Aeterna,  The Crown

Lies

I don’t love her that way. JD reflected, opening the door to their new place. Ever the gentleman, he held the door for Valeigh as she entered with wide eyes, enchanted by the simple elegance of the furnished home. Compared to the aged bungalow they left behind, the bright and cozy house was a shocking difference: cherry wood flooring, soft throw rugs in the right spots, and low-hanging black ceramic pendant lights JD would have to duck under. The spacious living room boasted an enormous slate gray sectional topped with neutral toned blankets and throw pillows. Rugged yet stylish wooden crates served as a coffee table while light poured in from circle shaped windows, most look out to tall buildings kissing the sky. Found everywhere in the district, JD realized the circle symbol served some meaning, although he wasn’t sure of what.

“The bureau did a great job getting everything set up in here, huh? It’s already home.” JD said. He saw themselves happy here until Valeigh had to leave. That wouldn’t happen for a while, he figured, and distracted himself with the many potted houseplants around. None of them were fake. Unable to grow anything at the old bungalow, they depended on the Dark Court for sustenance until JD got the call with his enormous opportunity.

In the office, on top of a dark wood executive desk, JD found two phones—one blood red, the other pitch black, four keys with labels on each, and stationary he’d give to Valeigh because he didn’t write things down. After adjusting the brown leather chair for his tall height, the child in him spun around, admiring the midnight painted walls and wood beams secured by iron pieces. JD enjoyed the industrial ambiance of the home.

He fires up the computer. On the screen the bureau logo appears: a large black circle in the center of a gold background with directions to look at the screen. Ignoring it, JD wondered what Valeigh was up to, but knew he shouldn’t care. She’d be off to the Amethyst soon and wouldn’t need him. Desperate to spill his guts before it was too late, a new courage emerged. He imagined walking over to whatever room she was exploring and explain he’s an imposter, a liar. Soon enough, he headed her way, but the sound of running water stops him and he turned back. I don’t love her that way. Eager for a distraction, when one of the two phones chimed — the blood one, he answered fast but there’s no sound. Instead, the screen read: CONFIDENTIAL | INTELLIGENCE FILE.

After the phone scans his eyes, it goes dark. Then, an image of a black crown replaced the black circle on his computer. A Crown Alert. He’d heard of these before and knew it meant something serious happened or was about to. He clicked on it.

“JD, I—”

He turns the monitors off. Clad only in a lavender towel, Valeigh stands in the office’s doorway. Evidence of a shower dots her glistening brown skin. JD thinks she washed with something melon like, sweet, but not too overpowering. She wrapped her hair in its own purple towel stacked high on her head.

“Sorry, were you working?” Val asks.

JD shook his head no.

“Oh okay, um—I just wanted to say thank you for all of this. This home is crazy… I’m so happy to be here.”

JD stared at her, smiling. As always, the man who killed a shadow struggled to say his feelings.

“And I got confirmed for the Amethyst. I leave tomorrow! Can you believe it? I dunno how that happened so fast.”

Bullets pierced his chest, shattering his heart into a million pieces. He thought they’d have more time together before it happened. He thought he’d have time to convince himself to tell her the truth. “Really? Wow—uh, that’s amazing. Did you just find out now?”

“Yeah! They called me on the phone, the one with my name on it. Uh, I just wanted to thank you… so, thank you.” Val steps inside the office, closer, but not too close. JD knew this was the end that neither wanted to admit because that was for tomorrow, and they were still in today. And today wasn’t over yet.

“You deserve it, sis. Hey, um, let’s celebrate. The fridge is stocked. Set out what you want to eat tonight, and I’ll make it.”

“Nice, okay.” Val paused. “Need any help?”

“Oh no, no, this is your celebration, relax a little.”

Frustrated, JD’s smile drops once she left. Everything was ending.

At dinner, they dined on grilled salmon, buttered garlic rice and grilled asparagus topped with parmesan cheese. White wine washed it all down. Not long after, Valeigh fell asleep on the couch while victorious end credits to Redemption of the Accountant rolled on. JD stared at the half full bowl of popcorn on the coffee table beside one empty wineglass, while the half-empty one belonged to him. JD thinks if he drank more, that courage from earlier would’ve returned. He put a blanket over Valeigh, and found the silhouette form of a woman sitting on the edge of the coffee table as he went to turn the TV off.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello,” she said.

“Let’s talk in the office.”

The figure hovers over Valeigh for a moment, then followed JD. Once inside, he didn’t turn the light on, figuring she liked it that way. They take a seat; JD sits behind his executive desk, opposite the mysterious guest.

“Call me Commander,” she began. “Apologies for the unannounced visit. I hope everything was to your liking when you arrived?”

“Nice to meet you, Commander. This home is incredible. Although you’ve convinced my sister we’re in Nirvana with the way we live now, compared to where we came from.”

“Hm. The thrill will fade. Once Valeigh’s at the Amethyst, your job is complete. I would’ve spared spoiling you with this home if I knew her confirmation would go through so fast.”

Nice as it was, JD cared about something else more. “I heard once you become part of the Amethyst, you don’t remember your past. Is that true?”

“Yes. She won’t remember you, nor should she. Besides, you’ve already eras—”

“And if I were to stay… become an actual bureau man?”

“Here? You want to remain here, in Aeterna?”

“If I may. My credentials are compatible with the Bureau’s requirements. I’m able to log into the system.” He grins deep down, remembering the intriguing Crown Alert. Making a living working cases would be easy, plus he could monitor Valeigh. Maybe he’d get to know her again, assuming he could reach her.

“Working for the bureau is an excellent cover, but wasn’t meant to be permanent. Besides, you’re above their requirements, and bureau men lead boring lives. You’re not bor—” she paused. “Do you wish to stay because of her?”

I don’t love her that way. JD would never admit it. Not to a soul. “No. Just looking for something new and the uniform looks good on me,” he said.

“Hm. Drop her off at the Amethyst tomorrow and we’ll talk after, I’ll find you.”

JD nods and led her to the door. She vanished before they got there. Valeigh sat up on the couch, yawning, stretching her arms out wide.

“I just had the craziest dream… you weren’t my brother, isn’t that weird?”

“It’s late Valeigh. Go break that new bed in. You got a big day tomorrow.”

“Good night, I love you JD.”

“Good night, Val.”

I don’t love her that way…

The next day, JD did his duty and took Valeigh to the Amethyst. She kept quiet during the ride, wiped her cheek a lot, and avoided eye contact.

From the top steps of the Amethyst stood a man and woman dressed in long black robes and stoic expressions. They stared at their vehicle, another fancy gift from the commander. Valeigh stared at them, then JD. “I thought we’d have more time… I guess this is it,” she said.

“Everything happens for a reason, Val. You’re meant to be here.” It was a condensed version of the truth. A small kernel. It was a start.

“Will you be in the same place?”

“Yes.” Although, that wasn’t for certain until he spoke with the commander.

“So I can come to you if I’m in trouble. You’ll keep my room open?”

Valeigh won’t remember you, nor should she. The silhouette’s voice echoed in his head. No one told her what would come of her memories.

“Yeah, I-I’ll keep your room. There shouldn’t be any trouble. The Amethyst is safe. But yes, if you’re ever—”

“I love you.” She hugs JD tight. He doesn’t reciprocate. Thankfully, with shades on she couldn’t see the tears welling in his eyes. He wanted her to fulfill her purpose, but didn’t, because that meant leaving him. He knew she wouldn’t be in danger or have reason to seek him once she entered those doors. That hurt the most.

“You never say I love you back,” Valeigh says, staring up at him. Her face is flush and soaked with tears she didn’t wipe away. He couldn’t say it back. No matter how much he wanted to echo her feelings.

“Val, I… You know how I feel.” That didn’t help.

She nods, smiles and kissed his cheek. “Bye JD.”

That evening in a somber house, JD sat in his office, looking at House Aeterna in the distance from another circle window. He imagined King Resolut had a hole in his heart after losing someone he loved, just like JD felt now, without Valeigh.

He goes to her room. The sole clue of Valeigh’s temporary presence is a calendar filled with photos of trees she left behind on the wall. When he touched it, that smooth melon scent returns. Then her kiss, those gentle lips…

“JD.”

Forced from fantasy, he turns to the voice. The murky shadow sat on the edge of Valeigh’s bed. “Hm,” she said. He could feel her gaze, even though he couldn’t see it. “Thank you for your delivery of Valeigh Nightreach. And special congratulations to you as well.” She tosses him a package JD catches in mid-air. “You’re officially a bureau man. The boring life you chose.”

“It’s the best life.”

Inside the bag there’s an ID. She let him keep ‘JD’ as his name. It had a certain friendliness and mystery to it compared to the others he’s used.

“You’ll report to Hoover, the top man. He’s one of the good ones and can be a little eccentric, but you shouldn’t have an issue. Your payment for Valeigh’s delivery is in your account and on the red phone there’re instructions with how to contact me if you’re ever in trouble. No questions asked. You’ve served the Dark Court well, JD. Good luck with your existence in Aeterna.”

“Thank you. It was an honor.”

The silhouette fades. The knight had delivered the beautiful maiden back home after wiping her mind, told her what she needed to know, which birthed the same lie he struggled with. The Amethyst would wipe Valeigh again, considering the trauma that remained from her attack. She’d never know about those shadow people again, even the one JD killed. She’d never know they met only a year ago and weren’t siblings. And she’d never know he was undercover, assigned by the Dark Court to rescue her from her captors and kept from harm with help from the Dark Court until she could return safely to the Amethyst. No, she wouldn’t know anything, so JD would linger in the crown district and become a boring man to know Valeigh again.

Because I love her that way.

Fiction writer. 🌱 Nature lover. Heavy Thinker.

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