Bella had shot herself in the foot by being distracted by other things than making sure she could get into a college. She had aced her exams and, upon Damon’s insistence, had spent two weeks in Florida over the summer. It was great to be surrounded by fluffy stuff, by Disney and even seeing her mom for a day or two.
Oh, as much as Bella wanted to talk to her mother about what was going on in her life, she knew she couldn’t. Her mother would get scared, but Bella could tell that Renée saw that things had changed within Bella. She wouldn’t press the matter and have Renée lead the conversation and unfortunately it never strayed in the supernatural area of their lives.
It had been the first time since Grandpa Nate’s funeral that they saw each other and spending time on the beach was nice for the both of them. Bella confessed to her mother that she was worried about her future, seeing as she hadn’t applied for college. Renée encouraged her to work more at the Mystic Grill and take the year off, mainly because she had worked so hard over the last few years and deserved a break.
Not opposed to the idea, Bella returned to Mystic Falls with a spring in her step and then found out that Stefan had skipped town with Klaus, that he was back on feeding off of humans and that Damon was looking for him. Family. Pain in the butts.
And why was it a good idea to celebrate Elena’s 18th birthday at the Salvatore home? Bella hated the noise coming from the house, who knew that Elena had so many friends? She sighed when there was a knock on the door and got up to open it. “Stefan,” she said surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“I need you to come with me.”
He sounded like Stefan. But this was Stefan on human blood. He had already tried to bite her before, what had changed? “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Come with me, or I will burn this house down and I don’t care if you’re in it.” Stefan reached for her and pulled her out of the house, his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming and sped off with her. The experience was surreal; she could feel every movement, she could feel Stefan’s strength and she could feel how the wind cut into her skin.
The trip was over before she knew it and she found herself suspended from the ceiling of what looked like a TV studio. She was tightly bound, and she could see the ground from where she was. She’d be dead if she’d hit the floor. “Damnit, Stefan!” Bella was afraid of heights, this wasn’t going to end well, at all.
“Shut up, Bella,” Stefan’s voice sounded from below. “I can’t compel you to be quiet, but if you know what’s good for you, you’re not saying another word.”
Bella’s heart was pounding so hard that she thought it was going to burst out of her chest. Her lungs were compressing and she couldn’t breathe properly. “I’m afraid of heights!” she managed to cry out. What if the ropes she was bound with would break? Tear under hear weight? She’d fall to her death and she really didn’t want to die.
“Not my problem!”
“Stefan!” She could feel something sharp tear into her and lodge itself into her body. It hurt and maybe it was a good thing that she couldn’t move her arms to pull it out, but for some twisted reason, the new pain was a distraction from her fear of heights. She could breathe again but with every breath, she could feel the object work against her skin. Blood was coming out of her, she could smell it.
She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but she could hear someone enter the building. The silhouette told her it was Damon. What was Stefan up to? Bella whimpered against her restraints, she had started to feel light headed and was sure that she was going to die.
“Stefan,” Damon’s voice sounded.
“You don’t write. You don’t call.”
“Need you to stop following me,” Stefan said calmly before shrugging. “Causing some problems.”
“With who, Klaus? I’m supposed to care what he thinks?”
“What you’re supposed to do is let me go.”
The voices were distant now, Bella couldn’t hear what they were saying as the world spun out of focus and she passed out.
She came to on her porch. Her head was in someone’s lap and there were a multitude of blankets over her, but she felt fine, or so she believed. Bella opened her eyes and looked up at Damon, confused. “What happened?” Oh, her voice was gone. Or her mouth was dry.
“Stefan wanted to make a point,” Damon said bitterly as he helped her to sit up. “If I keep coming after him, he’ll kill everyone. He made me choose between you and Andi and damnit, why do you have to be so special, Bella? I had a lot of fun with Andi and it’s your fault that she’s dead now. What am I supposed to do now?”
“Not to blame me for one,” Bella looked down on her shirt and saw the imprint of a knife surrounded by some blood. Her blood.
“I had to feed you my blood or you would have died,” Damon said dismissively. “Can’t you just figure out what you’re supposed to do and leave?”
“No, I’m sorry, Damon, I can’t. And I’m sorry that Andi’s dead, but you know what? From now own, I’ll be the princess in the tower and not open my door for everyone while you’ll be my keeper and bring me food and water every single day,” she replied angrily, getting to her feet. “If he doesn’t want you to find him, then don’t! If Elena’s so desperate to find him, then have her look for him. Start living your own life for once!”
“Says the princess in the tower.”
“Who turned a boy into a pig,” she warned him as she opened the door. “Maybe I should move. Live above the Mystic Grill or something. There’s space.”
“It’s not safe!”
“And you wanted me to leave!”
“You’re so infuriating!”
“So are you!” Bella went inside and slammed the door shut before heading straight to the bathroom to clean up. What the fuck. She was supposed to stay out of all of this. How could she have been so stupid?
Dressed in her comfy pyjamas and fuzzy slippers, Bella poured herself a big glass of whiskey to stave off the jitters as she turned on her computer. She needed someone friendly to talk to and she hoped that her friend was online. Before she could even look for her, a message popped up.
CeilingCat: Hi! It’s been a whiskey kind of day, hope you don’t mind, but I plan on getting drunk.
TrashPanda: I’ll join you. What happened?
CeilingCat: I have a great friend but his brother is a jerk right now. He’s in cahoots with some nut who strolled into town a few months ago and they’re traveling now. This brother came back to town to make sure his brother would stay clear and used me to do it.
TrashPanda: Seriously?! Are you okay? Do I need to call the cops or something?
CeilingCat: Nah, I’m a little sore and spooked but I’m in one piece thanks to my friend. It was just very scary and something I thought wouldn’t happen to me because I keep my nose out of things.
TrashPanda: Sounds like you’re involved with the mafia or a secret society if you say it like that.
CeilingCat: LOL. I just want to get drunk and for you to cheer me up, but I suppose secret society comes close.
TrashPanda: Ohhh! Are you like… in a cult?
CeilingCat: You’ve known me for years, Trashie. Wouldn’t you have known by now if I was? How’s college?
TrashPanda: I decided not to go. I’m actually on the move a lot these days. My boyfriend got me a laptop and we’re playing hide and seek cross country with some friends of his. Quite fun, really. One of them is a complete nut, though. He’s lucky he’s still breathing.
CeilingCat: Now, what did I tell you about your anger?
TrashPanda: I know, I know. I can’t help myself. Hey, how about instead of hurting my jerk, I’ll come over and hurt your friend’s brother instead?
CeilingCat: You don’t have to do that. It’s fine.
TrashPanda: Or, you could come out and join us.
Now, that was tempting. Bella didn’t fancy working at the Mystic Grill every single day for another year until she could apply for college and she hadn’t made any headway regarding to whatever the hell she was. And despite everything, staying in her house observing and learning finally had become boring, too.
She wasn’t going away because she was running, but because she felt like it. Besides, she could use a little bit of normality in her life. Damon had taught her some self defense moves, so she didn’t need him. Why not?
But for some reason she was hesitant. Trashie hadn’t been that forthcoming over the years and now she wanted to meet up and have fun? Just like that?
TrashPanda: You still there?
CeilingCat: Yeah, just thinking, that’s all.
TrashPanda: Why? What’s the worry? We’ve been friends for so long, Cat. Would be nice to see you face to face. Enjoy some freedom. Like… oh, skinny dipping, get drunk and dance around a bonfire!
CeilingCat: That sounds like a lot of fun, yes. I certainly have the time but… I can’t help but wonder if TrashPanda’s account got hacked and taken over by someone else.
TrashPanda: Paranoid much? I like it.
TrashPanda: Like yourself, I am part of some sort of secret society. But I don’t have to hide anymore. Look, I get it, if you’re worried about your safety, then I completely understand. I give you my word that you’ll be safe. Who knows? You might learn some new things along the way!
CeilingCat: Fine. Where do we meet up?
Bella couldn’t believe she was going to do this. Damon had been so kind to her and keeping her safe, but she needed to escape this madness a bit longer. Disney had been nice, but she needed to get out more. Make connections. Be connected. Whatever. And if Trashie’s account was hacked by a serial killer, then so be it. At least Bella would have lived a little.
TrashPanda: We’re currently leaving Chicago.
CeilingCat: That’s an 11 hour drive!
TrashPanda: Oh, well, we’re going to drive for 11 hours to a little town called Mystic Falls, have you heard of it?
CeilingCat: You’re kidding me.
TrashPanda: No, the woods are luscious and I hear the people are friendly. How far of a drive would that be for you? It’s in Virginia, close to Lynchburg.
CeilingCat: I can do that easily.
TrashPanda: Good. Now, we’re going to have to deal with some business first, but how about we meet up in two days? Let’s say… their restaurant the Mystic Grill, 3 pm?
CeilingCat: Business? I thought you were on a freedom trip, doing whatever you wanted?
TrashPanda: I am 🙂 I merely don’t wish for our first meeting to be right in the middle of danger.
CeilingCat: Danger? The fuck, Trashie! What are you getting me in to?
TrashPanda: You’ll be safe, don’t worry. Talk to you soon! Xx
Bella wasn’t sure what to expect, but Trashie didn’t show up on the day that they had agreed to. Which was probably fine seeing as Stefan was back in town and he had brought along Klaus and his sister Rebekah. And Katherine. And Mikael.
It’s one thing to meet someone you’ve talked to online for years, it’s another to bring them into harms way with all those vampires on the loose. Damon wanted Bella out of town. Bella refused, as always, and instead made sure that she had food for a week inside her house and enough booze to entertain herself while she worked on some of her stories, something she hadn’t done in quite some time. Hiding away in her little house, waiting for the storm to calm down, waiting for Trashie to come back online.
Bella was hurt though. She had to admit that she was hurt by Trashie not showing up, but in hindsight, it had been for the best.
It appeared that Klaus was the crazy one in town now, one to look out for. It was entertaining to see that he used everyone as his entertainment, too. Perhaps he wasn’t crazy, merely bored. He had the power to take revenge, seeing as he was an Original vampire and could compel normal vampires. Scratch that, ever since the Sun and Moon curse was broken, he was a hybrid.
Didn’t she talk to Trashie about the curse and let their minds go completely wild on it, thinking that the curse wasn’t for normal werewolves?
TrashPanda: Are you still talking to me?
Bella opened her messenger and sighed. Was she? CeilingCat: I spent money to get to Mystic Falls and you weren’t there.
TrashPanda: Things got a little hectic. I’m sorry. Forgive me?
CeilingCat: Are you okay?
TrashPanda: Yes, why wouldn’t I be? Come back to Mystic Falls. I’ve fallen in love with this city and we’ve bought a house. Well… no, that’s a lie. It’s a house that’s been in the family for years and I’m renovating. If you like it, you could stay 🙂
CeilingCat: I AM in Mystic Falls you dipshit. I live here. And you know this because I told you this years ago. So who are you, really?
TrashPanda: Come and find out 🙂 xx
Bella let out a cry of frustration as she got to her feet and kicked against the desk, instantly regretting it because now her foot hurt. Oh, she needed to leave her house because she was getting cabin fever, but was she really going to drive around Mystic Falls to see which house was being renovated and was she really going to walk into an unfamiliar situation blindly?
Yes. Perhaps it sounded strange, but she’d been careful ever since her mother left, she emancipated and started to live on the grounds of the Salvatores. This carefulness had lead to Stefan nearly killing her and for Damon to have to save her and other weird shit. And she wasn’t afraid.
If Trashie was a serial killer and would kill her, then maybe that was what she had lived for. To be killed. If Trashie wasn’t a serial killer but truly her friend, then Bella would be safe.
And yet, despite her not being afraid, she packed a can of mace and a stake in her purse before grabbing her keys and headed out to her car. If she was lucky, nobody was home at the boarding home and she’d get away without being noticed.
Mystic Falls wasn’t a big town, but if you didn’t know what you were looking for, then it was a huge undertaking. She drove for what appeared to be a couple of hours before deciding to take the road less traveled. After all, the Salvatore boarding house wasn’t on a main road, either, and she stumbled upon a magnificent looking home that looked quite busy with builders going in and out of the house as if they were working for their lives.
What had Trashie gotten herself into?
If this was the house, then Bella was seriously impressed. She parked the car and stared at the house and the movement for quite some time before there was a knock on her window, startling her. The woman, likely in her late twenties, waved excitedly at her and Bella got out, not sensing any danger coming off of her. “CeilingCat!” she smiled widely before hugging her gently. “It’s so nice to finally meet you in person! Sorry for having lied to you about who I am but… it’s the internet.”
Bella looked at her ‘friend’ in shock. Trashie was taller than her, but perhaps that was due to the towering heels she was wearing and immaculately dressed in a pants suit, still, a little playful and punk, she was wearing a bright pink shirt underneath her dinner jacket. Her hair was jet black with thick strands of grey in it, dyed, of course. Bella thought it looked like a raccoon… which is what basically a trash panda was.
“I’m Myriam Jenkins and yes, I do hail from New Orleans so not all I’ve told you is a lie.”
“Nice to meet you?” Bella said confused and pointed at the house. “Yours?”
“It’s the boyfriend’s house. We haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together mainly because he was running from someone while hunting down someone so… he invited me over,” Myriam looped her arm through Bella’s as she started to walk towards the entrance. “I’m the thing he likes to keep a secret from the rest of the family. Or at least as far away from his family as possible.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“Oh, definitely,” Myriam grinned. “The sex is great! Anyway, keep an open mind, alright? He’s the one who’s been chatting with you too after getting curious.”
“I don’t do threesomes.”
“Not asking you to, honey. The boyfriend is mine and I’m his. We’re your friends. I am your friend.” She gently squeezed Bella’s arm. “You’re safe here. Besides, wouldn’t you like to have another place to hide in other than your little house?”
“I guess,” Bella said puzzled as she looked at her. “Wait, how do you know I’ve been hiding?”
“Just our conversations. You were lonely. But no more. Not if you don’t want to be,” Myriam said as she opened the door and lead her into the hallway where a big staircase was being built. “Beautiful, huh? Pardon the mess, it’ll be over soon.”
Myriam was right, it was beautiful. Bella thought that the outside of the house was impressive, but inside, it looked even better. She got lost as she looked around and it took a gentle tug from Myriam to get her back in the present.
“Now, meet the other half of the TrashPanda, my boyfriend,” Myriam said as she turned Bella around to face him.
“Hello, love, Klaus Mikaelson. So glad to finally make your acquaintance,” he said as he gently took Bella’s hand and kissed it, as he lovingly smiled up to her.