Eliza’s new house was a cozy one. It was tucked into rolling hills with green grasses and shrubs growing lushly between it and the ocean. There are a few trees in the backyard, once you got a bit away from the water, whose branches blew gracefully in the warm breezes of the Atlantic like someone beckoning for you to play in the waves of their neighbor. The entire scene created an overall effect of isolation since you couldn’t see any of the houses nearby, or the road for that matter, unless you were on the second floor of either the house or the apartment over the attached garage.
The house had two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and bath on the main floor while the master bedroom, bath, and loft type area took up the second floor. The garage held a laundry area and the second floor had been converted into a small apartment with a bed/living room that overlooked the pool and had its own bath. It reminded me of my apartment in Salem, but there was something more homey and ‘tucked away’ feeling when you stood inside it.
Everything was fully furnished, which was a good thing since Eliza had only brought personal effects with her from Salem and she didn’t have much money if she would have needed to buy the necessary items herself.
I had agreed to spend five days with her on the island to help her settle in. I wanted to stay longer, but I didn’t want to be away from Salem for too long. I didn’t want to attract the attention of the Tremere with my prolonged absences so they would dig around. I felt a little better because Siofra and Ian were staying as well and would be there a few days more after I returned.
I also wanted to check in with Brian as soon as possible to see how he was doing. I knew I was responsible for the hurt that he was going through and even though I didn’t want to cause him any more, I felt that I needed to lend him some comfort, odd as that sounded. I had a delusional thought that we might be able to remain friends after all this, but in the back of my mind I knew that it might not happen. I already felt alone in Salem. I was hoping that I didn’t have to loose him totally.
“I don’t want the Tremere hassling you,” Eliza said sadly as she showed me to the bedroom across the hall from hers where I would sleep. “Maybe you should stay away from me,” she added in an unconvincing tone.
I felt my face as it twisted slightly at her preposterous idea. “Are you crazy?” I scoffed at her good naturedly, as I put an arm around her shoulders and hugged her to me in a way that I hoped would assure her that the Tremere didn’t scare me. “You can’t keep me away, so don’t even try. I’ve told them that I don’t know where you are and that’s that. I’m not going to let them keep me from you and I don’t want to hear another word about it.”
A change in conversation was strongly needed at the moment and I remembered seeing Mac’s laptop downstairs when I first arrived. “I see you grabbed the laptop. Want me to show you a few things?” I suggested.
Technology wasn’t her strong suit. Eliza was better with physical tasks, but she had a fresh start now and she would need a job. Computer training could help her to get one.
She shrugged slightly. “If you want. I’m not sure why I took it; I don’t know the first thing about computers.”
We went downstairs and after a couple of hours I was able to get Eliza a little more familiar with using the computer, while Siofra played with Ian in the living room. It was a grateful distraction to work with her and not think about Brian. I had managed to pull myself together before Glenn had arrived, but I was really afraid that Eliza would sense that something was wrong and ask about what was bothering me. It was a relief to be out of Salem for a few days, but I wasn’t ready yet to talk about the break up.
We spent the rest of the evening just trying to be normal. I made dinner for the four of us and I couldn’t believe how nice it was to see Eliza unwind finally. From recent conversations with her I had begun to suspect that something had happened in Nashville that had prompted this move that she hadn’t told me. Part of me wanted to ask about it, but I had to concede to the fact that my birth mother had been through too much in the past few months and deserved the time to start to get on with her life. So, even though it killed me not to ask, I didn’t.
“How’s Brian?” Eliza asked the following night. We had just sat down on the porch in the back of the house to think about what to do for dinner. We had spent the entire day cleaning and moving all the furniture in the house how Eliza wanted it and we were too tired to put anything together. Personally, I was voting for pizza until she decided to bring up Brian. Then I lost my appetite entirely.
I was pretty sure that I flinched at the mention of his name, but luckily Siofra was inside giving Ian a bath and Eliza wasn’t looking in my direction when she’d asked, so my discomfort went unnoticed. “Fine,” I said noncommittally. “Busy.”
Her gaze moved to me quickly and I hoped that my short answer hadn’t tipped her off. “How is he dealing with you being gone so much?”
So my facial expression didn’t betray me, I stood and went to the porch railing so that my back was to her. “He asks questions and so far I’ve been able to hold him off.”
“Corrine, you have to be careful,” she warned. “He doesn’t know what it’s like to live in our world except by the exposure he gets from you. He isn’t submerged in the bullshit like we are.”
“You’re right,” I said quietly, guilt from the pain I had given Brian surfacing again, causing tears to effect my voice. “He can’t know what it’s like. I don’t know if it’s fair to keep him like this…”
“It’s not fair to you either, luv.” I felt her behind me even before she put her hands on my shoulders. “It’s hard trying to live a normal life with people who don’t know what’s really out there. At least he knows that there are other things out there, you don’t have to lie to him all the time.”
I couldn’t tell her the truth. I couldn’t tell her that I had hurt him so much that it would have been better if I had lied to him from the beginning. I remember how defiant I had been in the beginning of our relationship. I hadn’t wanted to start anything with him that had been based on lies. I had fought with both Mac and Eliza that I would have that kind of relationship with Brian and that was final. It was a hard pill to swallow knowing how stupid I had been. I shouldn’t have gotten involved with him to begin with.
I knew that I had to make up something to tell Eliza to cover the raw emotion that I knew could be heard in my voice when I spoke. “Part of me wants to stop this now before one of us gets hurt,” I told her, knowing it was my guilty conscience that was actually talking. “But another part wonders what if… what if he’s it… what if he’s the one.”
Eliza dropped her hands and I felt the cool night air replace the spot where she had stood as she moved away from me. “If he was you’d know it, luv,” she told me very softly, her voice strained by her words. I heard what was now becoming a familiar sound of a lighter as she lit up a cigarette and then blew the smoke out. She had started smoking while living in Nashville with Glenn and Siofra and even though I knew it went against her nature to be so unhealthy, I also knew she was stressed and so I hadn’t said anything about it. “For real now, if he was, you wouldn’t be wondering, and nothing would matter as long as you could be with him.”
I looked over my shoulder at her and watched her back as she inhaled again before I spoke. “Remember when you took me to New York?” I asked, my hands still on the railing. “To that neighborhood where you lived as a girl? You said that if I ever found someone that I would have lived there, in that neighborhood with, that he was the one. Do you remember that?”
“I remember,” she replied in a tightly controlled voice as she looked to the floor of the porch.
I knew that the subject we were on was too close to mirroring the fact that Mac was gone and I silently cursed myself for not changing the subject before now. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt Eliza more and I gently probed her thoughts to make sure she was okay. She was still so sad, but that wasn’t really anything new from what she had been experiencing since Mac’s death. Knowing that he was the love of her life gave me new guilt to live with and I crossed to her and put my arms around her.
“Enough of this. Let’s go for a walk on the beach. What do you say?” I knew that neither of us would be able to eat just yet and maybe physical exertion would bring back our appetites.
She hugged me back, keeping the cigarette away from me and trying to keep her face turned away until she could wipe her eyes before she spoke. “Finish what you were saying first, what about the trip we took to New York?”
I knew that I wouldn’t get away until I answered, but I didn’t want to linger on the subject any longer than I had to. “I don’t know. I think I’d live there with him, but it’s hard right now. But isn’t that was relationships are all about? It isn’t always easy.”
My face was in the gentle curve of her neck and I felt Eliza rest her head against mine. “No, it’s not always easy.” She crushed out her cigarette and wiped her eyes before turning around to face me. “Walk on the beach then?”
I nodded. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to remind you of anything. I miss him, too.”
She smiled, but there was so much sadness in her expression that you could see it even if you didn’t know her like I did. “Everything reminds me of him, Corrine, it wasn’t anything you did. I thought it would be better here, but…” she looked off then, almost as if she was looking at something that I couldn’t see even if I tried. “I know you miss him, luv, but it will get better. Your pain will heal.”
“So will yours,” I assured her. “We’ll get through this…together.”
It was a brave smile she put on, but it was enough for me. “Let’s go. Maybe the fresh air will clear my head.”
Conversation during our walk along the beach swiftly turned to the Tremere and whether I was safe in Salem or not. I was quick to tell her that everything was fine, but she didn’t believe me.
“I wish I could be there to make sure it stayed that way.”
“I think they are convinced that I don’t know where you are,” I informed her. “No one has stopped by since James did just after I returned. I talked to Jared and he agreed to put some wards on my apartment. I came here through a portal so they can’t track me. Don’t worry, please. You have so much to worry about without me adding to it.”
Eliza bent over to pick up a handful of pebbles and started to throw them one by one into the ocean as we walked. “I know. You’ve got other people to look after you now, but I still worry. I really thought about going back to Salem, Corrine, but I just don’t think I could have done it.”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry about it. I can come to you. Soon I’ll be able to come to you on my own and that will cut out Glenn and Siofra as middle men.” Honestly I didn’t know when I would be able to open the portals on my own, but I didn’t want to tell Eliza that and make her edgier than she already was. Glenn had talked about installing a magickal ‘swinging’ door of sorts that would allow me to say a word and be able to travel to Nashville, Ireland and Eliza’s new place here on the island. I had to admit that I liked the idea since I could go when I wanted and I wouldn’t have to wait for someone to come ‘pick me up’.
“I just—I want you to be careful, Corrine,” Eliza said as she stopped and put a hand on my arm so that I would stop as well. “I don’t want you in any danger. If I thought they’d hurt you…” she trailed off and looked out over the water. “I’d rather go back to the Tremere than see anything happen to you.”
“If I thought I was in any danger believe me, I’d be out of there so fast I’d create a mini tornado,” I assured her. “I could find a mentor anywhere. But if I did, that would be like running away. Mac wouldn’t want me to do that. I know it. I’m standing my ground and not budging an inch.”
“Mac would want you to be safe, Corrine,” she insisted fiercely. “I can’t make sure they leave you alone, not anymore. Maybe you should go to Galway, the Brennan’s would be able to teach you, and they’d be more than happy to have you come live with them.”
I smiled at her, knowing that she was only trying to look out for me like she always had. “Let’s just wait and see what happens, okay? I’m not really big with the whole sticking my neck out anymore than the next person, but I have a good bond with Jared and I am learning from him. Besides that, Sam and I are learning each others Traditions. I don’t want to make any rash decisions right now, okay. Trust me, I won’t do anything stupid.”
She studied me for a long moment, then smiled a little and turned to start walking down the beach again. “I could try to argue with you, but you’ll just do what you want to anyway.” She was out of pebbles now and the breeze coming off the water must have made her cold because she began to rub her bare arms as if to ward off the cool air. “Maybe they’ll give up if I’m not seen for a while. Maybe then I can visit Nashville without worrying about them every time I leave the house.”
“I’m sure they will,” I said, hoping I was convincing as I quickened my pace to catch up. The time outside had done a great deal to invigorate me and now I felt like making a feast for us. “No more talk about the Tremere, okay? Let’s go to the market and splurge a little. How about lobster for dinner? What do you say?”
She smiled again and nodded. “Sounds good.”
The next two days were beautiful. Eliza, Siofra and I took long walks everyday and sat on the beach long into the night with a fire to keep us warm after Ian went to sleep. The house was really perfect for anyone who wanted quiet time to themselves. We met the neighbors and they all seemed to welcome Eliza openly, some of them even dropping off casseroles during my visit.
But something else happened. Late at night, when I was trying to fall asleep, I started to wonder about one of the things that Brian had said to me in my apartment that day. He had told me that I was meant to do great things and that he was meant to live a quiet life. The comment started turning over and over in my head in the blackness of night and for the first time since my Awakening I began to wonder about, and doubt, my magick.
Was I doing the right thing? Was following in the steps of my family going to mean that I would never find a relationship? Part of me knew that it wasn’t true when both my grandparents and Glenn and Siofra seemed to be perfectly content together. What it did tell me though was that they were all mages and maybe that was the only kind of relationship I could make work.
I tried to keep my mind from wondering if there was a mage or some other supernatural creature out there that I could be compatible with in a relationship. What if there wasn’t? What if I never found him?
Following that were the doubts concerning how much talent I had or didn’t have. I started to wonder if I had what it took to be useful in finding the ascension all of my kind were looking for. Even though all these worries began to surface during the few days I spent with Eliza, I managed to keep them and my break up with Brian from her and made the best of our time together.
Aside from that it was a relaxing time to be with her, but I was also concerned about how Brian was doing. When I left to go back to Salem on Monday I felt that Eliza was doing okay and that she had made it through the worst of it. Now I had to be sure about Brian.
Life settled down after that. I started visiting Eliza every other weekend to make sure she was doing okay and to replenish my own peace of mind. In reality I knew that she would be lonely all alone on the island because I was pretty sure she wouldn’t make friends very easy. To be honest, I was lonely in a way too and needed her as much as she needed me.
She got a job in a nursery the week after she moved in and I know that helped to make her feel more independent. She was using the name Beth Taylor now and she bought a golden retriever puppy to keep her company that she named Eddie. I thought it was odd that she would name her dog after Mac’s other ghoul, but she told me that she didn’t want to forget how he had helped her out when she had really needed it. I had to agree that it was a nice gesture and the puppy seemed to be good for her.
Brian was doing okay after our break up, too. I spoke to him after I came back from the island and even though the conversation had been a brief one, I felt that our friendship was still intact and I was really glad for that. Thankfully, my relationship with Sam hadn’t been affected because of it, either. I went to see her and Sam was quick to assure me that she and AJ both harbored no ill feelings toward me. Apparently Brian had explained most of what had happened in our relationship to them and had made it very clear that he was okay with it and that they should be as well.
Later, after AJ had taken Brendan upstairs to give him a bath, Sam and I had a chance to talk a little about Eliza. Like Brian, I had avoided talking about her with Sam, so I was a little alarmed when she brought her up out of the blue.
“I want you to know that I don’t want to know where Eliza is,” she said as she filled our tea cups. We were sitting at the kitchen table and had been catching up on things without the need to shout at each other to be heard over the busy six-month-old. “I also want you to know that if you need to talk about anything, I’m here. It won’t go any further.”
“What if Brenda asks?” I replied worriedly. “I don’t want to be the cause of a breach in your family.”
Sam smiled as she covered my hand with one of hers. “If you don’t tell me where she is, there’s not a problem, right?” she pointed out. “I can’t tell anyone what I don’t know. I just don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to anyone.”
I smiled at her in return and leaned over to give her a quick hug. “Thanks for understanding. I appreciate it.”
I continued to avoid the subject of Eliza with Jared, too. There was a sense of loyalty in him to Glenn and Siofra because he had known them and Eliza in Baltimore, but I still had to be careful that the Tremere might attempt to read his mind. He never pushed the issue and my studies with him and Rachel continue on as usual.
I guess that it was normal that Mac would haunt my dreams during the next few months. Some nights were worse than others and I found myself not able to fall back asleep. On those nights I would light the yellow candle that Eliza had given me to study my magick by and I would hold his book to my chest and cry until I had no tears left. Those were the longest nights and the ones that I wished someone were there to hold me and tell me everything was going to be alright.
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