I feel like crying. But also, laughing. But I also just feel kind of at peace. I know none of these are actually my emotions, but at this point, it’s difficult for me to separate my own emotions from everyone else’s. I may be able to keep it from completely overwhelming me, but it still feels terrible. At least now that we’re way out here, away from the multitudes of people in the city, it’s not nearly as bad.
Haylee walks to the rock in the center of the clearing and places her bag of questionable items on the ground. She pulls out candles and places them around the rock before lighting them, then places various objects on top of the rock. Opening her notebook, she mumbles to herself, shifts a few things around, removes and adds a few things, then sets the book down and clasps her hands together.
“Okay! I need each of you to grab one of these rocks, as well as a pin.” We do as she says. “Now poke one of your fingers with the pin and place it against the rock.”
“Hold on a second. Have these pins been sterilized? How do I know no one else has used these before? Am I going to get aids from this?” Toby starts complaining.
“Oh my gosh, seriously dude?” Jude groans. “Do it, or I’ll do it for you, and I will purposely make it hurt.”
“I’m just saying, I’m not sure how safe this is.” Jude starts toward him. “Okay! Fine. Back off, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.”
One of the reasons that Toby quit nursing school is that he has a huge fear of needles. Not that he would ever admit it. I can feel the anxiety radiating off of him as he sinks the needle into his pointer finger, wincing and turning his face away. As soon as he’s done, the anxiety vanishes, replaced by relief.
“You done being a pussy now? Good.”
“Please stop fighting,” Haylee says calmly. “You are disrupting the trees.” Jude looks at her so condescendingly that it’s a wonder she doesn’t feel it. Maria looks like she might burst out laughing any second, but she holds it in. “Now, keep your finger placed on the rock until I say it is okay to remove it.” She closes her eyes and lifts her hands toward the sky. I feel like we are standing there forever, in silence, before she starts chanting quietly.
I fully believe in witchcraft, considering how often I have run across it in this line of work, but I have never witnessed it actually happening before. It definitely looks ludicrous to me, and I have to force myself to stay still and not walk away or roll my eyes. Nothing is even happening, that I can tell. I was expecting, like, thunder, or wind maybe. A torrential downpour even. I wasn’t expecting this; unchanging silence, broken only by Haylee’s whispers.
I look over at the others. Toby isn’t even trying to hide his skepticism. Maria is just shivering, not really paying attention. Jude looks like he’s about to fall asleep standing up. The whispering continues for about a minute and then she stops and lowers her hands to the rock and starts mixing together different ingredients. Once finished, she lights everything on fire with one of the candles and continues her whispering. Finally, she turns to me.
“Hazel, place your stone into the center.” I do as she says, and she whispers some more. I’m beginning to wonder if any of this is actually doing anything. Then, miraculously, I feel the pull of the other’s emotions start to subside. I can feel my own emotions again and block out the others. “How do you feel?”
I let out a sigh of relief. “Better. So much better.” Haylee smiles and motions to Jude. He places his stone next to mine and she goes through the same process. I can pinpoint the exact moment that it starts to work, because Jude looks like a weight is literally lifted off of his shoulders. Toby doesn’t seem to be affected at all, so there’s not change when he’s done. Maria stops shivering and practically throws the blanket and her coat off.
“It’s warm out here! I can’t believe I was that cold just from my ability!” Maria exclaims. Haylee holds a finger to her lips to quiet her. “Sorry,” she whispers, covering her mouth.
“Well, now that that’s taken care of, I’ll put the seal back on this thing and hopefully we can keep it sealed from here on out. I can do this on my own though, so feel free to relax. Quietly.”
Maria lays her blanket on the ground for us all to sit on, while Haylee does her thing. I sit on the end, with Maria and Toby in the middle, and Jude on the other end. I think Jude hasn’t really forgiven me yet. I don’t blame him at all. I said some really horrible things.
“Hey Jude,” Maria says hesitantly. “Can I ask you something?”
“Maria…” Toby warns.
“Depends on what it is, I guess,” Jude answers.
“It’s about your mom…”
Jude stands up quickly. “No.” Without another word he starts back to the car.
“What the hell, Maria? Could you have possibly chosen a worse time to ask him something like that? And I said to ask him about his wrists! Not his mom! Gosh!” Toby sighs and goes after Jude.
I can tell that Maria is on the verge of tears. “I was just curious,” she sniffles.
“What are you curious about? Who told you anything about his mom?” I ask, trying not to sound angry. She chose a horrible moment to ask something like that. Jude is already pissed off and tired, and she decided to try and bring up his mom? It’s making me even angrier that she’s getting upset. She has no right to be upset.
“Sorry, that’s my fault. I asked Toby about it earlier and Maria overheard. I just kind of assumed you all knew,” Haylee says, cleaning up her stuff from the rock.
“What do you know about his mom? He told you?” I can’t believe he would tell this random girl something so personal.
“Of course he told me. I was his girlfriend, after all.”
Me and Maria exchange glances. “Wait, what? Girlfriend? Jude doesn’t have “girlfriends”. He has… well, you know how he is,” I say.
“Yeah, but we tried the whole dating thing for a while. It didn’t really work for either of us, but we did give it a shot. Turns out, neither of us are really big on commitment.” Haylee shrugs, as if it isn’t a big deal. It is a pretty big deal to us, though. He had an actual girlfriend! “Anyways, one time I asked him about the scars on his wrists and he said his mom did it. He didn’t really say anything else.”
“What, like, his mom tried to kill him?” Maria asks. “And he’s the one who ended up in a mental hospital? How does that work?”
I know exactly how that works. Toby does, too. We both know the gist of the story behind it, but I don’t think it’s something Jude wants the whole world to know.
“It’s really none of my business, so if you don’t want to tell me, then don’t,” Haylee says. “I just worry about him, and I think it would help him to talk about things with someone instead of holding it inside all the time.”
“I’m not going to talk about it with either of you, because it’s not my place to tell, and it’s not your business,” I snap.
“That’s why I asked him!” Maria snaps back. “It’s none of your business either, but I’m sure you asked him, didn’t you?”
Well, crap. She has a point. I did ask him. So did Toby. In my defense, I knew him for years before I asked him, and Toby asked him when he was super high and probably didn’t care that he asked him. “You could have been a lot more tactful, is all. But, yeah, you’re right. I did ask him, and it did upset him when I asked.”
We stand in awkward silence for a few minutes. “Can we go back to the car now? I’m tired, and I’m sure you guys are exhausted,” Haylee says. “You’re welcome to stay the night. I have a guest room and the couch opens into a bed.”
I can’t help but wonder what may have happened on the guest room bed as well as the couch, and it really makes me not want to stay the night. But I am exhausted, and my exhaustion is winning over my disgust. “That sounds great. Thank you for everything, Haylee.” Thanking her kind of makes me want to vomit, but I hold it back for the sake of being polite. She did help us out of a tough situation.
“No problem! I did it for Jude. Now were even.”
I doubt I will ever know why she owed him, but I also doubt that I’d want to know. I let my ability take over for a moment, so see what Haylee is feeling, but all I feel is the same extreme happiness that I’ve felt since we met her. Jude may trust her, but I don’t. Anyone who tries that hard to hide their emotions must be hiding something else as well. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I’d rather be paranoid than blindly trust her. Even Amy didn’t hide her emotions like this.
Back at the car, Jude and Toby are leaning against the trunk, talking. When they hear us, they stop abruptly. Toby turns around, putting on a false smile, while Jude just avoids looking at everyone.
“Wow, I am famished!” Haylee says cheerily. “We should go get some food!”
No one disagrees, so we pile into the car and drive to a nearby, shabby little restaurant. The inside is clean, and it smells amazing. An older, gray haired waitress walks up and wordlessly hands us menus, then stands with her hand on her hip, as if waiting for our order. We literally just got our menu’s and she expects us to already know what we want?
“I think we may need a few minutes, dear, but thank you!” Haylee says. Even if I can’t feel her real emotions, I can tell she’s annoyed with this lady’s rudeness. When she rolls her eyes and leaves, Haylee clicks her tongue. “The crap is her problem? No wonder their building looks so run down. They probably don’t make a lot of money with her working here.”
Jude snorts with laughter, which makes Maria giggle. Jude keeps laughing, laying his head into his arms to try to stifle his laughter. “I think you need sleep, dude,” Toby says, also laughing. When he finally stops laughing, the waitress comes back.
“You ready yet? Or are you gonna keep wasting my time?” she says grumpily.
“I think we’re ready now, sunshine,” Haylee says, inciting more muffled laughter from Jude. “Jude, you first!”
“Oh shit. Um…” Jude bites his lip, trying hard to not laugh. “I’ll just have whatever he’s having,” he says, pointing to Toby. He lays his face back into his arms, chuckling while the rest of us order.
“Whatever,” the lady mumbles as she waddles away with our menus. As soon as she’s out of sight, Toby smacks Jude playfully in the back of the head and they both crack up.
“Alright, enough. We’re gonna get kicked out,” I say.
“Yeah, Jude. Knock it off,” Toby says, putting on a serious face. He holds it for a few seconds, but his smile breaks through.
These two need to be separated. I can’t count the amount of times we have been kicked out of restaurants or bars because of them. Either from them fighting or just being obnoxious and over the top rude to people. I don’t blame them in this case, but still. They need to tone it down. Haylee is not helping by being blatantly sarcastic right to the woman’s face.
The waitress finally comes back with our food and drops the plates carelessly in front of us. “Enjoy,” she says monotonously.
“Thank you so much! You are such an angel!” Haylee yells after her as she leaves. “No tip for you, bitch.”
I dig into my food, suddenly realizing how hungry I am. We haven’t eaten for hours, and I have to force myself to slow down before I make myself sick.
“What’s your plan now?” Haylee asks.
“I am going to sleep for twenty hours, I don’t know about the rest of you,” Jude says, laying his head in his arms. Sleeping for twenty hours sounds like a wonderful plan to me, but that’s hardly realistic.
“I think we need to find something that can help us figure out what the heck is going on here. We’re at a loss here, with the lack of information. Amy didn’t have anything helpful to add, and we still have no idea why Jude saw Sarah dead in 1986, when she is clearly still alive and not 45 years old,” I say.
Haylee is looking at me funny. “The girl who died in the house was from 1986?” I nod. “I mean, that kind of makes sense. The locket is probably about that old, but the stone is much older.”
We all look at her expectantly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, the stone is probably at least a hundred years old. Someone has been collecting souls in it for that long. I’m guessing that whoever currently owns it is either part of some cult that passes it down through generations, or they are a very old and powerful spirit that has been doing this for a long time.”
“Can a spirit even remain aware for that long? I thought that a spirit would lose its mind after so many years,” Maria wonders.
“Theoretically, yes. There can be exceptions, though. If a spirit consumes another spirit, it can lengthen the amount of time that it stays aware. The very purpose of this stone is to absorb a spirit as soon as it’s released.”
I look over at Jude and see that he’s awake, and obviously thinking about what this all could mean. “Why did he say that he usually targets young girls? Why the preference if he’s just using them to lengthen his life span?”
“I couldn’t say for sure, but I am guessing it may have something to do with them being virgins. A virgin spirit is usually considered purer, which may mean more power. I’m totally just guessing, by the way. I’m no expert.”
Jude nods as though that makes sense. “Now were getting somewhere. I’m not really sure where, but it’s somewhere.”
Toby taps his fingers on the table thoughtfully. “Why does he behead them with a wire?”
“I can only attribute that to him being a sick fuck,” Haylee says. We all nod in agreement. “Anyways, we can talk about all this more tomorrow. We all need sleep.”
Back at Haylee’s apartment, me and Maria sleep in the guest room while Jude and Toby crash on the sofa bed. I fall asleep almost instantly. Amazingly, I don’t get woken up by anyone’s emotions, and I sleep through the entire night. I hope this is a new part of my abilities; being able to block out the emotions in my sleep. That would be amazing.
When I wake up, everyone else is still asleep. I climb out of bed, careful not to wake Maria, and tiptoe into the kitchen. Without the feeling of impending doom over my head, I can finally take a proper look at Haylee’s place. Not that I’m snooping. I don’t snoop. Not me. Nuh uh.
Okay. Maybe I’m snooping. I’m also looking for food while I snoop, though. If someone catches me, I have an alibi. I was just hungry, officer, that’s all! I open up one of the cupboards above the stove. Inside are jars and shakers full of all kinds of different spices and herbs, labeled and lined up in neat rows. So, she’s a neat freak.
The next cupboard holds plates, cups, and bowls, all the same light blue glazed color. I pull open another one and find the food. Cereal! Gross, all-natural cereal, but it’s still cereal. I grab one of the bowls and the least disgusting looking cereal. I pour a bowl and open the fridge to look for milk. My heart drops when I see that the only “milk” is Almond milk. Ew. Ugh. Disgusting. I grudgingly grab the “milk” and pour it on my bland, granola filled cereal, then search through the drawers for silverware. I get the impression that Haylee may be vegan. The only thing is that usually I know right away when someone is vegan, because they can’t stop talking about it. I guess Haylee is the exception.
I turn around to place my bowl on the counter and I spot Haylee’s phone. Glancing over at Jude and Toby to make sure they are still asleep, I press the home button on the phone. The screen lights up and I swipe it open. Incredibly, there is no password. I look around again, then open up her text messages. Nothing. Literally nothing. She must have erased them recently. I check the recent calls list, but it’s also empty. I check every app that may have messages, but everything has been cleared. Even her browser history is empty.
“Hazel, what are you doing?” I hear Jude hiss from the living room. He gets up and walks over, swiping the phone from my hands. “Find what you were looking for?” he says, glaring at me.
“I was just…” I lift my hands, not sure how to answer. “I saw it on the counter and…”
“Decided to invade Haylee’s privacy? I can see that. Why were you snooping?”
“Because she’s hiding something, I know she is! She’s somehow blocking her emotions, and she just seems suspicious, okay?”
“Because she doesn’t want a bunch of psychics to be able to see right through her? I don’t blame her! Especially now! I thought she was crazy to put a spell on her phone so that only she could see her personal info, but now I see that she was right!”
“There’s a spell on it? Is there a way to break it?”
Jude just stares at me, horrified. “Are you kidding me?!” he nearly yells, then covers his mouth quickly. “She’s not hiding anything that you have to worry about. She helped us, and this is how you repay her?”
“Why do you trust her so much? You didn’t trust Amy because she’s a witch, but you trust Haylee? How does that make sense?” I make a grab for the phone, but he holds it above his head, and he’s quite a bit taller than me.
“Uh, because I know Haylee? And I know that she doesn’t kill anything to power her spells! She doesn’t want anyone or anything to get hurt!” I climb onto a chair and try to grab the phone again, but he pulls it away again. “Stop! You aren’t gonna find any…” He grunts when I jump and land on top of him, pulling him to the ground. I almost have the phone, but he twists and pulls it underneath him.
“What in the world is going on in here?” Toby says. We stop struggling and look up at him. “Please explain to me what exactly I am interrupting here, because I’m a little concerned right now.” I blush as I realize that both me and Jude are barely even dressed, and I’m sprawled on top of him with my hand halfway under his bare chest. I jump up, straightening my pajama shorts and tank top. Oh my gosh, I’m not even wearing a bra! I cross my arms over my chest.
“Don’t flatter yourself. I barely felt them,” Jude says, climbing to his feet. “Calm down, lover boy. Nothing happened. She was being nosey and trying to get into Haylee’s phone, and I stopped her.”
I gape at him, still processing the first thing he said. Did he just say I had small boobs?! I do not! I mean, they aren’t huge, definitely not Haylee sized. Or Maria sized. But I’m a B cup! That’s at least something!
“Lover boy? I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean…” Toby says. We all know that he’s lying, especially because his face is beet red, but none of us has ever mentioned it. Particularly me, because I’m not exactly attracted to him. “I was going to offer you two the bed, since the kitchen floor seems like an uncomfortable place to go at it.” Now I’m blushing. The only one not blushing is Jude.
“Nah, it’s not too bad,” Jude says with a shrug and a grin.
I throw my hands in the air, mortified. “I don’t want to hear any more of this conversation!” I turn around and run right into Haylee, who is smiling like an idiot. I scream and practically jump backwards into Jude’s arms.
“You just can’t stay away from me, can you?” he says.
“This all seems very interesting,” Haylee laughs, then stops when she sees her phone in Jude’s hand. “Why do you have my phone?”
I’m sweating, wondering if Jude will tell her the truth. He seemed pretty upset that I didn’t trust her, so I half expect him to point at me and spill everything. But he doesn’t.
Jude looks down at it in surprise. “Is this your phone? I just saw it on the counter and was checking the time. I didn’t know whose it was. Here.” He hands it over casually.
Haylee takes it, turning it over as though she might be able to divine the truth from the phone itself. Who knows, maybe she can. Maybe it has some witch security feature on it that starts recording when someone touches the phone. Or maybe I’m just being paranoid, and Haylee isn’t even actually hiding anything.
“Well, since all you have is disgusting plant food, I’m gonna go find the nearest fast food place that sells animal carcass and eat there,” Jude says, grabbing his shirt from the living room and pulling it on.
“I don’t have small boobs!” I finally shout.
Jude raises an eyebrow and looks at my chest, then smiles. “You do, but hey, at least they’re boobs.”
“I will murder you,” I threaten. He just laughs as I chase him out the door.
Once he’s gone, I turn around. Maria is walking down the hallway, yawning, her hair sticking up crazily. “Why are you screaming about your boobs?” I throw my hands in the air and storm back to the guest room to change into a less revealing outfit.