I was pleased as peeps when the dinner bell sounded. “Gotta go,” I said. “I missed my breakfast, I’m not missing lunch as well.”
“But . . .” Toggy’s fingers closed around my wrist. “What happened next? How did you get to be melded to–to . . .? And why didn’t you come looking for me?”
“It’ll wait,” Gamal told him. “It’s not important. More, is what we’re going to do about him now? I agree with Arwen: Guillan is the Lyme Bay Killer.”
What? But I hadn’t said that—only to Madeleine. All I’d said to Gamal was I thought him dead and now hitching a ride in some host’s body.
“There’s also the problem of what to do about you two.” He disengaged Toggy’s fingers from around my wrist. “It takes no genius to see that Arvina and Arwen aren’t the same in their affections. I’d say Arwen prefers the more . . . mature type; more . . . intellectual and spiritual; less ‘let’s get naked’. Isn’t that right, Arwen?”
“I . . .” opened my mouth but . . .
“So back off, Toggy, till we can get them separated.”
Separated, yea, that sounded good. But how’d he intend that? Had he a plan? Did he know a way? If so, let’s get to it.
“I shall have to give some thought to this. Arvina, may I speak with you?”
I cast a longing glance to the building just visible beyond the trees. The bell had sounded to gather in the stray sheep. If I wasn’t there—for the second meal of the day—I could imagine the hoo-ha. Not to mention my stomach was acid with hunger. But Arvina overruled all other calls.
“You want to know how to separate us?” she asked. “You think, were it possible, I’d still be dependent upon a non-Bellinn?”
Gamal ignored that. He was Woden: he had wisdom. “I was wondering if you have— at any time—say, migrated? You know, from one host to another while the first host still was alive.”
Arvina nodded my head. “Once. I’d made a mistake in the choosing and found myself in a boy child. I could do nothing to mould him to me. It was agony for us both. Then, with him barely into his teens, he . . . he got a girl into trouble. I jumped ship; I entered the spawn he begot on the girl.”
“And?” Gamal asked. “Did it work?”
“Not really,” Arvina said. “Poor kid died giving birth. I had to find myself another new body.”
“But you did transfer? You can do that?”
Again, Arvina nodded my head. “I guess—if there’s new life beckoning. But you’re not going to move me away from Arwen. Not after all the woes I’ve taken to return to my kins-land.”
Though I did wonder the route taken, of more immediate attention was my desire for lunch. Could I, maybe, move my feet in that direction? Sneak control while she was talking? Hey, brutal! I found that I could. And Gamal and Toggy ambled along with me.
Not many steps on and Gamal held his hand to his head—I thought theatrically. “I believe I see a solution oncoming.”
“Whoa-no, hold there, buddy, that ain’t fair,” Toggy objected, clearly ahead of me on Gamal’s wondrous thought. “You’d have her relinquish this delicious body to be a baby again?”
“And is it fair that Arwen must put up with your amorous slobberings?” He looked at Toggy.
As I understood it, Toggy was a higher nock of Bellinn than Gamal, and to my mind ought to have had the heaviest clout. Yet beneath Gamal’s glare he capitulated. “I suppose all babies grow to be babes, given time.”
“Unless they die,” said Arvina as she bent to scoop up my lost slippers, found at the edge of the trees. Shame she didn’t think to put them on for me.
“Okay, now I want to speak to Arwen, again,” Gamal told her.
I don’t know what the visual clue of our changes. Maybe there was none; maybe he just sensed it was me in charge now.
“We need to go to Lyme Bay,” he said. “And for that, we need to get you out of here. We need to give some thought to that.”
Getting out of here was fine with me. But I wasn’t sure about a trip to Lyme Bay. Devonshire, wasn’t it? It was already edging towards the end of August. I was due to start college soon. And before that could happen I had to ‘prove my sanity’, and with Arvina taking control of my body, willy-nilly, downloading her memories, holding me into sleep, I couldn’t see that ever happening. Would be best if Arvina would just leave me alone, at least for the duration, until free of Green Haven.
“Go to your lunch,” Gamal told me, the flat of his hand on the small of my back. A gesture, like he was pushing me or Arvina to dismiss us. But he then leaned in close, heads almost touching, and I felt the most amazing tingle right through my body. “Tomorrow,” he said. “And don’t worry, we’ll sort it.”
I wanted to say, not to make it so early, to let me have breakfast, please. But my breath entangled my voice and nothing came out. I wasn’t even sure if I nodded.
“Hmf,” Arvina said once through the trees and nearing the house. “And she says of me and Toggy.”
Excuse me, what?
“Oh, please, Arwen. Twenty-first century; it’s no long the Age of Naivety.”
I looked back to the trees—she turned my head. And still I didn’t know what she meant.
“So, a ‘trip’ to Lyme Bay in Devonshire,” she said in catty tones. “That should be fun. With more than the killer revealed?”
Shush. I’d reached Green Haven, I was opening the door. They’ll never allow me out if they hear us talking like this.
“Hear you,” she said. “It comes out of your mouth. We no longer live in an age where my presence can be blamed on demon possession. And aren’t you glad of it? No frying amongst the burning faggots for you. I can tell you, that’s not pleasant.”
What was the matter with her, catty, vicious, sarcastic . . . and I’d thought she’d be happy at her reunion with Toggy. She had been at the start.
. . .
I waited till we were alone in my room, then I turned on Arvina. I’d been thinking for a while now how to approach her on this. But now she, herself, had given me the way to it.
I said, “Arvina, you and I must talk—no, you’re not taking control of my mouth. You can speak in my head.”
Oh yes, my master, she mocked.
That was it. I’d had enough. That was the red flag. “What the fuck has got into you? You forget on whose body you’re fucking dependent. So maybe you’re not having such a good ride. Yet I bet it’s the best ride you’ve had since you died in 11-whatever. You could at least respect your frigging host.”
Done? And you want to appear sane?
I turned away. But that was useless for she was inside me. Though she wasn’t like some parasitic worm hooked into my intestines, nor like a brain tumour, she was—
In your blood. The Bellinn-essence exists in the blood.
But . . . no, that couldn’t be.
“That doesn’t scan,” I said. “If you were in my blood, I’d have Bellinn-blood too. And if I had Bellinn-blood, I’d be a Bellinn. And if I were a Bellinn you wouldn’t have hitched the ride. Then we wouldn’t be these two persons fighting for control of one body.”
“Oh,” she said, like it hadn’t occurred to her before. But if not in your blood, where am I?
“I don’t know. In my thoughts?” But though she commandeered my thoughts to play out her memories, and to talk to me, it didn’t feel like that’s where she resided. Mostly she left my thoughts alone, even when she took control of the rest of me. I said, “You control my muscles. You make me walk, you make me talk. It’s like you’re a puppeteer.”
And this fortuitously, without any planning, had delivered us exactly where I wanted to be.
“And now we’re on the subject of your control of my body. You remember how you felt when Guillan took control of yours?”
Of course she did, she’d just downloaded that memory to Gamal, Toggy and me.
“Well,” I said, tight control of my fury, “just for a moment, allow yourself to sink back to that time. Feel that frustration. How you’ve no longer power to move your own body. How much you hated it.”
She said nothing. I wasn’t sure she was following me.
All the same, I allowed her a few moments before asking, “Enjoying it, are you? No? Well neither do I when you do it to me.”
She was quiet, still no comment. I picked up the book on runes I’d been reading, allowing her time to think on it.
Next episode, Incarceration