Andrea pressed the doorbell and waited. After a moment, she pressed it again. This was hard enough without him making her suffer for it. As she raised her hand to press it a third time, the door swung open, revealing an old man.
“Oh, it’s you. I expected you back sooner.”
“Yeah well, you were right. Happy? It’s started.”
The old man looked down, “I don’t take pleasure in the pain of my children Andy, you know that.” He sighed, “Come in, come in. We’ll have tea.”
“I don’t like tea.”
“You always were contrary.”
He smiled at her as she entered the house, it hadn’t changed in the years since she had last been inside, not even the carpets had changed.
“You’re mother is out. I’m not sure when she’ll be back.”
Andrea was betting on that, her mother wouldn’t return for hours yet, sometimes it was days. Her father led her through to the large, airy kitchen. Andrea walked on it carefully, making as little noise as possible. As she sat down Andrea was happy her mother wasn’t there. Her mother always wore high heels in the kitchen, the noise was like gunshots.
Her father pottered about, gathering things, he wouldn’t let Andrea help, she knew that already, so she waited. Finally he put a cup in front of her, hot chocolate, with three marshmallows. She tried to hide the smile. Her father sat down across from her, holding his tea. Andrea waited for him to finish doctoring it, when he had added his honey and a splash of milk, she knew it was ok to talk, but she couldn’t bring herself to say anything.
“When did it start?”
“Two months ago.”
“Why did you stay away so long?”
“You know why.”
“I meant why didn’t you come to me sooner. After it started.”
“I thought I could handle it by myself.”
Her father took a sip of his tea, “you’re a strong girl, but no one is that strong. We’ve missed you, you know.”
“How do I make it stop?”
“You don’t. You have to adapt to it. We have places set up, places you can go to be safe, but you’ll have to continue living your life. If you stop, you’ll be dead. You know that right? If it thinks you’re giving up or giving in you’ll be dead in a second.”
“I know. That’s why I came here. I was starting to slip, here and there.”
“It is good to see you.”
“How are the others?”
“The same. Shane moved to Australia about a year back, don’t really hear from him much. He told us you two were talking.”
“We were, but he stopped responding a few months ago.”
“Marigold is still off finding herself in nature. She visits. She doesn’t have a phone though and I don’t think the postman even knows she exists, so I take it you haven’t seen her?”
“I visited her once.” The less said about that visit the better.
“oh, we haven’t been allowed see where she lives. Is it decent enough?”
“Yeah, she has running water, plenty of food growing. She seemed happy.”
They sat in silence, unsure what to talk about. Finally, her father spoke again,
“I’m not going to apologise for what is happening to you, after all, I have nothing to do with it, if you want an apology you’re gonna have to look for your great-great-great grandfather, and he hasn’t been too chatty lately. I’m not going to apologise for having you, or any of your siblings, maybe it was wrong, but you four were the light of our lives. I can’t imagine doing it again and not having any of you. I am sorry that you have to go through this, I wish it wasn’t the case, but no point crying over spilt milk.”
Andrea had viewed her parents as selfish for having children, she still did, but that was an argument that had been going on since she was thirteen and they told her of the family legacy.
“It will follow you, you can’t outrun it. Don’t bother trying. You wouldn’t be the first to try and you won’t be the first to succeed. It’s relentless. I’m sorry, but it is. The house is protected. If you like you can move back in for a short while, while you get yourself together, but you can’t live here permanently. It will get through eventually. There is no place that is safe forever. I don’t know how well off you are, and it’s none of my business, but if you own a house on sacred grounds it will make things easier for you. It will be able to get in, but its powers will be diminished, it won’t have as much of an effect on you. Your mother and I could purchase some land for you, maybe an old church, we could convert it to a house. Don’t worry. If you take us up on that offer you won’t owe us anything, we won’t hold it over you. It will be no strings attached. It’s the very least we could do.”
Andrea bit her tongue. It wasn’t the time for an argument. “I’ll think about it.”
“Do. That offer is always open, there is no expiry on it.”
He took another sip of his tea, “I’m not going to lie, it hurt us when you left, it hurt us even more when you cut off contact completely. We made mistakes, but so does everyone. Whatever happened, whatever happens, I hope we can put it all behind us.”
Andrea took a gulp of her drink, “maybe.”
“I’m not saying right now, right away, I know you’ll need time, and I won’t push for it. I just want you to know that we’ll always be here for you. We already lost one child, we don’t want to lose another.”
Andrea felt a lump in her throat, she took another drink to disguise it. Olivia’s funeral had been the last time she had seen her parents.
Her father stood from the table, “C’mon, I’ve got some books in the library you’ll need to read. Ideally you should have seen them long before this, but that can’t be helped now.”
In the library, he started to pull down books, piling them neatly on the desk. “These contains incantations, spells, wards, most of what you’ll need. They’ll also tell you about what to expect, what will come. It will test you, once every five years. Now, I have to tell you something, something important. If it kills you, you’re gone. Forever, no coming back, straight to hell or what ever is waiting for people like us. If you impress it though, it can grant you boons, My great aunt Ida lived for almost two centuries. It left her for her young brother when she was fifty three, she hadn’t had children at that point and couldn’t have any even if she wanted to. No one has seen your great-great-great grandfather in a long, long time. I have a feeling he’ll return though, try to protect you for a while. Unless Marigold or Shane have children, you three are the last of the line. Once the three of you are gone it will return to him. When he does come back, because I’ve no doubt the selfish bastard will, I want you to do one thing for me, I want you to punch him in the face.”
Andrea nodded, “I’ll do my best to break his nose.”
She looked at the stack of books sitting on the table, she had a lot of reading to do. Not that she had much else going on right now. She had quit her job, left her life behind. She would be safe here, for a time, long enough, she hoped, to read through all these books. Then she’d have to go outside again, to where it was waiting for her. She picked up one of the books and flipped it open.