Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 15

“Can I top you up there, Echo love?” Samantha asked, the three-quarters empty bottle of red wine already poised above her glass.

 

“Uh, yeah, why not!” Echo replied, smiling.

 

The three of them sat on the balcony of Samantha’s flat, the night’s air being warmed buy the outdoor heater surrounding the table they were at. They had spent the day shopping, Samantha saying she wanted to get gifts for the two of them. Mostly, the day was spent in fashionable designer clothes shops, with Samantha picking out things for Echo to try on, and Aiden holding her handbag as she did so. Not that he minded, Samantha and Echo were getting along better than he could have expected, which was all he had wanted out of the weekend. Well, almost all at least.

 

“It’s such a shame you two can’t stay longer,” Samantha said, “I’s so quiet here when it’s just me!”

 

“Remember 3 months ago?” Aiden asked, chuckling, “You told me you couldn’t wait to have the place to yourself and not have to listen to metal music all night, or have to clear up after me, or listen to metal music and clear up after I had people round?”

 

“Oh shush,” Samantha said, putting her arm round Aiden, “I miss you here, love, you know that. Christmas can’t come soon enough as for as I’m concerned.” She turned to Echo, “And you’d better come stay with us for a bit then, too!”

 

Echo smiled. She was enjoying her time here, although she was growing increasingly frustrated by Aiden putting off talking to Samantha about why there had really come. She didn’t want to tell him what to do with his own family, but there were only here another day, and to Echo now seemed as good a time as any.

 

“When are you going to ask her?” Echo asked, trying to be a surreptitious as possible, although she wasn’t even sure that Samantha knew about their telepathy.

 

“I know, I will.” Aiden replied, sounding slightly pained at the thought. He knew he needed to ask, and that he needed to know, but he was scared. He didn’t want to upset Samantha by talking about his birth family; she was really all the family he needed, the only reason he didn’t call her mum is because she felt it was disrespectful to Mel – and it made her feel old. He was scared of what she might know, things she might have been hiding from him his whole life, this she may not have even known she was hiding. He just needed answers, he needed to know what Mick had meant, and Samantha’s mind was the only place those answers resided. He inhaled deeply.

 

“Sam,” He began, slowly, softly, his voice faltering somewhat over the sounds.

 

“Mmhm?” She replied, glancing up at him, “What’s up love?”

 

“It’s nothing, really, well, it’s just,” His words leaving his mouth in deferent orders from the ones his brain had sent to it “It’s just, we have a little, uh, problem, I guess, Echo and I, and –”

 

“Oh, god,” Samantha cut him off, “You’re not pregnant, are you, love?” She turned to Echo.

 

Stunned and wide-eyed, Echo was lost for words.

 

“What? No, no.” Aiden replied, almost as shocked as Echo buy this presumption.

 

“Oh thank god.” Samantha said quickly, her hand on her chest as she exhaled. “Sorry, love, I just had a feeling there was some other reason to this little visit.”

 

“Yeah, there is,” Aiden continued, growing impatient, wanting to finish now he had him self psyched up and started, “It’s just and Apsu thing, not a normal life thing.”

 

“Oh,” Samantha said, uncomfortable, “I see,” She leaned forward, “Well, what is it.”

 

Where to start? He’d replayed this conversation over and over in his head for days, trying to figure out the best thing to say, and still he did not know.

 

“There’s this, um, sect, I guess,” He began, trying to explain himself so as not to leave Samantha confused, “They call themselves the Xul. In short, they’re the bad guys. They’re, um, breed supremacists, I guess would be a good way to describe them.” He glanced over at Echo, who nodded in agreement and for him to continue, “We’ve been having some trouble with one of them, a leader, he, um, he’s been trying to recruit me to them, because Xul are dogs, you see.”

 

“Samantha say there, nodding her head, eyes pinched together, trying to take the information in.

 

“And, he says,” Aiden took a deep breath. Echo had noticed his hand starting to shake and she took hold of it, “He says I belong with them; that it is my birthright, and that I would find out that he meant. So that’s why we came. Well, to see you as well,” He smiled, “But to ask you too, I’m so sorry to bring this upon you, it’s just, you’re the only one who knows anything about Mel.”

 

And he was sorry, more so than he made clear. He wished more than anything that this could just be a social visit, just to see Samantha, to have her meet Echo, and so show Echo a snippet of his past life. Echo held tightly onto his hand.

 

“Well done.” Aiden heard Echo send.

 

It took Samantha a while before she said anything, instead she just sat there, hand on her temples, brow furrowed into itself, a look of thorough concentration on her face, although to Aiden, it also looked twinged with pain.

 

“Are you in danger?” She asked, when she finally spoke, her voice was slow and sombre, a tone Echo had not heard form her before and that Aiden had not heard for years.

 

Aiden looked at Echo, “We don’t know, really. Probably. Maybe.”

 

“There is one thing,” Samantha said slowly, gulping down her wine and refilling her glass, “One thing I wasn’t entirely honest with you about when you were young. It was Mel, she told me not to tell you, made me swear to he that if I was going to take you, I wouldn’t let you know.” She stopped to drink half of her glass of wine again.

 

“What is it?” Aiden asked, “Sam, it’s so important that we know. I know you don’t want to be disrespectful towards her, but, I hope at least, if she knew the situation she’d want us to know whatever she’s hiding about herself.”

 

“No, no that’s the thing,” Said Samantha, almost on the verge of slightly tipsy tears, “It’s not about her. It’s about your father.”

 

“My father?” Aiden was stunned, “But, he was a Lu? What has anything Apsu got to do with my Lu father?”

 

Samantha shook her head, her gaze firmly fixed at the table so as to avoid eye contact, “No. No, I made that up. So I’d have something to say when you asked when you were little.”

“So he was an Apsu?” Aiden asked, becoming excited at the prospect oh having living Apsu relatives, “But that’s good though, why wouldn’t Mel want me to know that?”

 

However, to Echo, clogs were slotting into place in a different order to the way Aiden’s was processing the information.

 

“Because he wasn’t Apsu, not really,” Echo began, quietly, trying to save Samantha from telling the rest of the story that she had started to work out for herself, “He was a Xul, one of Mick’s… So Mick knows you’re second generation, that’s why he’s so convinced you’ll join them. And probably explains how he could get into your head like he did.” She thought out loud.

 

Aiden looked towards Samantha for conformation. Her head was buried in her hands, nodding.

 

“Do you know his name?” Aiden asked. It was the only thing he could manage. He felt his stomach twist and lift above him, feeling like he was suspended in the air by a wire hook through his gut. He felt his hands tremble as he descended back into panic. What did this mean? Was he destined to join the Xul? Were the Xul his family? Did he have a choice as to if it was how he turned out? Was he innately evil because of his father?

 

Samantha shook her head, “Oh Aiden, love, I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, I just, well, I knew you’d react like this, I just thought maybe you’d never have to know.”

 

Aiden sat there, silent for a minute, his hand trembling in Echo’s. He picked up his wine glass with the other hand spilling a little of its contents as he did so, and poured it, gulping, down his throat. Slowly, he stood up.

 

“I think… I think I’m going to go to bed.” He mumbled, letting go of Echo’s hand, and making his way inside.

 

Echo got up to go after him, but felt Samantha’s hand pressing down on her shoulders, “Don’t, love. He’ll be fine, he just needs some time.” 

 

Echo sat with Samantha, allowing the new knowledge she had of Mick and Aiden process through her mind. Eventually, she could stand the thought of him alone no longer, and stood up to go down stairs, saying goodnight to Samantha. She made her way down the staircase, and stood infront of Aiden’s room. The door was shut, something Echo had not seen since arriving at Samantha’s house, Aiden always left his door ajar. Slowly, Echo raiser her hand and knocked on the door, quietly, shyly, so that Samantha would not here. There was no answer, so she knocked again.

 

“Aiden?” She said, softly, “Aiden, it’s me. Can I come in?”

 

There was no answer. Maybe he had really gone to sleep.

 

“Aiden, I’m going to come in, is that okay?” Still no answer. She knew she should leave him if he didn’t want to be disturbed, but she was worried, and he didn’t tell her not to come in. She twisted the handle slowly, it creaking somewhat as she did so, and she peered her head around the crack in the door.

 

The room was dark, though a slight green glow was emitting from the star stickers above the bed, and from this light, Echo could just about make out Aiden’s form, sitting on the bed, his back against the wall and his knees pressed up to his chest, his arms around them. He looked up at the sound of the door opening, wiping tears from his eyes with his hands. Echo walked slowly inside, closing the door softly behind her so as not to alert Samantha’s attention through slamming doors. She made her way over to the bed, and sat down next to Aiden, putting her arms around him.

 

“Shh,” She said, rubbing her hand on his shoulders. He looked so young, Echo thought, crying in this children’s bedroom, so helpless. She wanted to help him, but did not know how, other than to try and reassure him, “Shh, it’ll be okay,” She soothed.

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