Gone, But Not.
By: Stephanie J. Bardy
Reese was angry. She was furious with herself. How could she not have known her own power? How had she not recognized it in Adrian? Yes, it was perverted and twisted and so far from what it originally was, but she should have known. She should have felt that part of her, squatting in him like a toad. The revelation that he was the Phoenix was not what she wanted to hear. When she had cursed Aaron with that particular power, her only thought had been of him burning over and over for eternity. She had been enraged and vibrating with power that night and didn’t think beyond the immediate pain she was causing them.
She had been pacing the courtyard for hours. Table, pool, repeat. She was trying to figure out how he had managed to get the current abilities that he had. She didn’t remember him being able to speak mind to mind, or send an apparition, when they had been together.
The thought of the years she had spent loving him, believing in him, trusting him. The things she had allowed him to do to her, the things they had done together to others, caused her physical pain now. She had almost lost Marlon because of him.
“You will never lose me.”
The words whispered across her like a soft breeze. She could almost feel them touching her. She closed her eyes and Marlon’s scent assailed her senses. The sharp musk of his cologne, the smell of his skin when he had been in the sun too long, his own natural scent. It was so strong she could almost taste it. Her heart skipped a beat and that familiar warmth that was Marlon’s energy, began to uncoil from the place she had locked it. She tried to push it back and it grew stronger. She opened her eyes and paced faster.
“NO.” she said out loud. All her instincts screamed this was a trap.
“It’s not a trap love. I am still here.” Marlon said.
She spun around until she had looked at every corner of the courtyard. It was empty. She stood very still and let her other senses search. A block away she heard a window open, and the lines of a song drifted out.
Because I’m broken
When I’m lonesome
And I don’t feel right when your gone away.
You’ve gone away.
You don’t feel me here anymore.
Reese fell to her knees. She thought she had cried all she had in her. She thought she had released all the pain she had carried from not only that night, but from losing Marlon. She had not. The pain, the torment, spilled from her lips in a sound akin to that of a wounded animal. She beat the ground with her fists as she let it all pour out.
The pain of that night.
The betrayal. The physical pain. The rage at the power they had taken from her.
The disillusionment of Adrian. The power he had over her once and her willingness to let him have it.
The love she carried for Marlon but would never speak aloud. The guilt she carried for the innocent she ripped from this world.
The loss of the only man who taught her what love truly was.
It all came out. It poured out of her mouth, with each scream and it seeped into the ground in the blood that ran from her fists as she pounded them on the stone.
Marlon’s scent faded. She tried to hang onto it but the more she reached, the farther it got.
Then the laughter came. Soft, vicious, and full of power. It echoed through her head, it pounded on her body, and it bounced off the walls of the courtyard.
She immediately fell silent and sat very still, waiting. Adrian liked an entrance, and this was it. He was coming. She could now feel his power moving towards her.
Tiana had heard Reese’s screams from inside and had ran to the kitchen window. She had learned that you didn’t just run up on Reese when she was like this. That was more than just a mistake. It was a death sentence. Luckily, Jayden was immortal, so he had survived, but she wouldn’t.
“Reese?” she called from the window. She had watched the grief and had also seen it stop suddenly. She could feel an electricity to the air, but not much more. The more time she spent with Reese, the more human she became. Ash and Cynthiana didn’t seem to be affected and Jayden and Jordan’s curse’s were physical ones. Hers were metaphysical. It was like Reese was absorbing that part of herself back. A thought struck her, but watching Reese now, she knew she would have to talk to her about it later. Reese was anything but rational.
“Reese?” she said again, a little louder. Reese waved a hand at her hushing her. Then Tiana felt it. That crackle, that niggle in the base of your spine. That pit of fear.
She turned to look behind her. He couldn’t enter the house, she knew that, but she had to make sure he wasn’t standing there. Waiting to kill her.
When she turned back, he was standing in front of Reese. She was still on her knees, and she now appeared to be bleeding. Blood dripped from her face.
“I said look at me!” Adrian snarled. Still Reese sat. motionless, looking at the ground in front of her. She could feel his pull. She knew if she looked him directly in the eyes, she would be momentarily lost to him and that would be all the time he needed. As of now, she honestly didn’t know if he could kill her or not. He had made her do things she never thought possible, he could do things she never imagined anyone else doing.
He was the male version of her. He didn’t have all her abilities, but he had honed the ones he did have razor sharp.
He pushed that energy at her, and she rose off the ground. She closed her eyes and focused her mind on anything she could. Marlon was the first thing that came to her.
Adrian screamed in rage. The windows of the house shook. Tiana and the others in the house had now come into the courtyard.
Jayden stepped forward and looked directly at Adrian. He was the only one who could. “What do you want?” he demanded. He had learned that if you showed Adrian weakness, he would exploit it, pull at it like a thread until you unravelled.
“I want her.” He said. He flicked his eyes, and Reese flew 15 feet and slammed into the wall. A blood smear appeared on the brick as she fell to the ground. Tiana and Cynthiana raced to her. She was pulling herself up. The women thought Reese was hurt, but when they saw her face, her eyes, they are back away. Cynthiana hid a grin.
Reese’s eyes had been pure fire. They had also been the color of Marlon’s.
“Use me love.” He had whispered to her when she had been on her knees. What Adrian had taken as submission and inability to fight back, was really Reese drawing the metaphysical energy that was now Marlon. She had pulled it into herself and woven into her own power. He was a part of her, more than he had been when he had drawn breath.
She rose slowly. Building the power, letting it rise and fall like a wave. With each breath it pushed farther out from her. The intensity in the courtyard grew and those who were human had to leave. Jayden and Jordan shared a look and began to back away from Adrian.
Adrian looked at the motley crew for a moment. He watched Ash and the women retreat into the house, he watched the vampire and the wolf back away to the far corner. Then his eyes came to rest on Reese. Her back was to him, and she seemed to be inhaling and exhaling slowly, but deeply. He pushed his power at her, and it was shoved right back at him. Then his nose was filled with the scent of a man, a very masculine, angry man.
“Well, well, well.” He laughed. “Had to hang onto to what you could love?” he sneered at her. “You have become pathetic. It will be a service to kill you. Put you down like a lame horse.”
A large cut appeared on Adrian’s right cheek. The blood poured down his neck and soaked into the collar of his white shirt. His hand flew up and touched it. Almost immediately it healed over.
Another slash appeared across his chest ripping the shirt open and baring the muscle under the skin. Blood again poured down him. Again, it healed almost immediately.
“You think these little displays will hurt me?” he asked laughter bouncing between each word. Reese finally turned to look at him.
Her eyes burned with power. Her skin glowed almost translucent, and she hovered just a few inches off the ground. A breeze had appeared and moved her hair about her, giving her an ethereal look.
The laugher died in Adrian and caution crept into his face. More cuts and slashes appeared on his body and a pool of blood began to form at his feet. He healed them as fast as she inflicted them, but it took his concentration away from what he was projecting. He had to pull his power in to heal the wounds before he bled out.
“Oh no my darling. I know they won’t hurt you.” She said as she slowly moved towards him. Her eyes never left his. She reached out one hand and squeezed her fist closed tight. Adrian’s hands flew to his throat. Reese pulled her hand back rapidly and Adrian’s throat exploded into a torn mess of flesh and bone. He gurgled and sputtered as he healed the damage.
“None of this will be enough to kill you. Not permanently.” She smiled at him. She now stood before him and gently traced her fingers across his cheek, opening a wound so deep you could see his teeth. “But it is enough to distract you.”
Before Adrian could speak or turn, Jayden pulled his head from his body and Jordan plunged his fist into his back and pulled his heart out. It beat for a moment and then stopped. Adrian’s eyes registered shock a second before his body fell to the ground. Everyone jumped into action.
They only had minutes before the body burst into flames and Adrian rose from the ashes. It was the ashes they wanted.
Each were armed. Whisk, broom, Tiana even had an old dust buster. They were going to collect the ash and keep it in separate jars until they could figure out a way to eliminate him permanently. They figured if they kept the ashes separated it would be harder for Adrian to resurrect. Jayden and Jordan would take a jar each and return to Pittsburgh, Ash and Cynthiana would take a jar and head farther south, and Tiana and Reese would keep the remaining jars here. They would keep in touch via email and text, never speaking out loud and certainly not in the presence of the ashes. They didn’t know if Adrian still had some sort of consciousness and could hear them.
When the flames died down the group went to work. Jayden and Jordan left right away, Ash and Cynthiana left after dinner.
When it as only Tiana and Reese left, they went into the cold cellar. Tiana buried her jar in the Eastern corner, and Reese put hers into the brick and cemented it in.
They returned to the kitchen and Tiana put the kettle on. Tea was something her and Reese both enjoyed and had bonded over.
“Ok, now that the house is empty, talk. Tell me what happened before Adrian arrived.” Tiana sat down and looked at Reese.
Reese sighed. “Marlon seems to be lingering.” She said. “I had thought I had felt him just after he died, but I brushed it off as wishful thinking. Today he came back in force. Again, I tried to brush it off as a trick this time, but it was him,” As she spoke his scent filled the kitchen and Tiana gasped.
“Wow, he really doesn’t want to go does he?” she asked jokingly.
“No, I don’t.” was his response.
Reese gave a ‘see I told you’ look to Tiana.
“Well.” She said. “It’s not like we have enough to deal with, now we have to figure out what we are going to do with him. He can’t stay a ghost. They tend to get grumpy. We either have to put him back in his body or make him cross.”
Reese looked at Tiana confused. “Put him back? Is that even possible?”
Tiana nodded. “Yes, if the body is still in good condition.”
Reese pulled out her phone. She punched some numbers, and, in a few seconds, there was a voice on the other end of the phone.
“Ash, where is he?” Tiana couldn’t make out Ash’s reply, but it didn’t sit well with Reese.
“I know what I said, but your mother just gave me information I didn’t have when I made you promise.” She shoved the phone at Tiana. “You explain it to him.”
Tiana told Ash what she had told Reese. “Are you sure?” she asked after a few moments. “Ok, I’ll tell her.” She hung up the phone and Reese all but pounced on her.
“He is in perfect condition. Like otherworldly perfect. Ash said he looks like he is sleeping. That isn’t normal. Something is keeping his body preserved. We need to think about this Reese. What if Adrian has already tampered with Marlon’s body?”
Reese shook her head. “He couldn’t have. Even if he did, we will deal with that when the time comes. I want him back. I need him back. Tiana please. We have to put him back.” Her voice wavered slightly with the desperation she felt.
“Easy love.” Marlon said. “I don’t feel Adrian’s power around me, or my body, but we need to be rational about this.”
Reese opened her mouth to speak, and Marlon silenced her. “I want to come back as badly as you want me back. You and I have some unfinished business.” He said softly. “There are things I want to tell you, face to face. Things I want to hear again, in person. But I won’t risk your life, or anyone else’s. It doesn’t seem like I am going anywhere, as long as my body stays in decent shape, we have time. This way I can get information for you that I can’t in a physical body.”
Tiana pointed out that he was right. He could eavesdrop easier than they could. Reese glared at her but realized that they were both right.
“Don’t you leave me again. You hear me, Marlon? You stay with me, until I can put you back in your body.”
Marlon’s laughter filled the kitchen. “I promise.”
“Pinky?” Reese asked.
“If I had them, yes. Pinky promise.”