1. Death was talking her
It was time. I’d let her grow up normally. I’d stood back and protected her and guided her silently. Now, it was time I made her mine. The soul that the Creator had made to be her mate was gone. He’d moved away. My path was clear. Finally. I’d been waiting a lifetime for her.
I ignored the jealous glare from Kendra. She was annoying me lately. Once she’d been a good side distraction. Father had sent her to me as a form of entertainment. There were times she’d been useful but those days were over. Kendra knew her fun had come to an end. I needed to talk to Father about removing her if she was going to cause problems. Nothing was going to stand in my way now.
I sat down in the empty seat beside Pagan. The excuse to be near her had been rehearsed in my head for over a year, when I’d started planning a way to ease into her life. She didn’t like me much. Once this amused me but now it worried me. I needed her to like me. She was my world. She always had been.
“Hey, Pagan, Mr. Yorkley said I needed to come talk to you.” Pagan stared at me wide eyed. The shock in her expression was adorable. I’d been waiting to finally speak to her knowing that this time, she’d remember me.
The shock was quickly replaced with an annoyed frown. Not what I’d hoped for but from what I could tell she really didn’t like me. Nervously, I rubbed my hands on the knees of my jeans wondering if I should have taken another route to get close to her. No, questioning my plan now was a bad idea. I had to make this work. “Uh, um, well,” I began, “I mean, that is, I need some help in Speech. It isn’t my thing and Mr. Yorkley said you were the one to talk to about getting some assistance.”
“This is the first day of school. How can you need help already?” She asked. I force myself to look at her, even though the disdain in her eyes was painful to witness. She wasn’t buying into my excuse. This wasn’t something I’d planned for.
“Um, yeah, I know, but I, well, that is Mr. Yorkley and I know I’m going to struggle,” I explained. Did I tell her about my “dyslexia” now or later? Leif Montgomery—quarterback, wouldn’t be that open. He’d want to keep his cool persona. I had to remember to play the part. If this was going to work I couldn’t let her see me too clearly this soon.
“Why do you both think you’ll struggle? Surely, you’re not afraid to speak out loud in class.”
I wanted to tell her everything. I couldn’t keep looking at her and reply properly. I turned my gaze away to stare straight ahead before answering. “No, that’s not it.” Was the only response I could come up with. Real smooth.
“I don’t really know why you need my help. It’s really simple. You write speeches about the topics assigned and then give them orally. Simple, basic, no fancy strings or hard equations.” Her dislike for me was so obvious in her tone. What had I ever done to her to make her hate me so much? I thought I was a nice guy. Everyone else liked me. Why not her?
“It isn’t so easy for me.” I started to say more and stopped. This wasn’t going like I’d hoped. I needed to think this through. “Never mind, forget I asked.” Without another glance back at her, I stood up and walked away. I’d completely screwed that up. For over ten years I’d been waiting for the moment when I would speak to her and know that she would remember me it tomorrow.
“I don’t understand why you want her so badly. She’s a complete bitch.” Kendra caught up to me as I stalked down the hallway as far away from my debacle in the cafeteria as I could.
“Shut up, Kendra. I’m not in the mood,” I growled picking up speed.
“Testy, testy. Not attractive, my prince,” she replied with an amused tone.
“You’re pushing it,” I threatened, as I reached my locker.
“She’s uptight, Leif. Breaking through her wall of ice is going to be impossible.”
Jerking my locker door opened, I reached for my gym bag. “Leave me alone,” my words left me as the eery presence of Death crept through the halls. Kendra felt it too. She stiffened and took a step closer to me. Who was he after? No one’s soul had left their body.
“Do you feel him?” Kendra whispered. The awe in her voice was obvious.
“Yeah,” I replied searching the halls for a sign of him. But I saw nothing. Slowly the feeling left and I took a deep breath. He was gone.
“That was Dankmar wasn’t it?” Kendra asked staring up at me.
Nodding my head, I slammed my locker.
“Why was he here?”
“I have no idea, Kendra. He’s Death. He can go wherever he wants to go. Just back off me, okay.”
I stepped around her and headed for the locker room. Maybe I could get some peace and quiet in there.
Death was stalking her. Anger, fear, and helplessness battled inside me. Should I go ask my father what to do? Would he know the answer to this? We’d saved her from Death once already. Why was he back? How many times would Death come for her? She was only seventeen. I had to find a way to stop this.
I couldn’t get close enough to her house without alerting Death that I was near. He would feel me and come find me. Although Death had no power over me, crossing him wasn’t something I wanted to do. Did he know it was me that kept her alive all those years ago when he’d come to take her soul? Had he figured it out? Was he coming to right a wrong?
“Ghede!” I called out into the darkness knowing my father would come at the sound of my voice. I didn’t come to him often for help. I preferred to keep my distance from his life in Vilokan. The Voodoo afterlife would be my final dwelling once Pagan was mine. But right now, I wanted to be close to her. Vilokan felt so dark and lonely without her with me.
“Whut do I need da fix now, huh?” Father asked as he stepped out of the darkness. The two small orange tips of his cigarettes were the only light around us.
“Dankmar is stalking Pagan. Again.” I explained forcing myself not to begin pacing. Father hated it when I paced.
“Is dat so? Whut dat gurl done to send de Death afta her again?” Father pulled the cigarettes from his mouth with two of his long slender fingers and blew rings of smoke into the air before looking back at me. “Dis jus mean you got to take her now, huh. Dat all it means.”
“I can’t take her yet. She hates me. I don’t know why but she does. I need to make her love me before I take her to Vilokan. If she doesn’t love me, she will never accept her fate.”
Father shook his head and waved the hand holding the cigarettes toward Pagan’s house. “You wan de Death to take her? Jus take de gurl and be done wit it. De fun is de sex, not de love.”
I wanted to roar in frustration. This was not the helpful words I’d been hoping for. But then my father believed that sex, parties, and rum were the most important things in life. “I need her love. I’ve worked too damn hard to win her trust over the years. I’ve protected her. Met her needs. I’ve MOLDED her. I need her love. Can’t you understand that?”
Father sighed and placed the cigarettes back in his mouth then shook his head. “You don make no sense son. I wilt do whut I can. But if’n it’s de love you need. Den get it, soon.”
“I’m trying. I approached her today. I’m going to do my best. I just need more time.” Tomorrow I needed a new plan. I had to make her see there was more to me than a popular football player. Stupidly, I’d thought making myself wanted among her peers would win her heart. I should’ve known better. Pagan wasn’t shallow.
Father was gone, leaving me standing in the darkness alone once more. He was no help. Needing her love wasn’t something he would ever understand. My parent’s relationship had absolutely nothing to do with love. Why was I so different from them?
Lifting my eyes back to the direction of Pagan’s house I waited for him to leave. I would not let Death leave with her soul. I had to do something to protect her without alerting him. But what?
She was waiting on me outside the door to the only class we shared, Chemistry. I could feel her anxiety as she stood there. This was a good sign. At least she was coming to me because I was still unsure how to approach her again.
Stepping out into the hallway, my joy at having her waiting to speak with me was diminished by the fact Death stood somewhere nearby. I couldn’t see him but I could feel his icy cold presence.
“Um, Leif, could I talk to you a minute?” she asked. As much as I wanted to make this easy on her I knew I couldn’t. Death knew I wasn’t human. I didn’t want to alert him to my true intentions. I leaned against the wall and crossed my arms. She nibbled her bottom lip nervously. Death moved closer to us and I fought back the cringe that crawled over me at his nearness.
“About yesterday, I’m sorry I was so rude about helping you. I did sign up to tutor for extra credit and I shouldn’t have treated you the way I did,” she paused and stared up at me with an anxious expression. I wanted to ease her mind but I couldn’t. Not here. Not with him watching and listening. “If you still want me to tutor you, I’d be happy to.” She finished and I wasn’t sure what the correct response was to this.
I would do whatever she allowed just to be close to her. But Dankmar was near. I kept the bored expression on my face and pretended to be thinking her offer over. When it looked like she might bolt, I replied, “Are you offering because of Mr. Yorkley? Did he make you do this?”
The frown on her face was so damn cute. One day soon I’d be able to reach out and smooth it away with my fingertips… or lips. “I acted the way I did because I just don’t like you very much. I was wrong and, honestly, I don’t even know you well enough to form an opinion of you. I’m offering to help because you need it. That’s what I signed up for and that’s why I’m here now.”
She admitted she didn’t like me. Even though that should worry me, it didn’t. The simple admission made me smile. “You don’t like me, huh?”
She straightened up attempting to stand taller and gave me a small shake of her head. I couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, we might have to work on changing your mind. I’ll see you later.” I replied then turned and walked away. Leaving her alone with Dankmar so close by bothered me. But he didn’t need to know I sensed him just like he didn’t need to know, I intended to take Pagan’s soul before he could. After all, her soul was mine.