallowest?"
Laurel's brows furrowed and she went to pull her boots out of the steam, but couldn't seem to move. "What-"
It happened very quickly. The water rose around Laurel's legs and she was yanked into the stream in a way that seemed to defy the laws of physics and basic reason. Laurel's head bobbed up before Lewis could react, and suddenly the water around her seemed to foam. Lewis blinked, his mind racing, as the water bubbled and within seconds Lewis could see that Laurel had an orange tail.
But that wasn't what was weird. Lewis had seem many girls suddenly grown tails in water. The novelty of discovering someone was a mermaid had worn off. What caught his attention was that the water seemed to be sucking Laurel lower and lower, despite her attempts to fight the current. It was like a mini whirlpool had formed at the bottom of the stream, and despite Laurel's thrashing, she couldn't move. It only took a few moments for her to be pulled under entirely.
Lewis's mind was racing - should he jump in after her? Or go to the moon pool? Would she turn up there? But all his attempts at logical thinking were interrupted by an eerie, soft croon. He couldn't think, and immediately covered his ears with his hands, but that didn't help. Lewis could feel his legs giving out and he collapsed on the side of the stream, nearly hitting his head on a rock. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to drown out the sound, but found himself drifting out of consciousness.
The first floor of the hotel was packed. It took forever for Ben to make his way through the crowd and to find his seat in one of the banquet halls. Several hundred white chairs were packed into the room. Ben craned his neck to look up at the massive crystal chandelier. The ceiling was vaulted and adorned with an intricate, gold-leafed flower print.
Ben found their seats — in the back, which was exactly what he was expected. Just like the Council to toss them in the second to last row. Not that Ben had much interest in watching the boring ass wedding ceremony, but he was still kind of offended.
"Took me forever to find you." Rose exclaimed, coming over to sit beside him. Her dress was made of red tulle, with a sweetheart neckline. It came to her knees and was cinched at the waist with a pink ribbon. Ben felt his breath hitch a little.
"You look —" Rose treated him to an intense glare, cutting him off.
"What?" Ben snapped, a few seconds later. "I was going to say that you look very good, much better than any other girl here."
Or perhaps better than any girl had ever looked, to him at least. But he did not say that.
Arianna, James and Lily joined them a few moments later. Other guests came in, and Ben saw several people he (unfortunately) recognized from Council banquets and meetings. One of his ex-girlfriends was sitting a few rows ahead, and she kept looking over her shoulder and shooting daggers at Ben.
"So is everyone in here a vampire?" Rose said, bored.
"More or less." Ben grumbled. He was watching Arianna's mom, Alena, taking her seat in the third row. Katharina and Natalia were with her. Alena's honey blonde hair was done up in a neat chignon.
The ceremony was painfully boring. Ben watched Martha Campbell, Minerva's mother, come up the aisle. Minerva and the other bridesmaids were wearing light pink, strapless gowns with full skirts covered in tiny organza flowers. Michael Montgomery walked Marie down the aisle. Marie and Matthew Lockwood each took a special silver chalice — their family's chalice, filled with some kind of wine mixed with blood. Then they each drank from the other's chalice. Ben always found this part creepy. He'd seen the ritual performed nearly a twenty times over the years, but it still made his skin crawl each and every time.
"This is weird." Rose murmured beside him.
"Well, it's a vampire wedding. What do you expect?" Ben replied.
"I thought they were going to erotically drink blood from each other's neck's or something." Rose said.
Ben chuckled under his breath. Even James and Lily, the two people Ben expected to get the most out of the boring wedding, looked like they were struggling to fake interest. Arianna had long given up on watching the ceremony, and Ben could see she was playing Pokémon Go on her phone.
"Look, I got Jigglypuff!" Arianna said proudly and a notch too loud, holding up her phone as Matthew slide a silver ring on Marie's finger.
James put his face in his hands as people in the surrounding rows turned to look at them. Arianna seemed unfazed.
"Why do you care so much, James? Literally everyone was playing Pokémon Go!" Arianna moaned, one hand in Lily's, the other holding her phone.
James had (loudly) scolded Arianna about "disrupting" the wedding after everyone had gathered their bags from the hotel room and he'd returned the keys to the front desk.
Rose led the way out of the hotel towards the parking lot, a few paces ahead of the others. Sofia was waiting in the car, having been texted by James to head back to the parking lot a few minutes before the ceremony ended. She was hunched down in the backseat so she wouldn't be spotted by guests returning to their cars, huddled under a blanket with her iPad, watching Gossip Girl on Netflix.
"We're. At. A. Wedding!" James bit out, still not done with his lecture on Wedding Etiquette. "How would you feel if you were getting married and people were playing Pokémon Go?"
"Hey, when you guys get married, you should for sure hold it somewhere with rare Pokémon." Rose said casually, waiting for James to unlock the car.
Arianna's face fell, like she'd forgotten about the forced engagement, before lighting up again. "That's actually a really good idea…"
James unlocked the car, and Sofia popped up from the backseat.
"You're going to have to get into the trunk." Lily said after a moment. "They won't let us into the reception if they see you in the backseat…I think, at least."
James nodded. "Lily's right, Sofia. You're going to have to get into the trunk."
After fifteen minutes of intense arguing, eye-rolling and rearranging, Sofia got into the trunk while Lily, Rose, and Arianna sat uncomfortably in the backseat with Sofia's massive suitcase.
"THIS IS ABUSE." Sofia shrilled, curled up in the trunk.
"No it's not. You don't need to breathe." James sighed, hand on the top of the trunk door. "It's a fifteen minute drive. You can manage."
"We could disguise her somehow?" Ben mused from his new place in the passenger seat.
"No." James said flatly, climbing into the driver's seat and starting the car.
"Do you guys want to form some kind of betting pool for what the first dance song is going to be?" Ben said, craning his neck to look at the backseat. "My bet is on that song from Twilight."
"They picked "Everything" by Michael Bublé." James said confidently, staying close to the Brisbane River as the car's GPS dictated the way to the Lockwoods' mansion.
Arianna momentarily looked up from her phone to shake her head. "I'll put $20 on an Adele song."
James followed the river into Teneriffe, one of Brisbane's most expensive and prestigious suburbs. Rose had never found a reason to venture into Teneriffe even when dragged to Brisbane by Lily and her father. She scowled as they passed dozens of McMansions situated by the river, before James joined the line of cars in front of a massive, colonial-style mansion flanked by a collection of palm trees and meticulously groomed hedges.
After everyone's invitations were checked and a small man with a comically bad toupee glanced at the backseat, they climbed out of the car and James passed the keys off to the valet attendant.
"What about...you know..." Rose whispered as she tried to walk across the cobblestone driveway in heels.
"I'm going to go get her in a few minutes. I'll get my keys from the valet, say I forgot something in the trunk. Then when no one's around, I'll let Sofia out and she can go hide in her room." James said.
"...are you sure this has been thought out well?" Lily asked, looking very hesitant. "How do you know no one will be around when you let her out?"
James waved in the direction of the side of the house. "They're parking cars over there. It's starting to get dark out...I'm just going to have to wait until no one is there to let her out."
Lily looked at James dubiously. "This isn't one of your better plans..."
"Whatever, she's a vampire, not a dog. She can stay in the hot car for days." Ben shrugged. "And considering how annoying she's been, why don't we just let her hang out in the trunk for a while..."
James looked at his watch. "You guys go ahead. I'm going to let her out now..."
The Lockwoods' marble entryway was ornamented with a huge crystal chandelier that shone so brightly that Rose had to shield her eyes with her palm to get a good look at it.
"This is just absurd." She muttered, scanning the room. About fifty or so people were crammed in the entryway, dressed to the nines. Past a set of open French doors was the outside patio, which was now home to a white tent and hundreds of strands of fairy lights. Waiters were buzzing around carrying trays of finger food, and there were at least three bartenders stationed on the patio. There was a huge pool on the patio. Rose made a note to stay as far away from it as possible. She could spy a tennis court in the corner of the yard as well.
"I wouldn't eat any of the food." Arianna cautioned, grabbing Lily by the arm and dragging her onto the patio.
"You want some water?" Ben asked. "That's probably the only thing you can have. Maybe some orange juice if they're offering screwdrivers?"
Rose felt a little like a child, but nodded and let Ben walk her over to the bar.
James had gotten his keys from the valet after telling an elaborate lie about accidentally leaving his wedding gift in the backseat, even though he was pretty sure the valet attendant had seen Lily holding a masterfully wrapped gift when James had first passed his car keys off to him.
Cars were parked on the side of the driveway in a disorganized fashion, but thankfully possessing the shittiest car known to vampirekind paid off: James was able to locate his car amongst the dozens of shiny BMWs, new Lexuses, and identical Range Rovers in just a few seconds.
James glanced around to make sure no one was watching, before opening the trunk. Sofia jumped out and opened her mouth, no doubt to shout at him, but James slapped his palm over her lips before she could say anything.
"Be quiet!" He hissed. "You want to give yourself up because you couldn't resist yelling at me for leaving you in the car maybe five minutes longer than planned?"
That seemed to defuse Sofia, who let out a huff, brushed herself off, and stomped off towards the house, claiming that she could get in through a servant's entrance. Because of course the Lockwoods' house still had one of those.
James actually had forgotten a gift in the car, just not for the bride and groom. He dug through the mess of bags in the backseat of the car, searching for the tiny silver box. It had fallen out of the front pocket of his messenger bag, but had thankfully ended up tucked near Lily's bag, which James figured was significantly safer than it being anywhere near Ben's disgustingly dirty backpack or the disorganized disasters that were Arianna and Rose's purses.
James locked the car and tucked the box into his jacket pocket. He went back to the front of the house, returned his keys to the valet attendant in exchange for his ticket. Then he set off towards the backyard.
He could see the top of a huge white canopy against the backdrop of the sunset. As he got closer to the house, he spotted Minerva leaning against a eucalyptus tree near the hedges marking the end of the Lockwoods' expansive backyard. She was holding a half-empty champagne flute and staring off into the distance.
Minerva's head tuned slightly to look at James, who came to slouch beside her against the tree.
"Happy Birthday!" James exclaimed. "You were just who I was looking for."
Minerva blinked, surprised, as he pulled the silver box out of his suit pocket.
"I got you this. I hope it's the right size..."
Minerva removed the silk ribbon and pulled the lid off the little box. Inside was a silver ring with a small red stone.
"It isn't a ruby. Carnelian." James said quickly. "Your birthstone. Well, close, anyway."
Minerva looked at the ring, her hands shaking a little.
"Come on, try it on." James urged, gingerly taking the box out of Minerva's shaking hands and holding out the ring. "Which finger?"
Minerva held out her right hand and James slide the ring onto her middle finger first, but it was a bit too large. He moved it to her right ring finger, where it fit.
"Thank you." She said softly, avoiding meeting James's eyes.
"You're welcome. Having an alright day?"
Minerva brushed a stand of her dark hair out of her face. Her hair was braided and wrapped around her head in some fancy up-do James couldn't name. Errant pieces of hair were falling out the braid and into her face, likely from the humidity. James was sure Ben's gelled locks were melting in the heat as well.
"Yeah, it's been okay..." Minerva trailed off and looked up at the eucalyptus. "I got my power."
"On your 18th birthday?" James said. "Wow, you're really...exact. Special. That's so rare. What is it?"
It took Minerva a long moment to respond. "It's lame."
"No magical, vampiric power is lame." James said in disbelief.
It was still somewhat light outside, but Minerva stuck out her hand and curled her fingers inwards towards her palm. A small, yellow ball of light appeared.
"I'm a vampire flashlight." Minerva grumbled.
"No it's not, I don't even know if I can, like, throw the light at someone. Or if I can only keep it in my palm? What am I supposed to do with this? Other than be a flashlight-"
Martha Campbell was struggling across the grass in her long dress and heels. Minerva visually flinched when her mother called her name.
"His Mrs. Montgomery." James said hesitantly. He had always associated Martha was the dying Campbell family and hadn't even known she had married into the Montgomery clan until he'd met Minerva and made the connection.
"Oh. James Wood."
James took a few steps forward to greet Minerva's mother, but Minerva grabbed his arm and kept him by the tree.
"Minerva, you need to come inside." Martha said sternly. "Soon. Once you're...finished here."
Minerva didn't say anything as Martha turned on her heel and headed back towards the canopy.
"What was that about?" James demanded once Mrs. Montgomery was out of earshot.
"She's just..." Minerva fiddled with her ring. "She was going to harass you, like Maria did."
"Well I looked really rude, and now she's probably going to talk to my dad."
Minerva snorted. "She wouldn't dare. And your dad isn't here. He couldn't make the ceremony, and he only gave a tentative RSVP to the reception."
James stiffened at the idea of his dad showing up for even a couple moments.
"Just...don't encourage her." Minerva said after a few moments.
"What does that mean?!" James said. "I'm trying to be polite! I'm here at this wedding, and I didn't have to come! My dad didn't demand Ben and I come, we're suffering through it because I thought we were supposed to be friends. And if we're going to be friends, I can't be rude to your mom."
"You don't get it-"
"Get what? That she wants to pair us up? Well, I'm already engaged! And I was going to tell her that so she'd stop bothering you-"
"It doesn't matter!" Minerva shouted, waving her arms in the air, the movement sloshing the remaining champagne in her flute to the ground. "Look, I have to go inside and see what she wants. I'll see you later."
But Minerva had already headed back towards the house, moving at a remarkable speed through the grass despite her long dress and heels. James stayed by the eucalyptus for a while longer, desperately wanting a drink.
"Rosie." Ben said, dipping down slightly to brush his lips purposefully against Rose's ear, voice husky. He didn't miss how Rose shuddered a little.
"What do you want?" Rose asked, half teasingly, half irritatedly. She'd been standing by herself in the corner drinking sparkling water out of a wine glass with a straw when Ben had found her again. He'd gone off to order a glass of type B mixed with some vodka, before deciding maybe he should wait to drink until after they'd found the library.
"Want to go look for…you know." Ben cocked an eyebrow conspiratorially. "James is handling the Sofia thing and Lily and Arianna are off being…them, so I figured now would be the best time."
"Oh. Right." Rose said. Ben held out his arm and Rose grabbed his bicep, letting Ben lead her towards the main staircase.
"It's way down at the end of the hall…" Ben said, pulling out his phone and glancing at the photos he had taken of the building plans.
"Left or right?" Rose asked as they climbed the stairs. Ben glanced behind his shoulder and down at the finely clad guests to see if anyone spotted them. "Left."
They slunk along the left side of the hallway, which alone had more doors and rooms then were in Rose's entire house. The further down the hall they went, the softer the music and chatter from downstairs became, and for the first time all night Rose felt at ease.
"Sofia's room…" Ben said, pointing at the silver plague on one of the doors and then back to his phone. "It's the second to last door on the left…right there."
The door in question was thinner than the other doors in the hallway. Rose would have assumed it was a linens closet if she didn't know better. Ben turned the handle, which moved slightly but didn't open the door.
"Locked." Rose grumbled.
"Rosie, I'm an expert lock-picker." Ben said, crouching down so he was eye-level with the handle. He produced a wire clipper, a bobby pin, and a small pair of pliers from his suit pocket.
"This looks incredibly suspicious." Rose said as Ben went to work on the door.
"I promise, it won't take long-" The door swung open at the moment and Ben bounced up triumphantly, tucking his tools back into his pocket.
Like Ben had predicted, a narrow, wooden staircase was revealed. Rose looked at the ceiling for a light. There wasn't one.
"Don't worry." Ben pulled up the flashlight app on his phone and shone it on the staircase. The stairs looked significantly older and more dangerous in the light. Rose shut the door behind them and followed Ben down the stairs, which were quite loud. Rose winced a little as they made their way down. If someone was in the hallway, there was no way they wouldn't hear the creaking.
They reached the bottom of the staircase after several agonizing, anxious minutes to come to a small door. Ben turned the handle, and they stepped into the very dark room. Rose fumbled for a light, and her fingers grasped the switch after a few moments of searching. The room was illuminated, revealing walls and walls of very old looking books, several rolling ladders and long oak tables and chairs lined with emeralite lamps.
"It really is just like a library..." Rose said, impressed.
"Look for council meeting notes." Ben said, approaching the book stacks with the kind of enthusiasm for libraries Rose had only known Lily to exhibit.
Rose wandered towards one of the ladders and mounted the first step, careful to look at the spines on each shelf as she climbed past. A row of spiral bound volumes caught her attention. She grabbed one and glanced at the cover. MEETING NOTES, 1921 [REBOUND 2002] was embossed on the front page in gold.
They located the correct year and brought the book over to one of the oak tables. Ben flipped through the notes.
"June 1982, right?"
Rose nodded. Ben came to the June meeting notes and read aloud: "Rogue mermaid attacked and murdered Isabel D. Quinn...autopsy inconclusive... Isaac J. Wood witness to crime...suspected attacker red-haired mermaid or siren. Mermaid Council refusing to cooperate with investigation, claiming they were uninvolved...all cordial contact with Mermaid Council henceforth discontinued...our contact with the sirens had nothing to contribute to investigation...Mermaid Council refuses to reveal names of other witnesses, Mr. Wood claims at least three other mermaids were present."
Ben flipped through the rest of the book. "There's no mention of your mom by name...did they ever even know it?"
"If they did...wouldn't they have gotten rid of her?"
Ben considered. "What day were your mom and Elliot killed? If the Council found out who she was, they might have ordered my dad to get rid of her. It would make sense for them to send him. He was there, so he could identify her. He faked her death to hide her from the Council."
They pulled down the volume from the year of Violet and Elliot's supposed murders.
"Look, minutes from April 2006. Someone from the Mermaid Council gave her up." Rose said, tapping the page with her finger. "Elisabeth said they drained my mom's powers, and I guess that's why they didn't tell the Vampire Council her name. Because she'd already been punished. But someone...someone thought that wasn't enough."
"It says they had an anonymous tip." Ben said, skimming the page. "Why change their mind after more than twenty years?"
If someone hadn't given her up, Isaac wouldn't have faked her death, and she would still be here. She'd still be normal.
"I don't know." Rose said after a long moment of silence. "But I'm going to find out who, and why."
Sofia had been hiding out in her bedroom for three hours. She had missed the ceremony, but that was probably for the best. Still, Matthew would be disappointed. Or at least she hoped he would. Even though they were half siblings, Matthew and Jewel had never treated her any differently than they did each other. Jewel could be quite cold to others, but she was genuinely nice to Sofia. Once, at a Council event, a very drunk Isaac Wood had made a joke about Beatrice's infidelity and had mocked Sofia to her face. Jewel had told him off, an offence great enough that Isaac Wood threatened to marry James off to Arianna instead of Jewel. This delighted Alena Cromwell but sent the Lockwoods into distress. The last Sofia had heard, Jewel has all but throwing herself at James, trying to win him over.
She had changed into a short, dark plum colored dress. The skirt had thick ruffles, and a cut out between two panels of thin, flowery lace that showed off her bare back. She didn't even bother trying to tame her hair; it usually just did what it wanted. It wasn't worth the hassle.
Sofia stared at her phone, waiting for the 'all clear' text James or Ben had promised to send if they spotted Beatrice and Blake Lockwood alone in a semi-private area. It hadn't come yet. In the time since the wedding started she had painted her nails a shade of dark grey, applied a full face of makeup and caught up on all of the issues of Dolly that had piled up in her absence.
Finally, her phone lit up. She jumped up from her bed and threw open her bedroom door. Her five inch heels clacked against the marble flooring as she made her way down the stairs and onto the patio. Her parents were sitting at their designated table, sipping champagne spiked with blood and bobbing their heads to the music. The rest of the wedding party was distracted by the first dance. Sofia grimaced when she heard Michael Buble's "Everything" blaring from the DJ's speakers. What a cliché choice for the first dance. It was probably her mother's idea.
Sofia came to stand in front of her parents, and put her hands on her hips, legs apart, shoulders back, hoping she looked imposing. "Hello."
Blake Lockwood smiled and set his drink on the table. "Ah, we've been expecting you."
Sofia's face fell. "You have?"
There was a pause. Blake's eyes didn't leave Sofia's face. She felt her confidence fading more and more as each second passed. Finally, he turned his gaze on Sofia's mother. "Of course. I told you she'd come, Beatrice."
Beatrice regarded Sofia coolly. Sofia's eyes raked over her mother. Despite the resemblance, she felt no similarity or kinship. Her mother was light where she was dark, cool and collected where Sofia was tense and erratic.
There was no point in dancing around the elephant in the room with formalities or small talk. If anything, Sofia was straight forward. "Why didn't you tell me about Jewel and why have my credit cards been canceled?"
"If we had told you about Jewel you would have been distraught and ran away." Blake said simply.
"No I wouldn't have."
Blake raised an eyebrow. "We all know that she was the only thing keeping you here."
Sofia's throat felt scratchy. She clenched her fists, forcing herself not to cry. Don't give him any more power, she thought, her eyes starting to water. Plus, your mascara and eyeliner will run.
Blake locked eyes with Sofia. Sofia's nails dug harder into her palms as he treated her to an intense, focused glare. "Now, Sofia. As I'm sure you can understand Jewel's death has put our family is a tough situation. Arianna Cromwell and James are now betrothed, though your sister spent years trying to ensure that she would be able to take her rightful place as James's wife. It would be wrong to let her hard work go to waste, wouldn't it?"
Sofia nodded feebly. Blake smiled, accomplished.
"And now, to make matters worse, Alena Cromwell has proposed that Katharina be wed to Benjamin. This violates the original plan that was agreed upon – Jewel with James and Arianna with Benjamin, or one Lockwood with one brother, and one Cromwell with the other. Alena wants both of her daughters to marry the Woods."
"Where are you going with this?"
"Don't interrupt. Where I'm going with this is that now we have a use for you. You are the only eligible girl in our family even close to Benjamin's age. Win Benjamin's favor and we can sway his future engagement in our favor. This will even the playing field with the Cromwells and prevent a family crisis."
Sofia gasped. She couldn't marry Ben. She didn't even want to picture being engaged to him. James, maybe. At least he was tall and had good hygiene. But Ben?
"And what if I don't?" She asked, voice shaky.
Blake smirked. "I don't see the point in keeping around things that are no longer useful."
Sofia froze, contemplating what Blake had said. She knew he'd been waiting for a legitimate excuse to eliminate her for years. And now he had one. If she didn't comply…
"I'll do it." Sofia bit out. Blake nodded.
"Your credit cards will be reactivated, and you are welcome to use our house in Queensland while you court Benjamin. I can arrange for some of your things to be moved there tomorrow."
Sofia nodded and bowed her head slightly, still shaky. Her hands felt clammy. "Thank you, Mr. Lockwood."
Blake nodded. "You are dismissed, Sofia." He waved his hand. "Leave my wife and I to enjoy ourselves and go have a drink."
Arianna caught sight of the entire confrontation between Sofia Lockwood and her parents. She couldn't believe what she had just heard. How could someone say those things to someone, let alone their own child.
Arianna was holding onto her martini glass full of a strawberry and AB positive blood concoction the Montgomery's had swarming around on trays that their catering service was supplying. She had lost count of how many she had.
Walking around the crowd of people, the heels of her shoes click clacking against the cobblestone patio in which the majority of the wedding reception was taking place, Arianna began to take in the dizzying world around her.
Courtesy of the alcohol and blood that was coursing through her body, everything seemed even more heightened; like her eyes were one of those five time magnified mirrors that could spot every blemish and ugly mark that was embedded on and around your face.
"Shit," Arianna said under her breath, when she caught sight of her mother.
Alena Cromwell could be seen stroking her arm up and down on Isaac Wood's built strong arm. Her blonde hair was in a tight up-do that made her face seem like it was in pain. But of course as her mother always said, "Beauty is pain."
Arianna rolled her eyes at her Mum. Of course she would be flirting with him. Chances are Alena Cromwell didn't even like him, she was just power hungry as usual, always looking out for herself...no one else. Arianna found it best if she could find a way to sneak past her Mother.
Seeing another tray full of various other blood and alcohol related drinks in the opposite direction in which her mum was currently standing, she dashed for it.
It was then Arianna saw her.
Sofia Lockwood hunched in a corner, her knees protruding upright out of her long flowy dress she was wearing. It was very evident that she had been crying, what with her makeup smeared so much. Arianna thought she resembled some strange raccoon that could be found in the wild.
Grabbing two drinks in hand from the tray, Arianna made her way to Sofia.
"Want one?" Arianna said to the crying dark haired beauty as she stood in front of Sofia dangling one of the pink liquid drinks in front of her. Arianna produced a pearly white smile, hoping that would lift Sofia's spirits, or at least make her smile in return.
Instead the exact opposite occurred.
Sofia tucked her knees closer to her body, her dark magenta dress becoming a wrinkled mess in the process. Lowering her head to the ground, Sofia stated, "Go away!"
Arianna just stared at the sad girl before her, taking another sip of her 'blood-tini'. She knew she was getting drunk (or at the very least "blood intoxicated") from the way her facial features such as her forehead felt numb to the touch.
Not taking Sofia's harsh response seriously, Arianna carefully set down the delicate glasses on the brick flooring and then slowly maneuvered herself down on the ground as well, her back brushing up against the rough siding of the house. Her blonde wavy curls were probably now smashed and unsightly looking but Arianna didn't care. She deserved a night where she wasn't constantly worrying about her physical appearance.
Was she going to let her Mother's constant nagging and belittling get to her? No she wasn't.
Arianna nudged Sofia's shoulder playfully, again trying to see if she could cheer Sofia up from the argument with her parents. Arianna laughed softly to herself. Yep, the bloody alcohol was definitely having an affect on her. Good, Arianna thought.
Sofia lifted her head up from her knees and immediately yelled, "STOP! Just leave me alone."
Arianna had to admit she was a bit taken aback. She knew Sofia could act rather bitchy from time to time, but this...this was cold.
"I'm just trying to help" Arianna looked down at her now half-empty glass and her light pink manicured hands that was tightly grasping said drink. "I saw what happened with your parents...I'm sorry." She kept her head firmly on the ground, afraid of the reaction that would come from Sofia.
Arianna raised her glass up to her lips and sipped a sweet mouthful of the tangy drink. She could never describe to non-vampires how blood tasted. For Arianna, she had her favorite blood type, but it was Type AB that had that almost drunken quality about it that vampires seemed to crave. It was often the replacement for alcohol when vampires wanted it, but on rare occasions (such as this wedding reception) it was mixed in alcohol itself...which was sometimes quite dangerous for those daredevil young vampires such as Ben or herself.
Arianna saw Sofia try her hardest to conceal the fact that she had been crying by wiping the tears away with her hands. But it did no use, the makeup residue that was still present was obvious enough.
"Well just stop! I don't need some bleach blonde vampire bitch feeling sorry for me."
Arianna knew she shouldn't show reaction; according to her mother it was wrong for young women to show weakness. Instead she clasped her nails deep into the grooves of a piece of brick that was by now protruding up from the ground because of the hold Arianna had on it.
There. If she just put all the pain and hate into an inanimate object or something meaningless, it would make her feel better right? Wrong.
"Why are you even here talking to me? What do you think you're gonna do? Say you know how I feel?" Sofia continued. She hastily pushed a stray black hair out her eyes. All of her attention was on Arianna. What was once sad looking and full of tears, her eyes now seemed to express anger and annoyance.
Why did Arianna have to even go over here? Because she was a good person, that's why.
"You don't know how I feel. Because nothing bad has ever happened to you!"
Arianna dug her fingernails deeper into the stone; she knew dirt would be stuck underneath her nails for days because of this.
"Stop," Arianna meekly muttered.
But Sofia wasn't finished. Not even close. "Hmm, did your parents cut you off and practically disown you? No." Sofia brought her ruby red polished hands to her chin as if pretending to be deep in thought. "Was your sister brutally murdered and you were the last to find out?"
"Stop!" Arianna said a little louder. "You don't even know me!"
Sofia positioned herself closer to Arianna, scooting herself near her as if she was a fox slyly trying to catch her prey. Sofia raised her hands dramatically. "Why of course I know you! You're Arianna Cromwell. You're in one of the top families in the Council. You're engaged to marry the perfect James Wood. Your mother, Alena, is perfect at everything she does, and you're like her little clone." Sofia glanced up and down at Arianna's appearance. "You're—"
But Arianna cut her off. "GAY!"
She couldn't listen anymore to someone that was trying to tell her who she was, she did that already with her mother. And so she said it. She just blurted it out right then and there. Maybe it was the alcohol, blood, or combination of the two. Maybe it was the fact that she was tired of keeping it in all the time, pretending to be someone she wasn't 24/7 just to please others.
She could feel her fangs protruding out of the gum lines of her teeth out of anger, sadness, and probably the heaps amount of alcohol she had swirling around in her system by now.
Now Sofia was the one that was taken aback. "What?"
"You heard me." She glanced around the patio to see if she spotted her mum anywhere. She couldn't find her. Arianna lowered her voice regardless if her mother was around or not. She certainly didn't want anyone else to overhear this conversation.
She whisper-shouted, making sure to keep a strong inflection in her voice. "I'm gay. Lesbian. Pussy licker; hell why don't you just get it over with and call me a dyke!" Arianna looked to see what sort of reaction Sofia was making.
Her face was completely emotion-less. But not because she just wasn't affected by this news, more along the lines that she wasn't expecting it.
Regardless, Arianna continued. "But do I get to be happy and marry the woman of my dreams? No, I have to marry James, my cousin, just to make my mother happy and keep the Council from freaking out. If I ruin this engagement by 'coming out', I will ruin my family's name and my Mother will treat me even worse then usual."
Arianna wasn't holding anything back. It all came out like spewing lava that was rolling down a volcano. "Everyday I pretend to be someone I'm not. I have to lie to my family constantly. I have to hold back all the feelings I have for my best friend aside because," she let out a fake gasp for dramatics, "I'm supposed to be straight."
At this time Sofia was looking at her hands, clearly unsure of what to say or even do.
"Sometimes I get so good at all these secrets and lies," Arianna yelled. She could slowly feel a tear roll down her cheek. "That I almost end up believing them."
Arianna took both drinks in hand (one glass now empty) and got up off the dirty cold ground.
Because Sofia was still sitting down, Arianna felt like she was giant in comparison. She proudly looked down and into Sofia's brown eyes and said, "So no, you don't know 'who I am'. And you know what Sofia Lockwood? You can go to hell." It was then that Arianna threw the contents of one of the drinks all over Sofia's face.
But did she care? Hell no. Arianna marched in the opposite direction of the Lockwood's outside patio.
She could have sworn she heard a shocked gasp coming from Sofia's direction, but she didn't dare look back.
Rose wasn't sure if she would call the trip to the library a success: she felt more confused and angry than before, but she also felt a little closer to finding her mother. Ben was struggling to lock the door once they were back in the hallway, insisting that if he left it unlocked someone would be suspicious and start asking questions, when they heard a symphony of voices headed in their direction.
"Shit, someone's probably giving a house tour." Ben grumbled, finally getting the door to lock.
Rose looked around frantically, and spied Sofia's open door. She grabbed Ben and dragged him into the room, just as a group of well-dressed vampires holding champagne flutes and martini glasses rounded the corner.
She could hear them whispering and giggling while approaching Sofia's dark room, looking at Ben and then back around the pitch-black room in panic.
"Kiss me." Ben whispered, his hand moving to cup her cheek as he stared down at her, his eyes dark.
Rose kissed him once, softly, before pulling back, her heartbeat fluttering to a near stop. Ben moved his hand to her waist to hold her close and brushed his lips against hers. She could make out couple heads peering around the door frame, and then a scoffing sound and muttering about hormonal teenagers followed by several high-pitched giggles and a couple of deep chuckles.
Ben pulled back and touched Rose's face, again, his eyes dark, fingers trembling slightly.
He let out a shaky breath. "I—"
She cut him off by kissing him again, this time more intensely, her hands fisting in his suit jacket, while his hands gently moved up her sides.
The light suddenly switched on and Sofia stood in the doorway, a disgusted look on her face.
Sofia threw her head back and sighed. "Why. Jesus, what have I done to deserve this?"
"I—I'm going to go." Ben said, disentangling himself from Rose and sliding past Sofia.
Rose felt miserable then, standing in Sofia's room as Ben ran away from her, for once, and not the other way around. She wondered if this was how he'd felt those times when she'd pushed him away before, dejected, rejected. She nearly collapsed on the side of Sofia's bed.
Sofia's face and hair were damp and she was holding a fluffy white hand towel in one hand. She patted her face dry and ran the towel through her hair before acknowledging Rose again. "I basically got kicked out of the reception. Wanna watch a movie?"
She motioned to the TV in the corner, which was larger than the flatscreen in Rose's family's living room.
Rose considered, her heart still beating fast and her head swirling. "Sure. Why not? I don't really want to go back downstairs anyway."
Ben tried to walk out of the Lockwood's house as casually as possible. Even though anyone could come and go as they please into the lower level of the house, for Ben it felt like he was committing a sin or something by doing so. Only minutes ago he was upstairs rummaging with Rose through classified meeting minutes trying to find something in the Lockwood's hidden Council library that would lead them to Violet.
Sure he's done menacing things in the past, but this one seemed different, wrong even.
And after all that, he'd kissed Rose. Sure, it was a fakeout makeout, but Ben knew he shouldn't have done it.
Trying to let him and the events that occurred up there behind him and took a deep breath and walked around the outdoor reception area to see if he could see any of his other friends...or at least get his hands on a drink or two.
Making his way across the grassy area to where the drinks were held, it didn't take long for Arianna's presence to come into focus in his eyes.
She was trying to get a pitcher full of red liquid (most likely blood, the type unknown) into a plastic cup. The only problem was her hand that held the cup was shaking madly as well as her balance kept tittering to and fro.
Yep, she's drunk, Ben thought to himself. He brought his hands up to his face and slowly rolled them down his face in annoyance. "Here we go again," Ben thought to himself.
It wasn't that Arianna wasn't fun to be around when she was drunk or had a few pints of Type AB, she was...at times. Other times, she was what one might call an 'emotional drunk'. This was especially concerning him now since just days before Arianna had drank all of the Woods' vodka and Type O blood. If this got anymore out of hand after tonight, Ben would have to confront her about it.
But for now, Ben briskly walked to the refreshments table where Arianna was.
"Need any help?" Ben asked.
Arianna looked up, her eyes widening in surprise when she saw Ben. "BEN, HEY!" She smiled big and bright, nodding her head very fast and quick.
Ben took a hold of the pitcher and cup and quickly poured a decent amount of blood into it and handed it to Arianna. "Here you go, madam."
Arianna laughed as if Ben's 'joke' was the funniest thing on the planet.
Continuing to glance up and down at Arianna's appearance, for the most part it seemed that Arianna was okay. Drunk off her ass, but stable enough.
The curls in her hair were a little dishelved but her dress was still on and there was no trace of vomit anywhere on her so that was a good sign.
"Where have you been all night? It's like I haven't seen you in ages." Arianna slurred every word, grabbed a hold of Ben's shoulder with her free hand and jostled him slightly.
Ben could have sworn he saw her stumble slightly, but it could have been the fact that he could hardly see. The only source of light were tiny strings of lights that were placed throughout the entire perimeter of the Lockwood's.
"Oh you know...just around." Ben avoided eye contact with her, in case she picked up on any weird vibes that he was perhaps giving off.
Arianna just stared at Ben, her eyes glazed like; she reminded Ben of a porcelain doll she was standing so odd.
"You okay?" he asked, drinking his own cup of AB he got for himself a few moments okay.
"Never better, Benny!" Arianna yelled, springing towards Ben faster then a dog ran for a treat.
She held onto him so tightly, Ben thought he was going to die by suffocation. "Oh, I love you Benny. You've helped me so much over the years." she nuzzled her head underneath his chin, resting it perfectly on his chest. "I really like you."
Ben couldn't help but chuckle to himself. "Yep, don't mention it. Um, thanks." He hesitantly patted her on the head. Pat. Pat.
Even though it seemed that Arianna would never let go, she eventually retreated away from Ben and continued to sip on her cup of AB blood.
Ben noticed it had only taken her a few minutes to down the entire red solo plastic cup.
Once finished, she wiped her mouth clean with her arm, sending what blood residue that was resting on her upper lip to her dress.
Ben knew he didn't want to get stuck babysitting Arianna for the rest of the night. So he grabbed a hold of Arianna's hand, which felt clammy to the touch and made his way towards the hoards of people closer towards the Lockwood's house.
"Let's try and find Lily for ya," Ben said, whispering into Arianna's ear because of the loud Ke$ha song that was currently being blasted through the DJ's speakers.
Arianna's expression immediately matched that of a little girl going to meet a Disney princess, jumping up and down with excitement (rather drunkenly in Arianna's case), flailing her arms about and smiling yet again that stupid thousand watt smile.
He lead Arianna further towards the crowd.
"Maybe she'll deal with you," Ben said to himself through gritted teeth.
Still holding onto Arianna's hand tightly, Ben led Arianna through the bustling crowds of people throughout the decent sized dance floor.
The Lockwoods blocked off a large section of their already massive brick paved patio for an adequate sized dance floor, complete with DJ and amplified speakers. Even though the majority of the younger attendees of the wedding were in the second blocked off area located in the Lockwood's living room, there was something about the outdoor setting that made even Ben find it elegant and sweet.
Strings of lights were looped through several poles located every ten feet in a large rectangle shape. The lights had cast a soft shadow of the people dancing and the trees swaying from the brisk wind.
Even though the music was a dancey, upbeat Kelly Clarkson song, seeing the multicolor lights from the DJ booth move like a fireworks display at varying degrees and the people swaying back and forth to the bass pumping beat, it seemed to calm Ben.
He was able to stop and take a minute to not worry about the chaos that was his life. The fact that everything he touches turns to shit. The death of Constance. His relationship with James. He hoped that whatever was happening with Rose wouldn't burst into flames as well.
It didn't take long before Ben recognized Lily's straight golden blonde hair in the midst of the party goers. Her back was to Arianna and himself. Her long hair stuck to the lilac colored strapless dress that snuggly fit her thin body.
The second Arianna recognized it was Lily she immediately let go of Ben's hand and embraced Lily in a over the shoulder bear hug.
"LILY!" Arianna yelled, whilst hugging her tightly. "I haven't seen you at all during this party! How are you?"
Lily shot Ben a quizzical look as if to say what's wrong with her?
Ben just shrugged his shoulders as if he didn't know nor care.
Once Arianna released Lily from her death grip, she glanced up and down at Lily's ensemble.
Unlike Arianna's slightly askew drunken self, Lily looked as if she had just arrived at this party; her dress appeared to be that clean and proper. She reached out to tuck a stray piece of Lily's straight blonde hair behind her ear.
"You look really pretty tonight!" Arianna said to Lily, smiling with her eyes and all.
Lily couldn't help but smile back, Arianna always seemed to have that effect on her.
At was at this moment that Ben cleared his throat for attention. Neither girl glanced in his direction.
"Well, I see where I'm wanted." He started walking away from the two blondes, but paused in between the two. "Have fun you two." As he continued to leave the two girls to themselves he whispered in Arianna's ear, "But not too much fun."
Walking away from the girls but still in Arianna's eyesight he playfully winked in Arianna's direction.
Seeing this, Arianna immediately reacted by shaking her head and waving her hands horizontally. "Stop!" She quickly clasped her hand over her mouth realizing she said that out loud.
"Stop what?" Lily turned her head to try and see just what Arianna was looking at.
But Ben was gone and Arianna was left looking like an idiot.
"N-nothing," Arianna slurred.
As if on cue, Arianna's favorite Rihanna song came on; she recognized the techno style beats instantly.
She immediately grabbed a hold of Lily's hands. They were soft to the touch, unlike Arianna's dry, sticky fingers.
"OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS SONG! Dance with me?" Arianna asked rather loudly, partly because of the music, partly because of the alcohol.
Lily couldn't help but smile at the cute way Arianna got so excited over such a little thing as a song. "How could I not?" she responded.
The two began to sway along to the music, forgetting that anyone else was around them. Not Ben, not Rose, or even that Arianna was supposed to be marrying James.
Arianna tilted her head back and thought of how perfect everything was in this very moment. Here she was dancing along to her favorite song, with her favorite girl...friend. Girlfriend. Friend girl? The two words confused her right now. Regardless, she was just happy that she met someone like Lily. The two brought out the best in each other.
She noticed Lily was jumping up and down and singing along to the popular song. "It's the way I'm feeling, I just can't denyyyy."
Arianna chimed in and jumped around like a maniac with her. "But I've gotta let it goooo." Little did Lily know how true these lyrics were to her right now.
The two belted out the chorus and grabbed each other's hands and spun each other around.
A genuine laugh escaped from Arianna as she nearly tripped on a cup that was on the ground.
Lily grabbed Arianna's shoulder to hold her steady.
As the song continued Lily wrapped her arms around Arianna's neck, the touch of Lily's hands on such a sensitive area sent shivers down her spine. But she liked it. It felt right even.
Not wanting to get too touchy feely too fast, Arianna simply placed her hands in the exact same area as Lily's: her neck.
Who knew how long the two swayed on the dance floor. It got to the point where they were hardly even dancing, more just standing in place. They probably looked weird being the only two people dancing slowly to such an upbeat song, and let alone also being two girls
Normally that was something that would bother Arianna. She would think about all the things people would say behind her back, all the weird looks she would get in the process. But whether it be the alcohol, adrenalin rush or the fact that she was staring into the sapphire blue eyes of her favorite person, she didn't seem to care about anything other then Lily.
While locking eyes with Lily and continuing to dance along to the music with her it was then that she began to daydream. To think about walking into the park holding her hand, going to school and being there waiting for her after every class. Eventually being the first person she saw in the morning and the last person she saw when she closed her eyes. She wanted that. Oh how ever so much.
But instead of living out this beautiful fairytale of hers, Arianna had instead agreed to marry James, regardless of not only her relation to James but also the fact that she would never be able to reciprocate her feelings for him; or let alone with any man for that matter. She just didn't understand it.
Before Arianna knew it, the song was over and a Christina Perri song was the replacement.
Arianna felt Lily unwrap her arms around her, her fingers brushing through her blonde curls while doing so.
"Well, that was fun," Lily said out of breath.
But Arianna still hadn't moved from her position. Her arms were still interlocked aroundLily's neck, her eyes burying into Lily's.
"Arianna? The song's over. You wanna get some water or something?" Lily asked. She noticed Arianna was using Lily to practically stay upright.
But Arianna didn't say anything in return. She couldn't, not really. It was like she was in her own bizarre dream where anything could happen.
Well if this was a dream that means she could do whatever she wanted right? She could say anything, do anything.
Arianna kept hearing someone say her name. It was said in a variety of tones. Questioning, curious, concerned, you name it. But it didn't matter.
Neither did the disorientating setting around her. Everything moved to and fro, she couldn't see the difference between the ground or the sky.
But there was something she could see. Lily. She knew what she wanted to do.
And if this was a dream, she could kiss her right? No one would find out.
She slowly moved closer towards Lily. There it was again, Arianna's name being said.
It also felt like someone was trying to jolt her away from Lily, like the mysterious person didn't want the kiss to occur.
So Arianna proceeded further. She cupped one of her hands onto Lily's cheek and forcefully brought her lips to hers.
To Arianna the kiss was full of passion. Everything that she felt towards this beautiful girl was in this one measly kiss.
She knew she was applying too much pressure to Lily's soft pink lips, but that just went to show how much she cared about her.
Arianna knew that this kiss would never be able to happen in reality, so why not make it count in her dream?
But suddenly while in the midst of kissing her crush, she felt all the blood rush to her forehead. She knew what was happening. Arianna was turning.
She removed her lips and hand off Lily so fast it was as if she was made out of molten lava.
Someone said "What. Was. That. For?" in front of her. Each word paused because of shock. Arianna figured it had to be Lily.
But that wasn't Arianna's concern at the moment. That fact that Arianna was unwillingly transitioning into a vampire was. Everything happened so fast. Her eyes had changed, becoming more in focus and to others a darker shade then normal, almost blood-like. She felt her two front canines protrude out, revealing two white pointy sharp fangs. And most importantly, the smell of blood...everywhere, especially right in front of her.
"Arianna, are you okay?" she knew it was Lily, she recognized her soft voice anywhere. Lily placed her hand in hers concerned, but this just made matters worse.
"Don't!" was all Arianna could muster.
She had to leave the area right now. So she walked away from Lily without an explanation, in hopes of finding a safe place for her to calm down and de-vamp.
Lily could still be heard behind her, obviously having no clue what was happening to Arianna at the moment.
She must be so scared, Arianna thought to herself. She felt sorry for this dream Lily. She had just kissed her and then gone all Dracula on her.
Fortunately, the huge crowd that was surrounding Arianna forced the two blondes to be separated.
It would be nearly impossible for Lily to follow me now, Arianna thought.
After what seemed a few minutes, she had walked to a secluded tree that no one had seemed to be at. Perfect. Resting her hand on the rough bark of the tree, she breathed in and out in huge gasps.
The blood rushed to her forehead even more so now. She knew her body needed blood, human blood, in order for this all to go away. But she knew that couldn't be done.
Arianna never wanted to kill let alone feed on any innocent person. No one deserved that pain. The only person that did was herself. For being the way that she was.
The only time this even happened was when her sexual desires took over.
Arianna continued to breathe in and out. In 1, 2, 3. Out 1, 2, 3.
She felt around her gums to see if fangs were still present. They were.
"Shit," she whispered to herself.
It was then she felt someone behind her. "Arianna."
It was a male voice. One that Arianna recognized. Ben.
She saw him move closer to her.
He placed his strong hands on her shoulders, moving his face closely in front of her own, inspecting the vampire attributes Arianna now had.
"Arianna," he said her name again, this time more worried. "Not again."
She tried to lower her hand in shame, but Ben held her firmly to her chin, forcing her to stare into his chestnut brown eyes.
An idea suddenly occurred to her. Perhaps her vampire form would reverse back to normal if she kissed someone she was supposed to kiss. A man. Ben was a man...sort of.
Wasting no time, Arianna smashed her lips on his. She could feel tiny hairs prickling her upper lips and she moved her head to and fro to deepen the kiss. It felt like tiny tweezers pinching at her skin. But still she continued. Her fangs rubbed up against the inside of her mouth.
Maybe she would change back once she removed herself off of Ben's rough lips.
She did so, sucking in a bit of oxygen to catch her breath from that unsettling task.
"Uhhhh," Arianna heard Ben say.
She touched her teeth, fangs were still present. But now a new sensation was occurring inside of her. It was like she was sick to her stomach or something.
The next was even more unsightly then the first. Vomit arose from her mouth like waves rushed to a shore. Bending down her body, liquid chunks hit the grass as well as on Ben's black formal shoes.
"EW!" Ben yelled. A nice coat of pink vomit covered his shoes.
Arianna figured she better apologize to this dream Ben. She raised her hands in the air in surrender, tears rushing down her face in the process. "I'm sorry, Ben! I—" she was cut off by the sudden need to gag. Instead of more vomit, a slight moan of pain escaped her throat, followed by more tears.
All she wanted to do was crawl into bed and not feel all this god forsaken pain any longer.
Ben just looked at his now ruined shoes and casually said, "Deju vu. It's like I'm ten again."
Arianna looked up at him, she saw his arched eyebrows and turned up mouth. He seemed more alarmed then annoyed at her.
"Why is it, every time you kiss me you puke?" Ben said. "You must really hate me—" Ben was cut off.
"Oh my god, is she alright?" Lily yelled. She immediately ran over to Arianna and placed one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulder for support.
Arianna did not want her here. "No!" she managed to spew out. This time without the vomit. "I don't. Want you here." As she continued to speak her voice became less and less audible.
Her vision became even more blurry. She wouldn't even be able to stand if it wouldn't have been for Lily.
"How much did she have?" Lily asked Ben.
"I've never seen her this bad," Ben replied.
Arianna's vision became more darker with each passing second. Her once hyper-ventilating breathing slowed.
It didn't take long for Arianna's weight to give in and for her to see nothing but pitch blackness.
Rose and Sofia were halfway through Romy and Michele's High School Reunion when Rose's phone began to buzz violently.
"What is it Lewis?" Rose said, bored.
Lewis gulped. "Laurel - who is a mermaid, by the way - was pulled into the water, and I heard this weird singing, and I just completely fell on the ground and was out for a few hours, and you guys need to come and help find her! I can't get Will to pick up and James hasn't been answering his phone either!"
It took Rose a few seconds to process what Lewis had said. "Wait, singing?"
"Yeah, this creepy, soft voice." Lewis made a cringe-worthy attempt at imitating the singing, which to Rose sounded like a poor Ariana Grande/Kermit the Frog impersonation.
Despite Lewis's utter failure at recreating the singing, Rose's breath hitched. A soft voice sounded like a siren. Maybe it was...
"Okay, I'll get everyone. Stay away from the water, and find something to plug your ears."
James had spent most of the evening with Arianna's mother Alena, who had spotted him hanging out by the eucalyptus and invited him over to her table for a drink. James had sipped on his wine and type A while Alena pelted him with questions and rambled on about how excited she was for him and Arianna to get their powers so they could be married. James tried to smile and remain friendly, but it was almost impossible.
One of the women at the table, a member of some minor vampire family James could never remember, was more eager to gossip about the bride and Martha Campbell. "I hope your wedding is soon." She said. "I heard Martha Campbell has some scheme to wed James and her youngest daughter. She really thinks she can marry two of her daughters into Council families?"
The other women at the table made disapproving sounds and shook their heads.
"Where did you hear that, Cyrielle?" Alena asked, clearly scandalized.
The right corner of Cyrielle's mouth quirked up into a smile. She was clearly basking in the attention. "My son is one of the groomsmen, he said that Martha and her youngest daughter had a huge blowout before the wedding when Martha was giving her instructions on how to seduce James."
Cyrielle put her hand on James's shoulder, who tried not to flinch.
Alena pursued her lips. "What did her daughter say?"
Cyrielle shrugged and brought her wine glass to her lips. "She said no, apparently. Said that Martha had no right to interfere in the life of someone who wasn't her own child."
Alena leaned back in her chair, like she was evaluating this new information. James took that time to excuse himself and went to find Minerva.
Minerva was with her other sisters, Madeline and Mathilda, and a very tall blonde boy with a shaggy beard James was pretty sure was Mathilda's Swedish boyfriend. He waved at Minerva, who hesitantly left her sisters and came over towards him.
"Hey," James said gingerly, sliding his left hand into Minerva's, his right hand on the small of her back. "Sorry about earlier. Think you can forgive me?"
"I'll think about it." Minerva said, glided her other hand upwards so it rested on James shoulder.
"Good thing you're wearing heels and can actually reach my shoulder."
Minerva said something especially unflattering under her breath, which James chose to ignore.
Rose caught sight of James from across the room and shuffled over, maneuvering through dancing couples and just barely avoiding a collision with a particularly zealous pair whose moves were more befitting of a high school dance than a wedding. "Lewis just called me, he said he's been trying to call you but you won't pick of your phone! Laurel has been kidnapped."
"On an uninhabited island..."
Rose gave James the condensed version of Lewis's hysterical phone call.
"Wow." James said.
"Yeah! He can't get a hold of Will either, so we're going to have to go and help. Sofia is getting ready, but I haven't seen Ben, Lily, or Arianna in a while-"
"I haven't either." Minerva said, looking worried. "Do you think something happened?"
"Knowing Lily and Arianna they're off dancing and Ben is probably passed out face-down somewhere." James shrugged.
"You're right, they're probably all too drunk to help." Rose grumbled, realizing that (a) her friends were stupid and (b) that meant the only people who could help Lewis were her, Sofia, James and maybe Minerva. Which wasn't the Dream Team Rose was hoping to assemble.
"Hey, Minerva, could you help? You have a yacht, and we need a boat to get to Mako..."
Minerva nodded. "I've been looking for an excuse to leave all night."
Rose texted Ben, Lily and Arianna, letting them know they were leaving.
"We should take your car." James said to Minerva as Sofia emerged from the crowd of people and they started to made their way outside. "The others need a car to get home in...Rose, can you text Ben that I'm going to leave the valet ticket...somewhere...um..."
Sofia snatched the ticket out of James's hand. "I'll go put it in my room. He and Rose know their way around there."
Sofia marched off, and Rose was thankful that Minerva and James seemed too preoccupied finding a spare car to react to what Sofia had said. By the time Sofia had returned, Minerva had convinced Madeline to loan them her Prius for the rescue mission and was triumphantly presenting her sister's valet ticket to the attendant.
"Call Lewis and tell him we're coming." James told Rose as Minerva pulled out of the driveway and started the car in the direction of the M3 bypass.
Sofia kept her arms crossed and looked out the window the entire ride, mulling over the events of the night. By the time Russell Island was visible from Sofia's window, she had evaluated each girl that could potentially be standing in her way to Ben:
(1) Arianna. There had been rumors about Ben and Arianna for years, but Sofia figured they had started those themselves to keep the Council from getting suspicious. Well played. Perhaps they weren't as stupid as Sofia thought. Still, she had always gotten the impression that Ben had had a thing for Arianna when they were children. Sofia had only been invited to a handful of Council events and at all of them Ben had gone out of his way to flirt with Arianna. Sofia knew that he hadn't reacted well to James and Arianna's engagement, so maybe there were still some feelings there, despite the obvious sexual incompatibility. But still, there was no point in worrying over whether or not Arianna was a threat. Even Ben wasn't stupid or obnoxious enough to go after a lesbian.
(2) Lily. Lily was probably the one female in the group Ben seemed to have a wholly platonic relationship with, so no point in worrying over that.
(3) Minerva. Minerva seemed to be James's friend more than Ben's (or anyone else's in the group, for that matter), so Sofia didn't think much of her.
(4) Rose. Ah. That could be problematic. Sofia had known Rose for about a week but ever since she'd been forced into the Woods' Volvo, Rose and Ben had never stopped making eyes at each other in that time. Classy, Sofia thought. Going after your brother's ex. What was so great about this Rose girl anyway? Rose had kept James from Jewel and now she was going to keep Ben from Sofia. But Arianna had the common since to prefer the obviously superior Collins girl, so perhaps it was just a boy thing? But regardless, given that she'd just seen them making out, Rose was going to be the big problem.
Sofia scowled and watched the front lights of the other cars on the M3 glimmer in the dark and tried to ignore the uncomfortable weight settling in her stomach.
The traffic on the M3 wasn't that bad, so they made it to Minerva's yacht in just under an hour. Rose glanced at her phone - 8:07. Lewis had called nearly an hour and a half ago, but had been consistently responding to text messages, which was good. Rose was forever grateful for the cartographers who had complained about the lack of cell reception around Mako when they'd been commissioned by the Queensland government to create a map of the island. Now they could text and call on Mako. It made things so much easier, especially during a full moon.
The yacht had a huge navigation light in the bow of the boat, so Minerva was able to navigate in the dark with relative ease. James had excitedly revealed Minerva's power to Rose and a very bored Sofia. Having a reliable light would be great in the dark, especially as Rose's phone was on the verge of death and she couldn't use her flashlight app.
"James, your 18th was like six months ago. Where is your power?" Sofia asked, her arms crossed.
"I'm a late bloomer." James snapped, going to stand beside Minerva at the steering wheel.
Larger boats were difficult to dock on Mako, but Minerva managed to get the yacht steady and in the sand before jumping down and securing the boat to a tree with some rope. James bounded down after her to help, while Sofia lazily climbed down the ladder. Rose followed behind her, thankful that she'd worn a short dress and had stashed her sneakers in her bag. How Minerva was managing in her full-length gown was baffling.
Rose lead the charge into the forest, beating back the leafy foliage with her right arm and squinting in the dark. It was so hard to see. It would have been so much easier to swim to the moon pool and hunt for Laurel that way, but from what Lewis had said, the water was the last place Rose wanted to be.
James, who didn't waste his phone battery on Snapchat and Pokémon Go, had a significant amount of battery life left and called Lewis. "We're here."
Lewis gave his location: the entrance to the moon pool. Rose started sprinting towards the cave, Minerva at her heels with a ball of light in her outstretched palm.
Rose wasn't used to taking the non-ocean entrance into the moon pool and had forgotten that it involved sliding down a narrow stretch of rock.
"Follow me." Rose said to Minerva, sliding down first into the cave. She looked behind her and could see Minerva struggling with the skirt of her dress, but she made it through. James came down next, hitting his head against the roof of the cave and struggling to fit his long legs into the slide. Sofia brought up the rear. Rose didn't think it was possibly to lazily slide down rock, but Sofia somehow managed to make it look like she was bored out of her mind.
They found Lewis by the edge of the pool, which was a sickening green color. Some of the sand around the pool was black.
"Ironsand." Lewis said. There was a purple bruise on his temple and his hair and clothes were muddy. "We don't come here for a month, and this happens?"
"Why are you here?" Rose said curtly. "You said Laurel was attacked by the stream!"
"I thought she would have ended up here."
"Aren't you supposed to be the smart one?" Rose snapped. "You saw the weirdly dark green water and black sand and didn't think to leave?"
Lewis crossed his arms. "Ironsand. Black sand is totally different."
"Okay, stop fighting." James said. "We need to figure out what to do. You said Laurel was pulled into the stream, and you heard...singing?"
Lewis nodded. James ran a hand through his hair. "Okay. I mean, it might make sense for her to end up here."
"The stream does end up back here, right?" Lewis asked, looking at Rose for confirmation.
"I'm pretty sure..." Rose looked at the dark pool, anxiety clawing at her chest. "I think I should go in and see if she's underwater. If she is, I'll try to get her back on land."
James looked hesitant. "I don't think you should go in there."
"There's no other way." Rose said, diving in before James could protest.
It was darker underwater than it should have been. Rose liked swimming at night, and something was seriously off. It was like her eyes were refusing to adjust in the dark water as they usually did, but at the same time Rose could still see. It wasn't her eyes: the water was just darker. There should have been sharks swimming in this area as well, but Rose didn't see any.
Rose swam slowly through the water. She wished Lily was here with her. It would be easier if there were two of them. Something swam past her, but Rose couldn't tell what it was in the dark. But she could tell that it wasn't the right shape for a mermaid, so it couldn't be Laurel.
Rose swam a little deeper. She turned slightly to look over her shoulder, and couldn't even make out the bright orange of her tail in the water. What was going on?
Suddenly she heard something that sounded like a muffled scream, and she turned her head sharply, pushing her tail down to bring her to a halt. She could make out something - a tail? Rose took off towards it, and found a vaguely-Laurel shaped thing tied between two large pieces of coral. Rose brought her hands up to one of the pieces of rope and tried to untie the knot, but her fingers kept slipping and she couldn't see.
Laurel wasn't moving and her head was drooping. Rose grabbed onto Laurel's forearm and tugged on the length of rope around Laurel's wrist, yanking until Laurel's arm came free. Then she untied Laurel's other wrist, before grabbing her around the waist and pulling her back towards the moon pool. Laurel was heavy and the water and darkness was making everything so much more difficult. Rose had to stop and readjust her grip on Laurel every few meters and it took longer to get back to the moon pool than it had to find and untie Laurel.
James and Lewis helped hoist Laurel out of the water, while Minerva pulled Rose out. Rose lay on the side of the pool, trying to catch her breath while the others attended to Laurel, who, after a few moments, coughed up some water and sputtered, before taking some shaky breaths.
"What happened?" Lewis asked Laurel.
Laurel took an unsteady breath. "I don't - I don't know."
Rose recounted what happened in the water to James, Minerva, Lewis and Sofia, staring intently at her tail while she did. She hoped she'd be dry soon and able to walk again. Laying on the side of the moon pool with a tail was incredibly uncomfortable.
"This seems too easy." Minerva said softly. "No one tried to stop you."
They were was a moment of silence before James spoke. "I think you're right."
Lewis looked at the moon pool uncomfortably at the exact moment it became to bubble and the water churned loudly.
"Shit." Sofia whispered, as lightening struck down from the opening in the roof of the cave and hit the moon pull, which began to make a violent, gurgling sound.
James was looking intently at the ironsand on the side of the pool. "Lewis, ironsand has actual iron in it, right?"
"Yeah..." Lewis said hesitantly.
"Okay." James exhaled. "I have something to show you guys."
Lily and Ben entered the Collins' residence, both having their arm around Arianna. Fortunately, Robert Collins was out with Elisabeth at the time. Rose must still be at the wedding, Lily thought.
"I can't believe she's still out." Lily said, while she closed the door behind her.
"Knowing her she'll be fine. Let's lay her down somewhere though," Ben responded.
With both her and Arianna's motionless arm, she signaled towards the stairs, her hand clasped within Arianna's. "She can rest in my room."
Ben nodded. He then tried to position himself accordingly to carry his unconscious friend up the many steps. But just as he was about to lift her in his arms, he knew he couldn't accomplish this task. "Yeah, that's not happening."
Lily looked perplexed at Ben. "Are you serious?"
"Hey, I'm not exactly sober in this, missy!" With this, Lily noticed he was rather off kilter himself.
"Whatever, I'll do it." Lily said. Using all her strength from the many hours of swimming with her heavy tail, she brought Arianna in her arms. She cupped her friend's blonde hair in one hand, while the other was holding underneath her back.
As Lily started carrying Arianna up one step at a time, she noticed Ben stayed behind. "You coming?"
"I'm going to grab her and myself a glass of water," Ben answered. Lily nodded in response.
Lily continued to carry Arianna upstairs, while Ben made his way to the kitchen. The second Lily was out of earshot, he couldn't help but softly chuckle and smile to himself.
"Oh the things I do for you, Ari." See, Ben knew very well how to handle his alcohol and at this moment he maybe more drunk than sober, but he could definitely handle himself. Even though Arianna had never mentioned her crush on Lily to him personally, the girl made it painfully obvious. He was just doing his part as best bro to bring them even closer. She'll thank me later, Ben thought.
Shortly after, with Arianna's drink in hand, he made his way up to Lily's room. Before Ben made his presence known within the room, he stayed quietly in the doorway at the sight of Lily before Arianna. By now, she had gotten Arianna out of her dress (which she placed on her desk chair) and underneath the comfy covers. Lily was standing before Arianna while she slept, her hand running against Arianna's tangled mess of curls.
Ben couldn't help but have a huge smile on his face the whole time. He knew that both Arianna and Lily cared deeply for each other; he especially knew Arianna's side of their friendship. Did he know a thing about sexual orientation or all that Kinsey scale stuff Arianna's always going on about? Not really. But he knew love when he saw it. And romantic or not, Lily loved Arianna. End of story.
Ben figured it was high time he make his presence known. The second he cleared his throat, Lily practically jumped in mid-air.
"How long have you been standing there?" she asked, flustered.
"Mm, enough." Ben stated, his arms folded across his chest and a smile spread wide on his face.
Lily got up off her feet and instantly started fast-walking around her room grabbing the things she needed to get ready for bed. "Well, I put her in bed...as you can see." When she had all the necessary items needed for her nightly ritual (pj's, face cream, etc) stuffed in her hands she hastily walked towards the door, which Ben was still in the middle of. "Um, yeah. I'm gonna get ready now," lifting her clothes for emphasis.
The two started going about their separate ways, Lily exiting her room and Ben walking to Lily's bed to place the water on the nightstand.
Lily wasn't even past her doorframe when Ben said her name, causing her to turn around
"Yeah?" she responded.
"You're a really good friend to Arianna. She's lucky to have you in her life."
Lily couldn't help but smile just a tad. "I could say the same for you."
It was at this time that the two really acknowledged each other's importance. Ben wasn't just some slacker, good for nothing vamp. And Lily wasn't only a know-it-all, smart mermaid.
Moments later, Lily exited the room while Ben stayed for a few to say goodnight to Arianna.
He knelt down beside Arianna and lightly kissed her on the forehead. "Goodnight, Arianna." He tried to stifle a laugh just then. "Boy, are you going to hate your life tomorrow."
Arianna awoke to a pounding headache. Boom-Boom. Boom-Boom. She couldn't tell if that was her head, heart, or hell her entire body screaming in pain.
But still, she knew she needed more sleep. Roughly grabbing the soft comforter that was before her, she rolled over on her other side.
As she slowly moved around in bed, her legs moving to and fro, she realized something. She wasn't in her bed. It was someone else's. But who's?
Forgetting about the sleep she needed, she sat straight upright, glancing at her surroundings.
The second she looked around the room, Arianna knew where she was. The clean room and crisp blue colored walls was a dead give away. When she looked down at the bed she was currently lying in, she saw that she had in fact slept in Lily's full sized bed, complete with snowy white sheets.
Feeling a cool air around her the more she sat up, Arianna looked down at her current appearance. Not only was she only in her bra and underwear, by the way her hair felt, she had also clearly not showered the night before. It was like a tornado had occurred in her hair. Tangled knots, bush debris, and oiliness was probably buried deep in the crevices of her long now filthy curly locks. She would deal with that later.
While looking around her friend's room, the question came to her: if Arianna was in Lily's bed...where was Lily?
A moment later she got her answer. A tiny stretch and yawn could be heard below Arianna's current position. This followed the sound of tousling and rustling of what sounded like sheets.
Peering below the bed and a few feet away from it, Arianna found Lily fast asleep in a green sleeping bag, clutching a white pillow that nestled below her head.
Arianna couldn't help but look at the cute image that stood before her, she couldn't help but sigh. While Arianna's hair was a complete mess at the moment, Lily's smooth straight hair rested perfectly behind her. Every strand of hair in place. Also, Lily wasn't one of those loud obnoxious snorers, she peacefully slept perfectly still, dreaming of god knows what.
Definitely not of me, that's for sure, Arianna thought to herself.
Boom-boom. Boom-boom. This time that wasn't because of Arianna's headache (which was still apparent, just more mild). At least she didn't think.
Arianna thought it was best if she grabbed her dress, which Arianna noticed Lily had neatly placed on her desk chair, folded in half and everything.
Stepping off of Lily's bed, the second her barefoot hit the plush carpet on Lily's room, she immediately panicked.
What if she woke up Lily? She bit down hard on her lip, as she brought her other foot on the floor.
Not only was there no creak from the old-fashioned floors, Arianna looked to see if Lily stirred and she hadn't.
Quickly grabbing a hold of her dress and her black clutch purse that Lily had placed on top of her desk, Arianna began to make her way to Lily's closed bedroom door to change elsewhere.
But of course, she couldn't help but look back; she wasn't sure why. Maybe it was because Lily had given up her bed for her out of gratitude, maybe it was because she had a crazy dream in which she finally kissed her. And the obvious reason: because Arianna simply...liked her.
Looking at the way Lily had both of her hands next to one another, instead of all over the place like Arianna normally did.
A bright smile spread across her face. Nothing mattered at this moment, all her questioning thoughts of what happened last night went away. Lily made everything right in the world, when in fact sometimes it felt that Arianna's world was slowly crumbling down.
She wasn't sure why she did it, but instead of changing in a separate room like originally planned, Arianna slipped her dress right in Lily's room. She was petrified thatLily would awake and see her doing this act, but she didn't really care.
Once fully clothed and about to exit Lily's room and head down to the Collins' kitchen, Arianna glanced back at Lily. She saw the same image of her sleeping. She couldn't help herself, she had to smile.
It was at this time, she slowly knelt down by Lily. She could smell the aroma of the moisturizer she used: Honey Crisp Apple.
Here Arianna was, a couple of inches in front of her crush...no her love. If she wanted to she could wake her up and ruin this moment. While being 'in the closet' (well excluding Ben) was necessary for Arianna at the time, sometimes she hated it because she couldn't tell Lily how she really felt. That from the moment she saw her, she felt that she had to be right next to her or she'd die; like Lily was a magnet or something. Every time Arianna saw Lily, her heart nearly stopped.
At this moment of Arianna observing a sleeping Lily, she could do whatever she wanted. She could confess her love to her right here, right now and not have to suffer the consequences of it.
She could run her hands through her hair and kiss her on the forehead as a parting gift. Just thinking of the countless ideas caused for her headache to reappear.
Wait, this isn't, Arianna thought to herself. It wasn't a headache, Arianna was turning again. She felt her canines protruding out as sharp fangs and the blood rush to her head and eyes.
She had to get out of here. So she bolted, out of Lily's room and down to the Collins' kitchen.
Good thing she had decided to change in Lily's bedroom after all, since the second she entered the Collins' downstairs she saw Ben lounging on the couch, reading a some sort of graphic novel.
Ben looked up at the sudden noise. Seeing Arianna standing there, he nearly busted into a fit of laughs. "Oh, she's alive. We were worried about you."
Arianna didn't say anything in response. She could still feel the effects of turning coursing through her. She knew she needed blood and she knew exactly where it was. Running into the Collins' immaculate kitchen she headed for the fridge. Lily had always made sure that there was a supply of her favorite blood, Type O further back in the fridge. Her father never suspected of the strange red liquid since Lily always put the blood in giant plastic label-less bottles. Lily had told Arianna that his father just assumed that the mysterious bottles were filled with cranberry juice, which he hated with a passion.
Once found, Arianna immediately uncapped the plastic bottle, held it to her lips, and began sucking down the blood.
Ben noticed this while he was flipping through the graphic novel he was now barely reading. "I still see you have that vampire boner."
No response; Arianna was still drinking the red liquid, now half empty.
Ben lightly threw his book on the coffee table in front of him and got up off the couch. "Um, Arianna?"
It wasn't until Arianna drank the entire bottle did she say anything. Plopping down the now empty bottle on the kitchen counter, she let out a moan of exhaustion and muttered, "More."
If it wasn't for Ben, she would have opened up the second bottle and drank all of its contents, too. Grabbing the other bottle from her he said, "I think you've had enough."
Arianna would have tried to fight him, but because of her activities yesterday she was exhausted. Instead she crossed her arms in front of him, and hissed at him flashing her white fangs his way.
"Oh please," Ben rolled his eyes at her. "I could take you; but I won't."
He saw her red colored eyes and sharp fangs and let out a sigh. "Really? What are you going to repeat everything that happened last night?"
This caused Arianna to look confused. "What do you mean?"
"You don't remember anything that happened last night, anything at all?"
Arianna tried to think of any moment she recalled from yesterday. Thinking deep in thought, "The last thing I remember was dancing with Lily."
Ben scoffed, "Well that explains it."
"What?" Arianna asked. She ran her tongue against her teeth. Her fangs had diminished. It must have been from Ben having me take my mind off of it.
"The fact that you just vamped out yet again."
"Again?" Arianna put her hand to her forehead in frustration.
"Yes, again." Ben reiterated. He paused. "You should probably go home and recuperate. I'll clean this up." He referenced to the small puddles of blood that were splayed out throughout the counter.
"Yeah, my Mom and Kat will probably be wondering where I am," Arianna replied. "Thanks for bringing me up the stairs and everything." Arianna made her way to the Collins' front door, purse and high heels in hand. She would have to rough it out and walk barefoot home.
It wasn't until she heard Ben's voice did she turn around and face him. "It wasn't me."
"What do you mean?"
"It was Lily. Lily carried you up the stairs and took care of you." Ben said.
KELLY: By now you've probably finished chapter 8 of Friends & Foes, our without a doubt longest chapter ever! But the length was certainly needed, not only because of lack of updates in the past (we're SORRY!) and also because uh...did you not read all the crazy things that went down? Yeah, I know. But, before you guys go off to review this chapter (PLEASE REVIEW! WE LOVE THEM! :D) and patiently wait for the following chapter to be released, I would like to take a moment of your time to talk about my favorite character in F&F: Arianna Cromwell. Believe it or not folks, when we first came up with Arianna's character, we knew we wanted her to be gay. It was too perfect not to. Same goes for her crush on Lily, but I'm sure we'll mention that on a later date. For this chapter in particular, I wrote all of Arianna's scenes, and I was given the gift to finally have Arianna reveal that she is in fact gay. Believe me, this was not an easy task. I really hope I did that scene justice and I would love to hear your thoughts! While, Maddie and I both write for heaps of characters for F&F, we each have our own characters that mean the absolute world to us. For her that's Lily, for me that's Arianna (yes...together we are platonic Arily, we know). Why? Because I know exactly what she's going through. I'm sure most of you know this about me (via my many social media accounts) but I, like Arianna, am gay. I've been where she is (heck still am on some accounts) and I see several aspects of myself in her. I'm not going to go into specifics, but what I'm trying to get at is that I really hope we've done Arianna's storyline(s) justice in the past, in this chapter and in chapters to come. And I'm quite curious, let us know by reviewing if any of you were flat out shocked by the reveal of Arianna's sexuality. (I feel like Maddie & I may have spoiled it a bit on tumblr/twitter, etc SORRY!) In my opinion, I'm super glad we waited to tell you guys Arianna's sexual orientation. I feel like had we introduced her immediately as a (severely closeted) lesbian, for some of you...that might be all you think of her. Just a gay character coming into the story. I'm sure I speak for many lgbtq+ people when I say that being lgbtq+ is a big part of who you are, but it isn't everything. What I've always found so remarkable (and heartbreaking at the same time) is that Arianna will put all of her personal issues/struggles aside just so she can focus on helping other people. Something I know all too well. Example: Her family. Everyday it seems that Arianna is taking one step deeper into the closet (she's practically in Narnia people. Before the Pevensie children arrived!), just so she can help her family gain more recognition in the Vampire community (or is it council? Even I don't know sometimes). It's not like Arianna's all, "Oh one day I'll come out to my parents", no she has chosen to marry James Wood, her cousin and never explain to her family who she would really want to kiss at the altar (*coughLilycough*). Ugh, I could go on and on about this adorable, broken little blonde vampire, but I'll go and let you review now. :)) And here: have an Arianna/Lily fanvid that I've kept unlisted for GASP...a year now! Enjoy! [link in our profile!]
MADDIE: SORRY FOR THE HIATUS. The delay is all my fault, please do not blame Kelly! Anyway, this chapter was a joint effort! Kelly wrote all the AMAZING Arianna stuff (she literally wrote her part like two years ago I TOLD YOU THIS IS ALL MY FAULT) and I wrote all the other extremely boring stuff. Lewis is going to be pissed when he finds out that everyone was gettin' some except for him. #sassylewis. It's okay Lewis, you'll get your turn soon (maybe?). I hope everyone's coffee order says something profound and deep about them. I think mine does. My Iced Coffees/Iced Americanos show (1) how much I love caffeine, (2) my love for straws and (3) how cheap I am. Every coffee shop I go into, they are always the two cheapest drinks (along with regular old drip). We already have the next couple chapters planned out, so they will (hopefully) be up soon! Like I said in the last chapter, F&F 2 is becoming more serialized so it's a lot easier for us to map out chapters than in was in the original F&F. I'm also going to work on cleaning up some of the older chapters (chapter 4 is riddled with errors, sorry guys, I type extremely fast and my brain can't keep up sometimes!) and getting those up. Also, I will be cleaning up and editing the entirety of F&F 1 and will most likely be replacing some of the older chapters with the edited versions (so thankful for that feature, ff dot net!). The chapters will be the same, just flow better and I will be removing and fixing any inconsistency in the older chapters. They will then be compiled into a pdf and will be put up for download somewhere (another project that has been in the works for years but, well, you know me…) And if you are a tumblr user, there is a link to the f&f tumblr in our profile! It's the best way to get updates/~exclusive~ snippets from future chapters/f&f related graphics/etc. You can also see pictures of the dresses I completely and utterly failed to describe. At least this series will never fall victim to Costume P0rn, given my inability to describe clothing items. Kelly is better than I am, though! There is hope! Okay, sorry about that tangent(s). And enjoy the chapter! Reviews are always appreciated!