The morning after
“Hi” Willow’s voice was soft and sleepy.
“Morning.” He said looking away. “Why’d you sleep on the floor?”
“Because that’s where you were sleeping.” She gave an imperceptible shudder as the aftermath of her own nightmares washed over her again.
He stood and immediately sat down on the bed. “I’m fuckin’ sorry about last night.”
Willow sat up, pulling the blanket up to cover her nakedness. “We already talked about that. I’m not blaming you.”
“Well, I sure as fuck am blaming myself. Look what I did to you.”
She didn’t glance down. The pain was still lingering and she had a good idea what she would see. “I’m just sorry I didn’t realize you are an empath.” Willow said pushing herself up to stand. “I should have realized it. That man, whoever he is, is a powerful entity. He is full of rage and you will need to be careful.”
“I need to get the fuck out of this place.” Gerard said angrily. “We all do.”
Willow wrapped the blanket around her as walked over to the bed and sat down beside him. “We are here for your brother.”
“He doesn’t need to be here. Willow this place is cursed and I don’t care if you don’t believe that. It is. Look what has happened already. Mikey isn’t strong enough to be here.”
“I believe he is. Something drew him back here. He thinks it’s the woman he saw and I think he’s right. She was able to make him see her and that takes strength.”
“But why did she want him to see her?”
Willow shook her head, “I don’t know but it’s important for him to understand his abilities. Acknowledging that she revealed herself to him for a reason is important for Mikey. He’s going to have to learn how to deal with these thing.”
“I just want my brother back. The way he was.” Gerard said with a sigh.
“He can’t be like he was, Gee. This is a part of him now. He has to learn to deal with it.”
“And what if he can’t?”
Willow took a deep breath and tried to explain without hurting him. “You have so little faith in him. You think he will fail.”
“That’s not true.” Gerard fought the quick anger he felt. “I just worry about him.”
“Then worry about him quietly.” Willow said, “But in front of him tell him that you believe in his abilities and that he will be able to master them. He needs to know you believe he can deal with this Gee. He’s always second-guessing himself because of you. He’s always thinking about how you will react to what he does.”
Gerard stared into her eyes, “You know this from listening to his thoughts?”
“So I’m just supposed to pretend that I think this will all be okay? I’m just supposed to pretend that I think this ability he has is great?”
“Yes.” Willow said softly. “Because you love him.”
“So should someone go up and tell them that breakfast is ready?” Christa asked looking around the huge dinning room table.
Ray shrugged. “I dunno.”
“Well they didn’t eat any dinner last night.” Jamia pointed out.
“Maybe someone should check on them.” Bob said setting his glass of orange juice down. Truth was he was worried. Gerard had been very angry with him last night. He wondered just how much he’d overheard of his and Willow’s conversation.
“No one needs to check on us.” Gerard said walking into the room followed closely by Willow. He pulled out a chair for her then sat down himself.
Willow could feel their eyes on her. There had been no way to cover the marks left on her neck by Gerard.
“Uh, so what’s the plan for today?” Frank asked trying to break the tension in the room.
“I think we should just start working on our new material.” Mikey said with a smile. This morning when he’s gotten up he’s felt really positive. He’s slept through the night soundly.
“Sounds like a plan.” Ray said before taking another bite of his toast.
Alicia looked over at Willow. “Jamia, Christa and I are going to go do some shopping. Gonna come with us?”
Willow didn’t miss the look of concern on Mikey’s face. He was still nervous about being here. She knew he wanted her to be near if something happened.
“I think I’ll just hang here.” Willow said with a smile. She looked over at Gerard, “I meant to say something before but I forgot. I brought your digital camera that I found in the study. Is that okay?”
He nodded, “Yeah, sure. You gonna take pictures?”
“Yes, I’d like to take a lot of photos of this place.”
“Will ghosts show up in the photos?” Alicia asked.
Everyone at the table looked slightly uncomfortable at that thought.
“It has been known to happen but not as full body apparitions. Mostly if something is caught it will just look like a shadowy figure. Lots of times it looks like smoke.”
“I have to admit this place is really creepy.” Christa said with a slight shudder. “Last night I had trouble sleeping. I kept hearing weird noises.”
Willow took a sip of coffee. “What kind of noises?”
Christa looked slightly embarrassed, “I probably was just imagining it but it sounded like singing. But you know… like singing in a church, lots of voices.”
“I didn’t hear anything.” Ray said with a frown.
“That’s because you snore so loud.” She said grinning at him.
Willow considered what Christa had said. “I’d also like to do some research on this place.”
“You can use my laptop.” Gerard volunteered.
Willow nodded, “Thanks. I want to find out more about the history of this mansion and the people who have lived here.”
Mikey smiled, “So I’ve been giving it some thought and I realize now that the woman I saw here before really shouldn’t have scared me. I mean, she smiled at me, right?’
Willow was glad he had this attitude. “That’s true.”
“But I still just have this feeling that she was trying to tell me something.” He looked at Willow. “I want to understand how you do it. How do you know what they are telling you?”
Willow laughed, “That’s hard to explain. It’s a process of clearing your mind and if they can, they will show you images. That’s how you understand.”
“So a ghost has never really just spoken to you? I mean straight out spoken words?” Mikey asked.
Willow immediately thought about Elena. She could still remember the shock she’d felt when she’s heard Elena’s voice. As much as she hated to lie she couldn’t tell him the truth. He would want to know who had spoken to her and what they’d said.
“I just get images.” Willow said looking down at her plate.
Gerard was watching Willow closely. There was something in the way she’d answered that question that had sounded false. He wondered how much Willow kept to herself. He had the feeling it was quite a bit.
Willow spent most of the afternoon walking around the grounds of the Paramour. It was a beautiful place and she loved the way it had been landscaped. In her travels she has encountered several of the departed but none had acknowledged her. That was fine, she was enjoying the day and the sunshine. After taking approximately fifty photos she decided to sit down by the pool in one of the lounge chairs and soak up the sun. She laid back, closed her eyes and sighed contently.
“Last time I was here I wanted to walk into that pool and sit on the bottom until all the air had left my body.”
Willow heard Gerard sit down in the chair next to hers.
Without opening her eyes she spoke, “I’ve heard that story.”
Gerard laid back and closed his eyes. “Yeah, but you didn’t hear all of it. I actually tried it one night. It was like I just couldn’t fuckin’ take it anymore. Bob pulled me out.”
“Tell me what was going through your mind at the time.” Willow urged softly.
He thought a minute. “I don’t really know. We were under so much pressure to get the record done. I think that was part of it. Then I kept having those fuckin’ nightmares. Add to that the fact that my relationship of six years was falling apart.”
He hated these memories, “And, that was my fault. I cheated on her. She was a good woman who had stood by my side through a lot of shit.”
“So you were dealing with a lot of guilt.” Willow said softly. “But it wasn’t a new feeling, was it?’
Gerard frowned. He looked over at her wondering what she knew. “What do you mean?”
“You’d cheated on her before but this time was different.”
“I thought you fuckin’ said you weren’t listening to my thoughts?” He said angrily.
“You just can’t make yourself trust me, can you?” Willow sighed.
“Well how the fuck can you know that if you aren’t listening to my thoughts?”
Willow shaded her eyes from the sun and looked over at him. “The person you became involved with was often at your side. You may have thought you did a good job of hiding that fact but you didn’t.”
He took out a cigarette and lit it before answering. “She didn’t exactly try to make it a secret.”
“So you’re blaming her?” Willow asked.
He tried to control the anger he was feeling. “What difference does any of this make?”
“A lot of difference. What was going on in your life at that time played a big part in how the incidents affected you. You were dealing with a lot of guilt. That made a difference.”
Gerard looked uncomfortable. “Yeah, well, whatever.” He didn’t like to talk about the subject. “Anyway, I suppose Karma got me because of what happened to that relationship.”
Willow was naturally curious about what had really happened but didn’t ask.
Her silence bothered him. He had expected her to be curious. “So, as everyone knows I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire after that.”
“You married.” Willow said wondering if he would talk about it. She knew how difficult the subject was for him.
“Yeah, I married someone I’d been with less than two months.” The way he said it sounded like a challenge.
Willow remained silent.
“So aren’t you going to tell me that was a dumb ass thing to do?” His tone was angry.
“It’s not hard to see why you did it.” Willow said softly.
Gerard stared at her. “Oh really? So why do you think I did it?”
Willow sighed, “Because you were hurting and wanted it to stop. Because you wanted what your brother had. You wanted to be loved, you wanted to love.”
Her understand only angered him further. “That’s what you think?”
Once again Willow didn’t answer.
“I married because I fell in love. I fell head over heels in fuckin’ love.”
“That’s what you told yourself.” Willow said knowing her words would anger him.
Gerard sat up. “Are you saying I’m lying?”
“I’m saying that that’s what you told yourself and everyone else.” Willow fully expected him to walk off. After a few minutes she shielded her eyes and looked over at him. He was staring off into the distance.
“I did really think she loved me. I believed that. I wanted that.” The sorrow in his voice was unmistakable.
“I’m sorry.” Willow whispered.
“But I was a fool.” Gerard said shaking his head. “My friends tried to tell me but I wouldn’t listen.”
“And you didn’t want to admit you’d been wrong.” Willow said knowing it was the truth.
“I suppose that’s true.” Gerard said with a sigh. “But you know it’s one thing for someone to lie about how they feel and another for them to totally screw you over.”
Willow wasn’t sure what to say. She wished he would open up to her and tell her what had happened to leave him such a bitter man. She waited to see if he would say more.
“When I found out the truth…” His voice trailed off. He shook his head. “Never again. I’ll never let anyone that close to me again because I know what can happen.”
“What can happen.” Willow said, “Not necessarily what will happen.”
He looked over at her. “Sugar, never again. I promised myself and I will keep that promise. I’ll never let anyone hurt me like that again. I wanted to fuckin’ die.”
Willow was suddenly very afraid for him. It was becoming more and more apparent that this place could be very dangerous for him. His mindset, the anger, would draw unwanted forces to him. She needed to understand more about what had happened to him last time he was in this mansion. “Tell me how it was for you being here before.”
The change in the conversation surprised him. “Fuckin’ horrible. I told you that.”
“But how did you feel about yourself? Not about Mikey because I know how hard that was for you to watch him slip away. I know you felt guilt and pressure to finish the album but what else?”
He was wondering where she was going with this. “What else?”
Willow sat up. “What other feelings?”
Gerard thought a minute and then the word came to him. “Anger. I was fuckin’ pissed off most of the time.”
Unfortunately Willow had expected the answer. Gerard was an empath to the dead and a strong one. The man from last night had probably used Gerard the last time he’d been here. He’d used him to vent his rage only Gerard hadn’t understood at the time.
“What are you thinking?” Gerard asked.
Willow needed to keep him in an attitude that was as positive as possible not just for himself but for Mikey. She didn’t tell him what she believed. Instead she asked. “So the longer you were here the worse it became?”
“All I know is I became a zombie. I walked around not sleeping or eating. I became…”
“A shell of your former self?” Willow supplied.
“Yeah.” He nodded, “I did.”
Willow knew how easily he could lose himself again. She needed to force the angry departed man to reveal the cause of his fury. She needed to make sure he didn’t use Gerard again. She was about to ask him another question when Frank sprinted from inside to where they were sitting.
“Willow.” Frank said trying to catch his breath. “Mikey needs you. He told me to find you.” There was no denying the urgency in his voice.
She was out of her chair in a shot. Gerard quickly followed them as they headed back inside.