Authors: Cynthia Austin
It was getting dark as we approached the cemetery that evening. It was late September and the days were growing shorter. As darkness enveloped the small town of Noddington Heights, I sensed a sort of evil seep into the graveyard.
Adrian was trudging a few steps ahead of me and I had to run to keep up with him. He was not happy about helping me find Ray.
As soon as I saw the brick and wrought iron entrance it seemed the sky grew even darker, with a semblance of fog.
A creepy kind of mist was rolling in.
It reminded me of a time years ago, when Chrissy and I had taken a walk through the cemetery at midnight on Halloween. We had ended up spooking ourselves when we went to exit the gates and noticed a group of raccoons climbing out of the two large oak trees next to the stone pillars. I swear they gave us a threatening look, stood up on their hind legs, and hissed at us. Both Chrissy and I ran away screaming. We found a hole in the cyclone fence and flew underneath it. We even took the long way back to the car to ensure we steered clear of those little beasts.
Tonight, as Adrian and I entered the cemetery, I had a feeling that what waited for us was much worse than a pack of wild raccoons.
Adrian seemed to accelerate his pace as he began to climb the dirt hill leading up to his family’s mausoleum.
“Can you please slow down?” I shouted.
He reached into his demin pockets and pulled out his only stress reliever. Stopping at the top of the hill, he thumped the cigarette box against his hand, ripped the cellophane pack open with his teeth, spit the wrapper on the ground, and pulled a cancer stick out of the box.
While waiting for me, he cupped his hands around it and lit his cigarette. He inhaled and slowly released the toxic poisons from his mouth just as I finally caught up to him. They crossed through the air directly toward me, causing me to cough as I felt the damn smoke violate my nose. He was slowly killing me with his bad habits.
Then, he turned serious. “I need to talk to you about last night.”
He was not going to let this go.
Exhausted and out of breath, I plopped down on the dirt next to his feet. Staring straight ahead, unable to look at him, I blurted out, “Last night was a mistake.”
I didn’t look up to see his reaction. I couldn’t face him.
After a few agonizing seconds of silence, I heard his feet pound against the earth as he headed toward his family’s crypt. I slowly picked myself off the ground and followed him, intentionally keeping my distance.
As we descended the steps, I realized why Adrian had thought of this place. The note mentioned taking Ray underground and this crypt was hidden beneath the earth. The missive made perfect sense. I just hoped we weren’t too late.
When we finally made it to the masoleum, I was flooded with dissappointment. It was empty. “Where could they be?” I cried, panic beginning to set in.
But Adrian no longer chose to humor me, he had some issues of his own he still wanted to resolve. “We lit this fire, Sidney. Nobody else helped us. It was us. Now you’re standing in front of me saying it was a
I stood there with my arms crossed, completely confused. At this point, I didn’t know if I was making the right decision or not. Every second spent with Adrian seemed right. But now with Lilly in the picture, and those dreams, things were getting too weird.
Besides, how could I just throw away the last two and a half years with Ray? How could I work so hard at something I wanted so badly and when I finally got it, walk away?
He had proposed to me. I couldn’t abandon what Ray and I had now. Furthermore, I couldn’t abandon Ray. He was in danger and I had to find him.
“Ray’s not here. We should go,” I suggested.
“Just answer me truthfully, Sidney. Was it really a mistake?”
We stood on the cold brick floor staring at each other. Adrian was determined, waiting for an answer to his question, but I couldn’t say it. The minutes crept by and soon the sun disappeared from the sky. Eventually, we had to light a sconce to see inside the dreary tomb. Even then, I couldn’t deliver the answer Adrian wanted from me.
“I love you, Sidney. And you said you loved me too. Do you even understand what that word means because so far in your life, everyone that tells you they love you has left you. Your mom, your dad, and Ray.”
His words hurt, even if it was the truth.
“I’ve stayed in this town for you, Sidney. I would trade everything to stay with you. Can’t you see that?”
I carefully tried to soften my words in a way that would hurt Adrian as little as possible. But this wasn’t going to be easy.
I quickly learned there was no painless way to tell him, and I watched his face as each one of my words hit him like an emotional fist. “Everything you’re saying about me is the exact same way I feel about Ray.”
He lifted his hands up to his head and began running them through his long black hair in frustration. Taking one last long drag on his cigarette, he flicked it on the ground and stomped the ember out.
“I warned you, Sidney. I warned you before we even got involved to be sure that you knew what you wanted. I told you I don’t play games. I play for keeps. I thought you understood that.”
“I thought that was what I wanted too. But that was before…”
I stopped talking. I had said too much.
Adrian had no idea about Ray’s proposal and at the moment, he didn’t seem stable enough to hear it. He was beginning to frighten me and I wasn’t sure if he could handle that kind of news right now.
He caught my abrupt stop. He knew I was hiding something. He walked directly over to me, never taking his eyes off of mine. I took a step back but there was nothing but a wall behind me. I had no place to go. Once again I was trapped with him.
“Before what?” he questioned, searching my eyes, looking for any hint of deception. I looked at the ground but he grabbed my chin with his hand and forced me to hold his gaze. “You thought you wanted me before
Sidney?” he demanded.
I bit my lower lip in anticipation of his anger and revealed only part of the truth; the obvious part. “Before Ray and I got back together, Adrian. I’ve decided to stay with him.”
Releasing me, Adrian took a step back and automatically reached for his pocket. I put my hand on his but he cringed at my touch. Ignoring his dejection, I nodded toward his cigarettes, “Please don’t,” I begged. “You know how I feel about those.”
He blinked, his eyes mixed with disbelief and a little bit of contempt at the nerve I had to ask him to do anything. It broke my heart for him to look at me like that.
He took a couple steps back and defiantly pulled out the cigarette against my wishes.
“What is it about him? I’ve given you everything he refused to give you. Why aren’t I enough?”
I really didn’t want to have this conversation with him. I wrapped my arms around my chest and answered, “It’s complicated, Adrian. The history I have with Ray can’t just be forgotten.”
Adrian dropped his unlit cigarette and stomped toward me. He gripped my arm as he shouted in my face, “What about
history?” His question echoed off the stone walls, reverberating angrily in my ears.
He let go of my arm and ran his hand through his sweaty hair. Then he reached down and gripped the emerald pendant hanging from my neck. “You told me you’d never forget me,” he growled.
His words transported my memory back to those dreams. I knew I had never once uttered those words to Adrian, but Eve had said them to Samael. Things were getting weird again and I didn’t have the energy to deal with this. Besides, I still had to find Ray. I pushed past Adrian in an attempt to leave but then he continued his jealous rant.
“I meant what I said, you know.”
I looked back at Adrian, feeling a little more than a bit confused. I had no idea what he was rambling about now.
“I said I wouldn’t leave until I got what I came for, Sidney. I’m not leaving without you.”
I came back here for someone and I’m not leaving without them.
Adrian had just repeated the line he’d used the first night we met. I stopped walking and turned around. “You didn’t even know me then. I couldn’t have been what you came here for.” I shook my head, thinking of an explanation. “You just got sidetracked along the way.”
He hit me with a bomb. “Samael and Eve. Have you dreamt of them?”
I hadn’t shared those dreams with anyone but my computer. Why would he ask that question? I held the truth on my tongue and said nothing. But I felt my heart pounding now.
He continued, “I may be skeptical of the bible stories
read, but those two people are factually real. They’re us.”
I shook my head in denial. He was not going to take me to Crazy Town with him. “That’s impossible, Adrian.”
He squinted his eyes at me. “I promised you I would find you and I meant it.”
My dreams rushed back to me. I remembered a dream when Samael promised he would find Eve after she had been turned away from the Garden. He had given her a pendant that supposedly contained her memories, her soul as well, and as long as she passed it down to her next of kin, her soul would live on in whatever body it may possess. Could that be what was actually happening now?
Is that what Granny had warned me about?
Eve’s soul was in my body, waiting to be reunited with Samael, or as I knew him—Adrian.
I gripped my pendant as I felt all the color draining from my face.
Granny had said Samael was evil, as did his own Father.
My mother had also warned me about him.
Samael didn’t seem evil in my dreams. He was just a man in love.
I stood facing Adrian as he waited anxiously for me to process everything he was saying. Was it true that he really could be my soul mate? He had been there through it all. He had been the perfect friend and lover…but my soul mate?
I shook the thought from my mind.
I’ve made my choice
, I told myself.
He stepped forward and I attempted to back away but he knew me well. He already suspected my plan, so he gripped my arm to prevent me from moving, then he leaned forward to whisper something in my ear.
I closed my eyes and resisted the urge to jump into his arms. I pulled my arms out of his grip and stuffed my hands in my pockets to ensure they would not defy me and grasp onto him.
“Stop it,” I begged, my eyes clenched shut.
But Adrian was insistent. “Open your eyes, Sidney.”
I felt my hands creeping out of my pockets, wanting to grip him, but I shoved them even deeper back down into my pants.
“Let me go, please,” I pleaded.
But my words seemed to make him cling to me even tighter. “Your body is just a vessel driven by your soul,” he whispered as he brushed his soft lips against my ear. “Give in to it.”
I closed my eyes, willing him to go away. “I have to go. I can’t see you anymore.”
It was obvious Ray was not in the cemetery. I had to search for him. Staying down here with Adrian would only lead to more mistakes. I attempted to brush past him but he blocked my path and in one swift movement I was in his arms, responding to his urgent kiss.
I tried to break away but I remained in his clutches. “You can’t deny what’s meant to be, Sidney. Just give in.”
I did what he said and it was easier than I thought. Adrian was right. I couldn’t deny what was in front of my face. We belonged together, and as we held each other, giving in to our desires, my heart warmed to it.
For a moment.
But then I remembered Ray and my eyes flew open. I violently pushed Adrian away. Just in time to see two figures step out of the darkness and appear in the light.
Ray stood there with a strange expression on his tanned face and I knew he had just witnessed me kissing Adrian.
Lilly was behind him, pressing a pearl-handled revolver to his back and wearing a smile to die for.
Hang ’Em High
Adrian met Ray’s eyes and intentionally licked his lips, as if savoring the kiss that was just bestowed upon them, his mouth hung open, still hungry as he caught his breath. An unmistakable smile perched on his face as he watched the emotional blow that had been delivered to Ray.
Adrian’s eyes never wavered as he smiled maliciously at Ray, silently challenging him to respond to what he had just witnessed.
I knew the only thing keeping Ray in place was the pearl-handled pistol Lilly had pressed against his back. Her eyes were just as wild as Adrian’s and for the first time, I saw how similar the two looked.
Lilly licked her ruby red lips as she brought her mouth to Ray’s ear and said, “I know just how you feel.” She nodded her head toward her brother and smirked. “His standards always have been low, just like his height.”
I wanted to charge her at the moment and deliver the overdue blows she so fully deserved. But the steel firearm reminded me of my inferior position.
“How did you get here, Lil?” Adrian asked, more than a little irritated by their presence.
His beautiful sister scoffed at his question. “What? Were you under the mistaken notion that Samjaza only visited
that night in the forest? Did you actually believe you were the only one worthy of his help?”
She nudged Ray with the barrel of the gun, forcing my fiancé to walk further into the tomb. I looked into Ray’s eyes and couldn’t help but unload my feelings of regret. “Ray, I’m so sorr—”
“Stop!” he shouted. The look on his face surprised me. I couldn’t quite grasp what the look was exactly, but it was neither anger nor remorse. “You don’t need to explain anything to me, Sid.”
He waved his hand and arm in a wide circle, signifying everything around us. “This right here is just a moment in time.” He glanced over at Adrian, still very much involved in this silent battle brewing between them. “What you did with him was just a mistake.” He spat the word directly toward Adrian. “It didn’t define us. And it doesn’t define our love, then or now.”
All I wanted to do was run into his arms and for a second, I almost forgot about the gun pressed to Ray’s back until the tart interrrupted our moment.
She looked with disdain at Adrian, eager to get back to her story. “After the disfigurement of my face, thanks to your uncontrollable temper, I had to seek our little friend’s help.” She shrugged her shoulders. “You left me with no other choice, brother.”
“For what price?” Adrian asked as he strode across the room and began searching the empty crypts for something beknownst only to him.
“Patience, dear brother. You will find out the price soon enough.” She let out a maddening cackle before leaning forward and whispering seductively into Ray’s ear. “That’s going to be the best part. Sit, big boy.”
With no other choice, Ray obediently complied, but not without first shooting her a look of loathing.
After ransacking the empty coffin holes against the wall, it seemed Adrian finally found what he was looking for as he reached into the darkness. As I listened to the deafening sound of metal scrapping against cement, I was inclined to believe he was revealing the shovel that had damaged my head months before. Could he really have been the perpetrator all along?
I gasped when it finally revealed itself.
Adrian gripped the golden handle of a ruby-encrusted dagger. The same dagger that I’d seen in my dreams. “How is this possible?” I asked aloud.
Adrian rushed to my side. He gripped my face and looked at me the way a parent looks at a young child when they’re explaining to them why the sky is blue.
“Your dreams are real, love. You just need to start
I shook my head out of his grasp and took a step back, keeping my distance from him. “This is crazy, Adrian.”
He matched my step, refusing to allow any space between us. Then he sent a chill through me. “You can call me Samael.”
“And I can call both of you a head shrink if you actually think I’m going to stand by and allow you to live happily ever after,” his sister called out.
“What sort of deal did you make with Samjaza?” Adrian asked her.
She smiled, but this time her eyes burned with hatred as she stared at her brother. “How do you think my face healed so flawlessly?”
Adrian pressed her. “What price did you pay?”
She turned the gun toward me, her eyes never leaving Adrian’s. “I haven’t paid anything…
“Bygones, sister,” Adrian reminded her.
He must have been on the phone with her that night in the library. I remembered him asking a person to forgive and forget whatever history they may have had together.
She exploded in frustration. “You keep saying that, Samael! Let bygones be bygones. I’ve tried brother, I truly have. But there is only one thing that can fix the unfortunate past.”
Lilly nodded toward me. “
must go. It was she who contaminated your blood and mind. It was her poison that clouded your judgment and allowed you to inflict such pain on the one person who truly loved you. I do forgive you, brother, because I know without her influence you never would have done such things. She’s bewitched you and I shall end the spell she has cast upon you.”
Ray’s eyes were wide with fear now as he began to climb to his feet. I knew in my heart that he would not let this monster shoot me. He could take her easily. She was just some crazy groupie stalker and he was my big, strong, muscular Ray.
But before he had a chance to do anything, Adrian stood in front of me, acting as a shield, blocking me from his deranged sister.
“Calm down, and start from the beginning, Lil. Tell me everything. How you came here, how you found Ray and Sidney, all of it.”
Still waving the gun around like it was a fan on a hot day; she told him her twisted tale. “It was easy, too easy in fact. While Sidney and her Prince Charming were beginning their new life in the City of Angels, I took a little trip myself, up north.”
As Lilly spoke this last sentence, she set her catlike eyes on me and waited for my reaction. I had none. I didn’t understand a damn thing she was saying.
So…she took a road trip up north?
Rolling her eyes, obviously annoyed by my lack of response, she continued. “I wanted to visit an old friend, at least that’s what I told Sidney’s dear old Granny when I visited that charming little house over on Magnolia Street.”
“No!” I cried, as I took a step toward her.
Adrian gripped my arm and pulled me back behind him.
Lilly went on, rather enjoying herself now that she had my full attention. “Your Granny is such a lovely woman, Sidney.” Then she frowned as she reflected. “Far too trusting though, she really should work on that.”
My heart was pounding. I couldn’t believe she’d been inside my house with Granny, while I was with Ray down in LA.
That rat witch!
“She invited me in for tea and well, somehow a little bit of methyl iodide must have slipped into her cup.” Lilly let out that excoriating giggle of hers again. “Clumsy me, I really should be more careful when I handle that stuff.”
I had no idea what methyl iodide was, but it sounded terrible. Lilly put this into my grandmother’s tea? Is that what caused her stroke? My Granny was lying on her deathbed because somehow this crazy bitch had a vendetta against
“Don’t worry, lamb, it’s not fatal. Once it runs through her system, she’ll snap right out of it. I was able to switch her medication the last time I visited her. That overly zealous nurse of hers caught me in her room but I was able to take care of that.”
She shrugged as if Nouri was nothing more than an obstacle she had to get around, her death didn’t matter one bit. Tears poured out of my eyes as anger seared from within me. This lunatic had torn apart my life in a matter of months. She killed Nouri, and now she was going to kill me.
“Anyway, I’m sure the doses I’ve given her have run out by now and so dear old Granny should be waking up any day now.”
Holy crap. That means Granny was lucid when she acted like a madwoman today!
“But why?” I asked. “Why hurt my grandmother?”
Lilly stared at me as if I just asked the dumbest question in the world. She slowly responded, enunciating each one of her words, “Because how else would I tear you away from your other half?”
“Stop it, Lil!” Adrian yelled.
She spewed venom as she mocked her brother, “Oh no, Sam, I’m just getting started. Do you really think you could get Sidney to fall in love with you on your own? I don’t think so, brother. You needed my help. The sooner you realize just how much you need me, the easier this will be.”
The brother and sister stared each other down, neither one giving an inch.
“So, back to my tale. I do take full credit for Granny’s ‘stroke,’ as the doctors labeled it, which ultimately sent Sidney running back home. Ray, locked into a record deal, couldn’t follow, so I preyed upon his vulnerability. What pretty girl wouldn’t?”
She shrugged as she glanced down at my fiancé. He was seething, realizing he was nothing more than a pawn in Lilly and Adrian’s chess game.
Lilly purred, “He was so sad and alone when I met him. I just had to make him feel better.” She brought her hand down to Ray’s face and stroked his cheek. “And I did, didn’t I, baby?”
Ray slapped her wretched hand. “Get the hell away from me.”
“Continuing on, it was my cleverly planned steps that brought us all together. After the old lady fell ill, I was left with limited time to ransack the house and find the necklace Isabel used to wear.”
I was surprised how easily she mentioned my mother’s name. She said it as if she were mentioning an old friend.
“What does my mom have to do with any of this?”
I was quickly silenced by the barrel of the gun.
“No interrupting!” Lilly screeched.
I burned with desire to know how my mother played into all of this. If only Chrissy hadn’t stolen the journal this morning, I could have had time to study those pages instead of being at such a disadvantage. Funny how even as I stared into the face of death, Chrissy could still frustrate me.
“Your granny is such a pack rat, and because that necklace was buried deep in the attic, it was pretty apparent that she wanted no one to find it. Ever. But I made sure you would discover it by placing it in a box clearly marked with your mother’s name on it. All you needed was that pendant and Samael would come for you. The bait was perfect.”
She glanced over at Adrian, “You really should be thanking me.”
Adrian made an attempt to reason to his sister. “Of course I appreciate everything you’ve done, Lil. I really do, but I need you to put down the gun.”
Adrian took a step toward his sister but she wasn’t budging. Now she turned the gun in his direction. “I want to remind you of a time, Samael. A time when you chose that little hag over me.”
Now the gun was back on me. “I could have given you everything, brother, but you banished me from your life. All because of her!”
She was truly losing her mind.
I looked at Ray and mouthed, “We have to get out of here!” He responded with a slight nod.
“So this is where I get my revenge.
am going to banish Eve out of your life. Forever.”
All of the color drained from Adrian’s face as he gaped in horror. I stood there, baffled. The gun was pointed in my direction, but Lilly said she was going to banish
from his life, not me.
Surely she was not going to kill
“Samjaza demanded my blood as a test to you; to see how far you were willing to go to be with your dear, sweet Eve. Would you turn against your own blood and betray your only sister? The only one who stood by your side and loved you in spite of all of your foolish decisions?”
She spat the words directly at me, reiterating the fact that I was his foolish decision. I guess that clarified it, she was planning on killing me.
“Father loved you, Samael. No matter how cruel you may have thought him, you were still his first-born son, the heir to his kingdom. He wanted more for you. Far more than some meager peasant girl. You would have seen that had you not been so stubborn and so blinded by the likes of this inferior being!” she seethed.
Lilly took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself.
“You passed the test, brother. You didn’t kill me. But you didn’t leave me whole, either. You ripped my heart out of my chest and crushed every last bit of it before my very eyes. You cut my face because you knew Eve could never possess the beauty that radiated from my being. You attempted to take that from me and leave me with nothing, broken and unwanted.”
Adrian exclaimed in frustration, “I did it to save you! I needed to find an escape out of the Garden and find Eve again. Samjaza required your blood, so I merely cut you. Would you rather I have killed you, as he assumed I would?”