There was a thick envelope squashed into Avery’s mailbox, smushed against the penny saver and all the other things not important enough to be delivered to him through extraordinary methods like ghost or pigeon or flaming arrow that somehow seems to avoid setting the message itself on fire.
But even Avery Rook—or at the very least one of his pseudonyms—had to get boring old snail mail every once in a while, and in instances like these it was the only thing that would do.
The envelope, one of those padded sorts with bubble wrap adhered along the inside, was already quite worn from its travels, the manila soft and wrinkled. It lacked a return address, and in fact the sending address was a little off in its numbers, which probably explained the various scribblings and stampings of different offices bouncing it around figuring out where it was supposed to go.
But here it was at last, just waiting for Avery to come pick it up.
When he finally did pull the squashed envelope out and open it up, he’d find an even more squashed little box that had at least in the beginning been neatly wrapped and ribboned, though the materials were hardly anything for the paper connoisseur to get worked up over.
The attempt at prettiness seemed to start and end there, however, as inside the box Avery would only encounter more bubble wrap—probably a good idea given the package’s journey—all taped together. Within the wad of wrap was a thin plastic vial, the sort used for prescriptions. It even had the child-proof seal, though it had been duct taped as an extra precaution. But the inside did not look to contain any sort of medicine. In fact, the inside was nearly black, the edges so coated in soot that it was quite difficult to see what else was in there tapping around as the bottle shook. If Avery tapped the side of the bottle, he just might be able to make out the edges of the small ring, though its details were entirely blacked out. It would take a thorough cleaning before one could make out the gold band and the three red stones. So it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if he didn’t immediately recognize it as his great-grandmother’s ring.
Just as he probably wouldn’t recognize what was left of the last woman who’d been wearing it.
Once he’d filtered through all the layers of the package, it took Avery several minutes to figure out what the vial contained.
It wasn’t until he held it up to the light and finally managed to see those rubies that he recognised it.
He almost dropped the bottle. Almost crushed it in his grip.
He wanted to believe this was just some joke. Just wished he could delude himself into thinking Cassie would jump out and laugh at him and then press her lips against his neck and draw him close.
But she wouldn’t do that.
He knew this. This was real. There was no other way someone could have taken that ring from her.
His fingers started shaking and it was only with a dim realisation that Avery noticed his knees had collapsed onto the floor.
He was holding Cassie. The only part of her left on this Earth.
Couldn’t deny this no matter how desperately he wanted to.
She was gone. She was gone and he couldn’t even bring her back.
He didn’t want to feel all this. Didn’t want this anguish tearing through his heart and locking up his throat and freezing the blood in his veins. Didn’t want to stop breathing until he was howling like one of the beasts he researched and overcome by tears flowing thickly down his cheeks.
He didn’t want this.
He just wanted Cassie.
She was all he’d wanted for a long time now.
He just wanted to spend eternity alongside her. Had promised that to her.
Books and paper were flung haphazardly around the apartment in a localised hurricane. Tables were knocked aside and chairs hovered into the air before slamming into the walls.
He screamed as his powers ransacked his mind and seized his willpower and turned it into a maelstrom of psychic assault on everything around him.
The only thing that stopped him from destroying things with his hands was that tiny vial held against his chest, currently the most precious thing in his world.
It took a long time for his mind and body to use every ounce of energy he had at his disposal, and he stayed curled up in destruction in the middle of the apartment, unconscious and plagued by vivid dreams and nightmares and memories and long stretches of darkness where he found himself desperately calling her name. His tears didn’t stop even for a moment.