The small island in Summerhill Springs has always been Briar’s escape, whenever she’s feeling under the weather. Locals rarely visit it, as the only houses near the little fishing spring are the exclusive Landgraab and Alto estates. The island -reached only by a narrow wooden bridge- is adorned with one aspen and a delicate blanket of periwinkle and wild ginger. Team this rustic beauty with the rarely disturbed quiet of sunset, and it is perfect for Briar to be alone.
She doesn’t do anything but sit there and imagine drowning her thoughts in the gently rippling water, a quest to feel nothing. Supernatural problems, last night’s attack, Max… Max. She watches the name sink below the pink waves and into the bottom of her mind. She can’t think of him, the pain is too much. What she did was absolutely necessary. Don’t regret your decision…
Briar has been here since after work, letting time shift away as the dappled shadows of the aspen leaves do. Her mother had come along with a blanket, Briar’s favourite PB&J sandwiches tucked neatly inside a picnic basket, and iced donuts piled in a cute mushroom jar she had picked up from the school fair last week. Then Fern had kissed her daughter on the forehead, worry evident on her face as she left. Vaguely Briar registered that this whole gesture was very kind and understanding of her mother, but she did not touch the food. Even an hour later, she still has no appetite.
Night creeps cool and silent over Sunset Valley, smattering the usual twinkling stars across the indigo sky. The wind chills a little, but it is almost summer and it is not too cold. Briar can’t feel it, anyway. She knows that as soon as she comes out of this stasis, her emotions will come tumbling upon her again. It’s best just not to think.
The faint sound of laughter drifts across the pond, and Briar raises her head slowly. It’s Isla, standing close to her crush/vampire Clayton Alto. Their voices are scattered by the salty wind, but she can get the gist of what the two are doing. Isla is probably flirting and giggling at something Clayton is saying. Then the vampire leans in and kisses her little sister on the lips.
Okay. This is getting a little too lovey-dovey for Briar’s taste. The realisation that Isla just had her first kiss is enough to snap her out of her reverie. She pulls herself up, joints aching a little from sitting all afternoon, and walks like a zombie and across the bridge. The uneaten picnic is left there; Fern is without a doubt watching her daughter, and will come pick it up later.
As she skirts around the spring, Briar half-watches her sister exchange goodbyes with Clayton, and skip happily back to her house. Isla will probably start squealing excitedly with best friend Jeannie on her phone, as soon as she reaches her bedroom. But Briar’s attention is fixated on Clayton. He watches Isla for a moment before glancing around and breaking into a sprint. Hmm. Suspicious.
Briar suddenly feels a bit reckless and decides to go after him. Dangerous action is even better than stasis. As a vampire, Clayton zips down the road scarily fast, making it hard for Briar to keep up. However, it’s obvious where his destination is when he darts into the thick woodland outside the criminal warehouse. She pauses for a moment, blurred memories crowding into her mind. It makes Briar hesitate, but clearly the vampire is up to no good if he is going to the criminal hangout. She better have a closer look.
There’s a couple of bushes near a gap in the rickety fence, which Briar hides behind. She can see that Clayton has met up under an old pecan tree with a disturbingly familiar lady. Even without seeing her face, the blood red suit and pale skin stirs dread within her. Shrinking lower into the bushes, Briar observes what is going on in the warehouse yard. The lady in red appears to be yelling in a hushed voice at Clayton.
Clayton argues back for a bit before the woman slaps him round the face. Even from her hiding place, Briar hears the smack- it sounds like leather against stone. Intrigued, she watches as Clayton fumes and raises his voice, allowing her to hear a few words of their argument.
“…ungrateful…child! Centuries… yet you fall… silly girl! You will do as… or you will regret the day… immortalised.” The lady spits out.
Clayton leans back, his amber eyes still burning, but defeated. Briar watches his face carefully. Whatever he’s doing, he doesn’t want to do it. Yet he appears to have backed down from the woman’s menacing threat. Which means…
Isla is in danger.
“Never thought you would get a promotion, runt.” A cold, haughty voice sneers. Briar glares at Blair Wainwright, who is staring, disgusted, at her through designer sunglasses. “Mm, yeah, I’m getting them quite fast.” Briar replies casually. “Reckon I might take your place one day.” Blair sniffs loudly and her painted red lips curl. “Enjoy dreaming. Meanwhile, have fun dealing with your *quote* supernaturals.” She laughs cruelly, then sashays away with her nose held high.
Briar hops on her faithful pink bicycle and begins pedalling home. Psh, Blair can laugh all she wants. She’s been working extra hard at work and she knows she has earned her new position of patrol officer. The gleaming new silver badge pinned on her uniform proves that. As she passes the criminal warehouse, a thought flashes across her mind. No one seems to have really noticed the supernatural problems across the town- Briar suspects someone in the police force is warding off suspicions. And Blair Wainwright is in the perfect position to do that.
She arrives home and decides she needs to tell Isla about what she saw last night. Okay, so her little sister probably won’t believe her. It’s still good to warn her though, because then Briar can say I told you so. It gives her a little satisfaction even though she is worrying about Isla’s safety.
Her sister is lying on her bed, smiling dreamily into space. It’s obvious she is thinking about yesterday night. “Snap out of it.” Briar snaps her fingers under Isla’s nose to get her attention. “Ooh, guess what Briar?” Isla squeals giddily, not knowing her big sister had been present last evening. “Clayton asked me to be his girlfriend yesterday!”
“Yes, lovely.” Briar says drily. “Even though I think it’s a bad idea.” Isla jumps out of bed and stomps in front of her sister. “Oh, is this your vampire crap again? I told you, Clayton is a really nice guy. He would never hurt me!” “Okay, okay fine, just don’t let me say I told you so.” Briar pretends like she doesn’t care anymore. In reality, she formulates a plan. Whenever Isla goes out with Clayton, she will tag along and stay a good enough distance away, but will be close enough to come running if anything bad happens.
Briar goes into her bedroom and heavily sits down on the swing in the corner. She flicks the radio on to a random station and half listens to the rock music blaring out of it. It really is stressful, working hard in the police station, keeping wary of supernaturals, and looking after her ignorant younger sister at the same time. In the end though… when this is all over… it will be worth it.
“Mind if I join you?” Briar looks up to see Allie Beard waving at her cheerfully. “Sure.” She replies tiredly.
It’s been a week since Isla started dating Clayton, and nothing much has happened yet. This seems strange because the lady in red had sounded quite… urgent. If anything, her little sister seems happier than ever before. The only thing Briar had noticed was that the apparent increase in lunar light seemed to have begun affecting Isla as well. Once, she heard her ask Clayton if he was cold, ‘your skin seems paler than usual’. Briar wonders what would happen if Isla discovers that her boyfriend has fangs.
Allie steps lightly around the pond and sits down next to Briar. “How are you feeling?” She asks in concern. “No more bumping into trees?” Briar laughs weakly at that. “No, I’m fine. It’s just work is a little stressful.” Her friend nods. “I agree. In my job, in which I’m a file clerk, I’m always receiving new files to organise and so my desk is always piled high. Thank god for coffee.”
Briar chuckles and then notices Isla getting into Clayton’s car. Babysitting time again. She quickly excuses herself from Allie and hops into her own car, following the two to a small park named Maywood Glen. She jogs along the path, the sun spreading golden rays across the darkening violet sky above her.
To her surprise, she hears angry yelling instead of laughter when she arrives at Maywood Glen. Isla seems to be shouting at Clayton. “Why?! Why are you leaving me now?” Faintly Briar can hear Clayton trying to calm her down. “I WILL NOT CALM DOWN!” Isla shouts. “You don’t just break up with someone with no explanation!”
“I’m sorry.” Clayton says flatly. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I have to. I swear.” His voice has that same dead quality that the vampire lady had, which makes Briar suspicious. This doesn’t seem like the normal Clayton Alto. What the hell is going on?
“Well, you don’t sound very sorry.” Isla spits out. “Jeez, I thought we were perfect together. Well, apparently, I’m not good enough for you anymore. You’ve found another girl, haven’t you?” When Clayton simple looks at her with a blank expression, she steps back. “Then get the f**k out of my sight.”
Clayton runs away with nothing else to say. Isla glares after him for a while before burying her face in her hands. She just stands there, breaking down, and Briar feels unexpectedly sorry for her little sister. Isla had acted so aggressive during the break up, and that was probably because she hadn’t been expecting it at all.
“Isla.” Briar is compelled to step out of the bushes and comfort her sister. “Go away.” Isla says in a muffled voice. “No.” Briar replies firmly. Her little sister glares at her through tears. “No, go away! You don’t have to rub it in my face, okay so I was wrong about Clayton! He’s just another of those jerks!” A sob breaks out of Isla.
Briar lays a hand on her sister’s shoulder. “To be fair, he seemed quite decent.” She says gently. “But he wasn’t. He was just playing around.” Isla looks down into the cobblestones, tears dripping down her cheeks. “I should have listened to you.” Briar pulls her sister into a hug. “It’s okay, Isla. He didn’t deserve you. He can go eff off for all you should care.”
But the words sound false to herself. Something hadn’t been right about that break up. It wasn’t Clayton who initiated it, Briar knows. He wouldn’t do that to Isla, and his voice had been very lacking in emotion during it. She remembers how constricted the vampire lady had acted. As if… her voice being controlled by someone else.
Somehow… this is all linked with the lunar light machine.
Hmm… not a good hiding place. Under the bed, hidden by a pile of pillows. Fairly easy to find if anyone decides to come snooping, which is exactly what she is doing. She reaches down to flick through the pages carefully. The first is blank, perhaps a weak attempt to evade unwanted eyes, but the next are full of scribbled notes. She opens her phone camera and takes photos of each page. This notebook is perfect evidence of what Briar Kingston is up to in her little investigation.
Maybe it’s time to report to her boss.