Erinne took the diskette out of the old-fashioned laptop and put it carefully back in the box. She had scanned all the letters to bring with her, and she'd decided that she would read them all again, from beginning to end. They gave her strength.
It was good to be here again, in her second home, even if the situation was beyond bad. She had always felt safe here. She had always known that she could do anything, lay down in the middle of a road, throw herself in the sea, do any ridiculous thing, and nothing bad would happen to her. She was protected, and felt it. She had never been reckless like Ann. Erinne had always been the cautious, rational one, the one with straight A's, the one who drew maps and estimated percentages. Erinne always had a plan B, Erinne used measuring cups. Ann used her hands when cooking, sifting flour and baking powder through her fingers, usually creating disasters. Erinne fought with a scientific focus. Ann was impulsive but startlingly inventive. She was the one who could find a way to kill with any object, like a rolled-up magazine (visual: Ann rolling up a Cosmo as a vampire was charging, saying to Erinne, "Paper is trees, and trees are wood and wood is a stake, right?" before plunging it into his chest) but she occasionally took on too much and got into trouble; then Erinne had to bail her out. They never told their parents about this. Erinne could see it on their faces, the loving despair. They knew anyway.
Erinne mounted the steep bluff and watched the sun set over the distant sea.
She inhale deeply. She missed Ann suddenly, she missed Joy. She felt naked without them, but it couldn't be helped. They had to mind the Hellmouth. She would call when she was back in her room. Maybe she would meet Johnny at the pub first. He understood what she had to do even though he couldn't help her. He didn't believe this, she knew, but what needed to be done could only be done by her. She had been invited.
She should have been afraid, and probably would be, later. Right now she felt peaceful; she held a resolve like a compass in her heart, pointing relentlessly in one direction.
The last time she had spoken with her father they had talked about...what? She panicked. She couldn't remember. She remembered his hand on hers, she remembered his soft smile. He had a way of looking at her that gave her the feeling that she could do anything. Everything could be wrong, she could have a bad date, she could miss a point on a test. "ONE point? Poor you!" Ann would chide her, but her father never laughed at her need for achievement. He would gently point out that no test at school was the end of existence. She could miss a kill, she could say the wrong thing to her mother, and all she needed to do was sit down with him; within minutes she would feel like herself again. No defeat was ever complete, for her. She never stayed down for long. If she needed to make good on a mistake, he would advise her. If she was overly concerned about a small matter he would help her put it in perspective. All he had to do was look at her and she knew her importance, she knew her goodness. It was all in his eyes.
She sobbed. She had cried on the plane, sniffling silently behind sunglasses. Now it was on her in full force and she stopped walking, sat down on the rocky ground, and wept in the dark. It poured out of her. For several years she had been at odds with her mother, who wanted her to stay in at night. Erinne had challenged her on the hypocrisy of it. Then the speeches, from both of them. "You have choices we don't have," they would say, "You can do anything you want, be anything you want," Ann never got those speeches, because from the beginning it had been obvious that Ann had no love for school or languages, no love for any story without a battle in it, no love for anything but a perfectly completed pass, a touchdown with two seconds left in the fourth quarter, a high head count. She was a gifted athlete and a brilliant fighter. She had been taken along on hunts when she was very young, she had been taught to slay. Erinne followed them one night; she watched her mother injure a vampire and then bring it to Ann to kill, like a mother cheetah bringing a young gazelle home to teach her cubs. There had been a scene later. Erinne had raged at them over their lack of responsibility, but that hadn't been the issue. She'd been jealous. Her father had known, and had talked quietly with her for a good part of the night. "You are different," he'd said, "Ann loves this. This is what she wants. You fight very well, too, but you have so many different gifts. Wouldn't you like to have a chance to find out what they are?" Still Erinne was deeply hurt, and couldn't find it in herself to forgive them. She had never done that, really, given them forgiveness. And now they were gone. She had been so wrong, so wrong. They wanted her to be happy, Ann to be happy, Joy to be happy. They wanted each of the girls to be completely themselves. They were as loving as they knew how to be. Erinne wept with guilt and with sorrow, because she missed them. Then she stopped. She wiped her face on her sleeves. She would fix this.
She would find them.