Set One: Dragonfly
Ragged breath, steaming in the overcast twilight, heart pounding, threatening to burst; he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so exhilarated. Amber was around the corner, he could hear her boots crunching on the frosted earth. A silent laugh caused him to smirk. Shaking his head, he remembered what had gotten him into this game, reminded by the weight of the earring on his left ear.
A few hours ago, in Amber’s basement…
“Hey, Micheil!” the bouncing redhead exclaimed as she ran down the basement stairs, a grocery bag swinging in her left hand.
Instinct took over as he glanced up into the bright smile of his one and only love.
“Guess what I found at the store?” her voice dripped with mischief.
Fortunately, Micheil was completely oblivious to this fact.
“What, food?” Micheil grinned when Amber frowned.
“No, not food!” she grumbled, rummaging in her bag and pulling out a plastic container. “Finally found that new game I told you about, Temptation. You remember, don’tcha?”
Micheil raised his eyebrow, confusion painted all over his face.
“Aww, you don’t remember?” Amber whined.
Amber let out a dramatic sigh as she tilted her hips, one hand placed on the exaggerated–nicely pronounced—hip.
“Don’t you want to play with me?” the girl’s pout broke down all walls Micheil had.
But he wasn’t about to show it.
“Depends entirely on what this game is,” he said as he grinned happily.
“Micheiiiiiiil!” her high voice grated on his ears; Micheil tried not to grimace.
“Amber…” he sighed, gazing up at her with pleading eyes, “I have a hangover from last night…unless this game of yours is something that can cure a pounding headache, I don’t want to hear it.”
And that was when her mischievous grin came back. And when he got a very bad feeling about ‘Temptation.’
And my head is still pounding, Micheil thought to himself, pressing further against the wall, trying to conceal himself in the shadows of the building. Suddenly, Amber’s fiery hair popped around the corner, her eyes alight with passionate longing.
I am so going to regret this… Micheil steeled himself, tensing every muscle in his body. Then-
He pounced, jumping from the shadows, tackling Amber, throwing the two of them to the ground. Maybe it was his imagination, but he thought he heard a light…tickling sound.
Amber let out a yelp as they hit the ground, crashing into the sidewalk. A sharp pain ran up his left shoulder, telling him he’d hit the ground hard enough to bruise. He gritted his teeth, pushing up from the ground, his arms pillars around Amber. The fiery girl glared up at him; Micheil just grinned.
“Gotcha,” he murmured, leaning down.
“Yea, and your earring touched mine!” Amber pouted, pushing up on his shoulders. “Cheater!”
Micheil smirked, “So that’s what I heard…” He pressed down further, and Amber stopped resisting when his lips enclosed hers.
As he slowly pulled away from her, she stuck out her tongue. “Cheater.”
“Hey, Micheil…” Amber murmured into his chest.
“Did you plan this?”
Micheil chuckled. “Sweetling, I didn’t know about this game until this afternoon. And I had no idea you would be so easy to catch…” He snaked his hand around her torso, pulling her closer to him. “Besides…it was fun.”
“Well, I’m glad I didn’t waste my money…” she giggled, nipping Micheil’s nipple.
“Hey, hey!” he exclaimed, rolling over on top of her. He frowned, looking down at Amber, her red hair splayed out on the pillow. “If I’d known you still had enough energy to play games, I wouldn’t have let you rest!”
Amber grinned that mischievous smile of hers. “Oh?” Her hands shot up, wrapping around his neck and pulling him down. “Then wear me out, love.”
“You asked for it…”
The morning light crawled across the floor in a square, mirroring the glowing window. He slowly opened his eyes to a half lid, until he saw the pillow next to him.
He sat up, coming fully awake in a breath. His head whipped from side to side, his eyes searching for the love of his heart. Finally, his eyes settled on a figure by the windowsill, knees pulled up to her chin, staring out at the early morning sky. He smiled, noting the halo around her curly hair.
Cold air struck his unprotected body as he eased his way out of the covers and placed his bare feet on the carpeted floor. As quiet as the crisp morning would allow, he crept up on the figure, until he was right behind her.
“Sweetling, aren’t you cold?” he whispered into her ear.
She jumped, letting out a yelp. Micheil grinned and laughed as Amber swiveled around and tried to punch him.
“Micheil!!!!!!” she yelled, tackling him. “Don’t scare me like that!!”
Micheil laughed, taking the girl into his arms. “Sorry, dear-heart, I couldn’t help myself!”
Her fist slammed down on his chest as she wiggled around in his arms, flailing.
“Yes you could’ve and you know it!” Her accusing tone only made him laugh harder.
“You big fat meanie!”
And that was it; she couldn’t keep the pretense up any more and she burst out laughing.
As their laughing fit subsided, Amber lay in Micheil’s arms, happily warm and protected.
“The floor is uncomfortable, love,” Micheil murmured into Amber’s ear.
“Well, it’s not my fault you fell on the floor…” she murmured back, sleepiness frozen on her voice.
“Actually, it is,” Micheil yawned, unwrapping Amber and pushing himself into a sitting position.
“Oh, sure, put the blame on me…” she didn’t move, she just curled up tighter on his lap.
“Kitty, I have to go to work today,” he sighed.
“Just call in sick…”
“I will be sick in a few minutes…”
“Not my fault…”
I give up… Micheil let out an internal sigh.
“Alright, but only for today, got it?”
Amber lifted her head and grinned. “Okay! Wanna play ‘Temptation’ again?”
Micheil allowed himself to fall back on the ground, hitting his head on the floor. “You wear me out…”
Three days of playing this game… Micheil grumbled to himself, leaning against a tree. And why are we playing in the woods?
A twig snapped from somewhere behind him. He tensed, anticipating the fiery redhead to pop around the corner as usual…
But nothing happened. He didn’t hear anything.
Caution etched into his every move, he slid around the tree trunk enough to let his eyes catch a glimpse of the darkness around him. His eyes couldn’t penetrate the dark woods; no moonlight pierced the canopy.
A movement to his left-
Then there was a sharp pain in his spine, sending a scream up to the heavens. As his vision clouded over, he heard murmuring above him, then-
Blissful nothingness engulfed his mind.
He came awake all at once, as he normally does. His eyes opened to darkness and fear gripped his mind. He reached up to touch his eyes-
And found he couldn’t move. He was trapped.
He thrashed around, panic poisoning his mind. He opened his mouth to scream-
But he got a mouth full of something sticky. With a start, he realized he couldn’t breath. He wrenched about, desperately trying to pull away from whatever held him.
He got a hand free, pushing desperately away. Then he was falling.
He landed with a thump, knocking his head against the carpeted floor. Sunlight struck his eyes with painful accuracy, causing him to cry out and shy away from the painful rays. As his eyes adjusted, he flushed, realizing that he’d been fighting against his comforter the whole time. Gingerly, he extracted his bruised and battered body from the tangled mess. Still flushed, he glanced around him, concerned no one had heard him.
His eyes fell upon the windowsill, where a silhouette of a girl sat, knees pulled up to her chin.
He smirked; perfect way to get rid of his embarrassment.
Quiet as a hunting tiger, he snuck up on the girl, arms ready to engulf her. When he was mere inches from her, he struck, wrapping her into his arms.
She was surprising cold. Unbelievably cold.
She didn’t jump, she didn’t turn and hit him; she didn’t react.
“Amber?” his voice was becoming hysterical.
Without a thought, he turned the girl around-
The face he was confronted with bespoke nothing of life. The drawn, pale skin made his own crawl. The pale green eyes tore his soul apart.
Worst of all, her once vibrant red hair was falling off in clumps.
He stumbled back, bumping into the bedpost, his spine crying out a the rough treatment. Tears stumbled down his cheeks. Slowly, he turned his head away from the girl, and stared at the mirror hanging on the back of his door.
With a ragged cry, he fell to his knees, hiding his face from the mirror.
Emily knocked on her grandfather’s door, slowly pushing it open a crack.
“Grandpa?” the girl called. “Breakfast is ready.”
Her eyes fell upon a form on the ground, a shivering, old, shriveled form. The bed the form leaned against was disheveled, the comforter splayed half-on, half-off the bed; one of the drapes was half-off its hooks. The pillows were thrown all over the room.
Emily sighed. “Grandpa…”
She puffed out her chest and strode to the shaking form, making a slight detour to get his robe. She kneeled beside the crumpled form and draped the robe around his shoulders.
“Come on, Grandpa, its time for breakfast. Get dressed, okay?”
Slowly, her grandfather lifted his eyes and stared at her, uncomprehending.
No, he wasn’t staring at her; he was staring through her. At some distant plane, is what Mother always said.
“Grandpa?” Emily prodded.
“Amber?” came the chocked reply.
Emily’s eyes fell and her shoulders slumped. No, Grandpa…I’m not Amber… Slowly, she shook her head and looked up at her grandfather.
“I’m not Amber, Grandpa,” Emily said for the umpteenth time, “It’s Emily.”
“Amber,” Grandpa insisted.
“Emily. I know my own name.”
“Amber…Amber, where are you?”
Emily sighed. “Grandpa, Amber’s been dead for forty-five years.”
Her grandfather didn’t respond. He just tucked his knees under his chin and wrapped his arms around his knees, laying his forehead on his arms.
Sighing again, Emily stood. “Come down for breakfast when you’re dressed, okay? Momma’s waiting.”
The girl turned and walked sullenly out of the room, closing the door behind her. She pressed her forehead against the cold frame and sent a silent prayer up to whatever god was listening.
“There’s no way Momma’s right…” Emily gulped down the tears threatening to break. “How could Grandpa kill anyone, let alone Grandma?”
His head shot up as the door closed and he eased himself up off the ground. He pulled the robe closer around his frail body, using the bedpost as support to keep himself up. He began moving toward the wardrobe, then stopped as a single sentence floated to his ears.
“How could Grandpa kill anyone, let alone Grandma?”
His eyes widened in shock. He lurched to the ground, his heart pounding at an exaggerated rate, his breathing ragged and shallow. He clutched his chest, one hand pressed against the carpet to keep himself from falling. His mouth was agape in a silent cry of pain. He gasped, his body shaking, his limps screaming for peace.
I killed her… he thought with a deepening despair. I killed Amber…
As Emily tramped down the stairs, her bare feet slapping on the wooden steps, she could smell the wonderful aroma of fried onions, cooking eggs, and best of all, bacon. Her mouth watered and she jumped the last few steps, wanting to be in her seat when her mother served breakfast.
“Where’s your grandfather?” Momma asked as Emily slid into her chair next to Nathan.
“Getting dressed,” Emily said over her shoulder, “oh, and it looked like he had a bad nightmare last night. And he mistook me for Grandma again. Do I really look like what she did?”
“Yes, you do,” Papa jumped into the conversation as his work shoes clicked on the tiled floor, tying his tie. “In fact, if you look in the old photo albums of your grandpa and grandma, you’ll see that you look exactly like her.” Papa smiled. “Which means you’ll have all the boys after you in a couple of years.”
Emily stuck her tongue out. “No thanks.”
Nathan laughed. “What, afraid you’ll get guy cooties?”
She threw a pen at her brother. “Shut it!”
“Emily, don’t throw things at the table,” her mother chided, taking the bacon off the stove.
“But I didn’t throw it at the table,” Emily said innocently, “I threw it at Nate.”
Momma sighed and placed a plate of bacon on the table. “Emily, would you mind going to check on your grandfather? He’s taking longer than normal.”
With an exaggerated sigh, Emily nodded and ran up the stairs.
A scream spiraled down behind her.
Micheil lay in the white bed, surrounded by roses, a hairpin clutched in his fingers beside an earring.