Origins (Chapter 13)
I laughed, the sound coming out like a short bark as I strode into my bedroom and sat with my head in my hands. My headache had returned with renewed vigor, and I remembered Emily's request that I not eat Cordelia's cooking. On top of everything else, it seemed the servants were turning on each other.
Suddenly, I heard three soft raps on the door. The sound was so slight it might be the wind, which had shown no sign of stopping since we got back from the woods.
"Hello?" I called hesitantly.
The raps started again, more insistently this time. On the other side of the room, the cotton curtains blew violently in the wind.
"Alfred?" I called, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. Father's tale had definitely affected me. "I won't be needing dinner," I called affected me. "I won't be needing dinner," I called loudly.
I grabbed a letter opener from my desk and held it behind my back as I headed cautiously toward the door. But just as I placed my hand on the doorknob, the door began to swing inward.
"This isn't funny!" I called, half hysterical, when all of a sudden, a figure in pale blue slipped into the room.
"Good, because humor has never been one of my strong points," Katherine said, her smile revealing her straight, white teeth.
"I'm sorry." I blushed and hastily dropped the letter opener onto the desk. "I'm just …"
"Y ou're still recovering." Katherine's brown eyes locked with my own. "I'm sorry to startle you." She sat down on the center of my bed, pulling her knees up to her chest. "Y our brother's worried about you."
"Oh …," I stammered. I couldn't believe that Katherine Pierce had come into my bedroom and was sitting on my bed, as if it were perfectly normal. No woman, except my mother and Cordelia, had ever been in my sleeping chambers. I was suddenly embarrassed by my muddy boots in one corner, the pile of china dishes in another, and the Shakespeare volume still open on the desk.
"Do you want to know a secret?" Katherine asked.
I stood at the door, clutching the brass doorknob. "Maybe?" I asked hesitantly.
"Come closer and I'll tell you." She beckoned me with her finger. Townspeople were scandalized if a couple went walking to the Wickery Bridge without a chaperone. But here Katherine was without a chaperone–or stockings, for that matter –perched on my bed, asking me to join her there.
There was no way I could resist that.
I gingerly sat on the edge of the bed. Immediately she flipped onto her hands and knees and crawled over to me. Pushing her hair over one shoulder, she cupped my ear with her hand.
"My secret is that I've been worried about you, too," she whispered.
Her breath was unnaturally cold against my cheek. My leg muscles twitched. I knew I should demand that she leave, right away. But instead I inched closer to her.
"Really?" I whispered.
"Yes," Katherine murmured, looking deep into my eyes. "Y need to forget Rosalyn."
I shivered and glanced away from Katherine's dark-brown eyes toward the window, watching a fast-moving summer storm sweep in.
Katherine took my chin in her ice-cold hands and turned my eyes back to hers. "Rosalyn is dead," she continued, her face full of sorrow and kindness. "But you aren't. Rosalyn wouldn't have wanted you to shut yourself away like a criminal. No one would want that for their betrothed, don't you agree?"
I nodded slowly. Even though Damon had told me the same thing, the words made infinitely more sense when coming from Katherine's mouth.
Her lips curved in a small smile. "Y ou'll find happiness again," she said. "I want to help you. But you have to let me, sweet Stefan." Katherine laid her hand against my forehead. I felt a surge of heat and ice converging at my temple. I flinched from the force of it, disappointment welling in my chest as Katherine's hand dropped back into her lap.
"Are those the flowers I picked for you?" Katherine asked suddenly, looking across the room. "Y ou've shoved them into the corner without any light!"
"I'm sorry," I said.
She imperiously swung her legs off the bed and bent to take the basket from under my desk. She drew the shades, then stared at me, her arms crossed over her chest. My breath caught in my throat. Her light-blue crepe dress highlighted her tiny waist, and her necklace lay at the hollow of her neck. She was undeniably beautiful.
She plucked a daisy from the bunch, removing the petals one by one. "Y esterday I saw a servant child play a silly game–he loves me, he loves me not." She laughed, but then her smile abruptly turned solemn. "What do you think the answer would be?"
And suddenly, she stood above me, her hands on my shoulders. I inhaled her scent of ginger and lemon, unsure what to say, knowing only that I wanted to feel her hands on my shoulders forever. "Would the answer be he loves me … or he loves me not?" Katherine asked, leaning toward me. My body began quivering with a desire I didn't know I possessed. My lips were mere inches away from hers.
"What's the answer?" Katherine asked, biting her lip in the impression of a shy maiden. I laughed despite myself. I felt as if I were watching the scene unfold, powerless to stop what I was about to do. I knew this was wrong. Sinful. But how could it be sinful if every fiber of my being wanted it more than anything? Rosalyn was dead. Katherine was alive. And I was alive, too, and I needed to start acting like it.
If what Father said was true, and I was about to fight the battle of my life between good and evil, then I needed to learn to have confidence in myself and my choices. I needed to stop thinking and start believing in myself, in my convictions, in my desires.
"Do you really need me to answer?" I asked, reaching for her waist. I grabbed her and pulled her onto the bed with a strength I didn't know I her onto the bed with a strength I didn't know I possessed. She shrieked in delight and tumbled onto the bed next to me. Her breath was sweet, and her hands were cold and holding mine, and suddenly, nothing else–not Rosalyn, not my father's demons, not even Damon–mattered.