I make my way down the mountain releasing a heartfelt sigh I didn't realise I was holding. No one is the same since last week, not since Rochelle seemed to die. I can't shake the feeling that she is still here somewhere, somehow. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking.
Ethan isn't coping at all. Arkarian is worried that this will turn out like Sera's death. When Ethan chooses to talk he is stiff and wooden. He says he doesn't blame me for not being able to heal her, but I do. What is the point in being a healer if you can't save a friends life for crying out loud? Arkarian is also having problems with his fathers death. Conversation with him has been reduced to meaningless chitchat recently. He claims he is fine, after all, it was only recently he found out Lorian was his father, but still, he knew him for around six hundred years, which is bound to leave a mark.
I walk up the path to Ethan's house, take a deep breath and knock the door. Shaun answers. 'Isabel, come in.'
'How is he?' I ask, dreading the answer.
'Not good.' He runs a hand through his hair. 'He'll be glad to see you. I hope,' he adds in a mutter.
I quickly stride down the dimly lit hallway to Ethan's room. I ease the door open as quietly as I can and freeze in shock at Ethan's appearance. His twinkling blue eyes are now bloodshot with large black bags beneath them. His face is gaunt and withdrawn.
'Isabel,' he rasps drily.
'Yes,' I say softly, sitting on the bed beside him. He sags against the pillows, which are flat as if he does this often, and offers me a weak grin, a shadow of his original cheeky smile.
'Do you know anyone who hates me?' he asks suddenly.
'Other than me, no,' I joke. Anything to lighten the mood. 'Why?'
'I got a letter.' Ethan's voice tightens.
'Oh.' I wonder where this is going.
'From, well, it says Rochelle.'
For a moment I go into shock, staring at him uncomprehendingly. Licking my lips, I ask 'What?'
Ethan silently passes me a piece of paper. Eyes darting back and forth I take in the short message:
Don't blame yourself (or anyone else for that matter) for what happened to me. I know we'll see each other soon. I promise. Just how soon I don't know.
Love you, Rochelle x
'Did you imagine this, you know, create it?' My fingers are trembling, I can't believe my eyes, there has to be a logical explanation.
'I don't know… could someone be playing a joke on me?' Ethan looks at me, pain and hurt clearly shining through his eyes. 'You don't think she could still be alive, do you?' It's only the hope on his pale face that stops me from dismissing the idea outright. But at his words I get an eerie feeling, but whether it is due to discomfort or my sixth sense, I just can't tell.
I reach and grab his cold hand, locked firmly around the note. 'You saw Marduke turn to stone, Ethan. He would only do that if Rochelle was dead.'
Shaking his head and grabbing both my hands, he releases a sigh. He sounds so sad, I wish there was something I could do to help. 'I don't know what to think, Isabel, what to hope for.' His eyes cloud over. 'If this is a sick joke I will find whoever did this.'
A quick glance at his steely face tells me he means it.
I can tell I've freaked Isabel out, but I so badly need answers. 'Please don't tell anyone about this, Isabel, please. Not Matt, not Arkarian, or anyone.' I can barely keep the begging note out of my voice.
Isabel's face stiffens. 'It's hard to keep a secret when you are surrounded by Truthseers, especially-'
'-Arkarian,' we say together.
'He always knows when something is up,' a small smile tugs at Isabel's lips. 'But Matt, with all the sensitivity of a blunt knife, is so nosy and overprotective,' her voice takes on a herd edge.
Reaching over, I squeeze her hand. 'But you'll do it, right? Keep it a secret?'
'Don't worry, your secret's safe with me,' she gives my hand a reassuring squeeze back.
'Good,' I clear my throat, 'cos I have another one for you.'
Her brown eyes narrow suspiciously. I shift uncomfortably and decide just to tell her and get it out.
'My powers have stopped working.'