We walked behind the large building until we came to a less busy area. I could see this place must have been used primarily as a playground or backyard for the kids.
I had been looking around to take it all in, lost in my thoughts over how pretty the grounds were, when I was suddenly tackled around my waist. I swayed, throwing my feet out to keep my balance and looked down.
There, I found a small child had launched themself at me.
“Billy!” Ava scolded, gently pulling him off me. “You need to ask permission first to touch someone. Apologise to Miss Winona right now.”
I felt awkward given I had no experience with children, and I definitely hadn’t anticipated for one to latch themself onto me so quickly. But I did my best to act the way one would expect to treat a child.
“I’m sorry, Miss Winona,” the small blonde boy said, looking sad.
“It’s fine! Thank you for apologising.” I smiled at him to let him know it was okay.
Suddenly more children appeared and before long, I had a small group of six kids surrounding me, their faces filled with so much excitement over just meeting me. Ava went through and introduced them all to me one-by-one. The eldest in the group was nine, the youngest was six. Ava mentioned there
Dividing into pages now
were more around somewhere and that they would probably be disappointed to find out later they hadn’t gotten the chance to meet me personally.
“Umm, Miss Winona?” a little girl named Emma spoke up.
I crouched down to talk to her at eye level. “Yes, Miss Emma?”
“My name is just Emma, not Miss,” she corrected. “I was wondering if you’d… if um…if you’d like to play with us.””
“Miss Winona is not here to play today, Emma,” Ava replied.
I smiled at them both. “No, it’s okay. What would you like to play?”
want to play tag,” said one of the boys, Trevor.
The children all began to cheer in agreement at that idea.
And so, we did. We played tag.
I couldn’t deny that it definitely wasn’t the easiest game I’d ever played, given my attire, but luckily they found it more fun when I was too slow to catch them. Or rather pretended I was too slow. By the end of the game, they were all huddled together in the middle of the field, completely out of breath.
Taking advantage of their exhausted states, I decided to take a seat under one of the nearby trees that had a bench.
“Looks like you had fun,” Ava said. She had spent the time looking on fondly at us playing together over by the sidelines.
I had been watching the kids chatting away happily that I hadn’t even seen Ava approach.
“You should join in next time.”
I looked up to her but then, to my surprise, I saw her
expression change from a smile to suddenly one of worry very quickly.
“Are you okay, Winona?” she asked. Her voice was thick with
I frowned. “Of course, why?”
Confused, I gently brought a hand up to my face and, sure enough, there were tears on my cheek.
“Are you feeling okay?” she asked.
Was I feeling okay? I had been having a nice time with the kids, I wasn’t sure what could have possibly upset me so much.
And then I realised what my body had been trying to tell me. I looked down and saw I had subconsciously placed a hand over my belly without even realising it. I must have done it when I had been watching over them.
I knew then what had upset me. A part of me was remembering the fact that I would never be able to have a child of my own. I was crying over the baby I had never been able to conceive in my past life.
“Oh…,” was all I managed to say.
But I didn’t get a chance to talk my way out of it as suddenly
all the children were in a frenzy again, someone else having arrived. I pushed all my negative thoughts to the side and forced a small smile on my face at seeing how they were able to become energetic again so quickly.
However, the expression died on my face just as quickly as it had arrived as I looked over to see who they were running
Because it was Benjamin who had arrived.
‘Stop them,’ my mind hissed at me as I watched the children laugh and jump all over Benjamin.
He had scooped a few up and was playing happily with them. They ran around him, tugging at his clothes while he pretended to be a scary monster. Every time he would roar, they would all squeal and run a few steps away, having the time of their life.
‘He is a murderer, my mind reminded me. ‘He is dangerous. Don’t let him touch them.’
But the scene in front of me was baffling, freezing me in place. I had never seen Benjamin around children before and so his affectionate behaviour towards them was shocking, to say the least. Would he have been like this in the past had he been given a child of his own? …If my body had been capable of such a thing?
As the thoughts urging me to protect the children continued to hound at me, I did my best to push them away. I had to remind myself that a sixteen year old Benjamin was not yet the man he would be one day. He didn’t have blood on his
Ava could sense I was suddenly extremely uncomfortable at
his arrival and gently touched my hand. She probably didn’t understand but it was nice of her to try and comfort me regardless.
Finally, Benjamin looked up towards the tree and saw us sitting there. I flinched as his eyes caught my own, hoping more than anything he would leave.
But, to my dismay, he immediately put down the kid that was thrown over his shoulder and started to walk to where we were. My heart started to race but I told myself I was more mentally prepared this time. I wouldn’t let the trial ground memories haunt me like the last time.
I took several deep breaths, calming my mind, but with every step he made towards us, the more I began to doubt my ability to handle it. Would I actually be able to keep it together this time? It had been so many months now since I’d seen him… so many months since I had died. Would the memories still be as fresh?
But standing in front of me, I realised just how weak and insignificant I still was. As he towered over my small frame, I knew that, even with all of the training I’d done over the last few months, it would still not even be remotely good enough to defend myself against him.
“Winona, Ava,” he greeted.
His voice made my stomach drop and I instantly felt sick and weak. My name on his lips felt more like a curse.
Ava and I were both already on our feet by this point and we bowed our heads in respect upon his greeting.
“Alpha heir,” Ava said, welcoming him. “We are honoured to receive you at our event today. Thank you for coming.”
I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth to return his greeting, my head pounding at the internal conflict happening within. I was sure he had noticed my silence. though. He had to have.
Benjamin smiled. “It is a pleasure to be here and to finally meet you, Ava. My father extends his regards for the
invitation and wishes to thank you for your family’s continued hard work at the facility.”
I couldn’t bring myself to look at his face, choosing to keep my eyes cast down. It was taking all of my concentration just to not visibly shake from just being so close to him.
“Thank you, Alpha heir.” Ava bowed again quickly.
“However, unfortunately, it seems I will need to find you later to talk further. I have some matters to discuss with Winona right now. But I look forward to catching up properly and please let your parents know that I have arrived.”
My breath stopped mid-exhale from surprise. Why would he need to talk to me of all people?
I could feel Ava hesitate for a second, but we both knew there was nothing she could do to help me here. With one last final bow, she left, looking back several times with a worried expression.
Soon, I was suddenly facing the man who still haunted my nightmares.