March 5, 2010

Artwork by April Slaughter

Find April on Facebook and at The Paranormal Source

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Elizabeth." Iona opened her eyes. Pale and thin.

Elizabeth gasped unintentionally.

"I look worse than I feel I promise."

"Iona, what has happened to you?" Elizabeth crossed to her in long strides. "What did the doctor say?"

"He said nothing."

"Nothing? Impossible. Did he not see you?"

"Elizabeth, you must listen to me."

"Iona, I am listening to you."

"No." Iona placed her frail, cold hand on Elizabeth's. "You must believe me."

"Iona, please, you're scaring me. What is it? You know I will believe you."

"The angel." Iona started.

"You believe he did this to you?"

"No. Elizabeth, please, you must help me. I know you do not believe, but please, please, you must just trust me."

What could she do? Her friend was dying. If she could save her by believing in her fantasy of an immortal guardian angel, she would do it. "I believe you, Iona, I believe."

"The angel did not do this to me. My mother called for him to save me but he has not come."

"Iona," she did not know what to say.

"Elizabeth, I fear for him. Something is wrong. I know it. You must help me find him." Silent tears filled her eyes.

Elizabeth nodded.

"We'll need the board." Iona said, calm.

Elizabeth retrieved the OuiJa board from its hiding place and placed it on Iona's lap. Her hands were shaking. She tried to work quickly, and also to calm herself. But it was of little use. Her hands were still shaking as she placed them gently on the edge of the planchette. Iona's hands were equally as unsteady.

"Please," Iona began. "Tell me what has happened to my angel"

The planchette lurched beneath their fingers. Elizabeth attributed it to the shaking of their hands. But then the planchette began to swirl in smooth elongated circles, stopping only briefly as it began to spell. "T - R - A - P - P - E - D."

"I knew it." Iona said. "Please, spirit, tell us where."

"W - H - I - T - A - C - K - E - R." The board spelled. "B - A - S - E - M - E - N - T." It finished.

"Elizabeth." Iona said. Her voice now as unstable as her hands. "Sh- Sheriff Whitacker."

They both feared Sheriff Whitacker. Everyone did. "Let's think about this, reasonably" Elizabeth offered. "Why would the sheriff have locked up an... angel?" Elizabeth made herself say the word.

"Elizabeth," Iona began. "Angel is our name for him. He's-" she shook her head. "He has watched over us and protected us for centuries. And now-" she turned her head toward the window, resigned.

"Iona." Elizabeth pleaded.

"I will be the last," she said calmly. "We will both be dead by morning."

"Iona stop." Elizabeth demanded. "How can you talk this way?"

"I can't tell you how much it means to me that you are here." Iona met her eyes. "I've always loved you Elizabeth. Thank you... thank you for being my friend." Iona wept.

Elizabeth could not believe how easily Iona could resign herself to death. It angered her, but what could she do? She took the OuiJa board from between them and placed it carefully on the floor, then slipped beneath the covers next to Iona, and pulled her close. Iona placed her head on Elizabeth's chest. Elizabeth kissed her forehead, and stroked her hair. "I love you too, Iona."

Iona's body trembled as she wept a stream of tears. Elizabeth held her tightly, soothing her. Eventually, her tears subsided and her body relaxed. She was sleeping. Elizabeth carefully extracted herself, careful not to wake Iona. She worked quickly to return the OuiJa board to its hiding place between the mattresses. It caught the edge of something, a wooden box, quite large for something to be wedged underneath a mattress. Elizabeth reached in to retrieve it and with some effort was eventually able to coax it free. The box had odd symbols covering it, she did not recognize, an ancient language perhaps. The box was locked. She searched for a key but found nothing. Not wanting to disturb Iona, she slid the box underneath the bed.

She had never really believed Iona's story of the angel. But what if there was some truth to it, any truth at all? Could she just stand by and let Iona die, because she did not believe? No. She knew that she must make every effort, no matter how absurd it sounded. It was the least she could do. She knew that she could never return Iona's love for her, but that did not change the fact that she loved Iona. She knew what she must do.

She quietly slipped out of Iona's bedroom. The sight of Iona's father sitting on the landing gave her a start. "Heavens!" she yelped. Instinctively her hands went up, one to her mouth the other to chest, still damp with Iona's tears, to keep her heart from lurching out of her chest.

He glared at her.

The gun at his side had not gone unnoticed. She was beginning to understand Iona's paranoia. Why on earth would Iona's father be sitting in the dark, armed, outside her bedroom?

"I didn't expect to see you there." Elizabeth tried to remain calm, as Iona's father stared back at her. "Iona is sleeping, finally, I hope I didn't wake her." Her words fell silently in the darkness between them.

"It's late." He said. "I told your father you'd be staying here tonight." His eyes motioned to the room across the hall.

"Oh." Elizabeth said, thinking quickly. "Yes. I was just coming to get a blanket." She crossed to the closet, and retrieved a quilt, her and Iona had made two summers ago. "I don't think I'll be able to sleep, but I'm going to curl up on the couch in Iona's room. In case she needs anything," she finished. She stopped with her hand on Iona's door. "Mr. Dearing," Elizabeth turned. "What is wrong with Iona?"

"Did she not tell you?" he sounded suspicious.

"Only that she thinks she is dying."

"She's told you of her so called angel." He spat.

This, she had not expected. Was her father confirming his existence? "Fairy tales." Elizabeth said softly, afraid to believe.

"You think so do you?" he grinned, leaning forward on his chair. "I suppose that's for the best."

"Did?" Elizabeth could barely think the words let alone speak them. "Did someone do this to Iona?"

"And the bastard dares to call himself an angel." He sneered.

Elizabeth shivered.

"You'll be safe here tonight," he stood, pulled his gun to his side and walked toward her. "Lyle and some of the others are taking care of it. This will all be over tomorrow." He said. "Iona doesn't look to make it through the night, but at least you'll be safe again."

Elizabeth shuddered at the certainty of his statement.

"You and Iona are so close, you're almost like having another daughter to me."

Elizabeth managed a brief thank you at his odd comment.

"I know Lyle's become rather fond of you as well," he added.

Lyle was a toad. And if Mr. Dearing was suggesting that there could ever by anything between herself and Lyle, he was bound to be disappointed. Her father tolerated the Dearing's, but had made it very clear on a number of occasions that their social class was beneath him, bordering on unacceptable association levels.

"I'm afraid the choice of man in my life isn't entirely up to me," Elizabeth offered. "Lyle would have to speak with my father about asking me out. Father's very particular," she explained.

Mr. Dearing chuckled softly and turned his back to her. "Trade's a trade." He said softly.

Elizabeth wrenched open the door and shut it quickly behind her, locking it. She heard Mr. Dearing chuckle again. She pushed the couch in front of the door and sat on the edge of it.



Chapter 10 - Trapped

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart