Nearly a week had passed and still there was no sign of Cecil. If it hadn’t been for Cynder coming to tell Gail that something was wrong, she might not have thought much of it, but after his long absence she was starting to realize how much she missed him. There was a dull pang in her chest and it was getting to the point where she couldn’t take it anymore.
“Cynder, I need to talk to you.”
Cynder stepped into Gail’s view when she was alone in her room and tilted his head to the side. “What is it?”
“You said something before about a demon chasing after Cecil, right? And that the same thing happened last time we were together when I was just a kid and that’s when he didn’t come back?”
Cynder frowned at her. “Yes, that’s right, but I already told you I don’t believe he’ll be leaving you for as long as he did last time.”
“How come?” she said, frowning. “How do you know the reason he left wasn’t to protect me from this demon? If it’s after him and he’s hanging around me so much, it could potentially harm me. It would make sense for him to stay far away from me in that case, wouldn’t it?”
Cynder let out a heavy sigh and rubbed his fingers over his temples. “Yes, that could be the case, and I had considered that.”
“Then how do you know he’s going to return if he’s staying away to protect me?”
“Because I know my brother,” Cynder said a bit sharply. “He has a tendency to get attached to his charges, especially when he reveals himself to them. Granted, he doesn’t do so often, but in special cases, like with you, there’s a deep bond there. He wouldn’t just run away like that without returning to you to tell you why.”
Gail stared at him for a moment before murmuring, “He did before, didn’t he?”
“You didn’t remember him after that, either,” he replied.
“That was years ago! I probably just don’t remember because of how long it was.”
“Or perhaps you didn’t remember the moment it happened and he didn’t return because he thought it would be better for you not to remember.”
She frowned and shook her head. “That couldn’t be it. He was hoping I would remember him when he found me again. If that had been the case, he’d know I wouldn’t remember… right?”
Cynder shrugged and shook his head. “I’m afraid I don’t have all the answers for you. I wasn’t there. I’m only relaying information I was given. I am confident my brother will return for you at some point soon. We just have to be patient.”
“Yeah, sure. You’d know a thing or two about that, wouldn’t you?” she huffed. Cynder ignored her sarcasm and disappeared, clearly finished with the conversation.
As much as she tried to ignore Cecil’s absence, Gail couldn’t take it much longer. She needed to talk to someone about it, someone who wasn’t Cynder. She couldn’t go to Haley with it, obviously, but then she remembered someone she could talk to about it.
One afternoon after class she went to the counselor’s office and knocked on the door. She heard Isaac’s voice from the other side call her in and she stepped inside. Isaac smiled at her as she entered and offered her a seat. “Ah, Gail, I was wondering when I would see you again. Are you doing alright?”
“Sort of, I think,” Gail said with a nod as she sat down. “Better than that first time I saw you, but there are things happening that I needed to talk about that I can’t really talk with anyone else about. So, here I am.”
“Here you are,” he said with a slight smirk. He sat back in his chair and pressed his hands together lightly. “Go on, then. Tell me what’s been bothering you, I’m all ears.”
Gail took in a deep breath and gathered her thoughts before speaking. “I have this… friend. We’ve gotten somewhat close, but something happened and I’m not entirely sure what, and now he’s gone. His brother came to tell me since he knows I know him. He asked me to tell him if my friend ever comes back. I’ve been trying to call him but he won’t ever answer. I’m worried about him and I don’t know what to do.”
“I see. Is your friend a student here at this school?” Isaac asked.
Gail shook her head and snorted faintly. “No. Uh, no, he’s not a student at all. His brother and I have tried to contact him every way we can think of, but we can’t get through to him and we don’t know what else to do. His brother is convinced he’ll come back at some point but I’m not so sure.”
“That is difficult,” Isaac said with a sigh. “I’m not sure what I can tell you, Gail. In situations like that there’s really nothing more you can do than hope and pray that your friend will turn up and that he’ll be safe. Try not to worry about it too much. If his brother thinks he’ll come back, then perhaps you should trust his judgment.”
Gail sighed and leaned back against the couch. “Yeah, I guess so. It’s kind of hard, though, you know? I miss him and I have no idea what’s going on. For all I know he could be dead in a ditch somewhere but his brother is convinced he’s still alive.”
“His brother probably knows best,” Isaac said with a slight smile. “And he’s probably going through a hard time as well. You should be there for him until you find out what happened.”
“I suppose so.” Gail let out a deep breath and gazed up at the ceiling for a time before turning her attention back to Isaac. “There is something else, completely unrelated.”
“Oh?” Isaac leaned back in his chair in a more relaxed position. “Please continue.”
“My friend Ivan,” Gail started in a rather stiff voice. “He’s, uh, recently confessed feelings for me. You know, like romantic feelings? But I don’t feel that way about him, or anyone else for that matter, but even though I told him that he’s still trying really hard to convince me otherwise and it’s getting on my nerves.” She huffed a little and looked away. “I told him he needed to stop but I’m not sure he’s going to.”
“What are you going to do if he doesn’t stop?” Isaac asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t feel comfortable being around him when he’s like that. If he doesn’t stop, I’ll probably just have to stop being around him. Stop being his friend. I don’t really want to do that, though.”
“Hmm.” Isaac nodded his head slowly. “Sometimes we have to do things that are hard or painful but it’s the best thing we can do in the situation. It will be hard on both of you but it will ultimately be for the best in the end.”
“I know. It’s just hard.” Gail sighed. “I’m going to wait a bit and give him a chance to see if he changes. I just… have a bad feeling that he isn’t going to and I’m only delaying the inevitable. I’m probably making this harder on both of us by doing that, aren’t I?”
“Perhaps,” Isaac said. “But perhaps the best thing to do is let it get to a point where he sees why what he’s doing is hurting you or making you uncomfortable so when you break off from him he’ll be slightly more understanding.”
“What, like get into a fight?” Gail asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No, no, not necessarily that. Merely that sometimes the only way people will understand the gravity of their actions is if it gets to an extreme point. That could lead to a fight, sure, but he would probably be less understanding if you broke it off without an obvious instigator.”
Gail sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know. This seems a little sketchy.”
“You can feel free to ignore my advice, of course,” Isaac said with a smile. “It’s ultimately your decision what you do. I do hope you can work out something with him. It’s never fun to lose a friend.”
“Yeah,” Gail said with a sigh. “I’ve lost a couple already…”
“Aren’t you going to wear a costume, Gail?” Haley asked as she looked Gail over.
“I am wearing a costume,” Gail said with a slight tone of sarcasm in her voice. “I’m going as an apathetic college student who doesn’t give a damn. I hear that costume is all the rage this year.”
Haley narrowed her eyes. “Ha, very funny. You should’ve come with me when I was getting my costume together.”
“I’m good, thanks. I’ve never been one for dressing up much anyway.” Gail looked Haley over and smiled a little. “You look great, though. What are you supposed to be?”
“Oh, nothing in particular,” Haley said as she spun around to let Gail see. She was wearing a long white dress that was torn slightly around the legs and had what appeared to be bloodstains on it. There also appeared to be bleeding bite marks on her neck. “Janae said she was going as a vampire, so this is what we came up with for our matching costumes. You like it?”
“A helpless victim?” Gail snorted. “You’ve always struck me as the type to want to go as the vampire, or maybe a vampire hunter.”
“Yeah, well things change when you meet a hot vampire of your own,” Haley said with a grin. “Come on, let’s go. I don’t want to be late.”
They drove to the campus together and headed for the dorm building where the party was going to be held. They walked to the lounge and found a large group of students all gathered around. Most of them were girls but there were a few boys mingling about as well.
Janae spotted them from across the room and made her way over to them with a grin. “Hey, glad you made it! Ah, there’s my little morsel.” She pulled Haley into a hug and grinned wider, and Gail noticed rather convincing looking fangs in her mouth. She was dressed like some sort of elegant vampire countess, wearing all black and looking properly creepy.
“How large is this party gonna be, anyway?” Gail asked once the two of them had stopped being sappy together. Janae hugged her arm around Haley’s neck and looked thoughtful for a moment.
“Oh, not too big. We’re going to be starting the first movie soon. It looks like everyone that we invited is here now. Hey, there’s plenty of food so help yourself. Pizza should be here soon, so I think we’ll start once it gets here.”
“Awesome, I can’t wait.” Gail smirked at them and started stepping away. “I’ll leave you two alone, now.”
“Bye, Gail,” Haley said with a grin as she leaned closer against Janae.
Gail rolled her eyes and wandered around the lounge to see if there was anyone else there she knew. She at least recognized most of the people lingering around. A couple of them were even from her classes, though most of them she wasn’t even acquainted with. One she was acquainted with quite well.
“Hey, Gail,” Ivan said with a huge grin. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Oh, hey. We just got here.”
“You’re not wearing a costume?” he asked, looking her over and seeming a little disappointed.
“You’re not either,” she said. “Unless that flannel is just a really casual lumberjack costume.”
Ivan laughed a little nervously then cleared his throat. “Uh, right, yeah. I’m not good at coming up with costumes, really.”
“Right. So, are you ready to watch some scary movies?”
“Uh, yeah, totally!”
“Hmm, because I thought you said one time that you didn’t like horror movies when Haley and I invited you to go see one with us in theaters.”
“Seeing a scary movie in theaters is different than watching one on a TV screen in a dorm lounge,” Ivan said with a slight sigh. Gail snorted and shook her head.
“Fair enough, I guess. Not quite as big of a screen, plus you can run out easily if you get too scared.” She smirked at him and Ivan looked mildly offended.
“I’m not going to get scared and run away, geez.”
“Just teasing you.” Gail turned and wandered through the lounge, looking for a seat to claim. She found a nice cozy couch in perfect sight of the TV and settled onto it.
It wasn’t long before the pizza arrived and they finally decided to start the movie. Fittingly enough, it was the original Halloween movie. Gail smiled a little and glanced over toward Ivan who had seated himself next to her. She was quite enjoying watching his reactions to the film.
As it was getting to the more intense parts, Ivan began to squirm and inch closer to Gail. At one point he leaned down and whispered to her, “You actually like these kinds of movies?”
“Yeah, they’re great,” Gail said with a smirk. Ivan let out an exasperated sigh and leaned away again and Gail was having a hard time keeping from laughing. This, she thought, was good enough payback for all the discomfort he had put her through.
Just as the movie was getting to its climax, Gail happened to turn her head and noticed someone standing in the doorway of the lounge staring directly at her. Her eyes grew wide with recognition. She stood up slowly and murmured to Ivan, “Sorry, I have to go to the bathroom, I’ll be back in a minute.”
She made her way to the door and stared at Cecil, hissing at him, “Where the hell have you been?”
Cecil grabbed her by the shoulder and began pushing her toward the exit. “Not here, let’s go outside to talk where there’s less people.”
Gail went with him, though she wasn’t finished fuming. As soon as they got outside and onto the lawn of the dorm building she turned around to glare at him. “Well, start talking.”
Cecil glanced around to make sure there wasn’t anyone else watching then he let out a heavy sigh. “Something happened and I’m really sorry. I never meant to leave like that, but at the time I didn’t know what else to do.” He shook his head and turned away from her. “I’m sorry I left without telling you.”
Gail sighed and nodded her head. “It’s fine. You’re back now, right?”
“Well, in a manner of speaking,” Cecil said, frowning slightly.
“What is that supposed to mean? Are you not staying?”
He sighed and shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest. “I don’t know right now. Things are complicated. I’m not sure what I should do.”
“Tell me what’s going on, then. Maybe I can help you.”
“No, no, I don’t think you can. This is angel business. I’m sorry.” He was shaking his head still and Gail frowned.
“Oh, that’s right. I ran into your brother. He’s been looking for you. Apparently you keep running away from him for some reason?”
Cecil went still, his eyes growing wide. “My… brother? Which one would that be, exactly?”
“Cynder,” Gail said. “Is there something going on between you two, or what?”
“Oh no,” Cecil breathed out. “Gail, did he hurt you at all? What did he say?”
“Hurt me? What are you talking about? No, he didn’t hurt me, he’s worried about you and wants to see you.”
“Gail, you don’t understand,” Cecil said, taking a step closer to her and gripping her by the shoulders. “You cannot trust my brother. He’s not like me. He’s a fallen angel, essentially a demon. This is really bad.”
Gail’s eyes grew wide. “What? A fallen angel? He said that a demon was chasing after you, though.”
“A demon is after me!” he snapped. “But now my brother is too?” He hissed something under his breath that Gail was entirely surprised to hear coming from his mouth. “I… I have to leave, I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t you dare!” She grabbed his wrist and squeezed it tightly. “You left before and didn’t come back even when I called you. You’re supposed to be my guardian, right?”
“You’ll only get hurt with me around,” he said, a pained expression on his face. “Gail, please, let me go.”
“But if what you’re saying is true, I could get hurt without you around! Don’t leave me again, please.” She tightened her grip on him, desperation in her eyes. Cecil’s expression softened a little.
The two of them both turned to see Cynder standing across the lawn. He began walking toward them and Cecil took a step back with Gail. “Don’t,” Cecil said, gritting his teeth. “Don’t you dare come near her, Cynder!”
“I’m not here for her, I’m here for you,” Cynder said. “Come along, brother, we have a lot to talk about.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you!” Cecil pulled away from Gail’s grasp and started running again.
“Cecil, no, come back!” She started to run after him, but the moment his wings appeared on his back she realized there was no way she could catch him. Cynder took off after him and in the blink of an eye both of them were gone.
Gail stood there on the lawn at a loss for what to do. At this point she didn’t feel like she could go back to the party, so she just stood and stared up into the dark sky.
“They’re both fools,” a voice whispered close to her ear. “They don’t know where their priorities should lie. Oh well. Makes my job easier, doesn’t it?”
Gail turned slowly, her heart beating faster. Something sharp dug into her shoulders and she let out a gasp. A pair of red eyes gazed directly into hers and the thing that had her grinned wickedly. It looked like a person, except for its eyes and it’s strange gray skin.
“Hey, remember this?” it hissed in her ear. “Halloween night, all those years ago. You saw me back then, too. You ran away screaming. It was just delightful. Why don’t you scream for me now?”
“What…?” Gail couldn’t move and she could barely breathe. All she could do was stare at that awful face. It hadn’t registered with her immediately, but she realized that this creature’s face resembled Cecil’s, but twisted and evil.
The demon sighed and shook his head. “Oh well, I guess you’re not much of a screamer now, are you? What a shame. Still, I can have some fun with you.”
He put a hand against Gail’s forehead and all of a sudden there was an intense white light that made her head pound agonizingly.
She started to fall; no, not fall, sink. She was sinking faster and faster into a dark, cold void. She couldn’t breathe. She opened her mouth to take a breath but water rushed into her lungs. She was drowning. She couldn’t cry out for help.
She was going to die and no one would help her.