Girl of Nightmares

Page 28



Thomas drops me off in my driveway, still grumbling about Morfran and Riika and the gingersnaps. I'm glad I don't have to bear witness to that confrontation. Personally, I think that eating the cookies is a minor point compared to the part where Morfran sent his grandson to unknowingly visit a dead family member, but hey, everybody has their pet peeves. Apparently Thomas's is dead peoples' snack food.

In between mutterings and spitting out the window, Thomas told me he'd need at least a week to research the Lappish drum and the proper ritual to channel Anna through. I put on my most understanding expression and nodded, the whole time fighting the urge to find the nearest stick and start pounding out a solo on the drum in my lap. It's stupid. Being careful and doing things right the first time is pretty much a requirement. I don't know what's going on in my head. When I get inside my house, I find that I can't sit still. I don't want to eat or watch TV. I don't want to do anything but know more.

My mom comes through the door ten minutes after I do, a gigantic pizza box on her arm, and stops when she sees me pacing.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I say. "Had an interesting visit with Thomas's dead aunt this afternoon. She gave us a way to communicate with Anna."

Aside from a slight widening of her eyes, there's a total nonreaction. She almost shrugs before trundling through the living room into the kitchen. A quick spark of anger tingles in my wrists. I expected more. I expected her to be excited, to be happy that I might get to talk to Anna again, to make sure she's all right.

"You had a conversation with Thomas's dead aunt," she says, calmly opening the pizza box. "And I had a conversation with Gideon this afternoon."

"What's the matter with you? I didn't just tell you that there's a new blue plate special over at Gargoyles restaurant. I didn't just tell you that I stubbed my toe, though I'm sure that would have gotten more attention."

"He said you should leave it alone."

"I don't know what's going on with everyone," I say. "Telling me to let it go. To move on. Like it's that easy. Like I can just keep on seeing her like this. I mean, hell! Carmel thinks I'm a psycho!"

"Cas," she says. "Calm down . Gideon has his reasons. And I think he's right. I can feel it, that something's happening."

"But you don't know what, right? I mean, it's something bad, but you don't know exactly? And you think I should just let whatever is happening to Anna keep happening, because of what? Your woman's intuition?"

"Hey," she snaps, her voice deep.

"Sorry," I snap right back.

"I'm not just your worrying mother, Theseus Cassio Lowood. I'm a witch. Intuition counts for a lot." Her jaw is set in that particular way that she has when she'd rather chew through leather than say what she wants to say. "I know what you really want," she says carefully. "You don't just want to make sure she's all right. You want to bring her back."

I lower my eyes.

"And, my god, Cas, part of me wishes it were possible. She saved your life and avenged my husband's murder. But you can't walk down that road."

"Why not?" I ask, and my voice sounds bitter.

"Because there are rules," she replies. "That shouldn't be broken."

I raise my eyes and glare at her. "You didn't say 'can't.'"


Another minute of this and I'm going to flip out. So I put up my hands and head for my bedroom, closing my ears to everything she says as I go up the stairs, choking on a million words I want to yell into all of their faces. Thomas seems like the only person remotely interested in figuring out what's going on.

Anna is waiting in my bedroom. Her head lolls as if on a broken neck; her eyes roll up to mine.

"It's too much, right now," I whisper, and she mouths something back. I don't try to read her lips. Too much black blood spills through them. Slowly, she moves away, and I try to keep my eyes on the carpet but I can't, not quite, so when she throws herself through my window, I see her dress flutter as she falls and hear the thump of her body when it hits the ground.

"God damn it," I say in a voice caught somewhere between a growl and a moan. My fists hit the wall, my dresser; I knock the lamp off my bedside table. My mom's words twitter through my ears, making it sound so easy. She talks like she thinks I'm a schoolboy with fantasies of heroes who get the girl and ride off into the sunset. What kind of world does she think I grew up in?


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