Charlie Dubois finished drying her long red hair, she shook her head letting the lose waves fall naturally around her back and shoulders.
She looked herself over in the mirror - her perfect sixteen year old self stared back at her - her pale flawless skin, her beautiful piercing blue eyes, her perfect smile, her flaming red hair. She sighed. This was the same reflection which had stared back at her for many years now. Never changing, always beautiful, always young, and yet, this was a curse. The price for her everlasting youth was large, a vice she would never control, a craving with a mind of its own.
However, she forced herself to smile, she was stuck this way, this was what she was and no matter how much she wanted it, she would never be alive.
She checked her outfit of skinny jeans, Converse and blue baggy sweatshirt over one last time before picking up her bags and heading out the door.
As she crossed the lobby the fat bald receptionist not so subtly looked her up and down. She knew she wasn't sixteen and she could break his neck in a mere second if she wanted to, but he didn't, surely he knew it was wrong to stare at young girls. Nonetheless, she gave him a half-hearted smile as she continued to the main exit. She was glad to be leaving this cheap ugly apartment but she was anxious about where she was going.
She got into her new shiny black Land Rover and gave a light chuckle. She knew it was wrong to use her powers to get what she wanted, but she loved this car and the guy who had owned it was a jackass.
She turned on the ignition, checked her mirrors and pulled away from the curb. As she drove she hummed to the radio, she was mainly using this as a distraction from her thoughts.
In a few hours she would be back to where it all began, back to the place where her heart was stolen... but also where she had found love. She was nervous about returning to Mystic Falls, here there were people she'd been avoiding, people she hadn't seen for years, two people in particular which she hated, yet, she needed their help to find out the truth.
Elena and Stefan were laughing about their afternoon as they drove back to the boarding house. Elena's long brown hair was shining in the moonlight. Stefan smiled at her.
"Is it wrong to be having fun when we still don't know what Katherine is up to or what her intentions are? But sometimes, when I'm at school or hanging out at The Grill, things feel normal. I can forget about what's going on with Damon, with this whole Katherine thing, and why I look like her."
"No, it's not wrong, you're human, Elena, you should be allowed to enjoy yourself, to relax and just have a normal life." He sighed. "You shouldn't have to deal with all this."
"Stefan, please don't..."
Suddenly, Stefan brought the car to a stop.
"Stay in the car, Elena," he ordered, his eyes scanning the area around the house.
"What? Why? Stefan, what's wrong?"
Stefan didn't answer, but he didn't need to, she'd now noticed the unfamiliar jeep parked across from them.
"Who do you think it is? I've never seen that car in town before." she said, and she too was now searching for the owner of the car.
"I don't know, but with Katherine back, we have to be extra careful about who we trust. Anyone could be working for her." He opened the car door. "Please stay here, I'm going to search the house and grounds."
Elena opened her door too. "No, I'm coming with you."
Stefan sighed. "Fine, but you have to promise to do as I say."
"Okay, I promise."
"I'm going to have a quick search around, you head to the house."
Stefan ran into the woods so fast, Elena didn't have to time to see him move.
Elena cautiously walked to the door, she knew she should be afraid with Katherine out to get her, but with everything that had happened since she had met the Salvatore brothers, she was getting used to the idea of people wanting to kill her.
Elena opened the front door and screamed.
Suddenly, Stefan was at her side. "What's wrong?" he asked urgently.
"It's a girl, I don't know her."
Stefan stepped inside holding Elena behind him.
"I can't believe you don't have a human living here, Stefan, I just walked straight in."
"Charlotte?" Stefan stammered. "You're a vampire?"
"Yep, it's me, the one and only," Charlotte smiled sarcastically.
"You know her, Stefan?" Elena asked.
"Yeah, I did over a hundred years ago." He faced Charlotte. "When did you turn?"
"What a question, I would have to say about 250 years ago."
"But that would mean..."
"Uh huh, I was a vampire the very first day you and Damon met me."
"So, the whole time..."
"Yep, that's pretty much what it means, Stef. And guess what, I was just as surprised when I found out you and Damon had turned."
"How did you find out, we were still human when you left Mystic Falls?" Stefan asked curiously.
"News travels fast, Stefan, and um, little miss bitch Katherine, she found my mom in the early 1900s, told her she'd turned you. What a bitch, she turned you and then left you. God, I hate that girl."
"Katherine? You know her?" Elena said weakly.
Charlotte smiled darkly and turned to face Elena. "Well, well, well, look at you, the rumours weren't rumours after all."
"Excuse me?" Elena said now face to face with Charlotte.
"You, Elena Gilbert, being Katherine Pierce's doppelganger. It's so scary; it's actually giving me the chills. Stefan, how can you stand to be with her, does she not remind you of that bitch every time you look at her?"
"Elena is nothing like Katherine, Charlotte, nothing," Stefan growled. He pulled Elena closer to his side. "Anyway, what are you doing here? You haven't been to Mystic Falls for almost 150 years."
"How rude, Stefan, why don't you show me where I'll be staying, I'll have a good night's sleep, and in the morning we can get down to the nitty-gritty, you can ask me anything you want and I can ask you why the hell there has been so many killings in Mystic Falls in the last year."
"Where you'll be staying?"
"Well, you don't expect me to sleep outside do you." She picked up her bags and headed to the living room. "And by the way, it's Charlie now; it is the twenty-first century after all."
Dear diary, why is she here, why? I never meant to hurt her but I did... and Damon did. And now she's back... when I thought she was dead. All those years ago she was a vampire, how did she keep that from us? Did she use her compulsion on us? Why did she never bite us... or turn us? Or did she simply just want to live as a human? Not every vampire is like Katherine. But why is she back now? What if she wants revenge? What if she's working for Katherine? What if she wants us dead? But why would she after almost 150 years, why now? Yet, if she is still the Charlotte I knew, she wouldn't hurt anybody... not even Damon after what he did to her.
Stefan closed his diary and put down his pen. He leaned back in his chair and shut his eyes. He hadn't slept well last night, he'd tried not to worry about Charlotte but it was hard when he didn't know what she wanted. He sat back up and sighed. He needed to talk to her.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang downstairs. Stefan was out of the chair and in the living room within seconds.
Damon was standing in the middle of the room, broken glass all around him. Elena walked through the front door.
"Damon?" Stefan asked shaking his head annoyed. Elena was now at Stefan's side and he took her hand in his.
"Well, brother, I found out something very funny at The Grill this morning. Your little girlfriend Elena here told me that Charlotte, aka Charlie, aka Charlotte who should be dead by now is in our house," Damon shouted as he tossed a vase across the room.
"Indeed I am," Charlie smiled cockily from the top of the stairs.
Damon looked in shock.
"Aren't you pleased to see me Damon?" she said as she descended down the stairs. She wandered across the room and stood in front of Damon. "I missed you?" she smiled.
"You look exactly the same as the last day I saw you... in 1864," he whispered. He gently touched her face. "When did you turn? Are you still eighteen?"
"Um, I'm sixteen actually."
"Damon, I've been sixteen since 1764, I was born in France in 1748."
"Are you telling me, that when I was dating you, you were a vampire?"
"I think being sixteen for almost one hundred years before I met you kind of implies that."
Damon turned away from them.
"You dated her?" Elena said. "What about Katherine?"
"I dated Charlotte before I met Katherine," Damon breathed, still facing the other way. "It was 1861, I was barely eighteen, she was a couple of years younger than me, or so I thought... we dated for three years..." He turned to face Charlotte. "I'd been with a few girls but you were my first love."
"If you loved me, why did you forget about me?
"Forgot about you? I thought you were human; I had to leave my human life when I was turned. And now almost 150 years later, I thought you were dead."
"No, no, no, you forgot about me, when you met her."
"Charlotte, a lot of what happened back then is a blur to me, but I loved you." Damon put his hand on her face but she pushed him away.
"Damon, when you came back from the Confederate Army, you acted like I didn't even exist, it was as if I was invisible, everything was her... Katherine," she whispered.
"No, I only dated Katherine because you left, you just disappeared one day."
"I left because you broke my heart, before you left for the army, Damon, you proposed to me, you said when you got back we'd start a life together. I told you that wouldn't be possible for us as I had a secret."
"Well, now I know what that secret was," he scoffed.
"You told me you didn't care what I was hiding, that we could work through anything, because we loved each other. I was going to reveal myself to you, I thought you were the one, and you choose that bitch over me. " Charlotte now in tears ran across the room and was out of the house within seconds.
After Charlie left, Damon, Elena and Stefan stood in silence. No one knew what to say. Damon slumped on the couch and Stefan stood across from him, Elena at his side. Stefan was the first to speak.
"You never told me what happened with you and Charlotte. Is she telling the truth, did you cheat on her with Katherine?"
"I don't think this is any of your business, little brother," Damon said his voice bitter.
"I think it is when Charlotte is hurt like that and the fact you let Katherine play you once again."
"It was almost 150 years ago, Stefan, let it go, lighten up, mellow out."
Elena finally spoke. "Why is everything a joke to you? Charlie is obviously upset, you broke her heart, and you pretty much cheated on her. I mean, you left her for Katherine." She shook her head in disgust.
"Don't you start with me, Elena, you've been alive barely 18 years, what do you know."
"I know enough, I know you don't hurt the ones you love. I know you don't start flirting with someone else when you're already in a relationship. And you certainly don't ignore your girlfriend and treat her like she's nothing."
Damon was suddenly on his feet in front of Elena. "It was 150 years ago, Elena, you weren't even alive then, you don't even know Charlotte. How do you know what she's said is the truth."
Elena was now face to face with Damon. "I know it's the truth because it's you we're talking about here, you who has absolutely no willpower when it comes to Katherine, you who acts before you think."
"You have no idea what you're talking about; things just didn't work out, and it's not like she's innocent in all this, she was hiding the fact that she was a bloody vampire. Plus, I'm sure she's not the only person in this world who's been dumped, it's not my fault the woman has held a grudge for 150 years," Damon smirked.
"It's not funny, Damon," Stefan said as he put his arm around Elena. "The thing is, you didn't even dump her, you forgot about her, you just moved on, I bet you didn't even realise she was gone."
Damon laughed darkly.
"There you go again, you can't take the truth, what you did to Charlotte was wrong, you are not stable when it comes to Katherine, every time she's here you instantly go under her spell, you let her break you, you're weak."
Suddenly, Damon had Stefan pinned against the wall, his eyes red and his fangs out. "Say that again, little brother, 'cause let's not forgot, as a human you were under Katherine's spell too."
"Yet, I didn't search for her for 145 years. You're weak, you can't see Katherine for what she really is, she pretended to be Elena, she tried to tear us all apart, she almost killed John," Stefan breathed through Damon's hold on his throat.
"He deserved it," Damon laughed as he finally let go of Stefan's neck. "But Katherine, I hate her as much as you do now."
Elena ran to Stefan's side, she rubbed his arm soothingly. "He was my father, I know I don't exactly like him, but you already destroyed the soul of my mother, I didn't need to lose both my real parents to vampires."
Elena and Stefan headed to the front door. Damon didn't move, his head turned away from them.
At the door Stefan stopped and turned back to Damon. "You may try to lie to yourself, but no one believes you. You pined after Katherine for 145 years, Damon, the whole time she wasn't in that tomb and she never came to find you," Stefan said softly.
Damon remained silent, his back to Stefan.
"When she finally did return, all she did was hurt and make trouble, she played with your emotions, with mine, she messed with Elena, and yet, she still didn't want you. And where is she now? We don't know. What you had with Katherine wasn't real, Damon, she tricked you into leaving Charlotte and you fell for it. You threw away a chance to have a real life with someone, and now 150 years later, you're just a violent, bitter and lonely 170 year old vampire, who relishes in the pain and hurt of others to hide how he really feels."
Leaving Damon alone, Stefan closed the front door and followed Elena to the car.
Charlie sat at a table in the back corner of The Grill, a glass of whisky in her hand. She sensed someone standing beside her, but she decided to ignore it.
"Hey, I haven't seen you around here before."
"That would be because I haven't been here before... well, while you've been here..." she said half-heartedly and took a big gulp of her drink.
"What? I've lived here my whole life."
"Don't listen to me, I'm crazy, I say weird things all the time."
He looked suspiciously at her drink. "I'm not surprised drinking like that, aren't you a little young to be drinking?"
"Aren't you a little nosy for someone who doesn't know me?"
He laughed. "I like your cynical attitude, sometimes I feel the same way," he said sitting on the seat opposite her. "You feel like nobody gets you, and nothing good is going to happen to you, so you shut them out with sarcasm."
"What are you doing, what's with the heart-to-heart? Who said you could sit here? And why do you think I want to listen to your problems, I have plenty of my own?"
"I'm Jeremy, and I decided I could sit here as I wanted to get to know the slightly crazed but cute redheaded girl on the chair opposite," he smiled with a cocky grin.
Charlie smiled too.
"See I made you laugh, so do I get to know your name now?"
She sighed and extended her hand to shake his. "I'm Charlie, nice to meet you, Jeremy."
Jeremy grinned widely. "Nice to meet you too, Charlie."
"You have no idea what you're saying," Charlie said softly.
"What? Should I not be happy about meeting you?"
"You just don't know me that's all."
"Then I'll get to know you," he grinned.
Charlie couldn't help but smile; she'd known Jeremy for barely five minutes, why did he make her feel this way.
"So, what brings you to Mystic Falls, Charlie?"
"Um, it's a complicated situation; I wouldn't want to bore you."
"You wouldn't be, I want to know more about you," Jeremy smiled.
"Why? You've just met me; I might be a complete nutcase for all you know?"
"Are you?" he laughed.
"What? A nutcase?"
"Well, you said it," he grinned. "And I did find you here drinking whisky at 10am on a Friday morning."
"What's wrong with a breakfast drink? Gives me a good start to the day," she giggled.
"I like to see you laugh, you look really pretty." He placed his hand gently over hers.
"You are so weird, you don't know anything about me, and yet, you're being so sweet to me, and you're acting like you've known me for years."
"Maybe I'm just a sweet guy," he said smugly.
"Maybe," she laughed.
Jeremy looked down at his watch. "Um, it's after ten-thirty, I have a class at 11, I'm gonna have to go to school."
"No problem," she said as she ran her finger around the rim of her glass.
Jeremy stood up. "Aren't you going to school? I mean, how old are you?"
"I'm sixteen," she said, she tried to suppress a laugh. "How old are you? Oh, and no, I'm not going to school."
"I'm almost sixteen. So, if you're not going to school, does that mean you're not planning on staying here long?"
"I'm not sure how long I'm staying here," she smiled softly. "And you, you're still fifteen, making me a cougar."
"Hardly," he laughed. "I'm sixteen in less than a month."
"You're so young. It feels like I've been sixteen for years," she laughed.
"And you said I'm weird, when you say things like that," he said laughing with her. "Look, I really need to go to school, but I don't want to say goodbye in case I don't see you again."
"So, you want to see me again," she giggled. "Why would that be?"
Jeremy's cheeks flushed slightly red, Charlie had to draw her eyes away from them.
"Because, you're cute and quirky and have amazing blue eyes and fiery hair like your awesome personality. And like me you're a bit of a loner and slightly odd and I think if we spent time together, you would really like me."
"Would I really?" she laughed.
Jeremy checked his watch again. "I seriously have to go now, but do you want to hang out at my house tonight? I mean, you don't have to if you don't want to but I think you should."
Charlie sighed. "How can I say no to that," she giggled. "You're smooth, Jeremy, I have to give you points for that."
"Well, thank you, Charlie, you're very sweet." Jeremy wrote his number on a napkin. "Text me, please, I'll give you my address and we can sort out a time for tonight." He lingered at her table.
"Okay, I will, don't worry, I promise to text you. Now go to school," she laughed.
"You promise?" he said as he walked backwards towards the door.
"I promise, now move it."
Now across the room, Jeremy lingered in the half open door. "Charlie, it was awesome meeting you," he shouted before he'd disappeared out the room.
When Charlie returned to the boarding house no one was home. This she was glad of, she needed to be alone.
She went into the living room and collapsed on the couch.
She took the napkin out of her pocket and smiled. Jeremy? Where had he come from? Why had she met him now? She didn't have time for this? But why did he make her feel so happy?
She typed his number into her phone and was about to text, when she heard footsteps approaching.
"What do you look so goofy about? Have you just eaten a bunny, Charlotte?"
"It's Charlie and I'm not goofy about anything, thank you very much?"
"Who are you texting then, someone has you happy?" Damon smirked as he crossed the room.
"Why does it matter to you? You didn't want me remember," Charlie said bitterly.
Damon ignored her comment. "So, Charlie, you haven't told me yet?" Damon said sitting on the arm of her chair.
"Told you what?" Charlie said not looking up from her phone.
"The real reason why you're here? Surely you're not here just to torture me," he said with a cocky smile. Yet, he did wonder whether she was.
Charlie sighed and finally looked up at Damon. "As tempting as killing you is... um, I'm here because I want to know who killed my mother."
"Your mother is dead? Recently? She was a vampire too?"
"Well, duh, if I was a vampire 100 years before I met you, she must have been too, unless my mom just didn't age," she said her voice full of sarcasm. "I thought you were smart, Damon."
"You're so funny, Charlotte. It's just a lot to take in, little miss sarcastic. I thought you and your mother were human; 150 years ago I found you both in the woods beat up, your clothes dirty and ripped. I took you back to my father; we gave you a home, a life... Wait a minute, you want to know who killed your mother, do you think it was me or Stefan?"
"No, no, no, I don't think it was you. We'd just moved to Ohio, we'd been living in Boston for almost five years and we decided it was time to move on."
"We have a house there we bought back in the 1930s, didn't think anyone would remember us." Charlotte took a deep breath. "We'd been there three days, I'd been out hunting and when I returned I sensed something was wrong. As soon as I walked into the house I smelt it." Charlie's voice became barely a whisper now. "Her body was staked on the living room floor and beside her was a note."
Charlie took a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to Damon. He read it aloud.
"Charlie, as you like to be known now, it's been such a long time. I hope you are doing okay. I'm so sorry I killed your mother, but it had to be done. You have so much more potential on your own. I've been trying to find you for years, where have you been hiding? I'll be waiting for you, you and I could achieve so much together. Bye for now, you're clever Charlotte, I know you will find me. Also, I took your mother's ring; she won't be needing it anymore."
Damon sat cautiously beside her. "I'm so sorry, Charlotte. I really am."
Charlotte leaned into Damon's side, he was taken aback, but he put his arms around her.
"She was murdered three weeks ago, I've spent those three weeks trying to get the courage to come here and ask you and Stefan to help me," she sobbed into Damon's shoulder.
"You want our help to find who killed your mother?"
"Yeah, I do, and I think I have an idea who it was."
Charlie pulled out of his arms so she could see his face. "Katherine."