The promise, p.29
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       The Promise, p.29

         Part #4 of Fallen Star series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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Page 29

  I think you re wrong.

  I frowned.

  Those don t sound like me at all.

  She smiled delicately.

  But they are, Gemma. They really are.

  Is that why I was freed from Helena?

  I tucked my hair behind my ears.

  Because I sacrificed my life.

  She walked for the middle of the tree, her blue dress whipping behind her.

  You re here because everything happens for a reason. You re here because both of you made the sacrifice.

  I m not sure I understand.

  I followed her.

  Both of us made the sacrifice. Did Alex die too?

  She quickly shook her head.

  You re here because you carry the soul of another, which means Helena can t make a bargain with just you. She d also have to make one with Alex. No one can own either of your souls without the other.

  So I m an essence?

  I turned over my arms, wondering if I was going to turn into an orb.

  Is that what you want?

  Her blue eyes were pressing.

  Do you want to be here?

  Do I have another choice?

  She sat down on the grass.

  If you choose to say here with me you can. But if you choose to leave, you can go back to your life.

  My life,

  I whispered, a gentle breeze kissing at my cheeks.

  If you want.

  I sat down on the ground beside her and plucked at the grass, thinking about my life.

  But why is Annabella letting me go? Why doesn t she keep me?

  Because she can let you go,

  my mother said.

  She could either let you go or take you both. You and Alex are bonded take one, they have to take you both.

  We re bonded together forever.

  But why not just take us both?

  I know this is hard for you to understand, but not everything is evil.

  She picked a violet flower from the ground and spun it in her fingers.

  What you did to save the lives of everyone else that was the very essence of good. You need to understand that everything isn t evil in the world. There is also good.

  And Annabella s good?

  I let go of the pieces of grass and watched them blow into the garden full of lilies, roses, and vines twisting from the trees.

  Annabella is what she chooses to be,

  she said.

  Just like you can.

  I swallowed hard, letting it sink in. I didn t expect this. I thought I became a Lost Soul.

  I know. And that s why you re one of the good ones. You went into this blind.

  She paused, handing me the violet flower.

  So what will it be, Gemma? Do you choose life? Or death?

  I stared at the flower as it rested in the palm of my hand.

  What about you?

  I m right where I belong,

  she said.

  It s you that needs a place.

  I don t think I can leave you,

  I muttered.

  Knowing I ll never see you again. You took your own life to save me. Why don t you get a choice?

  We ll see each other again.

  She squeezed my hand.

  This isn t good-bye forever.

  I thought about life, about the pain I d been through. But the tiniest moments the stolen kisses, the whispered words, the possibilities helped me to choose. I released the flower and let the wind carry it away to the unknown.

  I want to go back.

  White and red flower petals blew through the air as she nodded and stood to her feet, brushing the grass off her dress.

  One last good-bye before you go.

  I hugged her with all I had in me, not wanting to let go, but knowing I had to. When I backed away, she was gone and Annabella stepped out from behind the tree.

  You choose life?

  She asked.

  Is that your final decision?

  I nodded.

  I choose life.

  Chapter 47

  (Alex)

  The light was warm as it took me away. I could feel her pulse racing to the very end. She was terrified of her death and I wanted to tell her that it was okay that she wouldn t die. But I couldn t.

  When I opened my eyes, I was lying on the floor of the burnt house in Iceland. The cry of the Banshee was nails to my ears. I pushed to my feet, searching for her, wanting to get this over with.

  She was curled in the corner, in her hag form, her skin wrinkled and tattered. Her thin hair hung in her eyes and she showed me her yellow teeth as she smiled.

  I ve been waiting for you.

  I stuffed my hands in my pockets.

  Have you? I m so thrilled.

  She crept to her feet.

  I can t believe I have you. I ve waited forever to get my hands on a soul like yours. Not many humans like to throw theirs away so carelessly.

  It wasn t carelessly,

  I replied, thinking of Gemma. Had she woken up and realized she was still alive?

  She trialed her fingernails along my shoulder and then ran her hands through my hair.

  It seems careless if you ask me throwing your soul away, all to save the life of a human girl.

  I swatted her hand away.

  First off, stay the hell away from me. Just because you own my soul doesn t mean you can put your gross, wrinkly hands on me.

  She snarled and then smiled wickedly.

  You re mine now and I ll do whatever I want with you.

  Then she danced around, shifting into her other form. Her hair thickened and her skin smoothed over.

  There. Is that better for you?

  She reached for me again.

  I shoved her back.

  I said don t touch me.

  You can be bitter all you want,

  she replied.

  But eventually I ll break you.

  I was already broken.

  So what s next? Do you make me your slave? Send me to the Afterlife? Tell me what your great plan is.

  She traced her hands along the burnt walls and pieces crumbled to the floor.

  You re very ungrateful. When you came here asking me to take your soul in return for freeing the girls, I thought I was doing you a favor.

  You were.

  I gritted my teeth.

  But it doesn t mean I hate you any less.

  She dropped her hand, smacking her lips.

  Free souls are hard to find. Even Helena herself would kill for one. The power yours will give me can help me take her down.

  So that s your big plan,

  I said, snorting a laugh.

  You take my soul and try to take down the Queen of the Afterlife. Great plan. You really must be a true genius.

  She lunged for me, wringing my neck and pinning me against the wall. And I let her because I had no fight left in me.

  Defend yourself,

  she growled.

  Or it won t be any fun.

  Let him go.

  The voice chilled the air, but warmed my skin.

  The Banshee let me go, her lips trembling as she turned for the doorway. A woman with white hair, blood red lips, and silver eyes stood in her path.

  The Banshee bowed her head.

  I m sorry Annabella. But he gave me his soul.

  His soul wasn t his to give.

  Annabella walked into the room, glancing around at the charred walls.

  So this is what the entrance of the Afterlife has come to. Looks like things have taken a turn for the worse.

  They have,

  the Banshee said excitedly.

  Perhaps soon, Helena will no longer rule.

  Annabella shoved her to the floor.

  I may not like my sister. But to utter such words about her in my presence is dishonorable.

  The Banshee wept and curled into a ball.

  I m
so sorry.

  Annabella ignored her, her silvery eyes landing on me.

  So this is what you offered in exchange for the freedom of her soul.

  She pulled a disgusted face at the room.

  Very brave of you.

  You re the Queen of the Afterlife s sister?

  I asked.

  So that makes you the

  It makes me nothing,

  she said.

  I choose to be whatever I am. But if you want to know what I reign over, it s the essences.

  I grew worried that something had gone wrong.

  Why are you here?

  She eyed me over.

  I think what you really want to ask is if she s okay if she lived because of your sacrifice?

  Is she?

  I asked.

  Is she still alive?

  She pressed her lips together and her gaze was heavy.

  Tell me, why did you do it?

  Because she was my other half,

  I said.

  And because I love her.

  Other half?

  she considered this with curiosity.

  It s a beautiful concept to me, and maybe that s why I m doing this. It s an amazing gift for two humans to bond themselves together as tight as you have.

  What are you doing?

  My eyes darted to the Banshee as she crawled for Annabella.

  Please don t take him from me,

  she begged.

  I need him.

  So you can try and take Helena s place.

  She laughed.

  That ll never happen.

  Then she whirled her back on me.

  Make sure you live your life the way you want. Second chances are precious and don t come around often.

  Before I could ask her what she meant, I was sucked away into blackness.

  Chapter 48

  (Gemma)

  The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the sky. It was crystal blue, the clearest I d ever seen it. I could hear rippling water, the song of the wind, the breaths of the birds and animals.

  I could hear life.

  His hand was still in mine, but his skin was cold. I quickly sat up and leaned over him.

  Alex, can you hear me.

  He lay motionless and I shook him gently.

  Alex, wake up.

  But he didn t stir. I put my hand on his chest. He wasn t breathing. I sucked back my tears.

  But you weren t supposed to die.

  And then all at once his eyes opened and it was like every ounce of worry and pain elevated from my body.

  Oh my God.

  I sighed back, resting my hands against the grass.

  He sat up and clutched his head.

  What the heck happened?

  We died,

  I said.

  But everything s okay now.

  He arched his eyebrow at me.

  You died? But you weren t supposed to.

  When I was in the Afterlife.

  I shielded my eyes from the sun.

  I told Helena I would give her my soul when I died, in exchange for your life.

  He suppressed a smile.

  What s so funny?

  I asked.

  Nothing, it s just that I made the same promise with a Banshee.

  He lay on the grass, shaking his head and smiling.

  God, we really are bonded together. We even made the same self-sacrificing choice.

  Then he turned serious.

  But why are we here? Alive?

  I traced the scar on my palm.

  Because our souls are connected. If they take one, they take us both.

  He sat up, pressing his hand into mine.

  Then why not take us both?

  Because good does exist apparently.

  It was the promise,

  he said, finally explaining.

  When we made the Forever Promise, our souls mix with each other.

  Did you &

  I hesitated.

  Did you know that when you did it?

  He tangled our fingers, pressing back an amused grin.

  I told you, I know everything.

  I shook my head, but smiled. And it was easy like air.

  Do you feel that?

  Feel what?

  Exactly.

  The electricity was gone. Even though it had brought intensity, it had also brought pain. And I was glad to see it go.

  We sat, staring at the water, stained with the ashes of the evil that eventually would drift away. The peaceful moment was interrupted when my wrist began to burn. At first I didn t look, not wanting to move and shattered the calm bubble that had built around us. But the pain became too intense and I tore my eyes from the water and turned my arm over. Tattooing my wrist was a simple outline of a star. I traced the lines with my fingers, curious what it was. Then Alex put his wrist next to mine and I understood.

  Is it ours?

  I asked.

  He pressed his lips together and smiled.

  I think it is.

  As the sun slipped away behind the mountains and the stars awoke, he touched his lips to mine. And we stayed that way for as long as we wanted.

 
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