Chapter One: Change

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Some people found comfort in graveyards – even solace. Van found this place neither comforting, nor poetic. It was a place that screamed mortality and weakness. It screamed that someday Aira would be put in the ground just like every other human.

He growled low, resenting the way he felt about the situation. He resented his own emotions and weakness.

But here he was, standing over the graves of the people Aira had witnessed die all those years ago. No matter where he went in life, he often found himself back here, laying flowers down and saying a quick word. He didn't know why he came here. Van didn't understand what made him sink to his knees and want to ask forgiveness for not protecting them.

For not protecting her.

"Sir," came a frail voice from behind. Van had already felt his presence before the graveyards under keeper said a word.

Van never took his eyes away from the graves as he nodded. "You're taking good care of them."

The greying man gave a half smile and tipped his cap. "I always do. Been keeping watch for thirteen years now, just like you asked."

Thirteen years, had it been that long?

"I never asked, it's not my place, but are these your folks?" he asked cautiously. In all the years he had been employed to watch over these graves he had never asked questions, but curiosity always got the better of most people.

A moment passed before Van responded, "No. I never knew them. I didn't care to know them."

They had been placed next to the graves of other family members. While the other graves had weeds piling over their tombstones, with dead flowers mounting, the graves of the Blight family remained in pristine condition. Aira had never been here to visit, but when she did, Van wanted her to see that they hadn't been forgotten. He had told himself the day he hired the keeper that this was an act of pity, but he supposed it was more than that.

Van knelt and placed some assorted flowers over Vivian Blight's grave. Many years ago, Drake and Emma had stood here and made a promise to always care for Aira, to see her through good times and bad. He had stood off to the side; frustrated with the very human emotions they showed. Now he understood why they had made those silly promises.

She deserved the world and more.

The old man standing behind him looked as if he wanted to say something, but the words just wouldn't leave his lips. Van didn't like meekness, nor did he like people treading on ice around him.

"Spit it out and say what you have to say," he demanded, sighing as he got back to his feet.

He seemed to pause for a moment. The man's face twisted as if he were in pain before he said, "Your cheque is late again, sir..." He really didn't want to bring this up, but Mr. Volkov had always made it clear that any issues with payment should always be brought up at the earliest.

Van shook his head. "It will be in your pocket shortly."

He was far too weak to argue.

It was hard – so damn hard – to admit that money was becoming a slight issue as of late. It was almost as if his body and his bank account were deteriorating.

"I know, sir," the keeper replied, a hint of sadness underlying his understanding response. "I know..."

In all the years he had known Mr. Volkov, he had never seen the man look so beat down. He had his suspicions that something wasn't right – as did many other people. It looked as if Van had found the fountain of youth, but with today's advances it wasn't a surprise he could stay so young looking.

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