“No,” he murmured calmly. “You don’t understand.”
Daylight squeezed through the murky panes, grey and dismal with the low hang of morning mist. She sat, motionless, in the chair. No words crossed her breath. He pursed his lips, hands deep in his pockets.
“This is why I didn’t want to do it. This is why I told you we shouldn’t play this stupid game.”
The board lay scattered by her feet. Scraps of paper had fluttered down around her ankles hours ago and there they remained, tumbled letters inscribed on their faces. Nobody bent to pick them up.
He wrung his hands together, turning his back on her and staring with red-rimmed eyes out of the grotty windows. There was something about this game that teens always liked. It was good for the thrill. But it didn’t thrill him.
He didn’t deal in the dead.
The tumbler had fallen to the ground. There had been an ear splitting crack as the glass shredded on one side, but the vessel had rolled away intact. He could see it now. Cushioned against the wall, a spider had crawled in it to make its home.
He shuddered. Her gaze was still on him, staring with glassy-eyed intent. He wanted to turn and smack her across the face.
“It was all your own fault…” The tones of his voice shattered and jarred. “I told you I didn’t want to. I told you that it would all go wrong. Why didn’t you listen?”
He heard her voice and shook his head. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t tried, but they’d all thought he was joking. She’d thought it more than anyone. If only he hadn’t wanted to please her. He should never have stayed for that dreaded game. There had been only one way it could end.
“You wouldn’t have believed me. If I’d said it. If I’d told you the whole truth you’d have said I was lying or schizophrenic.” He sobbed into his hands, tears streaming between tightly squeezed lashes. “You’d have said I was making it up.”
He shouldn’t have concentrated on her. He’d thought it would help and that it would make him stronger, but his love for her had only made him weaker. He’d had even less control than usual, unable to keep the spirits out of his head. It was like they’d infected him.
And then that first word had come through on the board. It had played out her name and then his and he had known. He’d known then exactly what would happen. If only he’d listened to the warnings that everyone else had given him.
These were not godlike powers, they told him. These were dark and dangerous. But he had never learned to control them, frightened of what he might become. And yet, now, he was what he’d always feared.
He moved closer to the window, peering through the pane with bloodshot eyes, fingertips pressed against the glass. His breath condensed. They’d all run away and left him with her. Staring. And the stare had lasted so long.
Finally she answered, her soul shimmering into place where her stone body sat still, “I believe you now.”
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