A-ya was really getting on my nerves. Now I actually knew how Stark felt when I took blood from Heath that time in the cafeteria, or when I bit Erik. Whenever Kalona stroked my cheek or, if he used his humongous wing, my whole body, she totally swooned. It was seriously annoying because I felt everythingthat she did. And she felt a hell of a lot of things for Kalona. I suddenly missed my grandma so, so much. I wished I had never been Marked, that I was in her warm, cosy sitting room eating too buttery popcorn watching old cowboy movies with her. I wished I was complaining about the step loser and how annoying my mom was.
That's probably exactly what I was doing this time last year. Did I think that in a year's time I'd instead be complaining about a reincarnation of a girl made of earth to trap a fallen immortal angel possessing half my soul and then me feeling everything she did for said fallen immortal angel? Em, no, not really.
What made is so very much worse was Stark. When I saw him crying like that . . . I mean, admittedly I don't know him that well, but to me that seemed completely out of character for him. Here he was, this big, tough, macho warrior guy who completely forgot about that and bawled his eyes out for me. What a compliment.
I felt so, so bad seeing Stark break down like that. It really was awful. When A-ya followed Kalona like that, there had been nothing I could do. And honestly, I was thinking of Stark more than myself. So I tried my best to feel at peace. To do that, I thought of the happy times I had shared with Stark . . . not that there were many. I thought of his attitude towards life, of how he acted that first day I saw him in the cafeteria. I thought of when he told me his secrets in the field house, how he had instantly trusted me with them. How he had made me believe in soul mates and, for a brief moment, I considered the possibility that he was mine.
On top of that, I though of my childhood. The happy part, when my mom was still a totally awesome mom, when there was no John in her life. When I had been on speaking terms with my sister who had recently become detached and stuck up. When my brother Kevin couldn't talk yet and was still cute. And I though of how my childhood basically evolved around Heath.
That led to the recollection of many happy moments with Heath. He really had had a big impact in my life. I thought of how he was going to be a firefighter (Americans say 'firefighters', don't they..?) or a cop when he grew up, but it made me sad to think of what could have been but never would be, so I thought about when Erik had been an awesome boyfriend, and how Loren made me feel so important before I realised it was all an act.
And that was enough, I hoped, to soothe Stark.
"A-ya, my love, come to me and we shall show the High Council how the infallible Zoey has now realised my true self, Erebus." Kalona said. And of course A-ya trotted after him. Well, talk about throwing a dog a bone.
I could convince them I wasn't me. If A-ya calmed down enough. And since I had already played that card, she was more on guard now, so that probably wouldn't be possible. How could I do this?
We walked (hand in hand, eew) to the building where the High Council were still debating over who to believe, me or Kalona. Kalona just walked in as if he owned the whole place. The High Council glared at him at first, but when they saw me beside him their expressions changed to shock and disbelief. There were a few gasps. Kalona smirked at me.
"Excuse me, High Council, but as you can see there is no need for this meeting to continue any further. Zoey has finally come to her senses and realised that I am Erebus."
A few members of the Council looked satisfied and looked like they wanted to go get some rest, but a few still looked distrusting. "Let Zoey speak," Duantia said.
A-ya opened her/my mouth and the doors burst open again. "NO!" Erik shouted.
Duantia raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"
"That's not Zoey!" Erik shouted. "It's someone else, it's like a different person in her body."
"Please, child, do not shout. We are right next to you and our hearing is not impaired in the slightest."
"It's not her," Erik said.
"And why would you assume that?" It was Kalona who asked the question.
Erik gave him a hard, stony glare. "Because you made me Imprint with Zoey, so I felt exactly what happened. She isn't herself. Well," he looked at me like I was a paradoxial puzzle. "I think she is in there somewhere . . . But so is someone else." His big, frightened blue eyes locked with mine, searching but also accusing.
A-ya was not backing down at all, so I couldn't say anything to defend myself. To this day, I am just so, so grateful that Erik insisted on me biting him that night. If he hadn't been Imprinted with me, and had never come rushing in, who knows what would have eventually happened? Maybe Nyx had actually been the one who convinced me to bite him. I sure as hell had no intention of doing it at five in the morning. Evening. Whatever.
Kalona was smiling, then laughing. And A-ya relaxed again. Jeesh, if all it took was Kalona laughing for her to let go, then all I had to do was get Kalona to laugh more. Easy peasy Japenesy. Not.
A-ya was totally, completely at ease. I started to tell the High Council what was really happening when Kalona spoke again.
"And would you care to explain how that is possible, Erik?" he asked, looking at the High Council as if Erik was an amusing child and he expected them to laugh at him, too.
"Why don't you?" I asked abruptly.
Kalona stared at me in shock. But he quickly covered it up. "Excuse me, Zoey? Or A-ya, as I prefer to call you."
"Please don't." I turned to the High Council. "I think I know what happened. As you know, when Heath was killed," I glanced at Kalona, "I kind of was, too."
The High Council were silent, so I continued. "I think that, when my spirit returned to my body, A-ya was already after taking its place. So she started to take control of my soul instead, and now she's succeeded. I can only speak when she's like, really relaxed."
I turned to Erik. He was still staring at me, looking totally upset. "Thanks, Erik," I said quietly. "If you hadn't come in just there . . . I don't know what could have happened."
But then Erik turned away from me, towards the High Council. I followed his gaze, and realized that they were staring at me in disbelief. "You think I'm lying." It wasn't a question. It was a statement. A fact.
"I am truly sorry, Zoey, but how is that believable? If you really do believe Erebus, or Kalona, tell us now."
A-ya was back. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. "Yes. He is right." she said. Come on. Couldn't the Council tell her voice was totally different from mine? It wasn't as cold as when she spoke to Stark, but it definitely wasn't mine.
Only Duantia and one other member of the Council whose name I'd forgotten looked thrown. I'll bet the rest only wanted to believe so they could finally make a decision.
"See? Her voice is different!" Erik sounded satisfied, and for a moment I felt sorry for him. He sounded like a little kid who truly believed that the world was right, everyone was fair and honest and would see the truth. He reminded me of Jem from To Kill A Mockingbird, actually. Which reminded me of Stark. And, suddenly, I got the strangest feeling. Anguish, sadness, hollowness, pain, love . . . . they weren't coming from me. Stark? Was that really it? Could I actually sense Stark's emotions from the whole Warrior thing? Was that even possible? I mean, Warriors needed it so they could protect their High Priestess. Why would I ever need it? Oh, no. Was Nyx letting me taste his emotions because she knew it might be needed in the future? Ugh. Pressure, anyone?
Then I felt it like a stab in the back. Total, sheer pain rushing through my body. Except, again, it wasn't mine. It was his.
And my love for him won out over A-ya's sick power when he really needed my help. When he really needed anyone's help. "Stark!" I cried as I ran out of the room and let the Oath lead me to Aphrodite's dorm.
Wow, okay, 200 reviews XDXD This is totally awesome! Btw, anyone see New Moon? It's EPIC!! I dunno what Team I'm on now . . . I used to be die-hard Team Edward, but now I'm leaning towards Team Switzerland . . .