I pretended to take the last sedative when Eli pressed it into my hand. It had been a week, and I finally felt like I had the strength to have a serious conversation with Gran.
Two hours later, I brought a full tea tray to Gran’s room.
I watched Gran sip her tea. I’d been quiet for two minutes wondering how I could ask her. “I want to know how to control ghosts.”
She dropped her teacup. It shattered, sending warm liquid and chips of porcelain scattering across the hardwood.
“I’ll clean that up.” I slid to my knees, carefully placed the ceramic chips in a pile and wiped up the tea with my cardigan.
“Why do you need to know?”
“It’s best that you pass on your knowledge, while you’re here.”
“Did you really slip in the shower? Or did one of these ghosts you want to control hurt you? What’s going on here, Dex?”
“I walked into a house where someone had opened a dimension gate. A demon attacked me.” I threw the cardigan. “I’m defenceless. You have all these skills, and you won’t share them with me.”
“Why are you going into strange houses?”
“Mayor Chesterfield and Mrs Gregory’s idea. It’s a punishment for not dancing on my strings like a good little puppet.”
“Why did you come back to this town? None of this would be a worry if you never looked back.”
“Is that what you had in mind when you taught me magic in the first place?”
She sighed. “When I made that decision, I was still angry about not getting the chance to practice magic officially. I used you as a ‘fuck you’ to the system. I’ll always regret it.”
“Why teach me and not Ralph?”
She gave me a long, sad look. “Ralph has no magic.”
“I’ve had a long time to think about this, and the one thing that stuck out about my learning magic is I couldn’t see the ghosts… spirits whatever you want to call them, until you taught me how.”
“I thought about teaching Ralph for a long time then decided against it. When I told Dorian what I was considering…” She shook her head. “I’ll never forget the way he looked at me… like I was some stranger who had come to hurt his family rather than the woman he loved. He didn’t leave me alone with Ralph for a year.”
“I thought your parents were done after Ralph and with Myrtle never having children, I thought it was over. I’d never had to give in to that dark voice in the back of my head telling me what would really make them angry.”
“Your Grandfather, The Agency and the Nate Island pigs who decide what’s best for us all from their golden thrones.”
“It’s home to the magical ruling body.” She hissed the final three words, and I felt spittle land on my face.
“And me? How does this connect to you telling me about magic against everyone’s wishes?”
“Something happened, and I was angry. You were the perfect age to learn, and you’d just failed your test.”
“You illegally half pulled me into the magical world because you were angry?”
“When Dorian realised you weren’t going to forget, he let me teach you on the condition that I’d never introduce you into the underground magical community.”
“Why was Pop so against me learning magic?”
“It was the method, not the act of learning he was against. I can’t tell you, no one would forgive me.”
“I’m sick of family secrets. I’m going to tell Grandfather everything you did.”
“The only thing they can give you is a job as an Exorcist. You won’t make it a year. You better not tell them our secret while either of us is still breathing if you know what’s best for you.”
“Excuse me?” Had she just threatened me? My head spun as I struggled to stay sitting. That sounded like a threat… surely she wouldn’t actually threaten someone she was supposed to love?
“We’ll both go to jail for illegal use of magic. You’re an adult who kept using magic. You can’t claim innocence, Dexter.”
“I was a child. I trusted you, and you took advantage of me because you were angry at someone else.”
“We share a great secret.”
I stood with a shaky growl. “What you did to me was worse than never knowing about magic.”
Her damp blue eyes were suddenly focused on me. “Why do you need to know how to control spirits? I gave you a fail-safe.” She picked up my abandoned teacup and took a sip. “Why didn’t you use it on the demon? There’s a reason your Pop consented to be bound to that ruby.” She pointed at the barbel in my second eyebrow piercing. “I see you repurposed it. You have those piercings in all the time, why didn’t you use it?”
“I don’t want to teach you dangerous applications of your magic if you’ll panic and use it wrong.”
“I know most ghosts aren’t hostile, but Dunn seems to be full of them.”
“I never thought I’d say this but call The Agency. They have to have Exorcists on staff.”
“I’m sick of being the damsel. I don’t want to be a defenceless thing people have to save because I can’t save myself. What if someone dies because they’re trying to save me?”
Gran reached out and took my hand in both of hers. “What do you want to know?”
“Everything you know about our ability.” I put my other hand on top of hers and squeezed them gently.
She gave me a thin smile. “Go to my parents’ house. There’s a safe behind the office bookcase. Inside, there’s a key to a safety deposit box at the Coastal Cliff Credit Union in Sydney.”
“Dorian left it to you in his will. I’ve been paying the account under your name. In the box is a code for an electronic lock and a set of keys. We built an underground bunker on a block of land we owned. There will be a map in the deposit box. All you need is to memorise the code and location. Then get a copy made of the interior keys.”
“Why don’t you know the code?”
“Dorian and I weren’t doing well by the end. After we found out he was sick, he dropped the divorce idea. One day he changed the code without telling me and willed you the only copy and deed to the land. He said I was too impulsive and hanging with the wrong crowd. He was right, you know. He was always too good for me.”
“Sick? But, he died in an accident.”
“He died before we had the chance to tell you about the illness. I’ve told you a lot more then I should have. You may as well hear how he really died.”
“What kind of accident was it?”
“He killed himself.”
Everyone would’ve known… everyone but me. I pulled away from Gran. I needed to get out of this room. I felt a pain building in my chest as my breath quickened. I tried to speak, but none of the questions I had would sit in my mind long enough to stick.
“We didn’t tell you because you were a kid.”
“Does everyone else know?”
“Everyone in the family apart from you and Ned.”
I felt her slip a piece of paper into my hand. It was the credit union address.
“When you’ve recovered, get access to the bunker, and I’ll tell you the next step. I’ve been a fool and made you vulnerable, trying to keep you safe. I dragged you into this, but Dorian wanted you to have this part of him.”
“I’ll keep it safe.”
“If you want to learn how to use your ability, you have to follow everything I say. Can you promise me that?”
“Yes. I promise.”
I left Gran’s bedroom and took the tea tray to the kitchen to wash the cups. After I was done, I dropped the last sedative pill down the drain.