The promise, p.9
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       The Promise, p.9

         Part #4 of Fallen Star series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 9

 

  But I knew better. He knew better. And he didn t say anything else, taking his knife and creaking the door open.

  Stay behind me,

  he whispered and then we crept inside.

  The house was bare, the walls scorched with residue from an old fire. I wiped my hand along the burnt wallpaper and rubbed my fingers together.

  It s ash,

  I said, wiping my hands on my jeans.

  He looked perplexed.

  It s weird, like it burnt on the inside but not on the outside.

  We stared at each other and flinched as a wail resonated through the empty house.

  What was that,

  I hissed.

  He swallowed hard.

  I think it s my mother.

  Chapter 16

  (Alex)

  It was a sound that put hairs on end, raised bodies from the grave, warned people of their impending death. This was the second time I d heard a Banshee s cry and I wondered if each one shaved more and more time off my life.

  I kept my knife out because I wasn t sure how she d be. Would she appear in her hag form? Or look like herself?

  I heard the thumping of her footsteps coming down the stairs, and I shifted to the side, putting myself between Gemma and the stairway, just in case. When I saw the figure, long brown hair, bright green eyes, I guessed it was her. But the similarity in our eyes was so striking that I swear hers had to be fake an illusion of my own mind.

  Her hand trailed along the railing until she reached the bottom of the stairs. At first she looked angry, like I was nothing more than an intruder. But then she smiled, her lips opening to speak.

  But the sound of her voice was nothing but a screech. Gemma and I flung our hands over our ears as my mother shook her head.

  Sorry.

  Her voice was angelic. She motioned for us to put down our hands.

  It s a habit,

  she explained.

  I nodded and then she was hugging me tightly like I was still a child.

  You re so grown up. I can t believe it.

  Then her gaze darted over my shoulder, eyes lighting up.

  And who s this?

  But she grew quiet, undoubtedly catching sight of Gemma s eyes. It was always her eyes that gave her away. They were hauntingly beautiful.

  Oh my.

  My mother opened her arms, leaning in to give Gemma a hug. Gemma looked uncomfortable with the situation. Her broken, emotionless, parentless past made her uneasy with affection.

  I can t believe you made it through. Although, with all the madness going on, I highly doubt it s over yet.

  You know about the mark?

  I asked and then shook my head.

  Of course you do. You re a & faerie.

  Something occurred to me at that moment. What if she had the mark?

  But it was like she could read my mind. She rolled up her sleeves and lifted her hair away from her neck.

  All mark free. Even my Keeper s mark s gone now that I ve died.

  You re lucky,

  I muttered.

  She frowned at me.

  You need that for now. It ll help you stay alive.

  She was right, but it didn t mean I liked it.

  So we need your help with something,

  I said, wanting to talk to her more, but knowing I was running out of time.

  I know you do,

  she said.

  I ve been waiting for you to show up.

  My grip constricted on my knife.

  Then why didn t you come looking for me.

  I can t leave this place,

  she said, with sadness in her voice.

  This is the place I was assigned to watch over.

  So how are you going to help us?

  I asked.

  If you re stuck here?

  I ll help you escape from here.

  I gazed around at the charcoal building.

  Did this place burn down once?

  No, this is death.

  She said it matter-of-factly.

  So I m guessing you need to get to the Afterlife to see the queen.

  I nodded.

  That would be the problem.

  Well, it s not going to be easy.

  She sat down on the bottom step.

  There are certain things required to enter the land of the dead without actually being dead.

  What kind of things?

  Gemma asked and I got the impression she already understood that these things were probably bad.

  The first thing,

  my mother eyed her ring,

  you already have.

  Gemma twisted the ring.

  And the second?

  Is looking like you re dead,

  she said lightly.

  Gemma winced.

  Look like I m dead.

  Okay, how do we make it look like I m dead?

  I asked.

  Not you sweetie.

  Her eyes settled on Gemma.

  Her.

  No freaking way.

  My voice came out composed, but on the inside I felt like I d swallowed a jar of needles.

  It has to be me,

  Gemma said, just like she always did. In her eyes this was all her fault, even if she was trying to fix a mess my father and her father created.

  You don t know that.

  I stepped in front of her.

  You just always assume it has to be you.

  She shook her head, her hair going everywhere and I had to stop myself from brushing it back.

  No, I ve seen it. I m dead in a coffin and Nicholas is waiting for me.

  How long have you been hiding this?

  I rubbed my hands across my face, wanting to yell at her and at the same time kiss her. I flexed my hands a few times, choking back the anger bursting in me.

  Well, that still doesn t mean it has to be you.

  Yes it does,

  my mother and her both said at the same time.

  My mother stood to her feet, giving me a sympathetic look.

  She has the ring, she has the ghost connection, and she s the one who shifted the vision that led to this.

  I started to speak, but she talked over me.

  Now, I know it s not fair I know it s not her fault. But that s the way things are how life, works.

  Okay, so what to do I need to do?

  Gemma asked.

  I mean, how do I look dead?

  This is a stupid idea,

  I interrupted, but they both blew me off.

  You ll need to have a funeral. Helena needs to think you re dead.

  Gemma was nodding, like this plan didn t bother her at all.

  Okay, I can do that.

  We need a different plan,

  I said loudly.

  One where she doesn t have to die.

  And we need a witch,

  my mother kept going.

  One that we can trust.

  She turned to me, hopeful.

  Aislin s marked, if that s what you re getting at,

  I said flatly.

  She can t help us.

  I might know someone. I ll be right back.

  Then she left, hurrying up the stairs.

  I shook my head, irritated, and not understanding why it had to be Gemma, or why my mom was so determined it had to be done this way. I turned to Gemma, watching her squirm, trying to pretend she was calm.

  Stop looking at me like that,

  she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

  It has to be me. It always had to be me.

  No, it doesn t.

  I kept looking at her, letting the electricity get to her, hoping she d lose focus of her sacrificial plan.

  Give me the ring and let me do it.

  She hid her hand behind her back, as if I couldn t just reach over and take it.

  Gemma, stop being stubborn.


  She looked infuriated.

  I thought we d gotten passed all this. That you understood I needed to make my own decisions.

  This is different. This is death.

  I turned her so we were face-to-face.

  Please don t do it.

  I ll come back,

  she said, her voice softening.

  I can t die completely. Not without you.

  Losing my cool, I slammed my fist into the wall.

  Gemma, I swear to God, would you please just

  Alright,

  my mother announced as she whisked down the stairs.

  My witch is on board, but you two are going to have to go to her place and pick it up.

  Pick up what?

  She neared the bottom step, the light of the moon shining through the window and for a second she looked like someone else, like someone I once saw. It was like she d momentarily shifted out of focus, revealing her true identity.

  When I blinked, she shifted back.

  She was smiling.

  The poison that will kill Gemma,

  she replied calmly.

  Chapter 17

  (Gemma)

  I wasn t going to play courageous and pretend that I wasn t scared out of my mind. The very idea of dying was enough, but adding poison to the mix had my heart racing a million times faster. But I couldn t let him know. I had to play it cool, because he was freaking out. In fact, ever since his mother had made the announcement about the poison, he seemed a little off, walking silently with his eyebrows knitted together.

  His mother gave him an address and sent us on our way. The house she was in had some sort of entrapment on it and she could only leave to collect souls. So it was just the two of us, which didn t seem so bad at the moment.

  We walked the snowy streets, underneath the light of the lampposts, snow falling, the silent air kissing our cheeks.

  Why do you think it so quiet here?

  I asked as we turned a sharp right and headed down a road that sloped to a cluster of dark houses.

  I m not sure.

  He tucked his hands in his jean pockets.

  But I don t like it. It s too quiet.

  It is,

  I agreed, watchfully peering at the houses settled with darkness. I wondered what was hiding in them. Were they watching us?

  It s just so different. I mean, in Afton there were vampire and faeries and witches everywhere. And here it s just dead. Everything in the airport seemed normal.

  They might have been in disguise or something & or maybe we weren t looking hard enough.

  He trailed off like he was just realized something.

  Or maybe &

  Then he snatched my hand and rushed us to the side of the street, running like a mad man.

  We have to leave. Now.

  I stumbled to keep up with him and bumped my knee into a garbage can.

  Why? What s wrong?

  But he kept sprinting and dove behind a small brick house, hiding us in the shadows.

  What s wrong?

  I hissed as he extracted his knife.

  Gemma take us away from here,

  he snapped, pacing left and right.

  Now. We need to go.

  But I shook my head.

  Not until you tell me why you re flipping out. Is this because of the poison? Because I m going to do it you can t stop me.

  No, it s because that wasn t my mom,

  he bit through his teeth furiously and kicked the wall of the house.

  But you

  He covered my mouth.

  Don t you think it s strange? I mean, it was all so easy. We just walked up and there she was with all the information. And a plan.

  I waited for him to remove his hand.

  It s strange, but I think you re overreacting.

  When the Banshee was coming downstairs,

  he explained quickly.

  I thought she looked like someone else but I couldn t place who. I just realized who it was. It was the Banshee I met when I got the address for this place.

  Okay &

  I pressed my back against the house, blending into the shadows the best I could.

  But why does that matter? I mean, she looked like your mom, didn t she?

  Yeah, but Banshees can change their looks,

  he said.

  They can transform into someone else.

  So you don t think that was your mother?

  I asked.

  But why would another Banshee do that? It doesn t make sense.

  I m not sure.

  He lightly touched my arm.

  But I think we need to leave until we know for sure. We can t just go back and hope I m not right. That d be stupid.

  I wasn t sure if he was being honest, or just trying to stop me from taking the poison.

  I think we should

  Nearby, a set of garbage cans tumble over, rattling the air. A dog howled at the moon, bright and full, causing a sputtered of dogs to join in. We flinched and Alex whirled, knife swinging, ready to kill anyone who ventured to move in on us.