Tainted

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Chapter 20

Ramona found her fifteen minutes later in the kitchen, a fresh bottle of wine in front of her, her head cradled in her bloody hand. Isobel didn’t even look up when Ramona came in. The angel stood, regarding her bruised, battered and bleeding comrade for a moment. The purple bruises Ramona herself had put round Isobel’s neck were fading, but still present and there were traces of dried blood on her skin from the earlier fight with the demons. As she watched, Ramona noticed that Isobel’s hands were still bleeding. Blood dripped from the hand holding her head onto the top of the old wooden table, running in tiny rivulets down her wrist, leaving crimson smears of gore along her arms.

“You look a mess,” Ramona said, smiling at her.

“Fuck off.” Isobel didn’t even look at her. She just picked up the bottle of wine and took another hearty swig, putting it down hard on the table. Ramona moved further into the room, opened a cupboard and got out two wine glasses. She sat at the square table adjacent to Isobel and popped the glasses down.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Isobel asked with disdain.

“Pouring us a drink,” Ramona said. She half filled her glass and did the same for Isobel’s, pushing it across the table to her. She put the bottle over the other side of the table.

Isobel gave her an unfriendly look and rose just enough to reach the bottle, grabbed it and pulled it back to her side of the table, where she cradled it with one hand.

“Isobel...”

“No.” Isobel snapped furiously, “Just no, Ramona! God!” She drank from the bottle again. Ramona watched her, not touching her own wine, waiting for Isobel to speak. It took a while but eventually she did. “Don’t tell me its okay or its God’s work or something,” she said, “Far as I’m concerned God can do one.” She looked at Ramona then, “He could stop all this you know, all this damning the tainted nonsense. It’s not my fault I’ve got demon blood in me and I try to help someone, do the Christian thing and what happens? I get more demon fucking blood, more!” Her voice was rising now. She took another drink and continued her tirade, “Why Ramona? Why the fuck is he picking on me?”

Ramona shrugged, “Luck of the draw.”

Isobel hit her. She didn’t realise she was going to do it until her fist lashed out and hit Ramona in the side of her jaw. The angel rocked back in her chair and grasped the table edge for balance, to avoid tipping over. When she looked back at Isobel there was anger in her eyes. The heat in her gaze though, was eclipsed by the sheer venom in Isobel’s. “And you can fucking leave him alone as well!”

“You mean Jake?”

“No, Barney the fucking shit arse bear,” she shouted. “Of course fucking Jake!”

“I can’t help that he finds me attractive.” Ramona glared, heat creeping into her voice.

“No. You just swan in all sexy and confident and expect men to ignore you. After all you live the life of a nun don’t you?”

“He loves you, Isobel,” Ramona said.

It was a moment before Isobel spoke again. When she did it was quieter than before, a voice full of sorrow, of regret.

“He killed my mother,” she said simply. “I hated her, but… she was still my mother.”

There wasn’t anything to say to that so they drank in silence for a while, Ramona sipping her glass while Isobel decimated the bottle. “I know it was the demon,” Isobel said after a few minutes, “and I do still love him, but part of me just sees a murderer, my mother’s murderer.” She looked at Ramona, distraught, “How the fuck are we going to get through this? Can any relationship survive a...a cataclysm like this?”

“I don’t know,” Ramona said. “It’ll take some work.”

“Maybe we should go on Jeremy Kyle,” Isobel grinned with gallows humour. “My boyfriend got possessed and slaughtered everyone I loved before an angel and I exorcised him.’ How’s that for an episode title?”

“Long.”

Isobel’s smile disappeared, replaced by a look of abject despair. “It’s all fucked Ramona,” she sighed. “Everything. It’s all fucked and there’s no way I can see to unfuck it.” She drank again, a longer than usual pull on the bottle.

Ramona couldn’t think of a counter argument to her point. The time for platitudes was long past and Isobel wasn’t entirely wrong. Her life was fucked. They sat in contemplative silence again for a time, each alone with her thoughts. Finally Isobel sighed, got up and left the room, the rapidly emptying wine bottle clutched between her fingers. She stopped a little way inside the bedroom, a short way from where Jake lay asleep in her mother’s bed. Despite his being exorcised, Isobel stayed well out of arms reach. She looked down on him wondering if they would ever be together again like they were before. Had things changed irrevocably or was there a way back to some kind of normalcy? She just didn’t know. Isobel did what she did in any crisis; she lifted her bottle and drank. A minute later she heard soft footsteps as Ramona came up behind her.

“At least you got him back,” she said standing next to Isobel. “That’s something right?”

“I guess.” Isobel drank again and turned to look at Ramona. “You never told me what happened with you and your fiancée. I know you died and became an angel and everything, but did you ever manage to patch things up with him?”

“I killed him.” Ramona met Isobel’s eyes with her own flinty, regretful stare.

Isobel blinked, “Really?”

“Really.”

“Fuck,” Isobel drank again. “And God was down with that?”

Ramona looked at her, “God didn’t get a say in it.” Isobel just stared at her, open mouthed and utterly speechless.

Ramona held her gaze a moment before turning back to Jake. “You’re worried how this is going to affect your relationship.”

“Of course,” Isobel said. “Wouldn’t you be?”

“Yes,” Ramona gave her a more sympathetic look this time. “I guess it depends on whether you’re more forgiving than I was.”

Isobel chewed her lip and looked at Jake. She knew, intellectually she knew he hadn’t been responsible for her mother’s murder, for anyone’s… but it was his body, his hands that the demon had used, his face it had worn. It made a difference, somehow. She frowned as she chewed her lip. “I guess we’ll see,” she said at last. She stepped forward and stroked Jake’s face, smoothing his long hair back from his face. He made a small murmuring sound but showed no other signs of consciousness. Sighing she turned away, surveying the damaged room. The wind had done a thorough job when it had blown in from wherever it had come. The bedside lamp lay shattered on the floor, glass shards spearing through the thin shade, books and soft toys lay on the floor rather than shelves as did a few empty cans and bottles. Did her mother ever throw the things away? The thought of her mother made her throat constrict; she was dead but the demon wearing her face was still out there. That meant her mother was in Hell… burning. Isobel squeezed her eyes shut and tried to block out the thoughts. Nothing good would come of examining them too closely. A soft mutter of “Fuck,” from across the room made her open her eyes and look at Ramona. The angel had her head tilted slightly to the side again.

“What’s up?” Isobel asked.

Ramona looked at her silently for a moment before righting her head. “It’s on.”

“What?” Isobel said, “What do you mean? What’s on?”

“The battle,” Ramona shot her a meaningful look. “The end.”

“The end…?” Isobel’s mind was still reeling from the shocks of the day.

“You know how I said time was short?” Ramona asked.

Isobel nodded.

“Well, times up. Hell’s come to town and I need you to help me stop it. You might be the only thing standing between us and oblivion.” She stepped closer to Isobel, “This is it Isobel,” a fierce smile was creeping across her face, “Time to bring it.”

Isobel sighed and drank her wine. She wasn’t relishing the prospect of war in quite the same way Ramona was. “What about him?” she nodded at Jake.

“He’ll be here when you get back.”

“If I get back,” Isobel said pessimistically.

“He’s not tainted anymore,” Ramona reminded her. “Besides, look at him, he’s in no state to fight. He would only be a liability on the battlefield. Now you,” she turned to Isobel and smiled, “you’re our secret fucking weapon.”

“People have been trying to kill me,” she pointed out, “I’m not that secret.”

Ramona’s cool smile widened, “But no one outside this room knows just how juiced you are.” Ramona held her eyes, “That’s very exciting.”

Isobel sighed and dropped her gaze to the floor. Her fate, it seemed, was sealed. She knew she’d go with Ramona; face unknown horrors with her.

And probably die while I’m at it.

A small, sad smile crooked her lips. What other choice did she have? There was no way she could let this happen, not if she could prevent it… not now… not after everything…

She cast a doubtful look at the sleeping Jake. What if something happened while they were away? Would the demons come back and take him again? If everything Ramona said was true, they could no longer possess him, but they might kill him out of spite. She shivered remembering how the other victims had died. She didn’t want that for Jake. Hell, she didn’t want that for anyone. Not even her mother.

“He’ll be safe enough here,” Ramona assured her.

“Safe enough?” Isobel raised an eyebrow at her.

Ramona shrugged, “Absolute safety doesn’t exist.”

“Comforting,” Isobel commented. Despite her desire to dispute Ramona’s claim she couldn’t. It was a truth she herself had acknowledged more than once. Safety was a myth, security an illusion; an illusion Isobel had shed a long time ago. Sometimes she doubted she’d ever been innocent. Maybe that was why God had picked her… or maybe it was because she was sick, tainted in more ways than one. Fucked if she knew. She sighed again and finished the wine, tipping the bottle back as she drained it.

“You ready?” Ramona asked.

“No.”

“Good,” Ramona said. “Let’s go.”

They went. Isobel glanced back once at the sleeping Jake as they left, wishing she wasn’t going to war without him.


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