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Dark Angel (Chapter 10)

"But only if you absolutely swear to me you didn't do it."

"Oh, how many times? I've been telling you all week I didn't. I never said a word to her. I swear."

The first voice, which sounded taut and a little unbalanced, was Tanya's. The second was Kim the

Gymnast's. Despite her brave words, Kim sounded scared.

(Angel? What's going on?)

(Trouble.)

"Okay," Tanya's voice was saying. "Then this is your chance to prove it by helping me."

"Tan, look. Look. I'm sorry about you and David breaking up. But maybe it's not Gillian's fault-"

"It's completely her fault. The stuff with Bruce was over. You know that. There was no reason for David

to ever find out-until she opened her mouth. And as for how she found out-"

"Not again!" Kim the Gymnast sounded ready to scream. "I didn't do it."

"All right. I believe you." Tanya's voice was calmer. "So in that case there's no reason for us to fight.

We've got to stick together. Hand me that brush, will you?" There was silence for a moment, and Gillian

could imagine Tanya brushing her dark hair to a higher gloss, looking in a mirror approvingly.

"So what are you going to do?" Kim's voice asked.

"Get both of them. In a way, I hate him more. I promised he'd be sorry if he dumped me, and I always

keep my promises."

Squashed between the heavy, swaying clothes on her right and left, Gillian had a wild and almost fatal

impulse to giggle.

She knew what was going on. It was just such a … a sitcom situation that she had a hard time making

herself believe in it. Here she was, listening to two people who were actually plotting against her. She was

overhearing their plans to get her. It was… absurd. Bad mystery novel stuff.

And it was happening anyway.

She made a feeble attempt to get back to reality, straightening up slightly.

(Angel-people don't really do these revenge things. Right? They're just talking. And-I mean, I can't even

believe I'm hearing all this. It's so … so ridiculous…)

(You're overhearing it because I brought you here. You have an invisible friend who can lead you to the

right place at the right time. And you'd better believe that people carry out these "revenge things." Tanya's

never made a plan that she hasn't carried through.)

(The future executive.) Gillian thought it faintly.

(Future CEO. She's deadly serious, kid. And she's smart. She can make things happen.)

Gillian no longer felt like giggling.

When she pressed her ear against the wall again, it was clear she'd missed some of the conversation.

"… David first?" Kim the Gymnast was saying.

"Because I know what to do with him. He wants to get into Ohio University, you know? He sent the

application in October. It was already going to be a little hard because his grades aren't great, but he

scored really high on the SATs. It was hard, but I'm going to make it…" There was a pause and

Tanya's voice seemed to mellow and sweeten. "Absolutely impossible."

"How?" Kim sounded shaken.

"By writing to the university. And to our principal and to Ms. Renquist, the English lit teacher, and to

David's grandpa, who's supposed to be giving him money to go to college."

"But why? I mean, if you say something nasty, they'll just think it's sour grapes-"

"I'm going to tell them he passed English lit last

year by cheating. We had to turn in a term paper. But he didn't write the paper he turned in. It was

bought. From a college guy in Philadelphia."

Kim's breath whooshed out so loudly that Gillian could hear it. "How do you know?"

"Because I arranged it, of course. I wanted him to bring his grades up, to get into a university. To make

something of himself. But of course he can never prove all that. He's the one that paid for it."

A silence. Then Kim said, with what sounded like forced lightness, "But, Tan, you could ruin his whole

life…"

"I know." Tanya's voice was serene. Satisfied.

"But… well, what do you want me to do?"

"Be ready to spread the word. That's what you do best, isn't it? I'll get the letters written by Monday.

And then on Monday you can start telling people-because I want everyone to know. Prime that

grapevine!" Tanya was laughing.

"Okay. Sure. Consider it done." Kim sounded more scared than ever. "Uh, look, I'd better get back

downstairs now-can I use the brush a second?"

"Here." A clatter. "And, Kim? Be ready to help me with Gillian, too. I'll let you know what I've got in

mind for her."

Kim said, "Sure,"-faintly. Then there were a few more clatters and the sound of a door rattling open and

shut. Then silence.

Gillian stood in the stuffy closet.

She felt physically sick. As if she'd found something

loathsome and slimy and unclean writhing under her bed. Tanya was crazy-and evil. Gillian had just seen

into a mind utterly twisted with hatred.

And smart. Angel had said it.

(Angel, what do I do? She really means it, doesn't she? She's going to destroy him. And there isn't

anything I can do about it.)

(There may be something.)

(She's not going to listen to reason. I know she's not. Nobody's going to be able to talk her out of it.

And threats aren't any good-)

(I said, there may be something you can do.)

Gillian came back to herself. (What?)

(It's a little complicated. And… well, the truth is, you may not want to do it, kid.)

(I would do anything for David.) Gillian's response was instant and absolute. Strange, how there were

some things you were so sure of.

(Okay. Well, hold that thought. I'll explain everything when we get home-which we should do fast. But

first I want you to get something from that bathroom.)

Gillian felt calm and alert, like a young soldier on her first mission in enemy territory. Angel had an idea.

As long as she did exactly what Angel said, things were going to turn out all right.

She went into the bathroom and followed Angel's instructions precisely without asking why. Then she

went to get David to take her home from the party.

"I'm ready. Now tell me what I can do."

Gillian was sitting on her bed, wearing the pajamas with little bears on them. It was well after midnight

and the house was quiet and dark except for the lamp on her night stand.

"You know, I think you are ready."

The voice was quiet and thoughtful-and outside her head. In the air about two feet away from the bed, a

light began to grow.

And then it was Angel, sitting lotus style, with his hands on his knees. Floating lotus style. He was about

level with Gillian's bed and he was looking at her searchingly. His face was earnest and calm, and all

around him was a pale, changing light like the aurora borealis.

As always, Gillian felt a physical reaction at the first sight of him. A sort of shock. He was so beautiful,

so unearthly, so unlike anyone else.

And right now his eyes were more intense than she had ever seen them.

It scared her a little, but she pushed that-and the physical reaction-away. She had to think of David.

David, who'd so trustingly taken her home when she "got sick" an hour ago, and who right now had

absolutely no idea what was in store for him on Monday.

"Just tell me what to do," she said to Angel.

She was braced. She had no idea what it would take to stop Tanya, but it couldn't be anything

pleasant-or legal. Didn't matter. She was ready.

So Angel's words were something of a letdown.

"You know you're special, don't you?"

"Huh?"

"You've always been special. And underneath, you've always known it."

Gillian wasn't sure what to say. Because it sounded terribly cliche-but it was true. She was special. She'd

had a near-death experience. She'd come back with an angel. Surely only special people did that. And

her popularity at school-everyone there certainly thought she was special. But her own inner feeling had

started long before that, sometime in childhood. She'd just imagined that everybody felt that way… that

they were different from others, maybe better, but certainly different.

"Well, everybody does feel that way, actually," Angel said, and Gillian felt a little jolt. She always felt it

when she suddenly remembered her thoughts weren't private anymore.

Angel was going on. "But for you it happens to be true. Listen, what do you know about your

great-grandma Elspeth?"

"What?" Gillian was lost. "She's an old lady. And, um, she lives in England and always sends me

Christmas presents…" She had a vague memory of a photograph showing a woman with white hair

and white glasses, a tweed skirt and sensible shoes. The woman held a Pekingese in a little red jacket.

"She grew up in England, but she was born American. She was only a year old when she was separated

from her big sister Edith, who was raising her. It happened during World War One. Everyone thought

she had no family, so she was given to an English couple to raise."

"Oh, really? How interesting." Gillian was not only bewildered but exasperated. "But what on earth-"

"Here's what it's got to do with David. Your great-grandma didn't grow up with her real sister, with her

real family. If she had, she'd have known her real heritage. She'd have known…"

"Yes?"

"That she was born a witch."

There was a long, long silence. It shouldn't have been so long. After the first second Gillian thought of

things to say, but somehow she couldn't get them past the tightness of her throat.

She ought to laugh. That was funny, the idea of Great-grandma, with her sensible shoes, being a witch.

And besides, witches didn't exist. They were just stories-

-like angels-

-or examples of New Age grown-ups acting silly.

"Angels," Gillian gasped in a strangled voice. She was beginning to feel wild inside. As if rules were

breaking loose.

Because angels were true. She was looking at one. He was floating about two and a half feet off the

floor. There was absolutely nothing under him

and he could hear her thoughts and disappear and he was real. And if angels could be real…

Magic happens. She'd seen that on a bumper sticker somewhere. Now she clapped both hands to her

mouth. There was something boiling up inside her and she wasn't sure if it was a scream or a giggle.

"My great-grandma is a witch?"

"Well, not exactly. She would be if she knew about her family. That's the key, you see-you have to

know. Your great-grandma has the blood, and so does your grandma, and so does your mom. And so

do you, Gillian. And now… you know." The last words were very gentle, very deliberate. As if Angel

were delicately putting into place the last piece of a puzzle.

Gillian's laughter had faded. She felt dizzy, as if she had unexpectedly come to the edge of a cliff and

looked over. "I'm… I've got the blood, too."

"Don't be afraid to say it. You're a witch."

"Angel…" Gillian's heart was beating very hard suddenly. Hard and slow. "Please … I don't really

understand any of this. And… well, I'm not."

"A witch? You don't know how to be, yet. But as a matter of fact, kid, you're already showing the signs.

Do you remember when that mirror broke in the downstairs bathroom?"

"And when the window broke in the cafeteria. You asked me if I did those things. I didn't. You did. You

were angry and you lashed out with your power… but you didn't realize it."

"Oh, God," Gillian whispered.

"It's a frightening thing, that power. When you don't know how to use it, it can cause all kinds of

damage. To other people-and to you. Oh, kid, don't you understand? Look at what's happened to your

mother."

"What about my mother?"

"She … is … a … witch. A lost witch, like you. She's got powers, but she doesn't know how to channel

them, she doesn't understand them, and they terrify her. When she started seeing visions-"

"Visions!" Gillian sat straight up. It was as if a light had suddenly gone on in her head, illuminating five

years of her life.

"Yeah." Angel's violet eyes were steady, his face grim. "The hallucinations came before the drinking, not

after. And they were psychic visions, images of things that were going to happen, or that might have

happened, or that happened a long time ago. But of course she didn't understand that."

"Oh, God. Oh, my God." Electricity was running up and down Gillian's body, setting her whole skin

tingling. Tears stung in her eyes-not tears of sadness, but of pure, shocking revelation. "That's it. That's it.

Oh, God, we've got to help her. We've got to tell her-"

"I agree. But first we have to get you under control. And it's not exactly a thing you can just spring on

her without any warning. You could do more harm than good that way. We've got to build up to it."

"Yes. Yes, I see that. You're right." Gillian blinked rapidly. She tried to calm her breathing, to think.

"And just at the moment, she's stable. A little depressed, but stable. She'll wait until after Monday. But

Tanya won't."

"Tanya?" Gillian had nearly forgotten the original discussion. "Oh, yeah, Tanya. Tanya." David, she

thought.

"There is something very practical you can do about Tanya-now that you know what you are."

"Yes. All right." Gillian wet her lips. "Do you think Dad will come back if Mom realizes what she is and

gets it all together?"

"I think there's a good possibility. But listen to me. To take care of Tanya-"

"Angel." A slow coil of anxiety was unrolling in Gillian's stomach. "Now that I think about it … I mean,

aren't witches bad? Shouldn't you-well, disapprove of this?"

Angel put his golden head in his hands. "If I thought it was bad would I be here guiding you through it?"

Gillian almost laughed. It was so incongruous- the pale northern lights aura around him and the sound of

him talking through clenched teeth.

Then a thought struck her. She spoke hesitantly and wonderingly. "Did you come here to guide me

through it?"

He lifted his head and looked at her with those unearthly eyes. "What do you think?"

Gillian thought that the world wasn't exactly what she had thought. And neither were angels.

The next morning she stood and looked at herself in the mirror. She'd done this after Angel had first

come to her and made her cut her hair-she'd wanted to look at her new self. Now she wanted to look at

Gillian the witch.

There wasn't anything overtly different about her. But now that she knew she seemed to see things she

hadn't noticed before. Something in the eyes-some ancient glimmer of knowledge in their depths.

Something elfin in the face, in the slant of the cheekbones. A remnant of faery.

"Stop gazing and come shopping," Angel said, and light coalesced beside her.

"Right," Gillian said soberly. Then she tried to wiggle her nose.

Downstairs, she borrowed the keys to her mother's station wagon and bundled up. It was an icy-fresh

day and the whole world sparkled under a light dusting of new snow. The air filled Gillian's lungs like

some strange potion.

(I feel very witchy.) She backed the car out. (Now where do we go? Houghton?)

(Hardly. This isn't the kind of shopping you do

at a mall. Northward, ho! We're going to Woodbridge.)

Gillian tried to remember Woodbridge. It was a little town like Somerset-but smaller. She'd undoubtedly

driven through it at some point in her life.

(We need to go shopping in Woodbridge to take care of Tanya?)

(Just drive, dragonfly.)

Woodbridge's main street ended in a town square bordered by dozens of decorated trees. The stores

were trimmed with Christmas lights. It was a postcard scene.

(Okay. Park here.)

Gillian followed Angel's directions and found herself in the Woodbridge Five and Ten, an old-style

variety store, complete with creaking wooden floorboards. She had the terrifying feeling that time had

gone back about fifty years. The aisles were tight and the shelves were jammed with baskets full of

goods. There was a musty smell.

Beyond asking questions, she stared dreamily at a jar of penny candy.

(Head on to the back. All the way. Open that door and go through to the back room.)

Gillian nervously opened the rickety door and peered into the room beyond. But it was just another

store. It had an even stranger smell, partly delicious, partly medicinal, and it was rather dimly lit.

"Uh, hello?" she said, in response to Angel's

urging. And then she noticed movement behind a counter.

A girl was sitting there. She was maybe nineteen and had dark brown hair and an interesting face. It was

quite ordinary in shape and structure-a country girl sort of face-but the eyes were unusually vivid and

intense.

"Um, do you mind if I look around?" Gillian said, again in response to Angel.

"Go right ahead," the girl said. "I'm Melusine."

She watched with a perfectly friendly and open curiosity as Gillian moseyed around the shelves, trying to

look as if she knew what she was looking for. Everything she saw was strange and unfamiliar-rocks and

herby-looking things and different colored candles.

(It's not here.) Angel's voice was resigned. (We're going to have to ask her.)

"Excuse me," Gillian said a moment later, approaching the girl diffidently from the other side. "But do you

have any Dragon's Blood? The-activated kind?"

The girl's face changed. She looked at Gillian very sharply. Then she said, "I'm afraid I've never heard of

anything like that. And I wonder what makes you ask."

Gooseflesh blossomed on Gillian's arms. She had the sudden, distinct feeling that she was in danger.

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