The second she stepped inside and closed the door I felt it. I closed my eyes and let my senses take over. Slowly opening them I scanned the backyard until my eyes landed on the source of Pagan’s dreams. I’d seen this spirit before. The mocking cold gleam in his eyes stared back at me, while he pulled out not one but two cigarettes that hung from his mouth.
“What do you want with Pagan?” I demanded, holding it in place with my glare. The spirit lord might be able to manipulate humans and their lives but it had no power over me. I held all the keys. Without me the voodoo spirit lord of the dead would be nothing. His powers came from those who believed in him. It ended at my hands.
“She belongs to me.” The arrogant spirit kept his focus on me. I could see the caution in his black eyes. He knew he was outranked.
“No. She doesn’t.”
The spirit lord moved backward. His movement was more of a slither than a walk as he put distance between us. The growl in my chest met my ears and I understood his sudden need for space.
“De gurl is marked as a restitution. Her mama made de deal. She know de cos.”
What? Unwilling to tear my eyes from the spirit lord and check to see if Pagan was watching us from her window, I negated the attempt at putting distance between us and glowered coldly into the eyes of what could only be considered a demon to humans. The worship and belief of those who practiced Voodoo was the place he drew his only power. Without them, he wouldn’t exist.
“Pagan Moore is mine. Leave her alone. You’ve never crossed me before but I can assure you that a voodoo spirit lord is no match for me. You know this.”
The rattle in the voodoo spirit lord’s composure was evident. He backed up. “But de restitution mus be made.”
“NOT with Pagan it doesn’t. Whatever deal you had with her mother is with her mother. Pagan had nothing to do with this.”
“You’d of never known her if I hadn’t healed her. You’d of taken her soul whilt she lay curled up dying as a child. It’s me who don lak to see chilren die. You don care who you take. She’s alive because of me. She’s meant for me purpose. I saved her for me son. He’s watched over her all dese years.”
Shaking with rage, I controlled my need to cause destruction. If I attempted to annihilate a voodoo spirit lord in Pagan’s backyard it would bring all of Hell with it. This was to be a safe place for her. Not a place of nightmares.
“Leave her or deal with me.”
“De gurl wilt have to choose or ahm taking my payment in udder forms. I got de right,” he hissed.
“Fine! Let her choose,” I roared.
Then he was gone and I stood alone.
What in the name of all the deities had Pagan’s mother done?
“So lover boy’s on tour,” Wyatt, Miranda’s boyfriend and my childhood friend, announced as he st his tray down on the table in front of me. I picked up the roll because it was the only thing on the tray I actually recognized and pinched off a piece before peering up at him.
“Yeah,” was my only response before popping the chunk of bread into my mouth.
“Don’t talk about it. She’s all depressed,” Miranda scolded, slapping at his arm.
Wyatt continued to watch me which was slightly unnerving.
“What?” I asked, meeting his stare.
He shrugged, “Nothing, I was just thinking about something and I was going to ask you about it and well.. I forgot.” He shook his head as if to clear it and grabbed his bottle of water.
Leif. He’d been thinking about Leif. Slowly Leif was fading from everyone’s memory. Everyone but mine of course. Why was that?
“Wyatt, do you remember the tree house you built and wouldn’t let girls into?”
Wyatt lifted his gaze from his food and grinned at me, “Yeah and you were so freaking mad. I think I hung that sign just to piss you off.”
I was sure he did. Wyatt had lived to make me mad. We had a huge boy versus girl battle going back then. Miranda was happy to play with her Bratz dolls which just gave him more ammunition. Miranda made me look bad. Dolls made the boys think we were weak and I was so not weak.
“Do you remember the tree in my backyard you climbed and said I couldn’t?”
Wyatt frowned a minute and then a grin broke across his face, “YES and you did climb it one day by yourself and fell down but a kid helped you or something. I don’t know. I didn’t believe your story then and I don’t believe it now. It was a little far fetched,” he continued to go on and on about how fast he could climb that tree and his obvious prowess where it was concerned but my mind was on other things.
The boy had been real. That dream was a memory. Why had I forgotten it?
“You gonna eat that?” Wyatt’s question broke into my thoughts and I pushed my tray toward him. I wasn’t sure what “that” he was referring to but all the “thats” on my plate weren’t going anywhere near my mouth.
“Sweet. Thanks,” he grabbed the tray and pulled it in front of him.
Miranda shivered as she stared down at it. That had been my thought exactly.
“So Pagan, when are we going to get to double with you and Dank?”
“Um... I don’t know. I didn’t know you wanted to.”
Miranda cocked her head to one side and gave me an incredulous look, “Of course we want to. You’ve been the one holding out.”
No. Wyatt was friends with Leif. Wyatt hadn’t been crazy about Dank and me. He felt like I was cheating on Leif even though I’d told them all that Leif had broken up with me. I shifted my gaze to Wyatt who was happily eating the food I’d given him while waiting on me to reply. Had they forgotten Leif completely?
“Oh, okay, well let me talk to him. He’ll be gone for a little while but when he gets back, then sure.”
Wyatt grinned and took a swig of water. I shifted my attention to the table beside us where Leif normally sat as reigning king. No one seemed to be concerned about his absence. Not even Kendra, his girlfriend for years before he’d broken things off with her this summer. Had they ever really been a couple or had he just played with her head?
Kendra threw her head back and laughed at something one of the boys said and I watched in fascination as she flirted openly with them. Thankfully she’d forgotten all about Dank once he left the first time. I hadn’t had to deal with her flirting with him on his return. It was almost like I didn’t exist as far as she was concerned. Then her eyes caught mine and a flicker of knowledge startled me before she gazed right past me and squealed out the name of another cheerleader approaching the table. They all acted like nothing had happened. No one worried over their star quarterback anymore.
“I need to brush my teeth and reapply lipstick. Come with?” Miranda asked, standing up.
I nodded and stood up to follow her out of the cafeteria.
“Hey Miranda, so Wyatt’s not upset about Leif so much now,” I coaxed, waiting to see how she responded.
Miranda peered back over her shoulder, “Who?”
Mom wasn’t home. Fantastic. I was alone. I closed the door behind me and scanned the kitchen to see if there were any unwanted visitors either floating around or, in Leif’s case, walking around. The coast seemed clear but that didn’t calm my nerves much. I dropped my bag on the table and walked over to the fridge to get a drink and make myself a sandwich.
A taco salad complete with a crispy tortilla bowl was wrapped up with a sticky note on top.
Gone out with Roger. Be back late. I ordered your favorite from Los Tacos. Enjoy.
Add this to the fact that she’d left me at home alone and I could kiss her face. I was starving after nothing but a roll for lunch. I’d tutored two freshmen after school and there had been no time for eating then. Now it was after six and I swear my big intestines were eating my little intestines. I needed food. Grabbing the salad and a can of soda I headed for the living room. After hearing Miranda talk about this week’s Pretty Little Liars, I wanted to watch it myself.
Sinking down onto the couch with my meal I tucked my feet up under me and turned on the television. Thanks to good ‘ol Roger, my mom’s boyfriend, we had ourselves a nice new sixty-two inch flat screen on the wall. Roger was the district manager over the Best Buys in this area so he got killer deals. I’d already dropped the hint I was in the market for a new laptop. My old one was headed to the grave yard fast.
Screaming, I dropped my fork and scanned the room for the owner of that voice.
Leif stood just inside the doorway leading into the kitchen. He didn’t look ghostly or freaky. He just looked like Leif. Except he was in my house. Uninvited. And he didn’t have a soul.
“Pagan,” he repeated.
I opened my mouth to asked him what the heck when he disappeared in front of me as Gee came storming in the door like she was on the warpath.
“Where is he? Where’s that little shit at? I felt him. Now WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?”
I watched as Gee scanned the living room and stalked into the kitchen. “He’s gone. Freaking coward,” she said out loud as she stormed up the steps.
I sat frozen waiting for Gee to calm down and come back into the room. I was still reeling over Leif being in my house and Gee was yelling curse words while she searched every corner.
“You okay?” she asked once she walked back into the room. I tried to nod but I couldn’t manage. Instead, I forced a “mmm” out of my throat. My heart was still racing so fast it felt as if it was going to beat through my chest.
“Deep breaths, Peggy Ann. Take deep breaths. Don’t get his majesty over here raining down hell on all who get in his path because his girl is scared shitless.”
Her colorful vocabulary caused a giggle to erupt and I was able to take the deep breath she suggested.
“There we go. Good girl,” she affirmed with a satisfied smile and sank down on the sofa beside me.
I stared down at the salad in my lap trying to work through my head the fact that Leif had been in my house. He’d just appeared out of nowhere. Had it been something else that looked like Leif? He’d sure sounded like Leif.
“You gonna eat that?” Her question sounded more like a demand as she motioned to the salad bowl that had miraculously not been spilled all over the floor during the drama.
I needed to eat it. I hadn’t eaten all day but the hunger was gone. Now I felt slightly ill.
“That was Leif, right?” I asked turning my head so I could see her face.
“Yep. Little shit. Showing up like a damn coward and scaring you like that. Ain’t so sweet now, is he?”
I glanced back over to where he’d been standing. He hadn’t looked scary. He had looked worried. Or maybe guilty.
“Dank’s gonna get this all worked out. Stop worrying. Now, you gonna eat that or not because it looks good.”
I shook my head and Gee snatched it up and instantly a fork was in her hand.
“Sip on your drink if you feel sick. You don’t want to go into shock. The sugar will help.”
Nodding, I took a small sip of the cold sweet soda and my stomach seemed to settle some.
“Why was he here?”
“Cause he wanted to talk to you, I guess,” Gee replied before shoving another forkful of salad into her mouth.
“The kids at school, his parents, they’re all forgetting him.”
Gee nodded, “Yeah they are. He didn’t have a soul, Pagan. Remember, you are a soul. Your body is just the house for it. Those with souls will forget him because their souls were never attached to his. Can’t be attached to something that isn’t there.”
“Why do I remember him?” My voice came out in a whisper. I was almost afraid to hear the answer to this one.
Gee set the fork down in her bowl and sighed. That wasn’t good.
“You’re different. He has... There is this... Ugh, why the hell didn’t Dankmar explain this crazy shit to you?” Gee placed the almost empty tortilla bowl on the coffee table and broke off a piece of it before leaning back again and looking at me.
“Your soul was marked when you were a child. Leif has some sort of claim on your soul. Now, don’t go getting all freaked out. Dank is more than able to fix this but until he does Leif will be linked to you.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. “Linked?” I choked out.
Gee nodded and took another bite of the broken tortilla bowl in her hand. She was handling all this so casually. Maybe I needed to calm down. She wasn’t worried. But... linked?
“Stop frowning, Peggy Ann. It isn’t all that bad. So, here’s the deal: your mom made a bad decision. You have a dark spirit determined to claim you. Things could be worse,” she finished with a shrug of her shoulders.
“How? How could they be worse? A dark spirit?” I reached for my soda as my stomach rolled at the thought of what a dark spirit actually meant.
“How could it be worse? Well, for starters, you could be without the complete devotion of Death himself. I mean, come on, Peggy Ann. What is one dark spirit up against Death? I mean, really.” Gee rolled her eyes and popped the last bite, of the tortilla bowl she was holding, into her mouth.
I soaked in her words wishing they were more comforting.
“You got anything good recorded on this thing?” Gee asked, reaching for the remote control.
“Um, yes just watch whatever,” I muttered and sipped at my drink wishing Dank would come home. Now.