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I shifted on my feet—right to left, back to right then left. My arms were bound behind my back by such a strong metal it scratched, scraped, and skirted my wrists even if I didn’t move. To make matters worse, my clothes were already torn beyond recognition, with cuts on my arms, legs, and face not too far underneath them. Peeking up underneath my eyelashes and long bangs, I looked into the eyes of my potential killer and I couldn’t help but remember when the Dementors in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban showed their faces, but there weren’t any faces at all. Yes, that was Disney World compared to the dead, soulless eyes of my kidnapper—ever shifting eyes of black, then gray, then blue, always blood-shot, always.
In my three-hour absence from home, I longed for my warm bed in my warm home with all my books. I actually missed my erratic friends who never left my side yet had no idea what I had gotten into. I wish I missed my family, but could not even bring myself to tell that lie. Most of all, I wished Peter was here or better yet, that we both weren’t, that we were both lying underneath the stars in his backyard while we laughed and cited our favorite lines from books and movies, that we both could just exist and be happy together. Sighing, I shifted my gaze back to the weather-beaten, moist ground. How do you get yourself into this stuff? How do you always manage to have threats made against your life? I asked myself.
“We found him, sir.” I looked up until I found the pair of eyes I was searching for. Past the identical pawns who looked like teenage boys, yes, past them and straight to their victim. It took three boys to restrain a renegade for the Ghost World’s government, a royal runaway, a forgotten son, the answer to my problems—all of the above all in one person. You
His bluish-gray eyes found mine as if he heard my silent thoughts, which I wouldn’t put past him. Our eyes locked on the other’s as he was lowered to the ground on his knees, hands restrained on his hand. What are you thinking, Peter? I so desperately wanted to know. Again, as if he could hear me, Peter frowned slightly before directly his attention to my kidnapper.
“Good,” his deep voice rumbled as my head snapped up involuntarily toward the sound. He pulled my hair forcing me to look at his vindictive face but I closed my eyes in both fear and pain. “Now that our guest of honor has arrived, now the party can really begin,” he sneered, “Do tell, son, what took so long?” Wait. “Son”? Peter, please don’t tell me this man is your-
“Perhaps I am not as eager to run to my demise as swiftly as others,” Peter spoke in a clear, hard voice, “Of course, if I had known that someone was here, I would not have hesitated to come.” “Someone”? That’s me, right? Peter subtly raised his chin and then back down again. I was about to ask Peter if he had suddenly gained the gift of telepathy in our two-hour’s absence when the searing pain on my head became too much. It rushed through my entire body, flowing scathingly to the tips of my fingers and toes, seeming to burn me from the inside out. My hair was jerked back, giving me whiplash, making me fall to the ground with my hands to cushion my fall.
“Stop! Don’t hurt her!” Peter yelled. Normally, his voice was soothing, but I’d never heard him so angry and his words helped to no avail. His father, leaning over me, still a firm grip on my hair, ignored him. My eyes were still closed with tears flowing endlessly.
“Look at me,” he whispered. “LOOK AT ME!” he said louder, his voice a mixture of his own and a creature from Hell. My eyes obeyed and his eyes ever shifting, kept shifting,--green, violet, brown, hazel, crimson—before settling upon bluish-gray, Peter’s eyes. The fire inside me was replaced with a hypnotizing and hypothermic cold that left me lonely, tired, and no will to fight. I realized that the fire I so desperately wanted to leave was my own—the adrenaline, the stubbornness, the last hope I had to get out of this alive—and now it was gone, only to be replaced with a cold death. I slipped away as Peter’s father’s eyes whispered to my soul: He doesn’t love you. You’ll never amount to anything. Why bother? Give in. Give in! GIVE IN! I felt so tired; all I wanted was sleep, just sleep for a long time.
“Stop this, Silvius! She’s just a mortal! She has nothing to do with this!”
“She has everything to do with this! When you brought her into a world she didn’t
belong! This is your punishment and her blood will lie on your hands!”
The chilliness was engulfing me faster, paralyzing me, squeezing my lungs and heart. I couldn’t breathe! Strangled gasps left my lips, and suddenly the thought of sleep wasn’t so appealing anymore.
Silvius returned his eyes from his son, back to me, “Shh…Struggling only makes it worse!” His voice raised an octave with every syllable intensifying the pain; everything hurt so badly. He turned his head away again, “Is this what you wanted, son?! Did you want your little girlfriend to DIE?!”
I couldn’t see Peter, but his voice was low and hoarse, “No, Dad. Let her go. I’ll do anything, just let her go. Anything as long as she is safe.”
His words were magic and my airway was opened, my hands unrestrained, my hair let go. I turned over and threw up as soon as I began to gain my breath, and even then, they were short and labored. When I was finished, I noticed my hair had been pulled back from my face. Looking up, I saw Peter gently holding the tips, and then offer his hand to help me up. Standing, Peter wrapped his arm around my waist, supporting my weight, and didn’t look at me. Silvius stood in front of us, with his cronies standing around the clearing. The quarter moon shone above the forest we were in, contrasting the sides of Silvius’s pale face and Peter’s tanned face as each took a step forward. They stared at each other.
“On your twenty-first birthday, she,” Silvius nodded his head toward me, “must die or move on and forget us. Whether she lingers with you for an eternity, passes up,” a smirk, “or down in death, or even decides to live her life in ignorant bliss is up to her, but either way, her blood will no longer mix with ours on this earth. She knows too much.”
Peter nodded, “I understand, Father.”
Silvius nodded once, before turning back towards me and sneering, “A pleasure, Ms. Bastian.”
I grimaced and blinked. Silvius and his party disappeared before my eyes.
Peter’s shoulders relaxed after a moment as he murmured, “Like a true Ghost King.”
“Well, they are ghosts,” I said slowly, “and so are you, by the way. Don’t try to exclude yourself, Mr. Prince Peter of the Ecto-Plasmic.”
“Only half-ghost, Missy.” His light face broke into a small smile, and I felt mine do the same.
“Are you okay?” he asked, his smile melting away as he examined my arms and face with worry.
“I’ll be fine,” I sighed, leaning my forehead against his.
Our eyes closed, as both his arms wrapped around my waist, surprisingly warm for a ghost (even half of one) as his touch made me shiver, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
“I want to protect you. I want to be with you. Most of all, I want you to be safe. I know not all of these things can happen, but I’ll leave the decision up to you…in a year. I’m sorry.”
I waited a moment, drawing in long breathes, before smiling and pressing my hands on the back of his neck, “I want…,”he tensed, “to say you’re not worth the death threats; you’re not worth the stress I go through; you’re not worth putting up with a domineering father-in-law who also happens to be ruler of the undead; I want to say all that but…I can’t. When we’re not fighting for our 1 ½ lives or figuring out what our relationship is, I can’t help but smile or feel safe around you, Pete, always. You are worth it.”
He smiled, “You’re not going to die just so we can be together, Ari. Not when I will be twenty-one and you’ll be eighteen or ever; you’re not.”
I smiled back, “I wasn’t planning on it.”
“We’ll think of something.”
“We always do.”
There was a heavy silence as we held each other, crickets sang and a soft bubbling brook hummed in the background.
He pulled back to look at me and cup my face in his hands, “You are worth living and dying for again and again.” I smiled at the double meaning of his words before his lips pressed against mine. So worth it