Ruby sat on the bus bench, swinging her legs happily. Nothing could bring the nine year old girl down, not today. Her mother had called her a big girl, saying that she could take the bus to the ice skating rink all on her own. Oh, the child knew that her parents were just busy and couldn’t pick her up from school. Her father was a career minded cop, and her mother was a former figure skater, turned coach.
Her mother had called Ruby’s school an hour before they let out to tell them that she couldn’t come pick Ruby up. She could have asked for one of the teachers to drop her daughter off at the ice rink, where she was working with a particularly nervous skater, but she’d said it would be okay. She’d said that she knew her daughter was old enough to take the bus all on her own. And that was why Ruby was buzzing with pride.
She’d been determined to prove her mommy right, and had made it all the way to the bus stop without any trouble. She’d been early, but that had been alright. The day was a beautiful autumn day, with the few trees in their little square plots changing colors. Soon, she knew, the leaves would all fall, and they’d be pleasantly crunchy and fun to stomp around in. The air was cool on her bare skin, but not too cold.
Even at such a young age, Ruby understood that her body ran hotter than most. She didn’t feel heat or cold the way most people did. While others were wearing long sleeves and light jackets, she was comfortable in a sleeveless shirt and shorts. Soon, though, it would be winter and even she would need a sweater or two to keep warm. But that was fine. With winter came snow and, far more importantly, ice.
The child shared her mother’s passion for ice skating. Though there was a year round rink where her mother worked, there was something different about skating in an enclosed building where everything was controlled and skating on a frozen pond, out in the gently falling snow.
As Ruby waited for the bus to come, her mind started to wander to the nightmare she’d had the night before. For as long as she could remember, she’d always had strange, vivid dreams. She’d tried to tell her parents about them, but they’d dismissed the dreams as childish nightmares. Though not all of them had been horrible or terrifying.
The night before, she’d dreamt of a beautiful man, with golden blonde curls and breathtaking blue eyes. His pale skin had practically glowed. Rising from his flawless back had been six majestic snowy wings. Bright red scars had marred the left side of his face, making his vivid blue eye seem to stand out too sharply. A single crystal horn jutted out above where his left eyebrow would have been if scars hadn’t been so predominant.
The dream hadn’t lasted long, but it didn’t have to. That hadn’t been the first time she’d dreamt of the man. He was always terrifyingly beautiful, always filled with so much horrible raw power. In her dreams he committed atrocious, disgusting acts. He inflicted pain on so many people, and he took pleasure in it. And she was completely enraptured by him. She felt that, if he had truly existed, she would have sworn loyalty to him in a heartbeat. She never told her parents about him.
She was reminding herself that he wasn’t real when a strange feeling settled over her. Suddenly, she felt as though a velvet robe had been draped over her skin. The sensation was soft and gentle, reassuring.
She looked up, thinking that someone had snuck up on her while she was lost in her memories. But there was no one there. The street was as abandoned as when she had sat down, the sun still shining brightly. Colored leaves still rustled gently in the autumn breeze. Only she seemed to feel anything different.
Then a sleek, black car came into view, cruising down the street. The windows were tinted black, the kind that let someone see out but not in. The car itself was expensive, even a nine year old girl could tell that. And that strange feeling Ruby was getting seemed to radiate from the vehicle.
Without thinking, she stood on the bench so she could see the car better as it passed her. She could feel someone watching her, someone from behind those dark windows. But try as hard as she could, she couldn’t see past the black glass. Maybe she was imagining the sensation, but it felt so real, so strong that she didn’t think so.
Just as the car was pulling out of view, her feeling of being watched intensified and a cold chill settled over her, just under the velvet sensation. Then, as abruptly as it all started, she was alone in her own skin. All she could feel was the chilly autumn air.
She stood there, staring after the car for a very long moment, feeling almost as though something had just slipped through her fingers. As though she’d had something invaluable, important, within reach and she’d lost it.
Tears stung at her eyes as she fought back the urge to cry. She wanted it back. Whatever she had lost, she wanted back. Even as she thought it, she knew it was ridiculous. Nothing had happened. Her overactive imagination had run away from her. But she couldn’t help what she felt.
When the bus came, she climbed on, her good mood gone and replaced with melancholy. She all but ran into her mother’s arms, sobbing, when she saw the woman. Her mother asked her, over and over, what was wrong. What had happened.
But Ruby couldn’t answer, because she didn’t know. All she knew was that something had happened. She’d almost had something wonderful and it was gone. Her life would never be the same.
What she didn’t realize at the time was just how horribly right she was.
For three days, Ruby couldn’t summon up the energy to be cheerful. She was mourning something she’d never had, something she didn’t understand. She could see that her mother was worried for her, and she tried so hard to be happy for the older woman, but she couldn’t.
In a last ditch effort to cheer her baby girl up, Ruby’s mother took her out for a walk to enjoy the city smog. She gave Ruby explicit orders to stay put on the sidewalk while she went to get ice cream, hoping that a double scoop of chocolate fudge, strawberry ice cream would help bring a smile back to Ruby’s face.
No sooner had her mother left than a faintly familiar chill settled over the young girl. She glanced up and saw him. The man from her dreams, the intensely beautiful creature that haunted her young heart. He looked slightly different, he didn’t have the wings and his skin was a healthy tan rather than a pale glow. His hair was pulled back in a low ponytail, completely out of his unscarred, flawless face. He was wearing a crisp, tailored suit that fit him impeccably. But it was him, she would have recognized those gorgeous eyes anywhere.
Ruby stepped into the street before she was even aware of what she was doing. That was wrong, though. Her mother had told her to stay put and, no matter how much she wanted to chase after the blue eyed man, Ruby was a good girl. She listened to her mother. She tried to take that step back, to return to the sidewalk where her mother had left her.
Her body didn’t listen to her. Instead it took another step forward, heedless of oncoming traffic. Fear washed through her as she struggled to get her body to obey. She tried to stop moving, to scream, to do anything, but nothing happened. She wasn’t in control anymore, just a helpless prisoner in her own skin. A sense of helplessness flooded through her, sparking her temper. She hated losing control, hated being helpless. She grabbed hold of the anger, embracing it, and using it to fight whatever hold the blue eyed man had over her.
There was no doubt in her mind that the man was doing this to her. If he was real, then the things he was capable of in her dreams must have been real as well. He was controlling her body, forcing her out into the street, bringing her to him.
“Ruby!” her mother screamed. Ruby wanted to run toward her, but she couldn’t even turn her head to look at the woman. Her eyes were glued to the blue eyed man, her concentration focused on fighting him.
The air filled with the sound of screeching breaks as she stepped fully into traffic, and something slammed into her. She hit the ground hard and, as pain flared up in her hands and knees, she was suddenly free of the blue eyed man’s control.
She lay where she had fallen, panting, waiting for the rest of the pain to wash over her. Instead, the stinging in her hands and knees quickly faded away and she became aware of worried shouts.
Horror filled her as she slowly lifted her head. Her mother lay a few yards away from her. Her blonde hair was spread around her like a glowing halo, tinted red from cheery juice. She met Ruby’s gaze with a too wide, glazed look of her own. She was laying on her side, limp. Lifeless.
“The kid just jumped out of nowhere,” she heard someone saying, from a distance. “She pushed her out of the way. I couldn’t stop. God, someone call an ambulance!”
In a sudden wash of clarity, Ruby realized why her mommy seemed so strange, why her mommy wasn’t blinking or asking her if she was alright. Why her mommy wasn’t scolding her for doing something so dangerous, so stupid.
A dull roaring filled her ears as the rest of the world faded away. She was going into shock, she realized faintly. She was looking at the person that meant the world to her, the only person that had ever cared about her, and her mother was staring back at her, her clear blue eyes lifeless. Ruby tried to crawl to her, but once again she wasn’t in control of her body. All she could do was stare.
She didn’t know how much time passed, minutes, maybe years, before paramedics arrived, rushing to get her mother into an ambulance. Ruby knew it was too late, though. Her mother was dead. She was gone. Just like that, in the blink of an eye.
A paramedic spoke to her, but she didn’t hear him. They closed the ambulance door on her mother, locking her away from Ruby’s sight. As though a switch had been thrown, the spell paralyzing her broke. Her gaze shot to where she had seen him. She hadn’t really expected him to still be there, but she had to know for sure.
The son of a bitch was still there, calm and unfazed. He caught her gaze and smiled. The bastard smiled. It was a smug expression, one of triumph and mocking.
In that moment, she knew that all her dreams weren’t her imagination. She knew this man better than he thought, knew what he was capable of, what he had done. He had captured Ruby’s free will and forced her into the street, had known that someone would die. Ruby didn’t know if he had intended her to be hit by the car, of if his target had been her mother and she didn’t care. Fury flooded through her and she wanted nothing more than to do to him all the hideous, torturous things she had seen him do in her dreams. She wanted him to suffer for what he had taken from her.
He inclined his head to her the smallest bit, mocking her, before turning on his heel and striding away. What could she do? She was just a child. She was small, weak, helpless. She was nothing compared to him, and he knew it. She knew it. Ruby was a little girl who had been well cared for and loved. But he had killed the only woman who had loved her. He had taken away the only person in the world who had wanted the strange little child.
The girl killed herself that day. She hacked up and burned everything she had been until that moment.I was born from the ashes of Ruby Raye Louis. A creature whose sole purpose was revenge, who fed on anger and pain.I was still young, but I would grow. I would become stronger. I’d make the blue eyed man pay, and when I did, he would regret taking my mother and not me.