Jennie can feel it again.
Turn around, the voice inside her head says.
The gnawing feeling in the back of her mind.
The itch between her shoulder blades.
The unbearable need to just take one look and make absolutely sure. Just one look.
She swiftly turns, her eyes are immediately drawn to a particular spot within the forest, behind the thicket of large unruly bushes. She narrows her eyes and waits for something, a movement, a sign, anything, really. Suddenly the chilly winter wind picks up, effectively blowing her hair into her face and obstructing her line of vision. She irritatedly brushes the dark hair out of her face and focuses back on the spot in the distance.
She stares, long and hard, boring holes into what any other person would write off as nothing, simply the shrubbery being swayed by the wind. Several long seconds pass before she starts to question her own sanity. She starts to turn back to the campfire, where the rest of her friends are partying and drinking away till the crack of dawn.
Just then, there’s movement behind the bushes, a flash of red and black. She stops in her tracks, frozen in place, and scrunches her eyebrows.
A seemingly distant memory starts to manifest itself, clutching at the edges of her consciousness; a girl. Not just a girl, the girl. Full of bright, unwavering, smiles and endless love. She used to be hers.
Used to be, the words echo in her head, mocking her. It still hurts; more than she ever imagined.
The wind starts to pick up again, the chill of winter seeping into her skin and settling inside her bones. She shivers, wrapping her arms around herself and rubbing at her biceps to create some form of friction – heat. Her gaze strays upwards for a second, the large trees seem to be swaying with the wind, at any other moment the sight would be calming to her. In this case, however, the swaying looks ominous, almost. The trees look more like great looming monsters moving back and forth, casting long jagged shadows along the forest floor, waiting to pounce on any unsuspecting victim.
The sound of a branch breaking has her eyes immediately snapping back down, one of the low hanging branches is shaking and awkwardly hanging at an angle. Something dark seems to be moving just beyond the trees within her sight and she unconsciously takes a step forward to get a closer look. The loud sound of dry leaves crunching beneath her shoes only serving to set her nerves on high alert.
A howl sounds off in the distance and she falters.
The leaves start blowing into a flurry around the forest floor, her hair whipping about her face once more.
She can hear scuffling from just ahead, she stops and silently observes the thicket.
Suddenly, low growls erupt from within the bushes and she starts retracing her steps back, away from whatever is up ahead, her eyes wide with fear. She’s walking backwards, unmindful of the broken branches or rocks that litter the forest floor. She steps on a rotten twig, the sound that echoes sounding more like broken bones than wood. The growls intensify and she turns to make a run for it, only to slam right into a semi-solid obstacle. She falls on her behind with a grunt and grabs at the nearest rock within reach, ready to strike down any opponent that stands in her way, or at the very least try. Her heart is nearly beating out of her chest with adrenaline.
“Whoa, whoa, tone it down, Ginger Snaps,” Bobby raises his hands up in mock surrender before offering one to help her get up, “you okay?”
She takes a glance behind her, the growling stopped and the bushes are no longer moving. Her eyebrows come together in a frown as she starts to loosen her grip on the rock.
He pulls her up and she starts to dust herself off.
“What was that all about?”
“I just-,” she takes another lingering look at the thicket near the tree line, “I thought I saw something, that’s all.”
Just then, two large raccoons scamper out of the bushes and onto the nearest tree. Bobby snorts and holds his stomach, his quiet laugh quickly turning into loud guffaws. He turns back and sprints towards the camp, back to the midst’s of the party.
He disappears from her line of sight, but Jennie can still hear him cackling the whole way back and announcing, “Careful, everyone, there’re some real scary racoons out on the loose in the woods!”
Jennie rolls her eyes and mutters under her breath, “Asshole.”
She finishes dusting off the dirt from her jeans and throws one final look at the tree line before making her way back to the campfire.
Unbeknownst to her, a dark figure shifts behind one of the large oak trees. The pale hand that is placed upon it standing out in stark contrast to the dark bark. Obsidian eyes shining and reflecting the remnants of the receding light.
Jennie disappears from sight and the figure huffs in annoyance, stepping away from the tree.
The pale hand leaves behind an abnormally large gash on the trunk of the great oak.
“So, you’re coming to the party, right?”
“Do I have to dress up?”
“Yes,” Jisoo nods enthusiastically.
“Really?” Jennie gives her an unimpressed face.
“It’s not a costume party without a costume, so, yes, you have to wear a costume.”
“Really, really,” Jisoo insists.
“Ugh, fine, I guess.”
“Yes!” The older girl shouts and starts jumping around the room like a kid on a sugar rush.
Jennie laughs under her breath, lightly shaking her head at the older girl’s antics. Her eyes stray to the darkness just beyond her open window and the moving shadows in the alleyway, in between the houses across the street.
There’s a nagging thought in the back of her head.
The feeling is back again.
She feels a shiver run up her spine as her whole body erupts into goosebumps.
From her peripheral vision she sees Jisoo jump onto the bed and sprawl on it like an eagle, her limbs attempting to reach the corners of the bed.
She takes a couple of steps towards the window, her hands coming to rest atop the ledge, and stares out into the darkness. The cool wind is hungrily lapping at her face and taking the precious heat away. Her eyes scan the perimeter, up and down the street, twice, looking for anything out of place.
She comes up blank, but the feeling persists, it’s almost like there’s a voice inside her head telling her to look outside, compelling her. Part of her is already on edge, the same part that is telling her to lock the window and close the blinds. Shut it all out.
Things that lurk within the confines of darkness can only be bad…right?
“Not bad, but, seriously?” Chaeyoung eyes her up and down, fully taking in the older girl’s costume.
“What?” Jennie asks, affronted, “It’s a classic.”
“Unoriginal,” Jisoo finishes off for Chaeyoung, “Seriously, a vampire?”
Jennie shrugs and walks right past the two, “It’s Halloween, people wear costumes, nothing’s original,” she turns at the doorway to glare at them, “Are you coming or what?”
The party, Jennie notes, is better than she actually expected it to be. Much better, really. She’s surprised to find herself enjoying the food and drink, even dancing along to the songs that are booming through the speakers. Jisoo and Chaeyoung constantly come around to check on her and part of her feels guilty because she knows exactly why they’re doing it.
Costume parties often remind her of one particular person – Jisoo and Chaeyoung know that – someone she was never apart of before. Someone who refuses to leave her memories.
The minutes slowly trickle by and she’s already turned away more dance offers than she can count. It isn’t until a certain man, dressed in what Jennie assumes to be a skeleton suit, shyly asks her for a dance, that Jisoo comes up behind her and practically pushes her into his arms.
“Loosen up, it’s a party, can’t dance alone all night long,” she shouts over her shoulder before going back to Chaeyoung and dragging her somewhere.
Jennie silently huffs, slightly annoyed but still well-aware of her friend’s good intentions. Skeleton-man is looking at her like he might just faint if she gives him one of her signature glares, so she holds back and smiles instead.
They dance for several songs, small chitchat and pleasantries scattered in between.
“I’m Jiyoung, by the way,” he introduces himself halfway through one of the songs and Jennie gives him a small smile.
He’s nice, Jennie thinks, really nice.
And handsome, her brain adds after catching a glimpse of his face when he takes off the white mask, complaining about the unexpected heat it brings.
She’s finally starting to have some real fun, her smile more genuine than the fake one she was sporting when he first asked her to dance.
She almost forgets.
The next song comes on, a remix of an older waltz song that has everyone on the dancefloor pretending to courtesy, twirling, and making up their own steps along the way.
They follow along with the crowd, but then Jennie twirls and – instead of falling into the arms of Jiyoung, like she expects to – she falls right into the awaiting arms of a tall red-head. Jennie looks up and is met with a smirk, fangs on full display.
“What are you supposed to be,” she straightens up and motions with her head at the taller girl’s black venetian mask, “a masked vampire?”
The red-head chuckles under her breath, fangs perfectly reflecting the light.
“Something like that,” she says, barely loud enough for the shorter girl to hear. The girl offers her gloved hand and Jennie takes it without thinking twice. She stares, unabashedly so, there’s something about this girl, something about her voice, Jennie can’t quite put her finger on it.
“They look real,” she blurts out, referring to the fangs.
“Good,” the red-head drawls, what was previously a smile turns into a wicked smirk, “they’re supposed to.”
Somewhere in the depths of her mind, Jennie knows she should have at least said something to Jiyoung, excused herself at the very least. Rather than just abandon him on the dancefloor altogether. But, she can’t seem to care. Not when this girl is standing here, with her arms wrapped around her waist, looking at her like she’s the sole person in the entire room.
Her eyes, her dark, nearly obsidian eyes, make Jennie want to fall into their depths and get lost in them forever.
Jennie trails her gaze over her features; the pale skin, the red lips that are still quirked into a small smirk, the red hair that falls over her shoulders just so, the tiny birthmark at the base of the girl’s neck.
It all seems so familiar.
Old memories start to resurface and Jennie internally panics because those memories only ever make her want to cry.
She closes her eyes for a second and lets the girl lead.
Breathe, she tells herself.
In an attempt to keep herself from uselessly tripping over herself, or anyone else in the vicinity, while her eyes are closed she makes the mistake of leaning in closer to her partner. The deep breath catching in her throat when she gets a whiff of the red-head’s unmistakable scent.
Of lilacs and sunshine…
She smells just like her.
The song soon comes to an end, a new one immediately following, and the taller girl hands her a neatly folded piece of paper before walking away. Jennie catches one last glimpse of her long red hair before the girl completely disappears into the crowd, her departure almost as abrupt as her arrival.
Her attention is so focused on looking for the red-head that she doesn’t even notice when Jisoo pushes through the throng of people to stand by her side.
“Who was that?”
Jennie nearly jumps out of her own skin the second Jisoo voices her thoughts, she’d been so absorbed in her own thoughts, in the feeling of…something.
Something so familiar, that she forgot herself and her surroundings entirely.
She eyes Jisoo then turns back in the direction the taller girl left in, “I…don’t know.”
“Did you at least get her number or something?” Jisoo nudges her, the smile more than clear through her tone of voice.
“No, I-,” Jennie squeezes her hand into a fist and is instantly remind of the piece of paper that is now crinkled within her palm. She brings it up to eye level and opens her hand.
“So, you did get her number,” Jisoo is practically buzzing with excitement on behalf of her friend, “go on, open it.”
Jennie hurriedly unfolds it and starts reading its contents, her eyebrows furrowing further with every word.
I once said I’d never leave you, I’m sorry I broke that promise.
Tell me, do you still remember my second promise? I do.
Meet me by the statue in the back patio.
When she finishes reading the note there are a million thoughts racing through her head, a million emotions.
But, all feelings of familiarity are gone, replaced by something much more poignant and prominent: anger.
She storms out of the house with clenched fists and fire in her eyes, rage burning and ready to explode on the cause of her strife, momentarily oblivious to the noticeable drop in temperature. She spots the black cape and red hair immediately, her hurried steps bringing her but a few feet from the figure, “What kind of sick joke is this?!” She hurls the crumpled-up piece of paper at the girl’s head but completely misses her target.
The red-head doesn’t even flinch, she’s calmly looking up at the sky, dark eyes shining with a deep sadness.
“Who the hell are you, huh? What gives you the right to dig up someone’s past and use it for your own entertainment?” Jennie repeatedly clenches and unclenches her fists, eyes welling up with unshed tears.
The red-head half-turns so Jennie can only see her profile.
“Do you think it’s funny? Making people suffer, is that amusing to you?” she chokes on her tears.
Then, before Jennie can continue her tirade, the taller girl fully turns, “No,” her hands come up to take off the black mask, “I’m sorry.”
At least, it feels like it, for the brunette who can’t seem to catch her breath at the sight before her.
“L- Lisa?” her trembling voice permeates the cold atmosphere, hot breath fogging up and making small puffs of clouds with every exhale.
Lisa lets the mask slide from her grip and drop to the ground, a sad smile stretching upon her lips.
“This can’t be real, how is this possible?”
“It is real,” Lisa takes a step towards her and Jennie takes a step back.
“It can’t be…I saw you, I- I saw your body.”
“I know,” Lisa continues to advance towards the brunette while Jennie takes several steps back to maintain her distance.
“You died, we buried you. This isn’t real,” Jennie shakes her head, “you’re dead.”
“I’m right here,” Lisa reaches out to brush her cold pale hand over Jennie’s flushed cheek, but stops when the brunette visibly flinches away.
“Jen…I’m real,” she stretches out her hand in invitation for the brunette to hold it, “here.”
Jennie stares at her outstretched hand with something akin to dread, hope, and horror all mixed into one. Lisa softens when she sees the fear flash through her eyes, when she hears the shorter girl’s heart beat against her ribcage like it’s trying to pound its way out of her chest.
“Please,” her soft voice serves to calm Jennie’s racing heart, even if just a little.
Jennie eyes the taller girl with trepidation, then, takes a step forward.
Her own hand reaches out to touch the pale one that is being offered. However, she almost immediately retracts her hand when her fingertips make contact with the freezing porcelain-like skin. Lisa, realizing her mistake, quickly jumps in to justify herself, “I- sorry, it’s…cold out here, so…”
Jennie nods in understanding and tentatively runs her fingertips over the taller girl’s up-turned palm again before finally holding her hand. A small smile tugs at the corner of Lisa’s lips, she’d been craving the brunette’s touch for years. She cautiously offers Jennie her other hand and the shorter girl looks at it in a mix of shock and wonder before placing her hand atop Lisa’s forearm and squeezing, as if making sure that she really is there.
“H- how?” She runs her hand up, over Lisa’s silken long-sleeve shirt, skimming over her biceps, and coming to rest at the junction of her neck and shoulder.
Lisa leans further into the touch and gives her a sad smile, “It’s a long story.”
She remembers it like it was just yesterday.
The exhilaration of being back in her home country, traipsing through the forest, completely derailing herself from the advised path.
The elation that came with every new visage, every new discovery.
The absolute, mind-numbing, horror that came with the realization that she wasn’t alone.
It all happened so fast, that part of her memory has never been quite clear; all she remembers is the ripping pain that overtook her whole body.
Everywhere she turned there was darkness, endless and entirely overwhelming. No matter how far she ran; she didn’t move. No matter how loud she screamed; not a sound was heard. It was like being in a blackhole.
Until she woke up in a casket, buried six feet under.
Her eyes, unusually accustomed to the dark, could see every detail in the ridges of the aged wood. She could smell the petrichor, seeping through the barrier that her casket provided. She could hear the faintest sound from the smallest of the underground critters.
It had been all too unsettling.
But, what scared her the most was the force with which she clawed out of the earth that night, ripping through the casket and six feet of soil like it was thin air.
The burning thirst that coiled around her throat and threatened to suffocate her if she didn’t feed.
Blood, her brain chanted.
Lisa doesn’t mention it: her immense desire to feed. But, Jennie can see the truth swimming just beneath the surface of her eyes.
Her heartbeat picks up again and she takes a hesitant step away from the red-head.
Lisa quickly catches on to the tension radiating from her body, to the fear flashing in her eyes, and gently takes hold of her hand before Jennie can completely withdraw herself.
“I won’t hurt you,” she says with a soft voice and pleading eyes, “I would never hurt you.”
Jennie takes a moment to contemplate; weighing the taller girl’s words and all the possible reasons she could have for standing in front of her at this moment.
“Why now? Why come for me after all these years? What took you so long?”
“I-,” Lisa averts her eyes to the ground, lingering on a particularly large patch of dead grass, “the turning process…it took months. Then, when I woke up,” her gaze returns to Jennie when the shorter girl lifts her chin with a finger. Jennie can see it then – the honesty – written as plainly as day.
“If I didn’t stay away-,” Lisa shakes her head, a small crease between her brows, “-I was so scared I would hurt you-,”
“Was it you?” Jennie interrupts.
“These past couple of weeks, I’ve-…was that you?”
Lisa slowly nods when she catches on to what Jennie wants to say.
“After all this time I… didn’t know how to approach you, I’m sorry.”
“You scared me half to death!” Jennie smacks her shoulder with a closed fist and instantly winces at the surprising pain that shoots up her hand while Lisa doesn’t even budge. She instantly retracts her hand in pain and looks up at Lisa in shock.
The red-head is looking at her with wide apologetic eyes, “I’m so sorry, I can’t- I don’t-,” she runs her fingers over Jennie’s knuckles, “you probably shouldn’t do that,” she finally settles.
Jennie doesn’t know if she should laugh, because every single time she did that before Lisa would dramatically wince and complain about the intense pain. Or cry because she missed her so unbearably much, and now here she is, standing right in front of her like she was never declared dead and buried six feet under. She starts to laugh but her throat suddenly starts to close up again and tears well up in her eyes, a cacophony of emotions swirling within when the reality of the situation finally catches up with her.
Lisa’s eyes widen in alarm, “Is it that bad? What do you need?” She scans around the empty patio, “Should I get someone?”
Jennie simply shakes her head and surges forward, wrapping her arms around the taller girl and burying her tear-stained face into her neck.
“Don’t,” the smooth pale skin of Lisa’s neck muffle her words, “I just need you…all this time I just needed you.”
Lisa tentatively, gently, wraps her arms around the shorter girl and squeezes as much as is safely possible without hurting her.
“I’m sorry,” she mutters into the brunette’s dark hair, “I shouldn’t have left, I’m so sorry.”
Jennie grips at the fabric of Lisa’s cape and gasps for breath, once again inhaling the unique scent that is so completely Lisa.
She pulls back slowly and cups the taller girl’s cheeks before leaning in to cover her lips with her own.
If Lisa had a beating heart it would have stopped in that very moment.
Lisa’s lips feel just as cold as her hands, but Jennie doesn’t care. She doesn’t care because all she feels in this moment is gratitude over that fact that Lisa is standing in front of her, holding her, kissing her. Lisa is alive, un-beating heart and lack of warm blood flow be damned, she’s alive and Jennie would rather die before she lets her go alone anywhere ever again.
I’ll always come back to you, the words of Lisa’s second promise echo inside her head, because I love you.