I’d finally managed one good night after a long, strenuous week of unbroken aggravation. All I asked for was some quiet time with a friend. And that was what I got until Brandon showed up on the scene and breached in on my time with Cosette.
What did he think I was going to do with her? I totally understood his jealousy. But that was when I spoke with men. Other men. And this was Cosette. His cousin.
Cosette and I had been sitting together, comfortably sprawled on her raspberry suede living room couch in a century old farm house on the northeast corner of Wickham Point, sipping a novel brew of Moroccan tea. The scene could not have been more perfect when Brandon, disrupting the tranquil rhythm, made an unexpected appearance at her doorstep. He announced his arrival at her front door with three hard slams of his fist. He was strong enough to penetrate the solid oak as if it were nothing more than just a rickety screen door. It sounded like cannons going off in the not so far distance. If this were 1864, Atlanta, I would have thought the Union forces were closing in on us.
Cosette, knowing the signature of his knock, calmly and without any sign of worry but a knowing smirk that scratched across her face, opened the door without hesitating. Brandon swept past her, omitting the standard greeting, his eyes combing the living room area adjacent to the foyer until he found me.
“How nice for you to visit Brandon.” She crooned in that velvety voice of hers she typically used to slide under his skin.
“Get your coat.” He demanded of me with an effort to ignore her taunting. His jawline was stiff, unpliant as a rigid strip of metal. I knew better than to argue with him. Not here. Not now. Not when he was in a determined and ‘not to be messed with’ frame of mind. He wasn’t my father, nor my brother, not even a boyfriend. Just a friend, albeit a possessive one at that, who came to stake his guard over me.
In that split moment of his mandate, I had already made up my mind that I would follow him; do as he told. I knew he had his reasons. Knew well enough not to argue with him. And with a look that was written so visibly in every feature of his face, one that warned I not defy him in her presence, I also knew it would be to my detriment not to obey. But I had a reputation to protect, an image to consider. Cosette was watching, testing me with her discerning eyes. I didn’t want her going back to the other Scotts’, telling the rest of the family that when Brandon ordered me to ‘jump’, I was lemming enough to ask ‘how high.’
So I purposely took my time before I slowly got up, careful to give the impression that this was my decision as much as his.
Cosette wasn’t fooled one bit. Only one person called the shots tonight, and it was obvious who that person was.
“Sie nicht selbst ihr.” She hissed, provoked by my submission. Her eyes were on me, her words directed at Brandon’s back.
“Ich besitze, was mir gehört zu schützen.” Came his reply, a language that, if I’m not mistaken, always seems strangely marked by anger.
The moment I crossed over that three foot radius that neared him, he grabbed me by the hand and lurched me out of her house. I hobbled after him, trying to keep up as if I were a feeble toddler learning to walk. His cousin only laughed, using her best defense mechanism tone, cackling like a hen, her voice breaking in sound bytes before she slammed the oak hard. Seconds after, the front porch light flicked off, courtesy of Cosette’s bad manners to leave her departing guests in total darkness.
“Brandon, wait!” I ripped my hand from his strong grip when we reached his Yukon. My wrist was burning from when he forcibly seized me. The car sounded off in low beeps as Brandon unlocked the doors.
“Get in.” He ordered.
“Not until you tell me what’s going on.”
“I will. In the car. Now get in.”
“I’m not yours to push around, Brandon. Now tell me or I walk home.”
He studied me from across the roof of the car, each of us staring defiantly at the other person from our respective sides.
“Get in.” He held, but entreated on the last added word said in mercy, “Please.”
This time he was humble. Without even a touch of it he knew he wasn’t getting any cooperation from me. But it was what I needed to hear, especially since I really wasn’t looking forward to walking home in 46 degree temperatures with low winds riding in at 20 miles an hour.
I stepped into the front passenger seat and buckled myself in for the Busch Garden rocket boost of a ride. Brandon usually unleashed his temper on his vehicles.
I waited until after we’d exited Cosette’s neighborhood. As if she had bionic ears and could eavesdrop on our conversation.
“Why are you angry with Cosette? What did she do?”
“It’s not what she did,” he said, his eyes nailed to the winding road that spun towards us with a speed matching the Gran Turismo series video game, “it’s what she’s about to do. What she’s trying to do.”
I paused to consider this for a minute, to process this article of fact. I knew what Brandon was getting at, and felt irritated by his artful way of letting the suspense build in dramatic fashion before he would deliver the blow of truth at me. But I didn’t want to fill the gaps with any assumptions of my own.
“What is she trying to do?” I asked in that typical high-pitched voice that people regularly used when they acted guileless. Brandon furrowed his eyebrows, and with a look of knowing cast a look towards me that told he wasn’t fooled by this counterfeit attempt.
“She’s a witch. Like me. She’s trying to get a read of your energy.”
“How could she manage that?”
He shrugged, struggling to reach for an example, “I don’t know. Anything you might have drank.” He darted his attention back to me and held my eyes to his. “Did you drink anything?”
I shook my head, turning away from his probing eyes, ignoring the tremor that snaked its way up my spine. “I just took a sip of some tea,” I said, leaving out the most significant part: that I actually engulfed two whole cups. “You mean like use my spit for something?”
“Something like that. But more or less to get your ‘prints’. Only a print extracted in the form of energy. Overlapping energy patterns of your aura, anything that will give her specific information on you.”
“So you’re saying she can…”
“Read your thoughts. See your past. Your present, your current status quo. She was happy to let you go after you drank the whole tea. She didn’t need you after that.”
“I told you,” I blasted at him, leaning forward against the tightening seatbelt, insisting on my own lie, “it was only a sip.”
“You drank the whole thing, Gillian, I saw the empty cup.”
I nodded, embarrassed to be caught in my own lie. “So what now?”
“She’ll dip her finger in whatever liquid you didn’t drink, run it across her forehead, and whatever she sees in her dreams tonight will tell her something different, depending on the ritual.”
I sank back against the seat, feeling defeated and rattled that Cosette would betray me this way. I thought we were friends, that she had a genuine interest in wanting to know me.
I could feel Brandon’s eyes on me as he threw one last glance in my direction, one filled this time with pity.