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The After

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I.
Can you taste it in the air? There are wolves, baby. This time, there’s no huntsman to save you.

Lourdes Delgado knew that Hal Mason was her soulmate the moment those first words came out of his mouth. The second he said, ‘Come with us, we can help’. She knew it was him. Lourdes had seen those words tattoo her left forearm since her eighteenth birthday. She always thought that it was kind of a strange mark, strange first words to say to someone, much less her. Lourdes never thought of herself as the kind of girl that particularly needed help from anyone. But she also turned eighteen before the aliens invaded, before anyone even thought that there might be something going on in the universe outside of their human concerns.

She didn’t ask Hal if his mark where her first words to him, “But I can’t leave my Dad,” were written in the ink of the ancients on somewhere on his body as well. She thought about asking Maggie once, but decided against it. It was better to just move on and live, believing that it was one sided; it was better to just let him be happy with Maggie, the way she was happy with Jamil even though she knew that relationship was doomed from the start.

When Lexi says that Lourdes can go with her, she’s glad, she’s been looking for a way out, looking for a way to get away from Maggie and Hal and their happiness. Even if the whole time they’ve been in Chinatown, Maggie has been giving her arm a stare, and went so far as to ask Lourdes what the first thing she ever said to Hal was. Lourdes refuses to get in the way of his happiness and grabs a sweater to wear all the time the moment Hal gets to Chinatown. She is so thankfully of the escape that Lexi offers her, she can run away with this little girl, who is not so little any more, and try to keep protecting her in the way only she can. She will follow Lexi to the ends of the Earth, just to repay her for saving her life. She doesn’t think anything bad will happen. But the moment she sees the look in Lexi’s eyes as she takes her hand, she knows that this is not the escape she wanted, but it is too late to go back now…


 

II.
You’re the beast, and there’s no beauty left for you to love.

Lourdes’ last thoughts circle around those days back in Charleston, those days when she was there but not really herself. Those days of being a toy and a puppet in the twisted game of the Espheni. She is remembering more about those days, she has for a while. Ever since Lexi took the eye bugs out of her body she’s remembered more and more.

She remembers her and Hal running around together, both possessed by this thing that is so completely and entirely not them. She remembers them being with each other and constructing the plans, she remembers her taking lead and him being more than happy to take pointe. Loudres remember the one night she came with him to the woods to meet with Karen, how that was the only night she went with him to meet Karen, and how Karen sent Hal away. She remembers Karen walking closer and closer to her and telling her awful things.

“He’ll never love you.” She said walking closer to Lourdes, and even though all of this is just a vision, a dream in her dying moments, it does not make it any less sharp or any less clear, or any less painful than it was in that moment when it happened; even if she did not start to remember it until months later.

“He is in love with Maggie. It does not matter what words are written on your arm. It does not matter what the fates may say, he belongs to Maggie. And I will ruin him until he only belongs to me. He will never be with you.” Karen spit at her. And even in her possessed state Lourdes dropped to the ground and tears wracked through her body. Lourdes has lost everyone, everyone that she has ever loved, and even possessed by too many Espheni eye bugs (that alone really should have killed her, she never understood how Lexi managed to save her), Lourdes refuses to believe that she would lose Hal Mason, even if he did not love her too.

“He will never love you, why would he, you’re a monster.” Lourdes remember saying to herself one night in the back of that truck when they were traveling back to Charleston, before Lexi came to her and took the eye bugs out of her body. 

The last thing she sees before it all falls to black are his eyes, his bright brown eyes, but they are looking at her with disgust, and she can’t help but think that he would never love her, and that she is a monster, and that she deserves Lexi bringing death to her.


 

III.
The glass slipper shattered long ago. You’re holding the shards up to your wrist. You’re thinking, why not?

Hal stopped her once. When she held a rusty knife she found on the road up to her wrist, trying to end the guilt she feels. Lexi may have saved her by getting rid of the eye bugs, but that doesn’t mean that everything is magically okay, it does not meant that the guilt is swept away, or the blood is washed from her hands.

When she saw the rusty knife in a kitchen that they were raiding for supplies she knew it would do the trick, and that even if it did not kill her, it would probably give her tetanus and that would kill her anyway. Lourdes waited until it was dark and wandered off to the small tent she was calling her home. She pulled out the rusty knife and held it to her wrist, right as it started to pierce her skin, Hal walked in.

“Lourdes what are you doing!” He shouted, running towards her and taking the knife out of her hand too quickly for her to even cut her skin a little bit.

“Making amends for the deaths and the pain I’ve caused. I deserve to go to Hell. God should damn me.” Lourdes says, standing up and moving closer to him, trying to grab the knife back from him.

“No. You do not deserve to go to Hell. Lourdes how can you say that?” He puts the knife in his pocket so she won’t try and reach it. He knows that she would never be that daring.

“Yes I do Hal. I have betrayed my people, I do not deserve redemption.”

“Everyone deserves redemption Lourdes! Everyone! I would’ve thought that you of all people would understand that.”

“I don’t Hal. I am not worthy of any redemption or forgiveness.” 

“Isn’t that the point of redemption Lourdes? That it is not about whether or not you deserve it, but whether or not you are capable of earning it?” He is standing closer to her now, and Lourdes has pulled down her sleeves. She would never want him to see the mark. “Lexi saw something in you, something that all of us have seen since the beginning, she saw that you were good and you deserved a second chance. You should take it.”


 

IV.
Life was better before your tower came crumbling down.

It would have been better if the aliens never would have come to Earth, if the Espheni would’ve just kept to their wars on other places, and left the Earth alone all together. Lourdes would’ve still seen the words, appear on her forearm and would’ve smiled at the thought of even having a soulmate.

She would have still gotten into a car accident with her Dad, but this time it would not have been caused by aliens landing their spaceships, they would’ve just gotten cut off by a Suburban and rammed into an exit sign or something. Hal Mason would’ve still been there, and still said “Come with us, we can help” and Lourdes, thinking more about her father then the words etched on her arm still would’ve said, “But I can’t leave my Dad.” And Hal would’ve helped her and ridden all the way to the hospital in the back of the ambulance instead of holding her hand while her Dad bled out on the highway.

Lourdes and Hal would’ve become friends, despite a two-year-age difference. She would help him through his break up with Rita and he would’ve helped her with all the stress of med school, and on his eighteenth birthday he would have shown up at her college with happy tears in his eyes holding up the mark on his wrist with the first words she ever said to him. And the two of them would kiss, knowing that they ended up right where they wanted to be.

But that’s not what happened. The aliens came, and to be quite honest, it would not have been their story if they didn’t.


 

V.
Where’s your happily ever after?

Hal sees it when he carries her body into the building. Her sweater has scrunched up around her left forearm and he sees the words. The first words he ever said to Lourdes when he saw her on that stretch of highway where the aliens landed. The words that have been seared into the back of his brain since the day he first looked into those big and beautiful brown eyes of her. Those same brown eyes that he watched turn from devastated, to malevolent, to afraid (but not of the world around her, of her own actions), and finally to determined. Those eyes that will never grace this world ever again, those eyes that his baby sister killed.

He looks at his own wrist and sees the first words Lourdes ever said to him. He didn’t notice the mark when he turned eighteen, too caught up in the eye bug that invaded his brain. He didn’t even notice the mark after he was freed of it, he didn’t realize it was there until Maggie said something about it when they were heading back to Charleston. When Maggie asked him who said this to him, he just shrugged his shoulders saying it was no one. Looking back, Maggie new the whole time, but when you’re like her, and don’t get the mark when you turn eighteen, taking away someone else’s soulmate does not seem like that bad of a thing to do, and Hal let her take him away from Lourdes, Hal chose to stay with Maggie who was more unfamiliar to him in some ways, instead of Lourdes and those eyes that held too much promise, too much pressure.

Hal regrets that now, it seems so obvious now, that he should’ve told her that he had a mark to match hers. But instead he just pretended like it wasn’t there. He started to wear gloves more and no one noticed, thinking it was just because it got cold, but it was to hide the mark. He remembers that night, as he holds her hand, sitting in the darkness, that he took that knife away from her, and told her she was worth the redemption, worth the second chance that the universe was throwing her. He should have told her then, he stayed awake so many nights thinking about how he should’ve told her then, but instead he just lives in a world of regret.

He stays there until Maggie tells them they have to get ready for battle. The look in her eyes telling him that she knows and that she’ll still be there for him when he’s ready to face the regret head on. Maggie walks out of the building and Hal stays there just for another minute, holding her hand and looking at her dead, unmoving body.

He stands up, and kisses her forehead. “I should’ve told you, now we’ll never get the chance. I am so sorry.” And he walks away, into a battlefield he may not come back from. Hal only feels like it might be a little okay, because if there is one thing he knows about Lourdes Delgado, it is that she would not be damned to Hell, she would be sent directly to Heaven, to serve as an Angel, and she would be watching over him until the end of her days.