Post Reply chapter 4
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By the time Elena reached her locker, the numbness was wearing off and the lump in her throat was
trying to dissolve into tears. But she wouldn't cry at school, she told herself, shewouldn't . After closing
her locker, she made for the main exit.
For the second day in a row, she was coming home from school right after the last bell, and alone. Aunt
Judith wouldn't be able to cope. But when Elena reached her house, Aunt Judith's car was not in the
driveway; she and Margaret must have gone out to the market. The house was still and peaceful as Elena
let herself in.
She was glad for that stillness; she wanted to be alone right now. But, on the other hand, she didn't
exactly know what to do with herself.
Now that she finallycould cry, she found that tears wouldn't come. She let her backpack sag to the floor
in the front hall and walked slowly into the living room.
It was a handsome, impressive room, the only part of the house besides Elena's bedroom that belonged
to the original structure. That first house had been built before 1861, and had been almost completely
burned in the Civil War. All that could be saved was this room, with its elaborate fireplace framed by
scrolled molding, and the big bedroom above. Elena's father's greatgrandfather had built a new house,
and Gilberts had lived in it ever since.
Elena turned to look out of one of the ceiling-to-floor windows. The glass was so old that it was thick
and wavery, and everything outside was distorted, looking slightly tipsy. She remembered the first time
her father had showed her that wavery old glass, when she had been younger than Margaret was now.
The fullness in her throat was back, but still no tears would come. Everything inside her was
contradictory. She didn't want company, and yet she was achingly lonely. Shedid want to think, but now
that she was trying to, her thoughts eluded her like mice running from a white owl.
White owl… hunting bird… flesh eater… crow, she thought. "Biggest crow I've ever seen," Matt had
said.
Her eyes stung again. Poor Matt. She'd hurt him, but he'd been so nice about it. He'd even been nice to
Stefan.
Stefan. Her heart thudded once, hard, squeezing two hot tears out of her eyes. There, she was crying at
last. She was crying with anger and humiliation and frustration—and what else?
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What had she really lost today? What did she really feel for this stranger, this Stefan Salvatore? He was
a challenge, yes, and that made him different, interesting. Stefan was exotic… exciting.
Funny, that was what guys had sometimes told Elenashe was. And later she heard from them, or from
their friends or sisters, how nervous they were before going out with her, how their palms got sweaty and
their stomachs were full of butterflies. Elena had always found such stories amusing. No boy she'd ever
met in her life had made her nervous.
But when she'd spoken to Stefan today, her pulse had been racing, her knees weak. Her palms had
been wet. And there hadn't been butterflies in her stomach—there had been bats.
She was interested in the guy because he made her feel nervous? Not a very good reason, Elena, she
told herself. In fact, a very bad reason.
But there was also that mouth. That sculpted mouth that made her knees weak with something entirely
different than nervousness. And that night-dark hair—her fingers itched to weave themselves into its
softness. That lithe, flat-muscled body, those long legs… and thatvoice . It was his voice that had
decided her yesterday, making her absolutely determined to have him. His voice had been cool and
disdainful when talking to Mr. Tanner, but strangely compelling for all that. She wondered if it could turn
night-dark as well, and how it would sound saying her name, whispering her name…
"Elena!"
Elena jumped, her reverie shattered. But it wasn't Stefan Salvatore calling her, it was Aunt Judith rattling
the front door open.
"Elena? Elena!" And that was Margaret, her voice shrill and piping. "Are you home?"
Misery welled up in Elena again, and she glanced around the kitchen. She couldn't face her aunt's
worried questions or Margaret's innocent cheerfulness right now. Not with her eyelashes wet and new
tears threatening any minute. She made a lightning decision and quietly slipped out the back door as the
front door banged shut.
Once off the back porch and into the yard, she hesitated. She didn't want to run into anyone she knew.
But where could she go to be alone?
The answer came almost instantly. Of course. She'd go see Mom and Dad.
It was a fairly long walk, almost to the edge of town, but over the last three years it had become familiar
to Elena. She crossed over Wickery Bridge and climbed up the hill, past the ruined church, then down
into the little valley below.
This part of the cemetery was well-kept; it was the old section that was allowed to run slightly wild.
Here, the grass was neatly trimmed, and bouquets of flowers made splashes of bright color. Elena sat
down by the big marble headstone with "Gilbert" carved into the front.
"Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad," she whispered. She leaned over to place a purple impatiens blossom she'd picked
along the way in front of the marker. Then she curled her legs under her and just sat.
She'd come here often after the accident. Margaret had been only one at the time of the car crash; she
didn't really remember them. But Elena did. Now she let her mind leaf back through memories, and the
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lump in her throat swelled, and the tears came easier. She missed them so much, still. Mother, so young
and beautiful, and Father, with a smile that crinkled up his eyes.
She was lucky to have Aunt Judith, of course. It wasn't every aunt who would quit her job and move
back into a little town to take care of two orphaned nieces. And Robert, Aunt Judith's fiancé, was more
like a stepfather to Margaret than an uncle-to-be by marriage.
But Elena remembered her parents. Sometimes, right after the funeral, she had come out here to rage at
them, angry with them for being so stupid as to get themselves killed. That was when she hadn't known
Aunt Judith very well, and had felt there was nowhere on earth she belonged anymore.
Where did she belong now? she wondered. The easy answer was, here, in Fell's Church, where she'd
lived all her life. But lately the easy answer seemed wrong. Lately she felt there must be something else
out there for her, some place she would recognize at once and call home.
A shadow fell over her, and she looked up, startled. For an instant, the two figures standing over her
were alien, unfamiliar, vaguely menacing. She stared, frozen.
"Elena," said the smaller figure fussily, hands on hips, "sometimes I worry about you, I really do."
Elena blinked and then laughed shortly. It was Bonnie and Meredith. "What does a person have to do to
get a little privacy around here?" she said as they sat down.
"Tell us to go away," suggested Meredith, but Elena just shrugged. Meredith and Bonnie had often come
out here to find her in the months after the accident. Suddenly, she felt glad about that, and grateful to
them both. If nowhere else, she belonged with the friends who cared about her. She didn't mind if they
knew she had been crying, and she accepted the crumpled tissue Bonnie offered her and wiped her eyes.
The three of them sat together in silence for a little while, watching the wind ruffle the stand of oak trees
at the edge of the cemetery.
"I'm sorry about what happened," Bonnie said at last, in a soft voice. "That was really terrible."
"And your middle name is 'Tact,' " said Meredith. "It couldn't have been that bad, Elena."
"You weren't there." Elena felt herself go hot all over again at the memory. "Itwas terrible. But I don't
care anymore," she added flatly, defiantly. "I'm finished with him. I don't want him anyway."
"Elena!"
"I don't, Bonnie. He obviously thinks he's too good for—for Americans. So he can just take those
designer sunglasses and…"
There were snorts of laughter from the other girls. Elena wiped her nose and shook her head. "So," she
said to Bonnie, determinedly changing the subject, "at least Tanner seemed in a better mood today."
Bonnie looked martyred. "Do you know that he made me sign up to be the very first one to give my oral
report? I don't care, though; I'm going to do mine on the druids, and—"
"On the what?"
"Droo-ids. The weird old guys who built Stonehenge and did magic and stuff in ancient England. I'm
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descended from them, and that's why I'm psychic."
Meredith snorted, but Elena frowned at the blade of grass she was twirling between her fingers. "Bonnie,
did you really see something yesterday in my palm?" she asked abruptly.
Bonnie hesitated. "I don't know," she said at last. "I—Ithought I did then. But sometimes my
imagination runs away with me."
"She knew you were here," said Meredith unexpectedly. "I thought of looking at the coffee shop, but
Bonnie said, 'She's at the cemetery.' "
"Did I?" Bonnie looked faintly surprised but impressed. "Well, there you see. My grandmother in
Edinburgh has the second sight and so do I. It always skips a generation."
"And you're descended from the druids," Meredith said solemnly.
"Well, it's true! In Scotland they keep up the old traditions. You wouldn'tbelieve some of the things my
grandmother does. She has a way to find out who you're going to marry and when you're going to die.
She told me I'm going to die early."
"Bonnie!"
"She did. I'm going to be young and beautiful in my coffin. Don't you think that's romantic?"
"No, I don't. I think it's disgusting," said Elena. The shadows were getting longer, and the wind had a
chill to it now.
"So who are you going to marry, Bonnie?" Meredith put in deftly.
"I don't know. My grandmother told me the ritual for finding out, but I never tried it. Of
course"—Bonnie struck a sophisticated pose—"he has to be outrageously rich and totally gorgeous. Like
our mysterious dark stranger, for example. Particularly if nobody else wants him." She cast a wicked
glance at Elena.
Elena refused the bait. "What about Tyler Smallwood?" she murmured innocently. "His father's certainly
rich enough."
"And he's not bad-looking," agreed Meredith solemnly. "That is, of course, if you're an animal lover. All
those big white teeth."
The girls looked at each other and then simultaneously burst into laughter. Bonnie threw a handful of
grass at Meredith, who brushed it off and threw a dandelion back at her. Somewhere in the middle of it,
Elena realized that she was going to be all right. She was herself again, not lost, not a stranger, but Elena
Gilbert, the queen of Robert E. Lee. She pulled the apricot ribbon out of her hair and shook the hair free
about her face.
"I've decided what to domy oral report on," she said, watching with narrow eyes as Bonnie
finger-combed grass out of her curls.
"What?" said Meredith.
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Elena tilted her chin up to gaze at the red and purple sky above the hill. She took a thoughtful breath and
let the suspense build for a moment. Then she said coolly, "The Italian Renaissance."
Bonnie and Meredith stared at her, then looked at each other and burst into whoops of laughter again.
"Aha," said Meredith when they recovered. "So the tiger returneth."
Elena gave her a feral grin. Her shaken confidence had returned to her. And though she didn't
understand it herself, she knew one thing: she wasn't going to let Stefan Salvatore get away alive.
"All right," she said briskly. "Now, listen, you two. Nobody else can know about this, or I'll be the
laughingstock of the school. And Caroline would just love any excuse to make me look ridiculous. But I
do still want him, and I'm going to have him. I don't know how yet, but I am. Until I come up with a plan,
though, we're going to give him the cold shoulder."
"Oh,we are?"
"Yes,we are. You can't have him, Bonnie; he's mine. And I have to be able to trust you completely."
"Wait a minute," said Meredith, a glint in her eye. She unclasped the cloisonne pin from her blouse, then,
holding up her thumb, made a quick jab. "Bonnie, give me your hand."
"Why?" said Bonnie, eyeing the pin suspiciously.
"Because I want to marry you. Why do you think, idiot?"
"But—but—Oh, all right. Ow!"
"Now you, Elena." Meredith pricked Elena's thumb efficiently, and then squeezed it to get a drop of
blood. "Now," she continued, looking at the other two with sparkling dark eyes, "we all press our thumbs
together and swear. Especially you, Bonnie. Swear to keep this secret and to do whatever Elena asks in
relation to Stefan."
"Look, swearing with blood is dangerous," Bonnie protested seriously. "It means you have to stick to
your oath no matter what happens, no matterwhat , Meredith."
"I know," said Meredith grimly. "That's why I'm telling you to do it. I remember what happened with
Michael Martin."
Bonnie made a face. "That was years ago, and we broke up right away anyway and—Oh, all right. I'll
swear." Closing her eyes, she said, "I swear to keep this a secret and to do anything Elena asks about
Stefan."
Meredith repeated the oath. And Elena, staring at the pale shadows of their thumbs joined together in
the gathering dusk, took a long breath and said softly, "And I swear not to rest until he belongs to me."
A gust of cold wind blew through the cemetery, fanning the girls' hair out and sending dry leaves
fluttering on the ground. Bonnie gasped and pulled back, and they all looked around, then giggled
nervously.
"It's dark," said Elena, surprised.
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"We'd better get started home," Meredith said, refastening her pin as she stood up. Bonnie stood, too,
putting the tip of her thumb into her mouth.
"Good-bye," said Elena softly, facing the headstone. The purple blossom was a blur on the ground. She
picked up the apricot ribbon that lay next to it, turned, and nodded to Bonnie and Meredith. "Let's go."
Silently, they headed up the hill toward the ruined church. The oath sworn in blood had given them all a
solemn feeling, and as they passed the ruined church Bonnie shivered. With the sun down, the
temperature had dropped abruptly, and the wind was rising. Each gust sent whispers through the grass
and made the ancient oak trees rattle their dangling leaves.
"I'm freezing," Elena said, pausing for a moment by the black hole that had once been the church door
and looking down at the landscape below.
The moon had not yet risen, and she could just make out the old graveyard and Wickery Bridge beyond
it. The old graveyard dated from Civil War days, and many of the headstones bore the names of soldiers.
It had a wild look to it; brambles and tall weeds grew on the graves, and ivy vines swarmed over
crumbling granite. Elena had never liked it.
"It looks different, doesn't it? In the dark, I mean," she said unsteadily. She didn't know how to say what
she really meant, that it was not a place for the living.
"We could go the long way," said Meredith. "But that would mean another twenty minutes of walking."
"I don't mind going this way," said Bonnie, swallowing hard. "I always said I wanted to be buried down
there in the old one."
"Will you stop talking about being buried!" Elena snapped, and she started down the hill. But the farther
down the narrow path she got, the more uncomfortable she felt. She slowed until Bonnie and Meredith
caught up with her. As they neared the first headstone, her heart began beating fast. She tried to ignore it,
but her whole skin was tingling with awareness and the fine hairs on her arms were standing up. Between
the gusts of wind, every sound seemed horribly magnified; the crunching of their feet on the leaf-strewn
path was deafening.
The ruined church was a black silhouette behind them now. The narrow path led between the
lichen-encrusted headstones, many of which stood taller than Meredith. Big enough for something to hide
behind, thought Elena uneasily. Some of the tombstones themselves were unnerving, like the one with the
cherub that looked like a real baby, except that its head had fallen off and had been carefully placed by
its body. The wide granite eyes of the head were blank. Elena couldn't look away from it, and her heart
began to pound.
"Why are we stopping?" said Meredith.
"I just… I'm sorry," Elena murmured, but when she forced herself to turn she immediately stiffened.
"Bonnie?" she said. "Bonnie, what's wrong?"
Bonnie was staring straight out into the graveyard, her lips parted, her eyes as wide and blank as the
stone cherub's. Fear washed through Elena's stomach. "Bonnie, stop it. Stop it! It's not funny."
Bonnie made no reply.
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"Bonnie!" said Meredith. She and Elena looked at each other, and suddenly Elena knew she had to get
away. She whirled to start down the path, but a strange voice spoke behind her, and she jerked around.
"Elena," the voice said. It wasn't Bonnie's voice, but it came from Bonnie's mouth. Pale in the darkness,
Bonnie was still staring out into the graveyard. There was no expression on her face at all.
"Elena," the voice said again, and added, as Bonnie's head turned toward her, "there's someone waiting
out there for you."
Elena never quite knew what happened in the next few minutes. Something seemed to move out among
the dark humped shapes of the headstones, shifting and rising between them. Elena screamed and
Meredith cried out, and then they were both running, and Bonnie was running with them, screaming, too.
Elena pounded down the narrow path, stumbling on rocks and clumps of grass root. Bonnie was
sobbing for breath behind her, and Meredith, calm and cynical Meredith, was panting wildly. There was
a sudden thrashing and a shriek in an oak tree above them, and Elena found that she could run faster.
"There's something behind us," cried Bonnie shrilly. "Oh, God, what's happening?"
"Get to the bridge," gasped Elena through the fire in her lungs. She didn't know why, but she felt they
had to make it there. "Don't stop, Bonnie! Don't look behind you!" She grabbed the other girl's sleeve
and pulled her around.
"I can't make it," Bonnie sobbed, clutching her side, her pace faltering.
"Yes, you can," snarled Elena, grabbing Bonnie's sleeve again and forcing her to keep moving. "Come
on.Come on!"
She saw the silver gleam of water before them. And there was the clearing between the oak trees, and
the bridge just beyond. Elena's legs were wobbling and her breath was whistling in her throat, but she
wouldn't let herself lag behind. Now she could see the wooden planks of the footbridge. The bridge was
twenty feet away from them, ten feet away, five.
"We made it," panted Meredith, feet thundering on the wood.
"Don't stop! Get to the other side!"
The bridge creaked as they ran staggering across it, their steps echoing across the water. When she
jumped onto packed dirt on the far shore, Elena let go of Bonnie's sleeve at last, and allowed her legs to
stumble to a halt.
Meredith was bent over, hands on thighs, deep-breathing. Bonnie was crying.
"What was it? Oh, what was
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"What was it? Oh, what was it?" she said. "Is it still coming?"
"I thought you were the expert," Meredith said unsteadily. "For God's sake, Elena, let's get out of here."
"No, it's all right now," Elena whispered. There were tears in her own eyes and she was shaking all over,
but the hot breath at the back of her neck had gone. The river stretched between her and it, the waters a
dark tumult. "It can't follow us here," she said.
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Meredith stared at her, then at the other shore with its clustered oak trees, then at Bonnie. She wet her
lips and laughed shortly. "Sure. It can't follow us. But let's go home anyway, all right? Unless you feel like
spending the night out here."
Some unnameable feeling shuddered through Elena. "Not tonight, thanks," she said. She put an arm
around Bonnie, who was still sniffling. "It's okay, Bonnie. We're safe now. Come on."
Meredith was looking across the river again. "You know, I don't see a thing back there," she said, her
voice calmer. "Maybe there wasn't anything behind us at all; maybe we just panicked and scared
ourselves. With a little help from the druid priestess here."
Elena said nothing as they started walking, keeping very close together on the dirt path. But she
wondered. She wondered very much.
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