“The Elder is gone?” Marie sounded unconvinced.
“Yes. My death ended him while I escaped. With my body empty of possession, Bailey was able to return my soul.”
Tears began streaming down Marie’s cheeks. “It’s finally over.”
Rebecca nodded. “Yes.” As she watched her friendly silently weep in relief, guilt welled up in her chest. “Marie . . . I’m so sorry . . .”
“Ten years,” Marie muttered.
Marie tried to wipe her eyes clear. “Ten years under his thumb. Ten years where my life wasn’t my own. Ten years where my body wasn’t my own.”
“I know.” Rebecca couldn’t look her in the eye.
“Do you? Do you know what he did to me?”
“Marie . . . I’m sorry.”
Marie stood and faced away from Rebecca. “I understand why you ran. I didn’t then, but I do now. He was awful.”
“But he’s gone now, and our lives are ours again.”
Marie turned to look at her. “So we can return?”
That took Rebecca by surprise. “You . . . you want to go back?”
“Of course. With the Elder gone . . . Well, it’s our family. Why wouldn’t we go back?”
“With what we’ve been through . . . What you’ve been . . .”
It’s our home, and he’s gone.”
Rebecca looked down. “It hasn’t been my home for ten years.”
Marie stared at her with her mouth open. “What do you mean?”
“I won’t go back. Phillip thinks I died. Maybe that means Peter believes I’m dead, too. As far as they’re concerned, I’m happy to stay dead. This is my home now.”
“What about us? What about me?”
“You don’t have to go back, either.”
“It’s the only home I know.”
Silence feel over them. Marie turned away again, and Rebecca stared at her hands. She knew how hard it was to leave. Had she not been forced to it by Phillip and Peter, she might have found it impossible. But she had been forced, and now Marie found herself facing a similar choice. With the Elder gone, Marie could return safely, but how would she handle the constant reminders of her long trauma?
That wasn’t the only reason she didn’t want Marie to leave. The uncomfortable truth was that, with Bailey leaving, she didn’t want to have to say goodbye to another dear friend so soon. She was afraid of the loneliness that would almost certainly follow.
Marie finally broke the silence. “I don’t think I can leave. Just come back with me.”
“I can’t. I wish I could, but even the short time I spent with the Elder convinced me I did the right thing in leaving. I wish you would stay, but I can’t go with you.”
“So that’s it?”
“It doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to leave. At least you don’t have to leave right away.”
“I don’t think I should stay away too long.”
“Well we can still keep in touch.”
“Yes, I suppose.”
Neither woman could look at the other directly.