The human touch of the older woman’s hand broke through the fog that had wrapped itself around Lilith’s mind.
This person was real and solid and alive, and she was saying things in a nice and caring tone. Lilith wanted her to talk more. Listening to her was like lying very still in a soft warm bed.
She seemed to be expecting an answer. Who was she? Lilith tried to remember, but the last thing she remembered was Mr. Sekemoto saying something about Bella Goth. This angel with the feather bed voice must be Bella Goth then. Hadn’t she just said that? Everything was so fuzzy and unreal and she wasn’t quite sure of anything, really.
“Welcome to my humble home, Lilith! You’ve met my daughter Cassandra, of course. She said you looked terrible when she met you at the door. I hope you had a good rest?”
Lilith stared over Bella’s shoulder, watching the fire in the fireplace. So pretty and warm and nice.
The flames rose and crackled and fell and called her name, inviting her with the promise of a warm oblivion.
The fog began to roll in.
“Are you all right? You can go lie down again if you need to. It’s just me and Cassandra rattling around this old house together and we don’t use half of the rooms anymore, so it’s no trouble. ”
The warm voice burned off the fog and Lilith dragged her eyes from the fire and tried to focus on the woman in front of her.
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“Are you sure? It was on the news about your colleague Shannon Ursine. I’m so sorry. And Cassandra said you were utterly exhausted and that you almost passed out before she got you upstairs.”
Lilith tried to smile. She needed to keep Bella talking, to keep the fog away.
“No, really, I’m fine. So Mr. Sekemoto tells me that you might be able to tell me more about Seth Morrigan. Shannon assigned me the story yesterday, before…before…Shannon…”
The edges of her vision began to go gray.
Silence descended on the room.
Lilith looked at the dead tree outside the window. It glowed with life borrowed from the dying sun.
She shivered. He was out there, waiting for her. Waiting to suck the life from her.
The fog inched forward, threatening to obliterate her.
She had to hear the angel voice again.
“I’m sorry, I thought Mr. Sekemoto told you that I needed to talk to you about a story. I didn’t mean to offend you or impose on you or anything. I can go.”
Inside she was screaming and begging and pleading to stay here, to listen to the voice, to stay somewhere within shouting distance of reality and sanity.
“Oh no, no, it’s fine. It’s just that…well, it’s been quite some time since I heard that name. No, dear, you’re fine. Sam didn’t say that’s what you wanted to talk about, but that’s fine. Just give me a second here.”
Inside her head, Lilith screamed that she didn’t have a second.
She remained cool and calm and polite on the outside. She was proud of herself for that.
“Oh, I understand. Take all the time you need. I’m sorry. He seemed nervous and sort of like he thought someone was listening, so maybe that’s why he didn’t tell you.”
“He sounded like someone was listening? And Shannon assigned you this story yesterday and then last night she…? Oh dear. Oh, you poor dear. No wonder you were in such bad shape. Well, I’ll tell you my story. Maybe it’ll help you. Let’s sit down.”
“It is a rather long story. Did you want anything to eat or drink before we get started? I think we’ve got some juice in the fridge.”
Lilith turned and walked over to the opposite couch and sat down, facing Bella and the window with the dead tree.
“No thank you. I’m fine.”
The sun had sunk below the horizon and the tree was now lit by the outdoor garden lights. Its branches waved in the wind like the arms of zombies, coming to eat Lilith’s brains.
She shivered as the fog played around the edges of her consciousness. But Bella had promised a long story. As she began to talk, Lilith grabbed the lifeline of her beautiful voice and held on to reality as tightly as she could.
“Forty years ago, long before you were born, I had a friend. Her name was Emma Morrigan. This is her story.”