A grey wall with brown bricks showing where the façade had fallen off, a sight that in two weeks had become so familiar that Tina could have told the number of the visible bricks had anyone asked. She leaned on the windowsill and using the butter knife, which she had stolen at breakfast, between the window and its frame she tried to wiggle the window open. The knife slipped and the weight she put on the handle pushed the blunt blade into the skin between her thumb and forefinger.
“Ouch.” The knife clanked on the wooden floor of her bedroom and she put the injured area into her mouth, licking it.
Somebody coughed and Tina lifted her gaze, her eyes finding the brunet, dressed in a suit and his hair in a low ponytail, holding a tray with a steaming tea pot and two small flower-patterned teacups, a cake tray, and all that one needed to have a tea party.
“By now you should have already learned that there’s no escape, but you still continue to try.” Tristian stared at her hand with a slight shake of his head. He turned toward the ebony table in the corner of the room, to the left of the door.
With her foot she pushed the knife against the wall. Passing the bed she stepped toward the table on which Tristian, Damon’s right-hand man, set the tray.
Was it five o’clock already? She had no sense of time in this house and Damon refused to give her a watch, saying that she didn’t need it. But she had a schedule she had to follow every day -- like it or not --: waking up at eight in the morning, with Tristian bringing breakfast; followed by a class of Hapkido, as Damon had introduced it on the first day he took her down into a basement gym; an hour spent with Irene, who Damon called his seeress; and learning languages with Damon, Tristian or Irene until lunch, after which she had three hours to herself to spend as she wished. She chose to use those hours for searching for a way out of this house.
She sat down on the chair. “I refuse to give up.”
“Was she trying to escape again?” Damon walked through the door and stopped beside Tina.
“So it seems.” Tristian placed a cup before Tina and started to pour tea into it. “She tried to open the window with a butter knife.”
“Better a butter knife than the chair, like the last time.” Damon took her hand and examined it. “I don’t mind you trying; at least you have something to occupy your free time, but do be more careful next time. I can’t have you bleeding in this house.” He put the wounded flesh into his mouth.
Tina could feel his tongue lapping at the cut, a small tingling sensation accompanying the wet caress. A flush covered her cheeks and she pulled her hand out of his hold. She frowned when the gash wasn’t there anymore and scrutinized Damon, the red shadows in his eyes that cleared as he went around the table and sat down. She opened her mouth, only to close it again. There was no point in asking how he had done that or why his eyes had started to become red, just as there was no point in asking how could he move so quickly or why all the windows in the house were dimmed with UV protection. Why did they even need extra UV blockage anyway? Wasn’t the glass naturally opaque to UV? Or so she heard.
It was obvious that Damon wasn’t human, and she didn’t dare to ask what he was. She would have said a vampire, but vampires didn’t exist, and even if they did, according to the books and folk tales they spent their days sealed up in coffins, coming out at night, not prancing around in the daylight like Damon, Tristian and Irene did.
She lifted up a teacup, taking a small sip, the taste of jasmine and green tea spreading on her tongue.
“Your father has been filling your phone with text messages. He wants to see you, as do some of your friends,” Damon said.
A satisfied smile appeared on Tina’s face as she set her cup on the table. She had told him that people would find her absence weird even after Irene, imitating her voice over the phone, informed them about her stay in Italy.
“I will send Irene. Her illusions will put your father’s and friends’ fears at ease.” Damon toyed with a teaspoon. “That means that we are going to spend even more time together.”
The smile was erased from Tina’s face. What was she going to do? She hated being here. Hated. Hated. Hated! Deep inside she had counted on her father and the few friends that she had to alert the police to find her and now that hope had been taken away from her.
She couldn’t go through another of the sessions with that creature that followed the tea parties and which lasted until she couldn’t take the pain that burn through her skull, that twisted her soul, turning it inside out, shifting through it. And with each session the whispers in her head were louder and the images of death and destruction haunted her now, even in the daylight. She couldn’t take this anymore. Her fingers curled tightly around the teacup; she could almost feel the porcelain giving under the pressure. She loosened her grip. Pretending that she was okay, she tried to delay the ending of tea time, stuffing herself with cakes and putting her cup before Tristian to be filled over and over again.
“You’ll make yourself sick.” Damon, with amusement in his eyes, leaned over the table; he put his hand over Tina’s cup, preventing Tristian from filling it. “And you’ll still have to face Abbas.”
“I don’t want to.”
Damon raised his brow.
“I hate it.”
“I understand. It’s painful for you, but I need you to be a good girl and --”
“I don’t want to!” She hadn’t intended to raise her voice or lose her temper. She tried to suppress the anger that bubbled inside her. The plan was to be obedient, to quietly and without complaint bear everything Damon threw her way and in the meantime try to find something to help her slip out of his grasp. But she couldn’t hold back the terror of again touching that grey, paper-like skin, of feeling the red wisps in her mind, prodding, tearing her apart.
“Calm down.” Damon leaned his elbows on the table, his green eyes watchful and alert.
“I don’t want to!” She stood up. The anger gripped her, overwhelmed her. She couldn’t take it anymore. She cleared the table with one swift move of her arm. “I hate it!”
The teacups, teaspoons, forks, pot and saucers flew through the air, but never fell down. Tristian caught them all, setting them all into their previous places.
“I hate it.” She sank down on her shaking knees, her fingers buried in the tablecloth, pulling it down. “I can’t take it anymore.” She could feel the hand on her shoulder, Damon’s touch that soothingly caressed her skin. “I can’t take it anymore.”
“You can take a lot more than you give yourself credit for.” Damon sighed and squatted down beside her. “Okay, I’ll give you a day off today, but just for today.”
“Stop being nice!” Tina leaned her forehead on the side of the table. “You keep me locked in this house, you take me to that monster every day -- stop pretending that you care!” Why did he pretend? It made it impossible to hate him.
“I do care. Very much. That’s why I’m doing this.”
“Why? Tell me why? What would digging into my mind accomplish?”
He took hold of her shoulders, pulled her up and set her into the chair. “You loved your grandmother, didn’t you? And you had very special bond with her?”
“Now imagine that bond being ten times stronger and that losing that person was like your heart had been ripped out.” Damon leaned over her. “If there were a chance to bring that person back, wouldn’t you try to do anything you could?”
“Yes.” Her voice was hesitant when she said that, but she knew it was true.
“Keeping you in this house, taking you to Abbas. I’m only trying to bring somebody back.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Do you remember when I said that you have something special? A fragment of your soul?” He waited until she nodded. “It’s actually another soul, the soul of my Beloved, and I’m trying to awaken it.”
She was lying in bed, something that she found herself doing more and more. In the morning when Tristian opened the curtains and let the soft rays of the sun into the room, she didn’t get out of bed anymore. She didn’t even rise when Damon came, just turned away from him, until he enforced his will on her and guided her around like a puppet on strings.
She hadn’t lost her will, it was still there, waiting until she found a crack and she could flee through it silently like a mouse. Also she needed her strength for the night, when the noise inside her that buzzed throughout the day redoubled and the nightmares came even before she closed her eyes.
This night it was worse than before; the images filling her head were shouting, tumbling over each other. She pressed a pillow over her head like that would help her hush the hellish party inside it. “Please, please. Just leave me alone.”
But they didn’t leave her alone, they pushed, poked, and she couldn’t chase them away. Images, white and black with crimson red. So red. She could almost feel it, the copper taste in her mouth.
“This was her life. So violent?”
Just the end.
She rolled over and listened, tried to hear beyond the screams of the white, grey, black and red, which to her surprise had become quieter.
She could have sworn she heard a voice. “Is anybody there?” she whispered in the darkness.
You can hear me?
She was right. There was a voice, coming from inside her. She exhaled a shaking breath; her fingers dug into the blanket. She wanted to ignore the voice. She chose to ignore it. She pretended that she didn’t hear it.
Can you hear me?
She was going mad.
“Who are you?” Tina couldn’t stay quiet anymore, in the end she couldn’t walk away from something that was coming from her soul, could she?
I’m Trinity. I’m the reason you are here. I’m sorry.
“You are his Beloved? The one he loves so much?” Damon's Beloved had awoken. Would her soul now disappear and surrender this body to this Beloved? Tina frowned. Should she be afraid? Yeah, she probably should.
I’m not too sure about that. He might still be angry and only want to get his revenge. A slight pause. You can never be sure with Damon.
“What did you do?”
Something not to his liking. A soft sigh. He must feel betrayed.
Tina opened her mouth to ask more only to change her mind. Who cared what this Beloved and Damon had? It wasn’t important, not for her, when there was something else that had weighed on her mind since Damon had told her about his intentions. “Are you going to take over my body and mind now that you are awake?”
Should she believe Trinity? “Why not? He wants you to.”
I’m not the kind of person who would take somebody's body, and even if I wanted to, I’m not strong enough.
“Isn’t that thing giving you strength?”
No, Abbas is only drawing me forward, Trinity explained. Since my death, my soul has been tied to my brother’s descendants -- you’re the last in line -- sleeping until it was strong enough to be born again with my memory and my powers intact, but Damon woke me too soon. He always was so impatient.
“What does that mean for me?”
It means that you’ll have to bear my company here and there, when I’m strong enough to separate myself from the warmth of your soul and talk to you, but only until I wither away.
“You are talking about dying.” Tina rolled onto her back, staring through the darkness at the ceiling, not really seeing it. “How do you know that you will disappear? You can’t know that. Maybe you will be my companion forever, and we will spend our Wednesdays on the psychiatrist’s black couch, trying to get rid of my schizophrenia.”
Because I can feel that I’m not going to last too long, Trinity said. The same way a dying person knows that his time is coming to an end.
Tina didn’t have any reply to that, and somehow even though she had not moments ago been afraid of Trinity's existence -- and not just because she thought that that Trinity was going to take over her body -- she now felt sorry that Trinity’s time was limited. It was probably just a sympathetic reaction like learning about a stranger's incurable disease.
Tell me something.
About the world -- has it changed?
Tina smiled and started to talk about cars, computers, about movies, anything that she could think of, and wasted the whole night in conversation with Trinity.
She was sleepy the next morning; she let Damon take control of her body again, to reduce her to the role of observer as he did since she refused to participate in daily activities. She wondered if the quiet in her mind and the absence of fragments of memories that weren’t hers were because of Trinity.
The soft woman’s voice became silent as the first ray of light announced the morning, saying that she had used almost all of her strength and that she needed to rest, but even so, Tina could after more than a week again enjoy the quiet of her soul. It was so refreshing. It put a small smile on her face.
Damon noticed it while they sat at tea, just before Abbas’s session, and inquired about it.
Tina, numb, stared at Damon, the curve of her lips frozen on her face. The reason for her smile, the silence, Trinity, the session with Abbas. She hadn’t thought about it. She had totally forgotten. What if Damon, using Abbas to probe in her head, found out about Trinity? A cold dread wrapped its claws around her insides, twisting them. Her breath became rushed and shallow.
As the time ticked by her state got worse and as Damon’s will guided her up the stairs into Abbas’s room, she stiffened and trembled in fear of what would happen. It felt like this was the end. Her body shook like a leaf in the wind. What would Damon do? What would he do when he found out? Would he embrace Trinity or would he claim his revenge?
Damon removed Abbas’s jar before he forced Tina's body to come close and put her hands on Abbas’s head. He put his hands over her trembling ones.
The red wisps invaded Tina as they had so many times before and the pain burst in her skull. But it was a little different this time. The pain’s edges weren’t so raw, so sharp, and just before she lost consciousness, she could have sworn that she could feel warm hands spread in welcome embrace. Was this Trinity?
Tina wondered that even as she woke up five hours later, debating between calling out for Trinity or just enjoying the silence that again rested inside her, that lulled her to sleep. It was so different from the night before that she was surprised that Damon hadn’t noticed a difference. It was good that he hadn’t, but how could he have missed it?
She lay there waiting for sleep to pull her into its depths, when she heard a faint boyish voice. She frowned, focused in the darkness that ruled behind close eyelids. It was just one word, but even though the voice was quiet, she could clearly understand it.
Mom? Are you there?