Chapter 15

“You have to sleep eventually,” Brand said, staring at Aveny in concern.

“I don’t want to see anymore.” She felt weak. The mere thought of the vile act on that God forsaken beach made her retch and sob each time she recalled it. “I don’t want to know any more.”

Miriam dabbed her forehead with an orange scented cloth and passed a warm cup of tea into her hands. Aveny hugged the steaming liquid against her chest like a child holding her favorite stuffed animal.

She never wanted to sleep and she never wanted to return to the sea. Even this reliable cure-all was tainted now – as was the skin itself.

Where had it come from? Had the thing she loved been shorn away from someone as the girl’s had been?

At least it wasn’t hers. Aveny had seen it burn. Her stomach turned sour at the recollection of scorched hair and mangled flesh blackening in the blaze. 

“Maybe you just need to get it over with?” Brand suggested. “Keep going until you’ve seen everything? Besides, last time you weren’t even asleep – it just took you. That might keep happening until you figure out what they want – and I’d rather you figured it out at home in bed than have you pass out driving down the road.” He grimaced at the thought, then added, “Do you even know who they are yet?”

Aveny shook her head. “No – I know they’re mother and daughter, but I don’t know their names or anything else.” She yawned, rubbed her bleary eyes and shook herself awake.

“Listen,” Miriam said, “why don’t you get some sleep and while you do, I’ll see what I can find in your family history. I know you’ve been through it already, but since I helped Catherine compile it, maybe there’s a clue in there I can pick up on.”

Aveny nodded gratefully. “Yes, please. But I don’t want to sleep. I’ll help.” 

She moved to stand, but Brand gently pulled her back down again. “You’ve got to get some sleep, even if it is punctuated with weird visions,” he said. “You look terrible.”

“Thanks,” Aveny muttered sarcastically. She was sure that however she looked was nothing compared to how she felt.

“No,” Aveny pressed. “It’s too horrific.”

Brand sucked in the corner of his lip for a moment. “Ok. Why don’t we just hang out here on the couch and watch TV until you fall asleep – if you fall asleep,” he added, heading off the look of protest in her eye. “I’ll stay right here with you – even if you want to stay out here all night.”

Aveny contemplated this for a moment, and finally relented. She really wanted to crawl inside the TV and live there instead – safe in a colorful world of laughter. Watching would be the next best thing.

But she didn’t even make it that far. She fell asleep snuggled into the crook of Brand’s arm before the opening credits even finished.

And the moment her eyes closed, she realized her day was far from over.

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