Beautiful Illusions(Beautiful Oblivion 2)

By: Addison Moore

Prologue





Demi



The Past





Death is a peculiar kind of tragedy. After its wake you’re either robed in immortality or plunged into eternal darkness. The living never quite know how deeply to mourn. The speculation is ours but the judgment is not. By the tender age of fifteen, I had mastered death’s destruction and racked up a body count. I had killed the only two people who ever truly loved me—my mother and my father.

Years ago, when my parents married, they built their home from the ground up. They unleashed their wildest imaginations and created a legacy for our family so magnificent in girth and stature it dwarfed the other embarrassingly large homes that surrounded us. They had grand plans of filling it with children, four girls, four boys. My parents dreamed big and lived bigger. They christened our home Winter Haven because in the hard Connecticut winters it was just that. The icicles bled off the eaves like a fairytale, and the woodland creatures flocked to the many feeders my mother laid out. But any ideas of mass procreation that my parents harbored were cut short once I was born—their only child, a girl. I slashed my way into this world, barreling in with a curse on my back that left my mother clinging to life less than five minutes after I arrived. She didn’t make it.

Growing up it was just my father and me. He focused his white-hot attention over my every move, and it was nirvana. I knew no other existence. The sun rarely shined over Winter Haven. The sky held a perennial cloud cover, thick as grief. It pressed over our home like a bruise. Later, my stepmother, Nora, and her son, Josh, slid into our lives swift as demons, after all, that’s what they proved to be.

We lived in a world of shadows. My father said my mother took the sun with her and that I was his little bit of sunshine. That was his pet name for me right up until the day I killed him.

Then came a season of darkness, of haunted echoes, wild cries, of howls and aches—the knife of my parents’ deaths plunging into my broken heart night after night. Nora and Josh had taken the throne at Winter Haven. I was nothing more than her battering post, his shiny new plaything.

Josh has a few years on me. He’s gorgeous and buff, every cheerleader’s dream. He has flocks of wealthy friends and no shortage of beautiful girls that linger at the house well into the night. But when all is said and done, the party is over, and all of his drunk cohorts speed off in their expensive Italian sports cars, it’s my bed he crawls into. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t stop it either.

“I just want to talk.” His voice is raspy, unrecognizable. He’s panting. His eyes are glossed over in an animalistic manner. “I get it. I get how much you hurt, Demi. My own father abandoned me.”

The knife twists just enough with his words. My father did abandon me. I was so eager to buy the lie.

Josh slips into the bed beside me until his body is pressed close to mine. My heart thumps into my throat, steady as a jackhammer. I’m quivering, scared, excited. I can’t remember the last time I was this close to another person. A part of me craves to touch him, to have him touch me. And he does. Josh slithers his viper-like arms around me, and soon I’m enveloped in the cloud of vodka spewing from his lungs. I memorize the way it feels to have someone hold me again as I take in a deep lungful of his toxic breath. The truth is I had died right alongside my father, and now I’m finally breathing again. Maybe Josh is the one who would resuscitate my corpse.

Holding me led to his lips finding mine. Before I knew it, his fingers were between my legs. Eventually, Josh pried me open and thrust his way into my life. Night after night, I was his dirty little secret. He wouldn’t say two words to me at school, after all, he was a senior and I was a lowly freshman. But late at night, while the world slept, he became a regular visitor to my bedroom. At fifteen I didn’t know what to think, or how to react. All I knew was this gorgeous boy, who the entire school worshiped, who the girls stabbed each other in the back for, was interested in me. He wanted me. Once again I was the object of someone’s white-hot attention. No, there wasn’t any love. I was simply trying to fill the gaping hole in my heart my father left. But none of those nightly visits were ever enough to fill it.

I missed my father, and strangely enough, my mother, too. All I had left of them was Winter Haven, an empty shell of who we once were—who we could have been. They made it powerful and beautiful, but they died, took their beauty and power with them and left me alone with a woman who openly wished I were buried too. Nora played on my grief. She assigned me a psychiatrist. I had more labels thrown at me than the canned food aisle at the supermarket, more pills to swallow than sand on the shore.

As I grew older, I joined the august body of Mitchell University, but things had already hit a boiling point at home. Nora wasn’t about to let me too far off the leash. The idea of living on campus set her greedy teeth on edge. The more I pushed, the more she smothered me with narcotics. Nora’s nickname for me was garbage. She threw a Bible at my head, and I read that sacred tome from cover to cover. Then I prayed. I prayed God would strike dead both Nora and Josh and free me from this insolent hell. I prayed He’d change them—do the unthinkable and change me to accept them—send outside help to free me from the prison that my home had become. Her increasing cruelty grew like a weed and choked out of me any glimmer of hope that she would ever change, that I would ever survive her tyranny. An open grave waited for me if I stayed at Winter Haven. And with each passing day, Nora became more eager to push me in it.

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