• Chapter 4: Final

    For some odd reason, a strange shiver traced its way up and down my spine, goose-bumps covered my arms, and a succinct chill froze my veins. “Th-the Mark of Cain?” I stuttered.

    He nodded. “When Cain murdered his brother—”
    “I know the story,” I said with a shiver. “But why would they mark the bodies like that?”

    Vincent's lips froze in a slight part as if I had him stumped. “Well…you see.” He swiped a loose hair hair out of his face nervously. “After Cain was marked, he wondered the land until he met Lilith, Adam's first wife, by the Red sea.”

    “Adam had a first wife?!” My voice sounded like a shriek.
    “I thought you were obsessed with mythology?”
    I pouted. “I never said I was obsessed.”

    Vincent rolled his eyes. “Well he did. She left him and became known as the Mother of Demons. And various other races, but that's beside the point. When Lilith discovered Cain, she showed him the power of blood. And when she gave him her blood...something happened. He changed.”

    I swallowed hard. “Changed how?”
    Vincent looked at me crookedly. “Can't you guess? He turned into what we now call a Vampire. Apparently his mark combined with Lilith's blood caused some sort of strange reaction. He died, but not really. Since his mark warded off anyone from killing him, Lilith's blood could only change him.”

    “So that's why they blamed the Vampires,” I said with a sudden realization. “But it wasn't. Was it.” It wasn't a question. I'd expected that there was more to the story.

    “No. It wasn't. Well not exclusively. That's what the Nephilim wanted the Council to believe.”

    “The Nephilim?” I shouted with another high-pitched shriek. Vincent winced and held a hand up to his ear with an agonizing expression.

    “Yes! The Nephilim! And could you please stop doing that? Vampires have a higher range of hearing than most people.”
    “Oh,” I said contritely. “Sorry. But why would the Nephilim do that?”

    Vincent nearly slammed on his breaks at the stop light, and I almost found myself peeling my head off the dash board. “Sorry,” he apologized. “No one knows why they did it.”
    My face twisted with confusion. “Then how do you know that they did it?”

    “Because someone ratted them out. A spy probably. The Council thought that they were trying to gain control of the Order or something along those lines. Always worried about their power. But I'm not totally convinced that they were wrong.”

    My jaw dropped. “What? You think that the Nephilim wanted control of the Order?”
    He shrugged with a nonchalance that raised my blood-pressure to a deadly level.
    “Well didn't my mother say something about it? Celeste? She's in the Council, wouldn't she know?”

    Something flashed across Vincent's face the moment I said my mother's name, and I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but just as quickly his expression reverted to the same lazy stare. I couldn't help but feel that his casual attitude was only a veil for another, deeper emotion.

    “They did. She claimed she didn't know anything, but she started acting strange. She even disappeared for a long time without any word to the Council. It wasn't until they caught up with her that they realized it was because of you.”

    My heart sunk in my chest. She ran away because of me? She risked looking suspicious because of me? It didn't make any sense.
    Once again, it was as if he could read my thoughts. “She didn't have to run away to look suspicious. She already did.”

    “Wait.” I said with sudden fierceness. “You think my mother was leading this rebellion?”

    It took him a moment to answer but, “Yes,” was what he said.
    I released one, deep, incredulous breath. Before I could say any smart remarks, he continued quickly. “When the Council found out where she was, they arrested her for interrogation. To find out what she was after. Or it was supposed to be an interrogation.” I didn't like the sound that. “Instead it turned out to be her execution.”

    It felt as if Vincent had suddenly crashed the car head on into another vehicle, with me flying through the windshield and crumbling onto the ground with lethal force. Knocking the life right out of me. All the while happening in slow motion.

    Vincent looked over toward me, and although his facial expression was cold and stern, his eyes smoldered with zeal, and locked with mine. The seconds seemed to last an eternity, and with a slow intake of breath, he continued carefully.

    “And yours.”
    We stared at each other for a few silent moments, despite the fact that he was driving. It's just that I wasn't quite sure what to say. My execution?

    “I-I was supposed to be executed?” My voice sounded so small, even to me.
    Instead of answering, Vincent simply nodded and returned his attention to the road ahead. And that's when my stomach suddenly began to feel very strange.

    “Could you elaborate, please,” I asked as calmly as I could as I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around my stomach.

    He paused.
    “Because of who you were. Who you are. The Council was afraid that you were a spy for your mother and—”

    “Wait.” I interrupted. I held my palms up in front of me. “And who exactly am I?” Vincent pursed his lips.
    “I told you already. You're the daughter of—”
    “Cut the crap, Vincent,” I said with surprising austerity. “I want the truth.”

    I watched Vincent's Adam's apple bob up and down as he swallowed nervously. Calm, collective Vincent was actually nervous.

    “Okay,” he said as he released a breath of air. “I'll tell you the truth.” There was an obvious trace of panic in his eyes, and the grimace on his face was a warning of something horrible to come. The anticipation was so high that I could hardly breath.

    “Remember when I said your father died before you were born?” I nodded once without a verbal reply. It's difficult to speak when you're holding your breath. “Well I lied.”

    My heart skipped a beat. Of course he lied. And it made me wonder what kind of news could've been so bad that he'd want to lie to me about it.

    “You're mother did have a husband, and he did die before you were born. But he wasn't your father. In fact, he died before you were ever even consummated.”

    “Then who was my father,” I asked without a hint of fear in my voice.
    “You're father, the man who raised you,” he began, “was also a representative in the Council.” Vincent stopped and looked over at me with such intensity that I actually leaned farther against the car door and grasped the edge of my seat. “He represented one of the Vampire Kingdoms.” It didn't exactly registered right at that moment that he said Vampire Kingdom.

    My father? A vampire?
    “V-vampire?” I repeated warily.
    “Yes. His name was.”

    He stopped abruptly as if he'd just remembered something and looked quickly back to the road with a goofy and confusing look on his face that only made the sick feeling intensify in my stomach.

    “His name was Ethan.” He looked back toward me. “Ethan Balentein.”
    My breath caught.
    “Balentein,” I whispered. “But that's—”
    “My last name,” he continued with a nod. “He was my father.”

    My eyes must have grown to twice their size.
    “But...if he was your father, then that means—”
    “I'm your half-brother.”

    My brother? Vincent? My head suddenly felt like it weighed a ton, and I was forced to brace myself against the car door.

    “No,” I said on the verge of hyperventilating. “That's not right. You said-you said you were turned!”

    “I told you. I lied,” he said guiltlessly. I took a deep breath of air and immediately felt the
    nausea kicking in.
    “Stop,” I said gasping for a breath of air.
    “What?” Vincent asked concerned.

    Swallowing against the bile now rising in my throat, I slammed my palms on the dash board. “I said stop!”

    Without hesitation, Vincent pulled the car over on the side of the road, and I practically threw myself out the door and onto the ground. Immediately when my knees and palms hit the grass, my abdomen muscles contracted, and vomit splattered on the asphalt beside my hands.

    My throat burned from the bile, but it felt good...in an odd sort of way. Like I was purging myself of all this heavy information I’d learned about my life. After vomiting for about a minute, I felt my hair being pulled back from my face.

    “You okay?” Vincent asked. There was a soft, empathetic tone to his voice that I never would have thought Vincent capable of. His touch was so light and so gentle that at first I wasn't sure who was holding my hair. I was so touched by the gesture that a few tears welled up behind my eyes, but I didn't cry.

    Instead I vomited a few more times.
    Finally I wiped the vomit from my mouth and collapsed onto the grass with what seemed like the weight of the world falling onto my shoulders. I watched as the clouds above passed by. One after another. It was funny how no matter how hard or complicated life gets, time still seems to go on.

    My view of the sky was suddenly blocked by Vincent kneeling above me, still wearing his hat and leather jacket, and I wasn't exactly upset about it.

    My brother.
    With the sun shinning behind him, he resembled something like a guardian angel, which was ironic since I was the angel and he was the vampire. There was a softness in his eyes that melted my heart.

    Instead of saying anything, I simply allowed myself to get lost in those deep blues, wondering how long I could stay like this.

    “Kida, I'm so sorry,” he whispered.
    The sincerity in his voice caught me so off-guard that a tear trickled slowly out from my eye, leaving a cold, refreshing trail down to my ear. With his hand, he gently brushed the tear from my cheek, and my heart began beating rapidly in my chest.

    He was close enough that I could have grabbed his shirt and pulled him toward me, losing myself in his arms. I was so lost and confused that all I needed was some sort of comfort. Some sort of relief. And Vincent was right there.

    But right as I began raising my hand, Vincent sighed and leaned back against the car, sheltered from the sun by the vehicle's shadow. I was actually a bit relieved that he did. What would he have thought if I'd embraced him? But then again, don't siblings comfort each other?

    “I know this must be hard for you,” he began, but all I did was stare above at the passing clouds. The loud humming of frequent cars passing by could be heard in the background, and the cold, morning breeze lightly caressed my skin. I didn't want to say anything. I wanted it to remain like this forever.

    Quiet. Relaxed.
    “I want to tell you the rest of the story. That is if you're ready.”

    I rolled my head to the side lifelessly so that I could see Vincent sitting in front of me. The face of my brother staring languidly at my own. But I failed to find any resemblance at all to myself. No facial features that remotely matched mine. His face was strong and defined, while my face was striking and a bit exotic. But then I remembered how familiar his voice was to me when I first met him, and now it all made sense. He must have been in my life before. I'd always wanted a sibling, but now that I had one, I didn't want it.

    “Please,” was all I could say. “I want to know everything.” There really wasn't much more that could possibly surprise me. Or at least I hoped not.

    He waited until a few more cars passed by to continue. “When the Council ordered you to be executed, I-I couldn't let it happen. I knew what they were doing was wrong, and since there was nothing I could do for your mother, I had to save you.”

    “But why?” I asked without emotion. My voice was still a little hoarse from puking. “My execution wouldn't have effected you any. Why save me?”

    After studying my face for a few minutes, he looked off into the distance behind me. “I guess it's because I was sick of always going along with the Council's dirty deeds. No matter how guilty your mother may have been, it was never your crime. You didn't choose to be who you were. You were just caught in the middle. I couldn't let the Council kill you. Besides...you're my sister,” he said with a contrite smile.

    It took everything in me not to glower at that last comment. My sister. I almost puked again just thinking it.

    Holding down what breakfast I had left, I reverted my gaze to the sky and wondered to myself whether or not his answer held any truth. After all, he lied before. But I was too exhausted to ask anymore questions.

    “So I kidnapped you and brought you to a good friend of mine. I erased your memory and sent you overseas to an orphanage where I knew you'd find a family and be safe. That's all that mattered to me was that you were safe.”

    My senses unexpectedly began flooding back, like an underwater submarine that was opened, and the water was rushing in violently and relentlessly. I was instantly aware of my surroundings. Of where I was and what I was doing. I shot up into a sitting position so quickly that even Vincent flinched with surprise.

    “You erased my memory?” I asked more lively.
    “Yes,” he said a bit more on-guard. “I had to. Otherwise you wouldn't have stayed at the orphanage. The Council would have found you, and you'd be dead right now.” I stared at him with an incredulous gaze.

    “Well how do I get it back?”
    “I don't know,” he began defensively. “It has to be triggered by something. Think of your memory as a computer, with lots of different files and folders. I put a few of those files into a locked folder, but no one knows the password. You have to figure it out.”

    Burying my face in my palms, I took a calm, collected breath, and stood up, dusting the dirt and grass stains off my pants. Vincent stood up almost simultaneously with me, a confused but restrained look on his face.

    “Okay,” I said slowly. “So I don't have my memory. So what? I've lived my whole…well…much of my life without it. And I got on just fine. So why worry about it now? Right?”

    Vincent's lips turned up slowly into a beaming smile. He was practically showing his teeth. “Right.”

    “Well,” I began. “I guess we ought to get going then. After all, we have a party to attend tonight.”

    “Yeah,” he said with a crooked smile. “I believe we do.”
    As I got back into the car, I realized something. Everything was going to be okay. And once I let myself accept the fact that I was never who I thought I was, that I was born into this crazy Other world, inhabited by creatures that I thought only existed in fairy-tales, and that I was in a sense the spawn of some heavenly being who against all odds had complicated feelings for her half-brother...an unexpected thrill consumed me like an ember that caught on a dry leaf.

    And the flames burned brighter than ever.

    Next Part (Final)