A putrid and ominous voice snakes its way through the darkness of night, “the blood of a murderer flows through your very body.” A frightened teenage girl dangles from a tree blindfolded. A black smoky chain binds her wrists, stretching her arms above her head. The tips of her toes just barely touching the ground. “You pose a threat to me,
“What do you want! No one in my family murdered anyone!” The young girls voice starts to shake with fear and anger.
The grotesque voice gurgles out a chuckle, “these people are not your blood family, stupid girl.”
“I do not even know my birth parents. Whatever they did has nothing to do with me!” Anna pleadingly replies.
“Those weak and vile…” his voice trails off for only a moment. Anna could suddenly feel a presence standing right before her. “Something so small and fragile threatens to destroy everything I work so hard for.” A rough hand runs slowly down the side of Anna’s face. Attempting to turn her head away, the hand harshly grabs her chin, forcing her face upwards, “I am not the only one who wants to see you dead.”
The blindfold is suddenly yanked away from Annalia’s eyes. A black, smoldering silhouette clouds her vision, leaving her lungs aching as she inhales the decaying smell of the smoke permeating around her. With the snap of his fingers, a blaze of fire entraps the area. Anna’s terrifying screams echo throughout the night only to fall silent before reaching anyone. With every second, the fire grows taller, coming together as if to cocoon the two of them inside.
“It’s time for you come with me.”
“HEEEEEELP!” An abrupt force of energy escapes Anna when she screams, sending the figure before her hurling against a tree.
Jolting awake by her own screams, Anna bolts upright from her nightmare. The thin, black, cotton t-shirt she is wearing, clings to her back, while a small bead of cold sweat inches its way down her cheek. Her enlarged pupils scan the dark room before her. The light of the moon illuminates only a small portion, but it is enough for Anna to see she is in her own room. A faint knock disrupts Anna’s thoughts and the door opens before she can even answer.
“Is everything okay?” Mia, Anna’s mother, stands just outside the door, dressed in a pearl colored gown topped with a silky, matching robe that loosely hangs open.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a bad dream is all,” Anna replies.
“Try to get back to sleep. You have a busy day tomorrow,” Mia takes one more side glance at her daughter before quietly closing the door.
Left alone with unnerving thoughts, the voice in her dream haunts her reality. Slithering through her mind like a poisonous serpent; sinking its fangs into her mind, filling it with toxic visions. Anna lies back on top of the covers and stares at the shadows on the ceiling. Her eye lids grow heavier the longer she fights sleep.
The curtains are thrown back, allowing the morning sunlight to flood the room. Anna pulls the covers over her head to shield her eyes from the intense morning sun.
“You must wake up miss Torres. Your mother specifically requests that you get up early this morning to have a proper breakfast and to practice before your competition,” Ketrina, the maid, peels the covers back. “Good morning Annalia.”
“Ketrina, could you kindly inform my mother that there is no need for me to get up this early. I did not have a good night,” Anna sits up on the side of the bed, running a hand through her long chestnut brown hair.
“Now you know I cannot do that. I just do what I am told. I will let your mother know you are up. Why don’t you jump in the shower before coming downstairs.” Ketrina glances at Anna still sitting on the bed. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, I have just been having bad dreams the past few nights. They seem to get more intense,” Anna replies.
“Want to talk about it?” Ketrina asks, brushing Anna’s hair out of her face. She started working for the Torres family shortly after Anna’s adoption. Anna confides more in her than her own mother.
“No, not really, but I’m going to take you up on that suggestion. Can you please let mom know I will be down after my shower?” Anna glances towards Ketrina and forces a smile. There was nothing more Anna could want except for this day to end. After her competition, her and her mother would be attending a party her father is throwing for all the big-league lawyers and businessmen.
“I will. We will see you in a bit,” Ketrina grabs some clothes off the floor and quietly leaves.
“Yeah.” Anna whispers to herself before heading to the bathroom.
Mia sits at the bar, tapping her nails casually against the coffee cup between her hands. The warm, mocha kitchen gleams beneath the sun pouring through the elegant ceiling windows. Golden highlights gloss the vibrancy of Mia’s fiery red hair while she basks in the warmth of the sun. Drifting away with her thoughts as her gaze becomes distant, a frown slightly forms across her thin aging lips. It was Annalia’s entry that pulls her back in.
“Ah, you finally made it down. Come sit and have breakfast,” Mia smiles, pouring orange juice into an empty glass sitting in front of a bowl of mixed fruit, and half a bagel. “Your competition starts at three and then we will be attending your fathers party at six.”
Anna remains silent; taking small bites out of a strawberry while swallowing the disgust of her father’s party.
Standing among a sea of some of the wealthiest while plastering a smile at their pretentious gazes and backhanded remarks. Anna can start to feel a tension headache lingering around the back of her neck.
“I will a choose a dress for you to wear at both events. You will not have time to come home and change,” Mia pauses a moment before grabbing a strawberry and taking a bite, “the Cohen’s will be attending. Eric will be there as well.” Eric Cohen comes from more money than his family knows what to do with. To add the cherry to the narcissism, Eric is very good looking which usually leaves a trail of absent-minded girls in his path. Anna seems to be the only one not swooning at his feet, which somehow entices him more.
Anna abruptly stands up, and uncomfortably clears her throat, “I am going to go practice.” Avoiding additional conversation with Mia, Anna hurries out of the kitchen and upstairs to the music room.
The room was decorated in a plush, deep Merlot carpet with slate gray walls. Anna runs a slender finger along the mural she painted not long ago. A gorgeous Cherry Blossom tree garnishes the wall. Along the adjoining wall, plastic covers the floor, held down by several scattered paint cans. The beginning of a koi pond starts to flourish, flowing in sync with the mural. This room is her haven. Playing one of her instruments, transports her mind away from anything she may be bothering her. Though she could play a variety of instruments, the violin and the piano are her favorite.
The harmonious melody each produces has its way of soothing her soul. Anna removes the Gliga Vasile Stradivari wood violin from its stand and positions herself in front of the opened balcony doors. A fresh aroma of Spring fills her lungs and livens up the room. The delicate material of her soft pink dress flutters in the breeze against her olive skin.
Anna places the violin beneath her chin, and gently pulls the bow across the strings. A sadness filters through the music; her feelings portraying each note. Closing her eyes, she imagines the world beyond the doors falling silent, entranced by the melody before it floats off into the distance with the wind.
Anna loses herself in the music and disconnects from time until Ketrina lightly knocks on the door and enters the room. “It’s twelve-thirty and Mrs. Torres requests that you start getting ready. You have an hour and a half before you leave.”
“Thank you Ketrina,” Anna replies. She waits until the door clicks shut before moving to put away the violin.
A black long sleeve, long dress with wide, open crisscross back detail, hangs off the closet door. Sitting on the edge of the bed are a pair of black Etona Leather and Satin Sandals with crystal straps, remaining in their opened box.
Anna undresses and slips on the beautiful gown that contours to her body’s natural curves. Holding her hair up, she slowly turns and admires the reflection looking back at her. Sitting before a large vanity mirror, Anna begins styling her hair into a loose side curl. With her hair in curlers, she effortlessly starts to apply her makeup with precise perfection. Forced into beauty pageants and attending endless parties, she became accustomed to perfecting her makeup.
Glancing at the clock, she notices she is cutting it close with time. Anna finishes up last minute touches and packs up her violin. With one unsteady hand on the door knob, she tries to calm her trembling nerves. Whenever her emotions start to feel out of control, something unexplainable happens. It was not something she could control, except for keeping her emotions in check. She learned at an early age that her own emotions were the trigger for these occurrences. However, it seems recently that it did make much of a difference. The slightest thing could cause something disastrous to happen. Putting her feelings to rest, Anna opens the door and heads out for an unpredictable night.
Anna watches the competitors from the side of the stage. Each of them bringing their own unique talent. With one more person to go on before her, Anna moves back into a corner to quickly meditate to clear her mind. It was the same routine. She would remain calm, and right before it was her turn, on cue her stomach starts to knot up. With numerous competitions under her belt, it never gets easier.
“Next up is Annalia Torres performing Elements by Lindsey Stirling.” An applause erupts throughout the audience. When Anna begins walking across the stage, the only sound is the wild thumping inside her chest and her heels against the floor. Standing center stage, she places the Cherry Oak violin beneath her chin. The melody starts and
the bow pulling against the strings evaporates any lingering nerves. The music erupts from her soul, cascading forward to everyone captivatingly watching Anna move her body with the music. After several minutes the music fades out, and applause once again echoes throughout the room. Anna carefully bows and leaves the stage still feeling alive from the performance. Nothing could ever comfort her or make her feel as alive, more than music.
Once hidden behind the curtain, Anna slumps into a seat. The adrenaline slowly fading, her weak legs give way. Her passion for music did not erase any fears of playing before people. However, it may have not been the playing for people that causes her stomach to knot, but the fear of not scoring first place. Her practicing would be doubled along with lectures on how to improve her talents in which her parents did not possess an ounce of.
After an hour and a half, all of the competitors have taken stage and perform their pieces. There is an intermission before winners are announced. The lights are dim and Annalia quietly waits for everyone to return to their seats.
“Hey, Anna, you did amazing tonight,” April walks over with a few others.
“Yeah, you are very talented. It’s kind of a joke among us that when you are here, we make a pool on who is going to get second and third place. We already know you’re taking first place,” Jennifer smiles.
Anna tries to return the smile, “thank you. You all are good enough to take first place.”
“Thank you, but it has yet to happen with you around.” A tall, slender boy walks forward, “you have taken second place only a few times, but that hasn’t been for quite some time. None of us have a chance with you around. What is your secret? Is your rich family paying off the judges?”
“Brian! That is enough…” April attempts to stop him from going any further.
“No, her rich family does not pay off the judges,” Mia appears behind the three huddled around Anna. “She puts in the effort and practices for several hours a day. If you want to grab first, how about putting in the same dedication and not bully the competition.”
Mia follows them with her eyes as they walk off to a different corner, mumbling amongst themselves. “My main reason for coming back here was to tell you that I sent a video to your father of your performance. He is very impressed and loves the song you chose.”
“As long as he is impressed, that’s all that matters,” Anna remarks sarcastically.
“Don’t be that way Anna. Your father cares a great deal about your accomplishments,” Mia retorts.
“He cares a great deal when I take home the trophy he wants,” Anna responds.
“That is not true, and you know that. We are both very proud of you and just want the best for you.”
“We will be resuming in five minutes. Please, everyone take your seats.” A voice gently comes across the intercom. Mia did not say anything more. She slips out the side quietly, leaving Anna grateful for her departure. This was not the place to get into an argument. Upon request, all the contestants walk onto the stage.
Anna sat with her mother inside of a limousine. Mia firmly and proudly holds onto Anna’s first place trophy, “I am so proud of you. The song you performed was absolutely beautiful.”
“Thank you,” a flicker of a smile appears only for a second before Anna’s gaze fixates on the dark scenery passing by. It was quite clear her mother was only in it for the trophies. For Anna it was all about sharing her talent. Putting her own feelings into every note in hopes that the listener conveys the same emotion. The trophy was nothing more, but for her parents to place it in the trophy case and have something else to brag about; although, all the hard work was her own, they will show off as if they won the trophy themselves.
The limo pulls up in front of a stone manor that resembles an elegant castle, a stone sign, near the walk way, reads Homewood. Guests have already been ushered inside; Annalia and Mia are the last to arrive. The driver gets out and moves around to the opposite side, opening the door, he casually holds out a hand, waiting to assist the two out of the limo.
“I hope you ladies enjoy your night,” the limo driver, Paul, shuts the back door and walks away.
“Come on dear, let’s go inside and find your father,” Mia walks ahead; Anna reluctantly follows. Perfecting that camera-ready smile, Anna grits her teeth as she walks by. Overhearing conversations of who has the better achievements, or women bragging about their newly remodeled million-dollar homes, makes her stomach churn. This party contains elite lawyers among other elite businessmen. Nothing more than walking suits trying to figure out how to earn more money they could not possibly need.
“Ah, there you are. Your mother told me you took first place again. Congratulations, I am so very proud of you. Though, I never had any doubts that you wouldn’t be taking first place,” her father lightly kisses her hair, and dotes on her very openly among those standing around. Each of the men taking their turn to congratulate Anna.
“Congratulations Annalia. I have had the pleasure of seeing you perform before. You are very talented.”
“Thank you very much,” Anna replies politely.
Once David roams away with his colleagues, Mia and Anna slowly make their way through the crowd, stopping momentarily to greet guests. Anna tunes out when she can no longer take listening to her mother boasting about tonight’s and every other competition, any chance she saw the opportunity. From the corner of her eye, Anna notices a tall figure casually moving through the crowd. Eric Cohen, the arrogant ladies’ man, is slowly moving closer. A smug smile paints his egotistical body language. CEO’s stop to shake his hand while a few girls try anything to grab his attention.
“Excuse me, I am going to step outside,” Annalia politely excuses herself.
“Is everything okay?” Mia asks in a surprisingly sudden show of concern.
“Yeah, everything is fine. Just getting a little warm in here. I will be back shortly,” Anna breaks away before any more questions that aid in a failed attempt to escape. Easily slipping among the slightly intoxicated crowd, Anna carefully makes a path to the front entrance, leaving behind the inaudible murmurs and veil of strong perfumes.
Anna moves around to the side of the property. Completely void of any loitering, mindless guest, she finally relaxes and leans against the stone siding. A long-interrupted breath escapes her lungs. She could not remember taking a single breath while making her escape. The cool night air replaces the foul stench that felt as if it were suffocating her. If Anna could just survive tonight, she would be free from any competitions or parties for a few months. Annalia ponders about her free time, until a voice causes her stomach to knot.
“Are you trying to avoid me?” That voice could only belong to Eric Cohen. He runs a hand through his thick brunette hair.
“What do you want Eric?” Anna asks coldly.
Eric clicks his tongue in annoyance, “that’s not very nice. I was just checking up on you. Your mother said you came out here for some air. It may have been of coincidence, but I believe it was because you noticed me coming over.”
“Was me leaving not enough of a hint?” Anna quips back, moving away from his approaching figure. Her defiance ignites a spark in him. He wanted to tame her, claim her as his own.
The weather unexpectedly decides to take a turn; the wind begins to pick up while the once clear sky becomes blanketed in a somber mixture of grey clouds. Eric keeps Anna’s gaze locked, the air surrounding them feels thick and tense. Anna could feel her heartbeat rattling off her rib cage.
“I’m going to go in—” Anna tries walking around Eric, but he grabs her roughly by the arm and pushes her back against the house.
“No, I don’t think you should go anywhere right now. Let’s talk first, Annalia,” his whisper brushes her ear, causing Anna to cringe at the feeling. His fingers graze against the exposed skin of her lower back. “What is it exactly that has you turned off from a relationship with me? Hm?”
“Do you want an honest answer?” She asks.
“Why else would I ask?”
Anna hesitates for a moment. Eric was capable of harming her if she ****** him off, but something inside boils over,
“you’re arrogant. You walk around here like the world owes you something, that people are supposed to bow at your feet. You thrive off the numerous girls that fall for your rich and powerful smile. Only to leave them when you get bored with them, or should I say after you have slept with them.” Anna watches his expression, his head just barely twitches, but he regains his composure.
“I don’t know what you’ve heard about me, or rumors going around, but I am not the playboy you make me out to be.
Yes, I use my status to get what I want. Be honest with yourself Anna, the only way to make it in this world is by who you know and money. Those other girls are only attracted to my money, but you, you keep pushing me away no matter what I have.”
“I don’t need or want your money,” Anna glares up at his hypnotic stare.
“I know. You’re strong will is what fascinates me,” he traces a finger along Anna’s jawline. “I haven’t congratulated
you yet on your competition tonight.”
“Enough, I’m going inside,” quickly squirming out of his grasp, she goes to walk off only to be grabbed forcibly once again. Anna screams as she is slammed against the house. With a sudden burst of energy that knocks Eric backwards, simultaneously, all the windows of the house explode into shards of glass flying in every direction. A bolt of lightning strikes part of the yard, causing a power outage. Screams wail out through the dark venue as people blindly stumble throughout the glass ridden halls towards the closest exit. Anna remains motionless, a knot prevents air from moving into her lungs as her mind slowly processes what happened. Eric lay a few feet away on the ground, gazing up at her in stunned disbelief. His face is streaked with ***** of blood, from the glass that grazed his face.
The noise coming from the front where people were finally emerging, causes Anna to rush back and search for her parents. Maneuvering through the crowd, Anna notices some people more hurt than the others. Anna waits along the side of the path, scanning the crowd frantically for any sign of her parents. Finally, they come out and spot Anna waving them down.
Mia rushes up to Anna, “oh thank goodness you’re safe. I don’t know what happened. There was a loud pop, everything went dark, and the windows shattered!” David walks away, on the phone with someone, furiously explaining what happened.
“I don’t know, I was outside when it happened. There was lightening, but that’s the only thing I saw before I covered my head,” Anna vaguely responds. She was well aware the cause of this freak and horrible incident was because of her. It was a secret she harbors alone since she was a child. Lately it has proven harder to control.
“Mia, Paul is going to take you and Anna home. I need to stick around for a while. I do not know what time I will be home,” David sees Mia and Anna off towards the limo, where Paul was waiting with the door open.
The ride home was quiet. Anna could not forget the strange feeling that came with these sudden bursts of strange events. When this power in her arises, it is a sensual and entrancing feeling. Making it harder to control since her body gives into it on its own. Telekinesis was the first thing she remembers experiencing. Anna was only seven-years-old, and her mother would selfishly enter her into glam pageants, one after the other. She would have to practice for hours on dance routines and how to perfectly stand and walk. One day she took off running down a path in the woods behind their home. A short distance away was a creek with a single chair in a grassy patch. It was her hideaway where she could hide from everyday life. Right when she entered the small clearing, she screamed which sent the chair flying into the creek. Everything bothering her up until that point vanished. She carefully walked to the creeks edge and tried focusing the pulsating energy into moving the chair from the water. The chair attempts to move, only rocking a little until Anna put more force into focusing. Slowly, Anna uses her mind to drag the chair from the creek and set it up right. The memory fades away when they pull up in front of the house.
“Honey, do you want—” Mia’s words are cut short.
“I’m going to bed,” Anna gets out and walks ahead, leaving her mother alone in the back of the limo.
Anna undresses in the middle of the room. Letting the dress slip to the floor, taking it off was like shedding the night away. She slips on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts and goes out onto her balcony. Taking a seat in a wicker chair, she gazes up into the clear night sky. There was no hint of the previous storm that happened less than a half hour ago.
The stars and moon were brilliantly bright. Anna felt more connected with the universe than she did with the people around her. That night’s events keep replaying in her mind. If Eric had only left her alone, none of this would have happened. Nobody would have gotten hurt.
The thump of something falling wakes Anna from the wicker chair she was curled up on. Taking a glance at the clock next to her bed, it was only a little past ten p.m. Another thump interrupts the dark, quiet house. Thinking it may be one of her parents, she walks slowly towards her parent’s bedroom. The door is slightly ajar; a light peeking through, dances against the wall as if made by candles. Anna was just about to knock, but her hand freezes at the sound of her mother’s voice.
“Paul, you need to keep it down. You’re going to wake Anna.”