Having washed my face, I stepped out of the bathroom, the sandals dangling in their straps from my fingers. Michael had moved from the living room to the kitchen area. He looked up from chopping veggies when I closed the door behind me.
I shook my head.
“Me neither. But I needed to do something normal.” He scoped up finely chopped bell pepper, onions and sliced mushrooms, and dumped them into a pan were some butter was already sizzling. “I’m making us omelets.”
“I’d offer to help but the last time I tried to cook something, I set fire to the kitchen.” My comment was rewarded with a small, crocked smile. Then he frowned, his eyes lingering on my face until I felt my cheeks grow hot.
“How old are you, Mary?”
“I thought we’ve already had this conversation.”
“We did, and you lied to me. I was thinking that maybe you’d like to start over and tell me the truth?” He met my gaze and I lowered my eyes, feeling like a butterfly pinned to my spot.
“Why do you care how old I am?” I mumbled.
“Because I just gave you two fingers of hard liquor for Christ’s sake!” Michael brought the knife down, cutting an innocent carrot in half. “You pass for twenty-one twenty-two with makeup, but without it you don’t look a day over fifteen.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake…” I shook my head at him, leaning into my hip. “You have bigger problems than if you’ve slipped some pricey booze to a minor or not. Or have you forgotten the hellhounds? Someone’s sicced them on you and they’ll keep coming until they get you! Don’t you get it? Someone powerful enough to command demons wants you dead!”
We stared at each other over the countertop. Michael took a deep breath and looked as if he was counting to ten. “Point”, he muttered. “But I still need to-”
“Did you not hear me!” I threw my hands in the air. “You’re fucking impossible! You need to focus on finding out who’s sending hounds after you instead of obsessing about my age. Why do you care if I’m underage or not?”
His reply knocked the wind out of me. “Because I keep dreaming about you!”
I blinked. “You… dream about me?” And then, because I couldn’t help myself, I asked: “What kind of dreams?”
“I’m not going to tell you until you prove you’re over eighteen.”
Oh. Those kind of dreams. I felt like a cat that’s been handed the key to the milk chamber. “O-okay…” I drew the word out. “Can I at least get some more whiskey? I promise to sip it this time.”
“No!” Michael glared at me from under lowered eyebrows.
I tilted my head to the side. “You’re cute when you’re angry.”
“If you don’t tell me how old you are, I’m going to treat you like the kid you look like”, he said, ignoring my comment. “So, no whiskey. You can have a coke or a glass of orange juice.”
“You’re no fun”, I pouted.
“And you’re aggravating.” He brought the knife down, chopping the hell out of the carrot, clearly taking out his frustration on the poor, innocent vegetable.
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, trying to make up my mind. “If I told you my age, you wouldn’t believe me.”
He stopped massacring carrots long enough to look up at me. “If I can handle demons existing, I think I can handle you.”
“Don’t be too sure”, I muttered under my breath. I inhaled slowly, feeling very nervous all of a sudden. I desperately wanted to tell Michael the truth, to have him know me, the real me… and not turn away. I realized with a start that he was watching me, waiting for me to talk. I took another deep breath and met his gaze. “I was seventeen when I died. That was 322 years ago. Now can I get another drink of whiskey?”
“Jesus…” Michael stared at me so intently, I had to struggle not to squirm under his gaze. “You’re telling the truth… H-how? What are you?”
I took a deep breath and blurted the words out. “I am Mary Worthy. I was born in Salem in 1676. I was seventeen when I was accused of being a witch and of consorting with the Devil, crimes punishable by death back then. I had seen what had happened to those who were innocently accused and convicted, and I wasn’t innocent, so I ran…” I closed my eyes, once again feeling the wet leaves under my bare feet, the smell of forest, damp soil and my own desperation. I could hear the distant thunder of horses coming closer and closer. The knife biting into my palm. The hot blood flowing, dropping down on the surface of my mother’s beautiful hand mirror. Hecate, make me a dagger in your hand… Aid me on this day of vengeance… “I was caught.” My voice had dropped to a whisper, but I didn’t even notice, caught as I was by the old memories.
“Reverend Parr tied my hands with rope and dragged me back to Salem behind his horse. My clothes turned to rags and my skin too. I lost consciousness… When I woke up again I was laying in a cell. I hurt so bad I couldn’t even breathe.”
“Jesus…” Michael mumbled, but I hardly heard him above the blood roaring in my ears as I conjured up those dark days, the last moments of my life.
“I knew what would happen to me”, I whispered. “I had seen the hungry gleam in the Reverend’s eyes. I knew he would rape me and call it interrogation. So, I escaped the only way I could. I slit my wrists and bled to death.” I wrapped my arms around myself, shuddering despite the heat. I managed to look up and meet Michael’s gaze. “I’m a suicide, which means my soul belongs to the Devil.”
“No.” Michael’s voice was adamant. “You don’t belong to the Devil, Mary. You’re not evil.”
“How do you know?” I was surprised to find that tears was making everything blurry and that my voice was thick with them. Michael had put the knife down and now he came towards me, taking my trembling hands in his.
“I can’t explain your existence”, he said softly. “I don’t know if you’re a ghost or something else. But I know you’re telling the truth, and I know that there is nothing evil in you. I would be able to sense it if there was.”
Oh, you’re so wrong about that. You’re so, so wrong, I thought. But when he pulled me into his arms I let him. I rested my head on his chest, struggling not to give in to the sobs as he held me.