Anathema - Part Two of Three
Anathema - Part Two of Three
"I know it signifies you're a witch," I tell her warily. I hope that's what she means, and that it wasn't just one of those fluke questions. Hey, for all I know, she's not Nightworld at all.
"How do you know that?"
How does she think I know? And anyway, what difference does it make? It's not like she can do anything about it now. Perhaps I should remind her that I'm dead and harmless. "Because I'm a witch, too."
"You were Nightworld?"
She seems so surprised by this revelation. Perhaps her confusion comes from knowing Bastien is human, perhaps she didn’t expect me to answer so candidly. Either way, suspicion darts over her features. Oddly, that emotion makes her look more inhuman, less like a witch and more like a vampire. I have to wonder if she has one’s blood in her veins.
“I was.” I smile, my shimmering eyes meeting her sapphire, and add, “And I loved every minute of it.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t one of those witches who constantly brewed love spells and designed charms to leave boys trailing after me. I didn’t hex human girls who annoyed me or enchant teachers into giving me grades I didn’t deserve. And I never -- *never* -- put any spells on Bastien for any reason.
I think it was my own sense of pride that stopped me more than anything else. If Bastien wanted me, it was because I was *me* and not because of some spelled perfume I’d created to draw him in. You can put spells on someone and they’ll be yours, but you’ll never have them completely until you have them mind, body, and soul.
And did I ever have Bastien. Damned shame now, isn’t it?
Ianthe looks troubled. “Sebastien doesn’t know?”
I shake my head, knowing my image fades in and out like a transparent sheet wavering in the wind. “I never told him. After all,” I add softly, “it’s against the law.”
She doesn’t look like she cares much about the law at this point. “Law or no, I can’t believe you never did.”
“Why?” I draw myself up, which puts at least an extra foot of air between the floor and me, indignance coursing through me. “I love Bastien. I wouldn’t hurt him for anything, especially not you. If he had known, he would be dead. Simple as that.”
Stunned, she holds her hands up in a warding gesture, which makes me roll my eyes and sigh. We both know that won’t do any good, nor will it solve anything. Apparently, the sigh reassures her, because she relaxes and lets her hands drop to the couch.
I raise an eyebrow and wait, crossing my arms over my misty chest. “Yes?”
“You still have power,” she whispers. “Your eyes promised--“
“Some sort of awful retribution, I’m sure,” I interrupt. “And if I still had power, I would have extricated myself from this half-heaven, half-hell scenario more than two years ago.” I let that sink in for a minute. I’m getting a little impatient here, and why not? I’ve only got two more hours before the sun comes up. “What do you think of Bastien?”
She doesn’t have time to answer. His footsteps pound against the stairs as he runs back to join us. I have to wonder if he’s managed to keep any of the water in the glass. He bursts into the room and, sure enough, half the water sloshes onto the carpet.
“Is she okay?” He directs the question at me, not even looking at Ianthe.
“Last time I checked, ‘she’ had both a name and vocal cords. Why don’t you ask her yourself?”
I think the tone of my voice offended him, because the expression on his face is not cooperative. He glares at me, then turns to Ianthe. At least he remembers she’s there. “Are you okay?” His words and tone are cursory, as if he doesn’t really care, but asks because I’m forcing him to. Really, you’d think I’m punishing him from the way he’s acting.
Rubbing her hand over her throat as if to soothe it, she nods, a final, delicate cough escaping her. “I’m fine,” she murmurs. Her voice is husky, sore, and I almost feel like commending her acting skills, or maybe nominating her for an Academy award. I even notice the slight sheen of tears drenching her eyes, like they’d been watering.
He holds the water uncertainly. I don’t think he realizes he should offer it to her instead of just holding it. But then I look closer. Something has sparked in his eyes, something that looks suspiciously like...
Well, that’s unexpected. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Bastien hasn’t looked at another girl -- that I’ve seen, anyway -- in the last three years. Not really, truly *looked* at them like they were female. I’ve seen the wistful sighs follow him out of the room and the coy, flirtatious glances cast his way. You’d have to be blind not to notice them. Yet he never seems to.
She smiles shyly at him, extending her arm to accept the half-empty glass of water. “Thank you.”
Oh, how sweet. They’re making progress. I think that’s what this is, at any rate. It might be a good idea to disappear and let them have some time alone... In fact, I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Now, should I just fade into the shadows or should I give them some warning?
If I were still alive, I would have jumped. I was not expecting their attention to switch back to me. I guess that solves my dilemma, though. Too late to simply disappear, so I’m going to have to tell them. Though I am curious as to why they called my name. “Yeah?” I ask.
“How did you die?” Ianthe stares at me -- or through me, if you want to get technical -- and raises an eyebrow. She looks far too sweet and innocent to induce this kind of trouble. It’s a bitch that appearances can be so deceiving.
The light fades from Bastien’s eyes. He shakes his head, probably in disgust, because he hates when people ask stupid questions. As far as he knows, we answered this one already, long before he left the room. Flopping on his end of the couch, he props his feet on the battered coffee table. For some reason, he’s decided to relax. “She already told you. A heart attack.”
An uncomfortable silence settles over the room. I hate that she’s left it to me to tell him instead of doing it herself. Her eyes meet mine, not accusing, simply questioning. She knows the previous answer was a lie as surely as I do. I guess it’s time to rock Bastien’s world, though I’d always thought I’d do it in a different way.
“I was poisoned,” I shrug. “Apparently, cyanide and dragon’s blood are lethal when mixed.”
So much for relaxation. At my resigned confession, he shoots up from that slumped position, his dark eyes widening in disbelief. You know, I think he might be shocked. I’ll bet you a new body that his next reaction is denial.
“Anna, what are you talking about? You had a heart attack!” Now his feet are sitting squarely on the floor and he’s tense, like he’s going to jump up at any moment. I don’t know what he thinks standing will accomplish. It’s not like he can shake some sense into me.
I tuck an imaginary strand of hair behind my ear. Even when you’re dead, you don’t lose your nervous habits. Playing with my hair was one of my favorites. I still can’t believe I’m doing this. “That’s what it looked like,” I agree.
He’s having none of this revelation. “Of course that’s what it looked like, because that’s what it was. Would you like to see the death certificate?”
“I already have, but thank you for the offer.” I meet his eyes directly, letting him feel the full effect of those otherworldly orbs. It’s just not natural to have eyes but no body, unless you’re in the middle of biology class, which we clearly aren’t. “I accidentally got a wrong ingredient. It messed up a spell.”
“Right, and I’m the Wizard of Oz.”
Ianthe has seemingly had enough. “No, you’re not, but unless you want me to turn into the Wicked Witch of the West, you’ll shut up and listen.”
Bastien’s mouth snaps shut.
Well, now I know who’ll wear the pants in this relationship. “May I continue?”
I should try to lessen the sarcasm. His jaw sets stubbornly in classic “I’m going to pretend I’m paying attention even though I think they’re crazy” position and he nods, but at least he did make some concession. I suppose I should be grateful.
“Please, do,” Ianthe murmurs.
Even so, I hesitate. Bastien hasn’t been overly receptive to my explanation and I don’t expect him to welcome what he would deem lies. Bastien’s about as open to new ideas as a dead bolted safe. And as for magic... Well, he may not laugh in the face of danger, but he snickers at the thought of the supernatural. In fact, let’s say Bastien’s acceptance is like the Pay-Per-View reception on a television without cable. All you’re going to get is static and garbled messages.
He’s sullen and obviously impatient, tapping his fingers against his muscled forearm. Ianthe, on the other hand, silently encourages me to speak.
“I was trying to do a spell,” I say finally, sighing. “I bought what I thought was orchid petals and essence of rose. It was supposed to be a relaxation spell, to help me study. But I guess the bottle was marked wrong. Somehow I got a strong poison instead of soothing extracts.”
Sympathy washes over Ianthe’s face. “You couldn’t smell the difference in the ingredients?” she asks softly.
I shake my head, responding negatively to her question. If only it had been that easy, but... “The smell was camouflaged under the scent of flowers. I thought I had what I needed. I know it was an accident, though.”
Her dark blue eyes are soft and empathetic. I think she’ll be a good match for Bastien, that maybe she has enough patience to deal with his stubbornness and enough steel running through her veins to keep him from walking over her.
This is the truly ironic part. “My sister sold me the ingredient. She was sick and wasn’t even supposed to be working,” I murmur, a wry smile curving my lips.
Bastien sits straight up when I say that, this time his eyes bulging instead of merely widening. “Are you trying to say Melissa is a witch?”
His fine features are skeptical. I think of all the things he’s heard tonight, this is the one he deems the least realistic. My sister puts on a good front. It’s hard to tell she’s a witch, or that there’s anything different about her at all. I used to envy her for that, but now, in retrospect, I realize how sad it is that she has to hide her true nature.
“I’m not *trying* to say anything. I *am* saying.” I bite my lower lip to keep from screaming, never mind that I can’t feel it. He really, truly aggravates me. “Melissa is a witch, I’m a witch...”
Ianthe smiles brightly. “And so am I.”
Now Bastien’s expression has turned incredulous. He whips around to face his soulmate, his mouth hanging open, looking like he wants to say something, but apparently unable to get the words out. “Anna has an excuse,” he exclaims. “She’s dead and her brain’s gone screwy, but there’s no logical reason for you to think you’re a witch!”
She tosses her long gold hair over her shoulder, cerulean eyes flashing indignantly. “I am a witch,” she states coldly. Her gaze shifts back to me, but now she’s wearing the haughtiness of a queen, her back straight and her head tilted at a regal angle. “Please, Anna. Finish your story.”
I feel like telling her to turn him into something disgusting and easily squashed first, just to prove our point. I have an awful vindictive streak, and Bastien made me quite angry with the comment about my brain being screwy. It’s not hard to understand Ianthe doesn’t really care how I died, other than idle curiosity. She just wanted me to break the news to Bastien so she didn’t have to. Looking at his reaction, it’s not difficult to see why.
“Nothing else to tell,” I shrug. “I put the orchid petals and the rose into the mixture. When I drank it, it increased my heartbeat until just enough oxygen got cut off from the muscle to kill me. And I know it wasn’t Melissa’s fault.”
“You seem very sure of that,” Ianthe comments. Her expression is completive, as though she can’t believe my naïveté.
I stare flatly back at her. If I knew anyone at all, it was Melissa. Probably better than even Bastien. She was my best friend during childhood, something that didn’t change once we slipped into our teenage years. Even though she was younger, she was my mentor, my support, and my confident. If Ianthe thinks she’s going to incite doubt about my sister’s innocence, I’ll help Bastien get rid of her now, and the hell with his happiness.
Then again, acting in anger probably isn’t the best thing for him.
So, keeping Bastien’s future in mind instead of a few brief moments of personal satisfaction, I manage to wrap my anger like a neat ball of yarn. I even smile at her. Too bad it looks more like I’m baring my teeth.
“I trust Melissa better than I trust myself,” I say, my voice that slight nuance between freezing and simply inducing hypothermia. “My death almost destroyed her.”
Bastien chimes in at this point, finally showing that he can be useful despite his hormones. “She had to be sedated,” he confirms sadly. His eyes meet mine, understanding passing between them. We’re not going to mention the months of therapy that followed.
Silent for just a moment longer, Ianthe looks properly chastised for implying that my sister might be responsible for my death. It doesn’t stop her from making one last ditch effort to prove her point. “How was the relationship between you and your sister?”
“Wonderful. What if Bastien promises to explain later?” My eyes order her to agree. “I have less than two hours before the sun comes up.”
That earns me an evil glare from Bastien. I guess he doesn’t like that suggestion. I know he’s hoping that I’ll disappear, and then he can send Ianthe away with very little ceremony and no arguing on my part. Probably why he hasn’t suggested it to her yet. He knows I’d have quite a bit to say about it. Of course, I’m going to have something to say regardless, and if he sends her away, he’s going to be hearing about it for so long that he’s going to hunt her down just to end the torment.
Along with being sarcastic and dead, persistence is one of my greatest virtues.
Both Bastien and Ianthe reluctantly acquiesce.
“Lovely. Now can we please get back to the original subject?”
I know I sound like a bitch, that I’m a little too annoyed to keep irritation out of my voice, but really, they’re wasting a lot of my time. Time I could be using to escape this prison. I’m trying to bully them into agreeing, but it doesn’t seem to be working.
Bastien hazards my wrath. “Anna, what exactly *was* the original subject?”
Before I can answer, Ianthe groans, leaning over to slap him lightly on the arm. “How typical is that? A guy who doesn’t listen.” She smiles sweetly at him, but it’s the saccharine sweetness that causes cancer. “Let’s recap. We’re pretending Anna is alive, because then we can pretend she’s told you to go to hell.” How odd that she’s echoed my earlier sentiments, but where I decided to use tact, Ianthe waged a full frontal assault.
“Let’s not forget the part where I’m a witch,” I add softly. For some reason, it’s important that he believe that now.
He pauses for a moment, his fingers twisting into the plush couch. His dark skin is drawn tight over his cheekbones like he suffers. “I wish you would stop lying to me. I won’t cooperate better because of it.”
Have you ever seen a cat faced by two large, rabid dogs? A lot of bristling and hissing is involved. Their backs arch and their claws extend. They try to look like they’re scarier than they actually are. Give Bastien three minutes. If we continue to shove this witch stuff down his throat, I’m sure that’s what he’ll look like.
I waft closer to him, close enough that I look almost solid. “Right, Bastien. That pink haze and being thrown into another person’s mind happens all the time.”
He looks at me sharply, probably wondering how I know that. They certainly didn’t tell me. “How did you know that?” he asks quietly. His dark eyes darken even further and he looks suddenly tired. I know he wants to quit this game, to tell Ianthe to go away, and to grow old and die in this room with me.
“It’s the soulmate connection,” I shrug. “I’ve heard enough about it to know that those two things are common.”
“This thing is common?” He sounds really, really disturbed by that revelation. Apparently, pink hazes are not included in his definition of “normal,” though being in love with a ghost is perfectly sane. I can completely understand how he came to this conclusion.
I hope it’s evident I’m thinking sarcastically. I rarely understand anything Bastien does anymore, whether that involves thinking, moving, acting, or sometimes, even breathing. His mind has passed through the male realm of incomprehensible into what appears to be final stages of alcohol psychosis.
Any doctor would tell you it makes sense. He’s got the delusions down, withdrawal, insomnia, restlessness -- need I go on? Now if he drank anything other than water and the occasional orange juice, that explanation would describe him perfectly. It’s a shame he’s so straight laced. He used to be firmly grounded in reality, too, but I guess nothing lasts forever.
“Very,” Ianthe affirms apologetically. “Soulmates are popping up like rabbits these days.”
How disturbingly true. Maybe I should have poisoned the carrots while I had the chance. Then I wouldn’t be in this situation with these people. I wouldn’t have to convince Bastien to let me be, because he wouldn’t be here anyway. I never did learn to think ahead.
“Hear about it all the time,” I agree.
Bastien doesn’t look convinced. I’d describe his expression more along the terms of “obstinate,” I think, if I were given the choice. “I don’t know about this -- what did you call it?” He looks at us expectantly, but getting no response, thinks for a moment. His face brightens as he remembers the term we use. “I don’t know about this soulmate thing.”
“What’s to know?” I ask. “It’s a done thing.”
“It was a fluke,” he snaps back. “Static electricity or something.”
Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Obviously, so has Ianthe. The annoyance is back on her face in full force. One thing I will say for Bastien, when he gets an idea in his head, it’s easier to get a bulldog to stop attacking than change his mind. Granted, this isn’t always a good thing, but I often manipulated him so I could benefit from it.
I’ll admit that now I’m suffering. Somehow I managed to capture him so securely that he doesn’t want to let me go, regardless of what I want. Maybe once he rips my soul to shreds -- like a bulldog rips apart a bone -- he’ll realize what he’s doing. By then it will be too late for me to rest in peace and I can only hope to find all the pieces.
I feel suddenly weary. “Keep telling yourself that, Bastien, and you’ll be giving up the greatest thing in your life.”
“No, I won’t.” Again the stubbornness. “You’re the greatest thing in my life.”
“Bastien, I’m dead!” I’m a little louder than I intended to be, but I can’t help it. *Why* can he not get that into his head? I’m not in his life anymore. Hell, he doesn’t *have* a life anymore! How can he? He’s so *obsessed* that he doesn’t have time for anything else! “I’m akin to a figment of your imagination. Let me go!”
I’m angry now, and glowing once again. What fun.
“It’s got to be hard.” Ianthe again, talking about things that have Goddess knows what relevance. She stares at Bastien, tucking a strand of that rich blond hair behind her ear. “Letting go.”
He merely sulks. The pretenses gone, he’s not even going to try to cooperate. “It depends on what you want,” he says sullenly. “I *know* what I want.”
Looking amused, but trying not to show it, Ianthe bites her lip. I think she’s trying not to smile, though I don’t know why. I don’t see anything funny about this situation. She asks, “Have you thought about what Anna wants?”
He looks surprised and shakes his head. Of course, not. I’m a ghost. My feelings and ideas don’t matter, remember? “No,” he reiterates verbally, “I never have.”
She nods thoughtfully, crossing one slim leg over the other, angled toward her soulmate. It’s supposed to be a sign you’re attracted to someone when you do that. At least, I think it is. Maybe I read it in one of those teen magazines when I was alive, a thought which seriously makes me reconsider the credibility of the interpretation.
Smoothing one hand over her hair, flipping the long strands over her shoulder, she says, “You say you love him.”
Damn her. Of all the times to bring that up, she has to do it before I’m successfully gone. I know she’s directed the comment to me, because of pronoun choice and the way Bastien’s face reflects shock. My glowing, once again, abruptly stops.
“I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” I reply coldly.
He stands, moving around the coffee table and inching his way toward me. I have to stop myself from floating back. “You love me, Anna?”
“Like a brother.” If I still had a body, I’d be tense and fidgeting, but instead I play with the ghostly strands of my hair like Ianthe earlier played with her pendant. “I’ve known you long enough that you might as well be.”
He appears hurt. “I thought we were lovers.”
“You need a body for that,” I point out grimly. My hands drop from my hair, instead reaching toward him. But then I stop that, too. I can’t touch him anyway, and the illusion will just be chilling and unfulfilling. “That ended two years and sixty four days, eight hours and forty-one minutes ago.”
“She’s not yours anymore,” Ianthe concurs gently. They stare at each other for a moment, brown and blue clashing in emotions I remember so well, but can no longer participate in.
I want to tell him that I’ll always love him, that I’ll always be here when he thinks of me, that I’ll never forget him. But all those things would be trite, and rather like a consolation prize. And knowing that probably wouldn’t prompt him into letting go anyway.
Now isn’t the time for that anyway, even if I really do hate hurting him. Even if I know that’s exactly what I’m doing.
He turns to look at me, those dark eyes pained. “Anna, what do you want from me?”
Solemnly, I stare back, meeting his brown eyes with my own green, the color like oak leaves drenched in sunlight. He looks so hopeful, as if I can give him the moon and the stars and the universe, cupped gently between my hands.
“I want you to hear you say it.”