By Blood We Live Page 86

“Thing is,” she said, “here you both are.”

I was thinking I liked her. I was thinking she was a fast learner. If she survived even another two or three years she’d be a force to be reckoned with. There was damage there, but she had sufficient self-brutality and hunger to make herself bigger than it.

“When I left him in LA,” she said, “I wanted him to be free to go look for you. But he didn’t do that. He came looking for me. And because of that, he’s here. On the other side of the world. In the same house as you.”

“Well, if you believe in destiny,” I said, “I guess that’s what you’d call it.”

“Do you?”

I remembered the conversation with Maddy on the way back from Rome airport. Ever since I met him I’ve had this feeling that this isn’t just all random crap. It’s as if someone’s watching it all, or making it up.

“I dislike it enough not to believe in it,” I said, thinking: That’s the first time I’ve ever thought that. There was that Forster quote: How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?

“So how come you are here?” Justine asked.

Well. Yes.

And though merely opening my mouth to begin felt like a labour against giant exhaustion, I told her everything. Granted there was an uncanny ease between us, but I was so sick of weighing narrative rations by now that I would have told anyone. All of it. Quinn’s Book. The myth of origin. The Chinese executions. Salvatore and Bryce. Olek’s vampires. The fucking human world closing in. You might not want this for yourself, but you’ll want it for your children.

“We were attacked by the religious nuts, too,” she said. “Back in LA before I left. Mia says it’s going to be an all-out war.”

“Or all-out primetime entertainment,” I said. “Whatever does not kill them makes them make TV shows.” I had an image of Zoë and Lorcan pitted against human kids: assault courses; IQ tests; spelling bees; cooking shows. I could see the new version of Blind Date. One of these three would-be Prince Charmings has a dark secret … Will tonight’s Cinderella still want to go to the Ball—when she finds out it’s on a full moon?

“So what is the cure?” Justine asked. As I’d known she would, since I’d stopped short of the details. I’d stopped short of the details because the cocktail of disbelief and nausea and absurdity and intuitive certainty made me want to go somewhere far away in the middle of nowhere and sleep. I thought of Muni, her calm, smiling physical care for the baby. I thought of Devaz, lying on his bunk, staring into space. Human again.

While I told her the details she stood looking at the ground, frowning, slightly, one arm wrapped around her middle, the other—hand holding the all but untouched cigarette—down by her side. I told her without emotion. Just what I’d heard. Just what I’d seen.

When I’d finished, she said: “You don’t believe that.” Fast learner was right. I’d known her less than a couple of hours and here were the pronouncements. On me. On what I believed.

“No,” I said. “I don’t. But I knew without him having to tell me exactly what the ritual was. It didn’t feel like an educated guess. It felt like a memory. And there’s Devaz. He was a werewolf. Now he’s not.” As soon as I said this I realised (slow, Talulla, this place makes you so dumb and slow) that of course Olek wouldn’t let him leave here alive. He was probably already dead. He’d probably already been neatly driven away by Grishma and neatly buried somewhere. It was a strange little fleck of disgust in the mass of disgust. Out of it, I said: “I could give my children the chance of a normal life.”

You say these things as an experiment. To see if you believe them. How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?

An hour before sunrise Olek surfaced. “He’s conscious,” he said, “but very disoriented. I’ve given him a lot of blood, but he’s not metabolising properly. I don’t know. I’ve never really seen this before.”

Justine and I had come in from the garden. Mia and Caleb, showered and changed, were sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Konstantinov and Natasha were boarding up the window in the library.

“Can I see him?” Justine asked.

“Go ahead,” Olek said. “He’s very heavily sedated, however. I doubt he’ll know you. Mia, Caleb, there’s plenty of room below stairs. Please make yourselves comfortable. Do you need to drink?”

“Tomorrow,” Mia said.

“Fine,” Olek said. “I have everything. Talulla, you and I need to—”

“I need to go to bed,” I said. “I’m exhausted.”

He looked at me for a moment. Then smiled. He took the envelope containing the remaining pages from Quinn’s journal and handed it to me. “Corroborative reading,” he said. “Just so you know I wasn’t making anything up.”

I was thinking: I’ll go upstairs, get my things, give it a couple of hours, then walk away from here.

I was thinking this.

79

Justine

I WANTED TO stay awake, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to. The sun comes and sleep’s like the ground sucking you in. Like magnetism from hell.

“I promise you, my dear girl,” Olek said, laying out a comforter and pillows on the corridor floor, “I’ve done absolutely everything I can for the time being. If he makes it through the daylight hours he’ll be much stronger. Then we can re-assess. Now you’re sure you wouldn’t like one of the other rooms? I feel an absolute barbarian letting you sleep here like a little cat, albeit a lovely one, with personality.”

“I want to,” I said. “I’ll feel it if he wakes up.”

He squeezed my arm and gave me a neat little smile. He was one of those guys you couldn’t tell whether you hated. So polite and charming you thought it had to be a cover for something.

“Of course,” he said. “I understand. Well, if you have everything you need, I’ll take my leave for now. I’ll be one floor below if you need me. Bottom of the stairs, second door on the left. Just knock.”

So, I thought, after he’d gone, that’s her. Her. I guess I shouldn’t have felt happy when she told me she didn’t believe she was anyone’s reincarnation. For poor Fluff’s sake I should’ve been sad. Except of course she hadn’t said she didn’t believe in it. Not exactly. No such thing as destiny. But Fluff had come after me, not her—and it had brought the two of them together anyway. It was impossible to believe it was all part of some invisible scheme of things, like God’s plan, like a fucking story. And just as impossible to write it off as a series of accidents. Both ideas impossible to believe and impossible to dismiss. Which is what he’s told me Christ knows how many times before, about the signs, the connections, the correspondences between things, the goddamned beguilement. You have to both believe it and know it can’t be true, he’d said. You have to learn how to be the wry servant of two masters. I’d been so annoyed, I’d said: Yeah. I’ve never known what the fuck “wry” actually means.

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