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With cross charm, p.22
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       With Cross & Charm, p.22

           D.L. Miles

  Chapter 21

  Beth is no longer distraught, but rather inspired. She still paces in her room, with Delilah and I watching nervously. There is a fire in her eyes I don’t recognize and have never seen before.

  “I’ve changed my mind about my parents,” she confesses, the words rushing from her. I imagine she has been thinking of them all night. “I’m not going to tell them about Vetis.”

  I’m surprised but not disappointed. If her parents found out about me I don’t know what I would do. Or what they might do. “Why?” I ask.

  Delilah mutters something under her breath about Beth being crazy. I feel my brief time away has made me miss too much information. It seems so much has gone on that I am not aware of.

  “Because this is exactly what I needed,” she goes on, “to get into this. I was never going to start hunting; I was going to be a teacher,”—she sticks her finger in the air—“I was going to show young children the perils of demons and how to handle them. But not anymore. Not after what that bastard did to Joey!”

  Delilah and I both flinch at Beth’s curse. I’ve never heard her swear before, and the word is foreign on her. It seems wrong, like she isn’t herself. Grief is a strange creature.

  “You don’t mean that,” I argue, “being a hunter would mean…I don’t even know. Hunting?” I am certain that is one of the dumbest things I have ever said, but it’s all I can think of. I can’t see Beth being a hunter, despite everything.

  “I do mean it,” she says. “And Vetis is going to be my first. I’m going to hunt him—and get him out of Cain and send him to Hell or—or just kill him! I won’t let him take you Willa!”

  I know she’s not doing this just for me, but for Joe and everyone else in Hollow’s Point. If Vetis was so willing to kill Joe, it’s obvious he will kill again. It could be anyone, and it will most likely be me.

  “You can’t do this alone,” Delilah says, her voice rising. She stands, hands in fists at her sides. “How exactly do you plan on exorcising him, huh? Remember the last exorcism?” I instinctively go to cover my scar with my head, even though I am wearing a sweater. “We don’t know anything about this. Just—tell your parents. The punishment will suck but at least you’ll still be alive.”

  Delilah is logical, and I can’t help but agree. We have a better chance of living through this if we ask for help, yet my insides are telling me to go through with this. I can’t believe it, but I am on Beth’s side.

  “Okay,” I say. They both turn to me before they can start a yelling match. I stand on strong legs, much stronger than this morning. “What do we need to do?”

  “You’re with me?” Beth asks. I can hear the uncertainty in her voice, the fear. Even she knows just how impossible our task is, but I move past it. My decision is made. I nod once.

  Beth’s face pales, and then turns just a bit green. She hiccups and covers her mouth, rushing to her private washroom. Delilah and I listen to her dry heave twice before walking in on her. As she continues to be sick, Delilah lifts her hair away from her face and I lean against the counter. I grow uncomfortable as Beth releases the last of her breakfast, and look away, catching my reflection.

  My eyes are not my own. I let out a scream, a short gasp of sound that echoes against the tiles around us. As I move away from the mirror my reflection does not do the same. My narrow brow and vivid green eyes are bored, and they roll upwards with exhaustion.

  Beth and Delilah both jump to their feet. When they each see what is happening Beth asks, “Are you wearing the cross?”

  I fumble to show it to her, to prove that I am no longer possessed. She looks confused.

  “I’m not in you,” my reflection states, the voice a little deeper, “I’m in Hell.” As she says the word the mirror shakes, a shimmering reflection of the bathroom disappearing into a darkened pit with flashes of lightning. Soon it is normal again.

  “Ithinara,” I whisper. “How are you here?”

  “I’m not,” she says. “Not really.”

  “Why are you here then?” Delilah asks. Beth seems to shocked for words; her mouth is hanging open, much like mine. I’m still holding the cross in front of me, and Ithinara rolls her eyes at it again.

  “Because I couldn’t get back in,” she explains. “I tried but someone is wearing a charm.” She glares at me.

  I don’t know what to say. “Why?” I ask. “You made me kill Cain, so why would you want back?”

  “Besides the fact that Hell is just so nice?” she questions me. “Because Cain isn’t dead. He’s possessed by Vetis. So let me back in and I can finish what he started years ago.”

  “Cain wasn’t your target,” Beth realizes, “Vetis was? If you want to kill him why don’t you just drag him back to where you’re both from then?” She’s getting angry again, her initial shock fading.

  Ithinara arches a brow at Beth. “Massachusetts?”

  We all look at each other. Ithinara adds, “Have you not wondered all these years why I chose Willa as my host? Or why I would ask her to kill for me?”

  “You’re a demon,” states Beth. It really is all we need to know about Ithinara to answer why she was inside of me.

  “I am a Walcott,” Ithinara sneers, “I have done all of this for your own good!” The mirror shakes with her anger.

  Words escape me. It is happening a lot lately, this loss of speech. My heart thumps hard against my ribs and a single drop of sweat drips down my left temple. My ears ring, but not because I am alone, because of the opposite. Because Ithinara is standing before me once again, and she is claiming to be connected to me, just in a very different way than before.

  Ithinara crosses her arms with a huff. “I have been protecting this family from Vetis for centuries. I failed once before, but I will not again.”

  My mind whirls. I lick my lips and sit on the edge of the bathtub, struggling to find it. My vision is getting blurry, but I blink it away and look back at Ithinara. She is staring down at me, more anger in her eyes than sympathy. The fact that there is sympathy there, hidden deep in her irises is a miracle all its own.

  “It was him, wasn’t it?” I whisper. “It wasn’t you.”

  “What is it?” Delilah asks. She leaves Beth’s side to sit beside me on the bathtub, her hand rubbing my back. “What wasn’t her?”

  “It was,” Ithinara admits. Her voice is quiet, showing her guilt.

  I take in a breath. “Vetis killed my mother.”

  Beth looks at me. “I thought—”

  “I—I lied,” I say. “The reports all said she committed suicide after attacking me, and she did. But her eyes—I thought it was Ithinara.” I shut my eyes in hopes of seeing some clarity, but all I find is more darkness. “It was Vetis.”

  “If I had not been there, you would have also died,” Ithinara tells me. “You’re welcome.”

  My instinct is to apologize for thinking Ithinara a killer, but I remind myself that she is. She tried to kill Cain in hopes of ridding the world of Vetis, after all.

  “Vetis has been after our family for many years,” Ithinara says, moving on from something I can barely fathom. “He has been trying to eradicate us since he discovered us. I have been ensuring he doesn’t.”

  “How?” Beth asks. “And why does he want Willa?”

  Ithinara sneers, obviously tired of explaining. “Because you were a witch, when you were a human, right?” I ask, finally finding my voice. “And demons want witches, because they can turn into demons.”

  “Among other things,” Ithinara says. “So take off the charm, and I will ensure he does not harm you.”

  “No,” I whisper. I stand, fingers still clutching at the cross. “I don’t care who you are, family or not. Protector or murderer. I don’t care! We will find a way to get rid of Vetis before anyone else has to die.”

  “That’s right,” Beth agrees. “We don’t need you, Ithy. You wouldn’t
be able to do anything anyway. You went fourteen years without making any progress.”

  “Vetis had not shown himself—” she begins, but Beth cuts her off by taking a tube of lipstick and drawing a cross on the mirror. She says a prayer over it, and Ithinara lets out a curse as the mirror shimmers and I have my own reflection back. My true reflection.

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