Ezekiel was the one who woke up first, not remembering what happened exactly but feeling really tired and a bit out of it. He was ready to go back to sleep when he noticed a body near the couch. He got up and saw Zoe sleeping peacefully on the floor.
Suddenly, he got a quick flashback of what happened: how he got shaken a little by a demon and how she tried her best to protect him. Ezekiel smiled and leaned back, thinking just how weird Zoe was. He didn’t even know if he could call her a proper girl, a proper human. She had no friends except the supernatural beings and her life was vague.
“She seems to have taken a liking to you. That’s pretty clear.”
Ezekiel frowned. He swore he heard something but it was too soft to understand.
Andrew rolled his eyes and scoffed, remembering just how tense Ezekiel was. The ghost wanted to have a chat but the human couldn’t see him; that was another problem. His eyes landed on what Ezekiel had beside his head: a phone. But it was too small for him to express exactly what he wanted and it was turned off. Andrew’s eyes ventured further, where he saw something else: Zoe’s laptop was lying on the floor.
Ezekiel’s eyes widened when he saw the laptop’s screen pop up, writing a document by itself.
“What the-Andrew, I hope that’s you,”
The ghost smirked; smart even if dead, he should have thought about that before.
“She’s an idiot,” Andrew started, “but she’s not a bad person. She’s not the brightest crayon in the box but she’s aware of what’s going on around her.”
Truthfully, the ghost wasn’t too sure about that. He only hoped she wasn’t completely oblivious.
“I know,” Ezekiel muttered, glancing at her face.
The human smiled unconsciously. Maybe she was a girl, but she was definitely far from being human. No matter how he looked at Zoe, there was something dark surrounding her.
“You don’t know. People want to know what else is there, what lies beyond the veil of death but no one understands that everything comes with a price. It may sound fun for a week or a year but not forever. Imagine that one day, you wake up and you can’t see the sun anymore. That’s how it is,” Andrew explained as simply as he could.
Ezekiel looked from the laptop to the woman sleeping peacefully on the floor. Nothing about her showed in the least that she had a hard time handling all the supernatural in her life.
“Is it because she might be the inheritor?” Ezekiel suddenly asked.
“I don’t know. But if you want to know more about human Zoe, you should ask someone who saw her struggle.”
Andrew hesitated to say more. He had a feeling that Eneizar lied about a lot of stuff but he wasn’t sure of anything, anyway. Her role was vague and the demons were blaming one another, making everything more complicated than it was already.
Andy bit his lip and typed the name. He might have done something bad that would annoy her later on, but at the same time he was doing her a favour.
“She had a friend that she talked about before. His name is Terrance Talbot. Something happened between them and she started to avoid having friends all together.”
Ezekiel rubbed his chin and narrowed his eyes at the laptop.
“Is he alive?”
Andrew stared blankly at the human, having second thoughts about his plan.
"Of course he is! Zoe's life is not represented by the present only."
While Zoe was taking her sweet time sleeping, Ezekiel snuck out of her house. Andy followed him closely and used the phone to converse. He gave him the address and Ezekiel found himself in front of Terrance’s house in no time.
“Harlow, Essex. Zoe was born and raised here,” the ghost wrote.
Well, that was good to know. He wanted to know more about her and Andrew was giving him all the information he needed.
“Where does she live?” Ezekiel asked curiously, not sure where to look after the ghost. He didn’t have to; Andrew was right behind him, looking at the human warily.
“Now, why would I tell you that? We’re here on a different mission, remember?”
That little ghost wasn’t very friendly and Ezekiel could even hear Andy’s grumpy voice saying that.
“And how should I find this guy? How can I begin a conversation with him about Zoe?” Ezekiel had a lot of questions since he had never done something like that before but Andy already left. “You’re not very helpful, are you?” He moaned when he realized he was talking to himself.
If looks could kill, Ezekiel would have been in Andy’s place. The ghost really felt like kicking the human but kept that desire locked in his mind.
“Excuse me?” both culprits frowned, even if the stranger couldn’t even see Andy.
Behind them was the guy they were looking for but he didn’t look exactly like Ezekiel imagined. He was average in height, though he was shorter than Ezekiel, and he was one of the rare men with dark hair and blue eyes; he wasn’t exactly the Gothic, long haired, androgynous type of guy he imagined.
“You’re standing in front of my house. Are you lost by any chance?” the blue-eyed average man continued.
Ezekiel looked around him and realized that he had no ghostly help to rely on at the moment.
"I am looking for a woman, Zoe Lestrade is her name..." Ezekiel tried his luck but Terrance seemed to hesitate. "We went to the same university and I need to borrow something," continued the younger man, cringing at how fake he sounded.
"Oh, well she doesn't live in Essex anymore. She moved to London six months ago." Terrance answered, taking his keys from his man purse.
"That's very exact. Were you her boyfriend?" Ezekiel dared to ask which in return received an unexpectedly big reaction.
"No! No, that's-no. We used to be friends, at some point."
"Aren't you anymore?"
"You ask an awful lot of questions for someone who only came to borrow something." Terrance stated, unlocking his front door and stepping inside. Instead of closing it, he let it open for Ezekiel to enter. Warily, he did and he noticed that he received a message at the same time he took a step inside.
"He's being cautious. There's salt at the entrance." Said Andrew, huffing in annoyance as Ezekiel was now by himself.
“So, why are you here exactly? Should I believe it was a coincidence that you found my house but not hers?” Terrance asked, placing his keys on the table in the kitchen before turning to Ezekiel.
"I get lost easily. You'd be surprised," Ezekiel mumbled, taking a seat even if he wasn't invited to. "Maybe we should discuss everything nicely, with a cup of tea in hand."
But Terrance did make tea and he placed one mug in front of Ezekiel before he sat down with his put aside. Those brown eyes of the stranger in his house were not the same as Zoe's but there was definitely something odd about him.
"What do you want to discuss about?" The older man asked, curious.
"I'm Ezekiel and I do know Zoe but someone else said that there's more to her than she lets out. I heard you two were friends so I came to ask you about her life."
Terrance chuckled, even going as far as to laugh to himself. Ezekiel took a sip from his tea, feeling very uncomfortable. He even scratched one foot with the other, hoping Terrance was not going to take him for a fool.
"Sorry, it's just that nobody ever asked me anything about Zoe so seriously. Her life, I don't know much about her life but I do know why you are here now. It's her power, isn't it?" Ezekiel didn't have to reply because one blink gave him away.
"I want to know about her life not about her power." The boy added sensing how Terrance was being defensive.
“How is she? Is she unharmed?” Terrance asked after a pause that seemed to give him back his sanity, in Ezekiel's point of view.
“Is there a reason why she wouldn’t be all right?” Ezekiel answered Terrance with another question, which only took the older man aback. He wasn’t sure what to tell a stranger because he wasn’t even sure if that guy was a friend of Zoe’s or not.
“Are you like her?” Terrance asked, his expression falling into seriousness.
“What do you mean?”
Terrance wasn’t an idiot. He stared deeply at Ezekiel and waited for an answer.
“I’m not. I can’t see anything even if I’d like to. She’s the only one with a special gift.” Ezekiel responded sincerely.
“What she has—it’s not a gift; it’s a curse.”
“Are you the one who told her that?” the younger man asked. Terrance seemed confused. “She said it too. Seeing ghosts and demons is not a curse. It’s a gift. It’s up to her to decide how to use it,” Ezekiel stated firmly. He found it important to take her side.
“Many people would argue with you about that. Her parents, for example. The Lestrade family has the tendency to overreact when something or someone doesn't fir their criteria. Zoe was a kid when it started and she didn't know how to hide it, or that she had to in the first place. She was struggling and I tried to take some of the burden from her but-" Terrance stopped and sighed heavily, remembering everything that happened.
Ezekiel started to understand the guy or at least sympathize with him. He wanted to make life easier for her but she probably ran away.
“She tries to face the problem herself but somehow, she runs away right when it gets hard.” Terrance explained, giving it as an advice for the younger man.
Ezekiel was really curious what exactly happened between them.
“What was she to you?”
Terrance sighed and leaned his head back. The sun was shining brightly and the heat was suffocating, just like the time he found out how miserable her life became when he entered her world.
“We were friends. At some point, I guess I wanted to be more than that. She didn’t run away. She was more than happy to have me there but I let her down when she needed me the most.”
Ezekiel frowned and started to have all these images where Zoe would actually try to socialise with people. She was really bad at human interaction.
Terrance could feel the guilt surfacing once again. He turned to Ezekiel and smiled softly.
“Zoe’s powers became noticeable during middle school. She transferred to two schools before she got to mine. There were rumours about her. Kids are kids and they always exaggerate the stories. I heard that she was a witch, a ghost, a demon and so on but what I saw was just a helpless girl, fighting against herself. Back then I chose to believe her and labelled what she saw as imaginary friends but in high school, she changed. She became normal. I never knew just how hard it was for her to act her age. She was ignoring everything that was happening around her: the demons, the fairies, the mist; everything. She never felt free to be herself. One day, I caught her talking to herself in an empty classroom. I thought she was crazy until I saw something on my desk.”
“Did it make sense?” Ezekiel asked, getting drawn into Terrance’s story.
“For me, yes. It told me to believe her. I confronted her about it and she told me the truth. Somehow, it all started to make sense. Every time she would disappear, the times when she would hide just to find her later with scratches on her face and arms, the fear and anxiety; it all made sense. She wasn’t paranoid like I originally believed. Zoe was genuinely followed around by things. I believed her and I think that just got her into more trouble.”
Terrance grabbed a hand through his dark hair and pulled the mug in front of him.
“It was one time, only one time. Her mother invited me over and I asked her some weird questions about Zoe. She overreacted and ended up hiring a secret detective to follow Zoe. The report he made was overall odd: he saw her talking to thin air, saw her walking around, speaking to herself, getting thrown around by nothing and even scratching herself. Mrs. Lestrade came while we were in class and literally dragged Zoe out. In front of the entire high school, she told her daughter that she signed her into a psychiatric institution.”
Ezekiel’s eyes widened and he stopped midway. He couldn’t believe it. She said that nothing big happened in school yet there was so much.
“I can still see it…” Terrance continued.
A younger version of Zoe was being dragged harshly by two bodyguards. Her mother was right behind her, watching her daughter with pity.
“Mum! What are you doing? Let me go!” The teenager yelled, squirming to get released.
Her mother just appeared at school and took her by force. It wasn't even colloquial but a complete show for the school.
“I’m sorry, Zoe. You are my only child and I have to protect you. I never thought your imaginary friends would last for so long.” Mrs. Lestrade replied, no remorse in her voice for what she was doing.
Zoe's eyes widened and turned immediately to Terrance. He was there, in the crowd, watching sorrowfully but doing nothing to help her.
“You told me you are my friend!” she started.
The crowd turned to look at the dark-haired boy. He couldn’t look her in the eye so he ran away like a coward. Zoe's eyes widened even more but in anger.
“You said you believe me! You said you believe! I believed in you, too! I believed when you said you wanted to be friends and even more! Why are you standing there?!” She was already tearing up. She squirmed and surprisingly, she did free herself only to fall on her knees and look to the side with hatred. “You did this to me! Why don’t you show your face? Why me?!” She was crying by now and the crowd was murmuring.
Zoe was talking to herself and no one would ever truly believe there was someone standing on the side, watching with dark evil eyes as she was squirming against her family and friends.
The bodyguards grabbed her again and dragged her out. She had no power to fight them anymore.
When Terrance got home, his room was a mess. He frowned and inspected it thoroughly, finding a note that both scared him and made him feel guilty.
It’s all your fault.
Ezekiel was speechless. Out of everything he would have imagined, that was the worst. Her mother put her daughter into an institution of mental illnesses; she had to go through that; she had been forced by her own mother and the one who made it happen was the guy she liked, the guy she trusted enough to tell him the truth.
“It left a big scar on her. After that, I heard that she went to an institution for a few months before she moved to a different school. She finished high school and entered a university in London. Her mother didn’t let her out of her sight. We met once on the street and I saw her eyes; they were empty. Zoe became better at hiding her power but she also became better at hiding herself under a mask. I felt guilty. It was my fault. I tried to apologize in person but her mother was very strict. Zoe ended up with no friends at all and she lost her only chance at a normal life because of me. I wrote her a letter in which I tell her how sorry I am but she probably never read it."
"A letter is not enough for what you did." Ezekiel started coldly, "I'm surprised you got off so easily when the ghosts and demons could have made your life just as bad as hers."
The meeting was cut short when Terrance had to go to work but it was enough already. On the way back to London, Ezekiel’s mind was swirling with a lot of thoughts. At first he felt jealous because people would give everything to get a glimpse of what she could see, but after he heard just how hard it was to contain it and how fast friends could deceive you, he started to have second thoughts. Of course, he would have handled everything better, his parents were nicer and would have probably believed him and protect him but that was probably what made her different from him. The gift was a curse and vice versa so it was obviously hard to make an image of how his life would have been if he was born with it.
“So now you understand.”
Ezekiel jumped in his seat when his phone vibrated. It was Andy. So that was the reason he gave him the address and wanted him to talk to that guy; so he could fully understand what he was getting himself into.
“She still hides her gift from people and became quite good at it. She has no one to protect her and no one to ask her if she is all right. Maybe that was why I got sent here but you are human and you can help her more than I can.”
“Is that your way to say goodbye?” Ezekiel asked confused.
Andrew glared at the human. He got a lot of courage lately.
“No. I’m stuck with her no matter what but I am a ghost in case you forgot. I can’t protect her from humans as well as you can.”
“Am I her babysitter now?” The ghost rolled his eyes. Unfortunately, Zoe had a lot of babysitters already. “What about the letter? Has she never read it?”
Andy rubbed his head and tried to remember.
“She didn’t. When she became an adult, she realized what happened back then wasn’t his fault. She shouldn’t have told him the truth. Besides, he doesn’t know exactly what happened afterwards. I don’t know either.”
“Then who does?”
“She had a demon around her at that time. He was powerful and he was her original babysitter. One day, he vanished and Mehrdir came in his place. She doesn’t remember him very well but I think he was the one who got her so entangled into this supernatural world.”
It was far more complicated than Ezekiel thought. Surprisingly, he loved it.
At home, Zoe woke up to the sound of whispers. Her eyes opened wide but no one was in the room—no one but two annoying demons with too much free time on their hands.
“Sleeping Beauty woke up. How nice.” She rolled her eyes and started to gather her things up, ignoring the rambling demon. “That story of yours is quite interesting. Too bad you can’t see angels.” The angst demon was telling her everything she didn’t want to hear.
Iaosur was pissing Zoe off and he was enjoying it to the sky and back.
“Do you even have any idea what you explained in your story? You don’t know how dark magic works.”
She got up and passed him on the way to her room, glaring at him right before she closed the door.
“You’re supposed to mess around, not tell her. You shouldn’t make her want to know,” the vanity demon commented right before he jumped on the sofa.
“How will she take responsibility if she doesn’t know how to fight back? Let’s find her a trainer. That way she can learn how to cast spells in our favour too.” Iaosur’s eyes sparkled with mischievousness. He was enjoying his new mission way too much.