Scarlet Rain – Kristen Cast

Robyn Jenkins navigated her sparkling Mercedes through the stop-and-go traffic of Twenty-First Street and breathed a short sigh of relief when she turned onto Terwilleger Boulevard. The quiet, familiar street of the posh Terwilleger Heights neighborhood relaxed her. She unclenched her grip on the steering wheel. The sun always shone brighter in the neighborhood. Her neighborhood. As if its halcyon rays knew the residents paid millions to live within blocks of the most beautiful park, museum, and shopping area in midtown Tulsa. Robyn relaxed her foot on the gas and swiveled her head from one manicured lawn to another. She guided her Mercedes through the craggy shadows cast by the large homes, and silently reminded herself to call her travel agent. The speakers trilled, and she cast an annoyed glance at the unknown number on the dashboard’s caller ID. Perturbed, she punched the answer button on the steering wheel and gathered herself for a moment before chiming, “Hello, this is Robyn.” “Hi, Robyn. It’s Elise.” She paused. “Elise Cunningham.” Robyn frowned.

“Yes, Elise, I know who you are. What can I do for you?” “I just wanted to run something by you about possibly allowing children at this year’s event. What do you think?” she blurted. Robyn made an effort to keep the bitchiness out of her voice. “I think if something isn’t broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed.” “So, you’re saying you’ll consider it then?” “No, Elise, that’s not what I’m saying.” Robyn paused to check the status of her coral lipstick in the rearview mirror before continuing. “What I’m saying is that children should not be allowed to attend. Period.” “But what if we provide childcare?” Elise’s chipper voice bounced through the car, and Robyn jabbed blindly at the volume control.

“You asked me to figure out ways to boost ticket sales, and I think we’d have a lot more attendees if they didn’t have to find a sitter.” A cringe twisted Robyn’s face as she imaged how a room full of squealing children would ruin her perfect event-planning record. “The fundraiser is on the same night every year, and seats start at five hundred dollars. I don’t think the attendees will have a hard time finding someone to watch their kids. They must have known something like this would pop up when they decided to procreate. Most of them have live-in help.” “Yes, but—” “Elise, I hate to stop you, but I just arrived at Monica’s. I’ll fill her in on your suggestion, and we’ll give you a call if we have any questions. Talk soon.” She pressed the end call button on her phone, turned off the car, and let out an exhausted breath.

She unplugged her phone from the charging station, and carefully slid it into her bag before checking her wrinkleless complexion and hopping out of the car. Her Valentino boots clomped heavily on the stained concrete as she walked toward the open garage. A chill swirled through her appropriately snug cardigan set. “Fall is coming early this year,” she murmured, leaning down to touch the swollen chrysanthemum buds. Envy nipped at her thoughts as she admired her friend’s tasteful gardening choices. Ivy crept along the house’s burgundy brick facade, and hydrangeas held onto their puffy blue flowers. She paused outside of the garage to reassemble herself, smiled widely to cover the jealousy blooming pink in her cheeks, and entered the house. “Monica, you’re not going to believe what Elise suggested.” She snickered as she closed the heavy door behind her. “Oh, and the garage door was up, so I let myself in.

I didn’t think you’d mind.” Crisp, clean linen lightly scented the air as she walked through the laundry room and into the expansive kitchen. She shrugged off her purse strap and clutched the designer bag, taking inventory of the kitchen island before deciding it was best to keep the Birkin on her person. “I see Muriel isn’t cleaning today.” She bit the inside of her cheek to halt the smirk from painting her face. “There’s red pepper all over the counter. You should really do what I do and hire someone to cook. I’ll have to give you my chef’s number. He’ll make your life so much easier.” Robyn hooked her purse back over her shoulder and walked to the cabinet she knew held the polished crystal.

“It’s not too early for wine, I hope.” Paper towels bunched under her feet as she clomped toward the wine fridge. “Ugh. This place is disgusting,” she grumbled under her breath, kicking away the crumpled paper with the toe of her leather boot. Red glared up at her from the center of the crinkled white. She set down the glasses and carefully squatted next to the wad of towels. Pinching the rough paper between her thumb and forefinger, she narrowed her gaze and brought the towels closer to her face. “Gross,” she snipped, flinging the crumpled mass. “Monica, you just have to face it. Cooking is not for you.

I mean, I’ve never cut myself in the kitchen, but it is a common occurrence.” She reached into the wine fridge and chose the prettiest bottle of red. “You do want a glass of wine, right?” The house remained silent as she waited for an answer. “Monica, can you hear me?” She filled her own glass and took a sip. She clucked to herself. “This is why two people don’t need such a gigantic house. It’s amazing they’re ever even able to find each other.” She left the bottle on the counter and stepped into the living room. Scarlet droplets popped against the pale hardwood, and Robyn followed them hesitantly. “Monica, are you here? Is everything okay?” She followed the wide hallway and stopped abruptly in the entryway.

The beads of blood steadily grew and mixed with tufts of dark hair the closer they got to the stairs. Her breath quickened as she gingerly navigated around the brunette clumps. “Monica? Tyson?” She set a trembling foot on the first stair and silently prayed for someone to pop out and yell “Surprise!” She took the stairs one at a time, clutching her purse and making sure of her footing before continuing to the next blood-spattered step. Halfway to the second floor, she nervously called out for her friend. “Monica? Are you up there?” Again, no answer. She reached the top of the staircase, and her gaze followed the lines of red streaking the plush, white carpet leading to the open door of the master bedroom. She shrieked. Two Dismay clogged Eva’s senses, and she twitched wildly against the soft bedding as her final memory dominated her dreams. “Don’t come any closer! I will shoot you, Eva. Don’t think I won’t.

” She longed to rewind the days. To go back to the understanding man who’d been in her hospital room and promised to help. “Why are you pointing that at me?” Pressure thumped within her chest, trapping her voice in her throat. She hacked out her words in choppy, ragged breaths. “I haven’t done anything.” She balled her hands into fists and stepped forward. “I said, don’t come any closer!” The gun shifted as he tightened his grip. She leaned away from the invisible force tied to the tension consuming her chest. It tugged her backward, toward Alek. Toward where his body had been.

She tightened her muscles and forced her legs to move her forward. “Detective, listen to me.” A pop like gunfire rocketed through Mohawk Park. Then an aching warmth unleashed itself within her core. “No!” Eva’s eyelids flew open. She kicked off the sweltering mound of blankets, and wiped the sweat from her face. “I’m alive,” she whispered. Her eyes adjusted to the dark. Small, neon yellow balls of light came into focus. She patted her torso and leaned back against the pillows.

Adrenaline continued to pulse beneath her tingling skin, and her thoughts swirled chaotically in her head. I’m alive. I’m alive. But what about Alek? Where’s Alek? She wiped the sleep from her eyes and took inventory of her surroundings. The only light came from glowing orbs in small crystal bowls. They illuminated giant, icicle-shaped formations that filled the room, jutting out from the rocky ceiling and floor like rotten, wet teeth. She crawled to the side of the bed and placed her feet on the cold stone floor. “Alek?” She stood, her heartbeat quickening. Cool silk brushed against her shins, and she looked down at the long, lavender nightgown fitted snugly against her curvy frame. “This is seriously not happening to me again.

” She bent over and picked up the closest glowing glass bowl. Electricity arced from her hand and bit at her fingertips. “Ouch, jeez.” She shook out her right hand while balancing the glass in the other. Blowing on the tips of her stinging fingers, she slowly walked out of the room and into the dark hall. “Hello? Alek?” The words circled around her and reverberated off the barren rock walls. Eva hunched over the bowl, her hands trembling slightly as she inched her way through the dark. Fear unfurled in her stomach, releasing tendrils of panic and doubt. “Wait a second. This is ridiculous.

” Eva righted her posture and shook away the uncertainty. The abrupt movement sent the glowing orb rolling around the bottom of the crystal, causing Eva’s stretched shadow to hop from wall to wall. “I’ve frickin’ died. I can handle a creepy, black cave place.” She suppressed the last remnants of familiar anxiety and confidently put one foot in front of the other. She said to her echo, “I am the Oracle. That should count for something, right?” The echo faded as the hall widened into a large, dimly lit cavern. Eva paused by a linebacker-sized stalagmite and strained to see into the shadowy opening. A harsh voice bit through the silence. “Maiden, what have you done, bringing the Oracle here?” Eva peered out from behind the pillar as a second voice emerged.

“I had no choice,” Maiden insisted. “I did what was necessary. Had you a heart capable of love, you would have done the same.” “I have a heart, sister,” she began, as she lit the first wick on a row of long candles. “But she was in no danger.” “How can you be certain, Mother? You have seen Alek, have you not?” “I have seen him, yes,” she said, her voice softer. She tucked a strand of short, dark hair behind her ear and lit a new match. With each candle lit, the room was illuminated before Eva, revealing the scene. A tall, slender figure emerged from the darkness. Eva clutched the glass against her chest and covered the small beam of light with her fingers.

Maiden stopped abruptly. “Then how can you say she was in no danger? Our son was drained of his power and mere moments from death. We tasked him to save our realm and the mortal realm, and it nearly killed him.” “Their son?” Eva whispered, her breath clouding the inside of the glass bowl. This is Tartarus. It has to be. “If he had listened to me,” Maiden snapped, “he would have stayed here longer and had enough energy to safely reach the Oracle, and none of this would have happened.” “If he had listened to you?” Mother scoffed and set the matches on a small pedestal near the candles. “Is it so strange a notion you do not understand its meaning?” “Maiden, if he had listened to you, he never would have begun training. He would still be suckling at your teat asking for stories of the grand Tartarus of the past.

” Mother waved her hand dismissively in the air. “Bringing the Oracle here was a foolish decision. One for which we know nothing of the consequences. We are too weak to allow anything we cannot control into our realm.” “Control. That is all you long for. Eva has not even had the chance to discover the basics of her abilities, and we cannot risk losing her. I want to see our home and our son safe. I could not live knowing I could have prevented his death. And what would I say if he awoke to find his Oracle harmed? He would never forgive me.

” “He would understand, as I do, that this is not about emotions. Yours or his. This chaos is about the curse you—” Mother stopped short and let out a puff of air. “Say it, sister. I know it lingers on your tongue.” Mother turned her back on Maiden and walked to the blue stone table at the center of the room. “To what end?” Maiden uncrossed her arms and quickened her steps to catch up with her sister. “I want to hear from your lips what I see in your eyes each moment of each day.” Mother gripped the back of one of the silver chairs surrounding the oval table and shook her head. “Say it!” Maiden cried.

“Sister, end this. It will fix nothing.” “I need to hear you say how this is about the curse I caused. Do you think I do not feel the blame suffocating me in this dark hole our home has become?” Maiden choked back tears. “My son’s only reason for being is to rebuild what I destroyed. I will never sit idly by and let my past devour him. It has already defined him.” Eva slowly released the breath she’d been holding. The hot air spun around the inside of the glass bowl, fogging it. The ball of greenish light twitched and shook in her hands, and Eva stared at the orb.

She yelped, dropping the glass. It shattered on the black stone, and the noise echoed throughout the cavity. The glowing light twitched on the floor as it recovered from the impact. “Sorry.” Eva hopped over the broken glass and into the grand room. “I just, I woke up and it was dark and so—” She searched for a suitable explanation, but couldn’t think of anything to explain why she’d been hiding around the corner holding a fat, glowing bug. “I’m just.” She took a deep breath and let it out quickly. “I’m sorry.” “You do not need to explain.

” Maiden smiled and held out her hand. “Come. Join us.” “Eva, I presume,” Mother said, more to Maiden than Eva. “Yes, that’s I—or, me.” She bowed clumsily. “Sorry, I’ve never practiced curtseying before now.” “You are the Oracle. There is no need to apologize for your actions,” Mother instructed. “Nor do you need to do that odd motion again.

” “Yes, I’m sorry,” Eva said without thinking. “No, I’m not sorry. But I am. Just a little. I didn’t mean to break your glass or squish your bug.” “Calm yourself Eva, and regain control. You are amongst allies,” Mother said flatly. “More importantly, you are amongst friends.” Maiden cast an annoyed glance in Mother’s direction. “You’re Alek’s moms, right? Is he okay?” “He was close to death, but he is strong and will find his way out of the dark.

He only needs time to heal, and time for our home to replenish all he lost,” Mother said. “If I would’ve known he was going to use up all of his power to find me, I never would have left Bridget’s house. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.” “No one blames you. The choices Alek makes are his own. He also knows how important you are. To our world and yours.” A comforting grin lifted the corner of Maiden’s eyes. “He kept saying that, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to help. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be in jail right now, and I don’t even want to think about what would have happened to Alek.

” Eva’s voice trailed off as she remembered him in the park. Bloody, the vibrancy fading from his eyes. “You need not worry. It will take time, but you will learn how to be a strong and powerful Oracle,” Maiden said.


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