"Dear Diary," Elena whispered, "how frustrating is this? I left you in the trunk of the Jaguar and it's two o'clock in the morning." She stabbed her finger on the leg of her nightgown as if she had a pen and was making a period. She whispered even more softly, leaning her forehead against the window, "And I'm afraid to go outside - in the dark - and get you. I'm afraid!" She made another stab and then, feeling tears slip down her cheeks, reluctantly turned her mobile on to record. It was a stupid waste of the battery, but she couldn't help it. She needed this.
"So here I am," she said softly, "sitting up in the backseat of the car. This has to be my diary entry for today. By the way, we made a rule for this road trip - I sleep in the Jag's backseat and it's the Great Outdoors for Matt and Damon. Right now it's so dark outside that I can't see Matt anywhere.... But I've been going crazy - crying and feeling lost - and so lonely for Stefan....
"We have to get rid of the Jaguar - it's too big, too red, too flashy, and too memorable when we're trying not to be remembered as we travel to the place where we can free Stefan. After the car is sold, the lapis lazuli and diamond pendant Stefan gave me the day before he disappeared will be the most precious thing I have left. The day before...Stefan got tricked into going away, thinking he could become an ordinary human being. And now...
"How can I stop thinking about what They might be doing to him, at this very second - whoever 'They' are? Probably the kitsune, the evil fox spirits at the prison called the Shi no Shi."
Elena paused to wipe her nose on her nightgown sleeve.
"How did I ever get myself into this situation?" She shook her head, hit the seatback with her clenched fist.
"Maybe if I could figure that out, I could come up with Plan A. I always have a Plan A. And my friends always have a Plan B and C to help me." Elena blinked hard, thinking of Bonnie and Meredith. "But now I'm frightened that I'll never see them again. And I'm scared for the entire town of Fell's Church."
For a moment she sat with her clenched fist on her knee. A small voice inside her was saying, "So stop whining, Elena, and think. Think. Start from the beginning."
The beginning? What was the beginning? Stefan?
No, she had lived in Fell's Church long before Stefan came.
Slowly, almost dreamily, she spoke into her mobile. "In the first place: who am I? I'm Elena Gilbert, age eighteen." Even more slowly, she said, "I...don't think it's vain to say that I'm beautiful. If I didn't know I was, I'd have to have never looked in a mirror or heard a compliment. It's not something I should be proud of - it's just something that was passed down from Mom and Dad.
"What do I look like? I have blond hair that falls in sort of waves past my shoulders and blue eyes that some people have said are like lapis lazuli: dark blue with splashes of gold." She gave a half-choked laugh. "Maybe that's why vampires like me."
Then her lips tightened and, staring into the utter blackness around her, she spoke seriously.
"A lot of boys have called me the most angelic girl in the world. And I played around with them. I just used them - for popularity, for amusement, for whatever. I'm being honest, all right? I considered them to be toys or trophies." She paused. "But there was something else. Something that I knew all my life was coming - but I didn't know what. I felt as if I were searching for something that I could never find with boys. None of my scheming or playing around with them ever touched my...deepest heart...until one very special boy came along." She stopped and swallowed and said it again. "One very special boy.
"His name was Stefan.
"And he turned out not to be what he looked like, a normal - but gorgeous - high school senior with rumpled dark hair and eyes as green as emeralds.
"Stefan Salvatore turned out to be a vampire.
"A real vampire."
Elena had to pause to take a few choked breaths before she could get the next words out.
"And so did his gorgeous older brother, Damon."
She bit her lips, and it seemed a long time later that she added, "Would I have loved Stefan if I'd known he was a vampire from the beginning? Yes! Yes! Yes! I'd have fallen in love with him no matter what! But it changed things - and it changed me." Elena's finger traced a pattern on her nightgown by touch alone. "You see, vampires show love by exchanging blood. The problem was...that I was sharing blood with Damon, too. Not really by choice, but because he was after me constantly, day and night."
She let out a sigh. "What Damon says is that he wants to make me a vampire and his Princess of the Night. What that translates into is: he wants me all to himself. But I wouldn't trust Damon on anything unless he gave his word. That's one quirk he has, he never breaks his word."
Elena could feel an odd smile curling her lips, but she was speaking calmly now, fluently, the mobile almost forgotten.
"A girl involved with two vampires...well, there's bound to be trouble, isn't there? So maybe I deserved what I got.
"Not just 'died' like when your heart stops and they resuscitate you and you come back talking about almost going into the Light. I went into the Light.
"And when I came back - what a surprise! I was a vampire.
"Damon was...kind to me, I suppose, when I first woke up as a vampire. Maybe that's the reason I still have...feelings for him. He didn't take advantage of me when he could have easily.
"But I only had time to do a few things in my vampire life. I had time to remember Stefan and love him more than ever - since I knew, then, how difficult everything was for him. I got to listen to my own memorial service. Ha! Everybody should get a chance to do that. I learned to always, always wear lapis lazuli so I wouldn't become a vampire Crispy Critter. I got to say good-bye to my little four-year-old sister, Margaret, and visit Bonnie and Meredith...."