Good things that happened this weekend:
1. Julian is alive
2. I guess that’s like — I mean we covered that Friday, but I’m not sure we really got to sit with that long enough folks, he’s ALIVE. I casually fell asleep with my head in his lap Saturday night. There was a fire crackling in the fire place. It was safe and cozy.
Like — he was dead for a full week, Neal and I were staring down the barrel of a long, Julian-less life. You carry a person with you differently when they’ve passed on, and I was really preparing to move my whole worldview to one where Julian isn’t in it.
I have woken up every morning with the same crushing grief lingering over me — and it takes me a few minutes to remember to let it clear. He’s not gone. He’s still here. Every morning it’s like the sky clears and I’m flooded with this sense of freedom and relief and it is so, so sweet.
3. Beverly came, and listen — I mean I knew they loved each other, but Julian is just always so calm, and Bev is always so… I dunno, maybe practical is the descriptor I’m looking for here? Like Neal told me they were a thing, and that first time we went to the Crossroads remains the biggest emotional outburst I’ve ever seen from Julian (except for that time he killed a goat man, or the time he went eldritch because of the puppies — okay, let me amend my statement, it was the biggest POSITIVE emotional outburst I’ve ever seen from Julian) but they’ve always been so……… reserved, I guess? Like, casual?
And then Beverly whirl-winded into the cabin this weekend and hi, yeah, they are in LOVE.
Neal and Jasper went to pick her up from the airport because it’s kind of a long drive, so it was just me and Julian in the cabin for a few hours, and listen — I got nothing from him, just his usual sea of calm.
And then the car pulled up, and Julian calmly put down his book, raked back his hair, and went to lean against the door, and Bev didn’t even wait for the rabbit to stop moving before she was like stumbling across the driveway and leaping into his arms. Not a single word exchanged for like a long time, they just held on to each other and I realized like ooooohhhhhh okay so this is a still waters running very deep situation, and then Beverly pointed a finger in his face and said with stone cold sincerity, “You kill them, next time. Do you hear me? You kill every single one of them.”
And when he opened his mouth to argue, she held up a hand a hand so sharply that he actually stopped. “I don’t give a fuck, Julian. If they come for you, you kill them. Or I’ll do it.”
And she MEANT it.
4. Celeste didn’t tell anyone my secret.
5. It is abundantly clear that I am no longer prognart
The bad things that happened this weekend:
1. It’s maybe a little too clear how not pregananant I am
I did some googling and like I’m not immediately hemorrhaging to death and therefore it’s totally fine that I haven’t gone to a doctor yet.
I genuinely don’t think any of the boys has put together what happened — what is happening? — though the evidence is all there if anyone was looking for it. There was a dry spot of blood on the lip of the bathtub this morning, brazen against the white porcelain. I scrubbed it up but who knows who might have seen it.
I have fully shut down any kind of emotional reaction to this, and therefore feel nothing and am totally fine and coping well
2. Celeste left Saturday morning.
Everyone wanted her to stay, but I may have overheard her and Neal talking, and listen, Celeste is the queen of boundaries. She literally said, “I came because I got a call from the Hedgewood witches.” And then after a short pause, “And look, I care about you, and I’m tempted to leave this door open, I am. But every time I see the stars, the future’s a little uglier, and I’m raising five young witches in Black Lake right now, on top of this insane case load, okay? I have shit to do. I’ll rescue your ass when I can, because the world needs you, but I can’t stay.”
So despite the fact the Celeste and Beverly appear to be friends, I think this weird we-broke-up-but-still-like-each-other thing Neal and Celeste are doing is… over? Idk. Good for her though honestly, like I love Neal, but she deserves better hahahaha
2. That said, she totally cornered me before she left and I hated it.
I was still in that room, playing Stardew Valley, and Celeste came into the doorway and said, “Come take a walk with me.
I didn’t want to walk, but I did as I was told.
The moment we were outside, she said, “do you need to go to a hospital?”
“No,” I said, even though the answer is without a doubt yes.
She gave me a hard look. “I’m not your mom,” she said. “I can’t make you do anything. But,” and I winced but all she said was, “you need to take care of yourself. Do you need me to tell the boys?”
“NO,” I said, even though the answer is almost definitely yes.
Celeste rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what you’re going through,” she said. “So all I can do is treat you the way I would want to be treated, and I would want to be left alone to handle this in my own way. So that’s what I’ll do, but Shiloh, if there is anything, anything that you need from me, call me immediately. Do you understand? Even if you just need me to explain to Neal, or to a doctor what is going on, you call me.”
And I told her I would, and then she left.
I have this listed as a bad thing, because it feels bad, because everything feels bad, but actually it’s very kind and supportive of her.
3. I wasn’t fully asleep on Saturday night when I fell asleep with my head in Julian’s lap. I was mostly asleep because I was exhausted and Julian was petting my hair and there was a fire blazing and we were all cozied up in the main room and I felt very safe and very relieved, but I wasn’t all the way asleep, and I heard an entire conversation no one meant me to hear.
It started because Beverly finally just asked us. “How did this happen?”
And no one had an answer. I felt Julian’s hand protective on my hair, which I think is probably what woke me up.
“We aren’t sure,” Neal admitted. “It was her work.”
“Do you remember anything?” Jasper asked Julian and he shifted a little.
“No, nothing really. Just Shiloh calling for me, so I woke up.”
And then a long quiet, punctuated by fire crackling. I could tell they were all looking at me. I pretended extra hard to be asleep.
“We’ve been waiting for this mysterious power to manifest itself,” Neal admitted. “But I had no idea… I mean none of us knew it would be this.”
“I mean I guess it makes a certain amount of sense,” Jasper said. “Considering what happened to her.”
“Yeah,” Julian rumbled. “It seems like an awful lot of power to give one kid.”
“I’m not complaining,” Neal pointed out and Julian exhaled softly through his nose, so I knew he was smiling.
“No,” he agreed. “But…”
“This is going to change everything,” Beverly said. “When people find out about this —”
“People are not finding out about this,” Neal interrupted.
“Yeah they will,” Julian replied, calm and matter-of-fact. “The people who murdered me will almost certainly notice something’s amiss eventually.”
“Maybe,” Neal said. “But Shiloh’s name doesn’t need to be attached to it.”
There was an uneasy pause, in which my whole anonymous future sank into the ocean.
I already knew what Jasper was going to say when he said, “There are rumors going around about her having already died once.”
There was another long quiet in which everyone admitted silently to themselves that what they didn’t know they were going to suspect.
“She could change the whole course of history,” Beverly said. “A power like that? I mean, people would kill for it. Die for it. I mean Billy Ace alone —”
“Bev,” Neal interrupted and he sounded fucking fried. “Let’s just take it one day at a time, alright?”
But the damage had been done. We were all thinking about the future, and Julian was trailing his fingers absentmindedly through my hair like I was big sleepy cat, and the fire was roaring.
Beverly said, “You need to keep that girl safe.”
“Always,” Neal replied.
“No,” Bev said. “We can’t let her out of our sight. Not even for a moment” She didn’t clarify why, but everyone was thinking it.
But I can’t think about the future right now. The present is enough.
4. Meanwhile, the outside world is still out there… being itself.
Neal wanted to stay in the cabin for at least the rest of the week to give Julian time to rest and recover. He’s not quite up to his usual self — he has some shakes sometimes, and his eyesight is somewhat worse than it was before he died.
But if Neal wanted everyone to relax, potentially he shouldn’t have murdered Merl Allen.
Yeah, remember a week ago when Neal shot a guy in the head? …Yeah, look if you forgot that, I can’t blame you because I honestly sort of forgot, too.
But Billy Ace has not forgotten it. According to Beverly’s sources — (spies??? I think Beverly has like actual spies???) Billy Ace’s hunter are all rallying around Merl Allen’s death, similar to the way they rallied around the kid’s death when Lily accidentally killed him in Black Lake.
From Billy’s perspective, Neal killing a well-known, old guard hunter is fucking ideal — he’s telling everyone now that Julian was a monster, that Merl Allen was a brave warrior who made the difficult, necessary decision to dispatch of a monster, and he paid the ultimate price for it.
Meanwhile, if Julian was a monster, Neal is a monster by association.
It boils (the little) blood (I have left).
So we’re about to leave the shelter of our little wooded mountain cabin. Beverly and Jasper are sorely needed at the Crossroads — they have a flight out tomorrow morning — and we’re going to drive out and meet them there. I believe we’re meeting poor Cooper there, too, which is good, because we owe him some explanation.
Neal tried to get us to go to Hedgewood first — because remember he still thinks I have uhhhhhh a reason to go there, plus it wouldn’t be bad to have Julian looked at, but I knee-jerk refused.
They were both a little surprised, but I assured them I’d deal with it when we get to the Crossroads, I don’t want to hold them up, and when Neal tried to talk some sense into me I snapped at him until he gave up.
I need to go to Hedgewood, for sure.
But I can’t shake the memory of those witches, in the darkness behind Sylvia, whispering, “Is it the girl?”
“Is it the girl with one black eye?”
“Did she finally find her —”
Did I finally find my what? Is this what I was meant to find?
And echoing after all those witches’ voices was Madelyn, in the cave, when she told me to drink from the stream, and I asked her what it would do to me: “Nothing good. But you’ll be glad of it someday.”
I don’t want to see any witches. I don’t want to explain anything to anyone. Julian’s back and that should be enough.