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episode nine

Chapter Nine

aird92 (07:22:43): idk i think it might be working. she and jason seem to be fighting a lot.

michaela666 (07:22:55): fighting isn't enough, and you know it. we need to step in. There's a lot at stake here. We can't risk things going wrong.

aird92 (07:23:12): is there really that much of a rush? couldnt we give it like another week or so?

michaela666 (07:23:32): Absolutely not. And by the way, are you getting enough to eat?

aird92 (07:23:40): geez. im not answering that

Finally, I heard Jason's voice.

"Lilith, what are you doing?" he said. He sounded embarrassed. He sounded guilty.

Oh God, what had just happened?

Lilith didn't say anything.

"You know I think you're very attractive," said Jason, "but I'm in love with Azazel. I don't want to . . ."

"For all you know, Azazel is banging Jude," said Lilith. "Even the score."

Even the score?!

"Azazel isn't doing anything like that," Jason said.

"Are you sure?"

"I . . ."

He wasn't sure?

"It doesn't matter," said Jason. "Whatever she did, it doesn't matter. She's all I want."

"You'd stay with her if she was sleeping with someone else?" Lilith demanded.

"I'd stay with her if she was the devil incarnate. I can't be without her. She's everything to me. Without her, I don't know if I can exist."

My heart swelled. I felt the same way. And it was good, because I wasn't cheating on Jason, and I never would. But we were going to be okay. Because he loved me, and I loved him. And no matter what happened, we'd always have that. And that was all that mattered.

And then, I could move! Finally. I burst out of my room, making as much noise as I could. When I appeared in the living room, I saw Lilith sitting on the couch. Jason was standing on the opposite side of the room from her, his hands thrust into his pockets. He was staring at the carpet.

I looked at the both of them.

Lilith smiled at me. "Hi, Zaza," she said.

"I don't want you to stay here anymore," I said to her.

She raised her eyebrows.

"God," I said. "What is it with you and my boyfriends, anyway? There are thousands of men on earth. Pick someone else for Christ's sake."

Jason snorted.

I turned to look at him. "What?" I said.

"Nothing," he said, "it's just funny that when it's about me, Toby means nothing to you, but when it's about Lilith, he's still important."

I felt hurt. Jason had just said that he couldn't exist without me, but was angry with me. About Toby. About Jude. "He's not important," I said.

Jason shrugged. "I don't know what to think anymore," he said.

"You just said I was everything to you," I said.

"Were you eavesdropping?," said Jason.

"I heard you two talking," I said. "I wasn't eavesdropping."

"How much did you hear?" said Jason. "If you heard us, why didn't you come into the room? Why did you wait in there and listen?"

"Lilith shows up and suddenly you're hanging with her twenty-four/seven," I said. "She takes you to parties. You guys go out drinking. Whenever I ask you to go out"

"You don't ask me, Azazel," Jason interrupted. "You call me plastered from the party and ask me to pick you up. You don't want me to come along."

"I do so ask you," I said. "But you work later than I do, and what do you want me to do? Wait around for you to get off work before I go to the party?"

"Well, that would be horrible, wouldn't it?" Jason said sarcastically.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't know you minded."

"How could you not know? No, you just want to spent time alone with Jude."

"I don't," I said. "Jude's my friend, that's all."

"You guys looked real friendly yesterday, lying on your bed together," Jason said.

"I'd just gone through something pretty traumatic," I said. "I needed someone. You weren't there."

Jason looked stung.

"And then," I said, "the minute I told you, you just ran off again, and God only knows what you did while you were gone. You could have died. Or you could have . . ." Killed someone. "Maybe you did. I don't know. But you came back. And I had to clean you up. I had to clean it up. And I was the one who was . . ."

"I did it for you," Jason said, sounding agonized.

"What did you do, Jason? God help me, what did you do?"

Jason looked away. When he turned back to me, he'd gotten a stony expression in his eyes. His face was carefully controlled mask. "I protected you," he said. "I can protect you, Azazel."

"I don't want you to have to protect me," I said.

"Then don't go running off without me," he said. "Don't do things like that."

"You don't go running off without me either," I said, my voice shaking.

I reached out for him, and he took my hand, pulling me over to him. Against him. His arms went tight around me, like he was grabbing onto me for dear life.

"So you're just going to forgive her?" asked Lilith.

Dammit. I'd forgotten she was even there. I yanked myself away from Jason. "Why are you still here?" I asked. I turned on Jason. "What was she trying to 'show' you, anyway?"

Jason's eyes darted away from mine.

I glared at Lilith.

She crossed her arms over her chest. "I was just trying to help you out, Zaza. I figured that even if you'd gotten enough courage to find your clitoris, you'd be too scared to help Jason find it."

I blushed to the roots of my hair. "That's really none of your business."

Lilith shrugged. "Well, what are you doing, anyway? I mean, you've got this amazing guy, and you're blowing him off for parties and some guy who you think is gay?"

"He is gay," I said, exasperated.

Lilith shook her head. "Not gay, sweetheart. Definitely not gay."

"And I'm not blowing Jason off," I said.

"He thinks you are," she said. "Let me tell you a little secret about men, sweetie. Men like to feel like they're needed. They like to be able to do things. You make Jason feel like he's useless. He can't party with you. He can't save you. And he can't even give you an orgasm. You keep that up for too long and even the best guy will start looking for someone who wants him."

"I want Jason," I said. "And I'm not talking about our sex life with you."

Lilith laughed. "Well, there's not much to really talk about, now is there?"

"Just shut up," I said.

"Did I strike a nerve?" she asked.

I looked at Jason. "I don't make you feel useless, do I?"

"No," he said, but he didn't sound very convinced.

I didn't know what to say. Lilith had tried to seduce my boyfriend, and he wasn't helping me get rid of her. He'd rejected her, sure, but how long would that last? Lilith wasn't on my side. She was out to get me. She could claim she was trying to help, but you didn't help someone by flirting with her boyfriend.

"I don't want Lilith to stay here anymore," I said.

"Azazel," said Jason.

"No," I said. "No more excuses. I don't trust her with you."

"Then you don't trust me," he said.

I didn't say anything.

Lilith sighed. "I've got to go to work," she said. "But I've got enough cash that I can probably afford a hotel for a few nights."

"No," said Jason, "you're not going to a hotel. I've got to work tonight too. We all need to cool down, and we'll talk about it later."

* * *

I was alone again. For hours, I tried to distract myself. I made food. I watched television. I messed around on the internet. But finally, I couldn't distract myself anymore. It was getting dark outside my house. Jason and Lilith would be getting off work soon. I paced around the house, angry and frustrated. I felt like everything in my life was disintegrating. This wasn't a new feeling for me. I'd felt it before, when Jason and I had driven out of Bramford. I'd left my family, my best friend, my boyfriend, everything I cared about. Everything had been ripped away from me. Things weren't that dire yet.

Yet.

Jason was right about one thing when he was talking to Lilith. He was all that I had. He was my lifeline. He was everything that I lived for. We'd worked so hard to try to have a normal life together. Here, in Florida, in paradise, everything was supposed to be better. It was warm here. We could walk on the beach. We could finish high school. We could be what we'd always wanted to be, two normal kids. It seemed that the world had different plans for us, however. We could run as far as we wanted. We could set up our lives to appear as normal as possible. But something lurked within both of us that made us different. We were trapped. We'd never be free of it.

In just the past few days, everything had gotten crazy. I'd been nearly raped on a beach, carried off from a parking lot, and assaulted on a couch. All of those things were bad. I wished like hell they'd never happened to me. But it was worse than that. It was worse than that because I felt like I was losing Jason.

I thought of his face when I'd told him about Mr. Sutherland. The way he'd been overtaken by anger. How single-minded he'd been as he left the apartment. And then I thought of his returning, covered in blood, staring through me in the bathroom. He hadn't looked like the Jason I'd fallen in love with. He'd looked so haunted. What had Jason done? Why had he done it?

If Jason had killed Mr. Sutherland, it wouldn't be the first time he'd taken a human life. But the first time Jason had killed a person, it had been to protect me. And he'd said, as we stood in the living room, that he'd done what he did to Sutherland because of me. How could I handle the responsibility of that? It felt like I'd murdered people myself. I hadn't pulled the trigger, but I'd been the trigger. If Jason was driven to kill because of me, then what was it that Jason was becoming? And was he becoming that because of me? What was I doing to him?

Jason was jealous. Jason was always accusing me of things I didn't do. Jason didn't trust me. And Lilith wasn't helping matters either. The two of them had been quiet for several moments before Jason had spoken. What had they done in those moments? Had Lilith kissed Jason? Had she touched him? Had she showed him her body? Had he touched her? Where had he touched her?

It was agony. I couldn't handle the thought of it. What was worse, I couldn�t believe that Jason didn't agree that Lilith needed to leave. Just a few days with Lilith around, and he was spending lots of time with her, and he was having conversations with her about our sex life? I couldn't believe it. I had a right to be jealous when he was doing that.

It was stupid for Lilith to interfere anyway. Jason and I were having great sex. Really. Not that we got to do it very much with Hallam around, but when we did, I enjoyed it. Tons. I was satisfied. Really. I guessed I'd always worried a little about . . .

Well, I didn't worry that much about it, considering I couldn't even think the words. But I'd always heard that it was harder for girls than it was for guys to do that. Especially girls my age. So, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. Sometimes, I guessed I felt a little jealous of Jason, because sometimes, when we had sex, afterwards, I felt kind of unfinished. Like I'd been building up to something, and instead I just hung there, trying to deal with the fact it was over. But I didn't know what to do about that. I didn't know how to talk to Jason about it. It seemed like we had to work so hard to find time to have sex as it was. I didn't want to create problems.

Still. I thought about the way Jason's voice had sounded when he'd asked Lilith whether or not guys had known how to please her. He'd sounded worried. Was this a big deal? If I couldn�t do it, did it make Jason feel useless?

Did Jason feel useless?

I hated Lilith. Before she'd shown up, Jason and I hadn't been fighting about this stuff. In fact, before Lilith had shown up, everything had been fine.

Sort of. The bell had shown up in my purse. That had really started everything, actually.

But wait. The bell had appeared in my purse after Lilith showed up.

Hold on. I didn't really think . . .

Truthfully, I'd been so caught up in worrying about Jason hurting Mr. Sutherland and our domestic issues that I hadn't thought much about the bell or anything else in some time. Which was pretty strange, I realized, because Mr. Sutherland had said something very important to me. He'd said that someone close to me was trying to complete an invocation. That could only mean the Satanists.

This whole time, I'd been concerned about the Sons. I'd never even considered the fact that the Satanists might not be down for the count. And actually, it made more sense, considering everything had happened to me, not Jason. The Satanists would be interested in me.

Somebody had put a bell in my bag, framing me for stealing it. And then Mr. Sutherland had been weird, but Mr. Sutherland hadn't even really been connected to any of it. So really, the only thing that had happened had been the bell. Hmm.

If the Satanists were responsible for putting a bell in my bag, why would they have done that? Would they have wanted me in detention? That didn't make much sense. Did it? I wandered into the living room and turned on the computer.

Mr. Sutherland said something about the invocation. If the Satanists were trying to complete the invocation, what would they have done?

I pulled up google and typed in, "Invocation to Azazel."

I didn't come up with much. There were several websites describing silly incantations, telling the reader to visualize the nature and modern civilization and to focus on the "gods of this world," while repeating a bunch of junk about the "Queen of Hell" and other such things. There was also a website about the mythical Azazel, claiming that Azazel was the scapegoat for the Jewish people, or the being who was punished for their sins in place of them. Darkly, I wondered if this was why my life was so screwed up. Was I being punished for the sins of the world, even though I'd done nothing wrong?

Abandoning the search, I tried another query. Was the bell related? I searched for "invocation bell."

I hit a few unrelated websites at first. One was actually for a role-playing game which instructed the player to "ring the bell of invocation" and descend into the pit of Moloch or something. There was another that was a news item about a Lions Club meeting.

Then I found a website entitled, "The Beast: Satanic Rituals and Spells." It took me to a site within the larger site that was headed, "Invocations to Satan." There was a description of something very similar to the first invocation I'd been part of, instructing the performer of the invocation to drink from a sacred chalice and chant in Latin. Beneath that, there was another ritual.

"If the first invocation fails, or if the desired object of the spirit of the demon is an unwilling participant (though this kind of magic is highly dangerous and not encouraged by the creators of this website), try this instead. Gather several large candles, a chalice consecrated to the demon in question, a bell, and an object that will symbolize the demon himself (or herself.) This object should be something that embodies or symbolizes the spirit of the entity you intend to invoke. For example, if you are invoking Lilith, a sexually charged item or talons of some kind might work well.

"This object needs to be anointed with some kind of body fluid from the person hoping to be filled with the spirit of the demon. Blood, semen, and/or vaginal fluid are the most effective, but saliva or sweat will work as well. Ring the bell to focus the demon on the spot you wish him to concentrate on."

The website went on to describe the various chants and spells one had to say over the person who was invoking the demon. It all sounded pretty gross to me. However, it was proof that someone might use a bell to invoke Azazel. And that the Satanists might have put the bell in my bag as a warning or something.

Mr. Sutherland had said that someone close to me had completed an invocation, and, when I'd elbowed him in the ribs, he'd grunted, "Maybe you are imbued with the spirit of a demon."

Someone had already performed this ritual on me. Who was close to me? Who had ties to the Satanists? Who'd shown up just before the bell did?

There was only one person who fit the answer to all those questions.

Lilith.

And she slept in my house, for God's sake. She could have come into my room as I slept, performed the ritual over me, and then placed the bell she'd used in my purse.

And it made sense that she was trying to seduce Jason. The Satanists wanted me to kill Jason. Perhaps they thought that if Jason slept with Lilith, I'd be so angry with him that I'd destroy him.

Augh. I couldn't believe I'd allowed Lilith into my house with her stupid story about wanting to get away from the Satanists. She didn't want to get away from the Satanists at all. Instead, she was working for them! And Jason had told her it was okay to sleep in our house tonight! I couldn't believe that. I had to get away from her. I had to get her away from Jason. Who knew what kind of damage she'd already inflicted?

I needed to call Jason. Tell him what I'd figured out. But no. I couldn't call Jason. I didn't have a phone. Hallam had a phone, but I didn't know where Hallam was. I guessed I should tell Hallam too. Maybe he'd know how to help. Or what to do.

I thought about Hallam and Jason earlier. Hallam screaming at Jason. Hallam demanding to know what Jason had done with Mr. Sutherland's body. Hallam was angry at both of us. Who knew if he was even on our side anymore? Should I wait for Hallam to come back?

No. I should just go to Jason. But I didn't have a car. Hallam had the car. Jason and Lilith had caught a ride with a co-worker. It wasn't too far to walk, but it was dark outside, and after what had happened over the last few days, I didn't feel quite comfortable walking around in the dark.

How was I going to get there?

Well. I could ask Jude for a ride.

Of course, I didn't think that would make Jason particularly happy. And it wasn't smart to get Jude anymore involved in this mess than he already was. Still. We had to stop Lilith.

I signed onto AOL instant messenger. With my luck, Jude wouldn�t even be online. It was a Friday night, and he probably had something exciting to do, like a party or something. If he wasn't, it was a sign, I told myself. I'd just wait for Hallam to come home. Or for Jason and Lilith. I'd get Jason alone and tell him what I'd figured out. He'd believe me. He'd have to. Wouldn't he?

But Jude was online.

He messaged me immediately. "u didnt come to school today. u okay?"

"Fine," I typed. "Can you come pick me up?"

He could. He would. As I signed off, I mused over his AOL handle. It was weird, because I couldn't figure out why he'd picked it. It wasn't his name, like mine was. Of course, Jude was a much more common name than Azazel. Maybe he wanted something more original. Still. His handle wasn't that original. It reminded me of something. I couldn't remember what, but I knew I'd heard it somewhere. Like a last name or something?

Where had I heard the name Aird?

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Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers