Saturday, September 28, 2019
The Hunters: Phantom Chapter 2
Dear Diary, I AM HOME! I can hardly dare to believe it, but here I am. I woke with the strangest feeling. I didn't know where I was and just lay here smelling the clean cotton-and-fabric-softener scent of the sheets, trying to figure out why everything looked so familiar. I wasn't in Lady Ulma's mansion. There, I had slept nestled in the smoothest satin and softest velvet, and the air had smelled of incense. And I wasn't at the boardinghouse: Mrs. Flowers washes the bedding there in some weird-smelling herbal mixture that Bonnie says is for protection and good dreams. And suddenly, I knew. I was home. The Guardians did it! They brought me home. Everything and nothing has changed. It's the same room I slept in from when I was a tiny baby: my polished cherry-wood dresser and rocking chair; the little stuffed black-and-white dog Matt won at the winter carnival our junior year perched on a shelf; my rolltop desk with its cubbyholes; the ornate antique mirror above my dresser; and the Monet and Klimt posters from the museum exhibits Aunt Judith took me to in Washington, DC. Even my comb and brush are lined up neatly side by side on my dresser. It's all as it should be. I got out of bed and used a silver letter opener from the desk to pry up the secret board in my closet floor, my old hiding place, and I found this diary, just where I hid it so many months ago. The last entry is the one I wrote before Founder's Day back in November, before IÃ¢â¬ ¦ died. Before I left home and never came back. Until now. In that entry I detailed our plan to steal back my other diary, the one Caroline took from me, the one that she was planning to read aloud at the Founder's Day pageant, knowing it would ruin my life. The very next day, I drowned in Wickery Creek and rose again as a vampire. And then I died again and returned as a human, and traveled to the Dark Dimension, and had a thousand adventures. And my old diary has been sitting right here where I left it under the closet floor, just waiting for me. The other Elena, the one that the Guardians planted in everyone's memories, was here all these months, going to school and living a normal life. That Elena didn't write here. I'm relieved, really. How creepy would it be to see diary entries in my handwriting and not remember any of the things they recounted? Although that might have been helpful. I have no idea what everyone else in Fell's Church thinks has been happening in the months since Founder's Day. The whole town of Fell's Church has been given a fresh start. The kitsune destroyed this town out of sheer malicious mischief. Pitting children against their parents, making people destroy themselves and everyone they loved. But now none of it ever happened. If the Guardians made good on their word, everyone else who died is now alive again: poor Vickie Bennett and Sue Carson, murdered by Katherine and Klaus and Tyler Smallwood back in the winter; disagreeable Mr. Tanner; those innocents that the kitsune killed or caused to be killed. Me. All back again, all starting over. And, except for me and my closest friends Ã¢â¬â Meredith, Bonnie, Matt, my darling Stefan, and Mrs. Flowers Ã¢â¬â no one else knows that life hasn't gone on as usual ever since Founder's Day. We've all been given another chance. We did it. We saved everyone. Everyone except Damon. He saved us, in the end, but we couldn't save him. No matter how hard we tried or how desperately we pleaded, there was no way for the Guardians to bring him back. And vampires don't reincarnate. They don't go to Heaven, or Hell, or any kind of afterlife. They justÃ¢â¬ ¦ disappear. Elena stopped writing for a moment and took a deep breath. Her eyes fil ed with tears, but she bent over the diary again. She had to tel the whole truth if there was going to be any point to keeping a diary at al . Damon died in my arms. It was agonizing to watch him slip away from me. But I'll never let Stefan know how I truly felt about his brother. It would be cruel Ã¢â¬â and what good would it do now? I still can't believe he's gone. There was no one as alive as Damon Ã¢â¬â no one who loved life more than he did. Now he'll never know Ã¢â¬â At that moment the door of Elena's bedroom suddenly flew open, and Elena, her heart in her throat, slammed the diary shut. But the intruder was only her younger sister, Margaret, dressed in pink flower-printed pajamas, her cornsilk hair standing straight up in the middle like a thrush's feathers. The five-year-old didn't decelerate until she was almost on top of Elena Ã¢â¬â and then she launched herself at her through the air. She landed squarely on her older sister, knocking the breath out of her. Margaret's cheeks were wet, her eyes shining, and her little hands clutched at Elena. Elena found herself holding on just as tightly, feeling the weight of her sister, inhaling the sweet scent of baby shampoo and Play-Doh. Ã¢â¬Å"I missed you!Ã¢â¬ Margaret said, her voice on the verge of sobbing. Ã¢â¬Å"Elena! I missed you so much!Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"What?Ã¢â¬ Despite her effort to make her voice light, Elena could hear it shaking. She realized with a jolt that she hadn't seen Margaret Ã¢â¬â really seen her Ã¢â¬â for more than eight months. But Margaret couldn't know that. Ã¢â¬Å"You missed me so much since bedtime that you had to come running to find me?Ã¢â¬ Margaret drew slightly away from Elena and stared at her. Margaret's five-year-old clear blue eyes had a look in them, an intensely knowing look, that sent a shiver down Elena's spine. But Margaret didn't say a word. She simply tightened her grip on Elena, curling up and letting her head rest on Elena's shoulder. Ã¢â¬Å"I had a bad dream. I dreamed you left me. You went away.Ã¢â¬ The last word was a quiet wail. Ã¢â¬Å"Oh, Margaret,Ã¢â¬ Elena said, hugging her sister's warm solidity, Ã¢â¬Å"it was only a dream. I'm not going anywhere.Ã¢â¬ She closed her eyes and held on to Margaret, praying her sister had truly only had a nightmare, and that she hadn't slipped through the cracks of the Guardians' spel . Ã¢â¬Å"Al right, cookie, time to get a move on,Ã¢â¬ said Elena after a few moments, gently tickling Margaret's side. Ã¢â¬Å"Are we going to have a fabulous breakfast together? Shal I make you pancakes?Ã¢â¬ Margaret sat up then and gazed at Elena with wide blue eyes. Ã¢â¬Å"Uncle Robert's making waffles,Ã¢â¬ she said. Ã¢â¬Å"He always makes waffles on Sunday mornings. Remember?Ã¢â¬ Uncle Robert. Right. He and Aunt Judith had gotten married after Elena had died. Ã¢â¬Å"Sure, he does, bunny,Ã¢â¬ she said lightly. Ã¢â¬Å"I just forgot it was Sunday for a minute.Ã¢â¬ Now that Margaret had mentioned it, she could hear someone down in the kitchen. And smel something delicious cooking. She sniffed. Ã¢â¬Å"Is that bacon?Ã¢â¬ Margaret nodded. Ã¢â¬Å"Race you to the kitchen!Ã¢â¬ Elena laughed and stretched. Ã¢â¬Å"Give me a minute to wake al the way up. I'l meet you down there.Ã¢â¬ I'll get to talk to Aunt Judith again, she realized with a sudden burst of joy. Margaret bounced out of bed. At the door, she paused and looked back at her sister. Ã¢â¬Å"You real y are coming down, right?Ã¢â¬ she asked hesitantly. Ã¢â¬Å"I real y am,Ã¢â¬ Elena said, and Margaret smiled and headed down the hal . Watching her, Elena was struck once more by what an amazing second chance Ã¢â¬â third chance, real y Ã¢â¬â she'd been given. For a moment Elena just soaked in the essence of her dear, darling home, a place she'd never thought she'd live in again. She could hear Margaret's light voice chattering away happily downstairs, the deeper rumble of Robert answering her. She was so lucky, despite everything, to be back home at last. What could be more wonderful? Her eyes fil ed with tears and she closed them tightly. What a stupid thing to think. What could be more wonderful? If the crow on her windowsil had been Damon, if she'd known that he was out there somewhere, ready to flash his lazy smile or even purposely aggravate her, now that would have been more wonderful. Elena opened her eyes and blinked hard several times, wil ing the tears away. She couldn't fal apart. Not now. Not when she was about to see her family again. Now she would smile and laugh and hug her family. Later she would col apse, indulging the sharp ache inside her, and let herself sob. After al , she had al the time in the world to mourn Damon, because losing him would never, ever stop hurting.