A/N: So, I had this sudden urge to write three weeks ago. I've always had this fascination with a strong female protagonist and vampires, so I decided to write a story about them. Why not, right?
This chapter is an introduction of the main character, her life, and a couple of other characters.
Music is my muse. I find I like to know what people are listening to when they write, so I'm going to give you a song or artist for each chapter I write. Now, my music taste is a bit strange. I like everything except most rap and country, from Marilyn Manson, to Bob Dylan, to Vanessa Carlton.
Thank you so much for reviewing! I really appreciate it. It keeps me motivated to know someone out there is reading. So, please read and review :)
"Don't give up," a voice whispered softly.
I jerked awake.
I had absolutely no idea where I was. Bright lights intruded the peace of my mind. I squinted my eyes to adjust to the intensity of the lights, but I only saw white. I blinked several times and turned my head to the side.
Beeping monitors surrounded my head and tubes ran from my arm to an IV bag. I was in a hospital. I was lying in a bed with stiff white sheets and metal railings.
And I was alive.
The beeping sped up as my heart rate picked up. Relief spread through me, tingling my fingers and toes. My breath caught in my throat as the pain swelled in my side. I whimpered slightly as my fingers reached down to touch the wound. My entire midsection was tightly wrapped in gauze, but I could see a dark red stain that had seeped through.
The clicking of high heels echoed down the hospital hallway, slowing as they got closer to my room. A million questions flooded my brain. Where exactly was I? How long had I been here? What the hell had happened?
A woman entered my room. She was tall and willowy, with her salt-and-pepper hair sensibly styled. Her white lab coat pinned her as a doctor.
A look of relief spread over her face when she saw me.
"Finally woke up, did you?" she said as she bustled over to my bed, fiddling with the machines next to me.
I breathed in deeply as I could feel the questions fight their way to the top. I choked, and started to cough violently. Pain seared from every part of my body, and my eyes filled with water. The doctor turned to me with a concerned look and shuffled closer to the bed.
When the coughing subsided, I managed to rasp, "Where am I?"
The woman picked up a clipboard that was lying on the small bedside table next to me. She muttered something incomprehensive, and then looked up at me.
"St. Joseph's," she replied.
I cleared my throat and attempted to nod. At least I knew where I was. St. Joseph's hospital was about ten minutes from my small apartment.
Giving me an evaluating look, the doctor bent down to scribble something on the clipboard.
"What's your name, dear?" she asked, sounding interested.
I looked up, startled.
"Um, Dahlia," I breathed out, "Dahlia Simon."
She continued to write, leaving me there to stare at her with a bewildered expression pasted on my face.
I blinked and asked, "What happened to me?"
The doctor threw me a curious glance, and said, "You don't remember anything?"
She sighed and perched herself uncomfortably in the plastic chair beside the bed. She clasped her hands together and her eyes rose to meet mine. Hers were a proud, hazy gray with dark flecks in the iris.
"Well, Ms. Simon," she began, "I don't know the particulars. You were brought in through the E.R. The nurse at the desk told me a man had brought you in, carrying you."
I coughed, "Carrying me?"
She pursed her lips and went on. "We don't know who he was, and he left before we could get his name. He only said that you had been stabbed on the boardwalk by 5th Avenue."
Stabbed. The memory of the night sky falling on me as I clutched my side raced back. Swallowing, my hand touched my side.
"You almost died, dear," the doctor said, her look softening as she watched me start to remember.
"What day is it?" I questioned, wanting desperately to get away from the subject.
"November 8th. You've been unconscious for three days."
Three days. My boss was going to kill me.
Gathering some strength, I struggled to prop myself up on the flat pillows.
"When can I get out of here?" I asked, giving the woman a slightly pleading look.
"When we finish our examinations. We just want to make sure there is no permanent damage to the internal organs," she replied, standing up and straightening her white coat.
I closed my eyes when I felt the pain increase and a wave of nausea rose up inside me. The smart clicking of high heels told me the doctor had left.
For the next few hours, I went in and out of consciousness. When I was asleep, the visions of what I had thought were my last moments haunted me. When I was awake, I stared at the sterile white walls, alone and helpless. I sighed and resented the fact that no one had come to see me. I had thought I had had a couple of friends who cared enough to stop by after I had gotten brutally stabbed.
Shifting to the left, my arm pressed against the bed's railing. I welcomed the cool sensation it brought to my skin.
The heels were echoing down the hallway again, and the same doctor poked her head in.
"All set to go. Is there anyone we can call to come pick you up?" she said, coming into the room.
I watched as she disconnected the tubes from my body. She opened her mouth, and then shut it after some internal debate.
Her back turned to me, she said, "I've never had a patient as strong as you. You pulled through much quicker than I could have ever expected. Well," she spun around to face me with a pile of clothes in her arms, "here are some clothes for you to wear, Ms. Simon."
I nodded weakly and she walked out of the room. The door shut softly behind her. Her voice was hushed as she talked to someone outside the room. Pulling on the drawstring sweatpants two sizes too large and slipping the faded red t-shirt that read "Howlers" over my head almost made me feel human again. My side throbbed dully, and I suddenly wondered if they had given me painkillers.
My jaw clenched and I gritted my teeth in an effort to suppress the dizziness as I made my way to the door, slowly but surely. I grasped the doorknob when I reached it, feeling proud I had made it this far. I opened it, squinting as the bright lights from the hallway dazzled me. When my eyes adjusted, I saw many pairs of eyes turn to look at me. I quickly looked down, avoiding their gazes, and moved toward the front desk. Guess they heard about the girl who got stabbed on the boardwalk.
"Dahlia Simon checking out," I said to the frail nurse when I reached the desk."
Her eyebrows rose high, and I thought they might retreat all the way into her soft gray hair. "Already, Ms. Simon?"
Disbelief and wonder laced her tone, the intensity surprising me.
"Um, yes?" I replied, with a hint of doubt in my voice.
The nurse turned her head away and clacked her fingers on the keyboard positioned in front of her. "But you were admitted three days ago in critical condition."
I gave her a blank look, hoping she'd drop it. After six full seconds of staring at me, she nodded curtly, and turned back to the computer screen.
"Dr. Green has a prescription for some painkillers waiting for you in the pharmacy, Ms. Simon. Just sign the release form, here," the nurse slid a packet of paper across the counter and held out a pen. I took it and signed my name neatly. I noticed my hand was trembling.
The nurse stood and walked to the filing cabinet near her desk. She tucked the paper into a folder, and came back to me.
"You're free to go," she said, her eyes narrowing as she surreptitiously gave me a look-over.
Taking a breath, I walked awkwardly down the white hallway. Nurses rushed passed, a couple was leaning against the wall, the woman crying softly into the man's chest. The last time I was in a hospital was when I was seventeen and had broken an arm in a car accident. The hallways had been still and calm where I was getting my arm patched up. I guess I was in the more critical care part of the hospital.
Before reaching the pharmacy, I ducked into the women's bathroom. I splashed cold water on my face until it started to get numb. Raising my face high enough, I peered at the reflection in the mirror. My hair glinted a deep brown in the florescent lights, tumbling down around my shoulders. My gray eyes had dark circles under them, and my cheeks held absolutely no colour. I frowned at myself, and left.
The man at the pharmacy desk handed me my painkillers, and asked, "Can I help you?" to the next person in the line. I was incredibly thankful that he didn't ask me any questions. I had more trouble with the people in the lobby of the hospital. A group of elderly women cast me interested looks, and began muttering amongst themselves. A young girl looked up at me as I passed by her, her eyes following me out the door.
When the cool breeze hit my face, I breathed in as deeply as I could. The faint scent of salt made its way to my nose. A small smile spread across my face. I always wanted to live by the sea. It was the single most relaxing, most amazing thing on the Earth. As a kid, I would beg my parents to bring me to the sea each vacation. I would just sit there on the cliffs, listening to the sea roar for hours at a time.
A car honked. The sound brought me back to my senses. I glanced at the city spread out in front of me. San Francisco in the daytime was a mess, with cars beeping at each other every ten seconds and people rushing around in their daily lives.
Normally, I would take the subway to the nearest destination and walk from there, but I decided against because of my weakened state. My hand automatically reached down into a pocket to check for money. A sharp jolt went through me as I realized I had none. I had nothing but I ragged t-shirt and sweatpants. Great. I couldn't even take the underground because my monthly pass was still in my handbag, which was lying on my bed.
I turned left and pushed my way into the crowd. Shopping bags full of expensive merchandise smacked into my thighs as I fought my way through the commotion. I looked up to see a cloudy sky hovering above looming business buildings, a hint of sunshine peeking through. The small sliver of light was reassuring, and suddenly walking home didn't seem all that bad.
I made it to my apartment building in less than forty-five minutes. I looked up at the withering brick walls, with cement steps leading up to the door. I punched in the code on the tiny digital keypad the owner had installed for "safety purposes". I didn't think the code 1234 was going to keep out the bad guys.
Climbing the stairs slowly to the third floor, I grunted in pain as I stumbled on a step. I reached my door and stopped in front of it. I didn't have my key. Resigned, I took a step to my neighbor's door across the small, dimly lit hall. Oh, this was going to be fun.
I knocked twice, and the door was yanked open by a tall, handsome man. A smile stretched across his face, making his blue eyes twinkle.
"Dahlia! What are you doing knocking on my door?" he asked in a pleasant, rumbling voice.
"I need my key back," I said quickly, looking down at the doormat.
His eyebrows rose, mocking me. "Lose yours?"
"Just give it to me, Will," I said, letting out a breath.
He chuckled, but reached for his keys on the wooden table next to the door. He turned his eyes to me, glancing over my outfit. His expression quickly became serious.
"You don't look so good," he said, holding my key in his hand.
I glared at him, and then eyed the key that he held. "Yeah. Rough week."
"What happened?" Will asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
Stabbed. Unconscious for three days. Had to walk home in uncomfortable shoes. Forced to talk to you.
"Nothing," I replied, holding out my hand. He hesitated before he dropped the key into it. I curled my fingers around the small piece of metal, and turned to my door.
A warm hand touched my shoulder gently. "Tell me," he inquired softly.
Hearing the click of the latch releasing I turned to Will with my hand on the door handle. His eyes were creased with worry, giving me a moment of unwanted warmth in my chest. Frustrated with myself, I walked into my apartment.
"No," I said, and shut the door right in his face.
The tea in my cup was cold, but I didn't realize it until I had brought it to my lips. I grimaced, and sat the cup down on the coffee table with a soft thump. Turning my head, I looked out the large window at the fading colour of the sunset. It was a dull pink, with gray clouds spread out arbitrarily throughout the sky.
I had been sitting on my overstuffed, red velvet couch for the past hour, gazing vacantly at a magazine propped in my lap. Thanks to a long, steaming shower, I felt cleaner than I had in weeks. I washed my hair three times, and scrubbed myself until my skin flushed red. I wanted to get every last bit of blood off me, and to wash away the unpleasant memories.
A loud pounding on my door jolted me out of my wandering thoughts. Grumbling, I padded out of my dimly lit living room in bare feet. I fumbled with the lock for a second, and then pulled it open.
Will stood outside, his long blond bangs falling in his eyes, which flickered with anger and frustration. "Stabbed, Dahlia? Stabbed?"
I pressed my lips together and fought the urge to back up. He waved a newspaper in front of my face to ensure I was paying attention to him, but I just gave him an empty look.
"'Nothing,'", Will's voice said in a higher pitch, mimicking my words, "You call getting a knife stuck in your side nothing?"
With no response from me, he huffed and stared past me into my apartment. He raised his hand and brushed his bangs to the side. I leaned against the doorjamb, and his blue eyes flickered back to me.
"Are you really okay?" he asked more gently.
"I'm fine," I answered automatically.
Will cocked an eyebrow, looking me straight in the eye, evaluating. I felt slightly uneasy, standing in front of him with a terrycloth bathrobe and nothing on my feet.
"What happened? You made the news," he brandished the newspaper, "There're no details, just a picture of you lying on the ground."
I snatched the paper out of his hands, analyzing the picture that had been published at the top left corner of the page. It was hard to pick out the shapes in it, with the dark sky cloaking the scene in shadows. The street lights illuminated part of the photograph. I grasped the newspaper closer and looked carefully. I saw my crumpled body on the cement of the boardwalk, with a group of people standing around me. My eyes were shut, and my posture showing that I was clearly unconscious. Peering intently, I saw the face of the person closest to me. It was pale and angular, with a narrow nose and sculpted lips. It wasn't the beauty of his face that struck me, however, but the quiet intensity of his eyes. In the muted light, they seemed to be a dull green. And incredibly familiar.
"Dahlia?" Will questioned, ducking his head to look at my face.
Mentally, I shook myself. I blinked and gave him a close-lipped smile as I handed the paper back. He took it, hardly glancing at it.
"What the hell happened?" he asked, his tone aggressive.
My small smile fading, I replied, "I don't know."
I wasn't lying. All I remembered was hurrying to meet my client at "La Jolie Fleur", but I never made it. The traffic had been horrible that evening, the town overrun with people trying to get in to the Sting concert, and the cab had inched along the roads, taking twenty minutes longer than usual. I could tell the cab driver didn't mind. I had tossed him a wad of fives as I threw open the door, and ran out along the boardwalk, taking a shortcut to the restaurant. The next thing I knew, I was pressed up against the metal barrier between the pavement and the ocean, a knife glinting menacingly in the dim light.
Will tilted his head, looking skeptical at my response.
"Really," I added, turning on my heel to enter the living room. I picked up my cup, and headed toward the kitchen, which was in the adjacent room. Will's boots thudded quietly after me. As I went into the kitchen, I narrowed my eyes belligerently, wishing he'd get the hint.
He obviously didn't.
Stepping into the kitchen, Will's eyes scanned the cluttered area. The walls shined a pale yellow, wooden framed pictures nailed to them. A large island counter spread out in front of us. Parallel to it was another counter, smaller in size, containing the sink, dishwasher, and stove. It would have looked like an ordinary kitchen if it weren't for the fact that every surface was chrome. The counters, the appliances, and even the faucets were fabricated out of the stuff. The tenant before me had redone the kitchen to fit more to his tastes. Needless to say, his tastes were a little odd.
Subconsciously, I knew someone was watching me. Pulling myself from my thoughts, I turned to look at Will, his gaze meeting mine. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking; his expression showed no emotion.
He dropped his gaze, looked around again, and said lightly, "It's shiny."
Despite my annoyance at him, I laughed weakly. It was true; almost every surface twinkled up at me in the bright lights. Smiling, I went over to the stove where an old-fashioned kettle sat. After filling it with more water, I set it back on the stove, and leaned against the counter. Will opened his mouth to speak. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I didn't feel like talking. I felt like curling up in my bed and waiting for the sun to rise again.
"So tell me," he said. He moved over to the wooden dinner table I had put in the corner of the kitchen and pulled out a chair. He sat down, extending his long legs under the table, crossing them at the ankles.
"Tell you what?" I replied.
"I already told you."
Will rolled his eyes and folded his arms. "No, you didn't."
Exasperated, I said, "I don't remember much, okay? Just drop it."
He shifted in his seat, and peered intently at my face. "Most people who are victims of attempted murders are mentally, as well as physically, damaged. Some go to therapy for the rest of their lives. Sixty-nine percent are sup-"
It was my turn to roll my eyes. I held up a hand to stop him, and said, "Don't go pulling your statistics on me, Will. I'm fine. I don't need therapy."
He pursed his lips, and leaned back in the chair. The piercing whistle of the kettle went off, and I spun around to pour the water into my cup. I took a tea bag out of a colourfully decorated clay pot on the windowsill, and dropped it into the mug. It floated at the top for a moment before I pushed it to the bottom with a spoon. A brown swirl escaped the tea bag, staining the water. I watched, mesmerized for a moment. When Will cleared his throat, I flinched. Geez, those painkillers must be strong. I kept finding myself somewhere else.
Tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, I picked my cup up carefully and brought it over to the table where Will was sitting. I settled myself in the chair across from him, propping my face up in my hand.
His gaze dropped to my steaming cup of tea, and said, "Aren't you gonna offer me some?"
Shaking his head, he smiled. He laid his elbows down on the table, and began to trace an unfamiliar pattern with his forefinger.
Expression fading into a wistful look, Will said, "What'd I do to you, Dahlia, to make you hate me so much?"
"I don't hate you, Will," I responded softly, "I just-"
"Don't like me," he finished for me.
I looked away, but shook my head. He didn't know it, but he had hurt me, more than once. He'd fallen through on a number of promises. I guess it was also my fault. Trust doesn't come easily for me, which has definitely taken a toll on the number of relationships I'd had. I even sat through hours of old Dr. Phil episodes I'd borrowed from Veronica, one of my work partners. Plopping down on my couch with a bowl of microwave popcorn, munching and laughing at the various comments really hadn't helped much. Here I was, back at square one.
"Talk to your boss yet?" Will asked, switching to a different subject.
I snorted. "No."
"He was here pounding on your door yesterday, you know," he said, a smile beginning to spread across his face once again.
My eyes widened. "Oh, no! Will! Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
Will leaned back casually, balancing on two legs of the chair. He grinned, and replied, "Because you shut the door in my face before I could even mention it."
I flushed. Sipping the tea, I felt it burn my tongue. I swallowed quickly, and felt the heat slide down my throat. A bitter taste remained in my mouth, but was overcome by the burning sensation of the scalding tea. I forced myself to drink another mouthful, trying to divert my attention away from thoughts of my boss. He didn't like it when his employees took time off, whether they told him about it or not. He designated one free day per week for each person in the firm. There were only four of us, so it was hard to give time off in bulk. That and he was an obdurate, grumpy man.
"Maybe you should go talk to him," Will offered, with a hint of his grin still attached on his face.
"Yeah, I guess," I mumbled, reluctantly adding, "I'll go tomorrow."
"Not looking forward to the wrath of Ayden Montgomery, huh?"
I smiled tensely, and wrapped my fingers around my tea mug. It was cooler now, and I brought it up to face height. The steam rose, curling in a misty swirl, shifting its course when even the smallest gust of air touched it. The familiar smell of Earl Grey came from it, soothing my senses.
"I'll talk to him, even though I'd rather bite his head off," I said rather grimly.
The sound of Will's rumbling laugh filled the kitchen. A warm feeling spread through me as it bounced gently off the walls. It was such a pleasant and infectious sound, and it caught me off guard. I looked up at him. His eyes, focused on my face, twinkled when the light hit them. They were the intense colour of the ocean, like the water behind the palm trees in those tropical beach advertisements.
Feeling kind of light-headed, I stood up. I left my tea on the table, and made my way back into the living room. The change from hard, cold tile to carpet's squashy, plush texture was noticeable on my bare feet. My ears picked up the sound of Will scraping the chair against the floor. He followed me, brushing his hair away from his eyes. His lanky build leaned on the doorframe that separated this room from the next. I continued toward the front door, moving at a steady pace. I glanced over my shoulder to see if Will was following. He wasn't. He just gave me a sly grin and shook his head. I stopped walking, and swung around to give him an exasperated look from halfway across the room.
Will innocently asked, "What?"
"I've got bills to pay. I have to finish up some paperwork," I replied, sighing, "And I'm tired."
"Oh, come on, Dahlia. Let me stay awhile and help you," he said, coming towards me.
"No. I've got it."
Slowly, as if time had vanished, Will raised his hand to my face. He hesitated before touching my cheek lightly. My heart beat faster as his fingers trailed down my jaw, stopping to hold my chin between them. When I cast my eyes downward, he lifted my chin to force me to look at him.
"You don't have to carry the world on your shoulders, 'Lia," he murmured, his voice soft, but meaningful.
For a second, I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, Will's expression hadn't changed a bit.
"I hardly call paying this month's rent the world," I whispered, trying to seem nonchalant, but only succeeded in sounding shaky.
Ire sparked in Will's eyes. He dropped his hand and turned away, looking everywhere but at me.
"I didn't mean that, and you know it," he grumbled, deciding to walk himself to the door.
I couldn't keep up with his long stride, so by the time I reach the door, Will was halfway through it. He paused, one hand on the edge of the door. He pursed his lips together, and shifted to look at me.
Breathing in a deep breath, he said, "You pull up this shield whenever someone gets too close. All these defenses are drawn up around you, and you don't let anyone in. You need to let someone in, Dahlia. Anyone. A person can't live life like that. I just," Will let his breath out," I just care about you too much to let you sink in your miseries."
At that moment, I couldn't imagine the look on my face. A wave of warmth washed through me because of his caring, as well as a rush of annoyance at him not minding his own business. I liked my shield, damn it. Who was he to tell me otherwise?
Not knowing what to say, I bit my bottom lip. My arms felt awkward by my sides, so I crossed them over my chest. Will took in my torn pose, nodded goodbye, and shut the door behind him. I stood there, staring at the door in thought, for awhile. I lost track of time. When I went back into the kitchen, my tea was cold again. I exhaled noisily while dumping the remains into the sink. The tea looked like a brown river flowing quickly into the ocean. Mentally shaking myself, I turned to lean against the counter again. An unexpected smile spread across my lips as I swept my gaze around the kitchen and living room. I was home. Finally, for once in the past eighteen years, I felt as if I belonged. I haven't ever really found a place that I called home. I suppose I never stuck around quite long enough to make it.
I went to sleep that night with my emotion twisted into a jumble of different ones, each one fighting the other. When I was drifting off, though, it was the smile that won over the rest.