Bella Muetre

//She smiles, thin lips peeling back, large eyes swimming with darkness, revenge and blood. "It's Spanish, y'know? Bella muetre... beautiful death. I always thought that it'd be a cool name. All mysterious and cruel" I don't say a word- I don't dare- and she shrugs. "But whatever. People like me don't need names. 'Killer' is a good enough title."//


3. Chapter Two || Wine ||

"Listen," I say, "I'm so sorry for being such a pain  yesterday. I didn't mean to be like that, you know."

On the other end on the line, I hear Grace sigh. "It's okay. I'm sorry too. You looked really ill, though. I honestly thought that you were about to throw up. How are you feeling?" 

I shrug, leaning back against the bed's headboard. My bedroom's dark, the curtains closed and only my bedside light switched on. Slender shadows fingers over the carpet and walls, forming twisted shapes on the ceiling. I used to have a phobia of shadows, of the faces and monsters my imagination would drag up and label the harmless shapes before me.

Those were the good times, when the worst monsters you could imagine were the ones from the horror films you were too young to watch, the ghost stories that were traded during sleepovers in muffled whispers, passed from one to another like cheap drugs and secrets.

Naivety is such a wonderful thing.   "I'm fine," I say. "Don't worry about it, okay?" There's a soft knock at the door. "I'll call you back okay?"  

"Okay," Grace says, her voice gentle. "I really am sorry about yesterday. But if there's anything you need to tell me...?" 

She leaves the offer open, so I thank her and hang up.

My mother is standing in the doorway,  silhouetted against the bright lights from the landing. A single strand of dark hair trickles down the side of her face. My hair is the same colour as hers- and whilst mine is neatly cropped short around my ears, hers is only slightly longer.

"Xander," she says smoothly, "it's almost time for dinner."

"I'll be down in a moment," I say shortly, and my mother nods before moving away. Maybe it's cruel of me, to wonder if we really are related. I've inherited her dark hair and slim figure, but there is nothing else similar between us. My mother's eyes are the pale and cold, the colour of ice water. 

Sometimes, I can't help but wonder if I have my father's eyes instead- mine are a soft green shade, freckled with browns and golds- and too large for my remaining features- the sharp cheekbones and narrow face that I may also have stolen from my mother without my own consultation.

"So, how is school going?" My mother sits opposite me, picking at her food disinterestingly. She's still dressed in her office clothes- all still neatly pressed, without a singe wrinkle in the fabric, even after spending an entire day trapped in them.

I shrug and lean back into my chair. I know exactly what I'm meant to say- 'yeah, everything's great. The grades are the same, my homework is done- but it's not particularly true. Everything's just so... boring... the exact words that have been cut to precision, fitted to my mouth, prepared to lurch haphazardly into the air the moment I'm asked. I can't help but find it amusing, in a detached, sadistic way, that some people would actually condemn themselves to such a twisted, crushing system for the entirety of their fragile existence- trained from the age of four like child soldiers, to count and write, imagination cut back to neat, identical boxes- unable to escape the burning iron chains that education has wrapped around their throats like dog leads. And then, once they're finally freed: thrown, defenceless, into the Big Wide World, they simply turn tail and flee back to the crushing confines of the world they know so well.

"It's fine," I say, poking at my plate, suddenly feeling claustrophobic, which is ridiculous considering the size of my mother's house. My mother had it built- rooms richly furnished, packed atop one another like a dinner party of royals. Each room lavishly swamped in thick curtains, fine light-fittings hanging down like wedding veils. White walls freckled with paintings and awards. Emotionless objects marched into a gaping, empty cave of a house like hunting trophies.

My mother nods approvingly. "Have you completed all your homework yet?" I hear her put down her cutlery, the rattle as she pushes away her plate. "Yeah," I mutter, not taking my gaze from my food. "It's all fine. I'm rewarded with silence- a few cracked shards of peace- before she continues: "Ensure that you do. I don't want you to waste the money I'm spending of your tutoring, understand?"

I nod. "Don't worry. It's fine. Everything's fine, okay?"

"Xander," my mother snaps, and I don't bother looking up. "Do not use that attitude on me, young man."

"Yeah." I rub my eyes. "I'm tired, sorry."

She throws out a sigh and I fiddle with my shirt collar uncomfortably. "That's another thing," she begins, and I raise my gaze expectantly. "I didn't mind paying your ice-skating fees, and I know that this was the reason that you first met... Grace... but you're becoming too old to throw so much time into a hobby when you have so many more important things to do." Her lip curls when she says Grace's name, and I scowl.

She continues, oblivious- as usual- to my expression. "I'm sure that it was very nice, playing around on ice skates and ignoring any extra studies you could be doing, but now you have university to prepare for, and if you want to get into the universities I want you too, then you will need to ensure that you get the greatest grades that you can."

I pause. "What about if I don't really, um, want to do the whole business thing?" I ask, immediately regretting my words as I see my mother's face change, forehead, creasing into a cruel snarl. "I-I mean, there's nothing wrong with it, it's just that Grace was talking about competitions and... and how I could..."

A crash, my mother throwing herself from her seat as she lurches forward over the table. I don't feel the sharp snap of pain first, when she smack he, sharp across the cheekbone, but I do moments later when she suddenly freezes, lowering herself easily back into her seat and smoothing down her clothes, not a hair out of place.

I press a hand to my face, the sharp sting burning my skin, the pain hissing like oil in a pan. I've knocked the table, my mother's glass of white wine toppling and spilling over the tablecloth. My mother ignored it. 

"How dare you," she snarls. "How dare you presume that you can simply throw away everything I have sacrificed for you! I built myself up from nothing, give you everything I can, and yet you selfishly push your own needs before another person's hard work! How could you?"

Of course. Of course.

My mother, once again, has managed to bury me beneath a mountain of guilt within an instant, as if I'm a clown on parade at a circus, my balloons packed with helium suddenly exchanged for steel cuffs. But I don't want to continue my mother's work. I don't want to inherit her business and spend my remaining years imprisoned within four stone office walls, my feet bound to my chair and my fingers glued to my keyboard. I want to do something with my life. There needs to be something out there that's worth the effort I waste choking down food and oxygen in order to continue living.

"I'm sorry," I mutter. "I just meant-"

"I don't care what you meant." My mother's voice rips through the kitchen like dagger through skin, and I flinch in my seat. My dinner suddenly doesn't look too appetising anymore. She's about to continue when the doorbell rings, a piercing, shrill sounds that smacks me around the face. My face still hurts.

"I'll get it," I mutter, as push myself out of my seat. I can't make out who it is behind the door- it's too dark to make them out through the window- but I open it anyway.

And then I freeze.

"Howdee," the girl says, dark eyes flashing and blood running down her forehead. "I'm Bella. Is your mother home?"

She's leaning against my doorframe, arms crossed and her hair drifting around her face. My throat is tight, questions like 'what are you doing here?' and 'what do you want?' clogging up my windpipe, making it almost impossible to breathe.

The girl, Bella, raises an eyebrow expectantly. "Are you gonna let me in or not?" she drawls. "I've got people to talk to and time to waste. And although I'm incredibly aware that you mother is a successful businesswoman who has built up her business and riches from nothing, but I doubt that she hasn't returned home at half-past ten at night."

"Xander!" I hear my mother call from the kitchen.  "Who is it?"

There's a clack of sharp heels on marble flooring as my mother pushes up behind me, swamping me in a wave of expensive perfume and formality. "Xander, I've told you that when we have a guest, you should invite them-"

My mother's voice cuts off, as if her words had become ensnared within her throat, bound tightly and unable to burst into life. Her face is taunt, lips thin and furious, her eyes glinting like shards of obsidian. "Xander," she snaps, "go to your room and finish your homework."

My mother's lips are drawn into a thin line, scarlet lipstick standing stark against her skin like a cut throat. The girl, though, is still grinning. It's almost to impossible to describe what I could see; it's like when you're imagining a moment in your favourite film or TV show- you can clearly see the events in your head, but the world presented before you is a completely different scene. I can see the scarlet skin that coats her skin, I can make out its liquid form, the way that it trickles over her skin and soaks her clothes, but in the same moment, I can see her dark eyes and tanned skin, the shadows that curve beneath her eyes like vipers.

"So then," Bella says causally. "I need another donation."

"What for?" I ask. "Are you from a charity or something?" I already know that she's not- there's no possible way that I could see her helping other people, donating her time and effort towards another person's cause. She's too sharp- all narrow edges and harsh shadows beneath her jacket, all muscle and blood and bone twisted in ways I'm simply unable to comprehend.

"Kinda," she says, and I take a skittish step back as she steps into the house. "Now, if you don't mind, your mother and I need to have a grown-up conversation, okay?"

"Xander," my mother repeats, her words edged in steel. "Go to your room. Now."   This time, I obey. I walk up to my room, close the door, and don't dare look back.  

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