River of Shadows – Chapter 4

Memory was a curse, yes, he thought, but it was also the greatest gift. Because if you lost memory you lost everything.”
– Anne Rice

**

Caleb and Ella woke up shivering and with their clothes soaking wet. Ella had never experienced cold like this, or at least, she didn’t remember it. She was never sick, never had a fever. The sky was filled with dark clouds threatening rain at any minute again.

“What the -“

“What does this mean? I never saw it raining, never felt my body this cold.” She didn’t have to add the ‘I don’t remember’ part.

“Take off your clothes,” Caleb says.

“What?” she asks him, unsure of what his intentions are at the moment, all things considered.

“Just remove the clothes on your body and produce new ones.”

She’s taken by surprise at the demand, but in a low whisper she replies, “I can’t.”

“Then take this as a lesson. If you don’t remove the clothes you have on now, you are going to get sick.” He replies. His clothes are gone, for two seconds she slides her eyes across his body. Muscle everywhere, but the handsome kind of way. His golden skin shining with small drops of water in his chest.

She takes a quick glimpse at the tattoo forming on his hip making its way towards his chest and for a quick second, it looked as if it was moving. Before she can see more, new clothes are back on him.

Ella took off her clothes, staying in her underwear made her feel self-conscious and strange. She has memories of her fiancé but none include having her stand in her underwear for his eyes to prey. Caleb didn’t make her feel uncomfortable, in fact, he barely even bothered to look at her. It just made her feel even worse.

She tried her best and after a few minutes, new clothes were covering her body.

Without looking at her, Caleb said: “Let’s move.”

They keep going, as they move, the sky changes with them, blue and sunny. Warm wind, no signs of rain or that it happened. After walking for what it seems days, her feet began to feel sore, her stomach aching with hunger. Ella begs him to stop.

“Magic isn’t just people creating pretty things out of it, bad people use it too. We have to keep going. If they find you…” He stops himself from saying more.

“What do you mean?” He doesn’t say a thing. “CALEB, please.” She stops walking.

“Sorry your Highness, not everything is rainbows and rays of sunshine like it were back in your Vila.” He speaks with such bitterness that it catches her by surprise. There’s also a pang in her chest. She looks at him as if she never saw him before.

“I,” She pauses her hand in front of him.

“Don’t. You know who I am? So you were pretending all this time?”

“Don’t you mean, you were pretending all this time? I could recognise you miles away. His scent is all over you. I remember your face. You told me a different name so I thought it would be wise to respect your choice. If you wanted me to know, you would have told me, Ava.

She feels sick. “His scent, what are you, a dog? How do you know Aiden?”

“He’s my brother.”

She said nothing. She didn’t have anything to say so she waited for him to go on. To explain all of this. Both in silence, just standing there not moving, waiting for one or another to speak. When it reached a point they could no longer stand it, Caleb broke it off.

“This,” He waves his hands around, “where we are is not what it seems. There’s so much you don’t know or you don’t remember. Not everything is magic. Unlike what you were made to believe, a lot of people don’t have it. Outside, there are people without any access to it. And so they fear us, they hunt us like animals. Do you understand what I’m saying? We are the villains in this narrative. The monsters and souls that belong to the Devil.”

Once more, Ella remains quiet.

“Humans.” He speaks again.

“Aren’t we humans?” She laughs.

“I guess. We are witches? We have what they can’t so in the name of God, they kill us.”

“I don’t remember any of this. If I was… If I am the Queen then I had to know, right? All I can remember is growing up here. Protected.”

“Most of us don’t even know that there is an outside. But then sometimes something will mess it up, mess with the shield,”

“Like the rain.” She interrupts and he nods.

“And if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, there goes your head.”

“That’s awful,” Ella replies, covering her mouth with her right hand. “Have you been outside, seen them?”

“Once. With Aiden. When they nearly got me, he left, ran away.”

She walked towards him, the weather was back in its normal state around this place. Her left hand reached for his hair. She stroked his silver curls, only a few falling into his eyes, the outsiders unmatch for the rest of his hair – he let her do it.

This time it didn’t blind her.

“Why is your hair silver?”

“It just gets this way, the colour makes people curious and if you are the enemy, it comes in handy.”

“Just like your eyes.” She adds, looking into them. Lost.

Nothing dangerous happened this time, not in the way she was expecting something to happen. Inside of her something was awakening, not her powers. A different kind of feeling that felt both familiar and strange.

Inches apart she could feel his breath, his lips parted and closing her eyes she just waited for him to make the first move. She was feeling desperate for him to touch her, to kiss her.

Every memory she had of Aiden, it lacked this. It lacks feeling.
It felt forever until she finally felt his lips on hers. Soft at first, barely touching but the kiss was growing into something else. Hunger, lust. His hands moved and rested on her waist. He was holding her so close like at any second he could lose her and never find her again. It did not go further than this.

Caleb was the one to push away. Ella didn’t open her eyes, didn’t want it to end. The smile forming on her lips is quickly turned into a frown when she opens her eyes and sees the expression on his face.

“What’s wrong?”

“Ava…” He calls her by her real name and everything inside of her shifts, everything that she was feeling suddenly gone.

“No. I’m Ella with you. I’m not Ava here, I’m not her anymore.”

“You’re wrong,” he says, avoiding eye contact. “You are everything I remember.”

“What are you talking about?” She shouts. Tears start rolling, she doesn’t clean them away.

“Aiden took you from me like he did with everything else. It’s not random that he is the only person you remember.”

“Are you saying that he is the reason this happened to me? I can’t remember,”

“Because he doesn’t want you to. I thought spending time together would bring something out. I kissed you but it didn’t felt the same.”

It felt like arrows being shot directly into her heart. A burning sensation rising up to her chest, the need to throw up also rises but Ava refuses to show any sort of weakness. Keeping the pain out of her face became a real struggle.

Feelings of hatred towards Aiden began to appear. But towards Caleb as well, for not letting her know sooner. Or maybe this was all a lie. She had no way of knowing, maybe he was having fun messing with her head full aware that it would eat her up inside and without memories she would be quick to accept whatever piece of fake truth was thrown at her.

Caleb… If he truly knew her, if the way he spoke meant they were lovers then why he didn’t try to save her? He could have stopped whatever it was done to her.

Her thoughts are interrupted by the sound of his voice.

“Shields up.”

“What?” She snaps.

“Please, I can feel everything coming from your power. Your energy, it’s not pleasant.”

“Oh, no,” she snaps, this time for real. “You don’t get a free pass on feelings while I’m here stuck feeling this much. Your name is probably not even Caleb. All this time,” she takes a look down to both her arms, full of tiny stars, so many nights together. “You didn’t bother to help me, tell me the truth and release me from the agony of not being able to remember. Of loving someone that apparently I’m not supposed to love.”

He reacts to the last part, low as if he was afraid to speak up, he said: “I did help you. You got your powers under control. Weren’t you feeling better?”

“I was. Until you kissed me, touch me and then broke me into a million pieces all over again.” And then she was walking. Walking away from him as fast as she could. He didn’t chase after her.

She ended up in a forest, the weather constantly the same that it was starting to get boring. Alone in the woods, the memories of the rain and everything Caleb told her came to her. She didn’t feel scared, perhaps she should considering she’s all alone. For a tiny moment, she even hoped someone would breach the shields and take her away, to experience a different place. See the threat for herself. Maybe find lovely people and discover that all of this is nothing but a farce.

Watching the birds, the movement of the wind and feeling every part of her body sore she thought about how pretty the place was. Perfectly made for imperfect people.

Then, like a wave, everything came back to her. The impact so strong in her mind that it made her fall into the ground. Gasping for air, every part giving in. As if struck by lightning, her body couldn’t hold it. Everything went black.

After how long she couldn’t tell but slowly she opened her eyes adjusting to the light. Each time she tried to get up she failed and fell to her knees. All of her forces returned slowly, one by one she regained feeling. Breathing became easier and she was able to finally stand.

“Theo!” She shouted.

“THEO!” She was running now, desperate to find him.

“Theo!” She was getting close to the place she left him. “I remember, I remember everything.” She spoke to no one.

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