“Gail, Gail, wake up!”
Gail’s eyes slowly opened and Haley’s face came into focus. Haley was kneeling over her and there were several others crowded around her, all looking worried. Gail slowly sat up and pressed a hand to her head, wincing a little.
“Haley? What’s going on? What happened?”
“That’s what I was going to ask you,” Haley said, barely containing herself. “We found you passed out on the lawn here. What happened? Did someone-?”
Gail shook her head as she tried to remember what happened. She had been with Cecil and then Cynder came and they both ran off, and then…
“No, I don’t know. I came out here to get some fresh air. I wasn’t feeling well. I guess I passed out.”
Haley frowned at her. “People don’t just pass out without a reason, you know. You’ve never had that problem before. Are you sure nothing happened? Like, I don’t know… what if someone slipped something into your drink?”
“Nothing like that happened,” Gail grumbled. “I just…” She glanced around at the crowd around her and murmured to Haley, “Could you maybe get them out of here?”
Haley nodded and stood up, turning to the group gathered around them. “She’s fine, I can take it from here. She just needs some space, so please go.”
The students gathered around all started leaving, glancing at Gail before disappearing back into the dorm building. Haley helped Gail to her feet and although Gail was unsteady at first, she leaned against Haley and was able to stay balanced.
Janae and Ivan, who had been in the group, didn’t leave with the others. Ivan looked like he was having a hard time holding back from going to Gail and hugging her or screaming about what could have happened. Janae held a hand out to them. “Hey, are you going to be alright?”
“I will be,” Gail said quietly. “I’m sorry, though, I think I should go home. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for me to stay any longer.”
“I agree,” Haley said with a huff. “I’m taking you back right away. Sorry, Janae.”
“No, it’s fine,” Janae said. “You go, I’ll talk to you later, Haley.”
Haley nodded and started walking with Gail toward the parking lot. Ivan ran after them, reaching a hand out to stop them. “Gail, wait! Are you sure there wasn’t anyone who did this to you? If you remember anyone, tell me so I can-”
“No one did this to me, I swear!” Gail shot back. “I’m going home now, Ivan. Bye.”
They left Ivan behind as the two of them got into the car and drove off. Gail leaned back in the passenger seat and sighed heavily, peering out the window as they went. After a long silent moment, Haley said quietly, “You’re sure?”
“I am,” Gail said.
“Alright then, I believe you.”
No one that you could go after, anyway, Gail thought as they drove back to the apartment.
When they got back, Gail started to her room, but Haley reached out and grabbed her wrist to stop her. “Wait, just tell me something. You said you weren’t feeling good and you went out to get some fresh air, right?”
“Yeah,” Gail said with a nod. “I just… the party was starting to make me feel a little claustrophobic, I guess. I don’t know. You know how that can happen sometimes, right?”
“I guess.” Haley frowned at her. “You didn’t have another panic attack, did you?”
“No, not really.” Gail crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t know what happened, I told you everything I could. I’m fine now, honest.”
Haley sighed deeply and it was clear she didn’t want to end the conversation, but she didn’t push the issue any further. “Alright, well… you should get some sleep. Maybe that will make you feel better.”
“Yeah, I plan on it,” Gail said with a nod. “If you want, you can go back to the party. I’ll be okay here by myself.”
“No, I’ll stay,” Haley said with a shake of her head. “I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself anyway since I’d be worrying about you.”
“Alright, if you say so. Goodnight, Haley.” Gail went into her room and closed the door behind her. She sighed deeply and slowly settled down on her bed, hugging the pillow close against her. She laid there for awhile, not bothering to close her eyes. All she could do was run through what happened in her mind.
That thing with the claws and the red eyes. That must have been the demon Cynder had told her about that was going after Cecil. If anything, she was lucky to be alive at all after encountering a demon.
And then there was Cynder. Cecil said he was a fallen angel no better than a demon himself. If that was true, how could she trust anything he said? No wonder Cecil was running away from him. Nothing was adding up in her mind, though. She frowned and buried her face into her pillow.
“Cynder, you’d better give me some answers when you get back. Cecil, you too. Both of you, get back here and tell me what the hell is going on, right now!”
She waited in silence for a time. When neither of them appeared, she let out a shaky breath and sunk further into her mattress.
“Fine, but you’d better come back soon. You’re both lousy guardians, you know that? Running away like that and leaving me to be attacked by a demon?” Unless that was Cynder’s plan all along, she thought rather bitterly.
At some point Gail must have fallen asleep, because the next moment she realized she was waking up and it was already morning. She peered around the room a little groggily and slowly ran her hand over her face. She didn’t feel like going to class today after what happened.
As she sat up and glanced around the room, she suddenly saw Cynder standing in the corner, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. He peered at her and frowned a little. “I couldn’t catch up with my brother.”
“Oh, really,” Gail muttered. “You know, he told me something interesting before he ran off. He said that you were a fallen angel, that you were practically a demon yourself.”
Cynder stiffened for a moment then sighed and pressed a hand to his forehead. “Yes, I thought he must have told you that from the way you were both looking at me. In which case that explains why he’s been running from me. I suppose it was foolish of me to think otherwise.”
“Are you a fallen angel, then?” Gail asked, frowning at him.
He drew in a breath and took a step toward her. “I have some explaining to do, and in retrospect I should have done it from the start. I was just… unwilling to reveal everything I needed to, and for that I apologize.”
“You’d better apologize,” Gail growled. “After you two ran off, what I can only assume to be that demon you told me about attacked me.”
Cynder’s eyes grew wide and he took another step toward her. “The demon came after you? Are you injured?”
“No, I’m fine. I just passed out, I guess.” She put a hand to her head and frowned. “Although before that, I thought I was drowning. I thought I was gonna die. Then I blacked out and the next thing I knew Haley was waking me up on the lawn.”
He narrowed his eyes and slowly walked over to her, holding a hand out. “Please, if I may, I want to make sure you’re uninjured. Demons can leave marks that human doctors would never be able to see.”
Gail held her hands up and leaned away from him, frowning. “We haven’t settled that issue about whether or not you’re what you say you are. Are you a fallen angel or not?”
Cynder grit his teeth and hung his head. “I am not, at least not anymore. I was at one point but I’ve changed. Cecil is not aware of this, though. I suppose I have been foolish to run after him as I have. This is another reason why I need you to help me convince him otherwise.”
“And you didn’t tell me this sooner because…?” Gail frowned at him, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I did not feel inclined to give such personal information to a human,” Cynder said a bit gruffly. “However, I realize now that I should have. Again, I apologize, it was an error in judgment. I assure you, though, I have no ill intentions toward you or my brother. I only want to help him.”
Gail stared at him for a long moment before saying, “Can you prove to me that you’re not fallen? That you are what you say you are?”
Cynder sighed a little. “I am a healer now. Fallen angels are unable to heal others. Please, allow me to make sure that demon didn’t harm you.”
She hesitated for a moment, then sighed and turned her face away. “Alright, fine, I’ll believe you at least for now.”
He nodded his head and carefully reached his hands out to her. “This shouldn’t take long and you won’t feel much of anything unless I actually find something to heal.”
Gail flinched back a little as he laid his hand on her forehead. His touch was light and she soon felt a strange warming sensation wash over her body, leaving behind a faint tingling. In just a few moments he withdrew his hand once more and nodded his head.
“There were a few minor scratches and bruising on your head, but you’re fine. I’m surprised you weren’t hurt further. Demons are ruthless but this one does seem more interested in my brother.”
Gail let out a deep breath and looked up at him. “Alright, so you want me to try to tell Cecil that you’ve changed, is that it? Help bring him around so he’ll listen to what you have to say?”
“Yes,” Cynder said with a nod as he stepped away from her. “He won’t even give me a chance to speak or explain myself. If he did, then perhaps he would listen.”
“And what about this demon?” she asked. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Destroy it,” Cynder said. “But I can’t do that until Cecil listens to what I have to say. It’s… feeding off him, in a way.”
Gail’s eyes widened. “Feeding off him? What do you mean?”
“This demon has been following him for quite some time and he’s done nothing but run away. He needs to face it. We can’t kill it until he faces what it’s been doing to him.”
“Why? Wouldn’t it be easier for him to come to his senses if that demon were gone? If it’s doing something to him, maybe he’s just not able to fight back and that’s why he’s running away instead.”
“Well I certainly can’t kill it on my own. I’m going to need his help if we’re going to kill it and I clearly can’t do that until he’s come to his senses, can I?” Cynder stared at Gail in a rather challenging way. Gail sighed heavily.
“So what, you don’t have any other angels you could call on for help in destroying it?”
“Not at the moment, no,” Cynder said rather dismissively. “I need Cecil. I need him to listen to me and once he does we can destroy it together, and then perhaps he’ll be able to move on.”
Gail stared at him, not quite buying what he was saying, but she was in no position to argue with him either. “Fine, but we’ve still got a problem. Cecil ran away and we don’t know when he’ll be back. Hell, I’d be surprised if he did come back anytime soon since you practically ambushed him. What if he thinks you’re just going to go after him again?”
“I won’t,” Cynder said. “Not until you get a chance to explain things to him. He needs to accept my help on his own, I see that now. I can’t force him to see me so I need you to convince him.”
“If he comes back,” Gail said. “At this point I feel like that’s kind of a big if.”
“He returned once, did he not?” Cynder said. “I believe he will return again, especially since…” His face twisted a little as he mumbled, “That demon showed up when he wasn’t around.”
“I still don’t know if that’s enough to convince him,” Gail said, shaking her head.
“He’s supposed to be your guardian, isn’t he? He’ll come back.”
She groaned a little and pressed her face into her hand. “Fine. I’ll take your word for it. What am I supposed to do in the mean time, then?”
“Go on about your life,” Cynder said. “What I said before still stands. I’ll watch over you until Cecil returns, especially since that demon may come back to harm you. If it does, I’ll keep you safe.”
“Didn’t you say that last time?” Gail shook her head and stood up. “Yeah, I’ll try to think of a way to talk to him whenever he decides to come back. Just don’t screw things up again, alright?”
Cynder narrowed his eyes then muttered, “Fair enough.” He disappeared without a trace, leaving Gail alone to get ready for the day ahead of her.
Gail glanced at her clock and frowned. “Yeah, I’d be late anyway. I’ll skip and go see Isaac.” She sent a quick message to her professor to let him know she would be absent then started getting dressed.
At this point, she decided, she couldn’t keep all of this angel stuff a secret anymore. She had to tell someone about it, and it couldn’t be in vague metaphors either. She had to tell him everything. She only hoped he would believe her and not think she was crazy.