It’s Sunday morning, and Briar happily munches on a veggie burger for breakfast. She’s unusually quiet today, a smile playing across her lips as she eats. She even doesn’t tell tales of false adventures when Isla asks if she’s rescued stolen diamonds from any criminals yet. Instead, she shakes her head and continues thinking blissfully about the (almost) perfect day she had experienced on Saturday.
Fern is oblivious to her daughter’s vacant and dreamy smile. She is instead gardening, tending to her little vegetable patch, which is flourishing. Already one apple tree is spotted with shining red apples, along with a tomato plant. Ash is helping out -weeding out the lettuce- because gardening is an essential part of his job.
Briar skips over to one of the comfy loungers and lets the autumn sun warm her skin. She has not yet told her family about the news because she wants to do it with Max. So they had decided they would announce their new relationship status later in the week, where Max’s brother Will had invited them all to a family picnic at the park. Truth to be told, Briar is a little worried at what Ash’s reaction would be. What will her brother say when he finds out his twin sister is dating his best friend?
Trying to forget that worry, Briar decides to take a dip in the pool, the cool water sparkling on her skin. She takes a relaxing swim around the pool for a while, until she spots a familiar lady sprinting across the lawn, where Christopher and Isla are playing catch.
Sunny Bakshi, that annoying old lady. Briar hadn’t been able to stop her at the bistro, but now she’s trespassing on private property- casually snapping pics of Isla playing baseball happily with her father. Creepy, much?
You know what, pause life. I’m going to get a fence up here. I am goddamn sick of paparazzi prancing into the house without one. single. bloody. word.
Briar marches over and glares at Sunny, who looks displeased but not remotely unabashed. “You are trespassing on private property, Bakshi! Get off.” She declares. “Your fault for not having a fence around your house!” Sunny sniffs loudly.
Briar raises her eyebrows. “In the second you were looking down your over-large nose, a wall magically appeared behind you. Now get out.” To Sunny’s astonishment, Briar is telling the truth.
So she gets out.
The rest of the day passes with no event. With the fence that magically materialised around the house, Briar can relax without the paparazzi bugging her. She spends the morning playing tag with Isla (Ash seems to be in his room, working again), and has a delicious lunch of Fern’s fish & chips at Old Pier Beach with the family. In the afternoon Fern gives her daughter her secret three-layer birthday cake recipe, and helps her practise baking it without setting it on fire. As the lopsided cake bakes, the mail-boy delivers an invitation to Briar and Ash- a party at Lone Wolff Manor that evening.
Ash drives alone again up to the manor. He’s strongly reminded of a similar evening years back and conflicting emotions well up. At first he feels nervous and resentful, because of the manor’s link to the complicated and dangerous situation he is stuck in. But then a smile flickers across his face. This house represents something better to Ash now.
Sunset is always my favourite time of day 🙂 The sky melts into all sorts of beautiful colours, and look at that enormous crescent moon! Oh, and Ash looks like he’s a runway model in this one LOL.
Perhaps leaving the other twin behind is becoming a tradition. Briar cycles down the beachside road, passing in between modern villas and palm trees. She doesn’t mind too much, because the evening views down here are always breathtaking.
Excitement flutters through her. Briar has never been to this mansion before- it’s quite isolated and on its own headland. She pumps her legs a little harder to pedal up the road, which curves up and away. The lighthouse sends beams of light into the molten violet sky- Briar’s favourite colour.
She leaves her bike on the grass and walks up to the manor, amazed. She passes at chubby man facing away from her and notices that his back is rather hairy. Crinkling her nose, Briar quickly climbs up the stairs and into the sculptural mansion.
The glass door is ajar, and Latin music is floating out of it. Briar enters a large open-plan living area, with a massive expanse of glass on one end, looking out onto the vast lilac sea. The room is double height with comfy leather couches grouped around bright crackling flames. Briar had thought the Oliver’s oceanfront villa was luxurious, but this is taking things to a whole new level.
A set of sliding glass doors open up from the kitchen and onto a large balcony, where she can see the shadowed bay and the downtown glittering with lights. Briar spots her brother wandering out alone with a coffee in his hand, and wonders why he isn’t joining the party.
But it turns out there isn’t much of a party at all. When Briar quickly changes into her swimwear, she finally takes a good look around. There only seems to be one guest- a fat lady dancing to the cha-cha all by herself. Gee, that swimsuit is not flattering on her.
Briar scratches her head in confusion. Where is the host, the guests, the food and drinks? The party invitation had been sent from Lillian Payton, but Briar can not see her anywhere. Strange…
Briar just decides to linger and wait for her brother to finish his latte. The hairy man comes up to her after a while and asks for a photo. Bored out of her mind, Briar obliges, grinning off to the side and sticking two peace signs in the air.
Aw, she’s so adorable. 🙂
The man does not thank her and instead gives a double thumbs down. “Boo, what a crazy little girl!” He says loudly. Briar frowns at his rudeness and begins to pay attention to him. Something seems a bit… off about him. His face is unusually distorted, giving him a dog-like snout, and his ears pointing strangely out of his ratty blond hair. The eyes which are glaring at her are glowing yellow and he has a serious overbite. Not to mention the body hair.
Seething with curiosity, Briar moves forward, thinking hard. For some reason, memories of zombies and pale skin and a full moon crowd into her head. The pieces begin fitting together… canines… full moon… “You’re a werewolf!” Briar shouts aloud the answer to the mysterious jigsaw. The words sound absurd even to her own ears, but Briar is certain. What else could he be?
The werewolf tilts his head like, how did you guess that? The gesture makes him look like an overgrown, very ugly mutant puppy. His golden eyes narrow in suspicion and his hair puffs up. “You see me?” He growls, and leans forward to sniff Briar’s hair.
Briar recoils, disgusted. When the man continues, she grabs a newspaper off the coffee table, rolls it up, and begins whacking the werewolf on the nose. “BAD DOGGIE! BAD DOGGIE!” She yells.
The werewolf growls in annoyance and he raises his clawed hands. He bares his sharp teeth and howls furiously into Briar’s face. The smell of rotting meat hits her with a nauseous wave.
As anyone would do, Briar screams.
A couple of minutes later, Briar can be found trying to down her trauma in a tub of citrus ripple ice cream. A weedy man in glasses appears and chides her in a quiet voice. Briar ignores him. A werewolf, a werewolf…
As Briar raises another spoonful of ice cream to her lips, she hears a new voice behind her- quiet and timid, but again strangely familiar. She doesn’t really think much of it, however, and resumes trying to freeze her brain.
It’s not until Briar picks up the empty tub and heads torwards the bin when she gets a good look at the girl. The feeling that she should know her intensifies and Briar frowns, trying to recollect any memory of her.
Ash. What the hell are you doing.
Dude. STOP STARING LIKE THAT OMG
Briar notices her brother talking to the girl and walks up. “Hey, Ash. Care to introduce me to your friend?” To little surprise, her twin looks at her with a cold face.
“This is Anastasia.” He says calmly. “Anastasia Payton.”
“Anastasia?” Briar says incredulously. “You… you self-conceited little gold digger! You’re sucking up to my brother again, aren’t you?” Anastasia leans back, scowling, but does not retaliate. Briar takes this chance and begins ranting loudly- because a realisation has come to her.
“That’s why he’s gone all mean, because of you! You’re influencing him! Leave him alone… I HATE YOU!”
Before she knows it, Briar punches Anastasia in the nose.
Ash drags her back and wheels her around to face him. “What the hell did you do that for?” He shouts at Briar. “She deserves it, you know that!” She snaps defiantly.
“No, I don’t!” Ash’s eyes are full of fury, deeply shocking his sister. “Are you telling me you are taking HER side instead of MINE?” Briar cannot believe it. Since when had Ash turned his back so suddenly; surely he remembers the merciless bullying Anastasia and Shania had inflicted on her all these years?
To Briar’s horror, her brother whips around to face Anastasia. “Are you alright?” He gently touches her nose, his voice soft. Briar glares at him in repulsion. What is this utter nonsense?
Anastasia murmmers something Briar does not catch and kisses Ash on the cheek. She then leans into him and he wraps his arms protectively around her. By then, Briar has had enough. It seems that her brother has gone over to the evil side- what is up with him?
Okay, I’m sorry, but Ash’s expression has me DYING WITH LAUGHTER HERE. 😂
Briar faces her twin, anger making her head spin. “What the heck is wrong with you, Ash? I can’t believe you would betray me like this. How can you even think about dating this bully, don’t you recall how she made our lives hell!? You’re such a selfish bastard!”
“I’M a selfish bastard?” Ash explodes so suddenly, his sister backs away. “There are things much bigger than you, Briar, and I don’t expect you to understand it. I suppose if someone told you the circumstances, it wouldn’t get through the freakishly small and selfish brain of yours. Don’t try and judge me. Because there are things way more important existing outside your deluded little kid’s world.”
His words feel like gunshots to Briar, the raw menace spiking painfully into her skin. How could her own twin say such things to her? Tears threaten to spill over, and Briar tries to pull herself together. She only manages to spit out two words before she runs away.
Hurt pounding inside her head, Briar shoves her way outside. She almost knocks a lady over- Lillian Payton, the host arriving at the end of the party. Dimly Briar registers the weirdness of that, but she’s to busy trying to control her inexplicable anger.
She grabs her bike and pedals furiously along the road. The wind cuts into her skin and the darkness feels oppressive. What a horrible night. Even the beautiful collection of stars spilled across the black does not help.
The fresh sea air clears her head and Briar feels like her insides are turning into steel. Oh, so Ash could act all high and mighty. Their friendship is now over. Whatever ‘big things’ he had been ranting about, Briar will find out. Obviously he’s got a part to this, and maybe… it has something to do with the strange things she has been doing lately.
Briar now officially hates her twin brother.
But it doesn’t stop the tears pouring hot and salty down her face, flying away into the night as Briar pedals away.