30/3 Productions Ltd.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
‘The decision is final, Rebecca,’ Joseph stated with no emotion. ‘Violet has been chosen, there can be no negotiation for her freedom now.’
‘But her crime was so petty,’ Rebecca cried. ‘The blight… we had no food.’
‘This does not matter.’
Violet watched on, Joseph’s unwavering tone inducing more shocks of horrid panic through her body. She was being restrained by another man of their church, struggling as her wrists were bound with rope. Her mother kept up her pleading, all of her words falling on Joseph’s now deaf ears. Her father, Thomas, was doing nothing in Violet’s defence, accepting the decision of the church as final.
He’d been the one to make Violet go and steal, reasoning she was quicker on her feet than her younger sister, Annabelle. During the trial, he’d not uttered one word to this truth, though Violet had implored him from the stand to speak for her. She was only sixteen, she was supposed to wed Samuel, the apprentice smith who lived in the village. There were others more deserving of this punishment.
Rebecca kept weeping into Thomas’s shoulder as Violet was dragged away, screaming. Annabelle had been forced to stay home, disallowed to even say goodbye to Violet.
Her punishment was worsened for having to see Samuel on her way to the woods. His father was holding him by the arm, demanding he do nothing to rescue Violet or else he’d be hanged for it.
But they weren’t taking Violet to the gallows for her crime. Her punishment was far more horrifying than a simple noose. She was close to begging the pastor Joseph for this to be her sentence as she was dragged through the trees, away from the village.
‘Dear Violet,’ Joseph said calmly. ‘Your sacrifice is noble. You will be helping to save our little ones in the night from those who seek to menace us constantly. I will ask all to pray for you afterwards, I promise you this.’
‘I do not want your prayers!’ she shouted. ‘I want justice. I was doing right by my family. My father…’
‘He what?’ chuckled Joseph. ‘Told you to steal for him? Then this proves you are a good daughter. God will be merciful when your time comes. He will let you into his realm.’
‘If I am good, then spare me! Please! I don’t want to be consumed!’
‘It is too late for pleading, child.’
Joseph walked on ahead. Only three other men were permitted to bring the sacrifice to the woods, to the sacred place where the Enorahts would finally eat her alive. Violet was almost faint from her struggling. They dragged her almost a mile into the woods where she was to die.
There were no altars here, no symbols or graven images. Two trees stood either side of her, and her arms were lifted and bound by two long ropes, tied tight around her slender wrists. Her ankles were then tethered, forced perhaps a foot apart. Her weeping was only subsiding for her weakness. Her mouth was dry but her face was sodden with tears. She licked her lips and it did nothing to quench her.
Now she was stuck, Joseph went to her, taking her face in his hands and smiling at her.
‘Hush, Violet,’ he murmured. ‘Your wailing is very unbecoming.’
Furious at this, Violet spat in Joseph’s face. His smile grew bigger before he slapped her cheek. Leaning in once more, he whispered harshly, ‘You are lucky I’m not raping you first, you insolent little whore. Behave yourself.’
Joseph let her go and stepped backwards to the centre of the clearing. The three other men, all much younger and completely devout, stood aside, their heads bowed.
‘As it was demanded by the Enorahts, and as it shall be until they haunt us no longer, I offer this child as a sign of faith and charity to these remarkable creatures. I beg once again they do not harm our infants or darken our doors for one more year. May our deeds be ever righteous, and our thoughts ever pure.’
The four men uttered their Amens before they away with their heads still bowed, leaving Violet completely alone. She found the strength to scream for help one last time, but she was too far from anywhere for anyone to save her.
Darkness slowly settled throughout the trees. Violet began to think the Lights were a lie. She’d never seen them. Wolves must be coming for her instead, bloodthirsty and ready to tear her to shreds.
She had gone to church as her family had, giving praise to these entities whom so few now had seen. For almost a seventy years, the Enorahts had plagued her village until Joseph claimed to commune with them.
Now she was to be perhaps the sixtieth sacrifice of her village. She made her own prayers to God, hoping her suffering would undo her torment, that His divine grace would deliver her from her horrible fate. Then she heard the scurrying of rats and desperately called to them to bite her ropes.
The night drew on with no other sign of beast or spirit. She’d been starved that day, her last meal granted the night before, and her mind was foggy from her hunger. It wasn’t much longer before she realised she’d been simply left to rot.
Thoughts of her death were beginning to become a comfort to Violet when an odd light flickered past her eyes. The woods were almost pitch black, and it had to be a moonless night for this ritual to be properly carried out.
Hundreds of purple, glowing spheres were gathering in the clearing, drawing closer. They cast a dim light that revealed a mist between them. Now delirious, Violet thought them quite pretty until one hit her cheek and she cried out in pain. The light had bitten her, and a moment later, more were coming to nibble on her flesh.
She whimpered at first, her screaming reaching a shocking crescendo as the lights dug into her. Thousands of pinpricks dotted her skin, she saw by their lights her blood coming to the surface. Shutting her eyes to everything, Violet let out one last scream, her body seeming to evaporate into nothing.
By dawn, Violet thought she was seeing with her own eyes, but she could no longer touch anything and her hands were gone. She looked down but couldn’t see herself. The birds singing around her sounded different, more hollow. She was looking everywhere, but she wasn’t there.
She was floating now, pitching herself forward and moving erratically through the trees.
Kelesnae, someone whispered. No one was around. Cursed one… leave. Leave these woods. Do not go back to your home.
She no longer had a mouth. The words she made were thoughts now created by whatever form she’d taken.
‘Where must I go?’
Find the one who will take you in. Who will make you whole again. You will know them by the kindness of their heart. Do not go to a loved one, they will not help you.
‘I don’t understand!’
The Enorahts were gone. They couldn’t be the ones speaking to her.
We will find you again, we will tell you more. For now, keep traveling south. Stay away from this place, little kelesnae. Do not return.
Violet went forward again, quickly darting through the woods as far south as she could go. She couldn’t cry without eyes, or eat without a mouth. She couldn’t even detect the scent of the leaves and grass anymore. She passed through the trees as if they were air. The feeling of flying did nothing to elate her.
And she didn’t want to go back to her village to see her father who’d betrayed her. She never wanted to return.
But where was she supposed to find someone with a kind heart now?
‘You saw this coming, Nate,’ Rachel argued, keeping her eyes on the road ahead as she drove. ‘You decided to stay with her even though she was moving.’
‘She was supposed to move next month,’ Nate grumbled. ‘Not last week.’
‘He’s just annoyed he ended up as third wheel,’ smirked Joel.
‘I don’t care,’ Rachel said. ‘People only see themselves as third wheels because they want people to feel sorry for them. Couples are a societal concept, they shouldn’t define the terms of a group dynamic.’
Nate groaned at her pretentiousness. ‘Just because your dad’s a psychology professor, doesn’t mean you get to psychoanalyse people, Rachel.’
‘Can you not ruin my holiday with your moodiness?’ she countered.
‘Can the both of you can shut up?’ Joel demanded. ‘No one’s ruining anyone’s anything.’
The conversation stopped until the pause was too vast for Rachel to tolerate. Nate only listened to her babble on about her friends. Joel was way more accepting of Rachel’s nonsense than he was. The three of them had been friends since grade seven, but Nate was growing tired of Rachel’s ever-evolving snobbery and Joel wasn’t as fun to hang out with as he used to be.
On top of all this, Nate was smarting over his breakup with Fiona. They’d spent most of their summer together, Nate believing she was happy with him and nothing was going to go bad their final year. They’d fought a couple of times but for the most part, things had been fine. Then out of the blue Fiona announced her family was moving upstate. Nate spent time with her anyway, thinking they were going to stay together long-distance. She also assumed they’d be leaving at the end of summer, except her dad had a change in plans and now they were leaving a week before school was back.
And Fiona was supposed to have gone camping with them that weekend.
Instead of making arrangements for them to keep in touch, Fiona decided to dump Nate, stating numerous reasons why them staying together was dumb and doomed to fail. She’d not even really sounded all that heartbroken, and now Nate felt like a total idiot for even liking her in the first place.
Agreeing to go camping with Rachel and Joel was based on the assumption Fiona would be coming too so he wouldn’t be a third wheel. Rachel refused to let him change his mind about it, arguing he may as well come along instead of moping around in his room for the rest of the summer. It was sweet of her to consider him, however Nate was now regretting caving in.
The campsite was a half mile in from the empty gravel parking lot. There was a designated path, well-worn by previous travellers. The chance of getting lost was impossible.
Nate didn’t have a lot with him. Rachel had overpacked and it fell on Joel to carry what she couldn’t. She went ahead with Joel close behind her. Soon sick of walking, Nate fell further still behind. His distractions were plentiful enough and the distance was growing.
A whistling went past his ears that Nate mistook for a bug. It happened again, his head snapping to one side. In his periphery, there was a brief flash of white light.
‘Move it, Nate!’ Rachel hollered.
Nate trudged on a moment, muttering to himself. He was gaining on Rachel and Joel when suddenly he couldn’t see them at all. The light filled his vision, pulling back for him to see a cluster of white spheres, varied in size like bubbles. They were orbiting around each other, dancing in his face before they shot off to the right of him and disappeared. Nate was dazzled, left blinking and confused, Rachel shouting at him all the while.
‘Did you not see that?’ he yelled at her. ‘That flash of white light?’
‘Are you nuts?’ Rachel was annoyed she was having to come back. ‘I didn’t see anything.’
‘Me neither,’ Joel admitted.
Nate didn’t continue the argument.
Not many people chose camping over going to the beach for their last week of summer, which meant the campsite was empty. Nate and Joel went about setting up the tents and Rachel went to pick through the undergrowth for wood for a fire. There was a stone fire pit they had to use, besides that, there weren’t many other rules for the site. The lake was another mile north but Nate doubted they would go check it out.
He wasn’t even sure what they’d be doing the whole time. He pictured Joel and Rachel going off on their own, negating any reason for Nate to show up. He couldn’t even borrow his mom’s car to go out there himself, it would’ve left him with an easy means of escape if he got bored or sick of Rachel’s nonsense.
Joel was being decent about Nate’s mood. On the other hand, Nate didn’t want Joel’s pity, still it was preferable to Rachel’s catty comments. The night brought more bugs and they kept their arms covered; it was cold enough to wear sweaters and jeans. They sat around talking mostly about school. Nate was already disgruntled and tired.
‘She’s not particularly bright,’ Rachel said of one of her classmates. She was twirling a long stick with a marshmallow on the end at the fire, looking disinterested in actually eating it. ‘You have to wonder what gets people into colleges now.’
‘Money,’ Nate said bluntly. ‘Lots of money.’
Rachel crinkled her nose. ‘Elitist scum think they can buy their way through life.’
‘They can,’ Joel said with a shrug. ‘And they do. It’s just how things are.’ He got up and moved towards the other tent. ‘I’m done. Don’t stick a fork in me, just take my word for it.’
Rachel was about to join him, instead hesitating and looking over the fire at Nate. ‘It sucks Fiona left,’ she said. ‘I know you liked her but she wasn’t the type to commit to something as serious as a long-distance relationship. You must’ve known that. Cut your loses.’
‘Already have,’ Nate muttered.
He stayed by the fire, thinking about the white light. The flames in front of him didn’t move the same way. They made a jagged, erratic motion, licking up at the air almost futilely. The little white spheres had been fluid and quick.
Rachel’s giggling inside the other tent broke his concentration, and Nate had to hope they weren’t going to get any louder that night.
When it was safe to leave the fire to die down, Nate moved to get into the empty tent the same moment another flicker of white lights went past his eyes. It carried the whispered voice of a girl with it, but he couldn’t decipher what was said to him. He traced the sound to the south, where the woods were now completely blacked out.
Rachel had brought a heavy torch that could last for hours. Nate took it from beside the other tent, turning it on and directing the beam into the trees. The circle of torchlight illuminated the woods for about twenty feet in and no more. The beam didn’t diminish the glow of the white lights ahead of him. He heard the voice again, compelled to follow in spite of the things in the dark that could easily hurt him.
Nate turned off the torch and left it by the edge of the campsite. The lights were constant now and he tracked them, carefully. The strange lack of fear in him was what kept him moving. The air grew colder and his mouth was dry, but he wasn’t able to turn and go back. His wonderment brought him to where the lights had settled in the midst of another clearing. He was coaxed towards them when they flickered around his face again.
A louder, more metallic voice came from the lights suddenly. He only heard a few syllables. About to respond, Nate watched one of the spheres dart into his mouth. His throat was warmed as if he’d drunk something hot and sweet. The sphere then dashed out again to return to the cluster.
‘My…s Violet…’ said the lights. ‘…m lost…’
‘You’re lost,’ he said stupidly.
‘Let m… ry again.’
Another sphere went into his mouth and straight back out again.
‘Will you help me?’ the lights quickly asked.
‘What should I do?’
The spheres broke apart to encircle him. Nate thought he felt fingertips on his face and neck. Hot air brushed his skin and he was dizzy suddenly. The light was embracing him.
Exhaustion struck him and Nate thought nothing of lying down on the ground. The grass and dirt under him felt soft, like a mattress filled with feathers. The lights stayed around him to warm him, making a translucent blanket over his whole body. Nate hadn’t felt this content since he was little, curled up in the pillow fort he’d built in the den.
‘Stay…’ the lights said again.
Violet’s wandering had lasted centuries. She could not be exhausted, she hadn’t a body to tire. She never slept, and she saw everything.
She saw cities rise up out of the dirt, odd contraptions called cranes lifting pieces into the sky to build intimidating towers of steel and glass. She witnessed machines dumping tar to make roads where there had once been tracks in the mud left by the wheels of horse-drawn carts. The smog of the factories spewed into the sky, tainting it with burning rain and ash.
The world slowly filled with people, and they fought vicious wars with weapons that terrified everyone. Violet found herself crossing continents, oceans even, in a matter of moments, affected but powerless in her search for a kind heart.
Born into a simplistic life of poverty, Violet could make scarcely make sense of what money meant to a person. Witnessing the destruction it caused, the greed of humanity growing fierce, she soon hid from everything, staying within the forests of a different place for another hundred years.
For a time, she had no clue what she looked like. No one seemed to even notice her when she haunted places, not even those who claimed to see ghosts and spirits. It was only when a flurry of brilliant white lights came across her in a valley thousands of miles from her home that she finally saw her semblance. She’d hoped for comfort from this meeting.
As promised, these kelesnae explained how she had come to be. They appeared to those who could see them as clusters of white spheres that could break apart and inhabit living beings for a time.
‘But how do I become myself again?’ Violet had asked.
You will know when you find the one with the kind heart. She wasn’t given much else to go by, besides a warning this transformation would cause her host to develop strange powers, and those who knew them both would turn on her eventually.
‘Then why change?’ she went on, miserably.
She received no answer to this. The kelesnae disappeared, disallowing her to track them.
So Violet remained alone, drifting through the trees and occasionally resting in the mouths of animals when she was lonely. Having contact with these beasts gave her access to warm flesh and a hot breath that made her feel human if only for a night. Her weightlessness had been easy to become accustomed to, still she missed being able to touch and taste.
Many years later, Violet came across a child lost in the woods. Thinking she was invisible, she floated near the little girl, watching her and afraid for her being all alone. The girl reacted to her suddenly, gasping in terror at the sight of Violet in front of her.
‘You can see me?’ said Violet in her odd, tinkling voice.
The girl nodded.
‘This is wonderful!’ She danced around the little girl only to terrify her all the more. She quickly said she was sorry.
‘Follow me,’ Violet said kindly. ‘I will lead you to the edge of these trees. I know of someone there who will help you.’
The girl hesitated, Violet now feeling horrible for terrifying her.
‘Don’t be scared.’
She gently drifted several feet ahead, stopping whenever the girl faltered for the undergrowth around her. The poor child had scratches over her arms since she was wearing a thin shirt, her legs covered by pants and her feet in flimsy shoes that were battered from her walking. Violet had worn heavy dresses all her life and a bonnet to cover her hair, her golden locks to be kept out of sight. Seeing girls in the clothes of boys had confused Violet terribly. They were never scolded for it.
Eventually, she reached the small hut where a man who called himself the forest ranger lived. He did not see Violet, but upon seeing the little girl, he instantly went about tending to her, making sure her family was notified their daughter had been found.
Violet was crushed to see the girl reunited with her parents, who were overjoyed to be holding their missing child. The little girl only glanced back once, saying nothing of Violet’s presence.
Violet was sure the girl was the one with the kind heart and she’d missed her chance to be human again.
After that, Violet lost track of time. She’d watch the sun and moon come and go, having no sense of the days or years that were passing. She drifted along, now certain she’d be a kelesnae until the end of the world.
The tread of the three teenagers walking through the woods caused Violet to pay attention. A stubborn and grouchy girl with short blonde hair was walking ahead of a taller boy who was slouching from the weight of the bag on his back. The one who lagged behind them, another boy with the dark brown hair and pasty complexion, gave Violet the sensation he might be her second chance. She wasn’t completely sure why, though she was not about to waste another opportunity.
Darting towards him with more speed than she had used in a long time, Violet circled around in front of the boy, distracting him and dazzling him with her glow. She paused to be sure she’d captured his complete attention, dashing away when he was called to by the others.
She’d kept her distance afterwards, moving with care around the campsite where the three children were huddled around a large fire. Violet waited with growing impatience for the boy to be alone, whispering to him to attract his attention when the others had disappeared inside their tent.
He followed her farther than was safe for him, guided by her light to the clearing where she’d finally asked him for help.
Her voice was broken from staying silent for so long. She struggled to make the words come out. Somehow she knew if she stole his voice for a moment, she would be able to tell him what she needed. She protected him in the cold, drawing on his core to warm him in turn and quickly forgetting her acts might harm him. He slept soundly in her grasp for the night.
Violet was moving around him, desperately trying to figure out how she was supposed to regain her human form. Soon she realised that if she fell past his throat, she could almost steal pieces of his essence, gradually finding her form as he slept. But she wasn’t with him long enough to complete her task.
The sudden approach of several people frightened her from him and Violet had hidden in the bushes to watch a search party of men and women take him out of the woods. Tracing them carefully, she left the safety of her forest to return to the world outside, only to make sure she could find the boy again.
They kept him in a hospital for another day out of worry he’d been afflicted by the cold night air. Violet was too afraid of the machines they had in the building and instead chose to wait for him to return to his home. Floating outside his window, she watched a woman she assumed was his mother tend to him to help him recover.
The boy seemed unaffected by Violet’s intrusion, resting in bed and playing with a contraption she’d not had a chance to make much sense of. It had a little screen that he stared at intently for hours. Waiting one more day, Violet decided then she’d try to reach him. She’d heard his mother call him Nate, and Violet knew this was short for Nathaniel. Another boy in her village had had the same name. She remembered he’d been a dull and sickly boy, and her guilt returned to see Nate unwell from her actions. She wanted him to recover before she tried again.
In the glass of Nate’s window, she saw her own face at last. But she was a spectre now; she could easily frighten him in this form. Still, she had to try.
She sneaked into his room through the window that night, now able to form an amorphous cloud over his body. He stirred awake and opened his eyes, quietly shocked when he saw her.
‘Why did you leave me, Nathaniel?’ she asked. ‘Did I not make you happy?’
‘I didn’t want to leave,’ he murmured, sitting up slightly and blinking rapidly at her. ‘I was taken away.’
‘You were safe with me. You can have that again if you open your mouth.’
‘What are you?’
‘I’ll explain… just trust me.’
He then seemed to impulsively part his lips and she dropped into his throat, moving through him and gathering her own strength. She mingled with his blood, finding his core again and warming him through his whole body.
In this moment, she fed him her memories of her death, sharing images of the Enorahts biting her and causing her to become a kelesnae. She drifted through him, drawing on as much of his life as he could. Once she was sure she’d taken enough, Violet left his throat and drifted over him, at last feeling herself taking shape. She was materialising over him, her flesh now apparent, and she could feel herself resting above him, completely whole. Her blood quickly coursed through her newly formed veins, and she could feel her own bones stretch like branches from her shoulders and arms, right down to her fingers. She’d expected some pain in this transformation but was blessedly spared.
Violet felt Nathaniel tentatively put his hands on her arms. She could actually slip her own arms around him, holding him and feeling so happy she was in the world again. Nothing felt strange about it to her as she nestled her head against his shoulder, whispering a thank you before he fell asleep again.
She shifted beside him, warm from his body and now able to sleep for the first time in over four hundred years.
Nate’s dream had him confused. A cloud had drifted into his room and he’d seen a face in swirling mist; a girl’s face, narrow and angular with small eyes and a pretty mouth.
As soon as she’d told him to open his mouth, Nate did so without any real certainty he wanted to. He’d watched the girl’s face dissolve as he’d drunk in the lights. The warmth had gone further into him, mixing with his blood until he was prone but calm.
Behind his eyes, Nate saw a dark forest and the young girl tied between two trees by all four limbs. She was alone and unable to free herself. He saw her screaming but couldn’t hear her. He thought it was another dream; a darker part of his nightmare that chilled him. Dark spheres, purple and black, swirled around the girl’s form like a swarm of hungry gnats. She disintegrated under their attack to be replaced by the same white lights that had lured him into the trees.
A numbness had moved through Nate’s body, beginning in his toes then drifting to his ankles and shins and up his legs to his torso. It gradually shifted to his shoulders, tensing his back as his neck stiffened. When he had opened his mouth again, a thin glowing mist drifted up from his throat.
The figure of the girl was forming over him, having no weight at first then slowly gaining form until Nate could feel the press of another body against him. It wasn’t heavy or light; he didn’t feel he was being crushed. Arms moved up around his neck and a head covered with delicate silver hair fell gently rested on his chest. She was settling on him, breathing gently. Nate was careful when he touched her.
And he thought that was the end of the dream. Strange as it was, he couldn’t remember this last part terrifying him at all.
Fingers were stroking his cheek and raking through his hair when he started to wake. His blurry vision adjusted to see the same pretty face that had hovered above him in the cloud. She greeted his gaze with bright blue eyes.
Nate sat up quickly in shock and the girl remained still beside him.
‘What the…?’ he muttered. ‘I thought…’
‘It was no dream, my dear Nathaniel. I’m here now.’ Her hand cupped itself around his jaw. He was more astonished to have her touch him.
His mother was at the door suddenly, knocking before she turned the knob. Nate panicked and quickly covered the girl with his blanket.
‘Are you up?’ Jacqueline called.
‘Yeah! I’m fine now. Don’t come in.’
‘Okay… Did you want to come down for breakfast?’
‘In a minute.’ Nate listened to Jacqueline leaving then pulled back the blanket to see the girl smiling at him.
‘Are we playing a game?’ she asked.
‘Uh, kind of…’ Looking down, he saw she was completely naked. He quickly covered her again and she giggled, sweetly. ‘I better get you some clothes.’
Nate got up and raided his dresser for a shirt. Meanwhile, the girl pushed back the covers and stood without shame, walking over to his window and opening the curtains to look out the front yard. He shot over to her and shut the curtains again, tightly.
‘Just give me two seconds,’ he begged. ‘You can’t go anywhere like that.’
He was doing his best not to look at her, only catching accidental glances while she wandered around his room and inspected his things. Not that he could tell for sure, but she didn’t seem particularly bewildered or even mildly confused about anything.
She picked up a comb from his desk and started running it through her silver hair. Now Nate was captivated by her. Each stroke of the comb stripped the silver from the strands and it scattered to the floor like glitter as it faded away. When she was done, her hair was a golden honey colour.
She was a waif with long limbs and bony hips. Her skin was milky and felt incredibly soft when he’d dared to touch her arms. Seeing her now was alluring as it was unnerving to him.
Swallowing hard and trying not to show his embarrassment, Nate handed her a shirt and a pair of shorts. She stood at his height, able to meet his eyes square on.
He remembered the name the lights had uttered. ‘You’re Violet?’
‘Yes, I am.’
‘This doesn’t make any sense.’
‘Now I’m not a kelesnae, I think I’ll regain my former appearance.’ Her voice was now missing the odd metallic timbre it had before.
‘What happened last night? You were just a cloud with a face and then…’
‘In order to become human again, I had to inhabit your body for a time and gather pieces of you to reform myself. In turn, I may have left you with some sort of gift. I’m not sure what it is.’
Nate wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. ‘What kind of gift?’
Violet picked up his hand and examined his wrist. While he stared with her, Nate’s palm slowly disappeared. She let go and his hand wouldn’t return. None of this appeared to surprise her.
Nate couldn’t breathe. He flicked his wrist quickly and his hand was solid again. Now he was terrified of her. ‘What the hell are you?’
‘I am not here to harm you.’
‘That’s not what I asked, Violet.’
‘I told you, I was a kelesnae and now I’m human.’
Nate sighed and rubbed his face roughly with both hands. She still wasn’t making sense and he couldn’t think straight to figure any of it out.
‘I have to take a shower. Will you stay in here? Don’t leave, okay?’
‘Where would I go?’
‘Just get dressed and I’ll talk to you in a minute.’
Nate scrambled for reasons he was in this situation. The dream had ended, he couldn’t refute that. Violet was real. Why she was there now with him, he had no idea.
He stood at the mirror and stared at himself, not seeing any changes at all. He had to test this gift she’d given him, his morbid curiosity wasn’t going to go away in a hurry.
Keeping his eyes closed, Nate brought his breath to a slow pace and waited. Nothing odd was happening, he couldn’t sense himself becoming invisible. When he looked again, he wasn’t in the mirror anymore. There were just the wall and the towel rack behind him.
His breathing quickened as he reached out for something on the counter. His fingers managed to pick up his toothbrush and he waved it in the mirror, dropping when the sight of it floating in mid-air freaked him out. He was able to touch his own arm as if it was right there, but he saw absolutely nothing.
His distress brought him back. Now his reflection was visible and gasping for breath. He wasn’t going to be sick, even still his stomach felt nauseated. He stayed in the shower for ages to calm himself, closing his eyes and taking slow, deep breaths until he felt steady.
Violet was in his room wearing the clothes he’d given her. They were slightly too big for her, but Nate wasn’t about to go and raid Jacqueline’s closest for something more appropriate. He didn’t even know how he was supposed to get Violet out of the house.
Jacqueline sounded as though she was at the bottom of the stairs suddenly. ‘Nate, I have to go out for an hour. Will you be okay?’
He went to his door. ‘I’ll be fine!’
Violet was peeking out the window again as he waited for his mom to go.
‘Okay, least now I can maybe explain how you got here when she gets back.’ He had to come up with a decent lie for Violet’s sudden existence in his life but his mind was too panicked to find one. Expecting her to have an answer other than the truth wasn’t going to help him.
‘Do you have milk here?’ she asked.
Nate’s sympathy for her was stronger realising she was hungry. ‘I’m sorry. I’ll get you something. Come with me.’
In the kitchen, Violet was picking up knives and other utensils, running her fingertip along the edges of the blades with a more fascinated expression.
Nate took a couple of things out of the fridge. He wasn’t all that hungry, the stress of his predicament crushing his appetite. He poured Violet a glass of milk and she drank it down quickly, splashing some on her front.
‘It tastes strange,’ she said.
‘I don’t think it’s expired.’ He checked the carton. ‘How long ago did you change into… that…’ He’d forgotten the word already.
‘A kelesnae? At least four hundred years ago.’
Nate put the carton down before he could drop it in disbelief. ‘You’re kidding.’
‘Why would I make a joke of that?’ she asked simply.
‘How did it happen?’
Violet settled herself at the kitchen bench with the glass in her hand. ‘I was living in a small village that was plagued by these creatures our pastor called the Enorahts. They raided the cribs and stole the lives of infants every winter. No amount of hiding our young would keep them safe. Then the pastor, his name was Joseph, he told our people that if we gave of one of our own once a year, the Enorahts would leave us be.’
‘Why did they choose you?’
‘I’d stolen some food for my family. It was my punishment. It made sense to the church council that I go as a sacrifice.’
‘That’s horrible. You obviously needed the food or you would never have stolen it.’
‘Very few had committed transgressions that year, I was chosen by the council to go. My father did not defend me.’ Her voice was laced with malice then. ‘He said not one word.’
She reached for the carton to pour herself another glass, drinking it like she had before.
‘You’ll make yourself sick if you guzzle it,’ Nate warned.
Violet lowered the glass and wiped her mouth. She wasn’t being entirely gross, at least she was behaving like a human. Then he remembered she’d already been one four hundred years ago.
‘I’m sorry. I was hungry.’
‘It’s okay. Go on.’
‘Years before the Enorahts first appeared, our village was a horrible place. Men toiled for very little money and always struggled to care for their families. Many of our children begged in the streets. We didn’t know what to think when the attacks began, some thought the babies had died in their sleep. But our dogs saw the lights and alerted us to them.
‘Pastor Joseph became obsessed with these lights. He said he could communicate with them, and he knew what they wanted. He told everyone they were there to punish us for our sins. He built our church around this belief, telling the people who congregated if they were to give of their own once a year, the lights will leave them be.’
‘And it worked once so everyone believed it?’ Nate asked.
‘Yes, of course. We had no reason not to after that. My family had a terrible winter, and a blight meant we could not eat the food we’d grown, so I had to steal. I was the eldest, and the quickest on my feet, so my father had said, but I was caught in the act. My mother could do nothing to help me, she had to abide by the wishes of the church.’
Nate stayed quiet, listening intently and feeling sorry for her as she spoke.
‘I did not know what would become of me when I was sacrificed. A few men from the church took me away, Joseph saying the prayer to the Enorahts after they bound me to the tree. I was waiting for hours, I thought I was going to be eaten by wolves, or at least starve to death. Then they came at me from nowhere… these strange dark lights… I had no time to even look at them. They inched over me, scratching me and absorbing me until I was nothing. I screamed and screamed…’ Her voice grew softer. ‘The pain felt endless… My transformation into a kelesnae was slow and confusing. I didn’t even know what I looked like, I just floated as if I was air. Since then, I’ve wandered the earth, coming to rest in the woods nearby and leaving the world as it was until I found you.’
Nate took the glass from her after she finished drinking. ‘Why didn’t you find someone sooner?’
‘I had no one left to trust and I was told never to return to my village. My family died, I didn’t know if they had descendants who would help me. One other person saw me, but you’re the first person I saw whom I knew I could trust.’
Jacqueline arrived home then and Nate’s momentary panic troubled Violet. ‘What’s wrong, Nathaniel?’
His mom came in with a bag of groceries in her arms. ‘Who’s this?’ she asked Nate, nodding at Violet. ‘And why is she wearing your old gym shorts?’
‘Forgive me, miss,’ Violet said to her. ‘I have no wish to intrude upon you or your home.’
Nate stiffened as Jacqueline smiled, appearing charmed by Violet’s old world congeniality.
‘That’s alright, sweetie,’ she said. ‘It’s a big enough house. What’s your name?’
‘Violet. I’m a friend of Nathaniel’s.’
‘Obviously a very good friend if he’s letting you get away with calling him that.’ Jacqueline wasn’t even bothered by Violet. She simply went about putting the groceries away. ‘How long are you staying? I can make up the bed in the spare room.’
Nate cut in. ‘Mom, are you feeling okay?’
She put a bunch of broccoli in the crisper. ‘Peachy. Why do you ask?’
Nate glanced at Violet. She didn’t appear to be doing anything weird to have that kind of influence on his mother. Everything about her being there was suspect, yet Jacqueline was acting eerily delighted by it.
‘Have you both had breakfast?’ she went on.
Nate carefully took Violet’s hand to guide her away. ‘We’re fine. We’ll be upstairs for a while… studying.’
‘Okay. Let me know if you need anything.’ Jacqueline kissed Nate’s cheek then turned to Violet, beaming at her. ‘She’s such a pretty thing. Wherever did you find her?’
‘School,’ Nate said quickly.
Jacqueline didn’t intrude after that and Nate still found this disturbing. Violet finished her story for him.
‘In all the world, I never sensed anyone who would save me. When I saw you walking alone, something of you said you’d not betray me. You’d been hurt, but you wouldn’t hurt me. I am sorry my keeping you in the woods put you in danger.’
‘I felt completely safe.’
Nate was adjusting to the idea of Violet now, a slow process that was taking a lot of will on his part. Regardless, he wasn’t in any huge rush to turn invisible again.
Violet spoke softly and Nate found her human voice pretty and fragile. ‘While I was with you, I was scared to try and bond with you. I wasn’t completely sure what to do. I disappeared when I heard a noise in the woods but I had to follow to see where you went.’
‘I was hypothermic and I’d lost my voice. They couldn’t leave me there, Violet.’
‘I understand. I’m sorry. In order to speak, I had to steal your voice as well. I’d lost mine over time.’
‘What do you need?’ Nate asked. ‘What’s supposed to happen now? Are those Enorahts ever coming back?’
‘Seriously, call me Nate.’
‘You speak as if you want me to leave, Nate.’
‘Of course not. That’s not what I’m saying. You’re safe here, Violet. I promise. I’m only asking, what happens for you now you’re human again? You’ve seen everything change around you, but you haven’t adapted to anything.’
‘This world is frightening to me. But I’ve longed to be in my own flesh and for someone else’s touch. I felt fear and love without a human form, but I’ve not lived long enough as a human to know anything else.’
‘How old were you when they sacrificed you?’
‘I had reached sixteen years of age. I’m not sure what will happen to my body now, if it will continue to grow or if I’ll remain this way forever. Or it may age quickly beyond my control.’ Violet shivered and rubbed her arms.
Nate went to his closet and found an old hoodie for her to wear. She pulled it on over the shirt. She’d been sitting on his bed by his pillow, and he’d kept a respectful distance, her eyes rarely meeting with his as she spoke.
‘I was supposed to marry a boy named Samuel. I’ve no idea what became of him. He was forbidden to help me, threatened with hanging if he did. We only shared one kiss, perhaps a few weeks before I was sacrificed. Until then, I’d only known my mother to hold me, and even then it was seldom.’
Violet’s words were having a brutal effect on Nate. Pity for her was there, sitting in a huge amount of conflict with his obvious attraction to her. Seeing her as a kelesnae had brought that on before she’d even been reborn as a human. That he was responsible for her physical state now was adding to his dilemma. He’d breathed her into life and into his reality.
‘I do care about you, Violet. It would be stupid if I didn’t. And you don’t have anything to be scared of here. The least I can do is help you adjust to the world as it is now.’
‘Thank you, Nate.’
Nate’s laptop was sitting on his desk. He hadn’t touched it a lot in the past few days, he’d been too tired to get out of bed much. He brought it over to her, setting it down between them and switching it on. Violet ran her fingertips over the keys, staring at the startup screen.
‘You have such odd machines. No one in my time would’ve imagined anything like this.’
‘Well, there were a few people not a hundred years ago who could see these things being made before anyone else did.’
Nate pulled up his web browser, helping Violet to find information and showing her how to type. She was a quick learner for someone who’d not been born in his time. But he remembered girls back then were rarely educated; he’d bothered to pay attention during a class reading of The Crucible in grade ten.
This led to another thought he’d not considered. ‘Can you read?’ he asked her.
‘My mother taught me though my father said it was a waste of time to do so. And I can write, but my penmanship is poor. I’ve drifted in and out of modern society, I’ve never once been able to make sense of why things occurred the way they did. Why cities were ruined and their citizens were killed.’
‘The people on either side of a war will always tell you they’re in the right. The ones in the middle who get caught in the crossfire, they’re just what they call collateral damage. My history teacher last year was really into current politics.’
Mentioning this reminded Nate he was going back to school on Monday. Violet had nowhere else to go, she had to stay with him.
Just then, Jacqueline knocked on his door, letting herself in cautiously. ‘Everything alright in here?’
‘Yeah, we’re fine,’ Nate answered.
Jacqueline approached Violet with a strange adoration in her eyes. ‘Do you need anything, sweetpea?’
Nate had no real qualms with Jacqueline beside the typical; she was nosey at times and as much of a nag as any mother would be, but her doting on Violet now had him frightened.
‘Mom, can I talk to you for a minute?’ Nate led Jacqueline out into the hallway, closing the door slightly on Violet. ‘What is with you?’
‘Nothing, I’m just very fond of your new friend. Or girlfriend. Whoever she is.’
‘She’s my friend. What she isn’t is your daughter.’
‘I know, but I never had one…’ Jacqueline glanced at the crack in the door with a dreamy expression. ‘You know I always wanted a girl.’
Nate drew in his breath, trying to be patient. ‘You could have just adopted one. You still can.’
‘Oh, I have you to worry about, that’s enough.’ She pinched his cheek and he flinched like he always did. ‘Why are you being like this, Nate?’
‘Just don’t smother her, okay?’ He had to scramble for a reason to keep Violet with him. ‘Some stuff happened to her, stuff at home… She said she’s been kicked out by her parents.’
‘That’s horrible! What’s their number? I can talk to them.’
‘Mom, no!’ His idiotic excuse was already backfiring. ‘You’ll make it worse. Can she stay here?’
‘Of course she can. For as long as she needs.’ Jacqueline seemed tipsy at that point. ‘Does everything look brighter around here or is it just me?’
‘It’s just you, Mom.’
She shrugged and wandered back downstairs, humming to herself. Nate worried if Violet’s presence was making his mother act like a weirdo, then what was going to happen to everyone else she encountered?
Violet’s return to the physical world was wonderful and terrifying at once. The food she ate tasted strange compared to what she remembered. The milk she’d drunk wasn’t the same as the milk from her family’s goat that she’d collected every other day. There was an abundance of things in Nate’s kitchen, more than her own family would need in a year. A lot of it was kept in tins and would last forever, still Nate’s mother kept buying more without using any of it first.
Jacqueline was much kinder than Violet’s mother had ever been. She fussed over Violet, offering her things like cookies and tea. She even insisted on brushing and braiding Violet’s hair, fawning over how soft it felt.
Nate was disturbed by all of this and clearly wanted to say more than he actually did. Jacqueline had no qualms about buying Violet new clothes, spending more money than Nate claimed she owned.
It was decided Violet was going to attend school with Nate, something she was more delighted about than he was.
There had been one school in her village that her parents had been too poor to send her to. Violet had tried to teach Annabelle to read, knowing when she was old enough, she was going to be married off. Violet missed her sister more than anyone. She’d had Violet’s pretty golden hair and blue eyes, and had been more fond of playing games and hiding from everyone. This infuriated had their father and upset their mother often.
Nate told Violet his father had died many years before. The pictures Nate showed Violet made her think he was a kind man; she could see by his eyes he was less severe than her own father. Nate said he couldn’t remember much about him.
Thomas had hated Rebecca hadn’t given him a son. He was so willing to sacrifice Violet, proving if she were a boy he’d have done more to stop Joseph. Rebecca had lost a child before Violet was born. They spoke little of it, and Violet sensed she’d been a disappointment to her parents. Rebecca’s love was more apparent, but it was hidden at times to appease Thomas.
Violet did her best back then to be dutiful and good. She was happy to marry Samuel, and she’d not wanted to disobey her father when he ordered she go to the town and steal bread.
She’d waited for the market in the village to be teeming with people before she made her attempt. Anxious and trembling, she’d hovered by the baker’s stall, pretending to look for what she wanted and taking a loaf of bread once his back was turned. Another woman had caught her running as she’d frantically tried to tuck the loaf under her apron. The council had come to the scene to arrest her and she’d been locked in the church basement until she was to be brought before the village court.
Having everything she needed now did little to make Violet happy. Her memories were clearer and her mind wasn’t trapped in a haze anymore. She knew as a kelesnae these images were slowly fading, and she wondered if she would’ve forgotten who she was had enough time passed.
She did everything Nate instructed her to, not that she found him demanding. Violet wanted to earn his favour, and she was fretful whenever he wasn’t around. He was warming to her in turn, showing her a kindness no one else had. She was safe with him, and to ask for anything more would have been selfish.
Though this sense of safety didn’t exist in her sleep. Violet was troubled by dreams of the Enorahts returning. She’d seen no sign of them since her death, but now she was human again, it was hard not to believe they’d come back and kill her, and harm whoever stood in their way, including Nathaniel. She was wary of his safety as he was of hers, insisting she keep near him so her fears were lessened.
The heat from the sun felt so lovely on her skin and the birds twittering around her no longer sounded hollow. But the air smelt different now she could sense the horrible fumes and the stench of garbage. Putting her nose to a flower, it was harder to pick up the perfume as it had been before. She said this to Nate and he almost sounded sorry for her.
‘I’ve never really noticed it,’ he confessed. ‘It’s just what I’m used to. Chemicals are everywhere, it’s gross but no one’s doing enough to stop it.’
‘Why not?’ she asked innocently. ‘Why would anyone want to live in this mess?’
‘No one does. It’s just how things are, Violet. I’m sorry.’
Now she felt terrible she’d made him feel bad. ‘It’s not your doing, I know this.’
‘We have people in charge of us,’ he explained. ‘You’ve seen them. They make the rules but they don’t care about who it affects. They’re worse than the men who sentenced you to death.’
‘Perhaps I’d have been better off not coming back,’ she said then.
‘Don’t say that,’ Nate answered. ‘I’m glad you’re here and I’ll try to show you as many good things as I can. I promise it’s not all bad.’
Nate walked Violet to school that Monday. He was less enthused about going, apologising in advance for having to take her with him.
‘You’ll be the new kid,’ Nate told her grimly. ‘So people will ask questions. Just say you moved here from Kensington and you went to a Catholic school there. If they ask what you like, say reading since it’s true. And you’re really not into music or TV, your parents were pretty strict about it.’
‘What if no one believes me?’
‘You think they’ll believe the actual truth, Violet? The less you say about what happened to you, the better.’
‘But I dislike lying, Nate. It makes me feel horrible and I was always told it was wrong.’
‘Everyone lies, Violet,’ he said kindly. ‘I’m lying for you, aren’t I?’
‘This is true.’ She wasn’t happy about this, either.
‘And I don’t mind, really. If we’re completely honest, it’s only going to get us both in trouble.’
He paused then and Violet turned to where he was staring. A horrid concrete building full of rooms with large windows sat on the top of a gentle slope ahead of them. Scores of teenagers were milling around the front lawn, either yelling and hollering or throwing things at each other.
‘I hate this place,’ Nate mumbled. ‘But I’m not prepared to leave you at home all day with my mother.’
‘It’s alright, Nate. I’d much rather be with you than with her.’
‘That’s if I can get you into the same classes. Just stay by me, I’ll do what I can.’
Violet did so, walking a step behind Nate and keeping close to his shoulder. Everyone stared at her, but their eyes weren’t menacing. She was stopping conversations as she passed, reducing their voices to whispers behind her. This discomforted Nate and he took her hand as they went inside.
The petite girl with the blonde hair who’d been walking with Nate in the woods suddenly ran up to them.
‘Why didn’t you call us?’ she demanded of him. ‘And who’s this?’ The girl put her attention on Violet, instantly dropping her accusatory tone. ‘I’ve not met you before.’
‘This is Violet… Robbins…’ Nate answered, making up Violet’s new last name. ‘She’s new in town. Her parents are friends with my mom.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me about her?’ Rachel asked as she moved Nate aside to get closer to Violet. ‘I’m Rachel.’
Nate noticed Rachel’s eyes glittering over. ‘Oh god! Not you too.’
‘What me too?’ Rachel all but snatched Violet’s other hand, tugging her away from Nate. ‘C’mon, Violet. I’ll take you to meet my friends.’
Violet turned to Nate for help. ‘Should I go?’
‘Rachel, hold up a second.’
‘Don’t be so possessive, Nate! What, she’s your new girlfriend already?’
‘Well, then she’s coming with me.’
Nate ended up following behind Violet and Rachel, growing more anxious for Rachel’s odd behaviour.
‘I’m from Kensington,’ Violet said meekly as she’d been instructed. ‘I went to a Catholic school.’
‘Well, that’s obvious, you’re dressed like a puritan. You’re allowed to show some ankle here, sweetie. You won’t be stoned to death for it.’
Rachel took over planning Violet’s schedule, interrupting Nate whenever he attempted to stop her.
‘I’ll take care of her in gym class, Nate.’
‘You don’t even know her!’ he shouted.
The entire administration office went silent.
‘Relax, would you?’ Rachel scolded. ‘You’re such a control freak. No wonder Fiona dumped you.’
Nate held his tongue and Violet could feel his anger as he scowled. ‘It’s alright,’ she muttered to him.
‘If anything bad happens, come and find me, okay?’
‘How will I know where you are?’
Rachel didn’t give Nate any time to answer, dragging Violet off to meet her friends. The moment she was separated from Nate, Violet grew just as anxious as he’d been. Rachel’s friends were dressed much like Rachel was, the brevity of their skirts and shorts leaving most of their legs exposed.
‘She’s so pretty,’ one girl said, marvelling at Violet with bright green eyes. ‘And her skin is so pale.’
‘That’s totally in right now,’ another girl said, almost sagely. ‘I’m not getting another tan.’
‘I wish my hair was that blonde,’ lamented a third girl, whose hair was far more golden than Violet’s.
They all looked upon her adoringly, yet Violet could not be taken in by their kindness when she remembered they would turn on her one day. She couldn’t even be sure when.
‘Thank you,’ she mumbled, blushing profusely.
They bombarded Violet with questions, Rachel stopping them as they went into a classroom together.
The rooms were filled with single desks and there were no inkwells or chalkboards. Jacqueline had bought Violet pretty pens and notebooks and she’d practiced writing in one of them. She sat at the front next to Rachel, who introduced her to everyone coming in. Violet’s blush was growing redder, and it got even worse when the teacher arrived and asked for her name. She was stammering now and everyone simply found it adorable.
To have been hated by her village was almost preferable to being loved by a room full of strangers.
Rachel escorted Violet to her classes, even sitting beside her and presenting her to people as if she’d known Violet all her life. This had Violet desperate to run away and find Nate.
Violet met with him when the students gathered for lunch, Rachel finally letting him take her aside so they could be alone.
‘It’s been so awful, Nate,’ Violet complained. ‘Everyone stares but they’re all so nice and I do not wish to be mean in return.’
‘That’s worse than being hated. And I should’ve said you were raised in a cult since you can’t use a phone all that well and have no idea what people are talking about sometimes. I’m sorry, I never should’ve brought you here. You’d have been safer at home.’
Violet took his hands. ‘I know it’s not your fault, Nathaniel… Sorry… Nate.’
He gave her a smile. ‘You’re coping a lot better than I expected.’
‘My life before I died was much worse than this in so many ways, but I miss the simplicity I knew then.’
‘I can understand that, Violet. You’ve done nothing wrong, so it’s not fair you’re in this situation now.’
They were interrupted by Rachel and the other boy from the woods. ‘Violet, this is my boyfriend, Joel.’
Joel gave her the same stare everyone else was giving her. ‘Hi, Violet. It’s so nice to meet you.’
Nate was bothered by Joel’s attention. ‘Our parents are friends,’ he said, somewhat clipped. ‘She moved here the other week.’
‘Isn’t she lovely?’ Rachel gushed. ‘I told you so, didn’t I?’
Joel’s eyes passed over Violet again, and while his gaze wasn’t coveting, it still had Violet fidgeting slightly. ‘You were right.’
Nate was doing a terrible job of hiding his frustration. ‘Rachel, why aren’t you punching Joel right now?’
‘Oh, I’m not jealous of Violet. Not like that anyway.’
Violet allowed Nate to guide her away from them. ‘We have to go. We’ll see you later.’ Farther away from the others, Nate grumbled, ‘I wish we could get out of here.’
‘This spell won’t last,’ she said to him. ‘I don’t know when it will happen, but they will change. They won’t be this kind forever.’
‘Good. It’ll be nice to be around normal people again.’
Now Violet couldn’t tell him the absolute truth. She didn’t want to burden him with yet another concern.
Because her first day was so harrowing, Violet quickly grew reluctant about going to school. Even when it was clear she wasn’t writing as confidently as the other students, the teachers just accepted her shortcomings. Had she been this inept in the past, a cane would have struck her knuckles every time she made a mistake.
Nate patiently helped her with her homework, never once growing frustrated with her. But his affections weren’t as obvious as everyone else’s and this dismayed Violet more than anything.
Her next day at school was even more exhausting.
‘Do you like any boys here yet, Violet?’ asked Stacey Mitchell, the bright, bubbly blonde who’d been jealous of Violet’s hair.
She was changing into her clothes after showering with the other girls. They’d all been forced to run laps that morning for gym class and she already loathed this ritual of bathing with her peers. Her fingers were fumbling with the cursed clasp of her bra.
‘C’mon, she obviously likes Nate,’ Rachel said as she laughed.
‘He doesn’t seem to think the same of me,’ Violet said shyly.
‘How can he not!’ Izzy Saunders said in her unbearably shrill voice. She’d been the one to affirm Violet’s skin was acceptably milky. ‘He was holding your hand the other day. How dare he pretend he doesn’t love you!’
‘The boy is fickle,’ Rachel said with authority. ‘Plus Fiona only dumped him the other week.’
Violet finished dressing, straightening out her long skirt and keeping her eyes off the other girls as they pulled brushes through their hair and reapplied their lipgloss. Modesty was still important to Violet, yet having Nate see her without clothes felt different. She had nothing to hide from him in every sense.
‘You should ask him, Violet,’ Izzy went on.
‘It’s not proper to ask such things of a boy,’ Violet replied.
‘Oh my god, would you listen to her!’ Stacey laughed. ‘She’s so adorable. Not proper? Ha!’
‘It was how I was raised.’
‘Stupid Catholic schools making girls needlessly feel like sluts if they like a boy.’ Rachel was inordinately grouchy about this.
Stacey took out another lipgloss from her bag and brought it up to Violet’s face as she approached.
‘Just let me put a touch on your lips,’ she said.
‘We should do her hair too,’ Izzy added, picking up Violet’s brush.
The girls fussed over Violet, pulling at her hair and tilting her chin to inspect her face. She was shrinking from them crowding around her. Finally, Rachel undid the top two buttons of her blouse, and though Violet didn’t stop her, she preferred to have it buttoned to her neck.
‘It’s a start…’ Stacey said when they all stepped back.
Izzy frowned. ‘If I had my halter top, I’d give it to you. See how many boys start fighting over you then!’
Violet blushed. ‘I don’t want to cause a fight.’
Stacey smiled at Violet as she sighed. ‘Sweetie, sometimes that’s the only way to get a boy’s attention.’
Violet had trouble keeping her head up as she walked with the other girls through the halls. Again, people were staring at her and making her positively scarlet. Her less than subtle transformation did not go unnoticed by Nate when she met with him later.
‘You’re wearing lipgloss now?’ He sounded confused.
‘Stacey made me wear it.’ She took out a tissue and wiped her lips harshly. ‘I knew you’d not like it.’
‘No, I didn’t mean it that way. I’m sorry… You look really pretty.’
‘I know it’s wrong of me to do it. It’s vain and I shouldn’t.’
‘Violet, no one’s going to punish you now for wearing lipgloss. As long as your happy, I don’t mind.’
She was too shy then to ask him how he felt. It was never going to feel right to her. She’d waited patiently for Samuel to speak to her, not once approaching to ask him if he was fond of her. Violet was aware Nate wouldn’t be asking for her hand in marriage, she didn’t expect him to at all. She only wanted him to think of her as fondly as Samuel had.
‘Nate’s always kept his feelings to himself,’ Jacqueline told Violet later that evening. ‘He’s terribly shy himself. Certainly more than you are, Violet.’
Jacqueline gave her a sympathetic smile. ‘Oh, sweetpea. Don’t fret. He’ll come around in his own time.’
Nate was upstairs in his room while Jacqueline was with Violet in the kitchen. Violet liked to help around the house as she had done for her own mother. It was important to her she earned her keep in this house, even after Nate insisted it wasn’t expected of her.
‘I’m not sure what he wishes of me,’ Violet said.
Jacqueline shook her head, utterly bemused. ‘You are a strange girl. You don’t have to cook and sew these days to get a man, sweetheart. Things are different now. I know having a strict Catholic upbringing has made you think a certain way, but honestly, Nate will respect you more if you’re your own person. He does like you, I can tell as much. Why don’t you go tell him dinner’s nearly ready? And later I can wash your hair if you like.’
‘No, that’s fine.’ Jacqueline’s obsession with tending to her hair had Violet troubled now.
She went upstairs, knocking gently on Nate’s door before entering. Nate glanced up at her from his laptop.
‘What’s wrong, Violet?’
‘Your mother said dinner is almost ready.’
‘Doesn’t explain you looking so miserable,’ he said as he stood. ‘Did you need to tell me something?’
Violet paused then shook her head. ‘It doesn’t matter.’ She left Nate alone, heading back downstairs with a heavy heart.
Nate was completely puzzled over Violet’s behaviour that night. Her eyes said she was troubled by something she was too afraid to tell him. Rachel had texted him after school, calling him names for being so mean Violet, but when he called her back to ask what she talking about, Rachel never answered.
Jacqueline chattered breezily through dinner, annoying Nate enough to almost demand she stop being so cheery.
‘I don’t know,’ she nattered. ‘I’ve just felt this sudden urge to get back into painting. And I think Violet would make the perfect subject.’
‘It’s not really fair to make her sit still for hours, is it?’ Nate said, pointedly.
‘Oh, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind, would you, Violet?’
Nate wouldn’t let her answer. ‘She’s not some doll for you to dress up, Mom. She’s her own person.’
‘Well, if you’d been paying attention to her at any point, you’d see she’s obviously smitten with you.’
Violet gasped, running out of the room after almost knocking her chair over.
‘Thanks.’ Nate glowered at Jacqueline and left her to her consternation.
He found Violet in the yard, her face in her hands as she cried. He touched her shoulder and she spun about.
‘I’m sorry, Violet. I’m sure she didn’t mean to embarrass you like that.’
‘She’s terrible at keeping secrets,’ Violet muttered. He could actually see her blushing even though she was standing in the shadows.
‘So it is true.’
Violet went to go back inside. ‘Be it true or not, it wouldn’t be proper for me to say.’
Nate successfully got in her way, carefully holding both her arms.
‘I’d rather you did, Violet. I won’t laugh at you if that’s what you’re worried about.’
She bowed her head and refused to look him in the eye. ‘I am very fond of you… even though you feel nothing for me.’
Nate had been dreading this conversation. Now he had to admit he did feel the same, he just wasn’t prepared to act on it yet. He really wanted to hide from her but he had to give her an answer.
‘I like you a lot, Violet,’ he said, ‘but what we have, it’s different… How we met isn’t how these things are supposed to start.’
‘Don’t be. Besides, I’ve not even…’ He was about to mention he’d not even had sex with a girl, stopping himself only to tell her, ‘I haven’t had much of a chance to get to know you outside of how you came to be a kelesnae.’
‘There’s little else to tell you, Nate.’
‘But you’ve seen so much. You’re four hundred years old now.’ Saying that aloud had Nate almost cringing. This was all completely idiotic. He wasn’t sure if she were an immortal creature or if she’d die one day from old age. He shouldn’t have been considering even kissing her.
‘I don’t feel old,’ she said indignantly. ‘I feel no different from the day I died. Why think of me that way when I do not even look old to begin with?’ She was genuinely hurt now and she pushed past him to go inside.
Nate hurried after her to the guest room where she’d been sleeping and she went to push the door in his face. He only just managed to stop her.
‘Violet, wait… I’m not trying to be mean to you. I’m only scared I’ll hurt you.’
‘What could you possibly do to hurt me, Nate? I came to you because I knew you wouldn’t treat me badly.’
‘How did you know?’
‘I was drawn to you more than anyone else I’d encountered. Something in your eyes said to me you were kinder than most, and that you’d not seek to bring me harm.’
As she said this, Violet stepped closer. Nate couldn’t do anything in return but keep still and hold his breath. She placed an innocent kiss on his cheek, shying away immediately after.
‘Forgive me,’ she muttered ashamedly.
‘There’s nothing to forgive, Violet. I’m not angry, am I?’
‘I only want to know what you wish of me, Nathaniel. I know you’re not asking me to do anything that would be expected of me as a wife, but I’d like to be your love if you’ll have me.’
‘Violet, you need to find your footing here and become your own person. And you’ve still got a lot to learn even if you have been around for so long. Everything else can wait, can’t it?’
‘Maybe that’s why I chose you,’ she said, smiling at last. ‘Because you’d be the one to set me free. Completely.’
Suddenly, Nate was terrified that she’d fall in love with her new life but not want him in it at all. If he had to let her go, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to.
All of this had him lying awake that night, staring out the window as the clouds crossed the moon. It hardly seemed likely Violet would ever become brave enough to go out on her own. Was he supposed to discourage her just so she’d become too scared to leave him? He couldn’t think of doing anything worse.
Nate was already scared of his own future, now he had to worry about Violet’s. What if she didn’t finish school, or wasn’t able to get a job? What if she was caught out because she had no identity here? How could he even get her a fake ID when he hadn’t been able to get one himself? All this was adding up to Nate thinking he’d have to hide her somewhere from the authorities. The school had actually been stupid enough to take her without a birth certificate. In fact, the receptionist quite gleefully gave her the admissions paperwork without a fuss. Perhaps she could use her charm to scam some legal documents out of a clerk at the courthouse.
Jacqueline refused to believe Violet was anything but a lovely girl with an old-fashioned approach to life. Violet’s manner of speech, the way she carried herself… none of this was raising any suspicions amongst his friends, or even any teachers at school. Maybe there was no need to worry about her getting in trouble.
Still, that was no excuse to make her his girlfriend, regardless of how much he wanted that. Nate knew she must’ve seen how red his face was when she’d kissed his cheek. She was completely innocent, and this made him see her as fragile and easily frightened.
On the other hand, calling her old would’ve been insulting, so thinking of her that way was pointless. She was starting her life in a way he’d never have the chance to do, but it wasn’t like he’d had to teach her how to dress herself or how to use cutlery, she wasn’t a baby. She’d been a passive entity throughout time, observing things and waiting for her moment to come back.
It would be mean of him to not let her be a human girl.
Nate’s reasoning and logic failed in helping his heart feel better about the situation. Keeping an eye on her at school was next to impossible now Rachel had signed Violet up to most of her classes. He was infuriated by Rachel tugging on Violet’s arm to drag her everywhere. And Violet wasn’t bold enough to put up a fight so Nate was stepping in to protect her, suffering Rachel’s anger in the process.
Even Joel had the nerve to question Nate’s intentions towards Violet.
‘Why are you so protective of her?’
‘She’s shy!’ Nate snapped. ‘And… I like her a lot.’
‘She’s so innocent, but not like a child. It’s something else… She has this, I don’t know, newness about her.’
Nate leaned in, wondering if he was about to do something stupid by telling Joel the truth.
‘She sort of is new. She found me in the woods when we went camping. But she didn’t look like that, she was this bright light darting through the trees and…’
Joel cocked one eyebrow. ‘What are you talking about, Nate?’
‘You haven’t nailed her yet, have you?’ Joel wasn’t being sleazy. He was acting more like a concerned father.
‘No! Don’t be crass. It won’t happen for a while if it ever will. I’m too…’ Nate shut up then. He was pretty sure he did love Violet and he was being a moron by denying he felt strongly for her.
‘Well, be a goddamn gentleman about it, would you? Make a declaration of some kind. Don’t be a sleaze about it, she deserves better.’
Nate didn’t protest, he agreed with Joel. Violet would need to know she was important to him no matter what happened.
Behind all his worry about Violet, Nate was more concerned about his ability to disappear. He’d kept from her that he’d had moments where he’d seen his entire arm just vanish, usually when he was tired and not concentrating on much. Whenever he was alone, he practiced fading in and out, hoping this would lead to some greater control.
Tempting as it was to use it to his advantage in some way, he wouldn’t have dared. He could’ve stolen test papers and sold them to people, or taken whatever he wanted from a store. If he held anything tightly and focused on it, he could make it vanish for a good twenty seconds, certainly long enough to sneak it out without being seen. The only thing stopping him was his conscience.
None of this had Nate truly believing he was that good a person. He had already done a heap of stupid things in his short life. He and his friends egged someone’s house one Halloween, and he’d accidentally broken a window by throwing a rock he thought had been an egg. He’d gotten drunk more than once and he was only seventeen. His grades at school weren’t really the best, and besides he had no idea what he wanted to do for a career. He felt like a loser more often than not. Bringing Violet back to life and having what amounted to a superpower didn’t make Nate feel like a hero at all.
He was probably more lost and confused than ever.
Violet couldn’t know any of this, it would’ve had her feeling more guilty than she already did. Watching her being hounded at school by people who were supposed to adore her, then having to deal with his mother’s bizarre affections as well, Nate was seriously considering taking Violet somewhere no one would find her. He was doing a terrible job of looking after her the way he’d promised.
At least that weekend they had a better shot at being alone. It was still warm enough to go to the beach, and Nate borrowed Jacqueline’s car and took Violet there so she could see the ocean. She slipped off her shoes before her feet hit the sand and Nate went after her, finding she was as quick on her feet as she’d claimed. He hoped there weren’t any needles or bits of broken glass between the parking lot and the water. The world around her wasn’t safe, but then it hadn’t been safe before she was turned. Nate hadn’t once questioned what changing her would mean. In his defence, all he could say was he thought the whole thing had been a weird dream.
Violet was pacing along the water’s edge as she focused on the clouds above her.
‘I can taste the salt in the air. I never thought I’d see the edge of the world where the sky meets the sea. Not with my own eyes.’
Turning back, she went to him with an expectant look.
Nate let Violet get close, hiding his own trembling as best he could before she kissed him softly. He wasn’t going to try and open her mouth with his lips or put his hands anywhere inappropriate. This was her moment more than it was his, all he could do was make sure it happened somewhere special.
What it did to him was more of a shock. He felt like she was about to possess him again, just like before. He knew she couldn’t, she’d just reignited the same sensation. Nate didn’t want to stop her, it didn’t seem fair, still he was afraid and had to break the kiss so he could catch his breath.
She knew anyway, backing away with another guilty look. ‘I’m sure I cannot do what I did to you again, Nate.’
‘I hope you trust me.’
‘I do, I just remember how you got here, it’s not really left me. It’s not like I felt any pain… and I wasn’t all that scared at the time…’
Violet made a small frown as she explained, ‘If I’d been told more by the others, I’d have better understood what was happening. I waited for them to come back again, I even went looking for them, but I’ve not seen them for centuries. If they were once human, like I was, I’m not even sure if they changed back to who they were. Maybe I’m the last…’
Nate took her hand. ‘So you know nothing about how those Enorahts even came to be?’
‘Joseph called them demons, others said they were the product of witchcraft. We had no women in our village who claimed to be witches. No one conjured the Enorahts or any other spirits, still I don’t think they were of the Devil, either.’
‘We could go look them up if you want.’
‘Would anyone else know about them?’
‘Depends. You can find all kinds of things on the internet now, I’d be surprised if there weren’t some sort of reference to them.’
Violet glanced back at the water. ‘It’s nice here. Can we stay a while longer?’
‘Sure.’ Nate really wanted to go home and start looking for information, but Violet wasn’t interested. She was probably terrified of seeing anything to do with it.
She made him talk about his childhood as they walked. He told her scraps of things, memories that didn’t hurt to bring up. He wanted to remember his dad better than he did, but a lot of it was fuzzy. She only said in response she’d rather forget her father altogether.
‘He sounds like a pretty horrible guy if he just let you be killed,’ Nate said.
‘He was cold and resentful. And he wished I’d been a boy. I think he would have accepted Annabelle more if I’d been her older brother.’
‘It’s not like anyone could control that, Violet.’
The air grew colder, Violet wrapping her jacket tighter around herself in response to a sudden breeze coming in off the water. She didn’t speak as Nate led her back to the car and drove her home.
Jacqueline was asleep on the sofa in the den even though it was late afternoon and she never napped. Nate covered her with a blanket then took Violet to his room.
She stood behind him as he sat at his desk, watching him do multiple searches on the words she suggested. There was nothing about the Enorahts or the kelesnae. He saw mention of a creature called a Will-o-the-Wisp, an odd spirit entity made of torchlight that lived in swamps and lured people to their deaths. But the few pictures they saw had no resemblance to how Nate remembered Violet, or how she remembered the Enorahts.
‘Pastor Joseph must have named them this,’ she concluded. ‘And he didn’t keep a record of them. Or they were lost.’
‘But he never told you about the kelesnae. So who named them?’
Violet shook her head with a helpless shrug of her shoulders. ‘I suppose it no longer matters. I’m here now. What good could it do to know more?’
‘How can you not want to know?’
‘I’d rather forget, Nathaniel. I cannot make you forget what’s happened, but I don’t want to dwell on these things anymore.’
‘Sorry… I thought you’d be more curious.’
‘I almost forgot myself completely. I lost my voice. I could have vanished entirely. My nightmares of the Enorahts are too much for me. Please don’t make me keep looking.’
‘Okay, we’ll stop. I promise I won’t go looking for anything else.’
They sat cross-legged across from each other on his bed, holding hands. Nate wanted her to have all the dumb, teenage stuff that was supposed to happen before things got too serious. And in a pathetic way, he wanted this for himself as well.
‘Annabelle and I would play on the edge of the woods,’ Violet recalled. ‘She liked to pretend there were fairies in amongst the bushes. But then I grew too old for these games, telling my father I wanted to go to school to learn to read. He had no money, and girls didn’t normally go to school, so my mother offered to teach me what she could.’
‘I remember I couldn’t wait to go to school when I was a kid,’ Nate said before he smirked. ‘Didn’t take me long to change my mind about it.’
‘You’re luckier than you think, Nate. Your life has had more blessings than mine.’
Now he felt bad for taking what he had for granted. ‘I know. It’s hard for me to imagine living in a different time. I’d rather be in this one, even with all its complications.’
‘Why do you not have any brothers or sisters?’
‘Because my dad died and my mom won’t remarry. She doesn’t want to, even though she wants a daughter. I haven’t stood in her way at all, I hardly care if she marries someone else, long as she’s happy and whoever it is doesn’t make my life hell. It’s not like I’ll be living here much longer, anyway.’
Violet panicked. ‘Why? Where are you going?’
‘College, most likely. But not until next year.’ He was smiling as he said this, but it was short-lived when he remembered her chances of success. ‘Let’s just forget about that for now.’
‘No, I can’t. You have to tell me now if I cannot stay with you, Nate. If I have to go somewhere else, or if I’m a nuisance in your life…’
‘Violet, stop. I’m not kicking you out of my life now. I promised I’d look after you, and I didn’t just mean until you found your feet and could survive alone. That’s unless you want to go. Then I won’t stop you.’
She shook her head gently. ‘I won’t have a reason to leave your side. I will learn to adapt, and I’ll learn to protect myself. I’ll try to be strong for you, but I won’t leave. I can’t leave you.’
Nate saw she was being honest, yet he didn’t kid himself she might change her mind later on.
‘Tell me of the girls you knew,’ she said to him.
‘What about them?’
‘Were they kind to you?’
Nate thought about this carefully. ‘No, most weren’t. But then I can’t say I was all that nice to them, either.’ He hadn’t been nice to Fiona, not really. Now it made sense she didn’t want to keep things going and he was glad she hadn’t.
‘You weren’t in love,’ Violet murmured.
‘Of course not. It’s sad, but people don’t really fall in love the way they used to. Some people don’t need it, other people need it too much.’
‘And which are you?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘You need to be loved, but not strangled by it. I’ve no intention of smothering you.’
‘No one’s saying you do. But how do you want it to be, Violet? All of it, how did you see it?’
‘I couldn’t. My mother said so little to me of what was required of being a wife. You lay with your beloved, was all she said. I pressed her for what she meant, getting no answers. Much later, another girl told me she’d been bedded by a boy she wasn’t intended to marry. She’d committed a sin, yet she did not seem to feel bad for it.’
‘Then they should have sacrificed her and not you.’ Witch hunts and puritanical nonsense had never made sense to him. Having to read The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter had taught Nate little, he’d not expected to come across someone who’d lived the nightmares those books described.
‘She wouldn’t have been caught. And I would not tell anyone. I wanted to know what happened, and she told me, every detail. It left me confused for a long while after. Since then, I think I’ve made some sense of it.’
‘Violet, I won’t ever ask you to do something you don’t want to. You’re important to me.’
‘But if I wish to give of myself?’
He swallowed, thinking she probably heard him gulping. ‘Then I’ll try to make sure it’s not a disappointment for you.’
‘I’ve had thoughts and wants I couldn’t account for, more in the time I’ve known you. My affection for you was born out of what you gave me in the beginning. But it’s more than that now.’
‘I know. The way everyone looks at you, it’s hard to be around that. It’s exactly how I feel, only it’s magnified by everyone around us. I was only trying to protect you, not smother you like Joel said.’
‘Nate, I know this. I’m not upset.’
He saw Violet was tired then. He let her lie down on his bed and he was going to leave her alone, except she didn’t want him to.
‘Stay,’ she whispered.
Nate held her without too much intensity, already wanting her and absolutely petrified of it. Violet seemed to fit in his arms perfectly. She’d stolen pieces of him to make herself whole, leaving traces of her spirit within him that had them bound together. He never thought he’d have anything like that with someone else, he couldn’t tell if he needed it to be more than that. Maybe something pure and simple was all he’d ever need.
It was a nice thought, but when Nate considered it that way, he wasn’t sure it’d always be true.
Waking up beside Nate, Violet stayed perfectly still so she could watch him sleep. Being in his arms was wonderful for her; she was content now, almost as much as she’d felt when Samuel first kissed her.
A small piece of her thought she was betraying the memory of her beloved Samuel. He was a sweet boy, always trying to get her attention when she was in the market buying seed for Thomas to plough in his fields. She would pass the smithery on her way home, Samuel stopping his work to say hello to her.
The first day he had said anything, the boy had stumbled over his words. He didn’t normally stammer, not that Violet knew.
‘Hello, Samuel. How are you?’
‘I… I’m fine… How are you?’
‘I am well,’ she responded, though this wasn’t entirely true.
‘You look very… I mean to say, you are very…’ He squeezed his eyes shut a moment and tried again. ‘You look very pretty today.’
‘Just today?’ she said with a smile.
He blushed. ‘Well, not… Um…’
‘Thank you, Samuel.’
He tipped his cap and she went on her way, her grin getting bigger and harder to hide.
For almost a month, Samuel made a point of saying hello to Violet. She always returned the favour, accepting any compliments he had for her.
One morning, she was visiting the town with Rebecca and Annabelle. Rebecca needed black thread to mend their clothes, and Samuel again made himself obvious as Violet purposefully trailed behind her mother.
‘Can I see you?’ he asked. ‘Alone?’
‘Where would we meet?’
‘I’ll find you by the river, where that tree bends over the water. You know the one.’
‘Tomorrow afternoon?’ he suggested.
She nodded, running after Rebecca when she was called.
Violet almost didn’t get away from her chores to meet him and had rushed down the slope to the place he’d mentioned. He was there waiting, his messy blond hair in his face and his smile quick to appear when he saw her.
‘Thank you for meeting with me, Violet.’
‘I almost was kept by my mother, I’d not finished the cleaning. She does hate it so when I leave my chores unfinished.’
‘So does my father.’
She walked with Samuel along the river and he asked her questions about her parents; very pointed ones that suggested to her he was considering asking Thomas for her hand. He would be turning eighteen in less than a month and she knew it was a boy’s duty to find a wife by the time he became a man.
‘You are the prettiest girl in the village,’ he said timidly. ‘I do hope no one has asked for your hand already. I know Gregory, the butcher’s son, he is quite fond of you.’
Her heart couldn’t stop skipping. ‘I’ve not heard this. He has not said as much to me, Samuel.’
‘I wish I could see your hair.’ Samuel came to a halt, stepping ahead of her. ‘Would you show it me if we were married?’
‘I believe I am meant to show you a lot more than that,’ she said coyly.
Samuel grew closer, finally leaning in to give Violet her very first kiss. It was clumsy a moment, still she was enlivened by it, taking the memory of it with her to bed that night and hoping Samuel would speak to her father.
Once again, the recollection was as vivid as if it had been yesterday. Violet lamented Samuel’s loss and closed her mind off to any more thoughts of him so as not to grow sadder.
Nathaniel was just as sweet as Samuel. He was courteous and charming, and perhaps more confident, but not by much. Violet wondered if Samuel would have married another girl. Annabelle was far too young for him back then, but other girls in the village were keen to be wed, he’d not have gone without a bride for long. Violet had wanted to give him sons, as was her duty. She’d wanted to bed him. She knew she’d have made a suitable wife.
But without even having to ask, Violet knew Nate didn’t want such things from her. Girls her age now still had children, but it was frowned upon by their elders. And almost none of them would have been properly wed first. Long ago, their promiscuity would’ve led to far dire consequences. Violet did not want to be seen as a wanton girl. If she were to give herself to Nathaniel, it would be in the hope he’d be her only lover, even if he refused to be her husband.
Picturing it in her mind was so difficult. She was aware she could look at things now that in her time were considered horribly sinful. In the midst of all her confusing thoughts and emotions, Violet still couldn’t find a reason to pray now. Not a piece of her wanted anything to do with the God who’d forsaken her in her darkest hour.
She kissed Nathaniel’s lips as he slept, stirring him awake. He smiled at her when he opened his eyes.
‘Hey… I wasn’t sure you’d still be here.’
‘I had no reason to leave you.’ She rested herself against his chest as his arms went around her.
He didn’t respond at first. ‘I think… I’m not completely sure, but I think…’
She heard his heart pounding and she stayed perfectly still.
‘I think I love you, Violet.’
She reached up once more to kiss him, touching his cheek and running her fingertips down his jawline. Welcoming more of his kisses in return had her body in a state of bliss and shock. Her hand moved over his chest almost without her consent, making her skin grow warmer. Nate responded to her touch, running his hands up her back and pulling her closer.
Violet refused to end this, she wanted more, but Nate suddenly stopped.
‘We can’t,’ he whispered.
‘You don’t wish to?’
‘Of course I do, we just can’t. I don’t have any… and it might hurt you more than you realise… I don’t want to do that.’
Violet recalled a lot of boys in the village had little care for their conquests. Some of them were quick to run off with a girl and promise them nothing in return for one evening of sin. The next day, the girl was nothing more than a scrap to be tossed aside.
‘You’re too important to me, Violet. I might not have cared as much about this in the past, but I care now.’
‘Whatever you’ve done means little to me, Nate. Surely you know that.’
He kissed her once more, stroking her hair from her face. Jacqueline’s voice echoed up the stairs then and Violet moved away quickly.
‘Nate? Are you home?’
‘I better go check on her.’
Nate left Violet alone, calling out to Jacqueline on his way downstairs. Violet stayed by the door, unable to hear them talking.
Back in her room, there were piles of folded clothing on the bed. The fabric was much nicer than the cotton smocks and dresses she’d been forced to wear, even in the summer. Violet hated her bras as much as she’d loathed her petticoats. She hadn’t yet brought herself to try wearing pants. Jacqueline appeared no less feminine for it, she reasoned.
There was a full-length mirror in the door of one of the closets. Violet stripped off what she’d been wearing and picked up a shorter dress Jacqueline had insisted on buying for her. She had refused to put it on, the deep purple colour of it making her stomach twist. Pulling it on now, Violet straightened the fabric over her hips and stomach. The hemline fell just above her knees, revealing her pasty legs. She wasn’t preening, but she was feeling very different now.
Brushing out her hair, Violet stared at herself and wondered if Samuel would have liked her in this dress. Rebecca was going to give Violet her wedding gown, she’d even tried it on the day before Thomas sent her to steal food.
A brilliant flash burst in front of her, and behind her reflection was a cluster of purple lights, spinning around one another. Violet let out a piercing scream, turning about to see the lights weren’t there.
Nate burst in a moment later.
‘They were here,’ she murmured frantically. ‘I swear they were here.’
He scanned the room quickly. ‘I can’t see anything.’
Violet went into his arms, trembling as she wept. Had they sensed her vanity? Were they here to judge her? She never knew if they even cared for any transgressions their victims made. They were hungry, horrible creatures with no souls.
‘It’s okay. Nothing’s going to hurt you now.’
She wanted to be away from the mirror, suddenly thinking it cursed. Following Nate downstairs, Violet saw Jacqueline in the den, staring off into space.
‘Is she alright, Nate?’ Violet asked.
‘I think so.’
Violet was still disturbed. She went tentatively toward Jacqueline and said her name softly. In response, Jacqueline lifted her head, appearing weary now.
‘Yes? Oh… Violet… How are you, sweetpea?’
‘I’m fine. But I am worried for you.’
‘Oh, I was just thinking of Ronald… I’m fine. How about I make you some tea?’
‘I’ll do it,’ Nate offered, taking Violet’s hand and drawing her out of the room. Violet said nothing until they were alone in the kitchen.
‘Nate, I have to tell you the truth… Something might be about to go horribly wrong.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I did try to tell you… I was told those who were enamoured of me may one day turn on me. I don’t know when, or how they will behave. But I’m afraid now the spell is lifting from Jacqueline.’
‘Will I see you differently?’
‘I don’t know… You might…’
Nate was disturbed. ‘If people love you so much now, they might really want to hurt you when they finally stop.’
Violet hugged her arms. ‘I’ll be all alone if you turn on me, Nate. Where will I go?’
‘Is there any way we can stop this?’
‘I do not know,’ she answered dismally. ‘I wish I knew what will happen next. I can’t live with this uncertainty.’
‘Maybe I should take you away from here. Just in case something happens.’
‘Where would we stay?’
Half his attention was on making tea for Jacqueline, the rest on their conundrum. ‘There’s nowhere I can think of where we’d be alone except the woods. The campsite’s usually empty… we could camp out in the woods… but for how long?’ He finished making the tea. ‘Stay here. I’ll be back in a second.’
Violet did as she was told, pacing instead of sitting. She went to the window, hiding behind the curtain and staring outside. Cars went by as children were playing on the lawn across the street. Birds were chirping. Everything was perfect.
It was unsettling. During her old life, Violet had always withstood the days her family went without enough food. Thomas would be bitter, saying little about their troubles but suffering all the same. He had to give the grain he milled to the town baker, but if he hadn’t enough to sell, he made no money. He’d gone on to slaughter their goat that winter, and that lasted them a month at best.
Violet read to Annabelle by candlelight in their hayloft, shivering with her under the thin patchwork blanket Rebecca had made. Thomas would argue in a hushed tone with Rebecca during the evening, Violet forcing herself not to listen. Annabelle often fell asleep against her chest, too innocent to really know what peril they were in. She could rest easily when Violet would have dreams of wolves at their door.
‘Why do you read to her those nonsense stories?’ Thomas later complained. ‘You fill her head with daydreams and you leave her open to the Devil’s lure. The Enorahts may still come for her.’
‘But we sent a sacrifice,’ Violet had said, remembering the protestations of a man named Nicholas who’d committed adultery with a younger girl in the village. ‘They won’t come for her.’
‘You think the Devil abides by his own rules? He’d be the first to renege on any promises made, Violet. Do you not listen in church? No, I suppose you do not since your head is so full of daydreams.’
‘Father, I do not imagine anything beyond this life. All I know is the misery of this existence.’
‘As you should, child. Keep your head otherwise no boy will want a woman like you, always off with the fairies, filling other’s heads with lies. Your silence is a virtue as much as your womanhood is.’
Thomas sometimes leered at Violet. Once they’d been alone and he’d touched her hair whilst standing close behind her, saying she was fit for a husband and would do him well to give him sons the minute she was wed. She couldn’t fail her husband the way Rebecca had failed him. His hand had touched her side, squeezing her flesh as he uttered she was too slender for childbearing. His breath had been at her neck.
‘Your flesh…’ he’d murmured. ‘You have the shape of a woman now, not a girl… They will covet your body before they offer to take your hand, Violet. Be wary.’
‘Your actions do not go unnoticed by me, child. I have seen you be less gracious around the boys in the village. You’d do best to say your prayers each night lest the Devil finally catch you out in a lustful thought.’
Violet’s hand was close to a fork, and it had reached out to grip the handle. ‘I am pure in thought and deed, Father.’
‘So you say…’
Her palm sweated and he’d backed away, leaving her trembling in the scullery for almost a minute before she’d rushed outside. Falling to her knees on the edge of the woods behind their house, Violet had wept openly into her hands.
These recollections brought back all her tears and she was crying deeply when Nate found her.
She shook her head as she wiped her eyes. ‘My memories aren’t distant anymore. It hurts me to think on them now.’
Nate carefully brought her into his arms. ‘What can I do?’
‘There is nothing you can do, Nate. But I’m beginning to wish I’d not come back. I was safe from this when was a kelesnae.’
‘I’m sorry this life isn’t all you hoped it would be,’ he said.
Nate’s apologies meant more to her than his love. ‘Thank you.’
He kissed her damp cheek lightly and this helped her smile again.
‘Is Jacqueline alright?’
‘She’s distracted, but she seems to be okay. Let’s go.’
‘Where are we going?’
‘Anywhere but here.’
Nate took the keys to Jacqueline’s car without another word. Violet hadn’t gotten used to sitting in these vehicles, still disconcerted by the growl of the engine. She thought she was inside some odd metal beast, unconvinced she was as safe as Nate claimed.
‘I am sorry if my presence is upsetting you, Nate.’
‘Really, it’s not. I think you’re afraid of what you can’t predict, like everyone else. I’m scared of a lot of things.’
‘Failing, disappointing people. I’m scared I might do something to make you hate me. And I worry my mom will be lonely if I move out. I don’t want my fears to be yours. I understand why you were worried about telling me everything.’
She was distracted by a small crowd children standing around a large van. An older girl was handing out popsicles and ice creams, and Nate saw Violet staring.
‘You haven’t had ice cream yet,’ he said, pulling up in the parking lot of the playground. ‘That’s one good thing you missed out on.’
The children near the van stopped their chattering as Violet approached. Nate was ahead of her and turned back when she paused.
‘It’s okay,’ he said.
Violet stayed still as the group of children surrounded her, all of them staring up at her with curious faces.
‘She’s glowing,’ murmured one boy in wonderment.
‘Is she an angel?’ asked another girl.
‘No,’ Nate said, perturbed. ‘She’s not.’ He took Violet’s hand, leading her away as the children kept staring. A pair of women called out to them from across the park. They were rushing over, looking worried as they tried to get the children to stop gazing at Violet. Nate pulled her close.
‘What are they seeing?’ he asked softly.
‘I’m not sure. Those women aren’t seeing the same thing as the children, and neither are you.’ She turned her gaze from the two women. ‘A child saw me in the woods when I was a kelesnae some years ago. I led her to safety when she was lost. She was the first person to see me in centuries.’
‘Maybe you just look different to little kids,’ he pondered. ‘You look normal to me right now.’
Nate bought her an ice cream so she could try it. She waited for him, keeping watch as one of the women distinctly glared at her and made Violet’s blood run cold.
‘It’s vanilla,’ Nate told her when he came back. ‘That’s kinda safe. I figured strawberry might be too sweet.’ He was doing all he could to keep her preoccupied, that much was clear to her.
She held the stiff cone and put her lips to the ice cream. The coldness of it numbed her teeth as she bit into it.
‘It’s freezing,’ she laughed.
‘It’s supposed to be. Do you like it?’
She nodded with a smile. ‘I’ve not had something this sweet before.’
He walked with her, taking her hand again and laughing at the mess she made trying to finish the ice cream before it melted all over her fingers. His innocent gestures had her doubting her father’s words. Nate’s touch wasn’t covetous, his deeds weren’t impure. He spoke honestly and only wished her to be happy.
‘Why were you crying before?’ he asked. ‘You need to tell me.’
‘It wasn’t over you, Nathaniel. I was remembering some things my father told me…some moments when he was cruel to me.’
‘He didn’t hit you, did he?’
‘No, but he raised his hand to Annabelle more than once when she was bad. My father’s look upon me was not one a father should give his daughter. I pretended to be ignorant. I think it suited him for me to die because I’d disappointed him so terribly.’
‘You didn’t deserve a second of what happened to you, Violet.’
Her fingers were still a little sticky from the ice cream and the sun was a touch too warm on her face. She’d not yet adjusted to the discomforts of her human body: having flesh that could hurt from a scratch, or an ache in her belly when she’d forgotten she was supposed to eat.
A kiss from Nate made up for this, the softness of his lips reminding Violet how wonderful it was to be real and not a creature of pure light.
As they passed more people, Violet felt their gazing more succinctly. There was doubt there; a questioning as to what they were seeing. She wasn’t quite right in their eyes, and she knew this from their frowning and their furtive whispering to one another. Nate grew anxious seeing her fold and move into him.
‘You haven’t changed, Violet,’ he said as assuringly as he could.
‘Perhaps not to you. Perhaps you’re immune because you made me whole again. Can we go home?’
The air became chilly and Nate gave Violet his jacket as they walked back to his car. She said little to him on the way, pondering with more fear in her heart what everyone else was now seeing. Was she ugly now, or just different, or somewhat abnormal? She’d not be able to see it in a mirror, still she needed to know, no matter how ugly she was.
The looks Violet was getting as they’d walked through the park had caused Nate’s free hand to curl into a fist. He could tell a couple of people were genuinely disgusted, but every time he looked at her, he couldn’t see a single thing to sneer at.
This had her upset and she was pensive now, sitting in his room with her knees against her chest and her chin on her arms. She wouldn’t accept him holding her.
‘I’m so scared, Nate. It’s happening already. We should go now.’
‘Maybe this will pass too, like the first spell. I’m sure once you’ve spent more time here everyone will still see you as I do.’
‘And how is that?’
She obviously didn’t believe him.
‘You’re not a monster, Violet. Please believe me. And you’re stronger than this. I don’t want you to regret coming back… I love you.’
This seemed to hurt her more than anything. ‘If my woes do anything to bring you harm, Nathaniel, I’ll never forgive myself.’
Nate refused to stay away from her, going to her and taking her hands before he brought her close again. ‘Don’t be silly. Your woes are mine.’ He could hear himself adopting her manner of speech. He’d suspected people would laugh at her for talking properly, and they’d make fun of her old fashion thoughts and words, but they’d just loved her more for it.
Jacqueline wasn’t in the den anymore. Nate had to go look for her, finally finding her in the living room going through the cupboards and tearing things out. She was throwing photo albums onto the floor with no regard, the pictures slipping out from under the old covers. Violet stayed close behind Nate.
‘Where is it?’ Jacqueline muttered to herself.
‘Mom, what’s wrong?’
‘I can’t find it… It was in here before.’ She stopped and turned back, and the second she saw Violet, she gasped.
‘What are you doing? Why is she still here?’ Jacqueline got to her feet, charging at Violet who backed away in terror.
‘Get that thing out of my house!’ Jacqueline shouted at him, pointing menacingly at Violet. ‘How could you bring something like that in here? What’s wrong with you, Nate?’
‘It’s just Violet. She’s my friend! What’s wrong with you?’
Jacqueline shoved Nate aside then grabbed Violet by her hair, dragging her to the front door. Nate couldn’t stop her forcing Violet outside while she screamed at her to never come back.
‘You monster!’ Jacqueline screeched. ‘Get out of my site, you horrific beast!’
Nate ran past his hysterical mother, reaching out to Violet just as Jacqueline slammed the door on him. He heard her doing up the locks and putting on the chain.
‘Don’t you dare come back with her, Nate! Get rid of her. Now.’
Violet was trembling and crying as she stepped out of his reach. ‘No…’
‘You’re not different!’ he cried. ‘You’re not a monster, I swear. I don’t know what she’s seeing, Violet, but it’s not what I see.’
She started walking away. ‘That doesn’t matter, Nathaniel. It’s already begun, just as the others said. I’m in danger now whether you want me to be or not.’
Luckily, Nate still had Jacqueline’s keys. Violet still wouldn’t let him even touch her arm, and he barely managed to get her in the car. She was safer in there than anywhere else once he’d locked all the doors.
He decided to take her to see Rachel and Joel in the hope they were still in love with Violet enough to help them. It wasn’t an ideal plan, but his options were becoming scant.
The minute Rachel saw Violet, she burst into tears. ‘Take her away,’ she moaned. ‘Why did you bring her here at all? She gives me nightmares.’
‘What are you talking about, Rachel?’ he demanded. He had to know what they were seeing now. ‘What’s changed?’
Joel appeared and told Rachel to go back inside. ‘What are you even doing with that thing, Nate? It’s disgusting. It’s not even human.’
‘Of course she is!’
Joel slammed the door on them.
‘This was why they told me not to go back,’ Violet murmured, tugging on Nate’s sleeve. ‘We have to go now. They’ll hurt me if I stay.’
She ran from him down the porch and back to the car. He quickly caught up with her but she refused to speak until they were well away from Rachel’s house.
Taking her to the edge of town, he pulled over in an empty parking lot so he could catch his breath. The panic from seeing Violet manhandled by his own mother hadn’t left him yet. He’d never been so furious.
Violet wasn’t crying, still her voice was raw and hollow.
‘This must be part of the curse. The consequence to coming back… Maybe there are those who knew this and refused to be reborn. I should’ve done the same.’
‘Does it ever stop?’ he asked desperately. ‘Will they eventually see you as human again?’
‘I don’t know.’
He covered his mouth with his cupped hands a moment, fleshing out a plan. ‘I’ll have to go back to the house for a second, I have nothing with me and I need to get the money I’ve saved from my room. If you stay in the car, I’ll tell my mom I’m sending you away. She’ll be fine if she doesn’t see you.’
Violet was frantic again. ‘You’ll leave me on my own?’
‘No, I’m coming with you and I won’t come back here until I know no one will hurt you. As long as she can’t see you, it’ll be okay. It’s not like she’s sending a lynch mob out after you.’ He felt sick then. ‘Will everyone see you this way now?’
‘I think so. I should never have done this to you, Nate. I’ve ruined your life.’
‘No, you haven’t, Violet. I swear. I’m protecting you now, no matter what.’
Nate deliberately parked down the street from his house. He squeezed Violet’s hand before getting out, promising not to take too long.
Inside, every curtain had been drawn shut. He had no time to question this. Up in his room, Nate grabbed a few things, finding the money that he’d stashed in a small box. He then went to Violet’s room and took what he could, shoving it all in a bag and slinging it over his shoulder.
He crept downstairs, holding his breath as he took each step. He was almost at the front door when Jacqueline emerged behind him. She was scowling still.
‘It’s okay,’ he said to her calmly like she was an animal about to attack him. ‘She’s gone. I got rid of her.’
‘Why did you bring her here, Nate?’ she suddenly begged. ‘Did you want to torment me?’
‘No! Mom, I had no idea what she was, I swear.’
‘I know what you did,’ she said with malice. ‘It was you. You’re the one who brought her back, let her use you to be whole again.’
‘I see her now for what she is, Nathaniel. And what you are. You’re a tainted thing and I want nothing to do with you.’
‘Mom, please. You don’t understand.’ He was actually backing away from her as she approached him, for the first time terrified she might actually harm him.
Nate darted away from her, running out the door and back to the car. He dropped the bag in the backseat then scrambled into the front before he tore away down the street.
‘What happened?’ Violet gasped. ‘I heard her screaming at you.’
‘She knows. Somehow, she’s figured it out now how you came back and what part I played in it. She thinks we’re both evil now. She screamed at me to get out.’
Violet covered her face with her hands and wept. ‘Oh God, forgive me, please.’
‘God has absolutely nothing to do with this, Violet. That man, the preacher, he brought God into this mess, not you.’
‘Then what am I?’ she cried. ‘I must be of the Devil, Nate. What else could I be? This is how he works his evil upon the earth.’
‘I don’t believe it. I won’t. Just stay calm. We’ll go somewhere for a few days and wait, then I’ll call my mom and if she talks to me like a sane woman, I’ll know it’s over.’
Driving calmed Nate considerably. Violet gradually stopped weeping; he’d wanted to stop and hold her but they had to keep moving. The box didn’t have much money in it, nor did his wallet, and he only found a spare twenty in the glove compartment.
It was late in the afternoon when Nate pulled into a gas station outside the next town. He filled the tank halfway, watching Violet tapping her feet as she hugged her knees. There was scarcely enough cash left to find a motel for the night. Violet stayed in the car, keeping her hair in her face and hiding as best she could from anyone who might pass by. Nate couldn’t stand to see her so ashamed of herself.
The clerk at the front desk, a rough looking man with bony fingers, wasn’t impressed by Nate’s lack of a charge card. He had his licence, that was it. The man took the cash in exchange for a key, and this only felt like a small victory to Nate.
Violet kept her head down as Nate got her and their things into their room. He locked up behind himself, drawing the curtains closed.
‘It’s okay. We’ll be safe here, I promise.’
‘You don’t know this,’ she muttered.
Violet wouldn’t be anywhere near him while she still believed she was a demon. Her denial of him was intense enough for Nate to see his fingers start to disappear.
The harrowing sensation of realising her love was tied to his actual existence mortified him. If he disappeared forever, she would be on her own without anyone to protect her, and he didn’t want to die. Not like this. He knew they had to fight.
‘Violet, don’t do this. Please.’ Nate watched his hands slowly fade away. ‘Don’t shut me out. You’re not a demon. I swear to you, that’s not what I see.’
She was curled up on the farthest bed with her back to him. ‘You’re lying to appease me.’
Both his arms were almost gone now. ‘Violet!’
She spun back, seeing his distress and clambering off the bed to hold him. Her touch instantly brought him back.
‘I’m sorry,’ she whimpered. ‘Nathaniel, I’m sorry.’
Lying down with her granted him to a state of peace. Hiding there for days was the perfect solution, but Nate only had enough money for one more night. He was picturing himself stealing, just as Violet had done. Every solution he came up with had an immediate problem.
Then he realised his ability could help him. Nate had been desperate not to use it but he had no choice now. As Violet was sleeping, he sat in front of the mirror and concentrated on controlling his power. He picked up objects and put his energy into turning them invisible as well. He could render anything in his hand invisible for up to thirty seconds now as long as his focus was sharp. Dropping it rendered it solid again. He tucked a pen in his clothes and it seemed to stay hidden longer, but it eventually reappeared. At the start, the most he could do was retain his own invisibility for maybe five minutes, and he was slow to re-materialise after that. He spent another hour practising until he could stay that way for more than twenty minutes.
Confident he could pull off a small robbery, Nate woke Violet and told her what he was planning.
‘Please don’t get caught, Nate.’
‘I won’t, but I better go now while it’s dark. Will you be okay if I leave you here?’
‘Try not to take too long.’ Violet’s fear was immovable. No amount of locks and chains on the door would help her believe she was safe. He gave her a gentle kiss to settle her, telling he wouldn’t be gone longer than half an hour. He was going to knock four times when he came back so she knew it was him.
The seven-eleven down the block was still open and Nate thought the clerk probably wouldn’t leave the counter for him to swipe any money. He stayed across the street, breathing deeply and slowly until his heart rate dropped, well aware his panic would screw him over.
As he walked to the entrance, Nate disappeared. The kids in the parking lot didn’t see him vanish. He couldn’t even trip the automatic doors, he had to wait for someone to go in and sneak in being them. The moment he was inside, he checked the security mirror to make sure he wasn’t in it. Quick as he could, Nate took a couple of bags of candy and a bottle of water, reminding himself he really needed some cash.
A woman was standing ahead of him, her handbag tucked behind her arm as she browsed the shelves. Nate saw her purse protruding from the handbag. He couldn’t waste time with hesitation. Creeping up to her, he slowly slid the purse out then shoved it into his jacket. His heart hammered away as he walked briskly out the exit and ran back across the street, seeing his feet slowly return as they hit the pavement.
The purse had another two hundred bucks and a credit card. A bank would easily track the card and he didn’t have the pin to withdraw money so he couldn’t take it with him. He grabbed the money and dumped the purse, figuring his guilt would probably hit him after the angst disappeared.
Violet let Nate back in when he knocked. She locked the door again immediately, doing up the chain with her trembling fingers.
‘It worked,’ he said. ‘I’ll have to do it again, but we have enough for now.’
He gave her a bag of candy and she opened it, tipping out the coloured chocolate pebbles into her palm. Nate sat away from her.
‘I’m so sorry, Violet. You waited centuries to come back and now you’re worse off than before.’
‘I cannot hold that against you, Nate. You’re here now to protect me. It’s your life I’ve damaged with my selfishness. Perhaps my fate was to stay a kelesnae forever and I’ve gone against the wishes of God by returning. This must be my punishment.’
Nate was losing his patience with her reasoning. ‘Violet, there is no God. And the one I’ve heard of wouldn’t do something like this to someone like you.’ Nate never got into theological arguments with anyone, he’d kept his atheistic stance to himself until now.
‘I don’t remember being an awful person,’ she said. ‘I did one awful thing my entire life. I was chaste and kind and pure of thought… for the most part. At least, I thought I was.’
‘No one is completely good or bad,’ he told her. ‘The things I’ve done, I’ve broken a lot of rules, do you think that makes me a bad person?’
She shook her head, still solemn. He picked up a red candy and put it to her lips, trying to make her smile. She bit it from his fingertips then picked up a green one and fed it to him. He’d not had anything this innocent with a girl before, he liked that it wasn’t about anything else but their affection. Why couldn’t he just have that? The consequences were so unfair given Violet was the victim from the very start.
Violet fell asleep in his arms that night, and Nate’s eyes stayed open for hours, keeping watch. He couldn’t trust someone wasn’t going to barge in and take her, or that something malignant and otherworldly would intrude and hurt them both. He had to keep his phone off to save the battery, he didn’t have a charger with him and he was too scared to call Jacqueline from a payphone. If Violet wasn’t around anyone long enough, he was hoping her effect on people would cease.
Whether he’d get to keep her in his life after that was an entirely different problem he couldn’t afford to dwell on then.
The Enorahts invaded her dreams again. Violet was running through the woods unbound and trying to escape them. They taunted her, flashing past and blocking whichever path she took to get away from them. Soon they made a gigantic circle around her that closed in rapidly. She saw herself torn apart by them, unable to wake herself to end the vision.
She finally sat up in a state of shock, her hand to her chest as she breathed.
‘They’re here…’ she whispered frantically.
Someone stirred beside her. She turned to see Nate rouse himself. ‘Who?’
Blinking rapidly, Violet got her bearings and remembered where they really were. ‘Oh… I was dreaming.’
‘Sounded like a nightmare.’
‘I thought the Enorahts were here to take me again.’
‘What if I can’t see them, Violet?’
‘Then run when I tell you to. But I’m sure they’ll still catch us. They’re nothing but light.’
‘I wish we knew more about them. Is there any way you can call on the kelesnae? That’s if there are any left at all.’
‘Pastor Joseph only gave praise and thanks to the Enorahts, he said nothing of any other creatures. The kelesnae could’ve been the souls of the many children the Enorahts killed, not just those of my village who were sacrificed. But if these children knew nothing of the world if they were only infants when they died, what reason would they have to be human again?’ She sighed bitterly. ‘And what reason would they have to help us now? I do not know enough to fix this.’
‘Violet, I can’t keep you here, I’ll run out of money too fast. I might be able to keep stealing for a few more weeks but we have to come up with some kind of plan in case people won’t see ever see you the same again.’
‘I’m so tired, Nate. I feel as though I’ve not slept at all. I cannot think of what else to do now. If you’re done with me, then leave me. I’ll make my own way.’
‘Violet, stop doing that. I’m not leaving you.’ He rubbed his head, feeling a headache coming on. ‘We’re not far from the campsite where you found me. Maybe if we drive there… We’ll have to sleep in the car. It’s better than nothing. There should be a blanket in the back.’
‘Should we go there now?’
‘Not until you’re ready.’
Violet felt so horribly guilty when she was alone in the bathroom. She quickly washed her hair, not wanting to keep him waiting. Nate was doing everything for her and she’d nothing to give in return. Her love hardly seemed enough now in light of his suffering. How was she supposed to repay all this generosity? And would it ever be enough to alleviate her own guilt?
He was looking at his phone when she emerged, the odd contraption she’d seen him speak to people on. Violet sometimes thought she’d be able to cross these lines as a kelesnae, to somehow merge with their technology so she could speak when her voice was giving way. Not understanding these things made Violet fearful of them even now.
‘No one’s tried to call me. That’s probably a good thing.’
‘I didn’t want you to be shunned, Nate. Not like this.’
‘Even if I hadn’t been kicked out, Violet, I’d still be here with you. She won’t hurt you again… I still can’t believe she did it. She never even hit me as a little kid.’
‘What Jacqueline did is not her fault. I only hope she forgets she ever did it.’
Nate didn’t understand this. ‘You’re saying you’d forgive her no matter what?’
‘These things are my doing, not hers. I can’t hate these people for what they cannot control. This is my curse as it is my burden.’
‘Well, then they’re mine too, aren’t they? You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me. And I don’t care what that means, I want you here. You’re not my curse, Violet. I’ve never thought that way about you and I never will.’
She finally gave in to his kindness, letting him hold her after she went into his arms. All his words were true, she had no reason to doubt him, no reason to question.
‘Maybe you are an angel,’ he said softly.
As much as she wanted to believe this, Violet knew this wasn’t so.
They left the motel, driving for a short time and reaching the outskirts of the woods. There were no other cars there. Nate peered out the front windscreen.
‘I thought there was a road to the site as well. We can’t stay here in the lot.’
Violet glanced to her left, seeing what he was looking for just behind them. She pointed it out and he thanked her.
‘I’m not really thinking straight,’ he said. ‘I’d like to say I’m good in a crisis. Trouble is, I’ve never really been in one before.’ He kept on driving as he spoke. ‘I mean, you’ve been through horrible winters and been threatened by starvation and plagues and diseases we don’t even have now. You see why I think you’re braver than me, right?’
‘I didn’t think these things were what made me brave.’
‘Resilient, then. Imagine what you could teach people if they believed everything that’s happened to you since you died.’
‘You mean the things I did not wish to see?’ she said sadly. ‘I hid from the world more than I travelled it, Nate. I can’t teach you much really. Especially since I understood so very little of it at the time and even less now I’m here.’
‘Sorry, I didn’t think of it that way.’
‘Some of it I’ve forgotten entirely. I don’t think I was supposed to have much of a memory as a kelesnae.’
‘I’m too scared to ask you what it was really like to be that way. I don’t want to make you remember anything that upsets you.’
Violet considered this. ‘I would tell you if that’s what you wanted to know. I can do anything you ask of me, but you do not seem to want anything. What do you wish of me? What can I give you to make up for all this?’
‘You’ve nothing to make up to me and I’m not expecting you to take care of me, or be a housewife. I never really considered these things, Violet. I was pretty selfish until I met you. I don’t want a lot. You’ve given me so much already.’
‘I’ll do anything to make you happy,’ she said hurriedly as if he was about to reject her. ‘I can cook and sew…’
Nate only laughed at this, yet she knew it wasn’t to mock her. ‘I really don’t need all that. You’re used to women being subjugated and married off to be an indentured servant to a loveless man who’s only doing some kind of duty by accepting you as his wife. I’d rather you just be with me. And I’ll take care of you like I said I would. Always.’
‘Samuel may have wished that of me. I suppose I never considered if his love were genuine or a ruse to get me into his bed.’
‘Could’ve been. It’s an age-old trick, and I’m sorry to tell you it still works on some girls.’
Nate pulled up in the clearing where he and Rachel had camped. It was only mid-afternoon, but they were alone, that was all that mattered to Violet.
‘Hopefully it won’t get too cold,’ he said. ‘I can probably start a fire but I’d rather not.’
Violet got out of the car, walking to the edge of the trees and feeling drawn back to where she’d lived. She was more at home here.
Nate called out to her. ‘Where are you going?’
‘You don’t have to come with me.’
He was locking the car and she’d already wandered into the bushes. She heard him run up behind her.
‘I’m going to the clearing where I kept you if you wish to follow.’
‘We can’t stay too long or it’ll be dark before we get back.’
She only nodded. He walked beside her, stepping over the undergrowth as she did. He helped her over a fallen tree that was too long to walk around, grabbing her by the middle to guide her down once he was over.
‘I don’t feel like I walked as far that night,’ he said to her. ‘They said I’d walked half a mile away from the campsite.’
‘You were too distracted by me to know, and I didn’t want you to be found. I’m sorry.’
All she had done to become human again now felt more selfish than it ever had to Violet. She felt rotten over their predicament.
‘We should have stayed,’ he said distantly. She could see he was remembering that night, how safe he’d felt in spite her workings on him.
At last, Violet stepped into the clearing. She knew every tree and every branch around her. Her mind was different now. All her thoughts said not to go back.
‘Leave me here, Nate,’ she said coldly. ‘Go home.’
‘What? I’m not abandoning you, Violet. And I can’t, I’ll disappear.’
‘You shouldn’t have followed this time.’
‘Then why didn’t you stop me sooner?’ he challenged. ‘What is this about?’
‘Perhaps if I lie here long enough, I’ll sink into the ground, or the Enorahts will find me and kill me. It doesn’t matter to me what you said, I shouldn’t have brought you into my nightmare.’
‘Well, I’m in it now and I don’t want to leave. I brought you back to life, Violet. For what it’s worth, I love you and I know that will never change. So don’t give up now.’
She was crying again and his embrace was less of a comfort to her. Nate held her away and made her look at him.
‘You can’t make me leave you, Violet. Do you understand? And I know it’s not what you want, it’s just your guilt trying to push me away.’
She kissed him more fiercely than she’d done before, fighting with her wants to know him now even though it wasn’t right. It couldn’t happen. The guiding voice that was her virtue was close to being ignored. He responded in kind and she sensed his own fears that things were about to go too far.
All of a sudden, Nate flinched and backed away from her, his hand going to his now bleeding cheek. Violet held her breath in terror to see an inch-long scratch along his jaw.
‘What was that?’
Before she could speak, something caught her forearm. A bloody gash appeared on her arm, the fabric of her sleeve ripped open savagely as she cried out in shock.
‘No…’ she whispered. ‘Please no…’
She couldn’t see them yet, she just knew they were there. Her whole being felt them coming at her again. And in the next instance, there they were, swarming around the pair of them in growing numbers like wasps about to strike.
‘Did you think you could come back and not suffer more consequences?’ said a booming metallic voice. They were speaking as one. Violet had never heard them before. ‘Did you think your return would bring no harm to anyone?’
Violet saw one light cut Nate’s other cheek much deeper, making him cry out. He put his cuff of his sleeve to his face, staring at the blood stain in horror when he pulled it back.
‘Don’t move,’ she told him. Staying close to Nate, Violet tried to shield him from any more of their attacks. ‘What do you want now!’ she shouted at the lights.
‘Blood. Yours or his. We care not. We’ll take you both. We’re hungry.’ The voice was androgynous and cold.
‘Have you not been feeding all this time?’ she asked them snidely. ‘How have you lived if you’ve not hunted?’
‘We’ve been hunting your kind, the foolish kelesnae who dared to be reborn. We’ve killed them all, and they cannot come back again. You are the last.’
Nate grabbed Violet’s arm to pull her back. ‘You’re not taking her!’
‘As you wish,’ they uttered, squaring in on both of them and giving Violet no time to get in Nate’s way.
Her flesh was torn into by their voracious beams as they made another howling maelstrom around her and Nate. He was gripping her tightly and she knew they were attacking him with greater force to get to her. She screamed out for them to stop, desperate to hold Nate and wishing she could give her life to them to save him.
With what remained of her will, Violet allowed the Enorahts’ feeding, seeing Nate was now vanishing in the swarm around her.
‘Hold on,’ she whispered. ‘I’ll bring you back.’
She used the light within his core to survive, drawing now on her own essence that had been dormant inside her. She still had a tiny piece of her old power, and she unlocked it to protect him before he dissolved. The children had seen the light she thought was gone. They’d seen beyond whatever it was about her that had repulsed everyone else.
For one moment Violet was nothing but light. She burst out from the nexus she’d formed with Nate’s essence, praying now that he would live.
It’s alright, she heard him say. I trust you, Violet.
At first, all Violet could do was keep the Enorahts at bay. Determined to save Nate, even if she couldn’t save herself, she flew out at them in all directions, burning her energy through every one of them until the roar of their singular voice was silenced. Their screaming grew louder still and they shouted curses at her, only making her burn brighter to eradicate them.
Then she was everywhere, floating through the leaves around her and illuminating the entire clearing. There was a peace in this form she hadn’t had as a human and she thought this would be fitting.
This sensation vanished as soon as Violet saw Nate lying unconscious on the ground. She was certain he was dead. In her desperation, Violet made herself smaller, curving around him like she’d done before and keeping him warm.
Please… please stay…
Once Nate stirred, Violet grew calm. He groaned as he lifted his head and saw her floating before him.
‘Don’t go, Violet. You can’t.’
‘It’s too late.’
‘Can’t I bring you back again?’
‘I’m not sure…’
‘Let me try,’ he said, opening his mouth ever so slightly.
Violet almost hesitated, scared she’d hurt him this time and bring about the same curse. Her love was what sent her back; she refused to be in the world without him. She refused to be alone again.
Something was vastly different. Now his own body had briefly turned to light, his cells had been altered. She couldn’t mesh with them or draw on their energy, she was being repelled instead. When she tried again, his body seized up. The sudden heavy beat of his own heart brought her terror to a pique and she thought she’d lost her chance.
She was thrown backwards, hitting the ground in a heap instead. A burning pain radiated through her body and she couldn’t move or breathe. She heard him scramble over to her and he cradled her.
Her body was paralysed and she couldn’t open her eyes.
‘Violet, wake up! Please wake up…’
Just as she felt him giving up on her, Violet’s chest swelled and her lungs filled with air. Her heart woke into a rapid rhythm and she sat up quickly, her adrenaline rousing her whole body as she gasped for air. Nate let her breathe, holding her gently and waiting for her to settle.
As soon as she was able, Violet put her arms around him. Her legs were numb and she wasn’t sure she could move them.
‘It’s okay,’ he told her. ‘Just rest.’
The air was freezing and their clothes were still intact but tattered badly by dozens of tears. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the growing gloom around them.
‘It’s dark,’ she whispered, her voice now gone.
As Violet lifted her head to face him, she saw Nate’s skin was glowing gently. The glow coalesced and she watched it move to his palm to make a tiny sphere of light.
Nate stared at it with the same wonderment he’d had when she’d first found him. ‘Does this mean…? Am I…’
Violet managed to smile. She watched the light dance up above them, finding the strength to push herself up. Nate held her as they walked, and they followed the light back to the campsite, as a strange glow began spreading through the trees.
On the edge of the woods, Violet looked behind herself, astonished to see the air now filled with dancing white lights.
‘Nate, look!’ she murmured.
He turned with her, still supporting her, and they stayed silent, both awed by the vision of the lights.
We are free… They have been vanquished and will trouble you no more.
‘What of all of you?’ she asked as her voice returned.
We are where we should be, the kelesnae said in unison. Thank you both for setting us free at last.
In a sudden blinding burst, the millions of lights vanished, leaving the woods in almost perfect darkness.
Nate blinked repeatedly and Violet’s own eyes were still dazzled.
‘What happens now?’ he asked her.
She gave him another gentle smile. ‘Whatever we wish. Hopefully, now the Enorahts are gone, my curse over everyone has too. I think it’s safe for you to go home now, Nate.’
‘For both of us?’
‘I believe so.’
She was able to walk unaided the rest of the way to his car. Night had set in completely on their way back and Violet felt sleepy beside Nate as he drove. Still she kept herself awake, quietly gladdened by the thought she was safe in this world now as she was.
Nate was exhausted by the time they were out of the woods. He was seriously considering spending the night in the car at that point, but he couldn’t stand the idea of being in there any longer. He forced himself to drive back to the same motel.
What he couldn’t fathom was how he was even able to function after what had happened. Being almost ripped apart by the Enorahts, Nate knew he’d be having nightmares of this the rest of his life. He’d seen his own blood dripping from his arms before his eyes were burned out, his vision flooded by the swarm of dark lights.
Watching them close in on him and Violet, he’d honestly believed he could protect them both with sheer determination. He would’ve died for her, and he would have stayed a kelesnae if it meant she would live. He’d have done anything. He knew the moment she’d possessed him again that she was in danger, but he had control this time. He kept her from harm, concentrating on her image and willing her into wholeness once more.
His stubborn refusal to lose her kept her alive.
But now Nate was shattered and not entirely sure he’d ever be the same again. Did he have new powers now? Could he still become invisible or could he turn into light just by thinking it? He was too weary to even try. All he wanted to do was sleep for a week.
She stayed beside him when he returned to the motel for another key. Nate scanned the clerk’s features to see if he was repulsed at all by Violet. He’d given her a glance, appearing indifferent and accepting the last of Nate’s money before returning his attention to the baseball game playing on the old TV behind the desk.
Looking at Violet gave Nate a flood of conflicting emotions. Their ordeal with the Enorahts had created a bizarre union between them that would make anything physical they did pale in comparison. But he wasn’t repelled. He was stronger now in spite of his weariness, and less afraid than he’d been before he’d met her. He thought he’d be unshakable in the face of any confrontation, he had more power to protect her and himself. He had nothing to be scared of anymore. Not even death itself.
‘I feel completely different now,’ he said to her. ‘Like I’ve finally woken up.’
‘I was so scared I’d lost you, Nate. I couldn’t let you die because of me.’
‘Well, I wasn’t going to let them take you, Violet.’
She stayed in his arms a moment and he felt her breathing begin to slow. Her heart was pounding, he could feel it resonating through him. Somehow, his own pulse seemed to slow hers. She was holding him tightly and feeding off his calmness as he gently stroked her hair.
‘I love you, Nate,’ she whispered. ‘I’ll always love you.’
Kissing her then was absolutely heavenly. Nate didn’t want anything else. He sat with her, holding her hand and keeping quiet as she told him how she thought she’d stopped the Enorahts. If he’d not been there, she was sure she would have lost to them.
‘I’m glad I was with you,’ he said honestly. ‘I’m glad I could help you stop them at last. And I don’t regret what happened to me, even with all the pain. Now I know how you felt all those years alone.’
‘I’d hoped you wouldn’t. I’m still so sorry.’
‘You saved me, Violet. You don’t have anything to be sorry about.’
Violet took a shower while Nate picked up the phone and dialled his mom’s number. He forced himself to do this so he could sleep that night with the knowledge their ordeal was over. Jacqueline didn’t answer for some time, making him freak out more than he already had.
‘Hello?’ she said, somewhat frantic.
‘Mom, it’s me. Are you okay?’
‘Nate? Where are you?’
‘I had to take Violet away, remember? You didn’t want her in the house.’
‘I never said that!’ she cried. ‘You haven’t answered your phone for over a day! What is going on with you?’
Nate would’ve been relieved if he wasn’t angry at her disgusting reactions in the first place. He had to test her anyway. ‘So she’s not an abomination against God, then?’
‘What’s that supposed to mean? Why are you saying this?’
‘Mom, calm down. I’ll be home tomorrow, I promise.’
Nate hung up on her as Violet emerged from the bathroom. She had a towel around her chest and carried her clothes in a bundle in her arms. Her wet hair was unbrushed and it clung messily to her shoulders and back. Even in her distress, she was still beautiful.
‘We can go back tomorrow,’ he told her. ‘Mom doesn’t even remember what she said to you.’
Violet’s shoulders lifted and sagged with her breath. ‘I wish I could forget everything. But you can go home, at least. Should we go now?’
‘It’s too far to drive back tonight and I’m too tired.’ He shifted up onto the bed, on the verge of passing out. As he put his arm over his eyes, he heard the lights go out. She moved in beside him and he put his arms around her, feeling she was naked now.
‘We can’t, Violet.’
‘I know, Nate. I’m not offering myself to you. I trust you’ll do nothing improper if I lie with you like this, and I want to become accustomed to knowing someone this way. I’ve not had a chance before and it was almost stolen from me again.’
Nate had already taken off his shirt and the rest of his clothes were too dirty and ripped to sleep in. He had a horrid nervousness as he stripped and she was under the covers now, waiting for him. He hated he thought this was a test; a lure on her part to see if he could refrain from doing more than just hold her. But it was less arousing to him to have her body against his. Not because she didn’t feel wonderful, but because she was so fragile at that moment. They both were.
He fell into a dream of Violet and Nate couldn’t figure out where they were. There didn’t seem to be anything around them, but it was bright. Violet was beneath him, moving with him as her skin almost shimmered. A golden light enveloped her as he kissed her and he couldn’t see any pain or fear in her eyes. Her luminescence was frightening and gorgeous to him, yet he still felt the same safeness he had in the beginning. It wasn’t mindless or hurried, just peaceful. He wanted a spell to trap them there, something to keep the moment eternal and perfect.
In the dream, she cried out at the end and it woke him up to a pressing and disappointing darkness. She was still in his arms, fast asleep, the glow now gone. A second of doubt said he’d been with her in reality, doing everything he’d done in his dream to her. Rationality came back to him to prove she’d have woken up had he actually done anything wrong. He wasn’t able to go back to sleep, even though he was dying to go back to his dream of her.
It took the better part of a day to get back home. Violet spoke intermittently to Nate as he drove, mentioning things she wanted to see in the world now she could touch again.
‘I don’t have a lot of money to take you anywhere right now,’ he confessed. ‘But when I do, we can go wherever you want.’
Violet smiled. ‘I know you cannot give me everything, Nate. You’ve already given me more than any man would have. I’ll not be upset if I cannot see everything.’
Nate wanted to dote on her. He actually wanted to give her roses and take her nice places, things he’d never bothered to do with other girls. He was even prepared to take a menial job so he’d have the money to do it.
He was exhausted all over again when he pulled up in at his house. From the car, he saw Jacqueline had opened the curtains. Violet stayed behind him as they went inside.
The house was normal. There was no pressing air of tension. Nevertheless, Nate wasn’t able to drop his trepidation and Violet was equally scared. They went out to the backyard where Jacqueline was hanging out laundry.
‘Mom?’ Nate wouldn’t leave the back step in case she started ranting again.
‘Oh, thank god.’ She dumped the sheet in her hands back into the basket and hurried over to him. ‘Where were you two?’
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I thought you were upset with us.’
‘Why would I be? You’re not little kids. And I didn’t kick you out. I don’t remember saying anything bad to either of you.’
‘We should tell her, Nate,’ Violet said guiltily. ‘She deserves to know.’
Jacqueline soured. ‘I really hope this conversation isn’t going to end with you telling me I’m going to be a grandmother.’
‘Mom, it’s not like that!’ Nate snapped. ‘It’s actually kind of worse.’
Violet sat with Nate in the front room with her hands around his, waiting for Jacqueline. She brought Violet some tea then sat in her armchair.
‘How bad is it, this thing you have to tell me?’ she asked.
‘It’s pretty bad,’ Nate said. ‘When I went missing, I was with Violet. Technically. She was… lost in the woods and I found her, but she kept me with her that whole time because she needed me.’
Jacqueline was already confused. ‘Then where was she when the search party arrived?’
‘I had to leave,’ Violet said. ‘When Nate was back home, I found him once more and he brought me back to life.’
Holding up her hand, Jacqueline spoke curtly to them. ‘None of this is making an ounce of sense.’
‘You should start from the beginning,’ Nate told Violet.
Jacqueline listened to Violet’s tale, shifting from incredulity to shock and then at last to disgust. Violet had to explain the magic behind her coming back, plus what it had done to Nate in return. He held out his hand and willed it to fade away then reappear just as quick. Jacqueline went pale at this, and paler still at what Violet had done to her and Nate’s friends.
‘I felt like I’d been drugged,’ she said softly. ‘But I don’t remember ever calling you a demon, Violet.’
‘It was not you who said these things, just my influence upon you. I am so sorry I’ve caused this predicament, that your son was afflicted by my returning.’
Nate couldn’t stand his mother going quiet on them.
Violet squeezed his hand. ‘Perhaps we should leave you be for a while,’ she said to Jacqueline with an air of respect, as if she’d just told her a loved one had died.
Jacqueline nodded distantly. ‘If you could…’
Nate took Violet from the room. He was desperate for another shower and he left her to change her clothes. He wasn’t able to settle himself knowing how upset Jacqueline was. There was nothing in her voice that said she’d forgiven him, or if she ever would.
What hadn’t taken him over was his animosity. Nate wasn’t angry with Violet or Jacqueline. He wasn’t even upset with Rachel and Joel. They were blessed with not being able to remember their hatred and disgust towards Violet. Unfortunate wasn’t strong enough a word to describe what had happened; abysmal felt more appropriate. The whole thing had been abysmal, heartbreaking even, but Nate hadn’t lost anything from it aside from a sense of trust in the world around him.
Back in his room, Nate found the shoebox containing some things that were important that he’d been told to hold on to by relatives. In amongst the old photographs and trinkets his grandfather had collected, Nate found the ring his maternal grandmother had given him. Since he was Jacqueline’s only son, she’d handed it down to Nate. It had been intended for a granddaughter, except Jacqueline was also an only child, which meant Nate had no aunts or uncles with daughters his grandmother could pass it on to.
Nate hoped it would fit, though he already knew it belonged to Violet.
He was shattered but restless, deciding he needed to get out of the house since his mom was brooding and miserable. Violet agreed to go with him and he drove them back to the beach where they’d first kissed. Places like that were actually going to matter to him from now on.
The wind wasn’t strong but the air was cold. Nate held her hand and guided her close to the water before he stopped her. He wasn’t going to get on one knee for her, it wasn’t about that. She watched him take the ring box from his pocket.
‘I’m not asking you to marry me,’ he told her. ‘This is just a promise to you that I won’t ever leave you alone and that I’ll never stop loving you.’ Nate’s fingers were barely able to get the ring out of the box as they trembled.
Violet presented her hand to him without a smile, letting him push the little ring onto her finger. It fit perfectly, and that in itself was as auspicious as it was strange. The band was white gold and two tiny diamonds were fitted either side a small sapphire.
‘I am your intended,’ she said to the ring.
‘Yes. If you want to be, that is.’
Nate saw a tear fall onto the back of her hand. He tilted her chin to see her wet eyes sparkling back at him.
‘I am yours, Nathaniel. Always. You needn’t have given me this to prove your love, but I thank you for it all the same.’
‘I’m not asking for anything from you, Violet. You don’t have to give me anything now you have this ring. Not until you want to. I just wanted you to know…’
‘That you’ll stay,’ she finished for him. ‘That’s all I ever needed to hear.’
He carefully brushed another tear from her cheek before he kissed her. He would wait for her, and try to be whatever she needed. There was no need to demand anything from her. She’d changed him completely and he had no regrets.
The sun was warm and her cheeks were flushed. Nate went to take her back to the car as Violet gripped his hand and urged him back to her.
‘Must we leave right now?’ she asked.
‘We don’t have to go.’
She inspected the ring as she said, ‘Samuel would never have been able to give me something this beautiful.’
‘I think it was meant for you,’ Nate said sincerely. ‘And you’re meant to be here.’
He didn’t know how to lie to her, or how he could ever say something to hurt her. Violet would still have her moments; she was a human girl, it was inevitable. But he already knew he’d be able to cope with her with a patience he hadn’t tried to give anyone else. That he owed her his life meant his love was endless now.
‘You’ve not once made me think my choosing you was wrong,’ Violet finally smiled at him. ‘How could I not accept your ring, Nathaniel?’
Nate let her get away with calling him that now. In truth, he liked the way she said it, and the way she spoke. She had grace and was kind to a fault, and couldn’t have been anything but loving to him.
Whatever changed around them, he hoped she would stay that way forever.
Sentenced to death for stealing by the malicious pastor of her village, sixteen-year-old Violet is strung up in the woods to await her punishment: to be consumed by the evil horde of dark spectres known as the Enorahts. Violet then becomes another entity entirely, an immortal being known as a kelesnae, now cursed to roam the earth in search of someone kind who can bring her back to the physical world. Violet manages to find Nate, a sullen boy with a newly broken heart, and she becomes part of his life after he unwittingly helps her regain her human form. At the same time, Nate struggles with his growing attraction to her and with the worldâ€™s reaction to Violetâ€™s presence, which eventually turns on a dime thanks to her curse. This leaves Nate with the harrowing task of protecting Violet, consequently leaving him open to attack from the dark forces that first killed her.