To Entrance and Captivate

Let's get some things straight: he came after me, he kidnapped me, and he ruined my life. Singlehandedly.
It didn't matter that every time he entered the room my heart pounded painfully, and whenever he flashed one of those know-it-all, wanting smiles I secretly wished to give one back. That didn't matter at all.
Now the mobs were coming after us. I wanted to hate him for causing this, for dragging me into a world where mortals were actually called mortals, for taking hold of my mind and refusing to let it go.
But I didn't, and I really didn't have a good idea as to why. Maybe because I was curious, and rebellious, and hated absolutely everything my loony grandmother forced upon me. Or maybe because hell was a lonely place, and misery loved company.

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3. Chapter Two

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There was a cool presence on my forehead, something damp enough to drip with the sweat that had gathered on my skin like morning dew, stray trails running down my neck and soaking my pillow. I forced my eyes to open, but it was quite hard. I felt like I had slept a thousand years, and was just now waking up.

            It was night, judging from the darkness of the window that bled through the curtains. This was the room Grandmother had lent me. It had been covered in dust and filled with boxes of wooden crosses and texts in languages I couldn’t read, but after a little tough love it had turned out to be an okay room. Just large enough for me to move around in without hitting any box corners.

            That, however, had all changed. Now my floors were covered in what looked like garlic. Wooden crosses had been strategically placed above my doorways to the hall and my bathroom and above my window. Strands of… was that… Cool. Now I have strands of garlic hanging from my bedpost.

            I rolled out of bed, entirely confused. I had no recollection of lying down, or coming home today. Let’s see: I was in the market, met Mr. Petrov, met a few more people, and then…

            His voice. That voice. It. Him. Me.

            I paused, noticing myself. My limbs didn’t shake. I could think clearly. My heart wasn’t racing.

            I was normal. Thankfully too, for that feeling, that longing, had scared me. Even now, after what I  presumed  was hours after meeting him, I felt weak, powerless, frozen. I didn’t feel like me.

            My feet managed to carry me to the mirrored dresser. I faced the reflection, heavy eyes barely able to lift.

            I froze, a wave of tensing muscles, coiling fingers, widening eyes. I barely registered screaming, the shrill note piercing my numbed mind. It wasn’t important. It wasn’t the problem. It was my hair.

            It was ruined, my hair. I had cherished my hair more than any other feature on my body. It had been a natural, golden blonde, even to the roots, that was so light and silky, so pure, it ran through my fingers like sunlight. That’s what I was complimented on, always. That was what I took pride in. And now, in this mirror, a nest of knotted raven feathers adorned my crown instead of the thinly spun gold.

            One of my hands snaked up to a dark lock. When it tugged, the lock in the mirror was tugged with it.

            “Buna!” I screamed. Grandmother! My legs bolted for the door, stumbling down the stairs as I rushed to find my elderly caretaker. “Buna! Something’s happened. Somehow my hair—”

            The house wasn’t empty as I had previously thought. We had company. Standing in the dining area, around a big wooden table scarred from years of use, were half a dozen villagers. I recognized Mr. Petrov, the antique dealer, the botanist, and others. They were all staring at me, as was my grandmother, who seemed to be the leader. She came from her place at the head of the table, covering a pile of old papers slyly with her shawl, and placed a gentle hand on my arm.

            “Iulia, is there something wrong?”

            My eyes stared at her fingers. There were traces of black dye on the tips, faint, but evidence of what the tap water could not take away.

            “M-My hair,” I said. When I looked back up at her, Grandmother’s light eyes shone with a kind of uneasiness, with disgust even. “You dyed my hair?”

            “You shouldn’t be up dear.”

            “That wasn’t an answer!” I took a step away, far enough so her hand could no longer reach me and dropped. “Buna, what’s going on? How did I get home? What even happened?”

            “You fainted,” Grandmother said simply.

            “Yeah, why?”

            Grandmother glanced back at her guests. She paused a moment, engaged in a silent staring war with one, before nodding firmly to herself and replying, “This isn’t the best time to talk, Iulia. Can you not see we have company? And you must rest. Go on, up to your room.”

           
            My brow furrowed. I didn’t understand. “Buna—

            “You do not argue with family, Iulia.” Her voice, powerful for such a frail, wrinkled bit of woman, had an air of finality.

            My mother would be hearing of this. She was back in the States, content at home, while I was here, stuck with a grandmother I had been warned was a bit eccentric. If I stayed with her for the summer, Mom would continue to pay for my schooling back home in my normal nation. Hey Mom. Yeah, I’m alright. It’s been snowing since I arrived. The people can be friendly. Grandma dyed my hair when I was unconscious, and is hosting some sort of pow-wow in the dining room, but other than that I’m having a blast. Really connecting with her. Glad you’re okay over there. Lots of love. Iulia

            I trudged up the stairs, hand patting my jean pocket for my phone, only to find it missing. Somehow, I knew Grandmother had taken it. Confiscated, more accurately.

            At the top of the stairs I stepped up to my door, waved one last time at Grandmother who stood watching me leave, before entering my room and closing the door.

            I ran to the window. It was locked. On the other side of the room, I heard a click.

            I raced to my bedroom door. The doorknob refused to turn. It took a moment to realize what had happened, that someone—Grandmother—had locked me inside, a prisoner in my own bedroom. There was no way I could leave the room and either run off or sneak and listen to the meeting going on down below.

            My heart slammed against my chest. I could break the window and escape, but where would I go in such foul weather? It appeared that Grandmother had the whole town on her side.

            There was a muffled cough. The floor! I was right above the dining room. If I could find a hole, or make a crack, or maybe even just listen, I could hear what they were saying.

            I brushed a sad blade of hair behind my ears and dropped to the ground. After a few moments of crawling about, I found a little crack, too small to see through, but just right to hear.

            Their conversation was hard to decipher—they all spoke Romanian far too quickly and fluently for me, but I caught the gist. After all, all I needed to hear was what Grandmother said. Everyone always quieted for her.

            “Iulia has been targeted,” Grandmother said in a hushed voice.

            “This has never happened, not in our village.”

            “No, Petrov, it has not. The last that bloodsucker has ever hunted someone was at least a few hundred years back. Do you remember, from the stories your parents would tell? Apparently walked among the villagers and then, he froze, transfixed, on a single glimpse of a girl. She was older, thirties, but after that day she was never spoke of again. Her family had spoken for her, asked for her, searched for her.”

            “Did they ever find her?” a new voice asked, a tad timid.

            Grandmother sighed. “Unfortunately, they did. She was drained of blood, pale as the snow on which you walk. Two holes in the neck, at the base. So empty was she that there was nothing to reincarnate from.” Grandmother’s voice turned from apologetic to hard in the blink of an eye. “We keep Iulia away. She stays with me for her summer vacation. If she can survive that long, she can make it back to America and never return. If she is bitten, then we know what to do.”

            “But, Priestess, that is your granddaughter.”

            “My husband fell to those god forsaken demons. Do you think I lack the will to do what must be done, in the end?”

            “No, Priestess—”

            “Then, Roman, you are supporting them?”

            For a moment, I heard only my breathing. No one moved down below, no furniture scratched against the floor. Finally, Roman said, “No, never Priestess. But she’s just a girl. It seems harsh, like pruning a flower before it has even bloomed.”

            “She wouldn’t bloom Roman. She would turn into a weed and kill us all. Do you want that? Do you want your family’s blood on your hands, your friends’?”

            “No. Never. God forbid.”

            “Then I will do what I have to. At all cost, we keep Iulia away. Her new hair should help with that. Maybe that devil would not like black. However, at the first sign of any transformation, we end it, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I don’t know how I would explain her death to her mother, but I’m sure I would think of something.”
            I reeled away from the crack. My own grandmother was conspiring how to kill me, if I was… bitten. What was this? Bitten how? From a mosquito, and attract some sort of new West Nile Virus? I hardly think being bitten by a pest would qualify me as a global and communal threat.

            A flurry of movement caught the corner of my eye, and I jumped and whirled about, to face the window.

            A little black bat hung upside down from a tree whose branches nearly touched the house. It folded its wings against its chest, looking like it was turning in for the night, although that was odd for such a nocturnal creature.

            “Are you here to give me an answer?” I asked it. A tear slipped from my eye, one I hadn’t known I had created. “I’m scared.”

            The bat scooted closer, as though that would calm my racing heart. At that point, I didn’t believe anything would help me, not a SWAT team or a CIA agent. For the woman who had opened her doors to me was planning on shutting them just as quick.

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