16. THE GHOST OF THE ATTIC
“What are you doing here?”
“Are you surprised? This is my house too. Don’t you think I’d have the same right as you to come to the attic whenever I want? By the way, you did a great job remodeling, even books and everything. One would think there’s someone else staying here,” Loui commented scathingly, crossing his arms in a victorious pose.
“What’s so strange about it?” Marianne replied, trying to stay level-headed while her mind processed all kinds of explanations to give. “Can’t I have my own studio to disappear from the world whenever I want? I like to read, and this is the quietest room of the entire house, I just cleaned it up and now…I claim it as mine.” Saying this she snatched the book away from him. “So you skipped classes just for this ‘big’ discovery of yours?”
“Well, there’s actually something else,” he said, starting to walk around her in a very ‘sleuth-like’ way. “When I got inside, the attic wasn’t exactly empty. And with that, I mean there was someone inside. I got to see it for a split second…It was a guy. A BLOND guy.” He made sure to stand in front of her while saying this, making emphasis on ‘blond’. “And it’s quite odd since it’s the third time I’ve seen… an ‘apparition’ with the same features. It’s too much of a coincidence, don’t you think?” Marianne remained undaunted by her brother’s deductions, knowing that any minimal reaction would be enough to give herself away. “So, I looked again and he was already gone, but I knew he was still here, hidden somewhere. Thus, I closed the door and didn’t move from here until he’d reveal his position. You can’t lie anymore, you’re hiding a guy, I’ve seen him and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.”
She continued looking at him with a straight face, thinking carefully about what to say now, until she seemed to come up with something based on his choice of words.
“Well, I guess there’s no need to hide it from you anymore. You’re almost twelve, you’re big enough and deserve to know,” she began to say as if she were about to reveal a big secret. She leaned in to look straight into his eyes and whispered: “I talk to ghosts.”
Loui frowned at her, but his eyes were wide open. He didn’t expect she would come out with that kind of answer.
“Are you expecting me to believe that?”
“You don’t have to believe it. I just think it’s time for you to know it.” After saying this, she walked in front of him, arms behind her back, in a thoughtful gesture, as though she were evoking memories. “It started a few years ago. I suddenly saw them, but they said nothing, just disappeared. Why do you think I have all those magazines? I was looking for an answer to what was happening to me. I couldn’t tell anyone at the risk that they would think I was losing my mind. And finally, I began to hear them. They spoke to me like they were still alive, trying to figure out what happened to them. Sometimes it was difficult, but once I got to convince them to be dead, they were able to move on.” Loui was silent, listening intently, between skeptical and gullible. “The one you saw is this house’s ghost. His name is Sam….Sa…yes, Samsa.”
“How did he die?”
“He…went out on a snowy day and didn’t wrap up very well so he got ill.” As she walked around, she sought for any little detail she could use to engross her tale and convince him. “His parents locked him up in the attic, fearing he would infect the rest of the family, but they still got sick with a very rare syndrome anyway. So, thinking they could put an end to everything by getting to the root of the problem, his father went up one night carrying an axe…”
Loui’s expression changed completely, his doubtful mug became a disturbed grimace, and realizing it was working, she turned around and approached the trunk beside the cot, leaning forward and passing her hand over it.
“It was right on this trunk that his body was found. I saw some newspapers clippings from the time that confirms it, they must be around somewhere. His family left and never got caught. However, he doesn’t accept his death, and as long as he doesn’t, he won’t find any peace, so he will continue haunting this place. I thought I was the only one who should bear this curse, but apparently I was wrong.” Saying this, she straightened up and walked towards him, looking ominous. “You have seen him for a brief moment. I also started that way. That means you’ll eventually hear him too. And then you’ll start to talk to ghosts. Just like me.”
Loui gulped, looking increasingly distraught at her words, so to end on a high note, she glanced towards the corner.
“What, Samsa? He looks like whom?” Loui followed her gaze, trying to see whatever she was seeing, but there was nothing there. “But he’s not, don’t get confused. He must have died long ago. What? No! Not that!”
“What? What is he saying?” Loui asked, getting tense.
“He thinks you resemble his little brother. He believes you are him. Says he’ll come back for you at night and take you with him.”
“W-What?” he shouted, unable to hide his panic anymore.
“No, Samsa! I’m telling you it’s not him! Wait, what are you doing?”
She slowly began to run her eyes over the empty space while Loui watched alarmed, his body paralyzed at the sudden change of circumstances.
“Samsa, no! I’m telling you he’s not your brother, so don’t go near him!” She stretched her arm towards a frightened Loui, as if wanting to stop the air. The kid backed off, stumbling. He fell on his back and started to crawl to get up again, and finally ran off. Marianne walked quietly to the door and closed it immediately. “You can come out.”
Samael became visible near the door, leaning on the wall and gasping for air. She patted his back.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, it’s just that becoming invisible for so long is really exhausting,” Samael said. “So now I’m a ghost and my name is Samsa.”
“Hey, you’re the one who was careless enough to let him see you. I had to come up with something quick.”
“All I want to do right now is to eat something, I’m so hungry,” Samael finished, sitting exhausted on the floor while Marianne pulled a cell from her pocket and another one from her backpack, starting to compare them.
“I have cookies in my bag, you can eat them while I bring something from the kitchen,” she suggested without taking her eyes from the devices, verifying that they were alike. “Well, seems like everything is in order.”
“What are you doing?” Samael asked, pulling the crackers from the bag.
“I had the bad judgment to say you had a cell phone and even worse to pass it off as my brother’s, so now we have to intercept it for you, and given that it’s identical to mine, I purchased another one to replace it without him noticing.”
“I didn’t get any of that, but go ahead if you have to do it,” he replied, taking a bite of a cookie, and her lips curled into half a smile.
“Oh, but I won’t do anything. You will,” she announced to him with a confident smile, and he looked at her with half a cookie on his mouth, not understanding what she meant.
They waited until midnight when Loui should be already asleep. Samael settled on the door to monitor the hallway while Marianne gave him instructions from the floor, her laptop on the bed and both cells connected to it.
“He always leaves his cell on the nightstand next to his bed. All you have to do is take it and bring it here. Just be careful not to make a noise, he could wake up at any minute and we’ve already seen that despite being asleep he may be quite aware of his surroundings.”
“Why does it have to be me? Don’t you think it’s tempting fate a little too much?”
“You can become invisible, it has worked so far. If I go and he sees me, I’d have to make up something else and I don’t have much imagination left for the day.”
“But I’m too exhausted to become invisible.”
“Then may the luck be with you…Now go ahead and get that phone!”
Samael sighed with resignation and proceeded to leave the room, going quietly into Loui’s. He stopped at the door and took a deep breath before opening, extremely cautious.
There was a small lava lamp shaped as a diamond on the nightstand, which lit within two feet with a fluorescent green hue. Loui slept curled up on the right side with his back to the lamp. The phone was next to it. He took another breath and slowly got into the room, carefully setting one foot after the other. He was barefoot as per Marianne’s suggestion so he would be as quiet as possible, but he still had to dodge several objects thrown carelessly on the floor to reach the bedside.
Loui remained wrapped in his sheets as if they were protecting him from any danger, and when Samael stretched his arm to take the phone, he suddenly turned around making him start, but to his relief he was still asleep.
The angel closed his eyes, trying to control his nerves, and when he was inches away from achieving his goal, he stretched out his fingers and took the phone quickly to finally get out of there, as cautiously as he had entered.
Back into Marianne’s room, he sat exhausted on the bed as she took the phone and connected it to the computer.
“All right, see? There was no problem. Now I just have to transfer all of its information to the new one, masking his number to make him think it’s the same one and done, you leave it on his nightstand again and he won’t even notice.”
“Do I have to go back?”
“Relax, just do what you did a moment ago, and everything will be fine,” she suggested like it wasn’t a big deal, and he dropped his head back, tired just to think he would have to go through the same again.
Meanwhile, Marianne began to check the messages received in Loui’s cell to transfer them to the new one and noticed the last three were from an unknown number. She saw the first one, and it was the one Angie sent.
“Hi! We’re waiting for you.
Hopefully you won’t be late. J”
So he did receive it. Maybe Loui thought it was a wrong message and did nothing, but if he had replied, her lie would have crashed and burned. She quickly explored the sent folder, but there were none recently. Maybe he really thought it was mistaken or had simply run out of credit. Knowing how curious her brother usually was, most likely the latter had happened. She returned to the received folder and opened the other two sent by Angie.
“We had to get out for an emergency.
Don’t worry if you get there and don’t see us. L”
The third and last one was received just a couple of hours earlier, presumably when he already had gone to sleep because it appeared not seen.
“I hope you can see us tomorrow, we have questions for you.
Good night and get some rest. I’m Angie by the way.”
She found it weird she would have sent him so many messages one after the other, but still kept the number under Angie’s name and transferred the first two messages onto Loui’s so he wouldn’t suspect, also changing the source number.
“What are you doing now?” Samael asked, peering at the side of the monitor.
“I’m copying all the data to the new phone so everything is exactly like the original. And presto! Mission accomplished. From now on this is your phone, take it.”
“Oh…and what do I do with this?” he asked, turning it around for a closer look.
“Well it’s to keep you in communication with others. See this? These are received messages and here it says who is it from. You reply by writing them back or making a call by pressing this key. You can test it out by answering Angie,” she explained, pointing to the screen and the keyboard.
“And what do I write?”
“I don’t know. Just type ‘see you tomorrow’ or something like that,” she told him as he was slowly pressing the keys to form the words.
“Is it okay?”
“Okay, now try to send it.”
Samael pressed the key again and a notification came out for the message sent. She smiled to see her arrangements were a success.
“Excellent! Now you can bring it back to where the other was,” she said handing him the phone and pointing to the door, to which Samael only replied with a sigh. He took the device strongly in his hands and went into the corridor.
He followed nearly the same steps as the last time, carrying the phone ahead to gain ground. He managed to get in front of the nightstand, and proceeded to put the device in the same place where he had taken the other.
The kid remained in the same position, now lying on his left, and by the rapid movement of his eyelids, one could tell he was having a dream or a nightmare. Samael was quick to leave the cell in place, and just as he was stepping back, Loui jumped all of a sudden, causing him a fright. The kid opened his eyes and saw him, letting out a thundering yell that was heard throughout the house.
Within seconds, Samael was back in Marianne’s room, closing the door with frayed nerves.
“Tell me you became invisible,” was the first thing Marianne said as he entered, but he only panted, agitated, so she raised her eyebrows. “Oh, well. At least the scare will turn him off from snooping around.”
She disconnected cables and closed the laptop, handing him one of the cells along with its manual.
“Now this is officially yours. Bring it always with you and make good use of it. Don’t leave it behind, because if Loui sees it, he’ll start to suspect again.”
“Got it,” he replied, catching his breath. In the distance, they heard Loui screaming out from the top of his lungs.
“You won’t take me with you, ghost! I’m not your brother!”
“Looks like someone won’t be able to sleep tonight,” Marianne said, amused.
Just as she predicted, when she went to the kitchen first thing in the morning, she found Loui sitting at the table with baggy eyes and a sleepy face.
“Ohhh, you didn’t sleep well?”
“Tell your ghost to leave me alone,” he demanded in a monotone voice, as if he had been put into autopilot mode. She smiled while taking a carton of milk out of the fridge and filling her bowl of cereal.
“If you hadn’t gone into his territory, and by that I mean the attic, he wouldn’t have noticed you in the first place,” she retorted, taking a spoonful of cereal to her mouth. “I had the situation under control and had almost convinced him there was nothing here to tie him up, but your little detective game got him out of balance. I don’t know how much it would take me now to persuade him again. If I were you, I wouldn’t set foot in that place or he’ll stay obsessed with you.”
Loui dropped his head on the table with a popping sound as she continued to eat breakfast calmly.
Making up the ghost story was a double-edged sword, because given his penchant for horror movies it could go either way: he might get so excited that he’d decide to dig deeper into the mystery, or the idea of being involved in something spooky would freak him out. Fortunately for her, his reaction had been as expected. He was one of those who liked to see, but not experience it. With that information, she now had the advantage over him. And as compensation for the psychological torment she was subjecting him to, she decided to escort him to school so he could feel safe and then went to her school.
“Attention everyone, close your books and put away everything on your desk. You can only take a pencil and an eraser,” one of the teachers announced to the class.
“What? A test? Nobody told us anything!” Lilith said, panicking.
“It’s just a general test for the Knowledge Olympics that we’re hosting next week,” the teacher explained, leaving the exams they would have to solve at the front of each row of seats. “Whoever gets the highest score represents the school, one per level, and as a special incentive, if they’re also the event winners, they shall be exempt from finals.”
Several expressions of excitement followed the announcement along with the frustration of those who didn’t feel well prepared to take the test.
Marianne didn’t feel nervous or worried at all, as long as the result wouldn’t affect her grades she didn’t care how well she did on the exam, although she did find Belgina’s apathy strange, especially considering how much she used to worry for school on a daily basis. But she looked distracted for a change, as if she had other things in mind.
One possible reason ran through her mind, but she refused to take it seriously.
She headed to the coffee shop after school while checking her cell. Not only did she have to wait for Angie to finish her practice, but she had also told Samael to meet her over there, so they could all go together to their meeting point.
She pushed the door with one hand while writing on the phone with the other, and once she pressed the send button, she looked up and saw Mitchell staring blankly and sitting motionless at the counter, his head resting on it like a dead weight. She rolled her eyes, thinking he was being overly dramatic about Belgina’s rejection.
Demian got out of the kitchen with a milkshake and put it in front of Mitchell, who remained comatose. Marianne remembered that she still had something pending with him, so she took her wallet out of her bag.
“Take this and wipe that face of yours. You’re freaking people out,” Demian said, leaving the milkshake, but Mitchell continued staring into the void with a lost expression. Then he finally sighed and took a couple of straws, assembled them after a few bends, put one end in the shake, with the other going down to his mouth, and without a word, he began to slurp noisily. “That’s not annoying at all.”
Marianne burst in at that moment, swatting at the counter, taking her hand away to leave a bill exposed. Demian looked at it, confused.
“That’s what you lent my brother at the theater. I’m giving it back.”
“You don’t need to,” he said, pushing it back to her.
“I don’t want to owe you anything,” she replied, returning it with the same movement.
“Who said you’d owe me? Take it just as a courtesy.”
“You’re so stubborn! Besides, I already owed you two!”
Mitchell watched them fight over the money, passing it back and forth, until he got fed up and quickly reached out to take it and put it in his pocket without saying a word. Both looked addled at him.
“Well, problem solved. If you want your money back, sort it out with him,” Demian concluded, shaking his hands as a sign of shirking any responsibility from it. She shot him a glare with eyes like pistols.
“There’s a problem. The pantry door is stuck, it won’t open,” Mankee said, peering out from the kitchen.
“I’m coming,” Demian replied. While he went to the kitchen, Marianne glanced analytically at Mitchell and put her backpack over the counter.
“So . . . what’s up? How many more girls have rejected you already?” she said jokingly, but Mitchell sighed and continued sipping from the straw. “Okay, I’ll take that as an unknown number.”
That said, she sat on one of the stools and rested her arms on the bar, waiting for someone to take her order. Mitchell stood on his side of the counter in a vegetative state, and then he opened his mouth and spoke.
“Am I really so unlikeable?” She turned sideways, taken aback by his question.
“Are you talking to me?”
He then lifted his head and turned towards her.
“Seriously, tell me, am I so repulsive?”
She remained silent, trying to detect if it was a rhetorical question or if it had some hidden purpose.
“I’ll take the fifth,” she finally answered and Mitchell straightened in his seat, moved by a sudden surge of adrenaline.
“I don’t understand! I’m good looking, funny, interesting, attentive, with a great sense of humor and fashion!” He really seemed convinced of his words as he continued speaking. “Yet no matter what I do, girls don’t seem to take me seriously! What do they want? To treat them like crap, humiliate them, subdue them, tie them up and whip them or should I throw some glitter on me and use fake fangs? What do you want from me?”
Marianne looked at him, shocked, wondering if he was being sincere or it was just his wounded pride mixed with drama.
“Are you serious? Have you ever heard yourself?” she finally replied, but he seemed unaware so she rolled her eyes in disbelief. “Hey, baby, you like what you see? It can be all yours. Oh, another girl! Hey, baby, you like what you see?”
After that representation, she stopped and waited for his reaction.
“Wow, in a girl’s voice it sounds so ridiculous . . . and yet so sexy.”
“That kind of comments is exactly the reason why no one takes you seriously!”
“I’m just kidding,” he said with a smile that reflected a hint of bitterness. “Maybe I’m a little too overwhelming, but . . . that’s the only way I know how to approach people.”
For the first time, she saw him stripped off all of the antics he used to rely on and thought that maybe she was finally seeing the real Mitchell.
“Maybe you should start to show some sincerity, just like right now. Most likely, this is the way you’re going to be taken seriously and not as the perverted clown who chases down anything with a skirt.”
“Oh, but I don’t just chase skirts. Jeans are sexy too,” he pointed out, causing Marianne to huff. “Kidding, just kidding.”
“It’s up to you now. The next girl you talk to, try not to act like a depraved jerk.”
“But I’ve tried it, and even so she rejected me,” he replied, going back to his melancholy. “She thinks . . . I’m what everyone else says.”
“You mean Belgina?”
“I tried to behave, to suppress my propensity to be . . . well, my usual self. After all, she’s different, fragile and sensitive. I thought she would see beyond what everybody says.”
“Are you trying to blame it on me?”
“No, I’m aware I can be quite annoying, it’s just part of who I am, I can’t change it, but that doesn’t mean I have bad intentions . . . Well, clearly, my intention is to flirt, but not at the expense of anyone. So if I made you uncomfortable in any way, I’m sorry.”
Marianne seemed surprised he would recognize it, and even though her natural inclination was to suspect everything and everyone, part of her couldn’t help but feel he was being honest.
“Well . . . thank you,” was all she could say. He rested his arms on the counter and shook his head, attempting to smile.
“She won’t talk to me again, right?”
“I wouldn’t know,” she said with a shrug. Both were silent for several seconds, until Demian came back, leaving a soda in front of Marianne.
“Courtesy of the house. For the wait.”
“It better be, I’m not paying for something I didn’t order,” she replied, taking the drink.
“Always so friendly,” he snapped with a wry smile, while Mankee also left the kitchen to continue serving tables.
“I’m curious, may I know what kind of deal did you make for him to take not only your job but also stay in that room? And while I’m at it . . . why the hell is a room like that hidden below?”
“Well . . . I don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s not up to me to tell about it, but…the room was originally the game room of the owner’s son,” Demian explained, lowering his voice. “But he died a few years ago and decided to keep it as some kind of shrine. My father and the owner are old friends, so when he proposed him that I work here as part of my punishment for some incident,” Emphasis on the latter, “ . . . well, he accepted immediately. He keeps saying I remind him of his son, so he said I could go to that room whenever I want.”
“And then, about the deal . . . ”
“I offered Mr. Ganzza that I’d keep working here with no pay in return for hiring Mankee and allowing him to stay in that room,” he replied like it was no big deal.
She twisted her eyebrows.
“Do you have a hero complex or something?”
“You keep helping others like it’s your responsibility. It makes me think you have something to hide,” she said, squinting warily while drinking her soda. He let out a short laugh.
“Of course, I’m one of those Angel Warriors out there.”
Marianne choked and started coughing as both boys looked at her in confusion.
“Angel Warriors? What’s that?” Mitchell asked.
“They’re some sort of heroes protecting the city. At first it was believed to be just one, but there are rumors about people claiming to have seen more. I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it, it’s been all over the news lately.”
“Maybe that’s because the channels I watch show everything but the news,” he said, drinking the rest of his milkshake. Marianne tried to act indifferent to the subject not to raise any suspicion, but she couldn’t keep her fingers from thrumming over the counter.
“I was supposedly attacked by one of them. Or at least that’s what the police said,” Demian said and she settled awkwardly in her seat. “But I don’t think so . . . though I don’t remember much.”
“Ah, I haven’t asked! How’s it going with Lucianne? Are you two going out again?” Marianne interrupted in order to change the subject.
“No, I . . . haven’t spoken to her since then,” he replied with unease.
“Oh, well . . . you seemed to be having fun,” added Marianne, thinking she had said an indiscretion, so she took her drink again to avoid talking further.
“Can I tell my sister? Right now, her pain can help me cope with mine,” said Mitchell, and Demian gave him a sharp look that he chose to ignore. Instead he continued stirring the straw in what was left of his milkshake, which was mostly whipped cream and ice cubes.
Samael came to the coffee shop at that moment and Marianne got off the stool in a leap, leaving her backpack on the counter.
Mitchell looked out of the corner of his eye, taking the straw to his mouth again.
“They may not have that kind of relationship as I thought, but there’s definitely, like, something going on, don’t you think?” he said with a sip and Demian settled his hands on the counter, making him start. Mitchell glanced at him and saw his face as he dealt with the glasses. Mitchell looked at him suspiciously for a few seconds until he decided to express his mind. “Do you like Marianne?”
“What? No, I don’t!” Demian replied, looking upset after hesitating for a couple of seconds, as if he had said something really absurd. Mitchell wasn’t impressed. He raised an eyebrow and continued looking at him with suspicion.
“Well, going by your attitude whenever he’s around—”
“I don’t know what you mean! My attitude has always been the same!” he said defensively, just as Marianne returned, carrying her empty glass.
“Could you refill it, please? Oh, and bring some fries too. Something light while we wait for Angie.”
Demian just took her glass and Mitchell’s —practically snatching it away from his hands— and went to the kitchen with solid steps.
“Hey, I hadn’t finished!” he complained, pulling the straw from his mouth.
“What’s his problem now?”
“Let’s say I may have found his weak spot,” Mitchell revealed with a squint, pleased with his discovery.
“Well, whatever game you’re playing right now, I don’t care” she said, trying to recover her composure right away. “Now I just need to wash my hands.”
While she walked away, he stayed sitting at the counter, stroking his chin in that same thoughtful gesture. Marianne’s backpack was still on the counter and he stared at an object protruding from one of its compartments. Her cellphone. An idea crossed his mind, but he had to be fast and precise if he didn’t want to be caught.
He looked sideways to check no one was paying attention and that those involved weren’t present either. Then he proceeded to take her phone, and after climbing to the counter with half his body hanging, he reached Demian’s belongings and pulled out another cell. He immediately began typing something in both quite skillfully, and less than a minute later he put them back in their places.
Next, he settled back on the stool, pleased to have carried out his plan successfully. Considering there was still plenty of time, he turned to the table where Samael sat. Then he decided to get up, walked the distance between them and took a seat in front of him.
“Well, let’s get straight to the point. I don’t like you and you don’t like me.”
“Why wouldn’t I like you?” Samael asked, opening his childlike big blue eyes.
“Really? You don’t dislike me? Well, it’s not that I dislike you either, maybe I was only a little jealous to see how well you get along with the girls, or your perfect blond hair . . . or that heavenly smile that looks like something out of a magazine and those dreamy eyes that could charm anyone . . . Ugh, I digress, see what you provoke?!”
“I’m . . . sorry?” Samael said without fully understanding what all that talk was about.
“Whatever. We started out on the wrong foot and I have nothing against you, so let’s rewind the tape and introduce ourselves again. Hi, I’m Mitchell, nice to meet you,” he said, reaching out to him, leaving his arm stretched. Samael tried to figure out what his reaction should be, and then he decided to shake his hand.
“I’m Samuel,” he replied, remembering in time his human name. As soon as he took his hand, Mitchell pulled him up, getting closer to him.
“Now that we’re friends, tell me how you get your hair to stay so perfectly combed without losing its softness and natural look. Do you use a specific product? Because despite how cool mine looks, you can’t imagine the whole process I have to go through to make it look like this. Go ahead, feel it.” He guided the angel’s hand to his hair, forcing him to touch it. “See? Hard as a rock. Perhaps some of your tips could help me improve…and maybe some other tips on how to approach girls.”
Samael kept silent since he didn’t have a specific answer and just managed to let out a few sounds that couldn’t completely form into words.
“What are you doing?” Marianne asked as she returned, surprised to see Mitchell talking to Samael.
“I was just chatting with my new pal, you have a problem with that?” Mitchell said without moving out of the seat, which seemed even weirder to her.
“What’s gotten into you?”
“Excuse me, here’s your order,” Mankee interrupted, bringing a soda and the fries she had ordered.
“Hmmm, very mature,” Marianne snapped, letting out a wheeze after her order was sent through someone else.
“I’m sorry, did I do something wrong?” Mankee asked in fear.
“No, no, forget it. Thank you,” she finished, with a subtle nod. Angie was already walking into the coffee shop, and approached them looking excited.
“Thanks for waiting!” she said, standing in front of the table, panting as if she had run to get there, and glancing especially at Samael, who greeted her with a head tilt and a smile.
“So you transported yourself from one place to another as if by magic,” Lilith mentioned once they were all gathered in Lucianne’s living room. “Sounds awesome! Could you show us?”
“Well…I don’t know if it would work under these circumstances, but I can try,” Samael replied, standing up in the middle of the room with all eyes on him.
He closed his eyes and tried to project in his mind the image of some of the places he had physically been, and the one he most remembered was the attic. He tried to imagine himself being there, but couldn’t get the representation of the space to be accurate enough. He didn’t even feel like being behind a veil like the first time he’d experienced that splitting feeling. It was rather as if the image consisted of strokes that weren’t enough to have consistency and solidity. The trick wasn’t working.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe…it only works when someone is in danger,” he apologized, a little disappointed, and Marianne put her hand over his shoulder.
“Why don’t you give it another shot?”
He looked at her and immediately understood she was trying to recreate the conditions from the first time, when she touched him and shared the same vision as him. He nodded with a smile and closed his eyes again. He concentrated as much as he could to get a more realistic view of the attic, recreating the place point by point.
He finally managed to grasp some sort of charcoal version that was slowly becoming more precise, but with a misty effect that came and went. He seemed to be behind the veil again. The effect was feeble. He couldn’t keep it stable and wasn’t sure either if he was really watching the attic as it was on the other side of town or was it just a memory he had of it, for there was no change or movement for any matter, until suddenly the door opened. Among the alternate change from charcoal to the misty effect, he could see Loui cautiously coming in, still seemingly in the mood to investigate.
The boy stopped at the door and laid his eyes on him, as if he could see him despite the discontinuous effect he was experiencing. His chest puffed while his eyes seemed to pop out and finally let out a deafening shriek that brought the angel out of his trance. When Samael came to his senses, the girls were watching him with their mouths open.
“Seems like…I couldn’t do it after all.”
“You think so? You were disappearing intermittently for several seconds. Well, not entirely disappearing, more like getting transparent.”
“Like a ghost.”
Samael looked at his hands, opening and closing them several times, thinking that maybe with some practice he could master it without waiting for someone to be attacked.
“I can’t wait to learn that too!” Lilith said enthusiastically. “How did you do it? Come on! Tell us!”
He was about to speak when they heard a scream upstairs.
“Oh, no. My dad woke up.”
“Do you need us to help you?” asked Marianne, noticing her distress.
“Could you hold him while I get the tranquilizer?”
They went up as they were asked to, and stood before the heavy door that had a lever mechanism now to keep it secure in addition to the safety lock. Inside, commissioner Fillian writhed on his bed, restrained by straps that held him against the mattress.
Samael decided to go ahead and grabbed his arms, pressing them against the bed to stop him, but the man fixed his enraged eyes on him, startling the angel. Those seconds of distraction were enough for him to hold onto Samael’s arms and embed his fingers on his skin. The girls immediately pulled him to try to release him, but it was impossible to detach him, the commissioner was a big man of great strength.
In an act of desperation, Angie took the man’s arm. Her intention was simply acting as a lever, but just by her touch, the man’s muscles slowly began to relax and his hands started to let go of Samael. When he was finally released, they moved several feet away, thinking he would go back to his initial upheaval, but he strangely left his hands resting on his chest, as if he had reached a state of total relaxation. Lucianne entered at that moment, finding everyone rattled on the other end of the room and her father unusually calm.
The rest of them just shook their heads, as confused as her.
“Angie, did you do something?” Marianne asked, and she squeezed her hands in a protective manner.
“I-I don’t know, I just . . . wanted him to release Samuel, to be calm and then . . . ”
Samael approached her and took her hands, leaving her stiff like a rock.
“Think of something,” asked Samael, staring at her eyes, ignoring the finger marks on his arms. “Make me do something, you don’t have to say anything, just think about it. It should be something you really want, or it won’t work.”
Angie looked at him in embarrassment, firstly because of his proximity and secondly by his odd request. She tried to dispel any shameful thought from her mind and focus on something that could be useful, and after a brief moment, Samael let go of her hands and gave her a hug instead, leaving her stunned. He pulled away after a few seconds, and looked back at her at a loss.
“Did you wish for a hug?”
Angie fell silent, feeling the blood up to her cheeks and took a quick look at the girls who just watched curiously. Ashamed and aware that she had put herself in that position, she only nodded with her eyes fixed on the floor.
“Well, it turned out just like I thought,” he said with a smile to her astonishment. “Seems like you have the ability to modify other people’s actions and thoughts by a mere touch according to what you want and feel at the moment.”
“Just like with Ashelow,” said Marianne while Angie stood still, trying to absorb his words, while also thinking about Samael’s reaction —or lack thereof. She didn’t know what he could have thought at the time or if he had drawn any conclusions, but it was clear by the look of her friends that they did have an opinion on the subject.
When Marianne came back home, the first thing she saw while stepping through the door was a hockey stick hanging in front of her in a threatening way, and a figure clad in a huge suit with a helmet included.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I saw it again! The ghost! It was translucent and then it disappeared!” Loui cried, practically buried inside a hockey uniform, which seemed to have finally found a use.
“Did you go up again? I told you not to do that.”
“I couldn’t just sit and do nothing!”
The front door opened again, and both turned hastily around.
“What the . . . ?” the newcomer said after seeing the end of the hockey stick pointing to his face. “Am I always going to find this kind of welcome every time I come home?”
Marianne and Loui stared at their father and she took this as solidarity at his abandonment. Perhaps there was finally something she and her brother could agree on. However, it all went down when Loui just dropped the hockey stick and ran to Noah a few seconds later.
“Dad! I’m so glad you’re back! There’s a ghost in the house that wants to take me with him! Don’t let him, please!”
“Ghost? What are you talking about? What happened in my absence?”
Marianne just rolled her eyes and started to go upstairs.
Although she wasn’t expecting him to be back soon, she thought she could use it to her advantage and take the night shift at Lucianne’s house, so she prepared her bag with the necessary items. Samael would have to stay home, but they would be in touch over the phone.
“Thanks for coming. You have no idea what your support means to me right now,” Lucianne said while both dined the Spanish omelettes made by her.
“Not a problem. Your situation concerns us all, and we won’t rest until we find a permanent solution.”
“You sound like a politician,” she said jokingly.
“Don’t insult me!” Marianne replied, offended, while her cousin laughed.
“By the way, Perry should be here at any time, he’ll check that everything’s fine. It’s been very kind of him to cover up for my father like that.”
Marianne took a piece of omelette to her mouth while watching her.
“He likes you, you know?” Lucianne stopped the trajectory of her fork and kept quiet, staring at the plate. “He doesn’t just like you, he’s crazy about you, you can see it all over his face,” Marianne added after taking a sip of her juice.
“I know,” Lucianne finally answered. “I’m not blind.”
“Really? And what do you think?”
“He’s been very supportive all these years after my mother’s death, and he’s been certainly a very dear friend to me, but . . . ”
“There’s Demian,” Marianne interrupted and Lucianne bit her lip nervously.
“It’s . . . complicated.”
“Why? You like him, he obviously likes you too. It’s simple math.”
Lucianne kept her eyes on her food without saying anything else until they heard a knock on the door.
“That should be Perry. I’ll be back.”
She got up quickly and stormed out of the kitchen, leaving Marianne fork in hand and playing with her food.
Lucianne went across the room at a steady pace, trying to be calm and not overthink things, but once she opened the door, she froze to find Demian instead of Officer Perry.
“Demian . . . what are you doing here?”
“I just… needed to talk to you,” he replied, looking uneasy. “The day we went out . . . it was a date, right?”
“I thought we went out as friends.”
“Yes, I know I said that,” he repeated, looking around as if his mind were a mess. “But it really . . . was a date.”
She looked at him, baffled, not sure of where he was heading with that. He held his breath again and took a step toward her.
“Would you say . . . we were expecting it since we were kids?”
“I know what I felt back then. I don’t really know about you—”
“You left too soon,” he interrupted. Lucianne bit her lips, starting to play with her hands. “I never got a chance to say goodbye.”
“I know. I was devastated at the time, and if I saw you it was going to be worse,” she replied wistfully.
Demian looked at her, hesitant, but finally decided to put his thoughts on halt and take another step forward until standing a few inches from her. Her expectant eyes were locked on his. He gently took her shoulders, and even though he dithered for a moment, his face was slowly descending towards hers. He wouldn’t to stop this time. Their eyes closed, breaths were held one last time. Lucianne followed his lead and what seemed like a late prelude finally culminated as their lips met.
In the distance, Officer Perry watched from his car, despair clouding his face.