On the drive home from Bridgeboro Mr. Stokes shared with me more information about himself and his history with our family than he had in the past year he had been tutoring me. While I’ve always known he was well educated and possessed the ability to academically instruct and challenge me, I actually liked him and found him to be an amusing teacher. I enjoyed our lessons and looked forward to our time together. He had skill and tact when dealing with my abnormal and morbid behaviors that were attributed to my mental illness, but I have come to realize that he never viewed them as symptoms and instead was aware of who I was and that I had been born under The Blood Omen, which practically ensured that I would possess abilities. I held respect for him from the beginning of our relationship, but that respect became tainted as each event unfolded over the last few months. With each new challenge I faced I discovered just how much Mr. Stokes had deceived me, holding vital information from me that would have influenced my decisions in some way. I wanted to trust him, but I found myself holding back. I knew that because we had been bonded by Aunt Rachel, he could be of great value to me, though admittedly I was unsure how that would work. He had the knowledge, skills, and experience to teach me how to control my abilities, all of which I knew I needed in order to become more advanced and perhaps fix all that had been broken in my life; beginning with my lost memories and finding Aunt Rachel, but I found it difficult to trust him, to rely on him, to believe what he said, and question what he didn’t.
Mr. Stokes was an entertaining story-teller. His word choices weren’t only compelling, but emotionally charged and impactful. He finally acquiesced to me and told me the story behind the scar on his forehead, which was a memento from the time spent with my Great-Great-Grandmother Catherine Elizabeth traipsing around New York City where the two of them visited speakeasies owned by some notorious crime bosses of the time. Apparently this behavior ceased only after my great-great-grandmother discovered that she was pregnant with my Great-Grandmother Lillian and was forced by the family to tame her wild nature. He explained that in those types of establishments, after consuming a fair amount of liquor, patrons would often unabashedly release their oppressed emotions, which would result in chaotic brawls. One unforgettable evening while accompanying Catherine he was involved in such an occurrence and was whacked on the head with the broken leg of a wooden chair by a man named Charles Luciano. My tutor described the uncomfortable sensations he experienced after being hit as hard as he had been and explained that he had been unaware of the deep gash on his forehead, the result of a protruding screw in the chair leg, until Catherine pointed it out to him. It had required the attention of a physician who had treated it for infection and stitched it closed. While at the time Mr. Stokes noted that he was irritated by the whole chaotic experience, he now allowed the scar to be a constant reminder of his primary responsibility; his human companion, whoever she might be during that current period of time.
He smiled as he described how fascinated she was by Spiritualism and how she enjoyed attending the séances being held throughout the area, some of which were hosted by the most notable mediums of the time. They had been invited to the home of a man named Goddard Crandon, a wealthy Boston surgeon whose wife was a well-known medium who channeled her dead brother, Walter Stinson, and though my great-great grandmother was four months pregnant at the time and my great-great grandfather forbade her to, she and Mr. Stokes took the trip to Boston and attended the séance. There they mingled with prestigious members of Boston’s upper class and Ivy League elite. The Blonde Witch of Lime Street was a disappointment to Catherine, who Mr. Stokes observed possessed abilities far greater as did all the women of my bloodline. Fueled by what she viewed as a mockery of her own gifts, my great-great grandmother, uninfluenced by the fame of the medium or the clout of the gathered audience, contradicted the information that Margery Crandon gave to the group that evening. He assured me that she didn’t relay what she gleaned from the spirits in a self-promoting way, but did so with tactful consideration allowing the group to leave with the available insight, but also with Margery understanding what it was to be an authentic channel and not just a performer. She was never invited back.
Shifting from his tales about Great-Great Grandma Catherine, Mr. Stokes spoke to his appearance and explained that he didn’t always look as he did now, resembling a distant family member, instead sometimes he would adopt the appearance of someone from his human partner’s memory, such as a close confidante or intimate friend, though he stressed the importance of having a corporeal form while in active service to the members of our bloodline.
“Being in a physical body creates a stronger bond between the two of us and makes life less complicated. There’s less explaining to do,” he said as he maneuvered his vehicle through traffic on the highway. With a hint of amusement he continued, “Because the majority of people I interact with are so unaware they don’t even realize I’m not a human being.”
I looked over at him from the passenger seat and studied his physical appearance. I didn’t find him the least bit attractive and would probably ignore him if I were to see him out in public, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t aware. Did it? His eyes were set too close together and were encased by thick, heavy eyelids. His large bulging nose and thin lips were accented by a trimmed mustache, while his almost non-existent chin donned a short goatee. His brown and gray head hair was thinning and receding, leaving him with a larger forehead than he wouldn’t have had in his younger years. His facial skin was wrinkled and sagging, which lead me to wonder if his physical body aged as mine did or if because he wasn’t human it remained in this permanent state. Did his body even work the same as a natural human body? Was he required to eat and drink to live? Did he ever get sick? Would this body he currently inhabited die? What did he look like without a physical body? Would I be able to see him in his true form? Could anyone see him that way? I realized that Chloe being a Tetraprismat would be able to and I began making plans in my head for her to meet him and tell me what she saw when she looked at him.
The sound of my brother’s snoring from the backseat disrupted my thoughts.
“So, what are you?” I asked my tutor. “I mean, if you aren’t human, then what are you? An alien? Angel? Demon? What?”
Mr. Stokes glanced at me before speaking. “Well … I am a trusted confidant … a devoted companion, who be–”
“Because of a blood bond willingly serves, attends, and blah, blah, blah,” I finished. “I get it. I know all that already, but what are you?”
Mr. Stokes frowned as he stopped at a red traffic light. I had made him uncomfortable. It was as if he didn’t want to speak the words aloud. Why was he hesitating? If he said what he was would it make it less true? Would it break some sort of spell or some sort of rule, like in that old movie with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton? Was he not allowed to discuss the nature of his being? If he was truly in servitude to our bloodline, to me, then wasn’t I entitled to know this information? If he didn’t tell me, then who would explain these things to me? Perhaps it was meant to be Aunt Rachel, but she wasn’t here and I wasn’t certain when she’d be returning, if she ever would.
“You know what I am, Angie. You’ve always known, you just never acknowledged it before because you were kept medicated by your doctor at the insistence of your parents,” he paused, “Well, more precisely by your Mother.”
“Tell me,” I insisted, as he pulled his vehicle into our driveway. “Say it out loud so I know I’m not making it up.”
He brought the car to a stop and turned off the engine. My brother stirred in the backseat beginning to wake from his nap.
“I’m your familiar spirit.”