The darkness gave way to images – images that were always darker than the surrounding blackness. How it was possible I don’t know, but it was suffocating and the red glowing eyes came as they did every night for as long as I could remember. They came alone in the silence of the darkness wielding whips made of fire, jagged earth, razor-sharp air, the only element missing was water. Water didn’t make a good whip it was too soothing, too cooling. No, instead the ground find with it. My shoes and socks were soaking wet. The water wicked up my jeans making them damp and heavy across my hips.
Fog rolled in and the glowing red eyes made everything this hazy red color. The glow from the fire whips flickered against the fog and I bit back the fear that came when the fog did clouding my view of the darkness – of my nightmare.
I yelped the first time I’d felt the razor sharp sting of the whips applied to my skin. I no longer made a sound as the first blow landed across the center of my back. I bit back the pain and the scream. But making a sound only made it worse. I could feel the blood dripping down my back as the elemental tentacles of my nightmare rained down along my back. One word sounded over and over again as each blow landed, “Spark.”
The eyes grew closer. As they did every night. The closer they got the more fear rose, the harder each blow. The shorter the time between blows until the eyes were in front of me and I could almost make out the face inside the hood with the glowing red eyes, but as with every night it yelled, “Spark.”
My eyes flew open. My heart was racing, and I tumbled to the floor unable to move in the limited space of the couch cushions. The thump was loud, and I hoped I woke no one up as I lay on my back staring up at the ceiling. I didn’t bother checking the time, it was around 4am. It was always around 4am. My phone sitting on the coffee table started its chirping – 4am alarm. I hadn’t needed it in ages. My self-conscious woke up at 4am. My day would start regardless at 4am.
I crawled to the center of Jace’s living room and crossed my legs and sat down to begin my morning yoga practice. My arms and legs were still sore from swimming last night. It was a good feeling to have as I stretched into the first pose.
I hadn’t been holding it more than 15 seconds when I heard a soft chuckle coming from behind me. I can’t imagine it was anyone other than Mia – Jace didn’t giggle.
I turned around into the next pose and smiled up at Mia. She was wearing a flowery bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. “Hmmm?” I said as I stretched into the next pose.
Mia sat down on the couch, “I was just admiring the view.”
I grinned at her as I continued my workout. We sat in silence for the rest of the poses. 30 minutes with Jace’s wife watching me. If it had been any other girl I’d have sat down next to her and tried to make out. But she was my best friend’s wife, and I didn’t do married.
“I don’t know what everyone’s problem with you is. The girls at work all grin and giggle like school girls when they see you walk past. They don’t know you, but when I suggest they ask you out they shake their heads. They say, ‘No, No, he’s such a player’.” Mia sighed. “All these women will miss out on you if you are seriously thinking about calling this guy back.” Mia held up the card my mysterious blue-eyed man had given me. “I know men have always been your thing. But you can’t start a family with another man.”
I sat down next to Mia and plucked the card from her fingers and smiled at her. “Why can’t I? My father isn’t married. He’s got 5 kids plus me. I don’t need to be married to some women to have a family. I need a woman willing to fulfill her own duty with a half human Cesari who just prefers men over women. At least I don’t have it as bad as Dorian or Nick. They don’t even like girls.”
“I don’t want the ‘normal’ happy life. I want to be happy.” I air quoted normal. I would never be normal. I was weaker and slower than a true Venatori. But my senses were better than any human, I could heal quickly and there was the simple fact that I could bend the elements to my will. And even that talent was rare because I could bend all four elements at the same time. I wasn’t limited to just one element. That is what it meant to be Cesari. No, I’d never be normal.
I sighed setting the card on top of my phone and got up from the couch. “I’m gonna take a shower, then I’ll cook breakfast.”
Mia smiled, “Use our bathroom so you don’t wake Naya.”
Mia shook her head, “No. But he’ll sleep through you walking through the bedroom.”
I grabbed my bag of things from the golden half bath and headed into the master bedroom. Jace was groggy, but awake. He mumbled, “Come back to bed, babe.”
I chuckled, “I’d love to, babe, but I need a shower.”
Jace picked his head up and frowned. He blinked away the sleep and rubbed his eyes before he could focus on me. I smiled at him. “Mia told me to use your shower.”
He nodded and curled down inside his blankets again with a soft spoken, “Still welcome to join me.”
“I know, man. But I need a shower.”
Jace laughed under the covers, “Suit yourself at the ass crack of dawn.”
Their bathroom was decorated much the same as the one in the hall with soft golden tones everywhere. It must be Mia’s go to color for bathrooms. Either that or someone bought a lot of gold fixtures and needed to use them and they coordinated to it.
The shower was perfect. I always loved showering here, so much better than my own. The jets from every direction were a great feature, but it was the rain head that was the best. It was gentle and covered a large area. Perfect for the heat of the water. And the pressure was perfect without the jets.
It didn’t take me long to shower, but the moment I turned off the water and was wrapping a towel around my waist Mia opened the door and smiled at me. “Jace says he invited you to bed.”
“He thought I was you.” I chuckled as I stood in front of her sink applying my eyeliner.
“You are as bad as any girl. Must wear my make-up, even on the weekend when I can slack off.”
“At least I’m not doing my nails or coloring my hair in your sink.”
Mia laughed. “There is that.”
I dropped the towel to pull my clean boxers on and Mia laughed, “No boundaries either. I have bacon and eggs, can you make me pancakes too?” She giggled. “I had a reason to come in here, other than to ogle my husband’s best friend.”
Jace yelled from the opened bathroom door. “Hey, I want to ogle him too.” The sheets rustled and in a few moments Jace was standing in the doorway gawking at me. “Aw, it ain’t nothing I ain’t seen before.”
Jace paused as he moved around Mia to come into the bathroom and grabbed me by my shoulders and turned me with force so he could look at my back. “This looks red and angry.” His voice had grown heated and sharp. “Nox, what the fuck? Did you have a nightmare here?”
“Jason, I have nightmares every night.”
“They don’t always result in fresh marks, Nox. I thought it was better here?”
“It’s fine.” I stepped away from him and fell against the glass shower wall. “Nothing we can do about it.”
“Someone could do something. I do not believe you hurt yourself over and over again without someone manipulating you, Nox.”
I rolled my eyes. It was the same thing over and over again. Everyone always said the same thing, but there was no proof a dream walker was penetrating my dreams. I sighed before I interrupted his usual rant. “Who the hell wants to fuck with me since I was 6 years old? And why? I’m nothing!”
Jace turned beet read and Mia pushed him out of the bathroom ahead of her. “We don’t understand. That’s all. Why isn’t Dr. Silverman doing anything to help you?”
“She is. We go through it every week. Deal with it every week. I’ve had walkers sit with me at night and they confirm, I do this to myself. Nothing breaks the nightmares, Mia. Nothing.” I said the last with such defeat it scared me. I was never one to give up on things. It wasn’t something I did. To hear it in my voice was saddening. I knew I needed to find that which made me happiest and right now having a family was top on that list of things to try. It was one reason I had agreed to come home with Jace and Mia to be part of a family even if it wasn’t my own.
Mia nodded as she left. “We want to help you Nox, that’s all.”
I said, “I know,” as she shut the door behind her. I was left alone for the rest of the time I needed to get dressed. I picked up a simple t-shirt that looked like it had been splashed with different shades of oranges, yellows and reds. I pulled my grey hoodie over my arms and settled it on my shoulders before walking out of their bathroom into their bedroom which was empty. I was thankful for that small win.
Jace was in Naya’s room getting her ready in his boxers and Mia was in the kitchen. The strong smell of fresh brewed coffee was in the air and I walked into the kitchen to find a hot cup sitting on the bar separating the living room and the kitchen. “Pancakes?” Mia asked.
I nodded. “Anything for my favorite girl.”
Mia smiled. “I wish you’d find another favorite girl.”
I laughed. “We’ll see.”
Mia picked up my phone on the coffee table and the card that laid on it and set it on the bar. “Or you could call him.”
“We’ll see about that too.” I picked up the card and brought it to my nose and smelled it. It smelled like him, a slight hint of lavender. Mia laughed as I slipped it into my pocket. “Can I listen to music here or do I need my earbuds?”
“You are good. Naya is up.” Mia grinned. “I’m going to grab a shower. Jace is going to join me. You can manage Naya here?”
I nodded. “Of course. Enjoy the shower.”
Jace walked in and set Naya in her high chair with handful of Cheerios on it and followed Mia to their room.
I picked a playlist that would be least offending to tiny ears. It was all instrumentals of popular songs remade – artists like Apocalyptica, 2Cellos, Lindsey Sterling, and The Piano Guys. “This will work Naya.”
I made breakfast while Jace and Mia took their shower and other things. I made bacon in the oven on a rack so it was less of a grease fest and pancakes on Mia’s electric griddle. I disliked pancakes myself, but they were always fun to make. I was learning how to make pictures with the batter, but I still sucked at it, so I didn’t try this time. The scrambled eggs finished cooking by the time Mia and Jason walked into the kitchen.
Everyone sat down at the kitchen table and it was the perfect family meal full of chatting and camaraderie. I was so ready for this.