I looked up at Liam.
“Farrah? Our Farrah? ‘Doesn’t-look-a-day-over-60’ Farrah?” He nodded.
“Crazy, right? Even if she was just a teenager when she wrote that, it would still make her over a hundred years old.” I looked back down at the journal in disbelief, when another realization hit me.
“Wait, you took these from Farrah’s office?” He turned away from me and looked intently at the pages of the book in his hands.
“You asshat! Of all the places to steal—”
“-We’re just borrowing, Krys. I mean, you are the Conduit. You should be able to take whatever you want.” I shook my head and groaned.
“If Farrah finds out you went snooping in her office – ”
“- She won’t! The area I took them from was so dusty and hidden away, I doubt she’d even notice!”
I sighed and went back to reading the journal. The deed had already been done. May as well make the most of it.
We spent the next few hours nose-deep in the journals. The one Liam was reading wasn’t written by Farrah, but a woman named Lenette. The conduit who came before Katherine was her great-great grandmother’s sister, who lived in France at the turn of the 19th century. Unfortunately, Lenette only wrote a handful of journal entries in English, so Liam took photos of the first few pages for later translation.
I only vaguely recalled our grandmother telling us as children that a part of our family—most of them the children and grandchildren of freed slaves–had gone to France; the result of a mass exodus after the Louisiana purchase. Many of them eventually returned but from what I understood, a good amount of our family still lived there, renouncing the US entirely. And judging from Lenette’s journal, the sisters clearly had a larger presence than the compound I was staying in. I wondered if they knew how that part of my family was, or if they paid no attention since none of them could become a Conduit. There was so much I didn’t know.
As I neared the middle of Farrah’s journal I came across another entry:
October 21, 1939
Sister Katherine’s defiance concerns me. She refuses to learn how to defend herself, refuses to gain a deeper understanding of her goddess-given role. She only complies to delivering the messages and nothing more. Why can’t she stay with us, where she is surrounded by the devotees and vast knowledge we have obtained?
She only allows Sister Lillian near her, and I cannot bring myself to trust that woman. I know she loves the goddess, I know she wants to serve, but there are times when she appears to go mad with her devotion to Katherine. We are forbidden to use our abilities to read the intents of our own sisters, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be in our best interest to know what she is up to.
Of course, knowing her, she would cloak her true intents.
Breathe, Farrah. You are upsetting yourself over hearsay, and perhaps even jealousy. You wanted to be the right hand of the Conduit, but she did not choose you.
So Farrah never trusted Lillian. Was it out of jealousy, or a true concern? As of that moment, Lillian was the only one who seemed to be offering me a possible solution, albeit with the Order of the Mighty. I still wasn’t comfortable with them. But what could she possibly have to gain by leading me to my demise?
I looked up to check the clock. 6:45pm.
My eyes couldn’t handle anymore strain, and I was feeling especially drained after today’s events.
“Liam, let’s get these back into Farrah’s office and find some ramen—er—food.”
“All right. Well, it is after hours, so maybe she won’t be there.”
Liam placed the books into his bag, and we headed back to Farrah’s office. As we reached the foot of the stairs, I noticed a man standing in her office with his back to the door.
“Mom, you really need to get more vegetables in. I swear, sometimes you’re like a kid. It’s just lettuce!”
“I don’t care. It may be made by the Creator, but I don’t have to like the taste of it. It’s coming off.”
“Ah, shit,” Liam whispered. Just as we were turning around to go back upstairs, Farrah’s voice echoed past the door.
“Ah, Krystal! What brings you here?” she asked.
Dammit. Damn that woman. Damn this whole thing.
I stepped into the room, with a little wave.
“Uh, hi, Farrah. Just…stretching my legs.”
I looked up at the man to my right.
Shit! It was Hot Doctor!
“Doctor Lucas? What- Why are you here?”
“Uh—I could ask you the same thing…”
“You two know each other,” Farrah stated, leaning forward, her eyes seeming to twinkle.
“Well—” we both started to speak, and then paused, gesturing simultaneously for the other to go ahead. Silence filled the room with more awkward energy while we both patiently waited for one of us to speak. In this lighting I could see his eyes even better. The color was a beautiful green, with a jewel-like undertone.
“The good doctor treated Krystal’s head injury a few days back,” Liam’s voice cut in–along with his body–stepping between us.
“Um, yeah. Clumsy me.”
“I see…” she replied, looking from me to him, and then back to me with an amused look on her face. I broke her gaze to turn back to Hot Doctor.
“So, wait. Bren—uh…Doct—uh… are you Farrah’s son?” He shrugged and nodded.
“Guilty as charged,” he said.
“Wait, her biological—” I elbowed Liam before he could finish his sentence. I gave him a look, keeping my elbow firmly against his lower ribs.
“Very cool,” he said, and sat down on the couch.
“But why are you here?” Brendt asked, looking between me and Farrah. His freaking mother.
“Oh, I was just visiting for a couple days. I’ve gotta head out now. I’ll see you later, Farrah,” I said, pulling Liam up by his arm and hurrying out the door. I couldn’t think of a good lie to cover up any of this without seeming crazy. We just had to leave.
“Wait—let me walk you out,” he said.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” I said, waving him away.
“No, I actually wanted to talk to you for a sec. If you don’t mind?” he ran his fingers through his hair, and I watched as it bounced right back into place.
“Yeah, okay,” I breathed, watching a lock fall onto his forehead.
He looked over at Liam with a small smile.
“Oh! Right. I’ll make myself scarce,” Liam said, backing away. Once he was out of Brendt’s field of view, he made a ridiculously lewd gesture and I rolled my eyes. Brendt opened the doors leading outside and held it open for me to walk through. We made our way around to the side of the building, the waxing moon in full view.
“I’m glad I got to see you again,” he said with a smile. “Kinda crazy when you said that we would see each other soon. I didn’t think it would be the next day,”
“Ha, yeah, that probably sounded a little creepy, right?”
“Not really. I am the son of a psychic, after all.”
“So…you know what this place is?” He nodded, scratching behind his right ear.
“Of course. And…while I can’t totally buy into it, I see that it brings my mom a lot of joy.”
“Not the deity-worshiping type?”
“No, the deity part is easy for me to connect to. It’s…the rest of it.”
“But you didn’t answer my question: why are you here?”
“Um…for research. I find the goddess Amali…very…interesting.”
“I can understand that. The tale of a normal person being promoted to godhood. And fighting evil.
What’s not interesting about that story?”
“Fighting evil? I thought she was just an oracle.”
“She was an oracle; and she fits all the history molds pretty well in that role. But when you dig deeper into her origins, you’ll find a lot of tales about her using her psychic powers to kick some major ass.”
“That actually makes sense,” I muttered.
“Nothing. Leave it to the patriarchy to use history to put women in their place, amirite?” He laughed, shaking his head. A moment of silence slipped between us. I watched him shift his weight to his left foot.
“So, hey. This might be a bit unorthodox, but…I would like to see you again.”
“And it’s not because I feel bad about skipping that CT Scan — I mean, I do, but that’s not why I’m approaching you like this.”
“Is this weird? This might be weird,” he said, stepping back.
“No, no, this is by far the most normal moment of my week. I only hesitate because…I’m just really unsure about a lot of things right now.”
“Not you! Just…life, and change, and… I don’t want to waste your time.” I looked back up at the moon. I didn’t want to waste mine either.
“Well, it’s up to me to determine that, isn’t it?”
“To a point.”
“Okay…” He paused and stroked his chin in the most doctor-like fashion I could imagine. “Well, that’s not a no, right?” he asked.
“It’s… not…” I betrayed myself with a smile.
“Okay. No pressure. Handle your life. But I assume you’ll be here periodically to study, yes?”
“So if I run into you, we can have a friendly chat. How’s that?”
“That would be nice, Brendt.” I said. And he then he held out his hand for me to shake. I took his hand with a raised eyebrow, and he gave me a quick ‘trust me’ nod.
“Great. I’ll see you around, Krystal,” he smiled, and headed back into the building. I stared after, shaking my head. Why the hell did I give him any sort of hope? I had no idea what was going on with my life, and was pretty sure telling him that I was The Conduit of a Goddess would be a bit of a mood killer. I stared back up at the moon. After tonight, we’d have seven days. One week to get my life back to normal.
Somehow. I guess I had a little more motivation now.
Liam came out shortly after to meet me around the corner. He wiggled his eyebrows at me. “So? Did you two get it o—”
“Krystal. Can we talk?” I jumped a little as Lillian’s voice suddenly reverberated in my head. Couldn’t she send a warning signal?
“I’ll need a moment. I’m heading back to my room.” I said. I looked up at Liam, and pointed to my head.
“I’m going back. It’s her again. Find me some food?” I asked, giving him my best puppy dog eyes.
“Ya know, it would be nice if I could hear her too,” he grumbled. Did he just pout?
“Well, I haven’t figured out that trick yet, but once I do…” I trailed off and pointed at him. He waved me away.
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll go find Hannah to get you some more ramen,” he said.
I hurried back into the building, and rounded the corner to the stairs when Farrah stepped out of her office.
“Krystal, do you have a moment?”
“Uh, I —”
“It’s just a message for your brother. Please remind him to ask before borrowing my books,” she said, raising one eyebrow. I opened my mouth to make an excuse, but instead I just smiled and shook my head.
“I certainly will, Farrah.”
I quickly made my way up the stairs to my room. I’m not quite sure what the hurry was – after all, it wasn’t like I was running out of minutes on a phone card and had Lillian on hold. I was just…thinking to her.
Weird way to say that.
“Okay, I’m alone,” I said to Lillian, closing the bedroom door behind me.
“Good. I have some interesting news for you.”
“I’m all ears…er…brain…waves?”
“I’ve acquired a ritual that would allow the Kiss of Amali to be hidden for a brief period of time.”
“The Kiss of Amali?”
“The mark that allows you to be found. It’s not a great feat, but it’s a step in the right direction, if you want to leave the Sisters of Amali without risk of being found again.”
“Okay, but then what?”
“Then you go to the Order of the Mighty so that they can complete the ritual.” I felt a throb in my stomach.
“I still don’t trust them, Lillian. And that Kaleb guy was…not right. How do you even know about them?”
There was silence for a while. I thought maybe I had sent the message wrong when she spoke again.
“I joined them after the Sisters…removed me from my role.”
“And you believe they’re doing something good?”
“Time is of the essence, Krystal. And the Goddess has only one thing in mind. We need to do what we can to stop her.”
I paused, considering her words. She made it seem as if Amali were evil. I never considered that as a possibility, I just didn’t want to be on the receiving end of whatever plan Amali had in mind.
“I don’t believe Amali is evil, Krystal. I just believe she is using her power in a selfish way.”
Was that coincidence, or could she hear my personal thoughts?
“Are you sure this is the only way I can be normal again?”
“Normal? You were never normal, girl. But this will prevent the Goddess from completing the transition. The process will be…painful, but You will be free. To live a life that you can control.”
A life I could control. I thought back to my clients and Ramona. Back to my small, but perfectly decorated office and my cozy home. Back to Brendt Lucas’ dreamy eyes.
Just then, Liam walked into the door with a steaming bowl of ramen for me. He also had a life he needed to return to. I was too busy worrying about my situation to even notice what was going on with him. I had to try something. Anything to pull us out of this spiraling shit-show that gave us few answers.
And I could only see one option right now.
“All right. What do you need me to do?”