In The Dark
Mothers were supposed to love unconditionally. Mine didn't. In fact, she tried to kill me on my thirteenth birthday, when she saw just how different I was. My dad saved my life that night. He also took her away on an extended vacation, leaving me with an ever-absent uncle.
Five years later, solitude was something I lived by. I had to because I was different and people tended not to cope well with the unusual. In fact, they hated me for it, were even scared of me because of it.
I thought I was meant to live alone, until Isaac Grey took notice of me. He changed my life, taught me I wasn't the only one who was different, and I didn't need to be alone.
But with love comes sacrifice and then pain. Could I ever escape living in the dark?
I didn't want to ask for help. Mum was already upset about something she'd heard from down the street. But my fear was raw, palpable, leaving me breathless and shaky. I didn't know what was going on or why pain spread through my body.
With my arms wrapped around my middle, sweat covering my body and stabbing pains shooting through me, I staggered into the kitchen. The scent of bacon filled the room and my stomach growled in response when I inhaled the familiar greasy scent.
How was I hungry when I was hurting so much?
Am I dying?
Tears fell unbidden, dampening my cheeks. I quickly wiped them away, not wanting to panic her.
"Mum." I coughed. She stood at the stove, her back to me.
She turned, tongs in her hand and screamed.
I covered my ears; still, her scream drilled into my head, hurting me even more.
"Mum," I yelled. Even my own voice hit me like a sledgehammer to the brain.
Her screaming stopped. Wide-eyed before me, she gaped. "Leila? Your body…"
"Help me. It hurts." I collapsed to the ground on my hands and knees. "Please."
"No. No… Look at you—you're wrong." She sobbed, her hand covering her mouth in horror.
Another fierce wave of pain rushed through me. Crumpling to my stomach, I moaned. With my head sideways on the cool vinyl floor, I watched through watery eyes the skin on my arm and hand shimmer and shake, as it… changed.
What is happening to me?
Mum inhaled deeply, her voice low and calm, devoid of emotion. "You've always been different. I— You're not my daughter. No. I can't… You're bad. This… it proves it."
Icy terror rippled through me, cutting through my pain when I watched her own transformation—sad haunted eyes turned cold and hard.
From out the corner of my eyes, as I lay helpless on the floor, she stood above me with the hot pan in her hand.
Dad yelled from somewhere for my mum to stop, his footfalls fast approaching. But it was too late.
The pan collided with my head.
* * * *
I woke with Dad sitting on my bed next to me, patting my head and all I could think was, Isn't that appropriate now.
I knew what I’d become, even before I'd passed—no, before I was knocked out.
Should I be in shock?
Should I be scared?
I'd always suspected something was missing, that I wasn't quite complete or whole, because I wouldn't have had the "eye problem" without a good reason. Finally, I knew and it left me… feeling complete.
"I'm sure you can understand me while you're like this." Dad said as he bent to rub his face against my cheek. "I want you to know I love you with all my heart, no matter which way you are. You'll always be my daughter and one day I will come back for you. I-I need to take your mum away for a while. She can't cope right now, but she does love you, Leila." He paused and sighed. He knew I wouldn’t believe what he’d just said. My mum had never loved me. Dad cleared this throat and added, "Don't worry, okay. Your Uncle Jack will be here for you. I’m so sorry I have to leave this way. It's for the best though… For your safety."
Wait, he's leaving? I struggled to sit up only I had no control over my new form.
"No. Don't move, sweetheart. One day all of this will make sense, I promise, but now isn't the time. Your uncle doesn't know about this." He gestured to my whole body with his hand. "I'm leaving it up to you to tell him, if you want. He won't be by until tomorrow. You'll need to hunt soon so I've left the back door open for you. When you can, go into the woods. Your instincts will take over."
He scrubbed at his face with one hand. "God, I wish I didn't have to leave. I understand you'll be upset, but… I have to do this." He nodded to himself. "Uncle Jack will keep you safe. I know you're strong, in mind and body, especially for a thirteen-year-old, and that you think you can take care of yourself. Still, I hope you'll let Jack help you. I do love you, sweetheart."
He gave my nose a peck, stood and walked out of my room… out of my life.