Phoebe had passed out with her head resting on Grayson’s shoulder.
He could not blame her. Their night and morning were not pleasant. As badly as he hoped it would be their last bad night, he knew it was not possible.
The only good thing that came from those events, was the clarity. Like a part of him before was watching himself go through the motions of life, waiting for something to happen so it could be released. As Alice had said, the veil was lifting.
As he continued to guide Grace to the meeting spot, Grayson sipped his whiskey.
He inspected the label and frowned. It was basically the same stuff he always got, but he was barely tipsy, and half the bottle was already gone.
’We can’t get drunk as easily anymore. We need virgin’s blood for us to get intoxicated.’
Grayson could practically feel the wink the demon gave off after his explanation.
Sighing, Grayson poured what was left into his flask and threw the bottle. The sound of glass against a random tree made Phoebe jerk in her sleep.
Grayson hushed her and stroked her hair. He was not ready for her to wake up yet and he knew neither was she.
Holding Phoebe against him with one arm, Grayson steered Grace towards the edge of the forest where him and Alice agreed to meet.
His thoughts drifted towards Eleanor and where she could be. Hoping beyond hope she was safe and sending out a silent promise to whomever has her, that they will suffer greatly at his hands.
After a while, when the sun nearly hit the middle of the sky, Grayson and Phoebe stopped at the forest line.
As gently as he could, Grayson cradled Phoebe and slid off the horse. Grace neighed and side stepped at the sudden weight change. Knowing Grace needed to graze, Grayson dropped her reigns and walked to the nearest tree.
Just as Grayson put Phoebe down, she opened her eyes. She looked up at Grayson before giving him a lazy smile.
“Whoops! I must have dozed off.” She exclaimed while stretching her sore muscles and wincing slightly at her pounding head.
The lightheartedness in her voice made Grayson stare at her like she was insane.
Phoebe noticed this. “What?”
There was no indication in her voice that she remembered what had happened several hours ago. Grayson bent down to be level with her eyes, trying to see if her little act would slip.
Phoebe pressed her back against the tree in response to his sudden intrusion of her space.
“Wha…Uh…” Phoebe stuttered, trying to understand what was going on.
“What happened a few hours ago?” Grayson asked as he continued to watch her reaction.
Phoebe opened her mouth then closed it, looking like a fish out of water.
“Well, the last thing I remember was getting my things so we could go look for Eleanor.” She glanced down, looking slightly unsure. “Then I fell asleep on the way here?” Phoebe asked, sounding hopeful that that was what happened.
Running a frustrated hand through his hair, Grayson sat down across from Phoebe, pulling his sword out of its sheath and laying it across his lap.
Then, pointed to the cloak he had wrapped around her. “Did you put this on before leaving?”
Phoebe looked at the cloak in shock. Shaking her head, she laughed. “I don’t remember doing it, but I must have.”
Grayson shook his head in surprise. Taking his sword, he guided the tip to the edge of the cloak and opened it just enough to reveal her torn stay and undergarments.
Phoebe froze. The gesture making her eyes start to glaze over.
“No.” Grayson cut out.
The clear look in her eyes came back as she realized there was no hiding from this.
“Look.” He insisted.
Phoebe gulped, then slowly looked down. She took in a sharp breath at the site of her bruised breasts being exposed.
Her breaths coming out shaky, Phoebe whispered, “o-oh.”
Grayson pulled his sword back, slightly stunned at the reaction. “Oh? That’s all you have to fucking say?”
Phoebe brought her watery eyes back up to him. Her bottom lip trembled slightly as she tried to speak. “It’s n-not the first time… A-and it w-won’t be the last…”
Grayson shook his head and, out of habit, took out his flask and drank from it.
Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he put the flask back and starred intensely at Phoebe. His finger tapped on the hilt of sword, deciding his next words.
“You leaving your body is the way for you to deal with it, then when you come back its like it never happened…”
It was a statement, not a question. Though, Phoebe answered anyways. “Yes, it started when I was a child and ever since that’s how I’ve survived.”
Grayson’s face scrunched up in anger as his fingers tightened around the hilt. “Why have you never said anything?!”
Phoebe scoffed at him; her eyes eerily clear as Grayson could start to see pure anger speckled in them for the first time. “I am a whore. I have sex for money. Do you really think anyone would care that some men took what I usually sell? HA! What a laugh.” Pulling the cloak tighter around her, she glared at Grayson with pure hate.
Grayson gladly took in the hate, because he knew it was not directed at him, more towards his naivety of her line of work and the things that happen outside of it.
“I let disgusting dirty men into my womb, Grayson. Do not make it something that should be special. It will never be special!” She screamed, making her words echo in the wind.
Grayson watched her as a tear slipped down her cheek. “It was taken from me before I knew any better, it will never be special.” Phoebe whispered as she looked at her hands.
They sat in silence for what felt like ages, neither knowing what to say to one another.
Grayson felt torn. He understood her need to disassociate and continue living like nothing happened, but he felt it was something she needed to face, or her separation could get worse. It already seemed like it when they just had their interaction.
He also felt the need to inform her she was not alone, that he was also a victim of odious behavior from others. But that would open a lot of questions from her, and he needed to figure them out on his own first.
‘For instance, how do I not remember that memory up until now?’ Grayson thought as the memory came back to him. A cold shiver went up his spine as he remembered the cruel laugh.
‘I did that.’ The demon spoke. ’It was a perfect leeway into the memories you blocked.’
Grayson did not say anything as he waited for the demon to continue.
‘You put up a tall, strong wall in your mind after the war. But I am slowly breaking down that wall. You want your precious Eleanor back? This is a small portion of what needs to be done to ensure her rescue.’
Grayson frowned at this. ‘Why do you have to do it slowly? Why not just let me remember everything all at once?’
Annoyance slipped into the demon’s voice. ’You will not be able to handle it. Your life…has been different from normal humans. Most would not have lived this long. Even so, you are still part human. The shock could make you go insane.’
Grayson’s frown deepened.
While Grayson was in deep thought, Phoebe had decided to change into the clothes that were brought with. Thankfully, it was a simple cloth dress instead of some of her more intricate silk dresses she had packed.
Even though there was a chill in the air, reminding Phoebe that winter was just around the corner, she stripped down to nothing. The sun warmed her skin, giving it a natural glow.
She stretched her arms above her head, not caring that she was naked out in the open. Nor did she care that Grayson would see her. According to him, he saw her in a terrible, compromising position that he most likely saved her from. Being naked in front of him will not faze him.
A strong, cold breeze blew across the open land, making Phoebe shiver and reconsider her thoughts on not dressing right away.
Slipping on the cloth dress as fast as she could, she sat down and took off her boot. A sad sigh escaped her lips.
‘At least those men did not get ALL of my coin,’ she thought bitterly. Deciding to make the best of her situation instead of dwelling on it, Phoebe put her boot on, with the money tucked back in and stood up. She did a twirl, so her skirts rose past her knees while giggling.
Grayson had concluded his discussion with his demon and was watching Phoebe. A slight smile tugged at the corner of his lips when she twirled, a small part of him happy that what had happened earlier did not affect her frivolous spirit.
Just as fast as the smile came, a concerning question filled his mind.
“Phoebe,” Grayson began, trying to get her attention.
Phoebe stopped twirling and faced him, her face tinted pink.
“How…” He paused, unsure of how to ask his question. “How are you so calm about Alice, Avice, and the Ghoul incident? Any sane person would be running away screaming to their church and praying to their God, hoping that it was just a dream.”
Phoebe threw her head back and laughed.
Grayson did not expect that kind of reaction. He stood, sheathing his sword, and approached her.
When she was finally done laughing, Phoebe had tears running down her face. “Oh Grayson.” She said as she wiped her tears away. “Your first mistake is believing I am sane. I am not sane, have not been for many years. And, as for your question, I am just really good at going with the flow of the world.”
As if to prove her point, she extended her arms out and lifted her face to the sky.
Grayson rolled his eyes and grunted, not accepting the answer but letting it go none the less.
Deciding it was best to ignore Phoebe for a while, Grayson turned his back to her. He searched the tree line in an effort to find Alice and Avice. Noon was upon them and the duo had not shown up.
‘They seem to be the types to be punctual.’ Thought Grayson as he tugged at his beard.
Just when he was about to call for Phoebe and the horse, a twig snapped in the forest.
Grayson instinctively brought his hand to his sword and readied himself.
A silhouette of a woman was walking slowly through the trees, taking care not to trip or get their dress snagged on the branches.
Grayson relaxed his shoulders but kept a hand on the hilt. The woman looked young, younger than Phoebe.
As she broke the tree line, Grayson’s hand dropped to his side in silent shock. He kept his face neutral but inside he was in utter turmoil.
The woman was a young, beautiful looking Alice. Hair a shinning silver and eyes green as the forest behind her. Grayson imagined if Alice were not blind, her eyes would look exactly like this woman’s.
Grayson waited while the woman studied him. A sign of recognition and relief flashed in her eyes as she looked from Grayson to Phoebe, her visibly tense body relaxing.
“Grayson,” she spoke, sounding so similar to Alice. “It’s me, Avice. I have terrible news.”
Grayson stayed the way he was, hand on hilt, waiting for her to continue.
She sighed, her eyes misting the tiniest bit. “Alice is dead.”