Greg came back a few days later. The burn marks on his body had faded significantly but they were still visible. They made Alison feel uncomfortable when she saw him. She felt responsible for him getting as hurt as he had. If they were lucky, the marks would go away completely with rest and time.
“I never got to say thanks for helping me out back there,” Alison commented. She was lying across the length of her couch, an ice pack on her forehead. She had a migraine the size of a semi pounding against the back of her eyes. Three aspirin had failed to relieve it. She wondered if she was going through nicotine withdrawal. She hadn’t had a cigarette in way too many days now.
“Not a problem.” Greg smiled. “What do I got to lose, right?”
What, indeed. She had been wondering exactly that herself. The Soulless had been able to hurt, Greg. That much had been clear. What else was it capable of? If it had the chance, just how badly could the Soulless have damaged his body? “Just don’t push yourself too much. No sense in torturing yourself for my sake.”
“I think you’re underestimating me.”
“I doubt that.”
“I checked out that house again,” Greg said.
“Yeah, Emily’s. The furniture was back to normal again. Everything was back the way it was before we showed up.”
“I wonder how it keeps doing that,” Alison said. How confusing. She remembered Emily saying something like that, about the place being trashed and then everything going back to normal again. It was too strange. She moved the ice pack lower, covering her closed eyes. “My head’s still killing me. Pass me a cigarette before I die.”
“You quit, remember?”
“No. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She sighed. “I’ll try and hold off one more day.”
“Might as well,” he said.
Lack of nicotine, however, wasn’t necessarily the only reason for her migraine. Stress could very well have something to do with it too. She hadn’t had a new job in more than ten days now. If someone didn’t call soon she was going to start sending Greg out to scare everyone into calling her. She thought of Daniel Hoffinger, remembering how she had told him he didn’t have to pay her the other week. It was just mice, after all. What had she been thinking? That had to be the worst decision she had ever made!
Aside from her fears of being poor, a million other questions were still swirling around in her brain. Most of them had to do with the Soulless and the Blessed. She thought of Death, who had appeared before her twice already with messages that had just ended up confusing her more.
If things didn’t start to make sense soon, her hair was going to start falling out.
Her eyes moved to her phone sitting on the coffee table. A couple days ago she had found a missed call on her phone from Josh. She had been wondering why he had called her. He hadn’t left a message or anything. Her hope had been that he’d call again if it was important, which he hadn’t yet. Otherwise, she didn’t really have the heart to return the call on her own. “Did I tell you Josh called me?”
“No, you didn’t,” Greg replied. “When was that?”
“I think he called the night we were at Emily’s place.”
“What’d he want?”
“I dunno,” she said. “He didn’t leave a message.”
Greg rolled his eyes up to the ceiling. “Don’t tell me you’re still hung up on that guy.”
“I’m not that fickle. It’s gonna take more than a day to get over Josh.”
“Yeah but he has a girlfriend.”
“Oh, my God, I know that, Greg,” she complained. Didn’t he think she knew that? As if she could forget. The last thing she needed was a verbal reminder. “That’s why I didn’t call him back. I don’t want to deal with him anymore.”
“Good. Then don’t.”
Her head pounded. Thinking about Josh just made it worse. But Greg was right, sort of, in his own selfish way. She might as well try and get over it. No point in wasting her days pining after a guy that was taken. “I’m going to be alone forever,” she moaned. “And it’s all your fault.”
“How’s that my fault?”
“Because you love it when I’m lonely. I can tell. You thrive on my suffering.”
“Yeah right,” Greg said. “Don’t blame me for your personal issues.”
There was a knock on the door. Alison turned her head slowly to the noise. Please let it be a customer. “Get that for me, will you, Greg?”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“Ugh, fine. I’ll do it.” She climbed to her feet, holding the ice pack to her head with her hand as she walked to the door. When she opened it, she found Marissa standing on her porch. The woman was dressed in dark jeans and a black v-neck knitted top. A large, brightly-colored tin can hung from her hands.
“Hey, what’s up?” Marissa asked cheerfully.
“Mind if I come in?”
“Sure.” Alison stepped to the side. She felt like a slob in her flannel pants and faded blue t-shirt. She didn’t even have a bra on. It was two pm and she looked like had just gotten out of bed, which would make sense, since she had just gotten out of bed.
“What’s that on your head? You got a fever?”
“No,” Alison said. “It’s a migraine.”
“You take any medicine for it?”
“Yeah I took a few pills already.”
The two of them sat down on the couch. Whether because he thought he’d be bored or in the way, Greg got up and left the living room. Marissa set the large rounded tin down on the coffee table. “I brought cookies. You can have as many as you want. My little cousin was selling them for a school fund raiser. I didn’t want them but they didn’t give me a choice. My aunt brought in the school catalogue and forced me to buy something.”
“What kind are they?”
“Who knows. There’s a bunch o’ different ones inside.”
Alison nodded, popping the top off the can. Taking a couple into her hands, she started munching on them. “They’re not bad.”
“They’re all right. I can’t eat this many though.”
“Leave some here. I love cookies,” Alison said.
Marissa took a cookie and bit into it. Her eyes lit up and she said, “I just remembered what I came here to tell you.”
“I had a really weird dream the other night. It was about that athame you brought into the shop. The one Emily bought you.”
“You did?” Alison asked.
“Yep, it was the weirdest thing. I saw you holding it in front of you for a really long time. It wasn’t that clear though. Usually my dreams are a lot clearer than that but I got this feeling that you should hold onto it. I think you should keep it on you from now on.”
“I can do that,” Alison replied.
“Never know when you’ll need it.”
“Like if I need to stab something?”
“Uh, maybe,” Marissa said doubtfully. “I was thinking more for luck. You know, they say iron keeps the evil spirits away.”
“I think Emily said something like that to me before.”
“Good! Then that must’ve been what the dream was about.” Marissa picked up another cookie and bit into it. She looked at it. “These do taste pretty good, don’t they.”
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