Authors: Leigh Michael
Annabelle’s Story Part Two
Copyright 2012, 2013 Leigh Michael
Cover Illustrator Copyright 2012 Carissa Katz
Copyedit by Katharine Vail
All people, places, and things are used fictitiously.
No, it couldn’t be.
No, no, no.
My brow wrinkled while I pleaded with myself to be wrong.
Water dripped from my face as I knelt on the gritty sand, trying to convince myself that he wouldn’t deceive me.
The moonlight provided a glimpse of his lit up face.
It wasn’t just any face.
It was a face I recognized and trusted.
But there wasn’t time to internalize what this meant. A strike against the back of my head pulled me under into blackness.
Slowly, colors crept around the edges of my mind. Shapes formed, just smudges across my vision, joining together piece by piece like a growing puddle. It spread until a picture transpired—one from my memory.
I stood restless staring from my bedroom window.
My stomach felt empty and I nibbled on my bottom lip, wiping my sweaty palms down the sides of my dress. Silently, I prayed for nothing to mess this night up. For weeks I waited, hoping for him to ask me out.
Many a night I spent sprawled out on my sister’s bed gushing about the new boy in school.
Many a day I lingered at my friend Jillian’s locker eager to catch a glimpse of him through the sea of students. It wasn’t abnormal for me to hang there, but now I had ulterior motives. Her locker happened to be caddy corner to his.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one who took notice of him. His presence was well known. Perhaps it was the thrill of fresh meat. It also helped that he wasn’t hard on the eyes—at all.
Girl after girl threw herself in his direction. It was always under the guise of welcoming him, offering to show him around, inviting him to parties, and so forth. I knew I was being stereotypical, but I witnessed a parade of one bubbly, cheerleading, gum-popping girl after another, hunting him like a lion.
What left me scratching my head was his interest in me: the brainiac jock.
Leaving self-criticism aside, it wasn’t unheard of for a guy to be into me. I had boyfriends in the past, but when the most popular girls in school made their desires known, I figured I placed lower on the food chain.
It all started like any other typical Thursday afternoon of my junior year. After lunch Jillian and I always made a quick stop at her locker before heading to Biology with Mr. Sassaman. I was admittedly a bad friend and caught only bits and pieces of how her older brother got busted for something or another.
Instead, I threw a nonstop glance toward the new guy. If I stopped to think about it, pathetic best described my stare, but on this day he met my gaze. My cheeks immediately flushed as I turned back to look at my friend. My solution was to pretend he hadn’t caught me.
Jillian’s hand shot to her hip, her weight to one side. “You’re not listening. What’s going on?”
I cringed. “I know, sorry. He caught me looking at him.”
“It was bound to happen. You stare at the kid.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes. You do,” she said defiantly, pressing her locker shut.
Laughing, we headed toward our next class.
Okay, I admitted it… I had a huge crush on this mysterious boy.
With a shrug of her shoulders, Jillian added, “Can’t blame ya though. He’s hot.”
I gave a knowing nod as I dodged an oncoming classmate.
Right before I turned into Biology, a hand grazed my arm. It was a light touch but enough that my curiosity spiked. I looked up into gorgeous brown eyes with lighter shades of tan and gold speckled throughout. I’d heard that brown was the most common color for an iris, but there was nothing common about this boy’s eyes.
He smiled. “Hey, I’m Blake.”
“Um, hi. Nice to meet you.”
“Do you have a name?”
“Annabelle.” My cheeks heated.
“It’s nice to meet you, Annabelle.”
There was a pause, too long of one. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to talk or if he was. He spoke last so technically I should have gone next.
Ugh, I was an idiot.
My instincts told me to run away as fast as I could, and save whatever dignity remained.
Before I could, his words held me in place. “So, are you going to Torri’s party this weekend?”
“Nah, I can’t. Swim meet.”
His face looked disappointed. “Maybe next time.”
I instantly regretted my response. I couldn’t go… and unfortunately that wouldn’t change. Still, I chastised myself for giving a definitive “no.”
Conversation over. Way to go, Annabelle.
Feeling defeated, I kept my face neutral, or at least I made an effort to, and took a step toward my classroom.
“Wait… I’ll see you around?”
His question stopped me mid turn but sent my pulse into overdrive.
I hoped he couldn’t tell as I squared my shoulders back to his. By this point, I’d flubbed this conversation multiple times. The fact that he hadn’t fled left me baffled.
I made an attempt to sound casual in my response. “Yeah, sure.”
“Cool.” It was the first thing that came to mind, making me want to crawl into a hole and die.
“Cool,” he joked back. “See ya later, Annabelle.”
He gave a quick grin before leaving me dumbfounded in the hallway. The new boy spoke to me. Not only that, but he sought me out to do so.
Best Thursday ever.
Over the next few weeks, Blake even made a habit of pursuing me. It started with a casual “hi” as we passed in the hall, random small talk about homework, and comments on the cafeteria food. Much to my delight, every day he stopped by Jillian’s locker when I was there.
I was thrilled, however the other girls… not so much. I felt their glares and heard the whispers behind my back. Honestly, I didn’t care. Then, just when I thought they’d downgraded me to old news, he asked me out. He was so confident about it too. A complete opposite of what I now witnessed from my bedroom window.
The big night was here—our first real date. Cue sweaty palms and a foot that wouldn’t stop tapping against the ground.
As I watched him, he shifted the flowers he held from one hand to the other, wiping one palm then another against his jeans.
I smiled and mentally pushed a few butterflies from my stomach. He felt the same way I did: a jumble of nerves.
The chime of the doorbell shot me full speed from my room and down the hall. I physically stopped myself from taking the stairs two at a time, latching onto the railing.
My parents were out for the night, which saved me from any awkward “Hey, this is Blake… these are my parents” introductions. I was on edge enough without my dad’s once over of Blake.
Without delay, I threw open the door in one swift motion.
He stood there with a huge smile on his face, the perfect start to our evening.
It was official. I didn’t have a silly crush on this boy. I really liked him.
Those feelings only intensified as our evening progressed. He decided to take me to our small-town fair. I’d been a time or two before but not for the past few years. Since he was still pretty new in town, he’d never gone before. He described it as a right of passage.
I saw it as the perfect opportunity for my budding feelings to grow.
And grow my feelings did, like wildfire. It was an insanely awesome night. We laughed, we joked, we poked fun at each other, we played corny carnival games. The amount we had in common left me enamored. It was just so easy to get along, almost effortless.
For me, the high point of our evening happened on the Ferris wheel—right there at the top. Sheepishly, he reached over and took my hand in his.
The butterflies in my stomach threatened to escape.
Then, he looked into my eyes and whispered. It was only a few simple words, but without fail, his declaration sent my brain into a tailspin. “I really like you, Belles.”
It was the first time he said the nickname that would fall from his lips from that point forward.
Then, in a heartbeat, everything moved in reverse.
His hand pulled away from mine.
The Ferris wheel turned counterclockwise.
Blake stripped a prize stuffed animal from my grasp.
We walked side-by-side, carnival lights flashing across our faces, but our legs marched backwards.
My front door slammed shut, leaving Blake standing there with flowers in hand.
I walked slowly up the stairs, and then quickened my pace into my bedroom.
I watched Blake from my window as he hopped into his car and drove down the darkened road.
He backpedaled away from Jillian’s locker after we made plans for Friday night.
I was thrown from my sister’s bed as we giggled about the new boy.
Then Lindsey’s voice faded little by little.
Muffled sounds replaced her words, my vision faded back to black.
I couldn’t grasp what I heard or saw.
Stuffed animals, pink walls, and familiarity no longer surrounded me from Lindsey’s bedroom. There was only blurred darkness. Remnants of my memories from the past year clouded the edges.
Faintly, a muted noise reached my eardrums.
My mind couldn’t decipher it.
“Wake up. Please, Annabelle.”
There it was again: A hum, sounding miles away. It had a singsong yet rustic edge to it.
“Annabelle, can you hear me?”
There was a sense of desperation deep inside the pitch of it as well.
Forcing myself to concentrate, I recognized it as a voice—one I’d come to know.
But this time it wasn’t Lindsey. The voice resonated the same warmth as my sister’s but it wasn’t hers.
Finally, my mind registered that it was him.
“Annabelle, come back to me,” I heard him say. This time it sounded closer, clearer, yet still somewhat muffled.
“Adrian?” my voice came out in a whispered croak.
“Yes. Yes, I’m here. Can you hear me?”
I whimpered, “Where?”
“Open your eyes,” he encouraged. “I’m right here.”
Slowly, I forced my eyelids to flutter open. The thin beam of light that blinked through seared my head with pain. I immediately escaped again to the darkness, sealing out the soft glow.
“You can, Annabelle. Try.”
Again I willed myself to open my eyes, the pain lesser this time.
My surroundings rendered one by one, finally revealing his shape in front of me.
“Good. Take your time.”
“Adrian?” I thought out loud, taking in his loose brown curls and worried face.
“It’s me. Don’t be scared. You’re okay.”
It wasn’t the water that sent a chill through my body; it was the ground beneath me. I realized I laid on my side in a fetal position. In front of me iron bars created an unbreakable wall, with Adrian on the other side. Methodically, I scoured the area, the feeling of doom increasing from each shift of my eyes. There was nothing but bars.
Instinctively I touched the back of my head, sending a shooting pain through my body.
Jerking my hand away, I cringed.
“Where are we?” I said, trying to lift my head.
“I’m not entirely sure.” He paused to catch my gaze as it waded across the room. “But, Belles, we’re going to be okay.”
Belles? But that was Blake’s nickname.
Before I could stop myself, his name slipped from my lips in a tiny whisper. “Blake?”
And then my memories exploded as each flooded back into the forefront of my mind.
Finding the coins with Adrian.
The Trackers attacking us.
The selkie stealing the coins.
Chasing him to the surface.
Seeing that it was really Blake.
It couldn’t be real. Blake was my boyfriend. I trusted him. He was human. Just human. Not a sprite. He wasn’t evil. He wasn’t a Tracker. This couldn’t be happening.
“Annabelle, I know what you—”
My voice came out again as a murmur, cutting him off. “What happened?”
Sighing, he reached his arm through the bars toward me. His fingers barely brushed my arm. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry about everything.”
My head throbbed just listening to him. It hurt trying to put the pieces back together.
After a brief pause, he whispered again in hurried tones, one sentence ran into the next. “We were ambushed. I didn’t see it coming. They took the coins before I could fight back. You went after them. Next thing I know, they dragged me to the surface. I saw you there, lying on the beach. It looked like they hit you in the back of your head. There was blood… you were unconscious. Now we’re trapped in the dungeons. Annabelle, I’m so sorry.”
“But, Blake? I saw Blake…”
“I wanted to tell you. I really did, but—”
“What?” My stomach flipped upside down, the bile rose in my throat. “You knew?” Betrayal oozed from my voice.