By the time I had gotten back to the House, the sun was beginning to rise over the horizon, its peachy sliver casting shafts of orange and lavender across the sky. I sat outside my window, on the high roof, and watched its ascension. Despite the legends, we Fury did not actually detest the sun. We did not rupture into dust. It did not burn our flesh, nor did it blind us. In truth, I enjoyed day light over night's opalescent moon, as it warmed my skin and gave a peculiar sense of blood in my veins.
Whilst gazing fixedly at this brilliant, abysmal sky, my thoughts wandered back to Alistair Firestone for nearly the fifteenth time since I'd made my way back from Canal Fulton. He'd claimed that he was abandoning his home for a while, traveling the Americas until he felt a pull to return. There was no need to worry about intruders, apparently, as most people inexplicably avoided his home to begin with. His studies, he had explained, were that of our race, and so he intended to complete as much research as possible on his travels. He bid me adieu in what seemed friendly spirits, but I could see the vacancy in his gaze, and silently wished him the best. Lacey had been returned to her mother's home, not far from the woods, unconscious, as was human's typical reaction to a memory modification.
I allowed myself again to consider the concept of Alistair's freedom. It was a strange phenomenon to me, having been a servant of the Dirae's for my entire Fury life, and more than ever, now, I craved it. I had only been seventeen when they'd deemed me a glass child and taken me from my home. Two years later, I became completely changed.
Glass children? I have been told that they are called psychics by human kind. Usually they have some sort of added physical or mental strength that could be amplified by the change, making them what the Dirae refer to as Elites. Say, someone might have visions in their dreams. Their Fury counterpart might be able to call upon a premonition without more than a simple thought, or perhaps a touch. Maybe their bones are built just slightly stronger than what is considered average. As a Fury, nothing would be able to surpass their strength aside from the gravity of the sun. And so on. They are quite the rarity - only a handful registered in Megaera's reports - and most of which are dead, destroyed for not willingly going into the Dirae's service, or rejecting the change.
"Is moping the only pastime you have anymore?"
I glanced down just in time to glimpse Lucas's form as he sprung lightly onto the roof beside me, his rich brown hair still slightly damp from a recent shower. He was one of the only people in the House that I could honestly say I'd taken a liking to - he and Imogen. We'd spent days at a time up here before, one leaving the other to loneliness as he so desired it. I provided a bit of a smile for my friend.
"I was just thinking," I said softly, turning back toward the sun. It was almost entirely exposed by the horizon at this point.
I considered this for a moment. Did I trust him with my contemplations, with my desires? Did I dare expose myself?
"Have you ever thought of the world outside of this place?" he asked suddenly, seeing through my reluctance on the subject. He knew that I had, as we had spoken about it on many occasion.
"Not the human world," he corrected himself, watching the sunrise with his intense green eyes. "You and I have both seen the human world. I speak of the Fury world; being normal, not Elite."
Lucas and I had been brought here together, trained together, and turned together. I could recall the first time I saw him, after being taken from the orphanage in France, just as terrified as I and surrounded by impossible, beautiful people. I didn't know then how much we would soon suffer together.
"Yes," I answered him with a wry smile. "In fact, I was just thinking about that."
"Freedom." He sighed in longing.
"What would you say…" I began, keeping my face expressionless. "If I proposed the possibility of freedom? Would you be willing to risk it?"
He turned those green spotlights on me, chuckling slightly, as though I were administering a joke. "You can't be serious," he insisted.
I hesitated, looking away from him and into the distance. "And if I am?"
"I've been considering this for some time now," I continued, lowering my voice to protect our conversation from eavesdroppers. "How might I make a grand escape from such a censored place as this? There is no such thing as simply running from the Dirae. We would have to catch them unsuspected."
"Holy hell, you are serious!"
"Of course, if we were caught, there would be punishment. We would lose the bit of freedom we are granted yet, probably spend a good week or so with the Iron Maiden. A small price to forfeit for the chance of success." I looked at him, hard, preparing to decipher his answer, and asked again, "Would you be willing to risk it?"
He stared at me, dumbfounded, as I waited. A few morning birds chirped in the distance; a stale wind rustled the tops of trees.
"Whatever your choice may be," I concluded, standing from my sitting position. "I'm leaving, with or without your company."
I dropped down onto my window sill and slipped back into my room, deliberately as silent as possible. Not a moment after I slid the window closed, a small thud as the two slabs of wood collided, did I hear the slow creak of a door swing open. I exhaled, froze solid, and stared out the window, wishing it all away. Nameless gods did not hear my prayers.
The ominous tap of a pair of excessively high heels spoke as clearly as blackmail, raking against my resolve. Had I not just spoken of escaping this woman? Delicate fingers brushed gently up into my hair, hot breath on my neck, smelling strongly of death. It took all the force in my body not to shudder with hatred.
"Little Lizzie took an axe, gave her father forty whacks," Alecto sang softly into my ear, brushing her nose up and down my neck. "When she saw what she had done, she gave her mother fourty-one."
I tried to walk away from her, but her claw-like nails were in my shoulder, holding me in place. I didn't dare push her away, but, rather, allowed her to swing me around to face her. I did refuse, however, to look at her, opting for the hard-wood floor, counting the blemishes on the surface. This, I knew, would annoy the woman beyond imagination.
"Look at me," she ordered harshly, and this time I knew I had no choice but to oblige. Her strawberry hair was messed from the hunt, her eyes narrowed in frustration, creating unattractive wrinkles to criss-cross between her brows. I took great pleasure in this flaw, smirking at her for less than a moment before grasping control of my facial muscles again.
Her eyes softened too quickly, destroying the genuine expression she was going for. One of her hands cupped my chin, rubbing it with the touch of a lover, and she tilted her head to a smile. But Alecto did not love me. She was one incapable of emotion, and so she did not love anyone. Not even herself.
She leaned forward, close enough to barely touch, and placed her other hand to hold my face in conjunction with the first. She then traced my jawline with her nose, slowly, leaving a line of cold where the sun had minutes before warmed. It passed over my cheekbones, nose, and lips, her breath feathering against my neck. The only movement I made was to clench my teeth.
"Why are you always so tense?" she asked me too softly, continuing to create friction with alternating facial features. Though she didn't do it often, I was never quite sure why this question was put to words. I never had an answer that I was willing to give her, nor that she would want to hear, and she knew this. That's why she came, sometimes three visits in the span of a week, other times not one for six months. Because she knew how I loathed her, and she enjoyed the fact.
"It goes quickly if I endure in stillness and silence," I addressed her question tartly, closing my eyes as her nose traveled across my eyelids. Of course, I did not love Alecto. In fact, I was so disgusted by both she and her sisters that denying myself the leisure of pulling away and rejecting her advances, after all these years, was an achievement unto itself.
She clucked her tongue in disapproval, her breath light on my lips. "Are you aware of what makes you so appealing?" she asked curiously as she proceeded to nuzzle the curve where my shoulder met my neck. Her hands traveled upward into my short, dark hair.
"Enlighten me," I said wearily.
"I delight in your suffering, dear prince. It makes my heart sing to hear your teeth grind, to see the hatred in the line of your brow. Don't you see that your curses are my blessings?" She paused, then, after further consideration, added, "Not to mention you have an adorable sense of humor."
When I did not respond, she pulled back and scanned my face. Her eyes caught suddenly on my cheek, and she reached up to stroke it with her fingertips. "What is this?"
I clenched my teeth, damning the Lacey girl to hell. "Firestone had a few friends," I answered in ill humor with a dry smile.
She did not respond in kind. Her eyebrows pulled together again, creating familiar wrinkles in the smooth-as-stone skin that would never change, despite her age. It might please me that she should have a flaw, but it was evanescent in its appearance, and therefore only the ghost of pleasure. In her milk-chocolate eyes was an unnerving emotion: a worry. I bit the tip of my tongue.
"It's nothing," I snarled, taking the excuse to pull away from her and move a few feet at a distance. Her eyes hardened, her worry melting into deep-seated anger.
"We've detected two new potential glass children," she informed me mechanically. "We're going to require your services sometime in the near future in order to apprehend them."
The last five glass children had all rejected the change – in fact, there had not been a new Elite since Michael, about twenty years before – and so this was of great importance to the Dirae, as they felt they were losing their... touch. In my head, I told myself I would not be around to aid in the apprehension. This gave my hollow heart a smudge of hope.
A soft sigh penetrated the silence, and she came toward me. I made no attempt to escape, allowing her fingers to clutch the side of my head and lift my eyes to meet her's. She glanced out the window, studying the smoothie-sky, and smiled an ironic, rueful smile that seemed strained, as though she hadn't used those particular muscles in a long time. "I used to love to watch the sun rise."
"No longer?" I asked, more to amuse her than out of actual curiosity.
"No." Her voice was bitter, how it usually sounded when we weren't alone together.
I blinked, out of habit more so than need. "Why is that?"
"I finally acknowledged the fact that I am, and forever will be, dead."
I stared at her pretty face, stared at the human mask that disguised a feral creature located not far or deep within, and, for a moment, it seemed she and I might have something in common. But it vanished just as quickly as it had come in such a way that I questioned it being there in the first place.
She tilted my head down gently so that she could plant a small kiss to my forehead, then the tip of my nose, and, finally, my lips.