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"Wow, the tough guy has a bit of the book learning guy inside him, huh?" I couldn't help but tease him about it, after everything he'd put me through. And with the day I was having, it felt good to smile again.
James rolled his eyes and pushed away from the table. As he stood, he turned away from me, and brushed his hand through the back of his hair, still coming to grips with everything he'd just learned. He may have been a believer, on some level, but no one ever expects to truly encounter those things that go bump in the night. No one really beleives, not deep down. And yet, everyone does at the same time, on a visceral level that's beyond subconcious and instinct. We all believe in those things we hear about, that little voice that makes us think we're being watched when we're alone at night, yet we never think that anything will really come out of the shadows.
Well, something had just stepped out of the shadows and smacked James really good in the face, and he was going to have to deal with it.
I continued cursing myself for even bringing him into this, but I had no idea what else to do with him, once he had come in that door. And with his knowledge in this area, he may come in handy, and wouldn't mean having to lug around a small stack of books, and try to find the pertinent info while the demonic critter is swooping down upon me.
For better or for worse, he'd been drawn into these events, whether it be accident of fate. Wrong time, wrong place, and here we were, sitting - or standing as the case may be - in my apartment and getting him up to speed.
"Do you have a plan?" He had yet to turn to me, and was still mulling it all over. And asking if I had a plan?
I snorted derisively, and shook my head, despite his being unable to see it, as he looked into my kitchen. "A plan? Like that thing said to me, I'm flailing from event to event. I'm just so lost, and going about my day, until the creature pops up and offs another one of my friends."
He finally turned back around, and crossed his arms, while leaning back against the counter between the kitchen and the living room. "Which reminds me, am I in danger now? Now that you've taken me into your confidence?"
I considered what he was asking me for a while, and finally shook my head again, curls bouncing against my cheeks. "No, I think you're safe. Just because I've taken you into my confidence on this, and told you the real story, I certainly don't consider you to be family, nor friend."
A shocked, pained look appeared on his face as his jaw dropped, and he stood a little straighter at what I said. "After everything we've been through? Spunky, you wound me."
"Yes, even after all we've been through. All the passing in the hall, all the times that once when you blocked my car. I'm sorry, you're just not friend material. But look at it this way, at least you're safe from my twin!"
I may not wound him figuratively, but the doppleganger may try to wound him literally. And fatally. For that reason alone, I wish I could have kept him out of this, although there were all those annoying little encounters that didn't make me feel too bad about putting him in danger. Which was then quickly covered up with pangs of guilt for even thinking such thoughts. Damned conflicting emotions, dueling for attention and dominance.
He had a point though, I definitely needed to try and come up with a plan. Or at the very least, some vague sort of idea that at least provided some sort of direction to this whole quest for survival.
I couldn't keep wandering around like a chicken with the head cut off, waiting for the hammer to fall. If I was going to win this, and survive, I needed to find some way to regroup and prepare, at least for a possible demise, but that was a scenario I wasn't willing to contemplate.
As I was lost in thought, struggling to try and think up my next move, where to go, what to do, my phone rang. The sudden noise caused James to jump, and he looked like someone had just dropped a piece of ice down the back of his shirt.
I moved around the table, pushing in my chair as I passed by it, and into the kitchen, grabbing the cordless off its cradle, and holding the small white bone-like object up to my ear.
From the speaker, came the bright, cheerful, and loud voice of my dear mother. She had a light Irish brouge, still maintaining the little hints of it around the edges, her parents having emigrated to the United States when she was just a child, so had this odd mixture of Irish and Boston accent. It was like running a Kennedy through a blender, but worse. And heaven forbid if anyone ever gets her drunk. Then it just became a whole new level of unintelligible. Her voice was always happy sounding, and full of life, always able to bring a smile to my face, as long as I could figure out what she was saying.
"Siobhan, lass! How are you doing? I saw the news, and what happened to your little friend, Heather? Such a tragedy. Are you doing all right, love? Your father and I are so worried." Even through all this, she still had that cheery, sing-song tone to her voice, and that made the weight on my shoulders lighten ever so slightly.
Of course, it had been on the news, a young murdered girl. If I hadn't been invested in a certain videotape, I may have caught the footage.
I took a deep breath, and could feel a little shudder go through my body. Heather had slipped from my mind a little, with everything that had happened in the last hour, even having just watched her die. With my mother's reminder, I could feel all those emotions building back up within me, and now with Jay's demise on top of those, I just wanted to curl up into a fetal ball on the floor and forget all about my doppleganger troubles. When could I go back to the real world and deal with my grief?
I took another breath, and calmed myself for the chat with my mother, holding back the tears I could feel welling back up in my eyes. "Yeah, mom. I had heard about it earlier. I still can't believe it." As I spoke, I let the walls come down. I had to show a little emotion, and could feel myself starting to sob. Using my acting from high school and college, and used my emotions naturally, but didn't let them overwhelm me too much.
I deserved an Oscar, damnit.
"It happened in the coffee shop we always go to. We had both left work earlier, and she wanted to go for coffee. I had some errands to run, so I went to do my things." I was making this up on the fly. I was even impressed with myself. "Oh mom," I sobbed. "If only I had stayed with her, who knows what could have happened? Maybe she'd still be with us right now. I just can't stop thinking about all that."
James had been fidgeting around with some of the things I had scattered in a clutter across the shelf counter above the kitchen sink. Assorted stones, a few glasses, a mug holding a huge mix of pencils, pens and markers. He was playing with a fork, twirling it idly between his fingers when I began my sob story, and he stopped twirling the fork, and became more interested in what I was saying, with a mixture of shock and amazement on his face at what I was saying. He knew the truth, and was astounded at how easily I was lying to my own mother about the events that had occured at the gas station, laying the groundwork for an alibi, if I ended up needing one. He listened intently as my mother and I continued to talk about it.
On the other end of the line, I could hear my mother inhale sharply at my suggestion, and her pitch heightened slightly, and she became even more panicky. Knowing my mother, her hands were likely to be flapping wildly in the air, if one of them wasn't clamped tightly around the ancient phone they still used.
"Oh no, Siobhan," she cried out. It almost came out a shriek. I'd only heard that tone a few times in my life, and she was always used it when she was the most flustered with a big of anger. "Never, ever say things like that, lass!" Her accent grew thicker as well when she got excited. Not quite as bad as drunk, but the brogue definitely worsened. "Ye don't know what would have happened if you had been there, girl. Nothing might have changed, or maybe it would be you who wouldn't be with us anymore, and I couldn't live with myself then. Or worse yet, maybe both of ye would be dead. Be greatful that ye get to carry on in your friend's memory, but don't wish that you could have been in her place, love."
She was right, of course. Mothers usually are, I've found. The good ones, that is. There are some horrible mothers out there whose advice I wouldn't trust anymore than I trust the latest e-mail forward about being paid money to help some nice man in Nigeria. At the very least, my mother had a high percentage ratio of being right over being wrong, so the advice was likely sound. And of course, I was there, but the less my mother knew about what really happened, the better.
"I know, Mum, but I can't help thinking about it. I was so close to being right there when it happened. I feel lucky, and guilty at the same time."
"Oh, child, I understand. We're so glad you had decided to go elsewhere though. Your father and I were both worried sick when we heard Heather's name on the news. We had to make sure you were ok, after your dad had a vision the other night."
Well, that was interesting. I gave Jake a surprised look, but he didn't know what was going on with the other half of the conversation.
"What kind of vision was that, mum?" My family had always been prone to dreams and visions, so this was almost like asking what the weather was like for other people, and why the doppleganger had freaked me out, it wasn't that far out of the ordinary either.
Mum didn't speak at first, almost like she didn't want to. Eventually though, she started up, speaking slower than she had been so far. "Your da had a dream where a fetch came to visit him, and it looked like you. And you remember what those mean. It's like seeing one of the bhan sidhe, a bad omen, and usually one heralding death. Having that happen, and then sweet Heather being taken from us like that, well, we were understandably worried."
"Yeah, mom, I understand." Wait, what did I hear her say? "Mum? Did you say that da saw a fetch?" That was what the doppleganger had called itself, I think.