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legally dead

Chapter Text

It didn’t bother her.

It didn’t.

Not the welcome to Rochester sign, not driving past the old daycare, not even her untouched room. It didn’t.

No nausea welled in her stomach, her muscles didn’t clench. Her hearing didn’t become so muddled at her bedroom door that she couldn’t hear Bracken as her breath shortened and her heart sped up—

“Here are some boxes.” He dropped them at her doorway. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just didn’t sleep much on the way here. You know, with the coffee.” She turned around to face him and flash a smile. Hopefully his years of isolation made him bad at picking up on undertones. Her shaking hands were hidden behind her.

“Okay. Do you need help with packing up your room?”

“No,” she laughed. “I’m not helpless. Seth might need some assistance though.”

He smiled at her demeanor and left the hallway.

Her smile dropped and she tugged the boxes into her room before shutting the door.

Tangles caught her fingers as she ran them through her hair, sat on her bed before getting up to start emptying drawers and filling boxes. “I’m okay. I got this.”

-

“We need more tape? I could swing by the store and get it.” Kendra patted the side of the doorway she entered.

“Kendra,” Warren hesitated. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

Seth barely looked up from sorting the cutlery.

“Why not? I’ll be quick,” she pasted on a bright smile and dared him to break it. Anything to get out of this godforsaken house with its pink bulletin decorated with pictures of a past life, with people who think she’s… who think she’s—

“You’re already going to go out tonight. I could send Seth.”

“Seth can’t drive. I’m 16.”

“Right. Well, quickly.”

-

Minuscule cracks ran along the bathroom mirror.

“Hey! I wouldn’t run your fingers around that mirror, dear, it could give you a glass splinter.”

Kendra glanced over to the woman throwing her paper towels in the trash. “Thanks.”

The heavy door swung shut and Kendra was left in the bathroom alone again. Warren had been overreacting. Not a single person recognized her. Why would they, anyway?

Her reflection was far removed from the freshman everyone remembered.

It’s not like she did some crazy change to her hair or something, but everything about her seemed...heavier. Sadder. Different.

Enough of this. She grabbed the plastic bag of tape and left the gas station.

-

Kendra had pleaded with her parents to allow her to show Bracken around the city. It would be so out of left field for her to suddenly decide not to. It’s just...she didn’t know how draining it would be to be here.

Best to keep up pretenses.

-

Muted diamonds sparkled in the sky. Kendra had long forgotten how hard it had been to see the stars in Rochester—at least compared to the wilderness that was Fablehaven.

“So you grew up here?” Bracken’s feet puttered against the sidewalk.

“More in the suburbs, but yeah, this is Rochester.”

“It’s beautiful.”

Kendra glanced at the askew stop sign, a ditch filled with litter, and the cracked concrete and shrugged. “If we walk fast enough we can get to the beach before we get mugged—”

“Wait, I thought we were safe. This is where you grew up, right?”

“Yeah, and we are.”

“You just said we could get mugged.”

“Well, you can always get mugged.”

-

The pier was dotted with a few locals enjoying the night and a couple of steadfast fishers.

“I would’ve taken you to the beachy park right near here, but my friends go there a lot.”

Bracken threw her a lopsided smile. “Are you embarrassed of me?”

“No,” Kendra blushed. “Of course not.”

“Why can’t we see your friends then? I want to meet who you grew up with.”

Kendra’s features were subtly confused. “I—did no one tell you?”

“What do you mean?”

She steadied her hands with a tight grip behind her back. “I, uh, two years ago a sting bulb masquerading as me was killed and well—everyone here thinks I’m dead.”

Nervous tingles shot through her hands that had nothing to do with the cold. The fear was akin to when she faced dragons without Seth. “Well, not everyone, but you know. I’ve not gone to places like schools and malls.”

“Kendra, we need to go back. This isn’t that big of a city.”

“I don’t want to hide in my own hometown, Bracken.” It felt like every undertone in his inflections added a weight to her chest. “It's a quarter of a million people. I know how to avoid people I know.”

“You just said we’re right next to a park your friends frequent.”

Little solar flares of anger heated her chest while she tried her best to tamp them down. Logically, she knew he was right, it was dangerous to be seen but...it all couldn’t just be gone. Her old life couldn’t have just been cut off.

To hide felt like...admitting it was all gone.

Bracken leaned in and lowered his voice. “What if they see a dead girl on the pier and tell everyone?”

“I am not a dead girl!” She pushed off the railing.

A couple heads turned at her outburst. Her fingers tugged at her sleeve. Frost decorated the planks but Kendra was sweating.

Her feet screeched on the icy planks as she hurried in the opposite direction. She was drained. It had been draining all day. Every comment, every question.

“You sure you want to go? We can pack up all the boxes without you.”

“It’s too dangerous. Someone will recognize you.”

“You have a death certificate under the City of Rochester, Kendra, and that isn’t something you can hide from.”

She knew. Her fingers curled around her sleeves and she stared longingly towards the park.

She knew.

Turning the opposite direction, away from the suffocating accusations, Kendra let her mind run on autopilot. Running through every emotion that surfaced then trying to stuff it back down as she ran through the back alleys of Rochester.

Stuffing every little pinprick of a feeling back into its tiny little compartment where she’d never have to deal with it again. So she could be nice and fun and enjoyable without the icy claws of uncertainty, fear, and anger deepening their grip.

“Yeah, and then he’ll totally ask me out.”

Her heart stopped. Kendra practically could feel the eyeroll that followed her old friend’s statement. And it was—it was Alyssa. The lilting tone and the sweet way she insulted people.

Tears sprung to Kendra’s eyes.

“I’m just saying!” The voice came to the right. Kendra could turn and in a few steps, she’d be with them again, she’d have friends, she’d—

She couldn’t.

They’d buried her. Her friends had buried her while she’d been scared and alone in Torina’s prison.

Kendra had a gravestone. She no longer belonged in high school, or with friends, or with the normal.

Besides, it’d been years. Kendra could never muster up the cruelty to interrupt her friends’ conversation and derail their lives. She couldn’t.

Even as the tears fell down her face and she bit her fist to stop the whimpers, she couldn’t.

She was dead and oh god there was a body under her gravestone—

“Oh, is that your homecoming dress? It’s so pretty.”

“It matches Kyle’s tie. He’s a senior.”

Oh.

They’re going to homecoming. Imagine that.

A tremor shot through her body and a sob built at the back of her throat—she cannot be here.

Turning left, she sprinted with all she had.

Sandy alleys melted into cracked sidewalks. Pebbles of pavement flew in her wake as she tore down the darkening streets. Blackbirds mocked her frantic running and shadows peeking at her peripherals taunted her sanity.

Concrete turned to dirt clods and orange paint strokes of sky melted to purple ink.

Only until Kendra sunk to her knees on the cold earth and wiped the tears clouding her vision could she see her destination.

A forsaken cemetery of all places.

Dirt infiltrated her fingernails as she scratched the frozen ground.

Gulping down knife-like air, she rose again, unsteadily.

Every step took her in the direction of home, but also to more recent graves.

21st century death dates replaced the 20th. Replaced...she wondered if whoever Alyssa was talking to was her replacement.

Raised dark stone caught the drag of her feet and sent her toppling forward.

Her chin hit the ground and rebounded with enough force to split her lip. Groaning, she rolled over until she struck an obelisk in her path.

The faint glimpses of her eyes fluttering open told her the gravestone was clean with a few dead flowers. Even higher, the name was spelled.

Kendra Marie Sorenson
May God be with her

A scream tore through her throat. Her grave, she was on her grave.

Her body was under her—not her exact body—but a copy of years ago.

Six feet. Only six feet separated her and—oh god she's going to be sick.

Sitting up, she emptied her stomach and leaned back against the freezing stone. Blood trickled down her jaw and exhaustion pulled her eyes closed.

Why even fight anymore?

Kendra Marie Sorenson was dead.

Chapter Text

The car ride up to Rochester was great. They had taken two cars to be able to fit all of the stuff and boxes in—so it had been just him and Warren in the latter’s car.

Unfortunately, Warren hadn’t let him control the music. Seth’s musical taste was quote unquote awful. Whatever that meant.

He didn’t let that get him down though. He was excited to see Rochester again.

The last time he was there was god awful—but he had friends and plenty of other good memories. He wouldn’t dwell on the bad parts of the past.

-

Packing was boring. It was midday and he’d been going at it since the morning. He deserved a break.

With a quick goodbye, he made his way to the nearest park.

He knew he was allowed to be out here—unlike Kendra—but it still felt weird. The places he used to know felt different. Little things like shops being painted different colors and new paved roads made him feel like an outsider.

He leaned his bike against the fence and surveyed the area. A few faces looked familiar.

Maybe he shouldn't have come. He kicked the kickstand back up.

“Seth?”

That's a way more familiar voice. Pushing down all the conflicting emotions that surfaced from this blast from the past, he spun back around with a politician's smile. “Randy!”

Randy Sawyer stood with Spencer McCain. It had been...a year or so since he’d seen them.

Randy adjusted the football in his hands. “What are you doing?”

“Packing up my old house. I’m only in town for a few days.”

“And you didn't tell us?”

Seth chuckled uncomfortably. “What are you all up to?”

Spencer butted in. “Football...I guess you could join us if you want to.”

What an awful invitation. “No, that’s fine thanks. I was about to get going.”

Even after the park was far behind him, the interaction left him feeling offput. It had reminded him too much of who he used to be. He didn’t even know he had changed that much but he felt reverted back.

He wasn’t sure what to make of it.

-

All the packing was pretty much done.

Seth’s parents had come a month ago and taken everything from their bedroom, living room, and bathrooms.

Warren, Seth, Kendra, and Bracken were just here to get the rest.

(Well, technically, Bracken was here to hide from some huge fairy festival he hadn’t wanted to be a part of. Like a good friend, Seth had enlisted him as a laborer. )

And with Kendra giving Bracken a tour—it left only Warren and Seth to chill.

Some boxes were still left in Kendra’s room, but a quick glance at Warren told him that neither of them wanted to go in there.

It would be like being back in his nightmares.

Currently, they were unrolling sleeping bags and pillows.

“If those two don’t come back soon, I’m going to fall asleep.”

“You’re such an old geezer.” Seth laughed as he dug a pack of cards out of his bag and threw it on the table. “Bet you can’t beat me.”

Warren grinned. “Bet.”

The trill of shuffling cards was interrupted by the front door swinging open.

Seth smiled to himself. This game was about to be a lot more interesting. “Kendra? We’re playing Uno!”

“Not Kendra.”

Seth’s head whipped to the hallway. The prince looked harrowed.

Warren stood up. “Bracken? Where’s Kendra?”

“I don’t know. I messed up and she ran off. I don’t—she’s dead here?”

It became easier to look anywhere but bracken’s face.

“I thought Kendra was going to tell you.” Seth gripped the cards in his hand.

“Yeah, she’s dead, but forget that. You said she ran off? Like actually ran and not just went to get something?” Thank god for Warren’s instincts.

“Ran off. I yelled at her and she...well she had looked tired all day. I guess this was the breaking point.”

“Ran off where, Bracken?”

Seth noted the slight tensing of Warren’s shoulders. So did Bracken, apparently, as he straightened and switched into his war mode.

“We were on the pier and she went to the west. I followed her, but she knew this city better then me.”

Mentally, Seth rolled his eyes. Use your magic horse powers to run faster, Bracken.

Warren grabbed his jacket and patted Bracken’s shoulder. “Let’s go.”

“Hey—what about me?”

Warren looked like he barely saw Seth. “What do you mean? Stay here.”

Seth fists curled as the front door slammed. Idiots. If anyone knew this city and Kendra, it was him.

Scratches of cards being shuffled permeated the oppressive room.

The most unfair thing was that Bracken was allowed to go search and Seth was told to sit like a dog. Someone should tell Warren that Bracken was the one who lost Kendra and the only one of them who’s never been to Rochester.

Paper cut into his hands as he crumpled the cards.

Why did Kendra run off? It’s not like she actually died--it's not like she watched herself die.

It’s not like she had to attend her funeral and speak about what an amazing sister she was.

How she always kept him on track and for all her nagging, he would never have become the person he was today. How the world was a little bit darker with her gone.

It wasn’t like she had had a gaping hole in his heart widened only by guilt and confusion.

The scrunched up cards bounced against the floor as he tucked his head into his hands. Scorching anger weaved together with grievious hurt and cut him open.

Who was he mad at?

Whatever. All he had to do is wait a couple more seconds for Warren and Bracken to start up the car and he could make his move. He would—she wouldn’t—...It wouldn’t be like last time.

Once he checked that his window was left unlocked and grabbed his satchel, he took his bike out on the streets.

Even with how much this had shaken him up, at least he still had his ability to see clearer than adults.

It sucked that the satyrs weren’t here. If there were, maybe he could’ve roped them into this.

It’s not like his old school friends could even know Kendra was alive, much less that she ran away.

Warren and Bracken were great adventurers and detectives but not when it came to Kendra.

She kept secrets a lot better than anyone knew. Especially when it came to how she was doing.

Even before the magical world had been thrown in, Kendra had been taking so many advanced classes along with sports and a job at the daycare. Sometimes, understandably, she got overwhelmed.

It’s not like she ever expressed it. It had taken Seth a while before he could spot the give aways.

Her destructive independence became worse with the magical world.

As Seth had, she had to ignore emotions and focus on trying to save the world.

Now, she wasn’t facing such stakes anymore but the habit was ingrained.

Admittedly, it had been ingrained in Seth, too.

It felt so lonely.

The memories that had tickled at his consciousness all day broke through in the steady silence of the bike ride.

The memories of always sleeping towards Kendra’s bed so when he’d wake up from a nightmare of that poisonous night, he could see her sleeping form. Sleeping, but alive and breathing.

Not to mention the nights coming back from Zzyzz. They’d pushed their beds together so they could touch each other. Usually just an overlapped arm. Enough to say that Seth wasn’t a gaseous, bleeding out corpse and that Kendra wasn’t cold and lifeless.

They’d stopped making it a nightly ritual, but no doubt after tonight their bed frames would be close again.

What an awful trip this had been.

He hadn’t gone into that house in a year. Last time he had lived there, it had been littered with dying lilies and chrysanthemums attached to well wishes.

Thoughts of seeing those again invaded his mind the longer Kendra was gone. Humming a song didn’t work so he tried to convert all his energy to finding Kendra.

Gravel skidded as he turned onto a new road. He figured he’d start on the spots he knew near the pier. She was on foot, so she couldn’t have gotten far.

The next road had a hedge lining the edge, hiding the cemetery, but Seth knew what was beyond. If only he could peddle faster to get past the street—he didn’t want to be reminded of her funeral.

Wait.

He stopped peddling and went sprawling across the asphalt.

She’d definitely passed this running west from the pier.

Short-cutting through the cemetery would be the quickest way to home and though Kendra would run off, she’d never run away. She must’ve gone through here.

A smile lit his face as he peeled his body off the road. His mouth tasted metallicky but that was the least of his worries.

He dragged his bike off the road and surveyed the shrubbery.

With no time to think of a clever entrance, he got a running start and pushed off his feet. He had hoped to clear it, but ended up just tackling the greenery.

His upper half caught the top but his legs dangled. Swinging, he pulled himself the rest of the way over and fell onto the cold ground.

Wow, he was really getting beat up on this journey. Kendra owed him. Maybe he could get some of her candy stash. Or a hug.

The levity he had cultivated to help him through the bike ride soon vanished as he crunched along the familiar icy path.

His flashlight caught on various head stones but no girl. Worry soon gripped him that he’d miss her.

“Kendra!”

No answer. Keep running.

“Kendra!”

It was getting really late and no voice had yet to answer his calls. Maybe she wasn’t here. Maybe she got hurt. Maybe she got kidnapped. Maybe she was dead.

No. Stop that.

The worries soon returned. She might really be hurt. Like really hurt. You don’t go outside alone after dark.

But maybe, Bracken and Warren found her and they were all back home and now were looking for him.

He should go home. He needs to turn around. He needs to—

All his worries crashed together with cynicism and hope. Snow lightly fell upon a young girl. He found her.

“Kendra?”

Nothing changed. Her hair stayed matted to the stone. Dirt and blood dripped down her face.

That knot of anger that’s been weighing on his gut since Bracken barged in unfurled and left the emotions it was hiding--fear, worry, sadness.

Kendra was splayed across the ground with a lash across her forehead. Underneath her own headstone.

Seth’s knees buckled and he fell backward. One hand caught his fall and the other was shoved in his mouth to middle his cries.

Tears flowed freely as he crawled over to Kendra.

“Kendra? Oh no, Kendra, Kendra, Kendra—”

No 911, No 911—they can’t know she exists. They can’t know. Don’t call 911.

That logic seemed so flimsy at the sight of Kendra.

Seth pulled his phone out and tried to call Warren but it wouldn’t go through. No service. “Shoot.”

“What?” Kendra groaned..

Shocks of hope brought Seth back to life. “Stay awake. I’m just going to pick you up.”

He shoved his hands under her legs and back and tried to lift. Okay, that was much heavier than he expected.

Okay, maybe he’s just not that strong.

He wiped his hands and tear-streaked face. Plan B.

He grabbed her underarms and lifted her to a sitting position which was immediately accompanied by her groaning and her hands slapping her head.

“What are you doing? Where am I?”

“Cemetery. You okay?”

“Oh—oh wow. I remember. Shit.”

A laugh got sucked out of his chest at that.

She peeked an eye through her hands. “Who are you laughing at? Get over here, I’m still a little foggy.”

He moved to her front and extended a hand.

She accepted and stood, slinging an arm around his neck. He grabbed it and her waist and kept her up and walking.

“So, how’s it going, Kendra?”

She glared at him until she broke into relieved laughter. “Idiot. Thanks for finding me.”

“What are insanely handsome, smart, amazing brothers for?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Your ego is getting too big.”

“Is not. I’m just confident.”

“I’m sorry for anyone who ends up dating you.”

“Now that was just rude.”

“Is not. I’m just being honest.”

“I never expected such childish insults from you, Kendra.”

“Well, I never expected to wake up on my grave. We both had new experiences.”

Seth stopped walking and turned toward Kendra. “You know you can tell me things, before they boil over.”

“I know. I will. You better do it too.”

He went for a full on hug. “I will.”

With their arms around each other, Seth fully let go of all the worry plaguing his heart. “I’m really glad you’re not dead.”

Kendra’s arms tightened around his back. “Me too.”

 

THE END