“You say four days, and no sign?” she asked.
“Nothing.” he assured her. She shrugged and clapped her calloused hands together softly.
“If she was to turn, should it be from being bitten by this wickedness outside your door?” She let him plead silently with her for a moment longer as part of the penitence she considered due. “But you are lucky, child... I think you will keep her.” the witch pronounced with a gap-tooth smile. He whispered to himself and rested his head on his arms. “Someone has chase this evil out of her for you. And that is dralna handwork.”
“You’re one hundred percent sure she’s going to be alright?”
Tilde shrugged again, gathered up the hem of her purple, braid-trimmed dress and worked her feet back down into her sandals.
“Ja, well, put her in the sun and you will know. I think she will be good... that is my word on it.” She reached out and patted his face, smiling back down at the figure beneath the bedclothes. "Such a lovely girl, so strong and blooming... a shame you won't make her fat and happy on a farm with pretty babies."
"I know, alright? I'm a worthless incubus... might as well be a vampyre myself..." he sighed dramatically, to which the witch rolled her eyes.
"Chocolate, milk with honey, and gravlax with juniper. You feed this to her, and pancakes. Honest food. Don’t turn your nose or I will come back here and make you eat it. And keep her away from your brother... when we are healing, we don't need his sort of energy.”
"He's the one who helped her."
"Hm!" she murmured, patting the top of her own head. "I suppose we all must begin somewhere."
Beneath the blankets Susan listened to the witch lead William into the hallway, rolling over onto her back with the caution previously instructed by her wounds, still troubled by the ghostly delay between her own commands and the faltering obedience they exacted, as though she floated in her own flesh. The bandage taped to her neck and shoulder tugged her skin but there was nothing of the drumming pain that had woken her the day before. She lay still, her idea of the bed as a land of insulated absolution blackened by thoughts of confinement to that very state, prompting her to throw back the covers with both hands.
Edward’s gaze awaited her as she burst into his suite and though he stood before the bed with a newspaper in both hands Susan lunged at him from beneath a cashmere blanket and secured his arm, hauling him down the stairs and slowing only in the grip of vertigo, reliant upon fervour to deliver them to her intended destination. She marched out into the bright morning and stood staring about herself from beneath her cowl; the cold ground under her bare feet made her wince in its shelter, the weave glowing pink at the edges where it shielded her from the sky. He stood where she had left him in the doorway.
"I want you to... if I'm... just do it quickly, if you have to..." she called, exclaiming at his laconicism. “You were going to kill me anyway, so don’t stand there like it's never crossed your bloody mind!” Her face grew smaller, circumscribed by her grasp on the blanket as it tightened under her chin.
"Exsanguination or decapitation?"
“I can decapitate an adult human inside five seconds.” he replied. She stared blankly.
"What, like... one pineapple, two pineapple?" Edward folded his arms and Susan screwed up her frown. “But will I... do you really burn?”
“You become thermoreactive. The skin blisters on exposure to sunlight, at any point on the body. Your ankle might burst into flames before anything else.” She swallowed the bilious mass that rose in her throat and stared down at her amorphous shadow on the grass. “You might have asked if I had a knife.”
“I never really feel as though I have to.” she assured him ruefully. “Alright... if it goes badly, I just want to say thank you... for helping me... I know it was you, and I'm grateful that you tried.”
She loosed her hold on the blanket and threw it to the ground.
From the balcony William watched her stand in the midst of the grass in her T-shirt, looking back to his brother; Susan shed her few items of clothing while her companion turned his back, recommending she inspect herself. He turned again at her repeated insistence to look over her back and shoulders, parting her hair and searching her scalp before declaring them asymptomatic. As a final test she looked up and sought out the white disc of the sun, finding it no more dreadful than before and scrabbling at the dressing on her neck, ripping it free; it stuck to her fingers while Edward handed her garments back to her.
Once more clothed, she stepped forward and seized his hands, holding them tightly in the violence of her gratitude. Though he did not fend her off the sunlight made his features almost intolerably effulgent; in spite of it she glimpsed in him an expression divergent from the cool dissociation that he wore like skin, and further still from that behind the gun that he had held on her, and in a moment of chastening insight it occurred that he was neither as uncommunicative nor impervious as ignorance had insisted. William put his hands on his hips as he came to them.
“Don't do that, Christabel, you’ll get lead poisoning." he warned. "And if you were wanting someone to cut your head off, you could have come to me.”
“Oh shut up and be overjoyed that I’m alive!” she grinned, turning to grasp him comprehensively, then exhibiting the lesions on her neck. “Look at this scar... it’s fucking Evil Dead... at this rate I'll be so hideously ugly in a year’s time I’ll have to start living in the attic with a mask or something... you can tell people I don’t exist and I’ll jump up and down on the ceiling while you’re having sex with models.”
“She’s turned." Edward remarked, leaving them to one another. "There’s an axe in the garage.”
She called thanks to him again, but he did not look back.
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce