The next couple of weeks were pretty strained ones for Brian and me. I was still trying to cope with the loss of Mac and the fact that I would never have the chance to get to know him better. Guilt set in when I realized that I had taken my birth father for granted and that I was wrong to have thought we had all the time in the world to create our own special kind of relationship. Mac would have never replaced my Dad or the unique bond that we had as Daddy and daughter, but now I would never know just how close we could have become.
A demon had seen to that.
Brian’s words the night of my return from Galway had a perverse effect on me. I began to doubt whether I was doing the right thing by carrying on my family’s tradition in the world of the Dreamspeakers and I wondered what the future held for the two of us as a couple.
I found it continually harder to concentrate on anything. Finals were coming and I was determined to do well despite the circumstances, but studying quickly became the hardest thing for me to do.
My magick lessons with Jared were suffering, too. “Just take a deep breath,” he told me every time I apologized when I messed up on something really basic that I had been able to do with ease a few weeks before. I never let on to him that I was having doubts about my role in the world and I think that he took my fumblings as recovery from loosing Mac and never lost his temper with me.
Brian and I continued to see each other almost every night in the next few weeks and many times he tried to bring up the subject of our argument the night I had returned from Galway. Each time I would quickly cut him off, changing the topic of conversation to something neutral because I was too confused to really know what to do or say.
I also avoided any discussion about Eliza. A person would have to be blind to miss the way that his eyes clouded with hurt every time I avoided the two topics, but how could I tell him the truth about either? It didn’t seem fair to lie to him and I felt the gap between us widening with each passing day.
My worry for Eliza’s new found freedom escalated when Mac’s childe, James Price, visited my apartment a few nights after my return. He brought with him a bouquet of beautiful violet orchids and he told me how sorry he was about Mac.
“He was a good man,” he said after taking a seat as I extinguished the candle that I had lit in a feeble attempt to meditate in order to get my mind off things. Brian had called twenty minutes before James’ arrival to say that he was on his way back to Salem from closing the store in Boston so I was glad that I would have that excuse to cut off the discussion with Mac’s childe when he arrived. I knew James fairly well and he was a nice guy, but he was Tremere and I had to be careful around him as much as the other’s of Mac’s old clan.
“Thank you,” I said, taking a seat across from him and tucking my feet beneath me. “It was nice of the clan to send flowers to the service. My grandparents appreciated it greatly.”
Something danced across his eyes at the mention of Mac’s parents, but I wasn’t sure if it was fear or the reminder that I wasn’t a mere mortal girl that he could push around with his vampiric methods. Mac had respected the other man enough to give him the blood that had made James like him, but he wasn’t fooling me into thinking that this was a casual visit.
Eliza had been absent from the clan for about two weeks now and I imagined that they were getting pretty anxious about having her back. Since they could truly dissect her now that Mac was gone, they might be getting really antsy, but they weren’t going to get anything out of me. Using every ounce of will I had, I locked away all knowledge of my real mother to the deepest recesses of my mind so that their spy would get nothing from me.
“I’ll be sure to pass that along,” he said with a slight smile that didn’t do much to mask his uneasiness. He only ended up staying for another ten minutes, but in that time he had managed to bring up Eliza’s name at least a half a dozen times. I didn’t take his bait. I truthfully informed him that I hadn’t seen Eliza since the funeral. Nor had I heard from her in that time. What I didn’t tell him was that I knew she had returned to Nashville with Glenn and Siofra until she could figure out what her next move would be.
Christmas was fast approaching, but I couldn’t seem to find the holiday spirit. I helped Brian decorate his house with a beautiful tree and lights outside that twinkled at night. One evening when I was studying for my last final before break, he mentioned doing the same in my apartment, but I declined.
“I just don’t feel like it,” I confessed, putting down the notes that I was only half studying as I glanced over to where he was sitting next to me on the couch. We were at his house and I was spending the night even though the obvious signs of holiday cheer only made me wonder how Eliza was doing in Nashville. No doubt Glenn and Siofra had decorated their house for Ian’s first Christmas, even though they, too, were feeling the loss of Mac’s death. I found myself hoping for at least the twentieth time that day that Eliza was all right.
Brian pulled me into his arms and kissed my hair. He held me for a long time as we watched the flames dance in the fireplace of his cozy living room and for a brief instance I felt a small amount of peace for the first time since Mac’s death. I knew that things between Brian and I still weren’t perfect, but being in his embrace helped to suppress the worst of the confusion and worry that was constantly running through my brain.
I spent Christmas day in Bar Harbor, where I found out that someone had been out to see my parents and whoever they were, they were asking about Eliza’s whereabouts.
“Did you know who they were?” I asked, trying not to show the panic that had taken a hold of my heart. We were just finishing up dinner on Christmas Eve and Mom was in the kitchen putting leftovers away.
“Never saw them before,” Dad said, eyeing me carefully, but not saying anything. “Is she alright?”
I found myself looking down at the lace tablecloth that my grandma had made before I was born and wondered what to say. I hated lying to my parents, but I still hadn’t told them that I could do magickk or that I knew that Mac and Eliza were my birth parents. The best thing to do was to create a story of half truths until I had enough time to really explain everything that was going on.
“Not really,” I told my dad, still looking at the table. I could already feel tears forming in my eyes and my voice nearly broke when I spoke. “Her boyfriend just died and-”
“Did you say someone died, honey?” Mom asked as she came back into the dining room with fresh apple pie for dessert. “Who was that?”
“Eliza’s boyfriend, Martina,” Dad told her as he reached over and placed his hand over mine for a quick squeeze. “I’m really sorry to hear that, Corrine. I was glad for her when you told us that she had found someone. How is she doing?”
“She’s sad, but I’m hoping that she’ll come around eventually,” I said as I wiped my eyes with my other hand. Mom quickly put the pie down on the table and came to put her hand on my shoulder.
“Well, you give her our best when you see her,” she said as she hugged me to her. “That poor girl has always had a hard time of it. If she needs anything…a place to stay, a shoulder to cry on, anything…you tell her to give us a call.”
I couldn’t think of a time that I loved my mom more as I looked up at her and smiled. “Thanks, Mom, I will. I’m sure Eliza will appreciate it.”
“Well, let’s not let your mother’s pie get any colder,” Dad said as he, too, smiled at the both of us and gave my hand one more squeeze before letting it go.
Mom moved back to where she had left the pie and as I watched her cut and dish out the dessert I hoped that I had nothing to fear for their safety. My parents didn’t know where Eliza was and I knew that the clan wouldn’t risk exposure trying to get blood from a turnip. But the fact that they had come to the farm annoyed me greatly. I had been hoping that they would let Eliza go to deal with her grief in peace. Obviously I was wrong.
As I sat alone in my bedroom later that night, I recalled a conversation that I’d had with Eliza on the day of Mac’s funeral that had made me hope that she would decide to not go back to the vampires. I had discovered her standing alone in the bedroom that she and I had shared in my grandparent’s house, a piece of paper in her clenched hands. She’d looked so pretty in the black dress that I had gone to town to buy for the funeral. Pretty, yet fragile at the same time.
I knew that the crowd had been getting to her and the bouquet of flowers that had arrived from the Tremere Clan had bore a note for her that I hadn’t seen her read yet. When I opened the door I saw that she had taken her few minutes of solace to see what they had to tell her.
“What did they say?” I’d asked as I closed the door firmly behind me.
I’d startled her, something I had never done before. “Who?” she’d asked, not realizing what I was talking about until she looked down at the note in her hand. “They’re sending their condolences,” she had replied dryly, almost coldly. “They don’t want me to forget–” she had stopped then and crumpled the note into a tiny ball. “They offered to help if I needed it,” she had finished.
I’d moved to her side, not sure what she had meant. “Help you with what?”
I had known that she was Mac’s ghoul, but I had never been told exactly what that meant and I was beginning to think that there was more to their arrangement then I had first thought.
“Doesn’t matter,” she had told me with a shrug as she looked out the bedroom window. “The flowers were nice, though.”
“Eliza,” I had pressed, knowing there was more to the situation than what she was letting on. “You don’t have to shelter me from them anymore. Are they ordering you to come back or something?”
“No, luv, not in so many words. More like a reminder of where they think I belong.” She had opened her hand then and offered me the crumpled note to read for myself.
You have our deepest sympathies for your loss. Cormac was a valuable member of our family, and he will be missed. If there is anything we can do to help you during this difficult time, please don’t hesitate to call. You are still a part of our family, and we will do our best to take care of your needs. You don’t have to be alone, now or ever again.
Elvira Van Dorn
I had finished reading the note then folded it neatly and as I watched she glanced in my direction over her shoulder. “Could you walk away if you wanted?” I asked after a minute.
“I could try.” She had hugged her stomach then and looked back out the window and what she said next cut me to the bone. “I can’t imagine they’d let me go real easy. There aren’t many freaks like me out there. If I don’t go back I’ll be running for a long time.”
“You aren’t a freak,” I had scolded her. “If you are, then so am I and I don’t feel like a freak.” I’d gone to her then and put my arms around her while she did the same to me. “I’m very lucky for the life I have and that is because of you.”
I’ll never forget how close she’d held me to her, her head on my shoulder. “You’re human, luv, just like Mac was. I’ve done what I could to take care of you, to make sure you had the chance to live like he should have. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy, and safe.”
“I am safe and I want you to be safe, too,” I had told her, then we both fell silent for a while. “I don’t think you should go back.”
“I don’t know what I’ll do yet,” she had said softly. “I’ve got a lot to think about, I’m not ready to make any decisions yet.”
I gave her an extra squeeze. “Well, always remember that I am here for you and whatever you decide I will back you on 100%.”
“I know, sweetheart.” She had pulled back then and had tried to smile. “I think I’m going to go to bed now. You don’t have to stay with me unless you want to.”
I’d smiled back. “I’ll stay with you. I just want to go say goodnight to everyone.”
I will never forget how the moonlight bounced our reflections off the window pane that night and how I had marveled at this woman who was more than twice my age, but looked no older than my sister. I remember wondering if I could ever hold even the smallest percentage of her strength. I hoped that I would some day and I also hoped that one day she would know happiness for longer than a moment.
I traveled to Galway two days after Christmas via a portal that Jared opened for me when I returned from Bar Harbor. Being at my childhood home for a few days had been a relief of sorts even though I hadn’t seen it that way at the time. I had been able to escape the constant sadness that had filled my heart over Mac’s abrupt death. I had also able to set aside some of my incessant worry about what would happen to Eliza now that he was gone.
Returning to Ireland brought all the emotions back three-fold, especially when I saw the faces of my Grandmother and Grandfather. It was as if Grandfather had aged ten years in the past few weeks and I found myself praying to any God that would listen to help keep him healthy. I had no idea how old he was, but I knew that he couldn’t take much more pain in his life and survive.
I learned that Glenn had taken Eliza to Salem earlier in the day to get some of her things from the house that she and Mac had shared with James. They had only returned to Galway about an hour or so before I arrived and Eliza was still going through some stuff as she repacked it from the hurried mess that she and the others had thrown it together in.
“Did you get everything that you wanted?” I asked her from the chair I was sitting on in a corner of the room that we were once again sharing.
“If I didn’t then I don’t need it,” she replied as she stopped to take a look at the clothes and other personal effects that were scattered on the bed.
“If you do think of something I don’t want you to go back. It wouldn’t be too obvious if I went in fo-”
“You won’t go one foot toward that house,” she told me as she whirled to face me. Her eyes were filled with a wild expression that said just how alarmed the thought of me going back to the house made her. “Do you hear me? If I didn’t get it then I don’t need it. Promise me.”
I swallowed, slightly put out that she didn’t think me capable of doing something as easy as sneaking into a house during the day while James slept. “Fine,” I whispered, sinking back sulkily in the chair.
Eliza crossed the room until she stood in front of me and dropped so that she was sitting on her heels as she took my hand. “Luv, I didn’t mean to snap at you. I just know they’re not going to be happy with the fact I’m not coming back, and I don’t want them to try and use you as a bargaining chip for my obedience again. If I thought you’d listen, I’d tell you to get the hell out of Salem, but if you have to stay there, please promise me you’ll at least try and stay out of their way.”
I squeezed her hand reassuringly. “I have no reason to be near them now, so of course I’ll stay out of their way. I won’t leave Salem, though, and I appreciate the fact that you respect my wishes enough to not attempt to talk me into going. If I leave too, then that fuels their desire to find you. With me still close then they feel like they still have some control.”
“Oh, and that makes me feel better,” she replied sarcastically as she pushed herself to a standing position again and looked down at me. “I can see you’ve been lounging around too much. Time to get off your butt and help me pack.”
“Okay, fine,” I said with a smile as I stood as well and approached the bed. “What do you want me to do?”
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