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Per Angusta Ad Agusta
Christmas Eve Morning
Eden scoured through her closet to find the perfect dress for the Christmas party. The blue dress was too short. The hot red dress was too thin for a December night. The yellow dress didn’t go with the season vibe. Eden had nothing to wear; her closet was filled with clothes but nothing satisfied her desire to find the perfect dress. She searched through her roommate's closet and found a nice pantsuit but it was too small. Eden let out an exasperated groan and buried her face in a feathery pillow. Something crunched underneath hear, a sound that resembled a crumbled bag. She curiously picked up the pillow to find a garment bag with a gorgeous green dress inside. Something stirred in her mind and a memory of a boy flashed before her eyes. She clenched the soft cloth around her fingers pushing away the bad memories. She liked the dress so she was going to wear it disregarding the fact that threads of painful memories had woven themselves into it.
“Why the hell not?” she whispered and went to put it on.
Christmas Eve Afternoon
“Devin let’s go! You have four missed calls from Nico. We got things to do, places to be, people to see”, Eden called out to her roommate growing sick of her extensive beauty routines. The bathroom door slammed open and Devin stepped out in her hot pink robe, a makeup sponge in her hand, and her face half covered in a too pale foundation.
“Eden I am not ready. I just need 5 more minutes!” she said, blindly applying makeup to her face.
“Five minutes in “Devin time” means five hours in real time.” Eden grabbed her best friend, threw her a red sweater dress and wiped all the smudged makeup off her face.
“If you are not ready within the next two minutes I’m going to the party without you!” she said just to tease her friend, knowing she awaited this party all season long. Luckily, Devin was ready in a flash and she joined her boyfriend Nico in the back of the car as Eden took the wheel.
The party was raging when they got there, rhythmic music was booming from the stereos as the party guests were swaying to the music along with their friends and significant others. Devin and Nico were walking ahead of her, arms linked and heads touching as they made their way to the golden gates of the Glenridge Hall Estate. Eden felt her throat dry and her palms moisten, better go to a party solo than as a third wheel, she thought. A crisp winter breeze blew past her and small snowflakes settled daintily around her and she admired their beauty. Snow, she thought, so pure and beautiful yet so dangerous. As soon as she stepped inside the manor, the scent of eggnog and liquor greeted her, intoxicating her with a single whiff.
An eerie sensation was creeping up on Eden. She felt herself analytically glancing around at people. Every time a person would walk by she would pull her coat just a bit tighter to her chest and move aside. Although, the bad vibe she was feeling did not halt her attempt to have fun for once.
She gave the valet the keys to her car and glanced around the magnificent room. Chandeliers in the shapes of birds spreading their wings lit up the room in a luminous light. The Christmas tree was elaborately decorated, no branch was left bare, nor was there a section not strung with lights especially the star on top which was practically blazing. Everything around her was so gaudy.
Her nerves calmed down as she took a seat by the bar. As she downed the bitter liquor she saw Devin chatting in the corner with a man covered by tattoos. Her brain buzzing she saw the distinctive cobra on top of a flame tattoo of the Black Order, no way, she thought. Her mind was just toying with her. She brushed it off when she saw Nico coming to rescue Devin. The eerie feeling had gone away and she was starting to enjoy herself.
“Hello, Eden” a voice behind her spoke, smooth and low it enticed her until she recognized the voice. She jumped in shock when she turned and saw his face. The man was leaning against the door frame his pearl white teeth flashing in a cheeky grin.
“Santos”, she whispered under her breath as a single tear fell down her cheek and her hands started to tremble. The disbelief was etched into the hills and valleys of her face, the heels of her shoes clicked as she marched up to him and landed her hand upon his cheek in one swift motion. “You are supposed to be dead!”
“We need to talk Eden, it’s been a while”, he whispered as he took her into his arms and dragged her into a dark hallway. Eden was trembling from shock, her mascara spoiled from the tears. Happiness and anger were having a fight for dominance toying cruelly with her emotions. She stared at the man before her; his milk chocolate skin a bit paler in this time of year, his illustrious curls pulled back into a quiff, his jawline cleanly shaven. She felt her eyes drooping and her head feeling light as she collapsed.
She woke up on a soft mattress, her shoes and jacket removed with her head buzzing. Santos was next to her with a paperback of Dante's Inferno reading silently, some things just never change about a person. She met his warm brown eyes which were accented by his long full lashes; it took a moment for her to escape their captivity. “Santos, explain to me what the hell happened and where I am before I scream and someone comes to get me.”
He flashed her a sarcastic smile, “We are at a guest room in the east end of the mansion which is where I brought you after you passed out on me.”
“Good thing your sarcasm hasn’t faded”, she mumbled and gave him an eye roll. When he responded with a casual laugh Eden snapped ,“Santos, where have you been the last four years? Last time I checked my best friend died in coma after he attempted suicide”. Her voice cracked at the recollections of her dark past and she took a deep breath before she continued. “My best friend left me with a list of things I never got to say, things I wish I had told him before he died and left me alone in a cruel world. Santos you left me alone to drown in my own misery. I’ve spent the last 4 years rethinking every sentence and every word I ever said to you, wondering if it was me that drove you to the blade. My thoughts consumed me for years, eating away at my sanity. I was alone when I needed a friend the most.” Her brown hair stuck to her wet cheeks as she sobbed. Her green eyes reflecting her deepest miseries.
Santos eyes softened as he went to hold her hand but she moved it away from him, a fiery anger burning in her eyes, “Eden I had to leave there was no other way. If I had stayed they would have killed someone.” He emphasized they which left Eden confused.
“Don't make this about others Santos. We both know everything you ever do is for yourself.”
“Hear me out. I joined the Black Order because they were going to kill everyone I knew.”
“You joined the Black Order?!” she exclaimed in horror, “How could you do that?! You know what they did to my parents!”
“Eden that’s why I’m here!”, the strain of patience evident in his voice and furrowed brow, “Your parents are alive, they sent me here. I’m here to recruit you as the rightful high priestess in the order.”
“Why in the world would they want someone like me?”, she retorted sarcastically.
“Because, Eden, you have a degree in cyber security and they want to hack into banks and steal money. They are criminals for heaven's sake!”, he said in a matter of fact tone.
The lump in Eden’s throat was choking any words she wanted to say; only puny mumbles were escaping. Eden sat on the bed once again, doubting her legs could hold her weight. Santos suddenly looked around the room as if searching for something; his finger went to his lips signalling for her silence. He picked up a piece of paper and a pen then scribbled, we are being listened to by the Order. Follow me if you want to make it out alive. I’ll explain later.
He offered his hand and she took it cautiously looking around the room for any odd objects; finding none. Her mind was swirling with doubt but her heart still trusted him from all those years ago. He gave her a pair of sneakers to replace her stilettos and after she put them on they bolted for the emergency exit. They ran into the woods of the Catskills, taking twists and turns that lead to nowhere, they were like mice in a maze. All the turns made Eden dizzy but Santos looked like he knew exactly where he was going. There was someone on their tail for sure, even the lightest footsteps echoed in the woods. Santos was about to jump a tree root up to a hill when Eden grabbed him by his waist and threw him down to the floor pressing her hand to his mouth as she rolled them underneath a little awning of leaves. Not a second later, twigs snapped right above them. “Cupid and Psyche are out of sight and seem to be lost in the woods. I’ll be returning to station post 1, sir. Copy that?”, a deep gravelly voice echoed above them. They clung to each other not daring to make even the slightest noise. It was them, mouthed Santos as she nodded her head.
The man soon marched off and Eden let out big breath she did not realize she was holding. Santos got up and patted himself down, “You are not the girl I used to know Eden. You’ve changed to a strong independent woman, I congratulate you. Now come, we need to get to the safe house.”
The fading lights of dusk illuminated the sky in soft pinks and purples their beauty distracting Eden from the cold creeping up on her. The forest was quiet, the animals silent, not a single chirp of a canary or the scuffling of a deer. The silence between Eden and Santos was deafening, both had a million things to say but neither knew how to express them.
“We’re here,” Santos said motioning to a barren tree bark. Eden looked around but nothing was there except dried up leaves. She took a step forward and heard something metal click under her weight. A blue square light up underneath her illuminating her face in the darkness. Around her three mysterious etchings carved into the previously barren bark glowed a violent blue. Last thing she saw before she was swallowed by the darkness beneath her was Santos diving in after her as they both plunged into the darkness. To her surprise she did not land on a cold hard surface of a man hole instead she was greeted by the comforting webs of a safety net. Her relief was short-lived when Santos landed on top of her.
“You know for a skinny noodle you are quite heavy”, complained Eden as she used all of her strength to push him off her. To her luck Santos was not much help as he dug into his pocket desperately looking for something. He pulled out a small metal cube with the same strange etchings on it and threw it to the darkness surrounding them. Suddenly warehouse lights started lighting up all around them in a sequence.
“Welcome to the safe house”, Santos said jumping down from the net. Looking around Eden noted that the room looked like the typical modern Manhattan apartment, except that in the far left corner was an armory packed with guns. Santos walked to the kitchen, his stride long and lithe. He poured himself a cup of coffee and sipped it as he watched her with his attentive eyes, taking in her belwireded visage.
“Eden, the reason I came back to get you is not only to save your life but I also need your help”, he said as he put down his coffee mug and rolled out a map on the kitchen table. “Eden I need you to help me destroy the Black Order. I need your help to escape them”, his voice heavy as he whispered the last few words.
Eden furrowed her brow in anger as she jumped down from the net and walked toward him, “First you show up after fours years of your “death.” Then you tell me my parents are alive and are members of the very cult that wanted them dead. You force me to run away with you without a proper explanation and now you ask me to help you bring down the cult that you and my parents are part of. Santos we might have been best friends once but now I feel like I’m staring at a stranger. So unless you explain yourself I have no idea what I’m doing here.”
He looked into her eyes with a hard stare as he spoke, “Four years ago I met a man who promised me that my mom would survive her stage 4 cancer. I was a desperate 16-year-old boy who was about to lose his second parent. It did not take much to convince me. All I needed to do was swear my allegiance to the Black Order. I knew it was a cult. I knew they did bad things, I just never realized how far they were willing to go to get power till they wanted you in the order.” He turned away for a moment and Eden could have sworn she saw a tear fall; he always hated it when she saw him cry. “Your parents faked their death so they could rise to the top ranks. They are the ones who helped plan my fake death. After I joined them, the cult killed my mother and there was nothing I could do about it. They said it would shape me into the perfect member and anyone who joined must go through the initiation ritual. Now they want you to join them in the high order of the cult, they sent me to get you because they knew you would hate them if you knew what they had done. I want to help you Eden, I can’t let you go through the same thing I went through. They will kill everyone you care about, so please, I beg you help me”
Eden loosened her clenched jaw and engulfed her best friend in a hug as she tiptoed to reach him, she laced her fingers through his soft curls, “I’m in”. He gave her a giant smile and a crushing hug squeezing all the air out of her lungs. “What’s the plan?”
New Years Eve
Santos and Eden were in all black gear, ready to pursue their mission, Eden had a gun strapped to the back of her thigh and Santos was harboring a knife inside his pocket. To blend in with the crowds, they both wore long mocha trench coats and polarized sunglasses so nobody could see their eyes. To a stranger walking by, they looked like an ordinary city couple out on a walk. Eden and Santos made their way to the Empire State Building: the secret headquarters of the FBI were they would turn them in to the government. One building, one mission, one team; this was their path to freedom. Eden carried a small flash drive around her neck and Santos had hidden it in his ring. Walking in syncopated steps they made their way up the stairs and into the building.
Keeping up with the disguise, Santos and Eden were holding hands and keeping their heads down. As they were about to make their way down a hall, somebody grabbed Eden from behind and threw her in the elevator. Santos tried to reach her, but the doors slammed shut. Her chestnut hair fell from her tight bun from the mere force of being thrown into the elevator wall. Eden’s numerous years of Krav-Maga kicked in and she went for the gun she had. Her opponent was too fast and knocked the weapon out of her hand. Eden kicked the hooded figure in front of her and she fell back, her face unmasked.
She froze at the sight, the world around her seemed to stop. All she saw was the eyes of her attacker, although they were not human eyes any more. Two reptile slits for eyes had replaced the previous ones. This was no human in front of her, it was a snake. A snake she’d called a friend.
“Devin?” Eden whispered and her heart dropped to floor. The girl she used to call her friend smiled wickedly and took advantage of her weakness to get in a headlock. Eden couldn’t breathe, she was trapped between claws of death that were slowly bringing her to the other side. Eden’s eyes teared up as she came closer and closer to death her final view, being the elevator rising to last floor. What a great way to die, she thought. As she drew in her last breaths, she thought of the first time she met Santos all the way back in 6th grade. He had been sitting next to her in band class, playing a jazzy tune with his saxophone. She smiled at the memory, then she remembered his death and how she had plunged into the darkest parts of her mind. The anger in her blood boiled and she knew she could not do that to him. He needed her as much as she needed him.
She spotted the gun a few inches from her foot and she kicked it back to herself. Just seconds before she ran out of the precious gas, she grabbed the gun and turned it to her friend. The shot synced with the ding! of the elevator and on the other side, Santos was standing there panting. His button down shirt was soaked at the front.
Santos grabbed her and wiped the blood off her brow, nothing lit up the rooftop except the pale yellow light of the moon. He traced his thumb on her cheek as they shared a precious moment of victory together. She hugged him in a tight embrace, relieved he was okay. Together they walked around the rooftop till they found a man in all black smoking a cigar.
“Well, well, well, who do we have here? Ms. Wells and Mr. Bergerac. I assume you have the files?” The man's face was obscured by the oversized hat he wore. Eden and Santos took out the their USB’s and handed them over to the FBI agent after he showed them his badge. A gunshot echoed and the agent collapsed. Behind them Devin was holding Eden’s gun that she had forgotten at the elevator.
The plan failed, and they were facing the end. With every step Devin took forward Eden and Santos took one back. Her was beating faster than a racing horse. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted a bungee cord attached to the window washers on the side of the building. Her mind gave birth to a new plan and hope.
Their backs were touching the railing and Devin was talking but Eden was zoned out. She grabbed Santos knife from his pocket and threw at Devin's leg. Then stepped up to the railing and grabbed Santos hand.
“We have to jump”, she whispered in his ear, his hand trembled in hers. “Do you trust me?”, she asked looking down at the city of stars. He turned to look at her, “Always.” She grabbed him by the waist and they jumped.