Ashes to Ashes Page 9


I nearly laughed. Uncle Al clearly didn’t know Dex at all. “He just got out of a long-term relationship. He’s not thinking about that shit.”

“And are you?”

I stared at the wisps of steam coming off the mug of tea. Christ, I didn’t know what I was thinking half the time. I wasn’t about to tell him about my white picket fence idea, the conversation we had about doing something after EIT, about houses in Seaside, Boston, or wherever I said. I wasn’t going to tell him about the maternal instinct that started kicking about when I saw him being a fur baby daddy to Fat Rabbit.

“I…”I started. “I’m just playing it by ear.”

He shook his head slightly. “You’re in love, Perry. You’re head over heels. You’re playing it by heart, not ear. Like you always do.”

“Well what the hell do you want me to say? If I say I think about a future with him, you’ll get mad, and if I say I don’t, you’ll call me a liar.”

His eyes softened and reached out for my hand across the table. “Bella, please. I’m not mad. I just want to pull you out of it for just a moment, just so you can look at it from a different angle. There are so many things in life that make us happy in the short term. These cookies, for example,” he said, picking up the tray. “But in the long term, they can hurt you.”

“Maybe I’m tired of everyone always worrying about me getting hurt,” I said snidely, crossing my arms.

“Maybe we’re worried because you are always getting hurt,” he said, “and a person can only get hurt so many times before it really starts to ruin them.”

“Alberto, are you coming to bed?” Marda asked, appearing at the doorway in a silk night robe, a sleep mask smeared on her face.

“Just a minute, darling,” he said, flashing her his smile.

“No more cookies,” she said, wagging her finger at him. “You have to watch your heart.”

When she left, he looked at me and sighed. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m just looking out for you as I always do. Wasn’t I right about Seattle? About you going to stay with him and his girlfriend?”

I mumbled that he was. “But it doesn’t mean you’re right about this. I love Dex. I know him inside and out.”

“You know him as much as you can know someone for eight months,” he said. “Just don’t forget that. And don’t forget that most of that time, he was with someone else.” He eased himself out of the chair, leaving me with that extremely sobering thought.

He kissed me on the head goodnight and then shuffled off toward his room. I sat there at the table, drinking my hot tea until it was gone, apprehensive now about going to see Dex. I hated that my uncle—and by extension, my parents—were able to instill this doubt in me.

Had I really only known Dex, my Dex, my Declan Foray, for less than a year? The last two months of us living together, that was the only time we were actually together as a couple. Plus we started up hot on the heels of his last relationship, one that lasted three fucking years. No wonder my parents were so against the whole thing. No wonder my uncle was. Aside from the people who knew us best like Rebecca, Dean, and Ada, our relationship must look batshit crazy to the rest of the world.

Then again, what else was new?

I took in a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves, then placed the cup of tea in the sink. I wondered if Rebecca was up and ready for a chat, but the lights in the living room were out. I reluctantly made my way to the bathroom and then finally the guest bedroom.

I carefully slipped into bed, not knowing if Dex was asleep. I wanted to talk to him—I wanted to know what he talked to Uncle Al about and if it was anywhere near as brutal as it was for me. But I heard him snoring lightly, brought on by all the beers, and decided to leave it for another day. I turned my back to him, our asses touching each other but our upper bodies far apart.

CHAPTER FIVE

I was on a bluff, overlooking the sea. I didn’t know how I was there, but I was. The grass was cool beneath my feet, the wind sweeping off the blackened ocean was rich with salt and chilled.

I’d been here before. Was I dreaming?

I looked down at my body and saw I was barefoot and in a simple, plain nightgown. The déjà vu was back in full force all over again, transporting me back to September. But instead of being beside a lighthouse, there was nothing there except the burnt remains and a few pieces of foundation.

I had to be dreaming. I never owned a nightgown like that, and the only time I ever did was when I was caught in a nightmare. I half expected the shriveled face of Old Roddy to appear, to remind me that what happened here, what started it all, was only eight months ago.

But he never came. He never popped up. As far as I could tell, I was alone. It was just me and that dark, wide expanse of the Pacific, beckoning me like a gaping mouth.

I stared at the ocean, those obsidian waves that crashed at the shore below, wondering if this was all there was to it. Then, after some time, I knew it was all beginning.

A child’s giggle came from behind me and the punchy sound of a rubber ball being kicked. I turned around to see nothing but the lighthouse remains and the dewy grass that stretched back into the forest of thick trees. There was no child, there was no ball. But that didn’t mean anything.

Suddenly I heard quick footsteps behind me and the feeling of someone running past, brushing against my legs. Right before my eyes I saw a child form from thin air—a young girl—who ran after a ball. She squealed as she went, her attention devoted to getting the ball and nothing else.

At least it seemed that way until she reached it and kicked it off into the forest. The girl stopped, and in her brief stillness I could make out her fine features, her long dark hair and neatly tied bow at the back, her plain dress and shiny shoes. She was no doubt a ghost—her complexion was more than pale and there was a slight transparency about her, but I still couldn’t tell if I was really seeing her or if it was all in my head. My dreams had always been prophetic, but since the one that Pippa appeared in the other day, it was hard to tell if they were real or not.

No wonder my parents were so concerned about me losing my mind. It never really ended, did it?

The ghost dream girl cocked her head at me and I could see her eyes were nothing but black marbles, the soulless ones that ripped into you. “Can you go after my ball?” she asked, her accent untraceable but her words properly enunciated.

I swallowed thickly and shook my head. I’d been in that forest before, in real life, and it was terrifying as hell. Fuck that noise.

“But I need my ball,” the girl said, her tone becoming harder. I noticed her little hands tightening into fists as the rest of her became more solid and less see-through.

“I’m sorry,” I said meekly, my voice echoing. “I don’t want to go in there.”

The girl glared at me and flipped her hair over her shoulder before she started marching over. “You will go in there and get my ball.”

She stopped a few yards away, and it was only then that I noticed a large spot of blood forming on one side of her chest, spreading slowly like a blooming rose. “You’re not really here, are you? Not yet?”

I frowned, not sure what to say to that.

The girl took a neat step forward, her hands clasped at her middle. “Or are you? Are you here to play with us?”

Without warning, a large gust of wind blasted at my back, whipping my hair into my face. When I finally brushed it out of my eyes, I saw Pippa standing between me and the young girl. Just like in my dream before she was looking tired and pale, her thin body hidden by a coat. Her attention was entirely on the girl.

“You get away from here,” Pippa said to her. “You leave her alone. She is not yours.”

“But she can see me,” the girl said matter-of-factly, a devious twinkle in those cold black eyes.

“Go,” Pippa said, her voice louder and almost animalistic. The young girl stuck out her tongue but trotted after the ball, disappearing into thin air right before the trees. Pippa faced me with a weary expression.

“They keep finding you, don’t they?”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “Am I dreaming again? Is this real?”

“You are dreaming but it is real,” she said. “This is the safest way I can get to you. The Thin Veil is too risky.”

I gestured wildly to the forest. “Then who the hell was that little girl?”

She gave me a slight smile. “I am not the only one who can get to you this way. You know this. Your dreams have always been very powerful, Perry, always. You’ve seen and experienced things that eventually happened to you. Every day you’re alive and embracing who you are, you’re opening yourself more and more.”

“So what about what you said before…about having to watch out?”

“I don’t think you should be here, Perry.”

“Dreaming?”

“Doing the show. Not right now. It’s just a feeling I have…”

“I can’t keep going on your feelings. I have a life to live too, a living to make.”

She reached out and grabbed my hand. Hers felt so delicate, thin and cold. “I know. But you’re not in a good place right now. You’re the strongest when you are strong and right now you are weak. You’re succumbing to worry and insecurity.”

“That’s me, like ninety-nine percent of the time.”

“Darling, please. I wish I could offer you more than just a feeling but you have to take it to heart. Go home. Go back to Seattle. Go be with Dex and concentrate on your life there.”

“But the show is my life, at least for now. It’s just a few days of filming, we’ve done this a million times before. When this is done, we will go back to Seattle. After we stop by my parents first. I’ve apparently got a lot of explaining to do.”

Her eyes widened with intensity, her mouth becoming tight. “No. No, don’t do that.”

My heart started thudding around in my chest at her sudden change in tone. She was starting to freak me the fuck out. “No? What do you mean, no? It’s my mom. Your daughter. I haven’t seen her or my dad or Ada for months.”

She shook her head. “No. I don’t know why but I don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s...too much. It’s too easy. Everyone in the same place, all the eggs in one basket.”

Now she was starting to sound like Creepy Clown Lady. “You’re not making any sense.”

“I know I’m not making sense. But it’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s bad.”

“And the show, filming here, that’s not the problem anymore?”

She shook her head still, her thin curls flinging around. She started wringing her hands together. “No. It’s all wrong. You need to go back home.”

“Just tell me why!” I exclaimed, almost stamping my feet.

“I don’t know!” she yelled back. Her eyes dropped to the ground.

A light ticked on in my head. “Are you afraid of my mom and I making up?”

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