Watered Down

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Chapter Twenty Three

When Theon had said, see you soon, I thought he had actually meant soon.

I waited around for hours and hours for him to come back, but he never did.

My mind was going down all kinds of avenues trying to figure out what it might have been that he was trying to tell me. I didn’t know if it had to do with him, or if it had to do with Alana, or maybe even the both of them.

I spent that whole night trying to keep distracted, but I’d already read all the books multiple times, and the long list of songs seemed to play out faster and faster the more times I heard them. The girls had only been gone for one night and I was already losing it a little in all of this solitude.

The morning sun rose, and then began to fall again without a single disturbance to my utter aloneness. I didn’t want to seem clingy by going to his house when he told me that he was coming back, but I honestly don’t think I can stand anymore alone time. It’s an eerie feeling when you’re all alone for this amount of time, especially when you can’t sleep, and eventually you start to feel like you might just be the last person on earth. I had a fear that maybe it was true, maybe I am alone forever.

Once my mind starting going down scary routes I swallowed my pride as the sun hit the water and ran out to Theon’s house. I made a quick trip of it, not wanting to let my time run out, and knocked quickly on the door.

It swung open almost immediately, but it wasn’t Theon, instead it was the little old woman, Ms. Kay.

“Hello.” She said curtly.

I opened my mouth, then had to snap it shut again because this through me off. “Oh, um, I was looking for Theon.” I mumbled.

She let her wrinkled eyes fall down to my amulet and she pursed her lips. “He’s not here, love.” She said, looking back up to my eyes as she pursed her wrinkled lips.

“Is he at work?” I asked. “What time do you expect him back?”

I noticed the way she had herself wedged in the door, making it clear that I wasn’t being invited in. “No, dear, he is away for a few days.” She told me, her voice was kind, but her eyes were telling me other things. Every time she looked at me I felt like she was sizing me up or like she knew exactly who and what I am.

“A few days?” I practically shrieked.

“Yes.”

I sighed, twirling my hair. “He didn’t mention that he would be leaving.” I said more so to myself than to her.

She nodded her head. “I don’t think he knew far in advance.” She told me. “That’s usually how these trips come up, it is always last minute.”

I furrowed my brows. “He does this often?”

She pursed her lips again, looking at my amulet. “Yes.” She shrugged her hunched shoulders. She glanced behind her and started to close the door in my face, but Tally squeezed by her. “No, dear, stay inside.” Ms. Kay told her, but Tally grabbed ahold of my legs and squeezed me tightly.

“You’re back already!” She said happily. “You kept your promise!”

I had to hold back a little sad shutter. “Of course,” I told her, leaning down to hug her back. “I couldn’t stay away from you too long.”

“Can you come play in my room?” She asked, looking up to me with wide happy eyes.

I swallowed hard, looking up to Ms. Kay. “It’s late, Tally.” She told her. “You need to be getting in the bed.”

“Serena can put me to bed!” She cheered. “I promise to go straight to sleep.”

Ms. Kay and I exchanged a glance, and I could see she wanted to say no, but she pushed the door open anyway and let Tally pull me in and down the hall. Tally hopped up on her bed and grinned at me while I came to sit beside her, pulling the blankets up over her. I could feel that Ms. Kay was lingering right outside the door, but I tried to ignore her and focus on Tally.

“Where did Theon go?” I asked her as she cuddled up to her stuffed puppy.

She shrugged. “I don’t know, but he said you might come.”

“He did?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

“Uh-huh.” She smiled. “I’m supposed to tell you a secret.” She whispered.

I leaned in closer to her. “Oh really?” I whispered back. “What’s the secret?”

Tally glanced at the door, then lowered her voice even more. “I’m not supposed to say in front of anyone.” She whispered and then giggled. I could tell that she was loving having this secret from her brother. “Will you read me my book?” She asked, changing the subject. “Theon was supposed to, but he didn’t have time to finish it, he left really fast.”

I looked to the little table next to her bed and picked up the worn little book. I flipped through the pages until I found the spot that had a piece of paper stuck in it. I gasped as I pulled the paper out. “Did Theon do this?” I asked her, holding it up.

“Uh-huh.” Tally mumbled around a goofy sleepy grin. “I didn’t want to forget what you looked like in case you were gone a long time.” She explained.

I leaned over to kiss her forehead and I sighed. “It’s beautiful.” I said, although it was an understatement. It was a hand drawn picture of me. It was me sitting on the rocks in Culliver’s Cove, my hair blowing around my face, making me look like a supermodel. The detail he’d gotten into a sketch was breathtaking, right down to the cleft in my chin. I studied it for a minute before I realized that in the picture, he’d drawn me without the amulet. I had to bite my tongue to keep from crying.

He’d drawn me free.

“Read.” Tally reminded me and I smiled to her, looking down at the words on the pages through watery eyes. I blinked them away quickly and began the story.

Tally’s eyes were drifting in and out, and I was afraid she was going to fall asleep before we got a moment alone, but suddenly, after five chapters of her storybook, Tally shot up in the bed and pulled the book from me, nearly giving me a heart attack in the process.

“She’s gone.” She whispered very lowly, looking at the door. “She gets sleepy when we read books.” She grinned and I had to smile back at how clever this little girl was.

“The secret?” I prompted her, leaning in.

She chewed her lip. “Theon said to tell you she can’t.”

“I can’t what?” I asked, confused.

Tally shook her head. “Not you can’t,” She said. “She can’t.”

“Who?”

Tally shrugged. “I dunno.”

I sighed. “Ok,” I said. “She can’t what?”

Tally looked away. “I can’t remember exactly what he said.” She admitted sheepishly. “I think he said she can’t break…no, she can’t lie? Ugh.” She muttered. “I’m sorry,” She frowned. “I don’t remember what he said.” She told me. “I just remember he said that she can’t.” She explained. “Theon made me repeat that part like a gazillion times.”

I brushed her hair back. “That’s ok, Tal.” I smiled. “I get it.” I lied.

She smiled and nuzzled down into her pillow, closing her eyes.

I was struck again at how easy it is for her to fall asleep. I leaned in and kissed her cheek one more time before I went to her closet and laid out an outfit for her before I went into the hallway, pulling the door shut behind me.

“You shouldn’t be here.” Ms. Kay said quietly when I walked into the living room.

“I’m sorry?”

“You shouldn’t be here.” She repeated. “I know you clearly mean something to Theon and Tally, but you being here is only going to make things worse for them.”

“What do you mean?”

She kept her little eyes trained on the gameshow on the little television. “I know what you are.” She said simply, confirming my suspicion from earlier. “I can feel that you aren’t a bad person, and I know you have good intentions, but you are going to make it worse.” She told me. “The people on this island, they know something is off around here, and they blame Theon and his family for a lot of it.” She lowered her voice. “If anyone were to find you here, or if his little escapades he did to help you were to get out, who knows what could happen to them.” She shook her head. “I know that you care, so please just do the right thing and stay away. You and I both would never forgive ourselves if something bad were to happen to one of them.” She said as she turned to look me in the eyes.

I was shaking, and I wasn’t sure if it was from anger, sadness, or fear. “Who are you?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.

She shook her head. “No one of importance.”

I went over to the little couch where she was sitting. “Can you help me?” I asked, my heart hopeful.

“You made your choices, dear.” No apologies in her voice.

I sighed. “How do you know about me?”

She sighed. “Doesn’t matter.” She told me.

I looked into her eyes. “Please.” I said. “If there is something you can do to help me, please just tell me. How do you know what I am?”

She narrowed her eyes at me, the folds of her wrinkles seeming to engulf her little eyes. “Give me your hand, child.” She said, holding hers out to me weakly. I placed mine into hers with only a little hesitation, and she closed her other hand over the top, closing her eyes and making a humming sound. She opened her eyes again and sighed. “Well I see now.” She whispered.

“See what?”

She reached out and put one finger to the left of my chest. “Your heart.” She said. “It’s good, and I am sorry that you are in this place, but you had a chance to be free, and you squandered it.”

I widened my eyes. “How?” I asked her, my breathing quickening.

“Won’t help you to know now.” She shrugged. “It was a good thing you did, setting your friends free.” I stared at her in awe, trying to figure out just how she knew so much about me. “I can’t free you, but I can give you a little help.” She told me and my heart fluttered. “Promise me that you will stay away from here until you are free?”

I bit my lip. “You’ll help me?”

“That’s my price.” She nodded. “I don’t make a habit of interfering with that witches wickedness.”

“Fine.” I told her. “I’ll stay away until I’m free.”

Ms. Kay nodded her head. “One more.” She told me. “New girls will be cursed to this island soon, and when they are, make sure that you convince them that there is no point in trying.” She said softly. “Scare them out of it.” She told me. “You collect one more, then you tell that evil witch that you are done. You three girls will have to stand strong together, showing her that you will not work for her anymore, and for you, your deal with her will be fulfilled. She’ll have no choice but to let you go and find a new pure one.”

“What about the other two girls?” I asked.

Ms. Kay sighed. “That will be up to the witch what she chooses to do with them, but from what I have seen of her, I’m sure she’ll manage to weasel them back in line once you’re gone.”

I titled my head. “I don’t know.” I said. “Do you really think that’ll work?”

“She has no choice but to let you go when your deal with her is finished.” She told me. “Don’t hang around long afterwards, dear.” She said urgently. “That witch has her ways of getting you back to her.” She said as she shook her head and went back to watching the TV. “Do what you need to do, and then get as far away from here as possible.”

I nodded my head, feeling a little dazed. “Ok.” I mumbled.

“Don’t forget your promise.” She said. “Stay away from Theon and from Tally. No contact until after you are freed.”

I didn’t want to think about that part, so I just focused on the after like Theon had told me the other day. He’ll understand when I explain it to him, and he’ll be happy that I’m free.

I just hope that Ms. Kay is right, and that finding one more person won’t take as long as I fear it might.

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