Elements by Nia Markos- Chapter Three
Book One of The Crystal Series
The silence in the library did little to quiet my growing panic. I lost count how many times I reread the same sentence in the textbook lying open on the table in front of me. A feeling of dread overwhelmed me all of a sudden, making it difficult to focus on the writing in front of my eyes. Bet sat across from me, the table littered with her books, taking notes in a spiral notebook. Once in a while her eyes would lift to scan the library. I knew I would not get anymore studying done. The urgency I suddenly felt made me itching to run. Looking up from her writing, Bet noticed my nervousness. Her phone vibrated, cutting off any question she might ask me.
Quietly, not to disturb the other occupants at the tables around us, she answered her phone. Listening to the voice on the other end, her eyes widened. I watched her with growing apprehension as tears formed in her eyes. Answering a quick yes, she hung up and started stuffing books in her backpack.
“Alexa, we have to go. Something happened.” She said, rushing to help me pick up my books.
“What is it?” Her panicked voice increased the unease I was already feeling.
“I’ll tell you as much as I can while we drive.” Her explanation made no sense. I had no idea she owned a car.
“Please, no questions for now. I need to think and get us there safely.” She offered in response to my confused look.
My foreboding returned. The sense of something wrong tore through me, scaring me with its intensity. I followed Bet out of the library, matching her steps as we turned the corner. Coming up to a small compact car, she unlocked the doors with a remote, pointing to me to get behind the wheel. Walking around the front, she slipped into the passenger side waiting for me to get in.
“Come on, Alexa, get in. We must get out of here.” She called out to me from inside the car.
I stood motionless, hesitant to follow her direction. I could tell she was anxious, worried and something more I did not understand. For the first time, I wondered if I knew her as well as I thought. What happened to cause the fear emanating from her?
“We have to get out of here. Get in!” She repeated more forcefully, while sliding the key in the ignition.
I got in the car, shut the door and gunned the engine. Making sure to put my seat belt on, I pulled out into traffic. Bet sat next to me silently. I glanced over at her, but her eyes stared ahead unfocused. I was hoping she would start talking to let me know what was going on. Seeing an entrance to a restaurant parking lot coming up, I pulled into it. I parked the car in one of the spaces, turning towards her. She was staring straight ahead in what looked like a daze.
“Bet, you’re scaring me. Say something.” I gave her shoulder a gentle push.
She blinked, finally focusing on me. Tears she was holding back started flowing from her eyes. She was starting to completely freak me out. What the hell was happening?
“Bet, what is it? Please tell me what’s going on.” My knuckles turned white, as I gripped the steering wheel.
“We have to go, Alexa. They are waiting for us. Drive. I’ll tell you where to go. Just don’t head back to our apartment. It’s not safe there. There was an explosion in the building.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on. What explosion? Was it a gas line?” How did this make any sense? Where were we going?
“We don’t have time. I’ll explain everything once we get there. It’s not safe for either of us out in the open.” Bet begged.
Feeling in my gut I would not get anything out of her, and that whatever scared her could be real, I did as she said. I drove. She gave me directions as we went along. Turn here; turn there, nothing more than that. From what I could make out we were heading out of town. She had me on the freeway going south. The afternoon traffic was light, which let me keep to the speed limit.
“Should we call someone?” I worried out loud.
“It’s been taken care of.” Bet answered me back. “Take the next exit, turn left at the stop. We still have a ways to go.”
I followed her directions. What else could I do? I drove for another hour, going straight as she told me. She still seemed lost in her thoughts. At times, I thought I saw her lips moving as if she was in conversation with someone, but I could not make out what she said. As we approached a fork in the road she told me to go right. Another fifteen minutes and the sun was setting. Soon we would be driving in the dark. I had no idea how much further we had to go.
“Turn in on this side road coming up.” She guided me again.
I turned where she said, following a winding dirt road. Darkness now surrounded us. With no street lights, I was driving slower to keep on the road. Rounding a bend, I saw lights in the distance. I glanced at Bet who nodded at me that this was our destination. I continued driving, glad to at least have an end in sight. The road ended in a circular driveway in front of an immense house. Gray stone exterior walls were illuminated with spotlights in each corner giving the structure an eerie look. Two floors made up the house. I could see no lights in the upstairs windows. I counted twenty windows on the top floor with just as many on the first level. I was impressed by its size. All around, large trees blocked the view of the road we had come in on. The complete darkness was broken by the spotlights and the light coming from the main floor of the house, where the front door now stood open. I guessed we had arrived.
I slowly pulled up behind an already parked car. With trembling fingers, I put the car into park and cut the engine. Did I really want to know what was going on? Maybe I could leave Bet here and find my way back to town. Bet opened her door, stepping out into the cool night air. She looked at me, waving her hand for me to follow her. I had no choice but to follow her. I knew I would never be able to find my way back without her. Getting out of the car, I followed her to the front door. The man who opened the door pulled Bet into his arms hugging her as she started to cry. Standing just inside the door, I could only watch as she sobbed in his arms. There was no denying something awful had happened.
The man looked at me over Bet’s shoulder with sadness in his eyes. As her sobs died down he pulled away, gathering her into the crook of his arm. He guided her into the house, stopping when he felt I was still standing at the door.
“Please join us, Alexa.” He spoke to me. “My name is Rider. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I only wish the circumstances were better.”
Not knowing how to answer him, I stepped through the doorway. The entrance hall, with a white marble floor and delicate rose-petaled papered walls, was a small square space. In front of me, wide sweeping stairs led to the second level. To my right, I could see two doorways. One was all the way to the back of the house, past the stairs, with its door closed. To my immediate right, only steps away, the closer doorway led to an open living room. I closed the front door behind me, following them into the large living area. Rider guided Bet to a couch. After making sure she was seated comfortably, he turned to me, motioning me to take a seat as well.
The living room, from what I could see, took up almost the whole first level of the house. In the foremost part, where I stood by the doorway, there were black leather sofas set up in front of a grand fireplace. Coffee tables were placed in front of each sofa, under which a plush white rug covered the floor. In the rearmost of the room, large reading tables were surrounded by floor to ceiling bookcases. The decor was warmed by the mahogany wood beams running the length of the ceiling. I could see priceless artifacts, statues and vases displayed around the room. The fireplace held a blazing fire, which was warming the room. I lingered in the doorway not sure why I was there.
Bet had finally cried herself out, and sat lost in her thoughts. I walked over to her, sitting down beside her. At a loss as to what I could do to help her, I took her hand in mine. She squeezed it to acknowledge me.
“It won’t be long. The meeting is almost over.” The man, Rider, said.
“Is Aidan here? I didn’t feel him.” Bet asked.
“Yes, he arrived not long before you did. He is safe.” Rider answered her, while studying me.
Noise from the hall caused us to turn to see who it was. Footsteps were approaching us. Another man entered the room and Bet ran to embrace him. Almost a foot and a half taller than her, his well-defined, muscular arms, wrapped around her.
“Aidan, thank heavens you’re safe. I couldn’t lose you too.” She clung to him.
“You know me better than that little sister.” Aidan said gently, looking past Bet to me. His green eyes probed mine. For some reason, the way he stared at me made me uncomfortable.
“Are they still at it?” Aidan asked Rider, still holding me trapped in his stare.
“Yes, not all have arrived yet, but the ones here should be finished soon. I’ll go see what is keeping them.”
Rider left the room, giving me the opportunity to break away from the green eyes keeping me captive. Nervousness had me looking for something to do. Deciding to sit before my legs gave out from under me, I walked over to one of the sofas. Bet, accompanied by her brother, came and sat on the sofa facing me. I kept my gaze on my hands, which were clenched together on my lap. The silence stretched between us as we sat waiting for Rider to return. Making the mistake of glancing up to look at the two, I found Aidan still looking at me, curiosity showing on his face. His green eye sparkled as they reflected the fire dancing in the fireplace. With his arm wrapped around Bet, he sat with his long legs stretched out in front of him almost touching my feet. Bet had her head on his chest. The arm wrapped around her flexed as he stroked her. His black T-shirt was tight across his broad chest, leaving little to the imagination. Every curve of muscle was displayed. His jeans covering his legs were stretching from thighs that even in repose were straining the fabric.
He was really good looking, and from what I could tell he knew it. His eyes crinkled when a slow grin formed on his lips. What did I expect? With his looks he must be used to women staring at him. Raising his eyebrow at my continued gaze, I felt an inexplicable anger rise in me. I was surprised at the instant dislike I felt towards him. He was too sure of himself. I was not impressed by his arrogance.
I yanked my eyes away from his at the sound of a door closing somewhere in the house. Voices rose as they approached us. Rider came back into the room followed by two men and a woman. Seeing us in the room they stopped speaking. While the man and woman went over to Bet and her brother, Rider came over to stand in front of me.
“Alexa, your mother will be here soon. Once she is, we will explain everything to you. This is something she should have done a long time ago. In the meantime, I will show you to your room.” Rider said to me.
“What, wait, I don’t understand. What room? My mom is coming here?” I said, feeling more confused than ever.
“Go with him. Please.” I heard Bet say.
I turned to look at her as she rose from her spot on the couch. She took my hands in hers, her eyes pleading with me to go along with whatever was going on. Her brother also stood, looking at me. He nodded I should go with Rider. I ignored him; not sure following his direction was to my benefit. Bet looked at her brother, then back at me. She placed a hand on his shoulder, drawing his attention away from me. Some communication seemed to pass between them. He gave a short laugh before stepping away from us.
“Please Alexa, go with Rider.” Bet seemed about to start crying again.
Not wanting to cause Bet anymore pain, I turned and followed Rider out of the room. He guided me to the stairway leading up to the second floor. The hallway on the second floor stretched on both sides along the length of the house. Rider led me down the corridor, opening the last door at the end. I stepped into the room looking around at the spaciousness within. A canopy bed in the center of the room was decorated with deep purple pillows on a crimson bedspread. The walls were a beautiful delicate rose color. In front of a bay window sat a reclining chair, the table next to it held some books on it. I walked further into the room, stepping in front of the window to look out. The darkness outside was all encompassing. You could not see anything distinguishable outside. I had so many questions swirling through my head.
“I’ll leave you to rest. I know you have questions, but we have to wait for your mother. Try to lie down for a while.” Rider said, as he started leaving the room.
“Wait,” I said. “Who are you? What is this place?”
Thinking he was not going to answer me, I took a step towards him. He turned around and looked at me with sadness in his eyes. I was struck at the look, wondering why he would look at me like that.
“My real name is Edward, but everyone calls me Rider.” He finally answered me. “I’ve known your mother a long time. It will make sense when your mother gets here.”
“There is a bathroom through there.” He pointed to the other door in the room. “I’ll see you soon.”
He left the room, closing the door soundlessly. I stood staring at the closed door, feeling like I was in some sort of nightmare. Not knowing what to do with myself, I stepped towards the bathroom. Entering, I flicked on the light, getting a view of my face in the mirror over the sink. I took in the dark circles under my eyes and the washed out color of my face. I glanced at my watch to see it was past midnight. I had hardly slept the night before and the day’s events took everything out of me.
I walked to the sink and turned on the cold water. Leaning over, I splashed water on my face. As I reached for a towel to dry off, I saw a faint red glow on my left shoulder and reached with my hand to touch it. My hand touched my shoulder, but whatever I saw disappeared. Great, now I was seeing things.
I went back into the bedroom, walked to the reclining chair next to the window and sat down. Picking up one of the books, I examined it slowly. It looked like a journal of some sort. I opened it, seeing nothing written as I scanned the pages. As I was closing it, I thought I saw something on one of the pages, but when I leafed through it again I saw nothing but blank pages. My lack of sleep was affecting me. Now I was imagining, hallucinating. First the red glow and now writing where there was none.
Putting the book back on the table, I let myself lie back in the chair. I tried to still my mind, to relax. My mom would be there soon. She would explain things and then we would leave. I had no idea how these people knew her. Trying to find a comfortable position on the chair, I reclined back, resting my head facing the window. Outside the night sky flickered with stars. My eyes grew heavy staring out into the blackness. I tried to stay awake, but within minutes sleep claimed me.
My dreams relived the day’s events. Voices around me were telling me to run. I was stuck in a never-ending corridor as I ran through it. It went on forever. A light was leading my way as I ran. I followed the light hoping it would lead me out. Rounding one corner after another my panic grew, terrified I was trapped and there was no exit. Making another turn, I found myself floating in a cloud. The brightness after being in the darkened corridor blinded me. A sense of calm took over as I floated in the softness of the space surrounding me. A voice was whispering something I could not make out. Opening my eyes slowly, as they adjusted to the light, I saw a beautiful angel appear before me. Her long chestnut hair flowed around her as if there were no gravity. She smiled at me and I smiled back. She was so beautiful. She reached out her hand, touching my cheek. I heard her thoughts through our connection.
“Alexa.” Her words sounded in my head. “I have been waiting for you. Follow your path and know I am with you.”
She looked away from me at something behind her. Whatever she saw was hidden from my view. Her eyes came back to me, smiling again.
“Do not worry. You will find the way when the time comes.” She gazed at me before turning away, fading into returning darkness.
Wait, I wanted to tell her. Stay. The cloud that held me faded along with her, and I was tumbling down in a free fall. I flayed my arms about, but there was nothing to grab onto as I fell. Petrified, I screamed as I continued falling.
End of Elements by Nia Markos- Chapter Three