Authors: April Marcom
Tags: #coming of age, #family, #danger, #sacrifice, #alien, #extraterrestrial, #love at first sight, #soulmates, #pianist, #new adult romance
“This used to be a road, you know,” Helena
said, pointing to the ground. I realized the path we were following
was lower than the rest of the forest floor, like a wide trail that
had been abandoned and left to the overgrowth years before. We
followed it in silence, Helena staring forward with a look of
concern and me glancing around, searching for any sign of where we
might be going.
The boots I was wearing were beginning to rub
blisters on the back of my heels by the time I saw the degenerate
old yellow building, leaning slightly to the left and covered with
“Long ago, the Halvandors had wonderful
dinner parties here every Monday evening. People who lived nearby
would come dressed in their finest clothes,” Helena said as we
climbed eight gigantic stairs to the veranda, lined with
“People used to live around here?” I
“They did. The earliest Halvandors that
settled here loved humans. They thought they could learn to live
among them and be part of our world like anyone else.”
We reached the two front doors and each
grabbed a rusty old handle to pull. Even though the doors were at
least twice the size of the ones in the manor, they were still a
lot easier to open. We stepped into a giant empty room, lined with
cracked and broken windows that provided enough light to see
everything. Covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs, tables,
chairs, vases, and pedestals had been pushed against the side
“So, why’d you want me to come here?” I
“To help you understand. When the Halvandors
first came here, this was the most extravagant building they had
constructed. It was their favorite place. But one of the Halvandor
women and a human fell in love, and the woman told him her secrets.
He accused her of being insane, so she changed right in front of
him. Thinking she was a demon, he drove a knife through her heart
and left her in the woods to die. Then he raced into this very
room, where every living soul for miles around had gathered,
screaming about the monster he’d just slain. The girl’s parents ran
to find her dead. They took the man and saw through his eyes all
that had happened. Enraged that the humans they’d befriended had
killed one of them only for what they were, the Halvandors went
from house to house, killing everyone they found. By morning, they
had wiped out every human who lived within a day’s journey of here,
and they’d laid the plans for the isolation that exists today. In
one night, everything changed.”
“So…Halvandors and humans can’t be together
because of one incident?”
“I think it’s never been acceptable, but
that’s what the Halvandors think of whenever the idea of one of
them falling for a human is brought up. This is what happens when
our races mix.”
“But there are humans living with them right
now that know all about them and don’t care. Does that not count
“No, it doesn’t. The Halvandors realized they
would have to live with humans if they wanted to have servants. The
first humans brought here were hypnotized so that they lived only
to serve the Halvandors, and so were their children for many
generations. Over time, the masters of the house decided to let us
live normal lives as long as we never left the grounds. But all
Halvandors are raised to think less of humans than themselves, and
never to mix with them in this way.”
I let out a sigh as I gazed around the room,
imagining people dancing and laughing centuries ago. “The ones on
their planet weren’t raised to think like that,” I said quietly,
“How could you know that?” Helena asked,
bringing me back to reality.
“I don’t know. They don’t have humans on
their planet, do they? So why would they teach them that?”
“I don’t know what they have on their planet.
No one does.” She stared at me suspiciously for a moment. “I’m not
saying you are the Earth girl Enock won’t leave behind, but if you
are, I’m saying it’s not a good idea. If anyone found out, you
could end up dead. People brought here aren’t even supposed to know
about the Anvilayans. If they told
one, it would ruin
“I would never do that, Helena, I
She sighed and put a hand on my arm. “I’m not
saying you would. I’m just afraid that you’re treading in very
dangerous waters here, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I appreciate that.”
But Enock won’t let
“We should probably go home so you aren’t
late,” Helena said. “You’re supposed to be at the piano before
I nodded and we both walked over to shut the
As we walked back, I tried to process
everything. The entire situation seemed a whole lot worse now.
My eyes began to water again at the thought
of what had happened that morning. It was all just too much too
fast, falling absolutely in love and then feeling like it had all
been stripped away at once.
Helena and I walked the entire way in a
melancholy silence. Again, I felt so alone.
“Meet me in the kitchen when you’re
finished,” Helena called out when I ran ahead the last little bit.
The sun was getting dangerously low.
“Okay,” I called back.
Tomorrow would be a tennis shoe day for sure,
because my feet were absolutely killing me.
By the time I got to my room, I was a mess.
But all I really had time to do before I hurried to the dining room
was fix my hair into a ponytail and glance at the bleeding sores
right above my heels as I changed into a pair of more
The massive room was empty when I got there,
so I went to sit at the shiny black grand piano I’d had my back to
at breakfast that morning. I hadn’t even noticed it with how
nervous I was.
It hit me as I sat down that I left the music
in my room, but when I stood up to go get it, the door opened and
several Halvandors came in. It was too late to do anything about
it. So I sat back down on the dark satin seat and racked my brain
for songs I had memorized.
The voices and sounds of movement behind me
nervous, but I put my fingers on the keys,
took a deep breath, and began to play. I tried imagining myself
back at home, playing only by the light filtering in through the
windows. It only helped a little. The concentration it took to
remember and play song after song as perfectly as I could helped
Nothing could distract me from the feeling of
Enock watching me, however. I was certain he was sitting there
staring at and hating me the entire time. It took all my
self-control to keep from running out of the room in tears. It had
never even occurred to me that I might get here only to be rejected
by my whole reason for coming.
All through the day I’d kept hoping Enock
might pop up out of nowhere, wanting to talk things out with me.
But even during dinner, when I was fairly certain he was in the
room, he didn’t bother to acknowledge me in any way.
Eventually, my music became more mechanical
as I played numbly, repeating a couple of songs because it was hard
Just as I was beginning to wonder if I’d been
playing for one hour or three, someone sat down on the bench beside
me. I sucked in a noisy mouthful of air as I was ripped from my
dull stupor of misery and music. Looking over, I saw Enock watching
me sadly with his eyebrows hanging low. “I’m sorry I startled you,
Sarafina,” he said.
“No, that’s okay.” I turned to look behind us
at the empty room.
“And I’m sorry for leaving you earlier,” he
went on. “I won’t do it again.”
“So you’re not mad at me?”
“No. It isn’t your fault things are this
way.” He slipped his arm around my waist. “How could I be mad at
someone I love with my whole heart?” He leaned over to kiss me,
which I sincerely wanted, but was terrified of doing when someone
could walk into the room at any moment.
“Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked, leaning
away, but not before his warm breath swept over my neck, making it
harder to resist.
“Yes, but I want to kiss you…for a moment, at
It was a horrible gamble, just like me coming
here, just like every second we spent together. But I couldn’t
ignore the dark passion I felt pressing against my chest and
stomach so powerfully I let out an involuntary breath. I pressed my
shoulder against his and kissed him for a few incredible
He kept his eyes closed and smiled as it
ended. “If that was all I ever got from you, it would still be
enough,” he said as his golden-orange eyes opened and shone
glittering light all over my skin.
“Aw.” I kissed him again, knowing how he
felt, because all the trouble in the world was worth that simple
“Will you walk with me?” he asked. “Back to
where we left off before, perhaps?”
I wanted to, but as I stood up, I felt the
tenderness of my feet. “I would love to, Enock, but my feet are
pretty sore from my walk with Helena earlier.”
“You’re hurt? Let me see.”
“It’s really not that bad.” I lifted my leg
as he leaned over to take off my left boot.
He looked at the sores with softened eyes. “I
could heal it for you, but I would be replacing part of your flesh
and blood with my own for this sort of injury, and I’m not certain
how your body would react…especially after this morning.”
It did sound pretty creepy, but it was the
risk involved that really scared me. “It’s okay. It’ll heal on its
own in a few days.”
“Still, it might become infected. Why don’t
you go back to your room and I’ll get something to prevent that
“Okay, but I’m supposed to meet Helena in the
kitchen after I’m finished playing. If I bump into her, it might be
hard to get to my room alone.”
“Helena…” He looked at the ground
thoughtfully. “She’s one of the kitchen maids, isn’t she?”
I nodded. “Her room’s right next to
Enock slipped my boot back on and stood up.
“Well then, it might be better for you to come to my room. I can
take care of you there, and no one will bother us, except perhaps
for Kristoffer, but that shouldn’t be a problem.” We began walking
toward the door I’d never been through at the other end of the
“Enock, Kristoffer hates me.”
“No, he doesn’t,” he chuckled. “Why would you
I recounted what I’d seen and heard earlier
as we crossed the vast room. The look of shock on his face was
evident when I told him what his brother had said about me and when
I mentioned that he’d said too much to Mattias. “Why didn’t you
find me and tell me this right away?”
We stopped right in front of the door.
“I didn’t know where you were. I didn’t even
know if you ever wanted to talk to me again.”
“What?” His astonishment only grew. “That
will never happen. Did I not show you enough of the way Anvilayans
“Yes, but we aren’t bound to each other and
we never will be, so I didn’t know.” I wanted to take it back as
soon as I said it.
The look of anguish on Enock’s face was
absolutely unbearable, as he rested his hands against my neck. “My
dearest Sarafina, as far as I’m concerned, my heart
to yours—no matter what happens.”
He kissed the top of my head and then turned
us both away from the door. “Perhaps you should go meet
“Okay,” I said tentatively, unable to shake
the nagging feeling that everything could fall apart all over again
at any moment.
“I need to go and get you a very powerful
bell,” Enock whispered.
“Shhhh.” He put a finger over my lips. “Bells
are forbidden in this household. The sound they make is enough to
drive an Anvilayan mad. Even if Kristoffer didn’t mention you,
Mattias will be suspicious of me now. A bell will help protect
“You mean you’re going into town? Like, I
could finally call my parents?”
going to town. I can’t control
this when you’re nearby,” he pointed to his bright amber eyes, “so
you should probably stay here. And what if someone notices you’re
“But I need to call them. I promised I would
as soon as I got here, so they’re probably worried sick.
Eventually, they’ll think something terrible’s happened to me and
contact the authorities.”
More shock. “Why didn’t you say something
“I don’t know,” I said, feeling guilty.
“Today was pretty crazy, and it was hard to think about anything
Enock stood right in front of me and put a
hand on my shoulder. “All right. Wait here. I’ll be right back and
then you can come with me. But we’ll have to keep our distance from
one another around anyone else.”
I smiled and watched the beautiful light
flicker as he blinked, knowing it was all for me.
“But what if Helena comes looking for
“She won’t. No servants are allowed in here
until much later.” Then he exited through the door we’d almost gone
through, leaving me all alone.
I wondered if I should go tell Helena not to
wait up for me. But I figured she would have lots of questions, and
I really didn’t want to have to make up a story or get tied up
somehow. Enock returned before I had time to give it much thought,
Maybe he could modify her memory in the
I thought, immediately feeling sick with myself for
even letting it cross my mind.
“Come on,” he said, motioning for me to join
him from behind the door.
I wondered as I walked how I would call my
parents without my cell phone, but I knew enough by now not to
underestimate an Anvilayan.
On the other side of the door, I walked into
a girly version of the room I’d met Paul in. The couches were pink,
and a giant painting of cherry trees in full bloom hung above the
fireplace. But it was empty. So I guessed Halvandor women went to
bed much earlier than the men did.