The Gates - By Rachael Wade Page 0,1

you wish. But you are requesting to be human, Arianna, to be an Amaranthian. Just remember that no good will come from hanging on to a frozen soul who wishes to live on earth. No good at all, my daughter.”

“I don’t regret the choice I made to change, Samira. Joel’s decision to remain vampire has hurt me, but I’d do it all again.” I turned to the wooden doors where Marie stood, peeking in, hissing at me under her breath for leaving her son. Samira motioned her to lead me away, then stood and strolled to the fireplace behind her throne, her back to me. Without another word, I followed Marie out of the dreary room and began to sob, aware that despite my hopes of Joel visiting me, my love with him was truly severed. I would now be alone again, amidst the countless human souls in Amaranth who also chose the hard, solitary life of reformation, who chose to have their curses lifted and spend eternity here in exile.

* * *

Much to my despair, Joel never showed at the exile entrance gates. I waited weeks and weeks for him, every day rushing to the golden bars where I hoped to see his face appear. I’d watched when new vampires arrived and were ushered through. Watched as they transformed from monster to human again as they passed the threshold, their eyes revealing fear and then wonder as Samira’s magic lifted their curse with the admittance. The gates loomed high, angelic in their brass, golden glory, attached to a thick stone wall that rolled out like a ringed fortress surrounding the villages of the city below. Rows of guards lined the walls like statues.

Months passed, and instead of Joel, his mother Marie appeared at the gates.

“He wanted you to know that he didn’t come because he does not love you,” she said. “He didn’t come because he does. He can’t bear to bring you more pain, and he can’t bear it himself. Let him go Arianna. It’s time.” She looked at me with beady, pleading eyes, and all I could do was slip my journal through the bars of the gates and into her hands, to show her written proof of the desperation and adoration I’d been stowing away, waiting for him to change his mind and come to me. “Arianna, if you want to see him one last time—”

“Leave.” Tears made it difficult to see. My cold hands gripped the golden bars as I burned her with my bitter gaze. “Give him that.” I reached out, shoved the journal harder into her chest and stumbled backward.

“Arianna … he’s sorry he chose to stay on earth, sorry he ever changed you.”

“I said leave!” I screamed, began retreating through the fog and down the hill toward the city’s central village. The fog began to swallow up the gates as I ran, and I glimpsed a broken man with warm skin and a compassionate face—my favorite face—rushing toward Marie, joining her side to call out to me. He stood there, gripping the bars and begging me with his eyes. I continued to withdraw until his pained face was swallowed up along with the gates, the fog separating me from what I could not separate myself. Curse the day I ever gave my heart to that man!

* * *

Herds of villagers bustled about, more than I’d ever seen together at one time, shouting and pushing their way through the crowds that surged the city’s cobblestone streets. They were heading north, toward the gates at the top of the hill. I fought to keep myself out of the street, struggled to make my way toward my cottage door, but the heavy pail of well water and sack of produce I carried over my shoulder caused me to lose my balance when the villagers pummeled into me to get by.

The pail crashed to my feet and the sack fell behind me, and I was swept into the stampede and carried up, toward the open gates.

The open gates? I blinked in disbelief. Yes. They stood open. But why?

Samira’s guards flew above us, swooping down like demons from hell, plucking random people from their feet and sinking their teeth into them. More screams broke out as the guards ferociously swept the streets, trying to stop the Amaranthians from making their way up the hill. I latched on to whomever I could, just to regain balance so I wouldn’t be trampled on. The fears I’d had for some

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