Everything stopped. Time ceased to exist. Emily didn’t dare breathe in case she interrupts the pause. Three strangers were turned to her; their faces were expectant.
Her life had been normal once – hadn’t it? She got up early and walked her dog; when she came home she fed the cat and read the morning paper over coffee and breakfast. Emily cleaned what little she needed to do and then either watched television or read a book. Sometimes she even sketched. Emily Post was unimportant – just a solitary woman on her street and a good neighbor – she hoped. True, Emily received flashes of insight about people and situations, but she wasn’t a “psychic” by any means. Were these people trying to scam her? The police seemed interested in the case; at lease Detective Clay Spells was interested. She had made a report. She had done what she was supposed to do. She was the victim here, not police or the heroine. She was just simply Emily Post.
“I need to think,” Emily said suddenly, pushing herself quickly to her feet. She needed time. Didn’t she have an entire year to learn? Yes, agreed the cool voice of reason inside her head. Emily always imagined the voice to belong to a Nineteenth Century school teacher with long skirts, almost like Jane Austen in her youth. Yes, you have an entire year to try and master skills that will keep you alive, but right now you need to tell them you agree.
Emily stomped into the kitchen. Down came the batter bowl from the cabinet and measuring cups. She needed cookies. She needed sugar cookies.
You really should be painting dear, said Ms. Austen. Painting is how you really think. This is just busy work. She was right, of course.
What did it say about Emily’s state of mind she was having an internal conversation with her version of Jane Austen inside her head? What was worse was the fact Ms. Austen was right. When things really bothered her she tended to paint. Emily hadn’t started baking as a means of thinking until her life had become so solitary. With cookies in hand she had an excuse to visit neighbors or stop the mailman for a few minutes to chat and share the cookies.
The almost frantic movements of Emily’s hands slowed, and finally stopped. If all of this was true, and she felt it was, she had only one choice.
The others joined her in the kitchen. Emily felt and heard their movements, so she wasn’t frightened when she turned and found all three people standing in the doorway looking at her. Willie Chastain came up to her and grasped her by the shoulders. Emily was quite aware of the warmth in the other woman’s hands. It wasn’t the same titillating sensation Emily got when Vincenzo Shields touched her, or Clay Spells; it was an intimate gesture of a like soul, or that was as close to a description of how it made Emily feel as she could reach.
Also in the touch was fear. There was fear Emily would say no. There was fear Emily would say ‘yes’; and there was doubt as to whether or not Willie Chastain was up to the task of teaching someone else what she had had centuries to perfect. How much could she teach Emily in a scant year? If she didn’t try, though, Willie Chastain would have another death upon her conscious and her soul. She didn’t want any more deaths placed upon her. In some ways it was a very selfish reason for helping, but it was an honest one. Willie did not know Emily enough to say she cared about her as a person, but she could definitely care for her as another human being with talent. This would just have to be enough for a while, until she came to know Emily better.
Emily looked up into Wilhelmina Chastain’s eyes. Willie intended for Emily to know the doubts and nervousness she had about the situation. She couldn’t tell Emily in words because to admit it verbally, for Willie, was as if she had admitted some sort of defeat.
“If you put negativity out, you receive negativity back,” Willie said softly. This was the first lesson. How you thought affected everything around you. Emily knew this was true, but….
“Let us help you,” Vinnie said.
“If you don’t, you will only be another notch in this guy’s belt,” Richard Azz said matter-of-factly which earned him a back handed slap to the shoulder from Shields.
Emily nodded. Azz was right. If she didn’t do something or protect herself she would just be another victim and she didn’t want to be a victim. In fact, she wanted a life. She didn’t want to be afraid anymore and uncertain. The future was always unknown. There could be glimpses and flashes, but, in the end, the future was unknown; it stretched out in front of you and led into darkness. No one knew the whole future for themselves or for anyone else. It was synchronously frightening and reassuring.
“Fine – fine – that’s good. Now, let’s get some arrangements made. You shouldn’t remain here,” Willie said, slipping an arm around Emily’s waist and leading her back into the living room. The parted at their approach and trailed after once they had passed by. “He knows where you live.”
“I can’t just leave my house!”
“I can make arrangements to have someone take care of it while you are away.” Willie took a seat on the couch and pulled Emily down with her. Emily sat on the edge of her seat.
“I can’t leave Benny and Friskers in a complete stranger’s care!”
“Of course not, dear!” Willie agreed, patting Emily’s hand suddenly. “They will be coming with you. They are your family.” Suddenly Emily realized her pets were in just as much danger, if not more in a way: Because they were important to her, Death would have no reserve about hurting one, or both, of them. He could even possibly torture them. Emily brought a hand up to her mouth to stifle the gasp of understanding. “We won’t let anything happen to them,” Willie promised.
“No, we won’t,” Vinnie said, coming to kneel beside her.
“Of course not!” was Azz’s response. Azz expected the psycho to try to do something to the small animals. Emily’s eyes brimmed with tears.
“You will be coming with me. All of you will be coming with me,” Willie corrected with a warm smile. “I’m sure I can put all of you up. It would be nice to have company for a change. My house is quite large and very empty.”