The boy was older now. But Iris could tell it was still him. The little boy she’d seen dreaming beside a toy train had to be twenty-two, twenty-three here. She knew she was invisible in this dream, but that didn’t stop her from ducking away from his wrath. Iris couldn’t understand anything he said, but the rage radiating off of him was impossible to miss. He was pacing the unfamiliar room, moving over and over against the worn rug. It had once been a beautiful rug, she could tell. But it was old and faded, much like everything else in the house that she could see.
The man had a narrow, thoughtful face with a large forehead and big eyes. He occasionally stopped pacing just long enough to look out the window, quickly replacing the frayed curtain as he began his tight circles again. He was waiting for something and whatever it was seemed to be coming with a hint of smoke on the breeze.
Then the faded room and angry man were gone. They were replaced by the familiar woman she’d seen so many times before. Rosalind Alderidge, it had to be. “Rosalind,” Iris breathed.
The woman said nothing, but Iris knew if she were to try and step out of this room right now, she wouldn’t be able to. She was being watched, eyes peering at her through the darkness. They might have been friendly at one point, but they felt dangerous now, like a force of nature that was on nobody’s side.
“Do you have something to tell me?” Iris asked the woman, who she was now positive was Rosalind. “What happened to your family? What did they do to you?”
Rosalind simply looked at her. She was maybe in her fifties, but her face was lined with worry and her dark hair was woven through with gray. “Can you tell me?” Iris asked.
Rosalind said nothing, and she heard the pacing begin again, a heavy rhythm that bored its way through Iris’s skull. And then she turned and Roland was there, his faceless form inches from her, malice dripping off of him. Iris knew it wasn’t real, knew he couldn’t hurt her here. Yet a primal fear flooded her and she pinched her wrist, her sign to herself to wake up from a lucid dream.
And it worked. A second later, Iris was lying in her bedroom in the glow of the dim light she’d left on. Tonight’s lucid dreaming had been intentional. There was a connection between her dreams about this family and the Alderidge house. These had to be the Alderidges. And if Roland hadn’t managed to work his way into her subconscious, maybe she would have been able to get more information about them.
Iris shuddered, her warm bed suddenly feeling much colder. Was that really him? He couldn’t get into the building, she’d made sure of that. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t get into her dreams apparently. Maybe she wasn’t as prepared as she thought. Especially after she’d messed up so badly with Olivia.
A wave of shame washed over her as she thought about Olivia. What had she been thinking, seriously? Of course a crystal wouldn’t be enough to keep out an entity on its own. But she’d been so anxious to get to her meeting with Vivien. She had a lead. And while it had ended up being nothing, it had been a potential something. But she could have stopped for a moment. Or passed Olivia over to Celine. Or maybe even talked to everyone at the Countess, seen if they had any ideas. Even Vivien might have had something that could help.
Vivien. Another stressor that was making its way into her thoughts at – she glanced at the clock – three in the morning. Vivien had talent, but she wouldn’t do any kind of training. And she was so certain she could solve the curse with the snap of her fingers. Iris had to find a way to tell her she didn’t want her to without pissing off the woman with far more power than she had.
No, there was no point in thinking about any of this right now. Iris was going to lie down, close her eyes, and try to get back into that dream.
Andrew wasn’t sleeping. He’d managed to doze off for a little while, unfortunately in the middle of a focused meditation he’d been doing for months to prepare for yet another attempt to cross the town line. Even after so long, he still had a bad habit of meditating on his back, which inevitably led to him falling asleep right there on the mat in the middle of Liv’s living room.
But tonight he’d woken up maybe thirty minutes later, the affirmation he’d been whispering to himself still echoing slightly in his ears. This one seemed as far fetched as the last, something about astral projecting over the line to get his body used to it again. The original plan had been to try it just before the winter solstice if they hadn’t succeeded by then. Now Andrew wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but he figured it couldn’t hurt to keep preparing. If they resolved things with Iris and actually did the ritual, it was going to be simple. He’d basically do this same thing again, but surrounded by crystals in Iris’s shop. And with Roman doing the same thing right next to him.
But even the idea of doing it was too much. It wasn’t that it was hard, it was that it was more of the same. Like a hamster wheel of metaphysical experimenting that he’d been running on for nearly a year.
And he was going to keep running on it until he got out, because he had no other choice. And then what? Andrew had no job and no home outside of New Winslow anymore. And maybe he hadn’t fought hard enough to keep them. Cleo was right, he could have fought harder. But he didn’t want to stay here, right? He wanted to get out. He wanted to go home, regardless of what it might look like now.
He sat up, running a hand through his hair. It was getting a bit too long for his liking now. There was one hairdresser in New Winslow and she did alright work, but he wanted his old haircut and his old sense of self back.
He also wanted some sleep, but that clearly wasn’t happening tonight.
Andrew stood up. A cup of tea. Maybe a hot cup of tea would help him relax enough to go back to sleep. He walked into the kitchen, tiptoeing to avoid waking Liv. She’d been having her own nightmares lately for obvious reasons and if she was actually sleeping, he didn’t want to disturb that.
He filled the kettle and turned it on, then turned to gaze out the window. He could see the darkness of the woods behind the house and for a second, he thought something was moving deep inside of it. But then he blinked and it was gone. Good, maybe he was just imagining it and there wasn’t a fun new problem to deal with.
Desperate for distraction, he glanced over to where he could see about half of Noah’s living room window from this angle. The curtains were drawn, but Andrew could see him walking by in the dim light behind them. Apparently Andrew wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep tonight. Part of him wanted to go upstairs and see if Noah was up for company. The other part of him wasn’t quite sure where that would lead, nor did he know what he wanted it to lead to.
Ever since Noah had gotten home from rehab, Andrew wasn’t quite sure what to do with his hands any time they were together. He was suddenly all too conscious of everything he said and how it might sound. Or if it would make Noah laugh, something that was more difficult to do these days than it had been when they were kids, but slowly getting easier. But he couldn’t help noticing all the little details and couldn’t get Noah out of his mind when they weren’t together.
Not that he had any right to feel this way, a nasty little voice in his mind called out. Noah’s made it clear he hasn’t forgiven you and he’s not interested in anything more than what you have now.
And none of it mattered anyway because Noah wasn’t in the window anymore anyway. And the tea was done. A few minutes later, Andrew was back in his own room with a hot mug of herbal tea, trying to relax enough to sleep before the sun rose.