Ever since she was little, Elena had always felt too comfortable in her own skin.
Most who hear this would say it’s a blessing. To know exactly who you are and what you’re capable of makes a person confident in their place in the world. It’s a feeling that some chase after their entire lives, self-doubt growing as they try to gauge what others think of them while trying not to look so out of place in a crowded room alone. They look at others with envy at how they make life look so easy when it never is, with their lack of self-consciousness on how they look or laugh or dress to other people.
But Elena’s definition to the phrase was a lot more literal.
An electric charge surging through her bloodstream with whispered forewarnings and wisdom buzzing in her ears. She sometimes felt like she was floating in another plane of existence, her premature young body the only thing gravitating her down to Earth.
It’s a terrifying realization to know how heavily humans depend on their fragile mortal bodies to remain grounded to life.
Despite always on the verge of flying, there was a subtle easiness to her every movement, graceful and so in control that it was unnatural. She felt settled, calm compared to other children who were still in the awkward, anxious stage of wanting to fit their own puzzle piece into society. At the risk of sounding fatalistic, it was as if some part of her already knew with a definite certainty that who she is has already been decided from the beginning.
This awareness vibrates under muscles and flesh, reaching much deeper into her core. A sense of knowing that has been forwarded onto her not in just self-assurance and levelheadedness, but other unsettling ways.
Without thinking, she knew how to make complicated French braids at the age of six after only seeing her mother do it once before heading out to a founder’s party that night. She did the motions perfectly before excitedly showing it to her mom when she came back hours later, who cooed how sweet she looked as Elena swung her tight braid in her face.
Elena didn’t, however, tell her mom that the sensation of her hair being pulled back in such a style felt familiar. She didn’t say how easily dexterous her hands moved without her consent once she figured out the pattern, as if half-remembering something she did a thousand times before.
She also didn’t say how she knew to wipe Jeremy’s skinned knee with a wet cloth before putting pressure on the bleeding wound until it closed when he fell from the tree he had been climbing, the summer heat having made his hands slick and lose his grip. Her father figured with how many times she was at the clinic, she learned it by watching him.
She didn’t tell him he was wrong or that the sight of blood had made her recoil in horror, her mind associating the scarlet drops with some terrible thing that she couldn’t put a name to. It was only when she quickly covered the bleeding scratch with a towel did her breathing become easier, as long as she didn’t look down and refuse to acknowledge the faint scent of copper in the air.
Much to her relief, she was called mature instead of strange, nobody seeming to pick up on the fact that something was seriously wrong with her. Not even her parents, who simply shook their heads and passed off her behavior as ‘part of growing up.’
She didn’t believe in that assessment for a second. She never felt like she learned anything new, as if she’s relearning old skills she recalled from a faraway, impossible dream.
She didn’t know how to describe it exactly. There was Elena Gilbert, a little girl born in Mystic Falls. But then there was something inside her that didn’t feel ordinary, like a supernova just waiting to burst at just the right moment. Slips of the radiating energy keep escaping out of her human body in the form of unexplainable data and capabilities.
It was a maddening chase, to snatch the tiny pieces of starlight that manage to come down to the dirt, just begging to be touched. And some instinctive part of her knew without doubt she had to complete the whole puzzle, that it was her right to do so.
But sometimes, she was afraid to reach for those stars. Because some were tinted with darkness and heartbreaking stories that she didn’t want to recognize.
When Jeremy had been five, he had sighed dramatically at her when she told him to clean his room and jokingly replied, “Yes mom.”
It nearly gave her a heart attack when he uttered that put upon expression at her, some unfathomable part of her retching in agony and staggering loss. To both of the children’s stunned confusion, Elena burst into tears and broke down right there in the hallway.
It took nearly half an hour for her to calm down, her brother’s small hands frantically patting her back clumsily as he burrowed her head to his chest. His panicking yet reassuring words did nothing to assuage the onslaught of unsettling possessiveness that clawed her chest mercilessly.
Give her back! Some part of her screamed. She’s mine!
The feeling eventually faded away, always there but muffled under her brother’s comforting arms and sobbing apologies when he doesn’t even know what he’s apologizing for. They clung to each other, both terrified of another episode that started from some phrase that was so inconsequential between siblings.
Their parents had been out grocery shopping, so they missed the whole debacle that had occurred. The two children silently agreed to never speak of it again in fear that talking about it might trigger another bout of hysteria. Jeremy never called Elena mom again, and the word became slightly taboo between them.
But the strangest of all quirks Elena Gilbert had was regarding her appearance.
For some reason, she hated it, absolutely hated it, when someone complimented her.
When adults coo over how adorable her pigtails were or how smart she was, she accepts it with a flattered smile.
But the moment they mention how beautiful the color of her doe eyes were, or how she’s going to be quite a looker when she grows up with her captivating heart shaped face and entrancing smile, something in her balks at the idea. She feels sick at the thought, her stomach turning and her chest thumping wildly as an uncontrollable feeling of dread pounds in her veins. Her feet itch to run, the compliments chaining her down with inevitability that rang deep under her skin, her very soul.
This, more than anything, flat out did not make sense to Elena.
Normal girls like it when boys tell them they’re pretty in the playground with bashful, starstruck smiles. Normal girls always try to look as appealing as they could, flaunting their bouncy curls in hopes of being the center of people’s attention. Normal girls would kill to have Elena’s willowy body and long legs and sweet face.
But she wasn’t normal. She ran away like the wind whenever boys approach her with flowers and words of awe. She didn’t like to be noticed, and started to hide her features under caps and steal boy clothes from Jeremy’s closet, claiming they were more comfortable.
Her sudden shift in fashion worried her parents but they let it go because who could resist those pleading, big brown eyes when it was angled just the right way? Jeremy was already growing taller than her and he found her odd habit of stealing his clothes to be part of some big game from his weird sister. By the time she was nine, half of his clothes were in her closet and it was the norm to see them arguing over who wore what hoodie for school this time.
If it weren’t for Elena’s long chestnut hair, people from the back would think the two siblings were brothers instead, both nudging and laughing together as they walk to school.
The irrational urge to bolt for the hills ebbed bit by bit as the admiring stares turned to amusement or disdain, the latter from Carol Lockwood and her other high-classed friends, noses sniffing upward when they catch sight of her loose capris pants and dirty sneakers from running in the woods. The boys who once chased her with preconceived views on puppy love quickly banished these notions when Elena punched Tyler Lockwood in the jaw at recess for calling Jeremy Elena’s little ‘boy toy’, not knowing in his young age what that exactly meant while Elena did.
This is how she met Matt Donovan, who gave her a toothy grin and told her, with an admiring tone, “You have a mean right hook, for a girl.”
His compliment was different than what she was used to and she couldn’t help but grin back. Because he wasn’t praising her beauty, but her actions. And she couldn’t help but feel proud of that.
“You mean because I’m a girl.” She corrected him, chin up and hair tied back with a lavender scrunchie.
The bold words echoed between them and Matt laughed, little dimples and all, accepting the challenge for what it was.
“Let’s see about that.” He responded and Elena ended up playing kickball for the rest of recess. When the game finished, she was sweating like a cow with dirt underneath her finger nails from grabbing the ball so many times and she loved every single minute of it. Matt didn’t even have to ask the next day whether she wanted to play or not, and she proved with vicious vigor that girls could play just as dirty as boys.
For the rest of 2nd grade, she ran with the rest of the boys, like Wendy in Neverland though she refused to be called mother. She and Matt became thick as thieves, unanimously chosen as co-leaders in their little games, partners in every way.
Elena liked Matt. He was solid and down to earth, steadying her when the world was spinning too slowly for her, making her feel too far ahead of everyone else. He was nonjudgmental to the point where it boggled her mind. She even asked him once out of blunt curiosity why he accepted her as she was.
They were hanging out by the monkey bars when she asked him this, both swinging their feet as they sat on top of the monkey bars with precarious ease. He had shrugged, blonde hair shining under the sunlight with baby blue eyes staring at her earnestly.
“You’re different.” Matt admitted freely. “And I like that. Everyone else is so worried about trying to do what everyone else does that it gets tiring after a while.”
“But you,” and then he studied her, as if she was some wonderful delight that happened to fall in his line of path. “I feel like you’re the exact opposite. Like you don’t want to be anyone but yourself and no one else.”
Elena’s breath hitched, heart in her throat.
Nobody gave enough credit to sweet Matt, who was a lot more perceptive than people thought.
Because it was true. She felt this vindictive urge to never be what people expect, as if trying to prove something to herself. The hissing ghosts that haunted her every step always felt like they wanted to seep into her, tear her individuality apart, and stuff someone else in. Sometimes knowing more than she should was a comfort she could fall back on, like a crutch when she didn’t know the next step. Other times, she shuddered at the thought of becoming a creature of habit who would stop thinking twice at what she was doing.
She opened her mouth to confirm his words but ended up swallowing them down. Because she hated showing her weaknesses, even though she knew Matt wouldn’t use it against her. As a consolation prize, she squeezed his hand instead in acknowledgement and the two stayed comfortably quiet until the teachers called them in.
By the time summer came around, she introduced her brother to Matt for the first time.
When they came face to face, the two stared down the other, Jeremy dead serious and Matt equally solemn. Tense minutes ticked by before Jeremy finally spoke, tone doubtful.
“You’re Elena’s friend?” for a six year old, he pulled off the reprimanding parent surprisingly well. Matt straightened his back and nodded politely.
Jeremy’s lips thinned in the same way his father did when he didn’t believe the other person.
“You don’t like her?”
Matt looked mortally offended at the idea.
“Of course I like Elena.” He said, sounding half cross and half bewildered.
“No. Like like her.” Jeremy stressed slowly, as if this should be obvious.
Both Elena and Matt pulled twin disgusted looks at the same time.
“No! Elena’s my best friend.” He stated firmly, as if this is a fact everyone should know. Elena couldn’t help but roll her eyes and smile.
“You got that right Donovan.”
“Can it, Gilbert.”
The two grinned at each other like idiots and Jeremy shook his head in exasperation.
For weeks afterword, there seemed to be a strange, grudging truce between the two boys, much to Elena’s vexation. She ended up dragging them by the ears to Domino’s Pizza, the afternoon concluding with full stomachs and excited talks about the next, inappropriate aged game that’s coming out next month. Elena simply listened as the two talked, feeling content.
It was an idyllic scene, the sun setting with its last rays illuminating the sight of two boys throwing pizza crusts at each other and a little brunette laughing as she clapped her hands with absolute delight.
At the moment, she wasn’t an impossible being scared of her own self, but a girl who loves the two boys who were like brothers to her and wishes more than anything that this happiness can last.
Because the gut feeling that has led her entire life says it won’t.
Elena stopped dead in her tracks and turned to the side where the voice came from. A frown furrowed her brows when she saw three fifth grade girls circling around a dark skinned girl around her age like vultures, eyes gleaming with malice.
Much to Elena’s growing interest, the girl was holding her own, jade eyes flashing with gritted teeth.
“Leave me alone Nina.” The girl hissed, hands balled tightly. The bigger girl smirked, arms crossed and tossed back hair the color of dirty straw. It paled in comparison to Matt’s sandy hair that shined like the golden boy he was.
“Make me freak. I heard your mom packed up and left, probably to get away from you.” The girl spat out before starting to cruelly laugh, her posse following her lead.
The reaction was instantaneous. The girl’s fierce demeanor shattered into pieces, her frame jerking with a full-body flinch as if she’s been slapped. She shrunk in herself, getting smaller as she hunched her shoulders and ducked her head as if to hide her face. She looked stricken under the curtain of her raven, curly hair.
It was a split second decision that’ll probably make Elena late in getting home, but-
She never liked bullies anyway.
So without hesitation, she tugged off one of her converse sneakers and carefully aimed. She only had one shot at this. A year of playing kickball came into play and the shoe flew in a beautiful arch and hit the side of the bitch’s head with a large, satisfying smack.
The fifth grader went down like a ton of bricks.
There was a moment of dumbstruck silence before all eyes turned to Elena, who was nonchalantly inspecting her wiggling toes as she held up her socked foot in the air to get a better look.
“Woops.” Elena deadpanned. “My shoe slipped.”
She was all the way across the street, twelve feet away.
“You!” one of the girls shrieked while the other crouched down to check on their fallen leader. “What did you do?!”
Elena wondered how many times the girl had been dropped on the head as a baby.
She blinked slowly.
“My shoe slipped.” Elena repeated flatly. “Are you deaf?”
The too high-pitched girl spluttered in response and Elena switched her attention to the bullies’ victim.
The girl was staring at her as if she was insane and Elena couldn’t help but smirk, looking unknowingly identical to her five hundred year old ancestor who was currently running around Philadelphia at the moment. The added wink only added to that effect.
That was the only warning anyone got before Elena suddenly bolted towards the group, unheeded by the lack of one shoe, before latching on to the alarmed girl’s arm before wrenching her from the scene of crime. The two older girls were so startled by the intruder’s actions that it took them a few seconds to process what just happened before they yelled out infuriated screams and started to give chase.
Luckily, Elena had a lot of practice when it came to running and easily kept up her fast pace despite one shoe missing. The girl unfortunately wasn’t so athletic and was gasping by the time they reached the last corner, having lost their tail a few blocks ago. The raven haired girl sagged against the wall and collapsed onto the sidewalk, too exhausted to care that the grime would ruin her green sundress. Elena let out a winded laugh that sounded a touch too manic if the wide-eyed, weirded out look on the other girl’s face was anything to go by.
“Well,” Elena turned to look at her fellow escapee with a brilliant, still slightly mad grin plastered on her face. She hasn’t ran like that in ages since summer started. “that was fun.”
The look the girl shot her way was nothing short of incredulous.
Elena was not dissuaded by the reaction and simply jabbed a hand in the girl’s direction, causing the girl to startle.
“Elena Gilbert at your service.” She announced her identity with utter confidence, chocolate eyes frenzied from leftover adrenaline. The girl gave her a long, wary stare before gingerly grasping her hand and shaking it as if dealing with a time bomb that could set off at any moment. If Elena was in the right state of mind, she would think to herself that that wasn’t far off from the truth.
She didn’t think this though. She was too busy trying not to balk at the burst of energy that slammed onto her with the force of a rampaging elephant, consuming and overwhelming in its potential and power. How she could have possibly not felt this constant humming force hiding in this slip of a girl was beyond her. It was-it was impossible and electrifying her right to the molecule.
Impossible like you?
“Hey.” She couldn’t help but flinch back when the other girl’s face went right up to hers, a concerned expression marring the other girl’s face. Both froze at her reaction before Elena’s senses kicked in. She managed to smile, the mask easy to put on and charming enough to ward off any suspicions. Unlike normal spectators however, the girl in front of her did not seemed charmed nor convinced.
Funny. That’s never happened before.
“Haha! Yeah, sorry. I just dozed off there. What’s your name again?” Elena asked with faux sheepishness. The girl's narrowing of her jade eyes clearly told her she didn’t believe any of her bullshit, but she complied anyway.
“Bonnie Bennett.” She repeated shortly.
“Bonnie huh?” Elena cocked her head, deceptive doe eyes razor sharp and looking disconcerting on her nine year old face. “Do you mind telling me why those girls were calling you a witch?”
The word witch was ringing bells to her intuition to the point it was giving her a headache. Besides, she was impatient to know what exactly it was about this girl that was setting off all her mental alarms. A cautious, blooming hope was blossoming inside of her, uncontrollable in its growth.
Maybe this is it. She can finally have some clear cut answers on who-what she was exactly. Why she felt so hilariously out of place in this waking world she has everybody fooled, why she felt so ageless in ways she shouldn’t. Whether she was a freak of nature of just something more. And, though she didn’t want to admit it, whether she was a monster under human skin, something dark in her waiting to come out.
The shadows of those little pieces of herself she finds gives her nightmares of strewn out bodies and blood oozing on the bedroom walls like a perfectly enacted horror scene. It makes her hesitate, the constant ache of pain lacing around her essence, a part of her she’ll never be able to get rid of.
But she’s never been a coward, it’s not in her genetic makeup, and she won’t run away from the truth. She’ll face it head on and can only hope for the best, no matter how badly she may take it.
But more importantly, maybe she wasn’t alone. Maybe there were people like her out there who too felt lost and unable to control their own fates, forced to walk among ignorant people who don’t know what it’s like to have hundreds of years weighing their shoulders all the time without even knowing why.
The very thought made her want to cry. She wasn’t sure if it would be out of joy or sorrow though.
Bonnie looks wounded by the question and she ducked her head again as if ashamed and it made Elena furious with a ferocity that surprised herself.
“My Grams is always going on about how our family is from a long line of witches or something. All that talk is what made my mom go away.” Bonnie mumbled out with a bitterness that shouldn’t hang over someone so young (not like her, she was a different can of worms altogether). There was a cynical derisiveness there, like some part of her blamed herself for her mother’s parting, and it only increased the burning anger that was coursing through Elena’s body.
Because there was proof that this girl had a spark in her, a burning fire in those green eyes before it was extinguished with crippling lack of self-value that could only be the fault of her mother and that was unacceptable. This girl, this contradiction of a girl who practically oozed hidden power that rattled Elena’s very bones, should not look so vulnerable and weak.
She wanted to curse that woman with foul languages that itched at the back of her tongue – she really should start writing a damn list, she apparently knew different languages now – but she stalled herself before she could. Because that wouldn’t help the little girl next to her. Lashing out every time some great injustice has been onslaught will only hurt people in the end, especially when she had no right to be this angry.
So she did the next best thing. She tenderly grasped Bonnie’s dark skinned hand and molded it with hers, earning a look of surprise from Bonnie who looked up from her action, eyes still cloudy as if indecisive about whether it will rain or not.
“Then screw her.”
Bonnie’s surprise quickly faded into outrage at his strange girl’s audacity to go straight to the heart of the matter. The jade color was no longer murky but blinking back into severity, focused and no longer broken. She tried to wrench her hand away but Elena’s grip was tight and unyielding like her gaze. Bonnie glared at her, curly hair shadowing her face and cutting her into a threatening figure.
“How could you say that? That’s my mom.” she hissed, insulted. Yet Elena could tell she was curious in her answer despite herself. Otherwise, she easily could’ve left by now if she tried hard enough.
“No mother should leave their kid behind. What she did was wrong and you shouldn’t care what she thinks or what her reasons are. This is your life. If she chooses not to be a part of it, then that’s her choice.” Elena hisses out with deadly seriousness, flashing back to when she was seven, having a panic attack at the very idea of being called mom. At the very idea of having such a responsibility slammed onto her shoulders, with heart wrenching grief clawing her insides out.
You lost her you lost her you lost her the only coherent thought in her head rewinding itself like a mantra.
For Bonnie’s mom to willingly leave her child behind made her blood boil and teeth clench to the point she wanted to snap someone’s neck.
(The sensation would be familiar. Wrapping her hands around a person’s collar, their heart rate fluttering underneath her like hummingbird wings before she twisted it abruptly to the side, whole body going slack as life left him permanently. Tossing it aside and kicking it away with boredom coloring her every moment for killing yet another useless informant who couldn’t locate where the Original was so she knew where to run away.)
Bonnie froze at the utter vehemence that spat out of Elena like acid. Elena expected rejection or fear to come next because she didn’t mean to come out that harsh. The memories of the not so distant recollection made her tense and wrung out her nerves. She sighed and finally let go of her grip, setting the girl free to leave her.
That’s not what happened.
Bonnie started blinking back her eyes, misty eyed but for entirely different reasons this time. She sniffed only once before getting a hold of herself and then she smiled.
It didn’t look fake. Fragile and on the verge of breaking, but genuinely real in the same way Matt’s were when Elena offered comfort to him whenever his mom acted out.
“Well,” Bonnie cleared her throat, even started to physically rub her neck as if to soothe an aching cough. “are you up for some Ben & Jerry’s?”
There weren’t many times in Elena’s life where she felt completely wrong-footed, but this was one of them. The sudden change of tone from the other girl would’ve given her a whiplash if she had her head turned the other way. Her utter befuddlement must’ve been visible on her face because Bonnie seemed to have to stifle a laugh when looking at her.
“What?” she blurted out with incomprehension.
Bonnie jerked her head to the side, eyes glimmering with amusement now.
“Ben & Jerry’s. It’s right across the street from here. I think we both need some comfort food right now.”
“You’re... not mad?” Elena asked carefully, trying to clear the situation up. Bonnie gave a wry smile.
“A little. But...” she hesitated for a second there before shaking her head, the strength Elena had first depicted when she stood up for herself to the bullies flashing in her green eyes. “I’ve been moping around for weeks now. And I really don’t think it fits me at all.”
“It really doesn’t.” Elena bluntly stated. And suddenly the two burst into laughter from the sheer ridiculousness of the whole day, from Elena’s shoe to Bonnie’s suggestion for ice cream of all things.
And then it hit Elena unexpectedly what was happening here, leaving her feeling slightly dazed.
“Does this make us friends?” For some reason, this question felt incredibly important all of a sudden, as if everything hinged onto the otherworldly girl’s answer. Bonnie tilted her head thoughtfully at this, hair swinging to the side at the movement and her skin turning caramel in the sunlight.
Elena held her breath, waiting.
To Elena’s unexplainable relief, a slow smile curled up the end of the girl’s mouth and she nodded.
“Yeah, I think we are.”
Both grinned at each other the same way Elena would do with Matt, as if sharing a secret meaning in the gap between them.
And somehow, this felt predestined, as if the world was purposefully pairing them together so they would be ready to face the world. Unknowing to the two girls, anyone from 1864 would look at them and think of Katherine Pierce along with her handmaiden Emily Bennett. They would tut and comment with disapproval at how close poor Katherine was with someone of color, the two women sharing sly looks with each other with a history nobody would ever guess of.
And before them, Qetsiyah and Amara, where roles were switched and betrayal was also made known between them. Oh how fate knew how to work with irony.
Elena stood up and held out her hand to a trusting Bonnie, who took it without hesitation. The two headed over to the ice cream store, chatting away under the summer heat and completely oblivious to what’s in store for them. Childhood bliss still hovered over them and even Elena’s intuition wouldn’t see what was coming next.
Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.