This story is by Vykky La Vecchia and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My preparations were complete. I’d recited the proper words over glasses of water that I’d given Jeda for the past week. This last glass of water and a small glass of olive oil might be enough. If it’s not adequate, the bath had been drawn and incantations have been recited over it too. I’d set up salt around the tub and will add iron and salt at the doorway once she gets in the bath. I wasn’t sure what lore to follow to get rid of it, if it really was a Jinn, so I’d try them all.
She languidly came to the kitchen table, a withered husk of what she once was. Her features like her effervescence have drained away ever since Phil left and she claimed her dreams are the best place for her. If only I was better with words. I could tell her how much she has to live for and how much outside of her dreams there is to look forward to.
The skeletal frame slipped into the seat across from me. Her personality too changed and she only wanted to stay in her dreams claiming that there was something there better than here. Recalling stories from my mother of Jinn that would steal life from people as they slept was what gave me reason to suspect there was indeed something there.
“How are you doing this morning Jeda?” I asked as if I couldn’t see she’s on the brink of death. I should’ve decided to do this much earlier to ensure her safety, I was just afraid to lose her. Every time I tried to say something she’d brush it off and it never came out the way I wanted it to. I’d realized that if I didn’t try to exorcise this creature from her I would lose her forever.
She brought up a skeletal arm and opened her mouth, “I’d be better if I could sleep a little longer, but since you asked, I’ve come out away from my dream Phil and wonderful life to have some water with you.”
I pushed the last glass of water over to her, “Here you go. Oh and my grandmother said two spoonfuls of olive oil help with sweet dreams so I also put that here for you. Once you’re done I have a soothing bath for you to relax in.”
Arms too frail, she clasped the glass two handed, “Thanks, it’ll be nice to get more rest. I’m glad you finally understand that in my dreams it’s where I belong,” her smile didn’t come close to her eyes, “it’s where I’m happy. Good friends always wish for the best and that’s why you’re a good friend.”
I hid the cringe at those words. Had I been a better friend I wouldn’t have let her slip into this sorry state; but I was finally willing to risk her being upset at me to keep her alive or maybe she’d be happy someone finally set her free.
She took one sip of the water. Then the shot of olive oil with more water as a chaser. I watched with bated anticipation. Will it come out like a demon in the movies? Will I be able to tell if I helped make a difference for her? Once both her glasses were back on the table she rested her hands beside them.
Still, nothing changed.
Jeda attempted to push herself up but her frail arms gave way. Her sunken eyes looked out from their sockets, “Can you help me get to the tub?”
I popped up, “Certainly Jeda,” I wrapped my arm around her overly thin frame while her lavender scent whispered promises of happier times.
We ambled to the bathroom. She looked up at me, “How’s Janett?”
I pinch my eyebrows. She’s so close, yet she’s entirely detached to not remember, “You were still with Phil when I broke up with Janett.”
Jeda took in a quick rasp, “Oh, well in my dreams you’re still with her and happy. If my dreams are a supernatural being, like you say, you should come visit. You’d be happier too.”
I let her comment hang in the air as the humidity from the warm soapy water enveloped us as we entered the bathroom.
“I don’t know how long it’s been since you had a bubble bath so I figured that it’d be even better,” I led her to the chair I’d set up for her to place her clothes on.
On the back of the chair lay a set of towels. Jeda gingerly rested upon them as she twisted up her long ebony hair.
“This is going to be well worth waking up for, thank you Falerian,” deep amber eyes looked out from their recessed homes, “you’ll make some girl very happy one day.”
Her kind words pulled a melancholy smile from my lips as I shut the door, “Thanks Jeda, enjoy.”
Once the door was shut, I hurriedly grab the iron and salt. I shook the salt across the door entrance and added a frame of iron grapevines around the bathroom entrance. Then I went back to the kitchen where I sat tapping on the impatient table for Jeda to finish.
How long does it take to expel a Jinn? Will her personality go back to what it was before right away? I wasn’t sure but all I could do was hope and pray this would save her from a premature inactive death.
Splashing from the bathroom bolted me from my chair.
“Falerian! What did you do?!” a towel wrapped Jeda stormed out of the bathroom, stepping over the salt.
I clutch on to the glint of shining hope something had changed as I met her in the living room. This is the most energetic I’d seen her in quite some time.
She pointed a withered hand in my face, “What did you do?”
I started to open my mouth.
“No. You don’t know what you did? How could you?”
“Wait,” her accusing hand folded back into herself, “I’ll try to sleep and see for sure.”
With more vigor than I’d seen from her in weeks, she headed to her bedroom. The door smacked shut behind her.
Shortly after I busied myself with cleaning up the bathroom. Please Jeda, be alright, I had to do it for you to be here to shine like the beautiful sun spreading rays of light everywhere you go. I heard a door bang open.
She accosted me on my way out of the bathroom, dirty laundry in my hands.
“How could you take the only happy thing away from me? He’s gone, but you know that already don’t you? You thought it might be something supernatural and you got rid of it, without my permission,” her frail fist knocked on my chest, “I was happy.”
She took a shuddering gasp as her knees gave way and she fell against my chest. I drop the laundry to hold her up while she wailed against me. My heart ached for her, I’d be content if I could give her some succor while she went through this. I rested my hand on the back of her head as she watered the front of my shirt.
The sobbing suddenly stopped and she pulled away from me, “You did this so you could have me,” she took another aghast step away, “you selfish jerk.”
The words I had rehearsed fled my mind and I stood there a blank canvas. Searching the room for the lost words. I picked up the laundry, “I couldn’t watch you die.”
“What gives you the right? That wasn’t your choice,” she crossed her arms, “You took the only happy thing in my life. Get out!”
My hands fumbled with the clothes, “But this is my apartment.”
“Fine,” she whipped around and I watched as she stormed to her room.
After the house chores were done, she still hadn’t come out of her room. I left a note and lunch for her on the table then headed to the grocery store. When I returned the food had been eaten and a new note had been left. I set the grocery bags down and picked up the paper.
Falerian, I can’t stay in a place where I don’t trust someone. I took all that I will and I’m not coming back. I’m still upset at what you did even though you say it was for my own good.
Don’t look for me and don’t try to call me. If I can ever forgive you I’ll call you.
Setting the paper back on the table, I looked at the empty plate. She’d eaten, and that’s more than she’d done in far too long. My lip quivered at the loss of her presence in my life now, but at least she’s alive. Even if the sun wasn’t shining on my side of the world, I knew that somewhere she still was.