Girl of Nightmares


Page 97


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If I let go of Anna's hands, she'll forget me. She'll forget everything except what lies across that field. It will all be gone. Her murder, and her curse. She'll forever live out the life she should have had. The one we might have had together, if everything had been different. This place lies. But it's a good lie.

"Anna," I say. She turns back to me, but her eyes are wide and conflicted. I smile, and let one of her hands go to slide my fingers into her hair. "I have to go."

"What?" she asks, but I don't answer. Instead I kiss her, one time, and try to tell her in that single gesture everything that she'll forget as soon as she turns away. I tell her I love her. I tell her I'll miss her. And then I let her go.

CHAPTER THIRTY

There's the sound of something shattering, and the feeling of being slammed into something, all without moving. My eyes crack open and see a room filled with candlelight and red robes. There isn't much sensation in my body that isn't straight pain. Thomas, Gideon, and Carmel are on me immediately. I hear their voices as three distinct squawks. Someone is applying pressure to my stomach. Other members of the Order stand around looking useless, but when Gideon barks, there are a few red flutters. At least some of them have run off to do something. I stare up at the ceiling that is too high to see, but I know it's there. I don't have to look to the right or left to know that I came back alone.

* * *

This situation is vaguely familiar. I'm lying in a bed with an IV stuck in my arm and stitches in my guts, both internal and external. My back is propped up by four or five pillows and a tray of uneaten food rests on the bedside table. At least there's no green Jell-O on it.

They say I was out for a week, and that my survival was touch and go for most of that. Carmel says that I pushed the limit on blood transfusions, and that I'm incredibly lucky that the Order has basically a fully functioning ER built into their basement. When I woke up, I was surprised by the head of auburn and silver hair zonked out by my bed. Gideon flew my mom into Glasgow.

There's a knock at the door, and Thomas, Carmel, and my mom walk in. Mom immediately gestures to the tray of food.

"You'd better eat that," she says.

"I'm taking it easy on my stomach," I protest. "Come on. It just had a knife in it ."

Not funny, her narrowed eyes say to me. Okay, Mom. I pick up the bowl of applesauce and slurp it down, just to make her smile, which she does, reluctantly.

"So, we've decided that we'll all stay on until you're well enough to travel," says Carmel, taking a seat on the foot of the bed. "We'll fly back together, just in time for school to start."

"Whoop-de-do, Carmel," Thomas says, spiraling his finger in the air. He gives me a look. "She's so damn excited to be a senior. Like she didn't run the whole school already. Personally, I'm in no rush. Maybe we can take one more swing through the Suicide Forest on the way out, just for kicks."

"You're hilarious," Carmel says sarcastically, and shoves him.

One more knock at the door, and Gideon comes in with his hands in his pockets and sits down in the chair. I notice the uncomfortable look traded between him and my mom. I don't know if things will ever be the same for them after this. But I'll do my best to explain that it wasn't Gideon's fault.

"I just got off the phone with Colin Burke," Gideon tells us. "Jestine is apparently doing very well. She's up and about already."

Jestine didn't die. The wounds she received at the hands of the Obeahman were no more fatal than mine were. And she came back earlier than I did, so she didn't lose quite as much blood. She was also apparently more careful about where she took her wound, because she didn't do as much internal damage to herself as I did either. Maybe someday I'll get her to come clean with all of her secrets. Or maybe not. Life's more interesting with gray areas.

Silence lingers in the room. I've been conscious now for three days, but they keep pu**yfooting around, and haven't asked too many questions about what happened over there. But they're dying to know. I won't mind telling them. It's just sort of fun to wait and wonder which one is going to burst first.

I look around at their uncomfortably curious faces. None of them does anything but give a closed-lip smile.

"Well, I'm going to see about dinner for the rest of us," my mom says, and crosses her arms. "You're still on mushy food for a while, Cas." She claps Thomas on the shoulder as she leaves. No doubt she knows that I chose him to be my anchor. If she was fond of him before, she might just adopt him now.

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