I am drowning.
At least, it feels like I am. And I'm not drowning in clear water. No, I am drowning in the deepest ocean. Everything around me is dark. No matter how hard I swim, I can't find the way out.
So, I just stopped trying.
Now I am just sitting at the bottom. In the darkness. And I wait.
What do I wait for?
I don't know. Maybe I am waiting for Alessandro. He is the one meant for me. He is the one that should come and save me… right?
I don't know anymore.
I just want to stop thinking and stay in the darkness. When I am here, I don't have to reflect on what happened because of me.
I can hear a baby crying. Why is nobody making it stop? I just want to stay in the dark and in the silence.
"Gina? Gina, sweetheart? It's time to eat."
Why won't you leave me alone?
"Gina… Please. Eat something for me."
I recognise that voice. I associate it with a warm embrace and secret snacks given behind my mum's back.
I don't want to think about her. Please go away.
"I'm not leaving you until you eat what I brought. If you want me to leave you alone, you have to eat."
I can feel myself sitting up and eating. She continues to talk to me, but I can't really hear what she is saying.
I just want her to leave me alone, and that's why I am eating.
Please just stop talking and go.
I finish my food, and she finally goes away. I know she will not force me to eat for one or two days now. So, I will have some kind of peace for that long.
Time must have gone faster than I thought because she came back sooner than expected.
I can't hear the sound of her tray of food. Did she change our routine? I don't like it.
I feel my bed bend a little bit. She is sitting on it. Why is she sitting on it?
"Remember when you were little? How much you liked when I was telling you stories before bed? It was the worst thing to do as you would always be wide awake by the end of it."
Of course, I remember.
"However, I don't think I ever told you about the Dragon War and our prince's role in it."
A Dragon War?
"And I'm pretty sure I never talked to you about our prince. His name is Atlas, and he is known to be the greatest thing that happened to us because he doesn't let love hold him down."
"A thousand years ago, when our prince was still a young vampire, the war between Terran and Mon'Agrax had been going on for longer than most vampires could recall."
I don't care. I just want you to stop talking.
And yet I can't help myself from listening to her.
The words flow effortlessly from her mouth, and suddenly the dark ocean I am in is filled with colours. I can vividly see the things she is talking about. I stop breathing when one of our General's are in danger, but Prince Atlas manages to save him. I can't help but admire how clever our King seems to be, but I also shiver at how cold he can be.
Unlike the King, Prince Atlas seems to be warm despite his ruthlessness. And for the first time in a long time, I don't feel so cold.
It's as if I can forget who I am and where I am when she talks about him.
At some point, her voice starts to get scrappier, and she reaches again for her bottle of water, but it is empty, and she can't appease her aching throat anymore.
"Oh my. Look at the time. I have been talking for six hours already. I probably need to stop."
Stop? It can't have been six hours already. It must have been one-hour tops.
"Then I will go. I will try to find another story to tell you next time if you would like."
Another story? No. I want to know more about the Dragon War. I want to learn more about the King.
I want to know more about Prince Atlas.
"No." My voice is raspy. It hurts to talk. It has been a long time since I used it.
My grandmother's eyes go wide. She is shocked. She didn't expect me to talk at all. To be fair, I didn't expect myself to either.
"What… What do you mean by no? Do you want me to stop telling you stories?"
She doesn't understand. Why can't she understand?
"Tell me… about… Dragons… about… Atlas…" Each word is a struggle, and I end up coughing.
My grandmother rushes outside the room and comes back with some water. My arms are too weak to hold the glass, so she helps me.
That's the first time since I decided to stay in my bed that I wish I could do it myself.
When did I become so weak? Prince Atlas would have never let himself become so pathetic.
"I want to know more." I look into my grandmother's eyes. They are like my father's.
I quickly lower my eyes to avoid her gaze. I don't want to be reminded of my father. I just want to lose myself again in the colourful world that her story created in my mind.
"Okay, I will continue to tell you about the Dragon War tomorrow when I bring your food."
"Why tomorrow?" I want to know more now.
"Because I need to take care of Timeo too. So, I will continue my story tomorrow. However, you will have to eat. I won't tell you the rest if you don't eat, okay?" Her voice is gentle but firm. I know what I have to do if I want to hear more about Prince Atlas.
I nod, and even if I don't look at her, I can see my grandmother's smile in my head. It is so bright that I can feel its warmth on my skin.
"Alright, I will be back tomorrow then. Try to get some sleep, Gina. I love you, darling." She gets up and gently kisses my forehead, and leaves the room.
How can she kiss me? I am disgusting. So disgusting that even my bond mate doesn't want me.
I feel myself getting pulled back into the depths. I didn't even realise that I wasn't at the bottom anymore. Did I swim a little closer to the surface while listening to grandma?
I don't know, and I don't care.
All I care about is listening to stories about Prince Atlas.