Though he didn’t mean to, Glenn slept almost the whole car ride from Stanstead to Durham, the quiet rumbling of the road under the car acting like a lullaby. He awoke again when the car made an abrupt stop at, he realized quickly, a red light.
“Not far now,” the driver said in a thick northern accent. Rubbing his eyes blearily, Glenn shifted upwards, and was thanked by a painful crick in the neck. He groaned.
Sarah glanced back from where she had been sitting in the front, glazedly watching the scenery whiz by. The day was dark and gray, and light rain obscured any wonder she might have felt, even for a moment. For a while, she’d let despair overwhelm her, but
Glenn’s movement brought her back.
“Welcome back,” she said, not unkindly. “Glad to see someone can sleep. I wish I had.”
“What? You haven’t slept yet? Not even on the plane?” Glenn replied, brotherly instincts kicking in.
“No, too much noise I guess. It either has to be city noise or complete silence for me. Nothing in between will do, especially not white noise. I’m sure I’ll sleep like the dead tonight though.”
“Mmmm,” Glenn agreed, stretching and looking out the window. He didn’t see anything but grass and little woods in the landscape. No houses anywhere. “So where are we then? Have we made Durham yet?”
“Oh, yeah,” the driver answered as he piloted the car down a hidden lane, tall banks of green rising up on both sides. Mitchell’s car was ahead of them by just a few lengths, disappearing and reappearing around corners. “We’ve been in the county for a while now, and we should be reaching de manor in just a few minutes. You have good timing, me boy.”
“Me boy,” Glenn repeated quietly to himself, looking out at the green all around. “Too close to home, this is. What was I thinking?”
“You say something Glenn?” Sarah queried from the front, looking back at him again. Glenn just shook his head in response, “Nah.”
“Oh,” she replied, and returned to her study of the blur. The sky lightened a bit as they rounded a final corner, and the rain faded to a light drizzle. As if in response, the driver slowed and turned right into a gravel drive, heralded by a tall brick gatehouse. For the first time, Sarah really looked about her.
The gatehouse was magnificent, a mix of high gothic arches and a black wrought iron gate. It stood open now, and light danced of small pockets of gold painted on the tips of each spear. Rhododendrons surrounded the structure, the vivid pinks and reds highlighting its beauty. Sarah sat a little straighter, and even Glenn took an interest as they passed through and onto the long gravel drive.
As if in response, the sun emerged from behind the cloud cover in golden shafts, sweeping across the meadows and fields as they passed by. Raindrops glistened in the grass and on the wildflowers, and the sweet smell of fresh air breezed into the cars. Sheep bleated and ran from the sound of the vehicles, small lambs jumping after their mothers. In the distance, brown shaggy cattle glanced up from their chewing, and followed the black cars with equally dark eyes before dropping their heads back to the ground, their interest waning as quickly as it came. In another, further meadow, surrounded by wood fencing, Sarah caught a glimpse of horses slowly moving round in circles. She smiled, and felt the buzz of excitement jump inside.
Then there it was. Sunlight grabbed the enormous brick structure, glinting off windows under gothic eaves and whitening the cosmetic stonework masonry across its face. Pillars marked the front door, once apart and separate from the structure, and bay windows jutted out in several places, open and inviting to the guests. Sun pooled around the building in a golden blanket, the chill in the air dissipating under its warmth.
“Well, if the inside is as nice as the outside, I think I’ve found my home,” Glenn laughed from the back. Sarah laughed herself, glancing back at him and nodding.
A group of people emerged from the front door as they pulled up, some holding umbrellas in their hands just in case. But the weather had broken, at least for the moment, and the sunlight came out in full force. The last of the dark clouds disappeared, leaving only a few white ones hovering in the low sky.
At the front of the group a woman stood, resplendent in a long velvet green cloak. Her face was young, younger looking than Sarah’s, and she grinned like a schoolgirl as the cars came to a stop. Blond hair was held up in a loose bun, strands curling around her pale face. She was beautiful.
Two servants rushed up to open the doors, and Sarah couldn’t help but feel like a queen as she was helped out by a butler. Mitchell was already out of his car and approaching the Lady, all of his training unable to hide the fact that he looked as enamored of the place and its occupants as Sarah did. When the Lady stuck her hand out, Mitchell hesitated briefly. Sarah repressed a giggle as she realized he had wanted to bow, just as she had been tempted to curtsy to this woman. Then Mitchell seemed to recover, and he pumped her hand vigorously, a different sort of smile on his face. Sarah’s smile faded. The magic was gone.
“Mr. Mitchell, we have been looking forward to this visit for a long time, ever since you worked that deal for us two years ago. It was so exciting to break into the American market, and the thought that we might actually become a force over there is even more exciting. I can’t wait to hear what news you have.” Lady Jowett spoke absolutely clearly, with a lilting voice that reminded Sarah of E.M. Forster novels. Mitchell returned the greeting with equal warmth, and then proceeded to introduce her and Glenn.
Sarah thanked the Lady, and gushed about how beautiful the manor was. For some reason, however, Glenn barely spoke to her. He merely nodded and quietly added his thanks to Sarah’s. If she hadn’t known him, Sarah would have thought that Glenn was being shy. She didn’t have time to dwell on it, however, as they were ushered inside. Servants rushed behind them to get their bags, causing Glenn to hesitate once more behind them. Licking his lips, he made a decision, and followed them inside without a look backwards. The bags were apparently no longer his concern. A light call caused him to stop, however. A maid tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he could differentiate the bags for her, so that they might be placed in the proper rooms. With a sigh, Glenn turned around and followed her back out.
The inside of the house was, just as Sarah hoped, more beautiful than the outside. Sweet smelling fires burned in the several rooms that they were allowed to tour. They walked through several parlours, each distinct in personality and color. The first was blue, with white furnishings and white marble busts sitting in alcoves in the walls. Lady Jowett explained that they were all busts of philosophers, a passion of her grandfathers. Hogarth paintings also graced the walls, a story being played out between them. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much of an opportunity to admire them, however, as they were moved into the next room.
This one had a yellow theme, with long portraits gracing the walls and cherry wood furniture with gold pillows scattered around. The portraits were of family members over the ages, and the differences in the painting styles demonstrated their age as clearly as the dates engraved on the frames. The mantle above the fireplace and the various side tables all had rather odd brass statutes and other bits and bobs sitting on white doilies. When Sarah asked if there was a theme, the Lady laughed.
“Oh no. We just call this the family room. All the little treasures that the family has picked up on their travels have been placed in this room. Most are just silly little souvenirs without much meaning to anyone but the person who brought it home. For example, you see that?” She pointed to a table near the back, with a small green statue on it. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a little statue of liberty, with “I love NY” on its base. “That’s mine. My first time to the U.S., and I paid way too much for it. I’d say that was symbolic – something I plan not to do again.” She said this last part with a twinkle in her eye, and Mitchell raised an eyebrow in Sarah’s direction. She merely tilted her head in response.
The next room was Sarah’s favorite. The walls had been painted a dark burgundy colour, but a large bay window prevented this from darkening the room. The furniture was all in a Chinese style, including, as they were told, two black Ming dynasty cabinets of considerable value. Ming and Ch’ing dynasty vases were sprinkled throughout the room, filled with flowers from the garden. They had several greenhouses in back which, the Lady explained, they could see afterwards if they so desired. There was also an orangery on the south side of the building, where they had several orange and lemon trees that were currently in flower. It was still too cold to let them out, but based on the days’ sudden change in temperature, it was clear summer was on its way. The Lady smiled so brightly as she told them this, that it was infectious. Even Mitchell seemed happy. Arnold Jack, however, never cracked a smile, and Sarah wondered if his face was in pain somehow.
The last parlour they entered was clearly their destination, as several servants were hurriedly finishing putting out hors d’oevres. It sat at the corner of the house, and sunlight streamed through multiple windows covered by gauzy curtains. This room was painted a light green, and ivy plants and painted ivy leaves graced the walls. The furniture was all mahogany, and looked much more used than the furniture in the other rooms. Here the fire burned the most brightly, and the smell of thyme drifted into their nostrils. The windows were also slightly cracked, to allow fresh air in from the outside. In the back of Sarah’s mind, she thought what a waste of energy, but most of her just smiled in joy. It was a beautiful room, not as exquisite as the last, but more homey. Lady Jowett placed herself carefully onto a chair near the fire and motioned for the others to sit. At that moment, Glenn rejoined them, with a notebook and recorder in hand. He sat next to Sarah on a settee, and opened the pad.
“Oh please,” the Lady said, holding her hand out toward him. “Surely, we don’t have to start talking business yet. I thought we might get to know a little about each other first.”
“Of course,” Mitchell agreed, and Glenn closed the notebook. As he had been instructed, however, he only pretended to shut off the recorder. It continued to spin as they spoke.
“So what do you think of my little home, Mr., Mitchell?” She had sweetly.
“I think it is lovely, Lady Jowett, and I am looking forward to seeing the rest when we have the opportunity.”
“Please, call me Faith. And may I call you Galileo?”
Sarah giggled a little, earning her a dark look. “Actually,” Mitchell replied, “I prefer Mitch. I am not quite sure why my parents saddled me with the name of a long dead astronomer, but believe me, I paid for it when I was younger.”
Faith laughed daintily in response, a hand raised to cover her mouth. Sarah blinked at the flirtatious move, and looked closer at Mitchell. He moved forward in response, immediately recognizing the movement. Outside, the sun disappeared behind the cloud for an instant, darkening the room. It quickly came back, however, and Sarah shook off her twinge of annoyance.
“And I may call you Sarah, and Glenn?” Faith continued, looking towards the two on the couch.
“Of course,” Sarah replied, shifting into a more comfortable position. “Tell me, have you always lived here?”
“Oh no, I only moved up here recently, after my mother passed away. Oh no,” she said waving off Sarah’s automatic apology, “it was a few years ago now, and was coming for a long time. Sadly, the house had fallen into disrepair under her care, but I believe I have returned it somewhat to its former glory. I am very pleased with it now.” She looked around, admiring her work, as if she herself had been the one to wield the hammer. “Later, after dinner, I’ll show you the rest of the house.”
“Well, it is certainly beautiful.”
“Thank you. So, are you all from New York?” She addressed this last question to Mitchell.
“Well, I was born there, but Sarah here was born in Massachusetts….”
“Boston is a very pretty city,” Faith chimed in.
“Yes,” Sarah replied, wondering if she had just imagined the slightly condescending tone in Faith’s voice, “but I’m from just outside of the city myself. More of a country girl, originally, I guess, until I fell in love with New York.”
“Don’t we all,” Faith responded.
“…And Glenn here is Irish.” Mitchell finished.
“Ah, I thought I detected that when we spoke before. Nice to know that someone on my American team will have an understanding of the world over here.”
Glenn responded with a close lipped smile and a nod, but didn’t say a word. He looked down to avoid her gaze, causing Faith to quickly turn her attention back to Mitchell. He covered Glenn’s odd shyness aptly, asking more questions about the house and about Faith’s other holdings in the U.K.
“Well, I too was born in the country – here to be exact,” she said, smiling at Sarah. “But I was brought up in London where my father lived, so I could go to school there. Now I have a house there in the West End, not too far from my London business offices, and I also have a cottage in Cornwall and one in the Lake District. My business holdings include several offices and plants on the continent although, like the US, I am merely renting there as well. I was actually hoping that, after you finish with my expansion in the U.S. whether you would be willing to act as my attorneys on the continent as well? As I understand it, your firm has offices in Paris, Munich and Krakow, and I’m sure they could handle my little project.”
Mitchell turned and smiled at Sarah, “I am sure that we can accommodate whatever you wish, Faith, and I guarantee that we can also meet whatever budget limits and time frames you’re looking for.”
“Oh well, money is no object. In fact, I have a somewhat heavily taxed income right now because of all the surplus I’m generating here, so the faster the better. But, I forget myself. I said I didn’t want to talk business and here I am. Please, forgive me.”
“Not at all,” Sarah said, taking some of Faith’s attentions away from Mitchell. “At this moment, we are in your parlour, so to speak, and would be happy no matter what the subject.”
“Oh, how lovely!” Lady Jowett exclaimed, the flirtatious laugh back as she glanced back at Mitchell out of the corner of her eye. “Meanwhile, can I tempt you with some caviar?”
There were many more rooms in the manor to view after dinner, but by then jet lag really took a hold of Sarah, and she couldn’t stop yawning. Taking the cue, Lady Jowett showed them their three adjoining rooms, all distinct in decoration, but having one thing in common -- each contained large queen size feather beds. Faith explained that, when she moved here, while the old fashioned twin and double beds that had previously occupied the rooms were lovely, she couldn’t imagine feeling comfortable in any of them. As such, they had all been banished to the attic and replaced with these larger imitations. With that, she bid them all good night, and retired back down to her green parlour with Mr. Jack to discuss the morrow.
Mitchell closed the door to his room and moved to sit on the edge of his bed. This room, this place, had awakened something in him he’d thought he’d lost – the ability to feel awe. He’d done his best to hide it behind polite manners, but he was in love. Letting himself go for the first time, he jumped backwards onto the bed, letting the soft down coverings envelop him, and burst into laughter. A small knock at the hall door sat him upright abruptly, and he leapt off the bed.
“Come in,” he called majestically.
A small woman in a maid’s outfit came in, balancing a tray on her arm. “Your nightcap, sir,” she said, placing the tray down carefully so as not to drop the brandy decanter and glass balanced on it. Mitchell moved over to stand near the fire, near to where she placed the tray, and thanked her. He watched with not a little amusement as she continued to bustle around a little before she left, stoking the fire and then shutting the heavy velvet curtains that covered the windows. “It’s a rather drafty room, sir,” she said, and indicated the copper pot to the side of the fireplace, “there is more wood in there if you need it.”
“Thank you, miss..?”
“Cara, sir. If you need anything, just pull on the bell rope next to the bed.”
Mitchell turned round to look at the bed, and looked at the rope hanging loosely next to the bed. “Well, look at that. Amazing. Yes, thank you Cara, but I doubt I’ll be needing to wake anyone up in the middle of the night, so don’t you worry.”
“There’s always someone awake, sir, so it’s no bother. Is there any particular time you’d like to be woken at?”
“What is the usual time for waking here?”
“Around seven or so at this time of the year sir.”
“Fine. See you then, then.”
Cara curtsied and waddled out the door. Mitchell moved to sit by the fire, and poured himself some brandy. There were two armchairs there, both soft and inviting, and he sank into the one to the left of the fireplace. Within minutes, Mitchell could feel his eyes beginning to droop as the warm liquor heated his throat. A cool breeze touched his right cheek, and he glanced away from the fire towards the other chair. He imagined that there was someone sitting there, regarding him with a curious air. It was a woman, similar in features to the Lady Jowett, except with red hair. She was lovely to look at, with clear, unlined skin, and dark green eyes. She held a wrap similar to that the Lady Jowett had been wearing, but in white satin, and this one did not completely hide the silk cream dress she wore underneath. Smiling through the haze of jet lag and alcohol, Mitchell raised a glass to her. She started a little, perhaps somewhat surprised, then she smiled, and a glass of brandy appeared in her hand. She raised hers to his, and an almost imperceptible clink echoed in his ears.
“Your health,” she whispered in a musical voice.
“And yours,” he replied, and downed the drink. When he looked again, she was gone. With a smile still on his lips, Mitchell closed his eyes and dropped his now empty glass by his side in the chair.
Loud knocking on the door leading to Sarah’s adjoining room woke Mitchell up. When he realized he had fallen asleep in the chair, he berated himself for being so lazy.
Standing up and stretching, he muttered “coming, coming,” and straightened out his now crumpled pants and shirt. He walked to the door and yanked it open.
“What?” he said curtly.
Sarah stood with her hand still raised, ready to knock some more. She dropped it and looked sideways at him, a puzzled look on her face.
“Where have you been?” she demanded. “You told me you wanted to have a short meeting in my room before we went to sleep to determine our plan for tomorrow. Glenn and I have been sitting for here for almost an hour waiting on you.” She narrowed her eyes a little, taking in his slightly disheveled appearance. “Did you fall asleep?”
Mitchell rubbed his eyes, and sighed. “Maybe,” he replied. “Okay, hold on. Let me get my briefcase.” He turned around and wandered back into the room, looking for his things. Behind him, Sarah leant on the doorframe and looked back at Glenn, who was sitting sullenly in of the armchairs she had arranged in a small circle around her own fireplace.
She couldn’t quite figure it out, but since they’d arrived, Glenn had been unusually quiet, even uncomfortable. All through dinner he kept looking almost longingly towards the outside of the house through the long windows at the end of the dining room. It being May in England, the light had lasted fairly late into the evening, and he had seemed captivated by the scenery outside. She thought about asking Lady Jowett (Sarah didn’t like calling her Faith) about having their initial meeting in the orangery tomorrow. It was a large glass enclosed room set slightly off from the back of the manor, filled with about eight large planters holding six small orange trees and two lemon trees. There were also some white metal conservatory chairs and tables, and, considering Glenn’s odd behavior, Sarah thought he might be happiest there.
“Sarah?” Mitchell called from his room. She looked back into his room at where he stood by the fire, briefcase in hand. He was looking down at his brandy tray, upon which sat a glass half filled with liquor.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Did you by any chance come in here before?”
“What? Of course not, don’t be silly. If I had, I certainly wouldn’t have had any of you brandy, if that’s what you’re suggesting. I hate the stuff, which you know.”
“No, no, I just…I must have poured myself two glasses,” he finished the statement on a low note, as if trying to convince himself of something. Sarah regarded him a little longer, then shrugged and turned back into her room.
Mitchell looked down at the brandy glass on the tray, and then at the empty one sitting in his chair where he’d dropped it. Deciding that he must have poured two glasses, he picked up the half full glass and downed it. After placing it back on the tray, he followed Sarah into her room, ready to create a plan. The glass on the tray vanished.
About an hour later, they each retired to their rooms, Glenn seeming a little more perky now that they had started to get down to business. He sat up in his own room, a glass of brandy tickling his own throat, and typed up some of the things worked out tonight into his laptop. He also typed up some of the more interesting aspects of the conversations they’d had with Lady Jowett that day, so that he could erase the tape in preparation for tomorrow. Finally, he gathered and read all the e-mails received in the last twenty four hours, answering those he knew needed immediate answers. For some reason, he wasn’t as tired as the others. The daze he’d been in ever since meeting the Lady and her lackey, Arnold Jack, was dissipating with his work and he felt as if her were just now waking up.
Knowledge was the key, he realized. He’d been feeling like a dirty little hanger-on since their arrival, as if he didn’t belong with these wealthy people at their fancy table with their talk about cottages in Cornwall and West End apartments in London. Throughout the evening, the Lady had name dropped all the celebrities that she considered her friends, and mentioned her Oxford background and multiple trips around the world. Admittedly the last was in conjunction with the product she sells, but to Glenn’s ears it had all sounded like bragging. It didn’t seem to bother Mitchell and Sarah as much, drifting over his colleagues heads like a hot wind, but it had rubbed Glenn the wrong way.
Now exercising his mind, also educated and versed in the law thanks to University College Dublin, he remembered why he was there. With each keystroke, he felt better. When he eventually fell asleep, it was with a contented smile on his face.
Sarah, in the middle of the three adjoining bedrooms, hadn’t thought at all when she readied herself for bed. She simply put her head down on the pillow, and was out.
Mitchell entered his room, and automatically looked towards the brandy tray. With a sharp intake of breath, he realized the second glass was gone. A small note stood in its place, which he picked up with a little nervous shake in his hand.
“Sir, I cleared away your tray when I realized that you were having a meeting in Ms. Black’s room. I have also fluffed your pillows and stoked the fire. Lady Jowett asked that I be the one to stay up tonight in case you need anything, so please do not hesitate to ring the bell. Cara.”
Mitchell laughed at himself after reading the note, and shook his head. He put the note back on the table, and began to undress for bed. Within minutes, he too was lying on his pillow, but, for some reason, couldn’t fall asleep. This was a rare occurrence in his life, but not one he wasn’t prepared for. Getting up, he stumbled a bit over to his wash bag and proceeded to knock it off the dresser onto the floor. All the contents spilled everywhere, and he groaned in annoyance as he bent down to retrieve them, all the while keeping an eye out for the Tylenol PM bottle. It didn’t take long for him to realize it wasn’t there. He put his head to the floor and looked under the dresser, and under the other nearby furniture, expecting it must have rolled somewhere. Now he was both annoyed and puzzled. He always had Tylenol PM in his bag, because even if he didn’t need it, someone he was working with always did. He rolled back onto his calves into a squatting position and cursed. Somehow, he had forgotten it. He brought his hand to his forehead and closed his eyes. Giving in to the inevitable, he stood up and, after placing the wash bag more carefully onto the dresser, headed back to the bed. Lying back, he stared at the ceiling for a while before shutting his eyes. He cleared his mind, and willed himself to sleep. Eventually, sleep came.
Mitchell awoke to find bright sunlight filling the room. Cara must have opened the drapes already, he mused, and shook the lethargy out of his bones. He wondered briefly why she hadn’t also waken him up, but decided this was not an important thought. In fact, very little seemed very important to him as he stretched and walked to the windows. The outside seemed impossibly bright to his eyes, and he glanced at his watch to check the time to make sure it wasn’t later. His watch was gone.
Quickly he did a quick survey of the room, but it was definitely gone. So were his cell phone and laptop, which he had carefully placed on the bedside table above his briefcase. Angry, he pulled on his clothes quickly and hurriedly put in his contacts, swearing all the while at thieves. Finally, he marched out in his slippers to confront the servants. No one stood outside to greet him, but he heard voices murmuring from below, and he dashed down the stairs to meet them. No one was there at the bottom of the stairs either, causing Mitchell to sigh in frustration. Small noises and smells encouraged him to search farther, but they appeared to be deliberately eluding him. Try as he might, he could not find a single soul in the house, although food cooked upon the stoves in the kitchen and doors stood ajar as if people had just passed through them. Last, he entered the orangery and walked purposely towards the large glass doors to the outside. He stopped abruptly when he finally got a good look outside.
He stood in shock as the snow came lazily down in the cold sunlight and blanketed the floor of the orangery where he stood. The reason the sun had seemed so bright was because it was reflecting off the white blanket all around him. Freezing air blew through the open doors, and instinct told him to back up. This was unbelievable, he thought. He looked around him at the orange and lemon trees, definitely in bloom, but now wilting under the onslaught of the weather. Without thinking, he moved to shut the doors, but found they wouldn’t budge. Pull as he might, they were stuck in their open position, and he cried out in sadness at the certain loss of the beautiful trees. He called for help, but no one came rushing to aid him, and he yelled in anger about lazy good-for-nothing thieving servants.
Deciding he must save the trees somehow, he decided to wake the others to get their help. Running back through the house to the stairs, he still saw no one, though he was sure he heard them all around him. He leapt up to the second floor, taking the stairs two at a time, and threw himself at Glenn’s door. No answer came from within, so Mitchell, exercising the boss’s prerogative, simply barged into the room, yelling at Glenn to wake up. No one lay in Glenn’s bed, though it lay unmade as if he had been there just seconds before. Indeed, reaching down to feel the covers, Mitchell could still feel the warmth of the body that had been lying there. He spun around, looking for his secretary, but Glenn was gone.
A little nervous now, Mitchell went to the adjoining door, and, without knocking, entered Sarah’s room. She was there, though her outline seemed a little blurred in the darker room. Thanking God, Mitchell jumped on her, calling her to wake up, and found he passed right through her. Now he was scared. He looked down at himself, and noticed for the first time that he too seemed a little insubstantial. When he looked back at Sarah, she, like the others, was gone. Mitchell put his hand to his face, and noticed that it was back to seeming solid, though it shook a little. He gripped his hands into fists and decided he was dreaming.
Slowly, deliberately, he left Sarah’s room and reentered his own. There, sitting in the same armchair she had sat in the night before, was the same woman. Seeing Mitchell she stood up, a silly grin on her face. Ignoring Mitchell’s slightly shocked face, she began to speak, her voice rising from a light whisper to a fairly steady musical lilt.
“There you are!” She exclaimed rushing up to stand before him. “I was afraid that I had been wrong last night, but I see now that you really do see me. You can see me, can’t you?”
Dumbfounded, Mitchell nodded. Reaching out, she took his hand and led him over to the chairs, where she beckoned him to sit. She leaned forward in her own seat so as not to let his hand go.
“We have been hoping beyond hope that someone who could see would come here, soon. She’s been draining us with her clumsiness, and, as you saw with your own eyes, killing the living things around us. Everything we have worked so hard to build, our very lives, are at stake. We need your help!” With each word, she seemed to come more to life, gaining strength through her emotion.
“I’m dreaming,” Mitchell responded, staring at her with glass eyes.
She looked surprised. “What? No, no, Galileo, you’re not dreaming. This is real.”
“I think I had best get back into bed now,” he said, standing, but she refused to release his hand.
“Please, listen. Its barely dawn, the others are not awake yet, and those who are can’t see you in this state any more than we can see them. You have a gift, Galileo, you can see us, and you can pass that gift on if you so desire. I can show you the way.”
“I…I’m really tired. Please leave go my hand.”
She looked down at his hand in hers, ragged breaths escaping her mouth in chilly bursts. She seemed to be fighting with herself, then suddenly, she released him. Mitchell backed away from her and the fire, towards the bed, never taking his eyes off of her until he reached its side. She remained where she sat, her mouth opening and closing as if she would say more.
He slipped into the sheets, pulling them tightly around him, and rolled himself into a snug ball near the head of the bed. He was still shaking, his wet toes burning at the change in temperature, and he shut his eyes tight against the light from the windows. He heard her stand up and approach the bed, to the side he faced. She bent down to look into his face, cold breath signaling her closeness. He opened one eye, and saw that she held her face only inches from his.
“My name is Imogen. If you change your mind, call on me. I have to warn you…I…I can’t promise the others won’t try to force you into helping us. You have the sight, Galilleo, and we all know it. Whether you want it or not, you have been given responsibility for us, and we can invoke that right if we have to.”
With this, she left him. Releasing a small whimper, Mitchell fell back asleep.