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Contemporary Drama Thriller

This story is part of an ongoing series featuring members of the blended clan consisting of the Constantini and Murphy families. I would appreciate any feedback.

***

“I never stopped believing in you,” Aysha said, wrapping her arm around Zee’s shoulder as they walked up the stoop to go back into the house.

They followed the starchy smell of boiling pasta and the spicy scent of meaty sauce to where Jack was cooking dinner in the kitchen. It reminded Zee of a restaurant kitchen; immaculately clean, dark brown tile floor, stainless steel everywhere. She didn’t like to cook and was happy to let Jack do it. Zee walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. She rested her face against his warm muscular back and sighed.

Jack smiled and turned to pull her into a tight hug. Safe and loved.

“I could get used to this,”

“My hugs, or my cooking?”

“Both. And all of this,” Zee turned to look into the living room where Magen and twins Isabella and Maria were quietly assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle in the middle of the living room floor. Someone, most likely Aysha’s grandmother Rose, had moved the pink and white fabric ottoman from its usual place between the pink loveseats to open space for the girls to assemble their puzzle. Rose sat on one of the loveseats reading and sipping a cup of tea.

Aysha and her mother Molly were setting the table for dinner. Aysha turned and smiled at her like she was reading Zee’s mind; she had been attuned like that ever since they were children. Their sister bond.

I almost destroyed all of it. These people are my real family. Henry and Rose. Dan, Molly, and Aysha. Jack and Magen. My so-called brother Victor turned out to be just as evil as our father was.

“I have a soul.”

“Of course you do; I could have told you that,” Jack chuckled.

I was listening to all the wrong people. I acted like a soulless monster because that is all I thought I could ever be.

Zee squeezed her eyes shut as Victor’s voice slithered through her memory like an icy draft that engulfed her.

***

“This is who we both are, Zee. Monsters. Visionaries. The weak should fear us.”

And Zee had believed it. 

“I’m here for you, Zee,” Victor had told her. “I’m not going to abandon you because I am your real family.”

Zee remembered how Dan, Molly, and Aysha had left her behind when they boarded the boat to depart from Argentina.

From her hiding place in the trees that bordered the shore, Ze’ Eva watched the boat pull away. 

‘They are abandoning me.’ She thought, horrified and unable to comprehend how they could be so cold and cruel. Zee kept watching until she could no longer see the sun glint off her best friend’s red hair, and her heart burned to ice. The boat and its passengers were soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.

The frozen moon dominated the sky when Zee climbed down from the tree and headed deeper into the jungle.

“I’m your family, and you’re mine; you’re my only sister,” Victor had said. “OriGen is your home. You’re a soldier, a predator, a wolf.”

Zee turned and stared at him. 

“You are. Stop trying to blend in with the sheep.”

Zee had believed it for a time. But with every person she killed for him, every time she rounded up one of her own people and returned them to prison within OriGen, Zee had destroyed a piece of her own soul. 

One night Zee had been walking the rain-soaked streets, and she saw the lights shining from a church. Without even fully knowing why she did it, she walked into the church and looked around at the simple wooden benches and the bright-colored stained glass windows which stretched from floor to ceiling. 

A youthful-looking priest was puttering around at the front of the church. He looked Middle Eastern with black hair and dusky skin. Zee was surprised to see that he had blue eyes when he looked up at her. “Are you here for confession? I was just about to leave, but I will hear you. It’ll be my last confession of the night.” 

He went into the wooden booth and shut the door behind him. Zee’s feet led her into the stall on the other side of the screen.

“You may begin when you’re ready.”

“Bless me, Father, for I am sin.”

“Beg your pardon? My dear child, I think you mean you have sinned.”

“I’m evil incarnate.”

She could see the outline of the priest shaking his head. “The devil is evil incarnate. You aren’t him, though sin can make our soul feel tainted.”

“I have no soul.”

“And what makes you think that? Every human being has a soul.”

“And what about...other things?”

“Like animals? I personally believe that animals have souls as well.”

“How do you know? What is a soul, anyway?”

“Your soul is made up of your mind, will, and emotions. You have a mind, don’t you? And free will to make your own choices?”

“Yes, and free will….to a point. There are so many things beyond my control,” Zee said, barely above a whisper. This priest’s words were chipping away at her bravado.

The priest chuckled. “We all have to deal with that, don’t we? And what about emotions? You feel anger, sadness, happiness, do you not?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that makes you who you are. Those three parts of you are your soul.”

“Hmm. Thanks for giving me something to think about, Father…”

“Goodman. You can call me Joshua, though.”

Zee still didn’t know who he had been. She went back to the church later to thank him and confess her sins. When she walked in, she nearly ran into an older priest who was just leaving.

“Excuse me, Father. I wanted to find out when I can come to confession with Father Goodman if possible.”

“Who? I’m the only parish priest, and there has never been a priest here by that name. You might be thinking of a different church.”

Zee went back a few other times and talked to other people but got the same story. There had never been a Father Goodman serving at that church.

Father Goodman’s words conflicted with what her brother Victor and her father Joseph had always told her. His words gave her hope that she wasn’t only a soulless monster; if she had a soul, then she must have a purpose beyond being a weapon and killing machine.

When she first met Victor, she hadn’t been aware that she had a brother. He had shown up with his team immediately after Zee’s battle with Aysha after Aysha had tried to stop her.

Victor smirked at the sight of Aysha lying bloodied in the grass at Zee’s feet.

“Well, Ze’Eva. I’m impressed. You are just as vicious as my mother said you were.”

With dark hair and a naturally tanned Italian complexion, his green eyes were just as cold as Joseph Silva’s had been. She and Victor had both inherited their father’s looks.

“I can help Aysha; I’ll even let her go after she heals. But you will come back to work for OriGen. That’s my price.”

Before Victor showed up in her life, she had only targeted criminals, predators, rapists who deserved to die. After she went to work for Victor, rounding up altereds, like her, Zee despised herself, but she knew this was the only way to keep her family safe from Victor.

“Zee, you are not to tell anyone that you are working for OriGen again. Not Luigi. Not Dan and Molly. And certainly not your big blond Marine.”

Her uncle Luigi had been cold toward her. He knew she kept things from him, and since he couldn’t stop her, he distanced himself.

“You are becoming just as evil as your father was. I tried to save you from them.”

Zee hated deceiving her boyfriend Jack most of all. He knew all about OriGen and the experiments that were conducted there. She remembered the night she had told him.

***

Zee was exhausted when she tumbled into bed. It seemed like no time at all had passed when she was woken up by a man’s hand over her mouth, and she found herself abruptly flipped onto her stomach, the guy’s knee in her back, pinning her down.

She felt his warm breath tickle her ear as he leaned down to whisper. “You have some explaining to do, Ze’Eva.”

“Jack?!” She tried to ask, her voice muffled against his thick hand pressed against her mouth. It came out sounding more like “Yack?”

He took his knee off her back and let her sit up. “What the hell are you doing?” She snapped as she pushed her hair out of her face.

“Did you know there is a hefty contract out on you?” Jack asked her. “Ten large.”

“Who…?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Wait a minute, how do you know there’s a…?”

“Because I took the contract, Zee.”

“I don’t get it.”

“I’m a mercenary, Zee. It’s what I do. Contracts.”

“Oh. I didn’t know…”

 “Well, I guess there is a lot neither of us knew. As I said, we need to talk.”

And they had. Zee got up and made coffee for both of them and brought it back to her studio apartment in her uncle’s house, where Jack was pacing while he waited for her.

Jack sat down and sipped his coffee while he waited for her to begin. Zee wrapped her hands around the warm cup and took a deep breath.

“It’s probably best if I start at the beginning. I hope you cleared your calendar because this is going to be a long story.”

“I have time. Don’t leave anything out.”

“You’ve heard of Antarctica, I’m sure.”

Jack nodded.

“I was born there. On Elephant Island, specifically.”

“Never heard of it. You were born in Antarctica? I thought there were only scientists there. You said your father was a cancer doctor; why would he be…”

“Just listen, don’t interrupt. Please.”

Jack sighed and sat back again.

“My father was a cancer doctor. A brilliant one. He was hired by the Italian government, long before I was born, to head a research facility on Elephant Island; OriGen.”

“Like the OriGen here in New York?”

“That is the site people know about. The one on Elephant Island is secret. Here is where they implement the cures. There they create them.”

“I’m trying to be patient, but I hope this story of yours will explain how you got from an island of do-gooders to hitmen wanting to murder you.”

“They’re not do-gooders. They create monsters. They experimented on orphans at first and terminally ill children whose parents signed over custody, hoping that my father and his team of researchers could save their lives. Then they figured out how to cull DNA from donors and create children. To experiment on.”

Jack paled as her words sank in. “You said you were born there, Zee. Which category did you fall into?”

Zee fidgeted and glanced everywhere but at Jack. “I was one of the created ones. A hybrid.”

Zee jumped as Jack clapped and roared with laughter. “Bravo. Brilliant story! Now, how about the truth?”

Show him. Show our mate the truth. She-wolf spoke within Zee’s mind.

Zee stood up and started unbuttoning her satin pajama top, the only thing she wore.

“Trying to distract me now? Fine. But I still want the truth..”

He stopped speaking as audible cracks came from Zee’s body.

“What the..what is happening?!”

Zee cried out in pain as her bones cracked, melted, and reformed. She fell to the floor as Jack, a credit to his Marine training, stayed where he was and watched, his blue eyes so wide the whites showed all the way around.

Mere seconds passed. Transformation completed, She-wolf lay on the floor, patiently waiting.

“Zee?” He asked, staring at She-wolf, who whined and crawled closer, belly low to the ground. She stopped when Jack jumped up and hurried out the door without a backward glance.

She-wolf tipped her head back and gave a mournful cry.

Jack had returned, though, once he had processed all that Zee had said and shown him. He had accepted them, her and She-wolf.

***

In the present, Zee took her place at the dinner table, expressing thanks for each member of her family as she bowed her head.

April 13, 2021 05:28

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