All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Ch. 1 Isabella
It was said of Isabella Marie Brookman that she was part of a loving family. This is only partly true. She was an adopted child-her godparents told her that her mother had run away for fear of being found by someone, and left her with her godparents. Her godparents, Henrietta and Stephan Inkling were not too happy about it, so they forced her to be a maid. Isabella did not mind since her god-sisters, Vanessa and Lynne, were nice when they wanted to be.
“Isabella, wake up!” Vanessa shouted in her ear. Isabella jerked awake with a groan.
“Five more minutes,” she pleaded. Vanessa laughed.
“You’re 14 today!” Lynne said, prodding Isabella’s shoulder.
“Please, girls, I’m tired!” Isabella moaned.
“Come, now, Isabella it’s only 7 in the morning! Rise and shine!” Vanessa laughed again. She poked Isabella once more.
“Fine, fine, I’m up!” Isabella sighed, running a hand through her long black hair, blinking her big blue eyes against the glaring light of her room.
“Happy,” began Vanessa.
“Birthday!” ended Lynne.
“Here’s your gift,” Vanessa said with a grin, holding out a gift to Isabella.
“Thanks, guys,” Isabella yawned.
“No problem. Happy birthday!” cried the twins and, with a flourish of giggling, flounced from the room.
“Phew, I’m glad that’s over,” Isabella thought to herself, annoyed.
Isabella ripped the wrapping paper and opened the box. A small, whimpering Australian sheepdog was shaking in the little box. Isabella gaped at the furry beast.
“It’s adorable!” Isabella squealed, picking up the animal. The puppy looked at her with big brown eyes and opened its mouth with a lovable yawn.
Vanessa and Lynne poked their heads around the corner of the door.
“Do you like it?” asked Lynne.
“I love it! Thank you!” Isabella cried, hugging the puppy gently.
“We hope you do,” Vanessa started.
“Because we figured you wouldn’t have any human friends,” Lynne ended.
“So we got you an animal one!” Vanessa laughed. Isabella smiled, for, despite the insult, she loved the little animal.
“Mother and Father said it was fine that you have a dog as long as you take full responsibility for it,” Lynne said, with a huge grin.
“Don’t worry, Isabella. It doesn’t have rabies but it hasn’t been fixed or anything. Good luck, little sister!” Vanessa called, trying to pull Lynne from the room.
Before she could leave, Lynne asked, “What are you going to name it?”
Isabella thought for a moment and then said, “Why not Anna?” As she said this, the puppy looked up and gave Isabella what looked like a grin.
“I think she likes it,” Vanessa commented, watching the puppy try to catch its tail.
“Anna, sit!” Isabella cried. The puppy immediately stopped and sat on the ground, an expectant look on her puppy face.
“Anna it is, then,” Vanessa laughed. The girls vanished. Suddenly, Henrietta and Stephan burst through the door.
“What is that?!” shrieked Henrietta, nearly tripping over Anna.
“Vanessa and Lynne’s birthday present to me,” Isabella said simply. Stephan turned scarlet.
“The twins gave you this beast? As a present?” he asked in a dangerously quiet voice. Isabella nodded happily.
“Well, then,” Henrietta sighed. She didn’t seem to like the fact that her daughters gave the maid something to enjoy.
“They said that you knew,” Isabella said, an innocently confused look on her face.
“We most certainly did not know, young lady!” Stephan roared.
“Stephy, please!” Henrietta moaned. She didn’t like loud noises.
“I won’t have this fiend being smart with us, I simply won’t!” Stephan cried, putting his hands on his hips. He looked much like Henrietta at that moment, for she always had her hands on her hips.
“I wasn’t being smart, Stephan,” Isabella said impatiently. “I really thought that you knew. The girls would never do anything without your permission,” she continued, stroking a shaking Anna.
“That is true,” Stephan muttered reluctantly. He hated when Isabella made a good point.
“Girls, will you come here for a moment?” called Henrietta in her mother voice. The only voice Henrietta ever used with Isabella was her scolding voice.
“Yes mother? Oh, Isabella, you have a puppy! How adorable, where did you get her?” Lynne said innocently, a devilish look in her big blue eyes.
Isabella’s eyes narrowed in her most withering glare. Lynne held her ground but Stephan was shaken slightly.
“You will not look at our daughters in that manner! What an ungrateful, stupid girl you are, Isabella! We took you in, we cared for you and now you come reigning terror on our home with stories of Vanessa and Lynne giving you a small dog? I won’t have this, I simply won’t!” Stephan cried.
“You will get rid of that beast at once or you will have no supper tonight!” Henrietta threatened. Isabella held her ground, though shakily.
“Vanessa and Lynne gave me this dog and I intend to take care of it,” she said bravely. Stephan was taken aback.
“You will not speak to us in that tone, girl,” Stephan said, punctuating the last word with a tone of disgust.
“Now, on to different matters. Isabella, you are to report downstairs tomorrow at seven thirty in the morning. You are going to boarding school in Italy,” Henrietta said with a smirk. Vanessa and Lynne exchanged gleeful glances that said, “Mission accomplished.”
“Start packing, maid,” Stephan growled, ushering the girls and Henrietta out of the room.
Isabella looked happily at Anna.
“Here that, Anna? We’re going to boarding school! No more chores or Inkling sisters or godparents!” Isabella cried, sweeping up Anna into an enormous hug. Outside, a shadow passed across the yard, unnoticed by everyone. Isabella’s story was begun.
“Brielle.” Brielle Kimberly Forman felt a finger in her shoulder blade.
“What…What is it?” she mumbled. She turned over and looked up. Standing over her was her little brother, Michael. His big brown eyes stared right into hers, giving her the feeling that he was staring right through her.
“Time to wake up, silly! Bon giorno!” Michael laughed, jumping from her flowered bed to the rug-clad floor.
“You’re going to the Weeping Willow Academy tomorrow, sweetheart,” said Brielle’s mother, Grace, picking Michael up off the floor. Brielle simply called her Mother.
“I know! I’m very excited. But why do I have to get up so early?” Brielle yawned, pulling on her house robe.
“It’s nine o’clock in the morning! Hardly early,” scoffed Brielle’s older sister, Beatrice, walking in and taking her sister’s perfume. She always loved Brielle’s perfume better than her own.
“Okay, okay, I’m up,” Brielle laughed as her puppy, Tesoro-which meant “sweetheart” in Italian-licked her face.
Brielle slipped off the bed and into a pair of jeans and a T-shirt with a gummy bear embossed on the yellow fabric- a present from Beatrice on her 14th birthday, just a few weeks ago. Brielle couldn’t get enough of gummy bears- she would eat them every day for every meal of she could. Her mother and father though, were of the stricter kind and didn’t allow such things.
“Brielle, you’ve received a package from Aunt Mary!” called Beatrice from the front door. Aunt Mary always sent birthday gifts a few weeks later, because she was always in a rush and forgot.
“Bring it up, please!” Beatrice lugged in a rather large parcel wrapped in uniform brown paper.
“Here you go,” Beatrice said grouchily, slouching from the room. Brielle shook her head at her sister’s idleness. She needs a life, thought Brielle to herself with a sly smile. She began to rip the paper. Concealed within the package was a large edition of Little Women, Brielle’s favorite book. She smiled, and ran her fingers across the beautiful painting of the four girls sitting in the living room on the cover. Aunt Mary always sent her the best gifts.
“Brielle! Breakfast is waiting! The kitchen is closing!” called Mother from the kitchen. Brielle took her book down to breakfast and read while she ate. Her iPod went off upstairs with an incoming text message from her friend, Jason. He was sad that she was going off to boarding school and was wondering if she could get together that day. Brielle grinned and texted back that she was a bit busy that day and offered a different day, when she would be home. She wasn’t busy, but didn’t intend to spend her last day of summer standing still and talking to a rather dull neighbor. That just wasn’t like Brielle to do that.
After breakfast, Brielle ran back upstairs to send a message to the upset Jason when she found another package on her desk. The package was moving. Uncertain, Brielle made her way to her desk and looked at the package. It was addressed to her from Aunt Mary- another present?- and had holes all over the sides. She tore open the box to reveal a small black lab puppy whimpering in its cage. For a moment, Brielle just stood there looking at the puppy and then picked it up and hugged it. She called for Mother who laughed as she came in.
“What will you name it?” Mother asked, sitting beside Brielle on the bed.
“I think I’ll call her Katie. I’ve always loved that name,” replied the girl, stroking her new puppy. Tesoro sniffed at the dog uncertainly. “Can I take her to Weeping Willow?”
“I don’t see why not. You’ll have to put her in the animal coach when we get to the station, though.”
“It’s worth it.”
“Start packing, young lady.”
“Yes, Mother.” And thus began Brielle’s story.
“I have found her,” Demitri said quietly. Abaddon turned from the window.
“Excellent! Where is she?”
“She is attending the Weeping Willow Academy- the boarding school- tomorrow.”
“Perfect,” Abaddon murmured, sounding almost like a cat purring.
“Have we got her right where we want her?” Demitri asked, his voice rising with excitement. Abaddon shook his head and smiled at his ignorant eagerness.
“No, of course not, you fool. It is not for you to know the time of which these events will happen. Only I need to know that,” Abaddon said, almost to himself, in a quietly crazed voice. A voice gone wild with the obsession of finding and destroying his little sister.
“But, Abaddon…” Abaddon whipped around furiously to face his friend. Abaddon sneered at the word in his mind’s eye. Demitri was, of course, only bait in his plan. Abaddon had never had a real friend and never would.
“You will not call me Abaddon, Demitri. You will call me ‘Your Wickedness,’ from now on,” Abaddon said gravely, smiling eerily at the sound of his new name. He never smiled regularly. He only ever smiled eerily, as if to compliment his one blue eye and one brown eye.
The Weeping Willow Academy was prestigious in that it was hard to get into. But Isabella was a shoe in for the Academy simply for her relations- The Inklings were close friends with the headmaster of the school itself. Now Isabella stood on the station platform, busy counting her luggage bags- a total of three. She was checking Anna’s care package when a loud crash from behind startled her. Turning, Isabella saw a young boy, just about her age, struggling with countless bags that had toppled over onto the filthy floor of the station.
“Here,” Isabella said, stooping down to pick up a dog’s cage. “Let me help you.” The boy looked up- such vivid blue eyes! - And smiled a thank you.
“I’m Demitri Soothed,” he said with a British accent, holding out a hand while dropping the luggage it was just holding. Isabella grinned.
“Isabella Brookman,” she replied, shaking it. The boy- Demitri- had the brightest pair of blue eyes Isabella had ever seen. And his hair was the most blinding shade of blonde she’d ever seen, and spiked up slightly at his forehead.
“May I call you Bella?” asked Demitri. As he said this, Anna trotted over, released from Vanessa’s cruel grip on the leash.
“Well,” Isabella laughed. “Some people do. This is Anna,” she added quickly as Anna sniffed Demitri’s shoes.
Demitri chuckled. “Well I love dogs. This is Franklin,” he said as he let out a beautiful black Labrador retriever. Isabella smiled.
“I see you’re off to the Weeping Willow? Great school I’ve been told- I’m headed there myself. Parents didn’t want me hanging around with no friends and nothing to do,” Demitri said, then blushed at giving out such personal information.
“Don’t worry. I live with my godparents. They didn’t want me at all,” Isabella replied a little sadly. Demitri’s heart went out to her in more ways than one.
A loud whistle blew. “That’s the signal. May I help you with your luggage?” Demitri asked politely, gathering his things.
“No, thank you. I haven’t got much,” Isabella replied sweetly. Calling Anna, and waving a weak goodbye to Henrietta, Stephan and the twins, Isabella boarded the train, Demitri following at her heels. They found an empty booth and slipped into it as the student authority came around to collect the animals to be put in the Animal Booth at the back of the train.
A girl about their age with extremely black, curly hair and huge green eyes appeared at the door.
“E spazio c’e per una piu qui?” she asked.
“She asked if there was room for one more,” Demitri said quietly.
“Parli inglese?” Isabella asked, helping the girl put away her luggage.
“Yes. My name is Brielle Forman,” said the girl- Brielle- quietly.
“I’m Demitri Soothed,” said Demitri, sliding over to make room for Brielle.
“I’m Isabella Brookman,” Isabella said with a warm smile.
“Demitri and Isabella,” Brielle said slowly. She smiled. “I like it. Brielle, Demitri and Isabella. We’ll make quite a trio at the Weeping Willow won’t we? Il migliore degli amici.”
“That means ‘the best of friends,’” Demitri translated for Isabella.
“I know. I’m mostly Italian. My grandfather- when he was alive- would always curse in Italian when he was very angry.”
The others laughed nervously, the laughter of new friends. Each one hoped in turn that they’d know each other for a long time.
Isabella woke to a quiet prodding in her shoulder. Brielle was waking her. It took Isabella a moment to realize what had happened the day before and where she was and with whom she was, but when she remembered she smiled up at her friends.
“Bon giorno,” smiled Brielle. Isabella grinned even wider.
“The train is about to arrive- it’s time to put on the uniform,” Demitri said, plucking at his sweater vest and scarlet and grey- striped tie. Brielle was wearing a rather cute, scarlet and grey plaid, not-so-mini-mini-skirt with a similar sweater vest but without a tie. Instead, she wore a scarlet and grey ribbon in her hair. Isabella got up, stretched, grabbed her uniform and headed for the bathrooms.
The train had arrived at the Weeping Willow Academy. It looked exactly like a medieval castle, and was rather like one on the inside. A huge archway greeted them just before they walked inside and there was a large, scarlet and grey rug on the marble, white-washed floor, and the solid stone walls were clad in tapestries of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They passed one on their right showing the mysterious and glorious Weeping Willow itself, after which the school was named. It was said that the Weeping Willow was in the school grounds, just outside of the soccer field, and that, for 200 years it still had not died.
“Welcome, new students!” cried the headmaster- Conan Aldrik, or Aldrik as everyone called him. A very old man, he was lively still and, despite long house robes and a rather long, waist-length, snow white beard, he had the heart of a child and a mind of a sage.
“Hey, Mr. Aldrik,” Isabella said politely, calling off Anna.
“Please, please, my dear gal,” Aldrik laughed. “Call me Aldrik. Everyone does!” He turned to Anna and gave her a hearty pat.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome! We’re so happy to have you here at Weeping Willow! Please go on up to your temporary dormitories and we will begin categorizing you into your houses after supper,” Aldrik smiled in a way that made it impossible for anyone to dislike him.
“Thanks, Aldrik,” Isabella smiled back and headed up the grand marble staircase, luggage and Brielle in tow. Demitri struggled behind them, calling off a curious Franklin.
“Whoa!” Brielle cried as they entered the temporary dormitory. She had a good reason, too, Isabella thought. All around were couches and cushions, and inside one wall was a roaring fire place and scarlet and grey everywhere.
“If this is the temporary, imagine the permanent dorms!” Brielle breathed.
“I know! This is way cool,” Isabella exclaimed, trying to count the books in a towering shelf. The girls dropped their bags into a couch, and met Demitri in the Grand Room of the temporary dormitory, where the girls’ and boys’ dormitories split.
“How do you like this?” Demitri asked, a smile shining in his eyes.
“It’s amazing! I’m going to love it here,” Brielle said enthusiastically.
“I love it already- amo essa gia,” Isabella said with a smile, looking around at the marble and scarlet and grey.
“We should get going- supper is about to start,” Demitri said.
“So!” shouted a British voice from across the room. Approaching was a tall, blonde-headed girl who seemed nice on the outside but cruel on the inside. Two brunettes stood beside her, hands on their hips.
“Word on the street is you’re from America,” said the girl with a tone of disgust, reminding Isabella vaguely of Stephan.
“So what if I am?” Isabella said bravely. Beside her, Anna’s fur bristled and she maintained a low growl. Katie whimpered beside Brielle.
The girl tossed her head. “Obviously you don’t know who I am,” she said with a cruel chuckle. “I am Martha Lyndon. My family and I are true Londoners, born and bred in London and our family even founded this very school,” she continued. “We pride ourselves on the fact that royalty from all over come to stay here and we will not tolerate the disgrace of having an American commoner in our dormitories.”
“So if you’re English, why are you setting up a school in Italy?” Isabella asked.
Lyndon scoffed. “As if you’d like to know.”
“Back off, Lyndon. We aren’t bothering you,” Demitri said fiercely, Franklin growling beside him.
“Ha! As if you could do anything about it, Soothed,” Lyndon said with a sneer. The girls beside her- Isabella and Brielle later learned their names were Valerie Sidney and Lauren Barkla- high-fived Lyndon and pushed Brielle out of their way to the door. Isabella knew they would never get along. And she was never so right in her life.
Demitri enters the room. “I’ve gained her trust,” he says, not daring to look into Abaddon’s mismatched eyes.
“Excellent. Now we must move into the flirting phase. Get her to enjoy your company,” he said with a sick-minded smirk.
“Of course. And what’ll I do afterwards?”
“Bring her to me, of course. Really, Demitri, must you be so ignorant?”
“I just thought…”
“It no longer matters what you think,” Abaddon snapped. “Only what that girl thinks. Find out what she’s thinking. Get inside her head. Don’t come out until I give you the signal.”
“Of course. The other girl- Brielle Forman- may be an obstacle,” he said meekly, as though afraid of admitting a drawback in Abaddon’s plan.
“The girl will not be a problem,” Abaddon murmured thoughtfully, staring out of a dirt-streaked window. “What will be a problem is getting around Aldrik.” Abaddon’s face twisted with rage at the sound of the name.
“Aldrik is old- old and feeble. He will not notice as long as I am in this plan,” Demitri said with confidence, wanting more than anything for this plan to work- he wished so much to see himself succeed at something.
“I am quite sure that you will not fail me, Demitri,” Abaddon said with an eerie smile. “I am more concerned that you will take this too far, and expose us.” Demitri looked horrified.
“Surely you have more faith in me than that?”
“Don’t worry, I do. And don’t call me Shirley.” Abaddon’s wild laughter filled Demitri’s head.
“It is time to begin categorizing!” Aldrik cried happily. An hour before, Isabella, Demitri and Brielle had taken a personality test to see which of the five Houses they would fit into the best. The five Houses were all named after five of the hundreds of people who helped to found Weeping Willow; Cecilia, for the musically and artistically gifted, Sebastian, for the athletic or outdoors-inclined, George, for the brave or courageous, John Cantius, for the intelligent and Joan, for those who were interested in armed forces. As each new student was categorized into their houses, Isabella’s name came closer and closer until finally:
“Brookman, Isabella!” called Professor Veronica, reading aloud from a large book. Isabella walked slowly and nervously up to the platform, standing in front of the huge Grand Hall, with the house flags flying from the rafters, and each long table seating members of each house. There was the scarlet and grey of the school itself, the yellow and red of the George House, blue and green of the John Cantius House, black and scarlet for the Joan House and orange and purple for the Cecilia House.
“George!” cried Professor Veronica, and the George House- GH as Isabella later learned- cheered. Isabella walked nervously, accompanied by Anna to the table and was greeted by many new faces.
“Hey,” said a voice quietly. Isabella turned to see the most blinding blonde hair she’d ever seen and the same startling blue eyes.
“I’m David and this is my brother Darren,” said the boy. “We’re Demitri’s older brothers. Nice to meet you!” Isabella smiled a silent greeting and tried to take in all the names.
“I’m Emily Lovelace,” said the redhead beside her.
“I’m Emma Jones,” said a brunette.
“I’m,” began another, but Demitri’s name had been called into the GH. With a roar of applause, Isabella stood on her feet and welcomed her friend into their house.
“Can you believe this? How lucky are we to be categorized in the same house! It’s like it’s meant…” Demitri’s voice was lost in the uproar as Brielle was called to the GH as well.
“Wow this is cool! We’re all here,” Brielle commented, plopping down in a seat beside Isabella. Anna, Katie, and Franklin sat by the seats, savoring the numerous pats and strokes of the GH members around them.
Other names were called but few were heard. Brendan Siesta, was one who stuck in her mind because of his surliness, but Isabella wasn’t one to be turned off by this. Luckily, Lyndon and her cronies were in the Joan House, which was more or less disturbing.
The new students were ushered from the temporary dormitories to the permanent dormitories. The permanent dorms made the temporary ones look like the inside of a trailer. Everything was marble, except the oak or mahogany furniture. There was a pool table, air hockey table, a ping pong- called table tennis in Italy- table, and even a foosball table. There were no TVs in sight, which was something Isabella would have to get used to. Couches, cushions, chairs, and all manner of rugs and carpets covered the floor and took up most of the room. On the ceiling dangled many crystal chandeliers, from which hung banners displaying the coat of arms of the GH- two roaring lions supporting a large red-and-yellow striped banner on which George himself was riding a large stallion. Below this was the simple word, “Courage.”
Isabella looked around in awe of the huge room- students plaid in yellow and red, scarlet and grey were everywhere at once, either reading a book, playing a game, taking a nap or talking to their friends on the comfy-looking couches.
“How cool is this!” Demitri said, flopping down on a couch as much as a 14 year old could, for he was quite lanky and awkward.
“Well, well, well,” Martha Lyndon sneered. “What have we here? A couple of weirdoes and their filthy American friend. Some things never change.”
“Well we won the war sister so step off,” Isabella sneered right back.
Lyndon laughed weakly, taken aback by Isabella’s ferocity. “Yeah well we have the major exports and imports so what now?”
“We are the superpower.”
“We’ve been around longer.”
“Just a fancy way of saying you’re old.”
“Better than being ignorant.”
“Wow you know your vocabulary! Good job, what do you want? A sticker?”
“Jealousy is very common among Americans,” Lyndon sniffed.
“Funny, I thought you were British,” Isabella said, faking a confused look. “Pathetic…”
“You’re the one who’s pathetic!”
“Oh, grow up, Lyndon. How many times have you used that before?”
“One added time, now.”
“Look at this! You can do math, too,” Isabella exclaimed with sarcasm. “That’s how many stickers now, Lyndon? What’s the matter? Can’t you count them?”
Isabella fell silent, as the room had when the verbal ping pong match had begun.
“Let’s go, guys. This is pathetic. What were you doing here anyway? This is our common room,” Brielle said disdainfully. Without waiting for an answer, Brielle, Demitri and Isabella, accompanied by Franklin, Katie and Anna, left the common room and headed for the orchard to chat.
“That was great, Isabella,” Demitri said in a voice filled with awe.
“It was nothing. I just couldn’t stand to let her call me filthy.”
“You did the right thing. But I think you made her angry,” Brielle observed.
“Let her be angry. She can’t do anything to me,” Isabella said in a laidback manner. Demitri and Brielle exchanged looks. They knew the Lyndon family was powerful and influential and knew that Martha Lyndon would certainly do whatever it took to take Isabella down after the humiliation of being out-shouted in a shouting match.
Abaddon turned to better listen to what Demitri had said.
“She WHAT?!” Abaddon roared, infuriated. Demitri shrank back into the shadows of the doorway.
“She…fought back, Your Wickedness. She had a shouting match with your ally, Martha Lyndon. And…she won, sir.” Abaddon turned and sent an unfortunate coffee table clattering to the floor in a fit of rage.
“How could she have won a shouting match with Lyndon? Lyndon is my top shouter and if she fails…”Abaddon’s sentence was left unfinished by its master, who was still in a fury coma.
“Your Wickedness, there is still time…”
“Time for what, Demitri? For her to win more shouting matches and prevail against Lyndon? For her to socially ruin our most trusted spy? Next to you, of course, she is our most trusted. Nothing is more important than insuring that Lyndon stays on top and you stay on the bottom with that girl!” Abaddon’s roaring turned to thundering. Demitri shrank even further into the shadows.
“It will not happen again, Your Wickedness. I will stop her before she can win,” Demitri offered. Abaddon waved his offer aside with casual approval. Then he turned to his apprentice with curiosity.
“Tell me, Demitri. You aren’t…falling for this girl, are you?” Abaddon’s voice was disturbingly quiet in the silence. Demitri looked at him with the blue eyes that seemed to glow within the shadows of the darkened room.
“Your Wickedness may stab me if I do.” Abaddon smiled.
The next morning, Isabella woke up early to watch the sunrise. Anna sat by her on the window seat of the girls’ dormitory that she shared with Brielle, Brielle, whom she met at the feast the night before, and two girls whose names were Lydia Verrocchio and Barbara Herington. Finally, exhausted, Isabella drifted back off to sleep, right there on the window seat, in the perfect view of the mountains in the distance.
Brielle stood by the window for a moment, savoring the sunrise. She remembered a poem from a book she had read about gold by Robert Frost. Smiling, she turned to wake Isabella.
Isabella woke to the familiar prodding in her shoulder. It was Brielle.
“Isabella, you know it’s time for class, right? Better hurry- we have Professor Veronica first and she doesn’t much like tardy students,” she said as Isabella gathered her wits about her and began to dress quickly.
“I didn’t know we had classes so early,” Isabella commented to Brielle as they pulled on their shoes.
“We don’t- but I didn’t think you’d want to be late for breakfast,” Brielle said kindly.
Isabella grinned. She was beginning to think Brielle was the kind of person you could always depend on making the right decisions three-fourths of the time. Backpacks- really tote bags- in hand, the girls made their way through the door, down the steps into the common room, out that door, down those steps, hung a sharp left and entered the Dining Hall. On each enormous table were platters overflowing with every breakfast food imaginable- muffins, bagels, fruits, fruit bars, energy bars, mugs of hot coffee, cereals of all kinds and flavors, milks of all different percentages and so many things that Isabella did not know the names of that she couldn’t wait to try them all.
“Isabella!” Demitri caught up from behind her. Brielle took the hint and excused herself to grab a bagel before class.
“Hey,” Isabella said, taking interest in a large breakfast cake.
“Yeah so this is pretty awesome, right?” Demitri said casually, trying his best to be cool about what he was doing.
“Definitely,” Isabella said with her mouth full of cake.
“Gross,” Lyndon snubbed as she walked past.
“Better than stuck up,” Isabella shot back.
“I don’t know what you see in her, Soothed,” Lyndon growled. Demitri turned twelve different shades of red in the space of two seconds.
“I do,” Demitri defended himself.
“I don’t,” Lyndon said slowly, as if describing something difficult to a mentally retarded child.
“How about them Yankees?” Isabella intervened, stepping between them. The phrase had been used several times at her old school when someone wanted to change the subject. Isabella realized too late that the Yankees weren’t talked about in Italy. Lyndon sniffed.
“Right now, I am rather revolted by one of them,” she scoffed.
“Better to be a Yankee then a stuck up kiss up like you,” Isabella said, furious now. Despite how cool and calm she’d been since she had arrived at the school, Isabella could make mistakes. Take now as an example.
“TAKE THAT BACK!” Lyndon screamed. Many students looked up. Professor Veronica stood at her seat at the front of the Dining Hall.
“I’ll take mine back when you take yours,” Isabella said, dismissing her scream. “There’s the door. Good-bye, now.” Isabella walked away, turning toward the orange juice table.
“Isabella, you can’t keep doing that!” Demitri said, looking alarmed.
“Why not? Lyndon started it, anyway,” Isabella said sulkily.
“You just can’t. Lyndon’s family is super powerful. You can get in huge amounts of trouble if you keep going back and forth with her every time you see her. It’s dangerous,” Demitri pleaded piteously.
“Alright, alright. I’ll stop snubbing her if she stops snubbing me. If she keeps going at me like that, I’ll return the favor,” Isabella growled, her mood changing suddenly from sunny to stormy.
“Thank you. Now I wanted to show you something. Come on!” Demitri grabbed her hand and pulled her from the building, across the fields and up a hill. There, in the horizon, was the end of the perfect sunrise. The sun was just breaking over the trees, and in the far distance was the ocean. From where they were standing, you could see the white of the sand against the blue of the ocean. The sun danced on the water, and on the dew of the grass beneath their feet. The birds sang, the sky shimmered and it all looked perfectly enchanted.
“Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” Isabella breathed, sitting on the hill.
“Second most beautiful,” Demitri said, glancing at her. Isabella smiled shyly.
“We should be getting to class,” she said, making no move to leave. Demitri shrugged, still looking at the sunrise.
“Yeah, we probably should,” he said. Then he added, “But that doesn’t mean we have to.” Isabella grinned and stood, holding out her hand.
“Come on, Demitri. Time for class.” Demitri took her hand and they walked back to the castle. Isabella began to think she was really going to like this Demitri kid.
“Abaddon, I have made the first move,” Demitri said, entering the room with a rejoicing flourish. Abaddon turned around, the Lyndon girl’s arm clutched in his hand. Lyndon looked horrified at Abaddon’s touch.
“Demitri,” Abaddon said, fighting to keep his voice calm. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
“You look great today, sir.”
“I’m being serious, Demitri.”
“The girl said she wouldn’t stop winning unless Lyndon stopped.”
“I will stop, sir. I will not like it but I will obey you.”
“Good. Problem solved.”
“What if she tries to anyway? There’s something about her…” Demitri’s voice trailed as he looked thoughtfully out the window.
“Demitri, snap out of it. You are there for one purpose and one purpose alone. To bring the girl to me,” Abaddon said. “So that I may destroy her.” Demitri flinched at the last words. He didn’t much like Abaddon’s plan, but he had no choice. Abaddon had his true love.
“Lyndon, I want you to make sure that Brielle betrays the girl,” Abaddon said, turning to his spy.
“Of course, sir. And how shall I approach her?”
“Lie. Cheat. Whatever you have to do to get her to defect to the dark side.” Abaddon turned back to the window. So far, so good.
Isabella’s classes flew by. There was nothing truly important that happened in class, though Demitri was constantly smiling at her, and Lyndon stayed silent. Demitri fought to keep his mind on the plan, and out of thoughts of Isabella- her gorgeous black locks, her startling blue eyes that almost looked like his…Demitri’s thoughts whirled as he remembered His Wickedness’s deal with him- bring the girl and get his true love back. He thought about his true love- Anna-Marie DeVecillio had the same jet-black hair, but green eyes- Demitri never liked green eyes and couldn’t remember why he had thought Anna-Marie was his true love. Was she? He couldn’t remember- it was so long ago. Isabella…Demitri’s face betrayed his thoughts to Professor Brinkham, who rapped his ruler on Demitri’s desk sharply, shaking him from his reverie.
“Mr.….Soothed, is it? Well, Mr. Soothed perhaps you can tell us the square root of pi?” Professor Brinkham asked with a withering glare.
“There is none,” Isabella called from the other end of the room. “Pi is an irrational number. Unless you’re talking about the approximation of pi.” Professor Brinkham scowled slightly, stroking his long, dark brown beard.
“Excellent work, Miss…Brookman, is it? You very much saved your friend Mr. Soothed there.” Professor Brinkham winked at Demitri, as Demitri turned a shade of pink.
“Thank you, Professor,” Isabella said, grinning over Demitri, who blushed even harder. He was beginning to really like Isabella, but he was afraid to say so- His Wickedness was out there with Anna-Marie. Demitri’s face still showed his hormonal confusion, as Isabella gave him a look that said, “Are you alright?” Demitri answered with his deep blue eyes, “I’m fine.”
Isabella caught Demitri outside the classroom. Holding him by the arm, as if to keep him from running away, Isabella walked beside him, preparing to ask a question.
“Are you okay? You looked a little sad back there.”
“I’m fine,” Demitri said, giving her a look full of meaning. Isabella blushed prettily and Demitri ached to tell her, warn her, and protect her.
“Are you…doing anything this Saturday?” Demitri asked suddenly. Isabella looked startled.
“I was thinking…That’s the weekend we’re allowed off campus if you…I don’t know… wanted to go somewhere? With me?” Demitri hoped his face didn’t show his real feelings or he would die of embarrassment. Isabella didn’t seem to notice anything and looked rather elated.
“I’d love to,” she said breathlessly. Brielle was approaching. Demitri gave her a nod that said, “Not now!” Brielle quickly read the signal and changed directions before Isabella noticed. Demitri reached down and gave Isabella’s hand a light squeeze. To his pleasure, Isabella squeezed back and smiled up at him. It took every ounce of Demitri’s willpower not to give himself away.
“Awesome,” Demitri said, smiling into Isabella’s eyes- how he loved those eyes!- and she smiled back, much to his relief.
“So, um, where would we go?” Isabella asked, entwining her fingers with his. Demitri’s tangled heart skipped a long beat.
“I was thinking Il Ristorante di Amore. Sound okay?” Demitri looked at the ground, at the sky, at the wall- anywhere except Isabella to keep himself from telling her the truth.
“The Restaurant of Love? Isn’t that, like, famous for its romance?” Isabella’s voice rose with excitement. Demitri nodded, trusting himself to look at her molto bel volto- her very beautiful face.
“Do you mind at all?”
“Not at all.”
“Meraviglioso, I’ll pick you up at seven,” Demitri said, smiling as well as he could. He gave her hand another squeeze and went on his way to biology. He stopped by the bathroom and slipped into a stall. He put his face in his hands and thought:
“I have got to protect her. She can’t face His Wickedness on her own. She’s got to know. I love her. I need to let her know before it’s too late…”
Demitri’s cell phone rang.
“Don’t do this, Demitri.”
“Abaddon.” Demitri was overwhelmed with the want to throw the phone at the wall.
“Don’t do what you’re doing. Don’t soften to her. She’s the cause of your misery, remember? If it weren’t for her, Anna-Marie wouldn’t be locked away. You wouldn’t be under my control.”
“What if I love her too much to care?”
“Then I kill Anna-Marie.”
“Don’t do this, Abaddon. There are other ways.”
“I should’ve known better than to trust you. I will come for her myself.” Demitri heard a click and started yelling.
“No! No, Abaddon, don’t! Have mercy, Abaddon, please, no!” Demitri sobbed into the phone, even though the line was dead. Demitri’s mind whirled with the terrifying thought of Abaddon- he could say his name, now that he was free from Abaddon’s control- in the school.
Demitri ran from the bathroom, turned left and ran down the spiral staircase, half tripping, and half stumbling, to the chemistry classroom. Bursting through the door, Demitri stopped dead.
“Yes, Mr. Soothed?” Professor Kilikinns said, putting down her pointer.
“I need to see Miss Brookman,” Demitri said breathlessly. “It’s an emergency.”
Abaddon threw the chair at the window, shattering the stained glass. Lyndon backed away a few steps, receding slightly into the shadows.
“He told her?!” Abaddon roared. Lyndon cowered slightly but did not fall apart.
“I tried to stop him, sir. He shook me off by winning a shouting match. It was not to be proud of.”
“You let him win a shouting match?! Again?!” Abaddon roared. His anger distorted his already ugly face, and almost switched his blue eye back to brown- or perhaps it was just a trick of the shadows.
“I’m sorry I failed you, sir.”
“You soon will know the true meaning of sorry, Lyndon, when I enter the school and destroy her myself.”
“Sir, are you sure you’re strong enough? Remember last time…”
“Let us not bring up bad memories, Lyndon. You are here for one purpose and one purpose alone- to rescue your best friend.” Abaddon gestured to the closet door, behind which Anna-Marie and Victoria, Lyndon’s best friend, were trapped inside cages of pure silver.
“Shall I let Anna-Marie go? Demitri is no longer useful to us- ah! I have an idea,” Abaddon rubbed his hands together, smiling eerily again. “I will keep Anna-Marie here for ransom. When Demitri comes for her, I will destroy him, therefore causing added grief to the girl and she also loses her protection. It’s brilliant!” Abaddon cackled.
“But sir,” Lyndon interjected timidly. “What if Demitri comes for her while you’re in the school? You wouldn’t be here to guard her.”
“Ah, Lyndon. Naïve little Lyndon. This is why I will have a guard there. Silly little girl,” Abaddon scoffed. Lyndon’s face burned with humiliation. She was hoping Abaddon would be so distracted that he wouldn’t remember the guard.
Isabella sat down hard, trying to concentrate on what Demitri was saying. Her first reaction was anger.
“You mean all this time, you were lying to me just so you can hand me over to my evil half-brother?” Isabella cried with rage.
“No, no, no. Everything I said was absolutely true. Everything I say from here on in is absolutely true. And it’s important that you trust me. I’m your only protection at the moment,” Demitri said, taking her hands in his and sitting on the ground beside her. They were in the orchard, the way they had with Brielle so many years ago. Isabella only hung out with Brielle if and when she ever “hung out.”
“Isabella, look at me.” Isabella looked at him- from his amazingly blonde hair, to his startling eyes, to his huge, protecting hands covering her small, delicate ones. Demitri’s heart skipped another long beat.
“You cannot begin to imagine how important it is for you to trust in me,” Demitri said, keeping his eyes steady. He was finally telling the truth and it never felt so right.
“And you need to get away from here. I can take you to my home in England- Abaddon doesn’t know where I am anymore so he won’t be able to find us.”
“What about that spy-connection thing you have with Lyndon?”
“Well Lyndon can only know where I am if I’m a spy for Abaddon, but I’m not anymore. I threw the watch that connects me with her into the river over there.” Demitri gestured to the sparkling water- no pun intended- in the distance. Isabella put her hands on her temples, and lay back in the grass. Demitri laid beside her, a little way away. He looked at her profile- her bright blue eyes luminous as she looked up through the reddening leaves of the oak tree behind them. She sighed.
“What if I don’t survive this?”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“It’s a legit question.”
“There’s no legit answer.”
“Are you sure?”
“Is my name Demitri Benedict Soothed?”
“I don’t know- you’ve kept most of this from me, God only knows what you’ll be hiding next.”
“Isabella!” Demitri sounded irritated.
“It’s not funny.” Isabella laughed.
“But it is!”
“How?” Demitri looked at Isabella’s profile again. Such beautiful eyes!
“It’s so much fun to tease you.”
“Tease me?” Demitri held back a snort.
“Yes.” Demitri smiled as he looked at the sky.
“You never answered my question.”
“I told you- no legit answer.”
“C’mon. Please?” Demitri took a long look at Isabella’s face again.
“If you don’t survive,” Demitri said slowly. “I won’t have a reason to live anymore.”
“Such a Romeo kind of answer.”
“Well, you’re my Juliet, what do you expect?”
“What a love story that would be.” Demitri grinned, his eyes full of meaning.
“It already is.”
“Cut it out with the mushy stuff, will you? I love you and all, but we’ve got a lot of people to save.” Isabella said it so casually, Demitri was caught off guard.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up and say that again.” Isabella blushed.
“If you didn’t hear me the first time, it’s your loss.”
“Fine. I just loved hearing you say it.”
“I know. But I figured if we don’t make it out of this, you’ll at least die knowing.”
“I know.” Isabella sat up, and helped Demitri sit up as well. They sighed simultaneously and smiled at the scene before them- the castle to the right, the endless fields before them, and the river to their right. Demitri looked at Isabella- maybe one of the last times he would, he thought, shuddering slightly. Isabella looked at Demitri- she hoped she would survive just for him.
She found herself leaning in, and Demitri’s eyes got bigger and bigger until she got lost in them. Finally, their lips touched. Demitri tasted of protection, loyalty, trust- if these things ever had a taste.
Isabella tasted of vanilla and honeysuckle- exactly how she smelled. Demitri’s hand twisted her sweet-smelling black locks and Isabella’s hand massaged his strikingly blonde hair, as the kiss seemed to last days.
Breaking away from him, Isabella said, “What a love story, huh?” Demitri grinned.
Isabella woke up. She had been resting against Demitri, who was also sleeping under the tree. She smiled, reached up, and kissed his lips until he was awake. He smiled and kissed her too, one hand on her back and the other in her hair.
“Who knew?” Isabella smiled as Demitri pressed her against him in a huge bear hug.
“I always knew.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
“Abaddon is still out there, and we’re sitting here under a tree?”
“Yeah, kinda. Did you want to stop?”
“I kind of wanted to get it over with.”
“What? The fight?”
“Yeah. Just come at me already, Abaddon. I can take you.” Isabella showed her teeth in a fake ferocious glare. Demitri grinned.
“I don’t want him to come. I want him to leave us alone.”
“Well, that’s obviously not going to happen.” A loud whistle blowing interrupted their conversation.
“There’s the next train. They’re awfully early,” Demitri said, confused.
“That’s the train for people who are going on vacations, Demitri.”
“I knew that.”
“Sure you did.” Demitri smiled and stroked Isabella’s hair.
“We should go,” Isabella said.
Demitri shrugged. “Yeah, we should.” Neither one made a move to go.
“Seriously, Demitri, I think we should go.”
“Carry me?” Isabella held up her hands lazily.
“In your dreams. I may be Romeo but I’m no Superman.” Isabella laughed.
“Hey!” Demitri took her hand, and that was all the apology Isabella needed.
Lyndon turned slowly to face the guard at the closet. He was rather young- young enough to persuaded into opening the door, Lyndon prayed. She walked over to him, persistence burning in her eyes. He looked at her distrustfully.
“I don’t want any trouble,” she drawled in a girlish, lovable voice.
“I hope there won’t be,” the guard said with finality. Lyndon persisted.
“Of course not, not as long as you let my friends go.” She stepped closer, so that she was face to face with the guard- brunette with big brown eyes.
“No.” The guard was stubborn. But not impossible.
“Come on,” Lyndon said, putting a hand in his hair. The guard stiffened and then relaxed to her touch.
“Can you keep doing that?” the guard smiled- he had never been caressed, not even by his own mother.
“Sure, as long as you let my friends go,” Lyndon said softly. The guard seemed to shake himself.
“Never.” From the train, Abaddon smiled.
“I can feel him coming,” Demitri said uneasily, sitting down beside Isabella at the George House in the Dining Hall.
“Abaddon?” Brielle asked. Demitri had explained it to her, too.
“Yeah. He’s coming, I know it,” Demitri replied, eyeing the pound cake in front of him.
“It’ll be okay, Demitri, I promise,” Brielle said with finality.
“I know. I’m still worried,” sighed Demitri.
“Bri’s right. Let him come- we’re ready,” Isabella said, digging into the blueberry scone on her plate.
“I don’t know, Bella. He sounds pretty powerful,” Brielle said uncertainly, completely contradicting her earlier statement.
“More than you know.” Demitri shuddered.
“Class is starting soon,” reminded Brielle, standing and slinging her messenger bag over her shoulder. Isabella finished off the scone and followed her to the common room. Demitri watched them go. He was genuinely worried for Isabella. He couldn’t lose her now. He just couldn’t.
“Now, if you’ll all please turn to page 124 in your books, we’ll begin,” drawled Professor Bimmin, a tall, lanky man with cold brown eyes and slicked back brown hair- the astronomy teacher.
A note landed on Isabella’s desk. She looked across the room, but Brielle was opening her book busily. She looked around for Demitri, but he was absorbed in his notes. Shrugging, Isabella opened the note.
Lyndon is back. Watch yours.
Isabella scanned the room, looking for the sender of the note. She found Lyndon’s cronies, Valerie and Lauren glaring at her. Isabella shuddered and wrote on the note. She passed it to Demitri.
I think Abaddon is the least of our fears, Demitri read. He scribbled on the note and passed it to Brielle.
I think we can panic now, Brielle read. She wrote some more and passed it to Isabella, who read:
It’s not time to worry yet. We can take her. It’ll be okay. Isabella looked at her friends and smiled the signal to end the note.
After class, the three met in the common room for their free hour.
“Can we panic now?” Demitri asked when they had all sat down on the couch beside the fireplace.
“I think so,” Brielle said slowly.
“I don’t think so,” Isabella said confidently. “What’s the worst Lyndon can do?” The three friends stared into the fireplace, thinking silently to themselves all the possible options that Lyndon could do.
“I say we take a walk in the orchard,” Demitri said, standing. Bri stayed sitting, wondering if she was welcome.
“Come on, Bri,” said Isabella, confirming her question.
The orchard had never been so beautiful, Isabella thought.
“What are we going to do?” Bri sounded worried for the first time since Isabella had known her- Bri was that kind of person that never worried, just went with it and hoped for the best.
“We’re going to fight Abaddon and Lyndon,” said Isabella, her blue eyes sparkling with courage.
“But, Bella, he could kill you. He could kill us all,” Demitri pleaded. It was the first time he had called her Bella- only Bri really called her that.
“Or we could destroy him- we have to take that chance,” replied Isabella calmly.
“The odds are…” Demitri’s voice trailed off, leaving his sentence unfinished.
“Let’s not think about that now. We’ll be okay,” Bri said, returning to her old self. Isabella was comforted by Bri’s confidence. Bri stood up.
“I’ve got to get my biology homework done. I’ll see you guys later,” she said, and she was gone. Demitri took Isabella’s hand and led her up to their tree.
“Demitri,” said Isabella. “I’m scared.”
“Me, too,” Demitri said, squeezing her hand.
“What if I get killed? What if you get killed?” Silent tears rolled down Isabella’s cheeks.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Demitri said, wiping away her tears. He rolled so that he was facing her. “We’re going to be okay, Bella. I promise. I won’t let him kill you, I promise,” he said, his astounding eyes blazing into hers.
“I know you will, but I don’t want you to die, either,” Isabella said through her tears.
“I won’t- I’ll live just for you. I promise,” Demitri said desperately.
“I believe you,” Isabella said, and stopped crying. Demitri smiled weakly and hugged her. She held on tight, not wanting to ever let go, and Demitri couldn’t bring himself to think about what would happen if Isabella died, or if he himself died. Each just wanted to stay in that moment, so that Abaddon couldn’t hurt them, no matter what he did. Demitri hugged Isabella harder still, wishing they could.
“Lyndon is gone,” the guard reported into the cell phone.
“Excellent,” growled the voice on the other end.
“She should be on the train you are on at this very moment.”
“Yes I did pass her by in the corridor. I will not be able to contact you for several days,” the voice snarled.
“Why not, sir?” asked the guard politely.
“I cannot risk it,” the voice rumbled slowly.
“Of course not, sir.”
“I expect my prisoners to be exactly where they were when I left them,” the voice drawled on.
“You will not be disappointed sir,” said the naïve guard.
“I should hope not.” Abaddon flipped the phone closed and exited the facility, heading toward his cabin once more.
“Well, well, well,” said a horribly familiar British accent. Isabella turned around slowly, taking Demitri’s hand.
“Look what we have here!” Lyndon sniffed. “A filthy traitor and his filthy American girlfriend.”
“Don’t you even dare.” Demitri fought to keep his voice level.
“Oh but I think I just did,” Lyndon snarled. Valerie and Lauren snickered behind her.
“Oh but I think you just made a really bad mistake,” Isabella cried.
“I’m scared now,” Lyndon sneered sarcastically.
“Yeah,” Brielle said fiercely. “You should be.” Lyndon backed away a few steps. Brielle could be exceptionally scary when she wanted to be. And she really wanted to be at the moment.
“You don’t scare me,” Lyndon said uncertainly- almost like a question.
Brielle took a step closer, and Lyndon jumped back nervously.
“I can see that,” Brielle scoffed, tossing her hair. “Now,” she continued in a dangerously low voice. “I suggest you leave me and my friends alone. Or you’ll have to answer to me. Get lost, Lyndon. Arrivederci!” Lyndon, Valerie and Lauren fled from the room, helped along by glares from others in the George House.
“Thanks, Bri,” Isabella grinned, hugging her best friend.
“Anytime, kid,” Brielle smiled from behind her shoulder.
“Who wants some pie?” Demitri laughed.
“Me!” Brielle cried, bounding out the door, down the steps and into the Dining Hall, laughing all the way.
“Want to grab some pie?” asked Demitri, reaching for Isabella’s hand. To his relief, she took it and they went down for pie together.
“Now, everyone I would like you to know that there has been talk of a serial killer on the loose close to this school,” said Professor Veronica, surprising Demitri, Brielle and Isabella. They hadn’t told anyone. Brielle peeked at Lyndon, who was smirking behind her textbook. Her eyes narrowed in her fiercest glare and Lyndon’s smile disappeared.
“But not to worry- the killer is being tracked in Aldrik’s office at this very moment. You are all completely safe,” Professor Veronica continued with a smile.
Isabella stared at her smile carefully- she could tell she was very worried behind that smiling face. She glanced at Demitri with a curt nod- they understood that something would be done soon.
After class, the trio met by the spiral staircase outside the common room.
“We’re going to have to ask Aldrik if we can see the tracking device on Abaddon,” Demitri said, fighting to keep his voice down.
“I say we ask and if he says no, we break in,” Brielle suggested.
Isabella shrugged. “I like Brielle’s idea. It comes with a back-up plan.”
Demitri grinned. “There he is now.”
Aldrik was smiling, as usual and greeting everyone who passed.
“Why, hello, Miss Brookman and company,” Aldrik said cheerily.
“Aldrik, we need a favor,” Brielle said, cutting straight to the point. She was just that kind of person.
“Anything, my dear,” Aldrik said with a huge grin.
“Can we see the tracking device on Abaddon?” Isabella asked sweetly.
“Except for that,” Aldrik snapped. His smile was gone, as was any trace of jolliness from before.
“But, Aldrik, this is a life and death situation!” Demitri cried, much too loudly. Several students around them stopped and stared.
“Who’s life and death?” Aldrik asked seriously.
“That’s rather serious.”
“So can we see it?”
“Well…I still object. Why should you see it? Anything that concerns life and death will be taken care of completely by myself and the administration. I don’t want to worry you.”
“Isabella needs to know how to defend herself, and when she should be prepared. It is of the utmost importance that we see the tracking,” demanded Brielle with the air of someone in charge.
“Oh, alright. But don’t tell anyone,” Aldrik said with a mischievous smile.
“Of course not, sir.” Aldrik led them past the Dining Hall, opening a door to the left, down the flight of stairs, opening another door on his right, whispering a password to a small box in the wall.
Aldrik’s office was enormous- bookshelves lined every inch of wall, and huge rugs carpeted the floor. Up a small flight of steps was a huge glass chandelier, dangling above a massive mahogany desk, behind which a titanic window opened into a spectacular view of the mountains behind the school. A small owl sat in its cage beside the desk.
“Wow,” Brielle breathed, taking it all in.
“Here it is,” Aldrik announced, taking a safe from a hidden cabinet. Inside was an indescribable object, on which a radar showed a small red dot advancing toward the middle, where the school was located. The red dot was much too close for Demitri’s comfort zone.
“That’s awfully near, isn’t it, Aldrik?” Brielle said, almost scared. But Brielle was never scared. This made Isabella frightened.
“Yes, my dear, I’m afraid it is,” replied the old man sadly. “I’ve told the teachers to make sure to break it to the children gently, and assure them there was nothing to worry about. I don’t know if there really is anything to worry about. I’ve no idea of his power.”
“I do,” Demitri said bravely. Aldrik turned from the cabinet.
“You do? Is he awfully terrifying?”
“I’m afraid so, sir. To the extreme.”
“I’ve heard enough, thank you Mr. Soothed, and Misses Brookman and Forman. Good day to you,” Aldrik said, ushering them from his office. He shut the door softly behind them and the trio made their way back to the common room.
“What was that all about?” Isabella asked, taking her place on the couch by the fire.
“I think he’s just worried for our safety,” Demitri said. Then he added, “As he should be.” They all shivered at the thought.
“Well, we have until Abaddon gets here to spend together,” Brielle said, sitting between Demitri and Isabella. Isabella rolled her eyes- Brielle liked to act like she didn’t know Demitri and Isabella were an item. It made life more fun for her that way. But life wasn’t the same anymore. Abaddon was still out there, and still bloodthirsty and completely lethal. If only life would go back to normal, thought each of the teenagers in turn. They can wish. But wishes come true only in fairy tales.
Abaddon was still on the train, waiting for the long trip to end. The oblivious children around him were just that- oblivious. Inside his disguised head, Abaddon’s thoughts whirled disorderly. Frustrated, Abaddon shook his head, trying to pin down one thought at a time. The children looked at him, bewildered- he had been acting similar to this for a long time.
“Hey, kid,” said one. Abaddon lifted his eyes, trying to keep his face straight. “You okay?”
“I’m fine. Just leave me alone, please,” Abaddon said as politely as he could muster.
“Sure thing, but if you need anything, just let us know,” said the child.
He was rather nice, Abaddon thought to himself grudgingly. He scolded himself inwardly for being soft. He couldn’t become soft when he was riding toward a pivotal moment in his life- the murder of his wretched little half-sister. He thought of what he remembered of his sister- he had been seven. He remembered a beautiful little girl- black head and startling blue eyes. He could tell she was beautiful when she was a baby. He would place her in his lap and just stare at those eyes- those blue, blue eyes. He remembered the day Aldrik came and gave him a dirty look. He told his mother to pack everything and take the child and flee for her life. His mother did as she was told and never looked back. When he grew up, Abaddon found a technology that can link him to two other people through telepathy and a certain kind of watch. He purchased these, did his research, captured his hostages and forced Demitri and Lyndon to be his spies. He gave them the watches and they were linked. He could now find the girl without actually finding her. Abaddon remembered almost sorely the time he could stare into his sister’s eyes and love her. Then he remembered the next long years and hated her again. Abaddon was on the move.
While Demitri and Isabella were busy under the tree, Brielle was meeting with Brendan Siesta and doing biology homework with him. He was warming up to Brielle. They were just talking about the homework when the subject of Demitri and Isabella came up somehow.
“Yeah, they’re pretty cute together,” Brielle said, blushing.
“I just wish I had what they have, you know?” said Brendan, looking into Bri’s bright green eyes. She looked back at his hazel ones.
“Yeah,” Brielle said almost dreamily. She shook herself. “Um, so what did you get for number four? I put…”
“Hey do you want to go for a walk?” Brendan asked suddenly.
“Wow. ADD much?” Brielle laughed. “Sure,” she added when she saw he was serious. They left their books there and went to pick up Katie from the school kennel. As they walked through the empty hallways toward the garden, Brendan’s hand brushed Bri’s.
“Sorry,” said Brendan, blushing furiously. Bri blushed and pretended that he hadn’t said anything.
“The garden is so beautiful!” Bri gasped as they exited the castle through the grand archway and made their way to the dogwood trees. Brendan nodded in agreement, watching Katie try to catch the butterflies in the hydrangeas. Sitting beneath the biggest dogwood tree in the garden, Brielle thought about how coincidental it was that Demitri and Isabella were sitting under a tree at that very moment, across the campus.
“So, we’re going to village soon,” Brendan said slowly. “I was just wondering if you were planning on going.”
“Yes, actually. Isabella and I are so excited to see the new clothing store so I thought I’d go with her and Demitri.” Brielle looked over at Brendan’s fallen face. “Would you like to join us?”
“Yes!” Brendan said quickly, and then caught himself. “I mean, sure I guess. That’s cool.”
“Cool,” Bri said as she stood and caught Katie. “See you around.”
“See you,” Brendan said as he watched her walk back into the castle to finish her homework. Why didn’t I just ask her? Brendan thought, kicking himself.
I wish he had just asked me out, Bri thought wistfully as she handed Katie back over to the kennel overseers. Isabella came up to her from the end of hall, hand-in-hand with Demitri. Brielle’s heart sank but she put on a smile for her friends.
“Hey, Bri! Demitri and I were just going to grab a bite to eat over at the Dining Hall. Want to join us?” asked Isabella as they drew closer.
“Sure, can Brendan come, too?” Bri asked quickly, eyeing the archway.
“Brendan Siesta? Sure!” Demitri said, slightly taken aback.
“Cool, see you there in a sec,” Bri called as she ran out the archway and into the garden. Brendan still sat under the dogwood tree, looking dejected.
“Hey Brendan!” cried Bri as she ran to the tree. “Do you want to join Isabella, Demitri and me for lunch?” Brendan’s face lit up under the shock of spiked blonde hair.
“Definitely,” he said, jumping to his feet and taking Bri by the hand. Blushing, Bri walked with him to the Dining Hall to meet Isabella and Demitri.
“Hey, Siesta, long time no see,” called Demitri from his place beside Isabella.
“Been a while, Soothed,” Brendan said, grinning as he sat beside Bri. Isabella made a questioning face at Bri, who responded with a, “Tell you later,” glance.
“So this pie is amazing,” said Bri, hurriedly breaking the silence by shoving a huge bite of cherry pie into her mouth. Brendan laughed and took a sip of his orange juice as more food was served by the kitchen staff.
At night Isabella and Bri were sitting on the window seat, finishing off their chemistry notes when Isabella suddenly said, “Bri, what was up with Brendan today? You never ask him to sit with us.”
“I was feeling a little spontaneous,” Bri said simply, keeping her eyes on her textbook.
“You always feel spontaneous, genius.” Bri laughed and kept her face pointed at her book, afraid it would betray her.
“C’mon, Bri. Confession time,” Isabella pleaded.
“No, thanks, Bella. Not tonight,” Bri said, continuing her notes.
“Bri, you’ve never asked anyone to sit with us. Why Brendan?”
“I told you it was because I felt spontaneous. Why does it matter so much?”
Demitri’s secret knock came to the door followed by a high whistle- Brendan’s signal. They were requesting a meeting in the common room, most likely. They had developed that system at lunch.
“C’mon, Bri. Time for a meeting.” Bri followed Isabella downstairs to the common room. Brendan and Demitri were sitting on their couch in front of the fireplace, deep in conversation. The conversation stopped as the girls came closer. A storm raged outside.
Bri thought the rain sounded much like an orchestra- the deep bass booming with the thunder, a high A minor chord striking with the lightning, the flutes keeping time with the pitter-patter of the rain against the windows. She closed her eyes for a moment and listened to the rain- it sounded just exactly like a symphony.
“Bri?” Bri was broken from her trance and was shaken into the conversation.
“So what’s the emergency?” Isabella was curled up next to Demitri and Bri realized she hadn’t taken a seat. She sat next to Brendan and remained silent as Demitri explained.
“We’re discussing a trip to the village.”
“We don’t think it’s safe to go,” Brendan intervened quietly.
“We think it’s best that we wait until this Abaddon business blows over- if it blows over,” said Demitri, taking Isabella’s hand. Bri’s heart sank as she watched their happy faces in the firelight. It wasn’t jealousy- it was a good kind of pain. The kind of pain you would suffer to see a best friend happy. Whatever it took for Isabella to be exactly as she was then, Bri would happily do for her, even if it meant suffering that good kind of pain.
“I agree with Demitri,” said Isabella confidently.
“I do, too, actually,” Bri spoke up. Something stirred behind her. She looked, but nothing was there.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t,” Brendan said quietly, so that only Bri could hear him.
“We’ll work something out,” Bri said, winking at him. Brendan blushed and looked away.
“So, Demitri, what will we do on that day instead of going to the village?” asked Isabella, looking at him with those huge, adoring, bright blue eyes.
“I thought we could go picnicking in the orchard,” Demitri said slowly, as though just thinking of the idea.
“Great idea! But Brendan and I were actually hoping to knock out some of that chemistry homework that day. We might be in the common room for a while. Professor Kilikinns is a monster with homework,” explained Bri, hoping Isabella would be okay with the arrangement. She could hear a faint sound of air coming in- air conditioning? Of course, Isabella was flexible.
“Oh, okay then. It’ll just be me and Demitri. I’m okay with that- Demitri?”
“I’m fine with that, too. No making out on the couch, guys.” Demitri winked at Brendan and Bri blushed.
“No worries, man,” Brendan laughed nervously.
“Good. Well, that’s all I needed. Any other comments, concerns, complaints, queries?” Demitri looked around the room at each of them as he stood up and motioned to Brendan toward the boys’ staircase.
Waving goodbye, the girls ascended their staircase and went back to their chemistry notes. “Are you sure there’s nothing between you and Brendan?” Isabella asked as they began.
“I’m sure,” Bri said almost too quickly.
“Uh huh.” Isabella sounded skeptical. Bri was becoming a little incensed with her, now. She just wanted to be left alone.
“I think I’ll turn in for the night,” said Isabella, sensing Bri’s mood- stormy as the sky outside the window.
“Alright. Good night,” said Bri absent-mindedly as she stared out at the darkening clouds.
A high whistle outside the door came to Bri’s ears after a few minutes. Brendan wanted another meeting? Confused, Bri opened the door, but Brendan was gone. Sighing, Bri went downstairs to the couch, where Brendan sat, staring into the flames.
“Hey,” said Bri softly. Brendan turned around, startled.
“Did you need me?”
“Yeah.” Bri sat down.
“Abaddon is coming.”
“And we don’t have much time.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I don’t want to take that chance.” Brendan was looking straight into Bri’s eyes, the same way Michael did, what seemed like a lifetime ago.
“So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying we don’t have much time left and we have got to clear this up right now.”
“You. Me. This.”
“What?” Brendan put a hand on his forehead.
“Ok, Bri. I don’t know how to be much clearer then this- Abaddon is coming and if either one of us dies, the other will never know if they liked them.”
“Oh.” Bri looked slightly uncomfortable.
“So Brielle Forman do you like me or not?” Bri looked at Brendan. He was so straightforward…
Brielle stood, turned and ran all the way up the girls’ staircase, leaving Brendan on the couch, a stricken look on his face.
Bri flung herself onto her bed and began to sob quietly. Brendan was a nice kid and all, but Bri couldn’t get involved with someone then. She just couldn’t- Isabella needed her and she would be selfish to want something for herself at the moment.
A knock came to the door. A single knock- Demitri. Bri opened the door before Demitri could go.
“What?” Bri was incensed and scary now.
“Don’t talk to me about Brendan. It’s not a good time.”
“Bri, listen to me.”
“No, you listen. I am sick and tired of this stupid drama going around, first with you and Isabella and now with Brendan. I don’t want it anywhere, anytime. Understand? Isabella needs me- it’s selfish that I should want something for me right now. Get the picture?” Bri was furious and raging- she could hardly hear herself.
“Bri, you’re just angry. Listen…”
“Did you not hear me? It’s not that I don’t like Brendan- I do, he’s really sweet- but it’s just that now isn’t a good time.”
“Okay, Bri. That’s all I wanted. Good night.” Demitri left. Bri closed the door quietly, not wanting to wake Isabella, but it was too late.
“Bri, you’ve got to talk to me,” Isabella begged.
“Not now, Bella.”
“Please? Bri, c’mon you’ve got to talk to someone.”
“I said not now, Bella. Good night.”
“I said not now, Bella. Good night.” Bri sounded truly like she was about to scream at Isabella- but she could never do that. Unfortunately, Isabella didn’t quite know Bri enough to know it was time to stop.
“Bella, I swear if you say my name one more time I will cheerfully beat you to death. Good night,” said Bri, fighting to keep her voice level. Isabella was silenced. But not for long.
Abaddon’s phone rang again. He answered it.
“What is it?”
“It’s Brielle Forman, sir.”
“The girl’s best friend. Brielle Forman. I overheard her and the others talking and the boy- Brendan Siesta- has feelings for her that she can’t return for personal reasons. I’ve been eavesdropping all over the George House.” It was Lyndon.
“Excellent, Lyndon. Brielle Forman- the obstacle Demitri had once mentioned to me. Why can’t she return Brendan’s feelings?” Abaddon had moved into the restroom so that the children wouldn’t hear him.
“She said because she thought it would be selfish of her to want something for herself when the girl was in danger. She knows far too much, sir.”
“I still don’t think she’s much of a threat. What could she do?”
“I’m not sure, sir. I will find out for you, if you like.”
“Please do. But Lyndon- why were you eavesdropping on such petty conversations?”
“Well, sir, if we can capture Brendan, Brielle will be distracted from Isabella- the girl, I mean- and the girl would be that much more vulnerable.”
“Excellent work, Lyndon, very clever of you.”
“I do my best, sir. What is my next mission?”
“Put a tracking device on Siesta. I wish to know where he is so that I know where Brielle is, so that I know where the girl is. Brielle is her best friend, so naturally they would stay together and Brielle, of course, loves the boy Siesta so she’ll be wherever he is.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to track Brielle?”
“Do both.” Abaddon hung up with his eerie smile. He was getting closer.
Over the course of a week, Bri stayed away from Brendan and Demitri, but stayed with Isabella. They had a few altercations with Lyndon during this period, during which Bri almost got into blows, but restrained herself. Lyndon was still looking for a way to get the tracking device on Bri- Bri knew this for a fact. She knew that Demitri had told her Lyndon was a spy for Abaddon and he knew that Abaddon was wanting to track her to get closer to Isabella. She couldn’t leave Isabella, but she could stay away from Lyndon and her cronies. But there was still the choice- Isabella or Brendan? And the choice between her safety and Isabella’s safety. Bri was thinking Isabella’s safety was far more important to her own. She devised a plan.
“Bella, I need to talk to you,” she said finally, as they wrapped up their chemistry homework.
“It’s about time, Bri. What about?”
“Abaddon is trying to get close to you- he’s trying to use me to get to you.”
Isabella’s facial expression remained unreadable.
“What are you saying, Bri?”
Bri took a breath.
“I’m saying I think it’s best that I stay away from you- you and Demitri and especially Brendan.”
“Why especially Brendan?”
“Lyndon knows something about him- she might be trying to track him too.”
“How do you know?”
“I could hear breathing and something moving behind me when we were meeting in the common room- I didn’t think she would still be there when I came down with Brendan, but there is always that possibility.”
“What are you saying?”
“She might know Brendan likes me,” Bri said, restraining from adding, “And I like him too but can’t show it because of you.” Instead she said, “She might be trying to track him to get close to me to get close to you. A chain reaction.”
“Are you sure?”
Isabella sat back, nodding.
“If that’s the case, Demitri could be tracked, too.”
“Demitri said he had been tracked through the watch- there’s no other way to track a former spy- once the connection is broken, it’s broken for good.”
“How should I know? Abaddon knows, Demitri only partially knows and I bet Lyndon knows. Me? I’m in the background in this picture.”
“Okay, then. What are you going to do about it?”
“Remove myself from you, Demitri and Brendan.”
“Do you have to?”
“Do you want to live?”
Isabella looked sad, but she nodded.
“I’m leaving Weeping Willow in the morning.”
“Where will you go?”
“Back home. I can’t stay here, Bella.”
“I don’t want you to go.”
“I don’t want to leave- but I do want you to live.”
“What about Brendan?”
Bri took a breath.
“Tell him I love him. Tell him I’m sorry that I have to leave and that I’m sorry I didn’t say good-bye but it’s for his own good.”
“Bri…” Isabella was shocked. Bri wasn’t the kind of person to be dramatic- she liked to put it to you straight.
“Good night, Bella.”
“Good night, Bri.”
The next morning, Bri was on a train back to Orsogna.
“Hey,” said a kid next to her. He was tall- blonde hair and big blue eyes, reminding Bri painfully of Demitri.
“Hi,” she said curtly.
“What’s your name?”
“Brielle Forman. What’s yours?”
“Trent Lockman. I’m on my way to the Weeping Willow. Where are you headed?”
“Why are you going home now- it’s the middle of the quarter at Weeping Willow.”
“Ah, I see.”
“I don’t think you do.”
“Maybe you’re right, or maybe I’m right. I don’t think it matters either way.”
“Okay.” Bri turned toward the window, staring out at the countryside.
“Hey,” said Trent once more. “Are you okay?”
“Are you sure?”
Bri turned again to the window, watching the green turn to the blue of the ocean and back again. Finally the train stopped- Orsogna. She saw Michael, Beatrice and her parents standing on the platform. Gathering her luggage, Bri made her way out of the cabin.
“Hey, wait,” said Trent.
“Yeah?” Bri turned around.
“Have a nice day, Brielle.” Bri smiled.
“Thanks, Trent. You too.”
Bri made her way down the corridor- one kid in a cabin looked just exactly like Isabella- could’ve been her twin brother. Bri stopped- twin brother. She looked again- same blue eyes, same black hair, same smile- Abaddon?
“Excuse me,” said Bri as she opened the door.
“Yes?” said the children. The boy said nothing.
“Can I talk to you for a second?” she asked, pointing at the boy. He rose, face expressionless and followed her into the corridor. She turned and looked at him for a minute, then said,
“How did you know?”
“You look exactly like Isabella.”
“Don’t say her name,” said Abaddon, a pained expression in his eyes. Then he said, “Who are you?”
“A friend of Lyndon’s. She told me about you- I want to help.”
“Really? What’s your name?”
“Ah, yes. Lyndon has mentioned you.” Bri grinned.
“May I assist you in any way?”
“Do you know the girl well?”
“Very well, sir. We torture her and her friends- Brielle Forman, Demitri Soothed and Brendan Siesta- many, many times.”
“Excellent. I do believe this is your stop, though.”
“I will talk to my parents. They will be understanding.”
Bri talked to her parents, under Abaddon’s careful glare and boarded the train once more.
“Excellent. You will be of much use to me, Sidney.”
“It’s an honor, sir.”
“I’m sure it is. Now, here’s a watch for you- it will connect me to you and you to Lyndon. It will be our main source of communication. You must not destroy this, understand?”
“God forbid that I do, sir.”
“Excellent. Now, your first mission will be to get as much information as you can on Brielle Forman. She may be an obstacle to me and you, and we cannot risk any threats.”
“Of course not, sir.”
“Excellent. Now, we’re going to have to make sure that Lyndon knows you’re with us.” Abaddon pushed a button on his watch. Lyndon’s face appeared in the face of the watch.
“Hello, sir. Did you need me?”
“Only to tell you that I’ve recruited a friend of yours- Valerie Sidney- for our team.”
Bri stuck her face into the shot, hoping her face told Lyndon to play along. Lyndon looked relieved and said, “Oh. Oh thank God, sir I thought she had run away- she didn’t tell me she was leaving. Valerie, what were you thinking?”
“I knew that Abaddon would be on this train coming to the Weeping Willow, so I thought I’d take the initiative and find him to help you guys out,” Bri invented wildly. Abaddon smiled.
“Isn’t she good, Lyndon? She will certainly be of much help to us.”
“Of course, sir. Welcome to the team, Valerie.”
“Thanks, uh, Martha.”
“So I will talk to you in a little while- I’m still getting the scoop on, uh, Brielle Forman and her gang.”
“Good work, Lyndon. Abaddon out,” said Abaddon into the watch and Lyndon’s stricken face disappeared, replaced with the Roman numerals.
“Now, Sidney, we will stay on this train until we get to Weeping Willow, and then I will begin my reign of terror.”
“Sounds nice, sir.” Abaddon looked at her.
“Yes. Yes it does, Sidney.”
“If you’ll excuse me, sir, I need to use the little spy’s room.”
“Of course.” Bri stepped out of the cabin and sprinted to the facility. She whipped out her cell phone and dialed Isabella’s number.
“Don’t talk just listen. I’m on the same train as Abaddon, and I’m posing as Valerie Sidney, and saying that I’m going to be a spy for Abaddon.”
“Bri, how could you?!”
“Hush, Bella, it’s not like that. I’ll feed the freak fake information, give him a fake trail and pretend I’m on his side. You’ll know where he is and what he’s planning at all times.”
“Bri, you’re a genius!”
“I know, but listen Bella, Lyndon is playing along with this, but she’s also feeding him real information. I need to get in touch with her and make sure she’s in on the fake information plot. Okay? I’ll talk to you later.” Bri hung up and pushed the button on her watch. Lyndon’s face appeared.
“Lyndon! What are you doing?”
“The question is, Forman, what are you doing?”
“I’m leading Abaddon away from Isabella. What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to free my best friend- he’s holding her hostage.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that part.” Bri chewed on her lower lip for a moment before saying, “Listen, Lyndon, it’s time you picked sides. Are you going to help me or not?”
“I can’t risk that, Bri. I’m sorry. I have to save my friend.”
“I am too! Lyndon, you’ve got to help me. If you help Abaddon, he’ll just kill your best friend anyway. He’s not one to be trusted- he’ll never give you your friend back. He’ll just keep her hostage and you under his control.”
“I don’t care, Forman. I don’t want to take the chance of what he’d do if I betrayed him.”
“He’d kill you and your best friend. Are you with me or not?”
Lyndon hesitated. “I’m with you, Bri. But how far should we take this?”
“I think it will fall apart when he comes to the Weeping Willow. We’ll betray him there- he’ll be alone.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Here’s the plan.”
Abaddon was very happy as he sat in the cabin. He had two spies once more and a tracking device on Siesta. Nothing could get much better- except maybe three spies and a device on Forman. He wondered at the coincidence of Lyndon’s friend showing up on the train and offering to help him, instead of having to be forced to like Demitri and Lyndon had. He suddenly remembered the telepathy technology he’d planted in the watches. He pushed another button on the watch to enter into the telepathy technology. He heard Sidney’s voice.
“First, we’ll have to alert Aldrik of Abaddon’s approach. He needs to be ready. I’ll distract the guard and get him to release the hostages.”
“Good idea, Forman.” Lyndon! Talking to Brielle Forman! Abaddon was furious- Brielle had posed as Sidney and gained his trust. He had to give the girl props for ingeniousness but he was livid- he’d been tricked! He listened harder.
“Phase 2 will be to destroy the watches and get Isabella, Demitri, Brendan and Aldrik and persuade Abaddon not to kill Isabella. We don’t want to kill him, or even hurt him- the best we can hope for is that he sees how much he really loves her and changes his mind. If he attacks, we kill only for self-defense.”
“Good idea- how will we get Demitri, Isabella and Brendan in on it? They won’t trust me.”
“I’ll make a call later. Get Aldrik to believe you first.”
“Okay. Lyndon out.” Abaddon pushed the button again, disconnecting him from their thoughts. They wouldn’t try to kill him unless he tried to kill them. It was a chance he’d have to take.
Finally the train arrived at the Weeping Willow. Bri’s heart was pounding so hard, she was sure Abaddon could hear it. If he did, he didn’t say anything.
“We’re here, Sidney,” said Abaddon gleefully, rubbing his long, bony hands together. “We’re finally here.”
“At last,” agreed Bri politely, doing her best to keep her cool.
“The girl is in there, isn’t she?” asked Abaddon, a wild hunger in his eyes.
“Yes sir,” said Bri absent-mindedly- she was only absent-minded on the surface. Beneath her bright green eyes her thoughts were revolving rapidly- Lyndon would put Phase 1 of their plan into action- to alert Aldrik of Abaddon’s approach so that he might be ready. Meanwhile, Bri would be in contact with the guard, telling him of Abaddon’s orders to free the hostages and send them by plane to their homes.
“…would be wonderful, don’t you think?” Abaddon was asking.
“Yes sir, that would be very wonderful,” said Bri, shaking herself from her thoughts.
“And then we could take the bodies and burn them- no evidence, eh?” Bri didn’t quite know what to say to this since she hadn’t been listening but luckily the train was pulling up to the Weeping Willow platform.
“Here we are, sir,” said Bri meekly as she gathered all their belongings.
“Excellent. We’re on our way, Sidney.”
“My reign of terror begins,” said Abaddon, opening his coat to reveal a hidden shotgun. Bri’s eyes widened, but she kept her cool- it was essential to her survival.
“Is that really necessary, sir?”
“Of course, Sidney. It’s absolutely vital to the whole plan.”
“You’re not going to shoot to kill are you?”
“A good soldier always shoots to kill,” said Abaddon gravely. “If you don’t shoot to kill, it’s not merciful- it’s shameful to you and the victim. It’s a painful, slow death. No one wants that. You must always shoot to kill, Sidney.”
“Now, let’s get on with this.” Abaddon looked pained- he looked as though he’d like very much for this whole business to be over with.
“Oh and Sidney,” said Abaddon, turning to Bri. “Or should I say Forman!”
“What are you talking about?!” cried Bri, refusing to break character.
“I have resources unknown to you and Lyndon, Forman. I know you are posing as Valerie Sidney when you’re really Brielle Kimberly Forman, here as a counter spy for Isabella and you’re trying to sabotage my efforts against her. Well, Miss Forman, I say I will not have it! I will have my revenge, whether you like it or not. And I think I’ll start with your beloved Brendan Siesta!” The last thing Bri remembers is a hand coming down over her head and evil, eerie laughter.
That business over with, Abaddon stepped over an unconscious Bri and made his way to the doors. With a wild yell, he shot a few bullets into the air, signaling his arrival. Lyndon was staring out the window above him, smiling. She had played her part well- pretending to befriend Forman and join forces with her, but now Abaddon knew she was on his side and his side alone. Turning from the window, she ran down the stairs of the Joan House common room and into the George House common room, silent as Bri, lying forlorn on the train.
“It’s time, sir,” she said, meeting Abaddon at the main archway.
“Abaddon!” Aldrik was storming down the stairs, flanked on both sides by Brendan and Demitri. Behind them stood Isabella, hand-in-hand with Demitri.
“Ah, Aldrik,” said Abaddon, smiling eerily. “Long time, no see.”
“You have no business here.”
“Ah, but I do.” He looked past the old man to Isabella, standing vulnerable behind him.
“Hey sis,” he said to Isabella, stepping closer. Aldrik put a hand on an ancient hilt.
“Ah, Aldrik I see you have the old Samurai sword out once again,” said Abaddon sagely.
“I’m not afraid to use this, Abaddon.”
“Yes you are. You won’t kill me unless I try to kill you, isn’t that right, Isabella?”
“How did you know that?!” cried Isabella, truly frightened.
“I have my resources- your traitor friend, Bri told me the whole story.” Isabella’s eyes widened as Brendan began to scream.
“You liar! Bri would never betray Isabella!” he screamed, thrashing against Demitri’s restraining hands.
“Well, Mr. Siesta,” said Abaddon with a slight chuckle. “She also told me all about that little showdown between you and her. T-t-t-t-t-t, it’s too bad that she can no longer return your feelings.”
“YOU LIE!” Brendan shrieked.
“Try me.” Abaddon had one hand in his coat pocket, holding tight to the holster of the shotgun.
“Abaddon, please,” Isabella pleaded, fear trickling into every word.
“What do you want me to do, Isabella? Forget those tortuous, starving, abusive years without Mum? Forget the day you were born? Forget how beautiful you looked when you were a baby? Forget how Aldrik came and ordered Mum away? NEVER!”
“Abaddon, back up a few sentences. Remember how beautiful I looked when I was a baby. Remember the eyes? You used to just sit and stare at my eyes for hours, do you remember?” Abaddon flashed back to the faint memory. He shook his head.
“Enough of this talk, girl. Step aside, Demitri, you traitor.”
“Never!” Abaddon smiled.
“Ah, Demitri. I remember I had asked you if you were falling for Isabella. You said I may shoot you if you do…Well I can see you’ve fulfilled the first part. It’s only fair that I do my part of the bargain,” said Abaddon, raising the gun. Aldrik’s eyes widened.
Everything slowed down. Brendan was screaming as he stepped in front of Demitri, taking the bullet in the chest. Demitri was crying as he watched Brendan fall to the ground, dying. Isabella was standing in the middle of it all, looking around her with agonized eyes. She looked right into Abaddon’s eyes. He looked right back at her, remembering those eyes…He looked down at his hands, holding the gun that had almost taken her friend’s life, that was meant for his former spy and would lead to take his sister’s life.
As everything slowed down further, Abaddon dropped the gun, and Isabella bent down to help Brendan, still dying. Abaddon turned and fled through the door, calling that he would be back, and have his revenge on Isabella still. Bri came in as everything seemed to speed up again.
“BRENDAN!” she cried, throwing herself on him.
“Brendan! Brendan, I’m here,” said Bri, taking his hands in hers, silent tears making trails on her cheeks. Aldrik was calling for doctors, nurses, anything, everything.
“Bri…I-I’m s-so sorr-y,” sputtered Brendan.
“No, Brendan, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry,” Bri sobbed.
“You’ll be okay, Brendan, I promise.”
“D-Don’t c-cry for m-me, B-Bri,” said Brendan, breathing shallowly.
“Someone help me!” Bri screamed, helpless.
“D-Don’t c-cry for m-me, B-Bri. D-Don’t c-cry…” Brendan’s eyes closed slowly, the life ebbing away from the brown.
“NO! No, Brendan, please don’t die, I love you, I love you!” sobbed Bri, ignoring the comforting hand on her shoulder.
“Miss Forman, please step aside. We need to see if he’ll make it.” Bri stood numbly, letting the doctor’s through.
“He’s taken a bullet to the heart. He’s not dead, but definitely unconscious. We need to get him to the hospital.” And with that, Brendan was rushed out the door, into an ambulance and to the nearest hospital, leaving Bri standing in the archway, silhouetted against the reds and golds of the Italian sunset.
“Bri.” Isabella was behind her. Bri shook her head, and Demitri pulled Isabella away. Aldrik stood next to her, watching the sun dip below the mountaintops.
“I loved him,” said Bri simply, a dull monotony in her words.
“I know,” replied Aldrik, comfort dripping from his voice.
“Will Abaddon come back?”
“He will be weakened considerably. He’s been bombarded emotionally tonight, seeing his sister after 14 years away from her.”
“Will Brendan live?”
“I really don’t know, Bri.”
“What am I going to do?”
Aldrik looked at her- cool, calm, collected Bri was falling apart. For the first time, Bri looked completely vulnerable, and very much alone.
“You’re going to live so that Brendan may not die in vain.”
“How do you know he will die?”
“If he dies, Bri. There’s always a possibility. He came frightfully close to it tonight.”
Bri turned, and headed up the stairs to her common room, where the students saw her and fell silent. They had heard the commotion downstairs, but were ordered to stay upstairs.
Bri looked at everyone with dull eyes- the life was gone from those green, green eyes.
“I’m going upstairs,” she said simply. “I do not wish to be disturbed.”
All the students nodded silently, watching her slow, painful ascent to the girls’ dormitories.
Bri made her way to her bed, slowly and numbly. Isabella was restrained by Demitri to go in and see her.
“She’s my best friend- she needs me!” Isabella argued.
“What she needs is time alone. She’ll come to you when she’s ready,” replied calm Demitri.
“How will we know how Brendan is doing?”
“Aldrik will undoubtedly tell us as soon as there is anything to tell.”
“Fine.” A reluctant and very emotionally confused Isabella followed the still calm Demitri down the stairs to the Dining Hall to eat some pie.
Bri had fallen asleep- it was the next day. Aldrik was standing in the doorway, his hands on Brendan Siesta’s healthy shoulders.
“Brendan!” cried Bri, fully awake.
“Bri,” said Brendan with a relieved smile. She ran to him, embraced him and he twirled her around before setting her on the floor.
“I thought I’d never see you again,” Brendan said softly into Bri’s ebony hair.
“So cliché of you, Brendan,” replied Bri with a smile. Brendan was back- and she loved him.
“We’re going for a walk,” announced Brendan to Isabella, Aldrik and the girls in the dormitory.
“Kids will be kids,” replied Aldrik with a sage smirk.
They were back in their garden, under their dogwood tree, as they had what seemed like a lifetime ago.
“I love you,” Bri said simply, watching Katie snap at the dogwood blooms drifting on the wind.
“I know.” Brendan was grinning. Somewhere in the distance of the castle, someone was blasting Taylor Swift’s “Love Story.” Bri laughed and Brendan looked sheepish, as though he’d planned it. He stood and held out his hand.
“May I have this dance?” he said with a flourish.
“You may,” replied Bri, taking his hand.
Brenda laid her hand on his shoulder, and gently put his own hand on her back.
“Is that okay?”
They began a small fox trot, in time to Taylor Swift. The fox trot grew into a freestyle waltz and soon enough they were laughing and dancing under the dogwood trees of the Weeping Willow.
I got tired of waiting… shouted the song.
“I never got tired of waiting for you, you know,” said Bri, looking into Brendan’s eyes- green into brown.
“I know. I didn’t either.”
Cause we were both young when I first saw you, replied the song and it faded out.
Bri put her hands by her side and sat back down under the dogwood tree, still watching Katie snap at the blooms.
“We don’t have long until Abaddon comes again,” she said finally as Brendan sat next to her.
“We always have this moment,” he replied, “now.”
They looked out over the garden- a small granite path winding its way around the rhododendrons, tulips, hydrangeas and finally the Carolina jasmine. The roses were set apart, blazing reds, pinks, yellows, whites. There was a separate part of the garden reserved specifically for the black roses, the most beautiful of all roses. Brendan looked from Bri to the black roses and back again. He stood, walked over to the black roses and cut eleven roses from the group. He looked for any thorns and, on finding none, returned to his seat.
“Here,” said Brendan, holding out the black roses.
“Black roses,” Bri murmured affectionately. “My favorites.”
“I know. I have another- right here,” Brendan replied, pulling a fake black rose from his coat pocket. Bri took the fake flower from him.
“I’ll love you until the last one dies,” he said, taking Bri’s hand in his.
“But this one isn’t real.”
“I know.” Brendan looked at Brielle, brown eyes into green.
They went to join Isabella and Demitri. Abaddon was still out there, but there was time- about as much time as there was between that day and the day the last black rose would die.
Abaddon reentered his lair. He saw the guard had fled, and let the hostages escape. Abaddon sighed dejectedly- he had failed once, and he was weak, but he would be back. Oh yes, he thought to himself. He would be back as sure as the sky was blue. He would come back and strike with such force that he couldn’t be beaten ever again- and they would call him the Invincible Destruction. Abaddon smiled at the sound of it. He would need all new spies and all new plans. He would need a new disguise and all new ideas for attack. He would need better weapons- stronger weapons, darker weapons- then ever before. He would not be left forgotten. No, he would strike back with force- a stronger force. He would build himself an army of followers, starting at the Italian coast and ending in Russia. He would travel the world looking for followers and return with his unstoppable force. He would be wiser, he would not be beaten. He would be so powerful that the girl and her friends would never expect him to die. He would be practically immortal. Oh yes, Abaddon would be back. He would be back as sure as roses were red. Or were they black?