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The Beast in Me (completed)
I turned back to Sheena and looked at her intently,
“The worst thing is... I don't even know if... well...”
“What!?” Sheena gasped, hanging on my lips, expecting the worst.
“At this stage it's probably of academic interest only, but... did I... did I get to touch your...?” I made cup-like movements with my hands. Sheena's chin dropped an inch and she goggled at me in disbelief.
Then she said in a burst of laughter,
“Ron! Could we please change the subject!”
She gave me a playful shove to the side and I reached to pull her close again. I suppose as teenagers we were among the lucky beings who had this uncanny capability of switching from a sense of impending catastrophe to a careless demeanor in a matter of seconds. Especially, when freshly fallen in love, I guess one could only worry so much about the future if the present was filled with so sweet distractions.
We started strolling down the slope. I pushed the bike along the path toward the street with one hand and held Sheena in the other arm. A barrier had fallen, it seemed. It felt like we could talk about anything now. We were truly in this together. We were not only facing a deadly enemy attacker but also the threats that our own treacherous second nature posed. I knew we would work this out together somehow. At least, I hoped so - given time. How much did we have? But as we chatted and joked heading toward Mrs. Henderson's, we felt no particular hurry. We were in our own universe for the moment.
“So... how was it when I was out?” I still couldn't get over the fact that I had no recollections whatsoever.
“I told you, you weren't. Not really.”
“...and you could, like, read my thoughts?”
“Uh-huh... pretty single-minded there...” Sheena giggled and blushed.
“...and what were YOU thinking?”
“So, I was doing all the thinking, without knowing... and you were...”
“...knowing without thinking.” Sheena concluded with a giggle.
“But you said you felt powers... that were controlling me.”
“Powers - yes. But they were controlling the both of us... it wasn't anything that I was doing consciously, you know!”
I stopped and looked at her. Then I suddenly had the irrepressible urge to kiss her. I did.
“So?” Sheena asked when I didn't say anything afterwards for a few seconds but just looked at her.
“This time my mind didn't go blank!” I said, almost unable to comprehend.
“I guess... I guess there are different kinds of... of kisses?” Sheena suggested awkwardly, “Back there... it was... maybe you were vulnerable because you were unprepared. Your mind was completely open, it wasn't shielding your soul.”
“That's interesting...” I mumbled. We were now approaching the house of the albino outcast. I parked my bike outside the fence. As long as I've lived and could think, I'd known of her. Little did I suspect that she was a veela descendent or had I even heard of the concept. Now she was a wise old lady to us and the only help that we could expect for getting prepared before the next werewolf attack.
She opened the door for us when we rang the bell and I noticed that she looked less ebullient today than usual. She asked us to have seats at the living room table and went to the kitchen on an errand. It smelled good of some bakery.
There was a sofa that looked cosy and just made for the two of us to snuggle up together but it was occupied by a jumble of old books and a blanket spread halfway across. So, Sheena and I sat down on two less comfortable chairs next to each other. I gestured for Sheena to move closer with her chair, which she happily did. I grabbed her hand and we started teasing each other in the silly way that newly smitten do. After a while, Sheena lay her head on my shoulder. It felt good.
At first, I only saw the two blue globes hovering above the blanket, looking at me. Then the siamese cat actually moved and I saw what it was. I pointed it out to Sheena, who lifted her head to take a look. She was about to say something when Mrs. Hensley finally came back and pushed herself between us. She was holding a tray with a plate full of cookies in her hands and put it down on the table in front of us.
“Sheena knows her!”, she barked out, “That's Diamond, my cat, on her favorite place.” I looked at the old lady, trying to see if I could find the cause of her unfriendly tone today.
“Take some!” she almost ordered me, pointing with her finger at the cookies. I obeyed and slowly reached out for one, not taking my eyes from hers. Sheena leaned over to get herself one, too. She took the opportunity to be quicker than me and hand me one with a grin. I chuckled, softly grabbed her hand, directed it to my mouth and took a bite from the cookie. Then Sheena smiled and took a nibble from it, too. Mrs. Hensley groaned.
“Ah, rats!” she exclaimed as if she had forgotten something, “Sheena, couldn't you be so kind and get us a pitcher with water. You'll find it in the cupboard.” Sheena got up and darted out of the room while Mrs. Hensley distributed the empty glasses. I got the feeling that she was trying to keep us apart. The Myth, no doubt, was haunting her. I couldn't blame her.
She sat down heavily next to her cat and started massaging her own forehead with her one hand. With her other hand she stroked Diamond.
“Are you okay, Mrs. Hensley?” I asked.
“I'm too old for this... I didn't expect anything like this would happen anymore in my old days. When Sheena's mother left Baskerville with Miles I was sure that her bloodline was coming to an end.”
“Why did she leave?” I asked before I could stop myself. Mrs. Hensley took her hand down and looked at me.
“I never found out. It seemed quite rushed at the time, pregnant with Sheena who was born the same year. I think Michelle must have persuaded Miles. I don't think he is the kind of person who was longing to move out into the wilderness.”
“Wasn't that about the time of the previous werewolf attacks?” recalling what Nick Henderson had told me some time ago.
“Previous werewolf attacks? Who said that? - Ah, yes, now I remember the town gossip.” the old lady chuckled, “Yeah, ordinary people get suspicious when such things happen. First there is a sighting. Fear spreads. Hunters are sent out. Sometimes amateur hunters encounter one of these poor beasts and wounds them. That's when they really get dangerous. Then they attack people. And if some unlucky poor bastard gets attacked and dies there is more gossip when they can't find the wolf. Poor thing probably died somewhere in the mountains without getting found. Then it must be `werewolves', of course. Nonsense.”
“I was just thinking that perhaps...” I was getting unsure about my theory now but I continued anyhow, “well, my father... if he's a werewolf... he left us around the time the werewolf attacks ended and this mall owner was killed by them... or him.”
“It wasn't werewolf attacks, I just told you, Ron!” Mrs. Hensley said impatiently to the degree that Diamond jumped off her lap, hissed angrily at me and slunk away, “...and I also told you that it is impossible that your mother wouldn't have noticed his condition... not to mention that he would have started slaughtering the ones closest to him at the first full moon!”
I suddenly realized that Sheena hadn't returned from the kitchen yet. More than enough time had passed for her to find the pitcher and bring the water. I craned my head,
“Sheena?!” I yelled. We waited but no answer came. Mrs. Hensley and I looked at each other and frowned.
“Is she still in the kitchen?” Mrs. Hensley wondered.
“Sheena?!!” I called again and got halfway up from my chair.
“Oh my God!” Mrs. Hensley exclaimed with an expression on her face that scared the wits out of me. “I forgot to lock the back door in the kitchen!”
I don't remember the last time I dashed through a house like a furious mustang, bumping into door posts and skidding on the floor. Mrs. Hensley stumbled out of her sofa and came after me. I reached the kitchen and crashed into the counter with my belly, dampening the abrupt stop with both my hands. I saw an open cupboard but no sign of Sheena. Then I whirled my head and saw that the door to the back yard was ajar. My heart dropped and I broke into a cold sweat. No, this can't be happening! I ripped open the door, pushed against the bug screen and stumbled outside. There the magnificent view over the mountains met me together with the cool evening air. I could see my breath form white clouds in the twilight. Eerily beautiful, yet utterly wasted on me at a time like this. My eyes scanned the sloping yard and into the adjacent woods. Sheena was nowhere to be seen. She could have gone anywhere, I feared to think the word “taken”. I tried again and called with all my might,
It rang in my ears afterward and then it went quiet. But to my surprise I heard a faint,
It was Sheena's voice, yet feeble and muffled. I looked around half relieved to hear her voice but half worried as to what state she was in,
“Sheena!” I said once more in a softer tone and started looking around in corners and places close to the house.
“Down here, Ron!”
I realized that it was coming from inside, somewhere in the kitchen. I dashed back inside and leaned far over the counter. On the other side, I saw Sheena jammed below the sink and tinkering with Mrs. Hensley's waste disposer.
She got up, slightly smudged with grease in her face, but smiling broadly.
“Didn't you hear me answer the first time?”
I closed my eyes and thanked Heaven that I just had my own exaggerated imagination to blame for all my excitement. Mrs. Hensley went around the counter and planted her fists on her hip.
“You aren't trying to fix that darn thing yourself, are you? It never worked properly!”
“Already fixed!” Sheena said proudly, “Oxidized switch contacts. Just needed a little brushing.”
I looked at her amazed when she got up and dusted off her clothes. Sheena smiled,
“Dad always showed me how to fix these kind of things. Gets pretty boring out in the woods if you don't find your own little projects.”
“Tomboy!” the old lady said and chuckled. Sheena looked at me and Mrs. Hensley with a half-smile. “Sorry to give you such a shock, Ron! I was only worried Diamond might wander out for the night again.” Then the old lady shut the door. I still felt my heart racing as a wave of relief washed over me. But all the adrenaline seemed to require me to blow off more steam,
“I could've done that! Look, you got your hair all greasy.” I frowned at Sheena who looked droopily at me. “You look awful! Think that `just needs a little brushing' now, too? At least Mandy would know how to do that right!” Shocked by my own words, I instantly regretted my bad temper. I just mumbled an apology and went out with a bright pink face.
Back in the living room, I plopped into the now-vacant sofa and wanted to bang my head on something. Why was I losing my temper so often? I'm irritable because I'm worried, I told myself. But it left me only half-convinced. I recalled how I snarled at mom earlier today. But it wasn't just that fact. I had felt something inside for her that I never had felt before: a tiny grain of hatred. It scared me. How could I even rudimentarily harbor such feelings?
I sighed and instinctively picked up one of the books that my hand had nudged when I had sat down. I opened it and recognized the calligraphy and the illustrations. It was a veela book. So there were a whole lot more of these around in Mrs. Hensley's household. I flipped leisurely through the pages. Then I suddenly picked up Sheena's and Mrs. Hensley's voices. They hadn't returned from the kitchen yet but they had started a conversation that my super-audio ability was picking up.
“I'm hopeless, Mrs. Hensley! I want to be the beautiful girl that Ron wants... but sometimes I think I never will be. Now he hates me.”
I froze inside. I wanted to run back into the kitchen and fall on my knees and beg for forgiveness for my stupidness and take Sheena in my arms. Then I heard the old lady say,
“Nonsense! You are becoming a veela and your beauty will flourish in ways you can't imagine!”
“But Ron was put off by my unfeminine behavior.” Sheena dropped the screwdriver into the sink.
“Can't you see, he's just worried about your safety! He loves you... and I can see that it's mutual. You two neglected my words of warning! Oh dear!”
“I read in the books, Mrs. Hensley. Is it true that... that veelas cannot truly feel love?”
“Nonsense!” the old lady scolded. Sheena sighed relieved. “You're not fluent enough yet, I suppose. What the books say is that the love of a veela extends to all innocent beings, they do not love selfishly, not personally.”
I heard Sheena gasp in horror.
“Sheena, I was trying to warn the both of you! Veela lore is wise. A veela's purpose is to ensure the safety of people from evil, not the pursuit of personal happiness.”
Tears formed in Sheena's eyes, I could smell the salty wetness. I was too shocked to move.
“Then I don't want to be a veela! I don't want to lose Ron!”
“Foolish girl! We don't choose these things. Ron is a werewolf. The both of you will eventually show your true nature and then...” Mrs. Hensley sighed. “Your mother knew better... she wanted to prepare you. Ron and you were never meant to fall in love with each other. Ron is at risk to switch to the other side at any point. You have to stop seeing him!”
“How much time do we have left before we... switch?”
“This isn't science, Sheena. Veelas and werewolves mature at their own rates but sooner or later you will have to deal with the fact...”
“What happens... to a veela? How do they become true veelas... and lose their... their humanity?” Sheena said a bit disgusted.
“You're using the wrong words. For me veelas are the purest beings of all, something I never could be myself. You are fortunate. By some mechanism... you have been bestowed the gift of becoming a true veela.”
“I don't want to become... some kind of nun!” Sheena cried out. I could have heard that through the house even without my super-audio. Mrs. Hensley chuckled,
“If that's what you wish to call it... but seriously, Sheena. One day, not so far from now, you will want to become a veela all by yourself. It's inevitable!” Mrs. Hensley oracled.
“I refuse to believe it! There must be another way!” Sheena started stomping out of the kitchen.
“Sheena! You must know one more thing...” Sheena stopped and turned around, trembling.
“The final stage of becoming a veela...”
“I know... we become ghosts.”
“...with immense powers and immortality! But it is a conscious choice - only the most worthy of veelas make the complete transformation.”
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