Like the Dawn (Lark #3)

By: Erica Cope

To my children,

Addie, Mia and Jack.

Love you three to the moon and back.

I hope that you always follow your dreams.

Chapter 1

I'm sitting down beside her. She's laying so still and I find myself straining to hear her faint heartbeat though I can hear perfectly the heartbeat of the nurse down the hall. I don't want to disturb her so I try not to touch her. I fiddle with my hands, twisting a strand of my long blond hair around one of my fingers. The walls are covered in a faded wallpaper with tiny blue flowers in vertical lines. The paper-thin privacy curtain is pulled around the bed, separating her from the rest of the empty room and providing us with a little solitude. I'm thankful for it. I'm not sure how I would explain who I am if a nurse should ask.

Her limp, silvery gray hair is frizzier than curly now and so thin. I can't help but run my fingers through it remembering sadly how golden the curls once were. Her eyelids weakly flutter open; it surprises me how dull and muted her sapphire eyes have become and a heavy ache of regret fills my chest.

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you. It's okay. Everything is fine. You can go back to sleep,” I whisper soothingly.

Her eyes open wider, more alert and focused than should be possible for a woman of her age who is on the brink of death.

“I know you,” she says hesitantly. Her eyes are squinted and unfocused, like she's reaching into the depths of her memories searching for the right one. The one that will answer her question regarding this stranger beside her.

I remain silent, unsure of how I should respond. Do I tell her who I am? How can I possibly explain that to her?

Before I have a chance to decide what I should do, her gaze refocuses on my face.

“Mia?” she asks, like she doesn't trust her eyes—like she's seeing a ghost, which I suppose is how this must seem to her. She was so young the last time she saw me that I honestly wasn't expecting her to recognize me at all. I just wanted to be here with her—to make sure she wasn't alone. Her recollection catches me off guard.

“Is it really you?” she asks again. Her voice is feeble and I can tell how much energy it’s taking from her as her mind tries to comprehend what she is seeing.

“Yes, it's me.”

Her breathing is labored and tears cloud my eyes and start to fall steadily onto my lap as I realize that it's almost time to let go.

“How?” she asks weakly. I didn't mean to confuse her, I feel horrible for doing so. I just wanted to be with her at the end. I didn't want her to go alone.

“It doesn't matter how. All that matters is I'm here. You're not alone.”

“Mia,” she says again, and as she takes her last raspy breath, I kiss her forehead gently.

“Goodbye, Maddie Rose.”

My eyes jerk open and it takes me a minute to shake off the dream and realize that I have not suddenly warped through time. Maddie is still two-years-old with golden curls and bright blue eyes full of life.

And even though I know that she and the rest of my mortal family are safe—that I did the right thing—I can't shake the feeling that this is somehow terribly wrong. That I've made a mistake.

Who wants to live forever when everyone you love will eventually fade away?

Of course, not everyone I love is mortal. My father will remain with me. And Grey. But Maddie, my mom, my step-dad Paul, and...and Jacoby will all die someday and I will be forced to continue on without them. That's something I haven't come to terms with just yet. I knew what I was getting myself into when I agreed to allow Sól to change me, but that doesn't make it any easier. Even though I know it's impossible, I feel like a piece of me is dying a little bit every day.

I look down at the gold square marking with the loops on each of the four corners on the inside of my left wrist—the only noticeable change since Sól made me immortal.

In fact, now that I think about it I should have known it was a dream all along because, immortal now or not, I still lack the elfish super-hearing ability. There's no way I could have heard anybody's heartbeat from all the way down the hall. Nope, for all intents and purposes, I'm exactly the same as I was before except, of course, that my expected life span just increased by a millennium or so. I guess I was expecting a more drastic change but so far I haven't noticed anything physical. My ears didn't suddenly elongate into elfish points for example; in fact, I still look exactly the same.

Well, except for the gold mark on the inside of my wrist. The color is so faint that it's barely noticeable unless the light hits it just right but I feel like there is a spotlight shining on it, as though shouting out to the world that I'm marked. Forever changed.

Even though I really don't look any different after the change, I feel different in my soul. The whole thing happened so quickly that I hardly remember the process at all. At least, not well enough to explain it.

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