7. NOW YOU SEE, NOW YOU DON’T
“…You called me for this? Couldn’t you just tell me that you would go out and leave Loui alone? Where is it that you’re going to?” Marianne asked when she arrived home and saw her mother getting ready to go out.
“Loui is still a susceptible child, and he’s been very sensitive lately after learning about your father and me, so I’d rather not leave him alone right now. Also… I’m going out with my new friends,” she replied with a proud tone, looking at her through the mirror. “And by that, I mean your friends’ mothers, isn’t it cool? We’re gonna meet at a downtown coffee shop so we can talk without you guys around.”
“Why, all of a sudden? You just met them yesterday.” Marianne kept asking with a scowl, leery of her deciding to go out with ‘new friends’ out of nowhere, and her mother just snorted, taking her hands to her hips.
“It’s the weekend and turns out that they had nothing else to do today. Why does it bother you that I’ve made plans to go out and engage in new friendships? You do it all the time: go out with your friends, have fun. I haven’t been able to do anything since we got here. I also have the right to have fun, you know?” Enid replied, now focusing on her hair.
“…You told them about dad,” Marianne snapped, and Enid let out another sigh. “You had no reason to do it. No one else had to know; why you had to announce it to people you’ve just met?”
Enid was silent for a few seconds, watching her through the mirror as if pondering what to say, but at the end, she just shrugged.
Once she said this, she turned to her own reflection and kept dolling herself up while Marianne stomp on the floor and stormed out of there, going down to the living room where Loui was trying to teach Samael how to play videogames.
“Press A to jump and B to move! Not the button on the top, you’ll get us killed! Shoot with C, shoot!” Loui shout out the instructions, and Samael looked intently at the screen, pressing the control buttons randomly with a muddled expression. Marianne simply dropped into the couch beside them and sulked, staring at the screen.
“Are you okay?” Samael asked, looking sideways at her while trying to watch the game at the same time.
“Ask again in a while,” she replied with a clenched jaw, waiting for her anger to dim.
“Shoot the horned monster, not me! How hard can it be?” Loui squirmed in his seat, following the movements of his character until the words ‘Game over’ appeared on the screen and he slumped in the couch as Samael kept uselessly pushing his control. “…Cousin Samsa, you suck.”
“Give him the manual for the console and the videogame and within hours he’ll be kicking your ass,” Marianne muttered, while Samael let go of the control and pulled back between the two of them. The three stood on the couch as if they had run out of batteries and had nothing else to do, until Enid went down the stairs dressed in jeans and heels and even a blue cardigan Marianne immediately recognized. “…Hey! Is that my cardigan?”
“I borrowed it. I’ll give it back when I come back,” she replied dismissively. “Be back in a few hours. Behave, kids, especially you two. I don’t doubt Samuel, he’s an angel.”
“…You have no idea,” Marianne said under her breath, trying to ignore the fact that now her mother was wearing her clothes. What was next? Her uniform?
“There’s enough food on the fridge or you can order pizza if you want. But remember, no sweets for Loui!” she instructed in her departure.
“Oh, please! Why don’t you just tie me to the bed and feed me with probes? I’m not even diabetic!” Loui protested and his mother just beckoned him to be careful with his tone and then left. “…Way to ruin the fun.”
And the three of them fell silent again, looking at a point in space for several minutes until Loui stood on his feet.
“I’m tired of this. I’ll be reading in my room,” he decided, stirring among the tower of videogames scattered on the tea table and pulling out a manual that he gave to Samael. “Learn this and let’s see if you can pass the first level at least.”
“Hey! You haven’t told us what you were doing at the tennis court!” Marianne said before he left the room. The boy paused for a few seconds as if thinking about it.
“…Just walking around,” he said with a shrug and then ran up to his room. Marianne snorted, aware that he was hiding something.
“You can read his mind; did you catch anything?” Marianne turned to Samael, who had already started to read the manual with curiosity.
“…Huh? Was I supposed to?”
“Pffft, forget it. I’ll find out what he’s up to,” she concluded with another huff, lying on the couch again out of boredom. “Did you find what you were looking for?” Samael looked at her without understanding what she meant. “At Demian’s house. You seemed lost in your thoughts… Did you get to talk to her?” He gave her an inscrutable look and she raised an eyebrow. “Oh, come on! You always brag to know everything about me and what I’m thinking. Don’t you think I can also tell when you’re worried about something? Let’s reverse the roles a little; I can also act as your guardian angel. So, tell me your concerns.”
Samael finally smiled and shook his head. He couldn’t mention what he had talked to Demian, aware of what that discussion would entail. On the other hand, he couldn’t say much about Addalynn either, because he hadn’t gathered any new information about her. It was still unclear to him.
“There’s plenty of interest revolving around that girl,” Marianne continued, given that he wasn’t speaking. “I don’t know what it is. It’s like she’s got this pulling power that keeps everyone on the lookout, expecting something from her.”
Samael looked at her with a serious expression. It was right how he felt. He wondered if he might be giving too much significance to something that apparently several more people perceived around her.
“…Anyway, I think I’ll do some homework.” She reached for the tea table and took the videogame case that he and Loui had been playing. “Here are some instructions for the game. With that and the manual you surely can beat him next time.” She stood up and headed towards the stairs, suddenly stopping a few feet away. “…By the way, get ready to decide what club you’ll join. It’s recruiting week at school and everything’s a mess those days. You’re gonna love it.”
Saying this, she went up the stairs while he stared at the ‘Empire of the gods’ case with two characters engaged in a bloody battle against two opposite armies behind them. White and black, light and dark, good and evil. Nothing gray as this world seemed to be made of. He leaned back, still watching the image and sinking in his own thoughts again, wondering which side would the gray be more inclined to join.
After the party gone wrong, Vicky had locked herself in her bedroom and hadn’t come out all day. Demian stood at her door, determined to stay there all night if necessary until she opened.
“…Vicky, open up. Would you tell me what happened?” he knocked insistently, but she didn’t respond. “…Vicky!”
Someone touched his arm and pulled him away. When he turned around, Addalynn was now facing the door.
“…Givicha, open the door,” she ordered without even raising her voice. She didn’t have to repeat it; not even ten seconds had passed and Demian heard the sound of the latch.
“…How the hell do you do it? It’s like you have some sort of control over her.”
Addalynn gave him an unfathomable look and went back to her room without uttering a word; her job already done. Demian followed her with his gaze and then tried to focus on his sister again, turning back to the door and opening.
“…Vicky?” He entered the room and found her in bed with her Power-Pie girl themed pajama and face squashed against the pillow. “…Okay, tell me what’s wrong. You wanted this party, isn’t it right? So, I don’t get why you just decided to walk out of it and leave everything on me. I had to dismiss all your guests with an excuse.”
She didn’t answer, just let out a sob and moved slightly to one side to make room for him. Demian rolled his eyes and sat on the edge of the bed just to play along, patting her on the back.
“You’re no longer a child to behave like this. You won’t leave a good impression on your guests,” he advised, and Vicky finally relaxed and pulled away from the pillow.
“…Do you think anyone would have a good reason to hate me?” she asked, barely leaving space between her face and the pillow to talk.
“Well… you’re a little spoiled sometimes,” he answered without giving it much thought and Vicky turned to him with a bitter reddened face, “…but not to the extent to be hated. Did anyone say something or was rude to you in any way?” She seemed torn about spilling the beans or not. “…Vicky, tell me who was it.”
“It was nothing. Just… a minor incident,” she finally said, deciding not to tell. She then straightened up, and since Demian was sitting next to her, willing to comfort her despite knowing how uncomfortable he felt in those situations, she hugged him tightly. “…Thanks for being here! You’re all I have left. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Demian’s face slightly twitched with a pang. If she knew the truth about him, that he wasn’t even human… how would she react? Furthermore… he was responsible for their parents’ death. If not for him, they would still be alive, he had no doubt about it. If she were to know that… would she forgive him? Then he thought about the gifts coming back to him. What if he hurt her? He could never live with that. Be the cause of his entire family’s demise would be the end for him and the fragile piece of acquired humanity he was trying to hold on to with all his might. It made his decision easier, about leaving his life in Frank and the angel’s hands. He just expected them to fulfill their part of the deal.
The chaos of the club week began on Monday. Students would tour around the clubs every day and had until the end of the week to decide which ones to join, and if they were already seniors and had not joined one yet, they had no choice but to do so; it was a curricular credit after all.
Marianne checked the schedule for the week. As she had arrived at her classroom, she discovered a dispenser at the door with several of them. She wasn’t originally planning on joining any other club, but while watching the list, she couldn’t help but focus on the ones Demian belonged to, especially Fencing. Last semester she would not even consider it after Lester’s ‘advice’ in his own arrogant way. And there was also the fact that she couldn’t stand being anywhere near Demian back then. But things were different now, and granted, she thought it might actually be a good way to improve her skills with the sword, especially when new dangers lurked. Samael would surely agree.
“Hey, ready for your first exhibition this week?” she said as a greeting when Angie arrived with a flyer in her hand.
“The same applies. Yours is gonna be on Wednesday, right?”
Marianne felt a slight churn in her stomach at the thought. Last week the coach was completely devoted to preparing them, but she still felt they weren’t ready. Not to mention that they had not had a real match so far, and according to the coach, he had invited a team from another school to help them during the exhibition, which made her even more nervous.
“…I try not to think about it until the time comes,” Marianne replied, shaking her head to dispel the thought. Lilith arrived with a tortured expression, dropping into her seat next to Angie and letting out a long exhalation.
“I heard what happened. That really is some bad luck,” Marianne said, and Lilith fell on her desk in a dramatic pose.
“I shouldn’t have come! I knew I shouldn’t!” the blonde mourned, resting her forehead on her arm.
“Don’t be so distressed; it was an accident. I’m sure she’ll understand.”
“She looked quite upset though, when she ran away all wet and full of cake mush,” Angie added.
“Shhhh! We’re trying to encourage her not to make her feel worse,” Marianne muttered under her breath.
“…Forget it. It’s all my fault, after all,” Lilith said with a defeated tone.
“Oh, please! It’s not like you tried to kill her!” Marianne snapped and Lilith immediately twitched, having flashbacks of the things the voices made her see.
“But nothing! Just apologize to her and that’s it; tell her it was an accident and voila, problem solved. How difficult is that?”
“Not as easy as you may think,” she murmured, staring meekly at her hands.
Marianne wanted to refute, but Vicky was entering with Addalynn, and came to a sudden stop after seeing Lilith. The blonde immediately looked away and felt like shrinking down. Addalynn just walked to her desk and Vicky took a breath. She left her school bag on her seat, waved at Angie and before they could say anything else, she went to Marianne’s desk.
“I think we should make one last attempt at team meeting today,” she said, trying to sound casual. “…You know, for our exposition tomorrow.”
“…Yeah, okay. At your house again? I have almost finished the slides; I can send them to you or take them on usb.”
“I’ll let you decide,” she replied with a smile that didn’t come out as natural as always. “By the way, could you tell the guy with the glasses…?” She paused as if trying to remember his name.
“…Dreyson,” Marianne added to help her out.
“Yes! Could you tell him? He scares me a little, and for some reason it seems that you have no problem speaking to him. Let’s just hope he won’t do the thing he did the last time, because I don’t think Addalynn would let it happen again.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll let him know.”
The teacher then arrived with several more students behind, including Belgina, looking downcasted. Marianne waved at her, but instead of returning the greeting, she gazed down with a grim face. Marianne frowned in confusion. She looked around at the other girls and they seemed as lost as she was.
Dreyson was the last one to arrive, as awkward looking as ever, with that uniform that seemed too large for him. Hair falling over his face covered his eyes, but as he approached his seat, he glanced at Addalynn, who blatantly ignored him. Marianne wrote something on a piece of paper, balled it up and threw it at him, falling right in the middle of his desk.
Marianne kept her eyes to the front to pretend she was paying attention to class until she heard the faint sound of paper being de-wrinkled and then crumpled again. A few seconds later another paper ball fell in front of her. She opened it carefully and read: ‘I’ll be there’. No odd references and to the point. Good, he was learning. She crumpled the note back and kept it. She had to recognize that at least he seemed to be making an effort —of course though, maybe the fact that Addalynn would be there had something to do, but she was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The club tour began exactly at 10. Marianne tried to approach Belgina, but she quickly rushed out of there and Marianne turned to her friends more confused than ever.
“I… I’ll go find her. We’ll catch up with you later,” Lilith said, leaving the classroom with her schedule in hand. Marianne and Angie exchanged glances since she was obviously running away from Vicky.
As they headed to the first stop of their itinerary, Kristania suddenly joined them, her amazon friends a little behind, as if watching closely over her to prevent another incident with Addalynn, even though she didn’t seem to pay attention.
“I bet you’re excited to see your brother in action,” she said offhandedly, focused only on Vicky. “The fencing exhibition is right in a few minutes, wanna come?”
“Yes, of course I wanna see him!” Vicky said, going after her while Addalynn remained a few steps behind. Marianne rolled her eyes and exchanged knowing glances with Angie.
“Where are we going now?” Samael asked once they reunited in the intersection, all students heading en masse to the gym.
“Fencing exhibition and then to the swimming dome; we have all day long to visit clubs,” Marianne replied, pulling out her schedule and pointing at it. “…Didn’t Mitchell come today?”
“I got a message from him saying he wouldn’t come to school because he was sick or something like that.”
“Must be a family trait,” Lucianne said with a sigh.
“Frank didn’t come either?”
“Yes, but he’s been acting weird since Friday. He hardly spoke to me and when they said we would start visiting clubs, he just left without saying anything. I don’t know, I’m just worried about him. What is he thinking?”
“He’s just prone to drama. Don’t humor him,” Marianne snapped and Lucianne gave a resigned huff. She then seemed to have an idea and turned to Samael. She smiled in such a way that he immediately caught her intentions. “Forget it; he won’t do it without the others’ consent,” Marianne said in his defense and she gave another defeated sigh.
“I’ll talk to him,” Samael offered, trying to, at least, be helpful.
“I would appreciate it!”
Marianne felt something pushing past her and saw the three kids she suspected were bullying her brother. They ran heedlessly, regardless of the people they pushed away. Marianne scowled when she realized that her brother was also further on, scuttling away. She then noticed Lilith peeking out from a hallway and then disappearing again.
“…Odd things happen lately,” Marianne murmured, twisting her eyebrows.
Lilith returned to a small waiting area next to the administrative offices where she dropped into one of the couches next to Belgina and sighed.
“The area is clearing out. I guess in a few minutes the hall will be free… Could you now tell me what happened on Saturday?”
Belgina stared at the middle table in silence. She then took off her glasses and began to clean them with a handkerchief.
“I was talking to Marianne… about Mitchell,” she finally said. “…She thinks I’m being a little harsh on him.”
“Well, maybe… Maybe not,” Lilith admitted, shaking her head as if unable to take a side. “No matter what we say, the decision is up to you.”
“What do you think?” Belgina asked, putting her glasses back on and looking at her, expecting to hear a different opinion.
Lilith thought about it for a minute. Perhaps her reaction seemed excessive and everything would be solved if she talked directly to Mitchell about her concerns, but then remembered her own situation with Vicky. She had tried to put aside her own fears, attempted an approach with her and it just ended badly. Maybe not tragically or in a calamitous way, but she had ultimately ruined her party. She had no moral authority to give her opinion.
“I think everyone deals with their own demons differently than the others. If we all reacted the way the rest of the people expects, it would be… I dunno, boring… I’m out of great words to quote; you’ll have to help me out with that.”
“…We would be mathematical constants,” Belgina added, lost in her own thoughts. “Formulaic figures that never change in each calculation. The expected value.”
Lilith shrugged and showed an amused smile.
“Well, you’re the one to know. You’re the nerd after all.” Belgina allowed herself to smile. “…That’s it? She said you were being harsh on Mitchell and that’s why you’re avoiding her? Because she took his side?”
“…No, of course not,” she replied with a sigh. “I understand her point; she feels our group dynamic is being affected by this situation and rightly so. There are just some things that are a little more difficult for me to face.”
“Does that mean you’ll eventually forgive Mitchell?”
She didn’t reply, her gaze remained fixed at the table where some school related magazines and pamphlets rested, and after a slight motion of her fingers, gusts of wind began to turn the pages randomly.
“It’s not about whether forgiving him or not. Not even discussing if he did wrong,” she continued, closing the magazine with another gust. “…It’s the shame, about the way I behaved, and now the guilt for what my mother did.”
“That slap was savage.”
“My mother can be very intense,” Belgina admitted. “…The problem is that I’m too weak. If only I had the courage to face my own issues… but I don’t, I just avoid them. I do it until it all ends up blowing in my face.”
Lilith could do nothing else but placing her arm around her shoulders and pat her in sign of support. She couldn’t say anything helpful; she also had her own issues she didn’t dare to face.
Demian was already in his fencing suit, right in front of a bench next to the locker room. He seemed anxious, moving his foot restlessly, away from his teammates, who were also ready to start the exhibition.
“Good luck, brother!” Vicky ran towards him to give him a hug. “Don’t be nervous! I’m sure you’ll be okay.”
Demian tried to smile while she ran back to the group and then noticed Marianne had stopped and was looking at him. She probably knew what was going through his mind right then.
“Are you worried about Lester?”
Demian glanced towards the locker room one last time.
“…He hasn’t come out. He made us all go out, saying he needed total concentration… But we both know what will happen once he’s out and the exhibition starts. He won’t be able to give two steps without tangling on his feet or his foil slipping from his hand. And yet he’ll keep going. He’ll do it until he’s on the floor, refusing to face the fact that he’s lost his skill once again.”
“Can’t you talk to the coach and ask him to take him out of the exhibition? He clearly must have noticed something strange in his behavior. Maybe you can make up an injury or something,” Marianne suggested, and a spark in Demian’s eyes was the sign that an idea was apparently forming in his mind.
“…He’s coming,” he finished with a nod. Lester was coming out of the locker room and Demian went back to his position while she rejoined her friends in the stands.
“What were you talking to Demian?” Lucianne asked softly, with a certain tone and a smile that seemed too much like Lilith.
“…What’s with that smile?” she replied, squinting and giving her a moody glare.
“Oh, nothing,” Lucianne said, looking away without deleting her roguish smile.
Marianne chose to look forward and noticed Dreyson sitting a few feet from her, looking around carefully. She hadn’t decided whether to greet him or not, but he saw her and suddenly got up, sitting a little closer to her, as if deciding to cling to the only person he had talked to so far. She hoped he wouldn’t take the habit from now on.
“What’s this about?” he asked with eyes fixed on the track.
“…You mean what the club’s about or in general?” she asked, arching an eyebrow, but he just kept looking around without responding. She just sighed and decided to give a brief explanation. “This is part of club week; students have to choose a club to join. There are of all kinds: athletic, artistic, academic, and so on. ‘This’ is specifically the fencing club. Sword fighting and stuff? Have you heard of it before?” The boy still didn’t reply, but his eyes seemed to focus on Addalynn, sitting on the bottom row. Marianne rolled her eyes, thinking she had wasted her time trying to explain something. “If you ask someone, the least you could do is pay attention.”
“I heard it. Club week, fencing club, sword fighting. Got it,” the boy replied, glancing briefly towards her.
“Very well; since you’re so smart then, look at the exhibition, it’s about to begin,” she finished, pointing forward with her chin.
Most of the guys on the team had already put on their masks and started to get into position. At one end, Demian was motioning with the foil, cutting the air, and while putting on the mask, he glanced at Lester on the opposite side. He was making short jumps and shaking his head, and as soon as he put on his mask, he started to spin around in his same spot, like searching for the correct position to stand, his feet dancing awkwardly just like the foil in his hands. It took him several seconds, but as soon as he stood firm and silence filled the place, something made him slip and fall on his knees. There was a loud crack echoing in the room, the sound of something shattering —bones—, followed by a scream of pain. All attention focused on him. His leg was bent at an unnatural angle and his closest teammates leaned towards him to help while the coach approached in a hurry. Demian remained in the same place, only watching.
“That was part of the exhibition?” Dreyson asked unfazed.
“…No, that was an accident. He must have set the foot in a wrong way or something,” she said, looking worried at Lester and then at Demian, who seemed too calm for what just happened.
Within minutes, Lester was taken to the infirmary and the coach decided to start the exhibition without him, so they all went back to their places. The exhibition began; the rest of the club members drew their foils and started to duel with whoever they had in front. One by one they were eliminated, until Demian was the last one standing and the audience burst into applause.
“That’s my brother!” Vicky yelled proudly while Kristania clapped at her side with restraint, without her usual boisterous screams to get his attention. Marianne looked at Samael, expecting him to make a comment, but he was busy watching Addalynn, who in turn was looking at Demian with unusual attention.
Moments later all the students headed to their next point or the registration table. Marianne approached the latter and unthinkingly wrote her name on the list.
“…Are you serious? You’re joining the club?” Demian asked incredulously, reaching the table and holding a bottle of water.
“It’s not male exclusive, is it?”
“It’s based on skill and ability, right? Well, I sure can handle a sword,” she continued with total resolution.
“Well, it’s your decision,” Demian finished, lifting his hand in surrender. Marianne turned to her friends while pretending to write something else in the list.
“…Is Lester fine?” she asked casually, although watchful of his reaction.
“I heard he was taken to the hospital. I’ll go see him after school.”
Marianne just nodded and settled the pen aside.
“Well, we must continue. See you later,” she waved off while Demian followed her with his gaze.
“Are you sure?” Samael asked as they left the gym.
“Do you mean joining the club? I was thinking about it. It would be good for me to increase my sword skills,” she assured, making a quick motion like a swordsman.
“How bold of you. To enter an all-boys’ team; you must like fencing that much,” Kristania said from behind, trying to walk as closely as possible to Vicky. She had a suspicious glint in her eye despite trying to sound casual.
“You’d be surprised how good I can be,” Marianne replied, forcing a smile. If she wanted to keep the charade, she could also play along.
The group of students flocked to the next point of the itinerary: the swimming dome. It was the first time Marianne knew the place from inside since she had been in school. It looked like those pools used for the Olympics. There was a huge pool and a tiered platform with three levels, and five other small tools sticking out of the end of the pool for swimming competitions.
As the stands were insufficient for the large number of students, the rest stood around the pool at a safe distance. The exhibition began with some members from the diving team jumping off the boards.
“Maybe we’re too close,” said Marianne, trying to step back after a few drops of water splashed her, but the place was so packed it was impossible.
“Wow! Did you see that? You should totally join the team,” Vicky said to Addalynn, but she said nothing, though she didn’t seem to lose any detail either.
“Are you interested in any club in particular? Because you might like to consider basketball like us,” Kristania intervened, displaying the sort of friendliness she only showed when something suited her interest.
“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m very awkward physically.”
Sudden murmurs burst out from the audience followed by a loud splash. They turned around and saw a small lump in the water, waving its arms before sinking back again.
“…Loui!” Marianne yelled, recognizing him and running to the edge of the pool, but not daring to throw herself to the water. She couldn’t swim and neither did her brother.
Samael jumped into the pool and swam as fast as he could towards the kid, who was kicking and shaking his limbs, though he kept sinking as if his body was made of lead.
He just had to reach out and hold him, he was so close, but suddenly the boy was pulled from the back. Addalynn’s bright blue eyes stared at him before ascending to the surface as sudden as she had appeared. Samael hesitated before following her and emerging from the water.
Loui sat on the edge, coughing, while Addalynn stood up and moved her hair to the front with a single motion, starting to squeeze while ignoring everyone’s eyes on her.
“What were you doing in the pool?!” Marianne asked, containing the urge to shake the kid out. “Did someone push you?”
Loui lifted his gaze, wheezing, his eyes frantically blinking due to the pool bleach. He found himself the center of the attention and then looked down as he finished coughing.
“No one pushed me. I jumped.”
“Liar! You can’t even swim!”
“Well, I still did it, okay?!” he insisted. His body was trembling uncontrollably and then someone placed a coat over his back, so he looked up, confused.
“Put it on, so you won’t get sick,” Vicky said with a smile, after untying the tick coat she had around her waist. Loui only stared at her in silence “Oh, right! Sorry, we haven’t been introduced yet. I’m Vicky, you must be Marianne’s little brother. Nice to meet you!”
Loui didn’t answer, but his cheeks began to light up and quickly looked down and sank into the jacket, overcome with shame. One of the teachers in charge took Loui to the infirmary and Marianne decided to follow them. Both Samael and Addalynn were given towels and he stood up to dry his hair, while one of the swimming coaches approached and gave a card to each one.
“It was a very impressive and heroic thing you did, guys. You should consider joining the club,” the coach proposed, patting Samael on the back and nodding at Addalynn. “Think about it. You have all week to decide.”
The man went away and Vicky began to jump and clap enthusiastically.
“You should do it! Join the team! Please!” she said while Samael glanced at Addalynn, who contemplated the card stonefaced, and then tossed it away before leaving. Nonetheless, she stopped at the exit, next to the registration table, and wrote down her name on the list despite her apparent disinterest. She then left without waiting for anyone else.
Marianne was heading to the infirmary when she saw someone sitting on the grass behind the auditorium, and soon recognized Lilith’s tawny hair. Since she was probably with Belgina, she changed her course, determined to know what was going on with her.
“…Do you think she realizes how hurtful she can be with her words?” she heard Belgina’s voice, probably sitting right next to Lilith. Marianne stopped as she listened.
“She doesn’t do it on purpose. I can be quite blunt with my choice of words too; you’re always telling me I need a filter, right?”
“…I guess in her effort to make everything the way she expects, she doesn’t stop to think that perhaps she’s asking too much from others,” Belgina continued and Marianne understood immediately that they were talking about her.
“She just cares about us, that’s all,” Lilith insisted. “Maybe she was having a bad day. Right now, I don’t think she’s doing very well at home. Remember what her mother said on Friday; her parents are getting divorced.”
Marianne felt a twinge just to hear that, something that was supposed to be a private family matter, talked about in a casual way.
“…My mother met with her on Saturday,” Belgina said, a little dubious about talking of it, and Marianne held her breath, motionless as a statue, and listened carefully. Deep inside she knew she wouldn’t like it, but stood there anyway. “You know, she’s the court judge, but she started as a lawyer, so she knows all kinds of legal stuff.”
“So, Marianne’s mother resorted to her for advice?” Lilith asked, and although no response was heard, Marianne could barely see a slight movement out of the edge of the building, as if Belgina were nodding.
“She wants it to be as fast as possible. Apparently, they only got a civil partnership, so the process can be quite agile and she already channeled her to a specialized lawyer.”
Marianne couldn’t contain her breath anymore, she felt about to choke. She stepped back until she was far enough to break into a run. The two girls seemed to hear the noise of the grass and Lilith was the first one to peep from the corner of the building.
“Did you hear something?”
“Someone must have been running.”
“People go crazy during club week.”
Without giving it much importance, they sat back and continued talking.
Demian decided to take a short stopover in the hospital after school, even though his sister and Addalynn were with him.
“I hope you don’t mind. I promise it won’t be for long.”
“Don’t worry! I understand you’re concerned about your club mate; we’ll stay here in the waiting room until you come out,” Vicky said while Addalynn watched the place with apathy.
“…Is she going to be fine?” Demian asked, lowering his voice after looking askance at her. “I heard she jumped into the water to take a child out of the pool.”
“Oh, yes! Marianne’s little brother. Don’t worry about her. A little bit of water won’t hurt her.”
“He was the kid who fell into the pool?”
“Yes, and, oh! Samuel also jumped to his rescue!” she added, her eyes sparkling at the mention of him. “He was so brave!”
Demian didn’t like the way she talked about him or the face she made while doing it, so he just frowned and chose to ignore it.
“…Okay. Wait for me,” he finished, heading first to reception and then to the orthopedics area. As the elevator doors opened, he bumped into Franktick, who was just coming out of it. They both looked at each other as if not expecting to meet right there, until Frank showed one of his sneering smiles.
“…Look who we got here. Of all people I could have met in this place, it had to be you,” Frank said, taking his hands to his pockets.
“I just came to see a friend,” Demian answered as if he needed to justify his presence there and Frank laughed.
“As long as that ‘friend’ is not me, I’m fine,” Frank quipped sarcastically and Demian squinted in annoyance while the other boy pulled a cigarette from his pocket and lit it up.
“No smoking in the hospital,” Demian firmly said and the other boy laughed outloud.
“Apparently being a demon doesn’t take the boy scout out of you,” Frank said, puffing once and putting off the cigarette. He then walked past him and kept the same smirk as the doors closed.
Demian remained with a scowl, deciding he wouldn’t let him get to him, and then headed for the area he was looking for. When he finally found the room, he saw Lester resting with a bandaged foot up to his ankle.
“Who won?” was the first thing he asked after seeing Demian coming in.
“Does it matter? It was only an exhibition.”
The boy gave a snort of frustration and leaned his back against the wall, keeping his injured foot still, but pouring his anxiety onto the other one, shaking it frantically.
“I bet you won, am I right?” Demian didn’t answer. “They took an x-ray. They say it’s a fracture. I won’t be able to practice for a while,” Lester continued, unable to hide his bad mood while Demian stood there listening without showing any reaction on his face. “It’s like I have a curse or something; every time it’s club week, something happens that leaves me incapacitated in some way. I guess you won’t have a voodoo doll of me full of pins.”
“Have you finished venting?” Demian said, unperturbed by his words, as bitter as they sounded. Lester kept sulking in the bed with a grimace. “…I just wanted to see you were okay. And stop whining; at least your ankle will heal.”
“Stop whining? You don’t understand,” Lester snapped back at him, getting riled up. “I may not go to the Interstates! I’ve been preparing for so many years and I won’t be able to go! The bone won’t weld in a month! In that month I’ll lose the condition I regained after being in the hospital for so long!”
“…You can go next year,” Demian said, and the boy shot a glare at him.
“Next year we will be already graduated,” he mumbled through his teeth, clenching his jaw to contain his rage. “…Now leave me alone. I’m not in the mood to talk to anyone.”
Demian just nodded and walked out of there, keeping his expressionless face until he went back to the waiting room where his sister and Addalynn remained seated, each one doing their own stuff: Vicky reading a magazine and her friend staring at her device. He huffed to calm down.
“…Done. We can go now.”
“How’s your fencer friend?” Vicky asked as she stood up.
“He’ll be okay,” he answered dryly.
He started to head for the door, with the two girls behind him, when he suddenly stopped after looking at the intern area. There he was: black hair and eyes, pale skin and a black coat that did nothing but accentuate his overall dark appearance. Something inside him began to stir, as if his chest filled with compressed air and was about to explode.
He didn’t say a thing, just rushed in that direction under his sister’s confused stare and didn’t stop until getting to the area and looked around. The hall was lonely at the time; he could barely see some nurse in the distance. He ran his gaze around desperately, trying to find that mysterious figure until he turned left and saw him out of the corner of his eye, standing a few feet away and staring at him.
“…Why are you following me?” the black figure asked.
Demian made a full turn, but as he did, the guy was no longer there. Gone in a blink. He stood there a few more seconds, with bated breath and trying to figure out what to do when he heard it again.
This time it came from the opposite side; he quickly turned around, but there was nothing there.
“I told you it was my job.”
Demian perceived his silhouette to his side, but as he turned back, it vanished again.
“…Stop that!” Demian yelled, turning his face whenever he glimpsed the figure without actually catching it with his eyes.
“Why? It’s what I do,” he said with that mysterious and hypnotic voice that seemed to come from everywhere, even though he couldn’t reach it. Until he finally heard it in his ear. “You shouldn’t even be able to see me.”
Demian took the chance then and decided to act before his sight; his hands quickly clung to something solid on one side of him and dragged him to a corner, finally having him face to face. He watched that pale face staring back at him curiously, without even flinching, scrutinizing him with those unsettling black eyes.
“…What are you?” Demian asked and the boy showed a slight crooked smile.
“I thought you already knew and that’s why you followed me.”
Demian was silent for a moment, loosening his hands and trying to force himself to say what he had been thinking all this time.
“…Are you Death?”
The boy briefly laughed as if he had said something funny.
“We’ve been called so many names,” he replied without taking his intense dark gaze off him. “But we prefer obits.”
‘Obits’. He remembered that word from somewhere. He seemed to recall Marianne having mentioned it once. How could she know what they were if she hadn’t even seen one in her life?
“Why can I see you? You said I shouldn’t be able to do that, right? Why then?”
“I think I’m the one who should be asking that question… but I suspect you already know the answer,” the pale skin being said, raising an eyebrow, while Demian frowned, understanding what he implied with that.
“I’m not a… regular human being,” he finally said, surprising himself with that word choice rather than admitting what he really was.
“Indeed, it seems,” the obit added, giving him a look from head to toe.
“Do I know you from somewhere else?” Demian continued. “…Aside from the last few months, I feel like I’ve already seen you before.”
“I doubt it. But if you can see me then maybe you’ve seen others,” the boy finished, straightening and pulling away from the wall. “Is that all? I still have work to do.”
Given his inability to think of anything else to ask, Demian moved away, frustrated at his lack of answers. The obit passed him and suddenly something came to Demian’s mind.
“…Cameron Devlin,” he said and the other stopped, turning back curiously. “The shadow detective. It’s a very popular comic book. The main character looks a lot like you… You should look for it one of these days.”
The boy raised his extremely black eyebrow and smiled with amusement.
“Maybe I will. Goodbye, not-regular-human,” the obit waved off, starting to walk inside the area.
“…Demian. My name is Demian,” he replied, turning around to leave. The obit paused and turned to him with a flash of recognition in his black eyes.
“…Oh, yes. I remember now. You were that baby.”
Demian stopped dead in his track after hearing that. Then turned around, his heart skipping a beat, but it was too late, the obit was gone again.
He thought to follow him, check every room in the area if necessary, until finding him, but he felt heavy. His mind was a jumble. So, he retraced his steps and returned where he had left his sister and Addalynn. He didn’t want to talk to anyone for now, just go back home and think about the meaning of his words.
“What happened? Why did you suddenly run away?” Vicky asked, looking worried.
“It was nothing, I just… thought to see someone I knew; that’s all,” he answered absently, leading them towards the exit.
“Wearing all black is in bad taste,” Addalynn suddenly said, and Demian stopped at the door, giving her an even more befuddled look.
“I saw no one, but whatever; let’s get out and go home. I’m starving,” Vicky said, followed by a nonchalant Addalynn, who merely went past Demian despite his bewildered look.
She had seen it. She had definitely seen it. But… what could that mean?