Jackie stares at me expectantly.
“What?” I ask her while trying to keep my balance on the bucking floor.
“Me?” I ask. “What about you? You’re a Child of the Blood, too.”
“I’m not Certified, as you well know,” Jackie hisses. “Not to mention, this is your house, and your fault.”
“Technically,” I argue, “it’s his fault” – I point at my dad – “and his house. I was tricked, I tell you. Tricked!”
“You pissed the house off! And I can’t believe I’m saying that like it’s normal,” Jackie covers her mouth, as if to stop her words. She looks at Sinan, and says, “Can you fix this?”
Sinan gets a thoughtful expression on his face, and then says, quite happily, “Nope.”
Jackie frowns. “Why is your whole family strange?” she asks me.
“Because Mercury’s in retrograde?” I shrug. “How should I know?” I get to my feet, with difficulty, and waddle to the doorway. I put one foot to the threshold, and feel myself bounce off of an invisible barrier. I try it again and again, each time banging my head on.. nothing.
I hate it when that happens.
“What’s wrong?” Jackie’s voice sounds strangely apprehensive. I don’t want to anger her – she looks like she packs a punch that can break my face – but I know I should probably brief her on the current situation.
“I appear to be trapped in this room.”
“What?” I sense her rise from her spot on the floor, and suddenly, there she is, looming over me. I cringe in fear and repeat myself.
“I’m trapped in this room? But you’re probably not,” I hurry on. “The house voluntarily let you in, so it should let you back out.” I hope against hope that I’m right.
Of course I’m wrong.
Jackie cautiously taps her nails against the invisible wall of our prison. When her hand does not pass through the barrier like it should, she makes a fist and pounds on it. I watch her go wild while slowly edging away. She catches me moving, and sends me a glare. If looks could kill, I’d be melting right now.
She puts her hands on her hips and says, “Fix this.”
I gulp. “Well, I don’t know how.”
“I have to be at the airport. My mama is flying in, so you just tell this house of yours to let me out, or I’ll -”
“You’ll what?” An oily, serpent-like voice slices through the air, challenging the queen.
“You really want me to answer that, chile?” Jackie refuses to back down. I just want to curl up in a corner and cry for my mommy.
“You dare speak so callously to a God? I should destroy you!”
The house shudders on its foundation. I glance around, hoping to see (not) where the voice of this self-proclaimed god is coming from. I start a bit when I notice that the old man has dropped to one knee. His head is bowed, and he is gesturing for Jackie and me to do the same.
“Old man,” I hiss, “you’ve got some s’planin’ to do.”
“Not now, Layla,” he whispers. “Get down.”
I turn away in time to hear Jackie snort. “Some god you are, using petty tricks like this. I can do tricks, too.” She pulls a pin from her hair and, quicker than I can screech that it’s a bad idea, pricks her finger. Blood wells up on the tip and she smirks. She lets a few drops spill onto the floor (dammit, that’s gonna leave a stain!) and draws a simple shape in the air.
A large, red, 3-headed cat appears with a roar.
“Oh, shit,” I declare.
This is not gonna be a fun time.
“Do my bidding!” Jackie commands the animal. “Roar, Setu!” The three heads are slightly out of time with each other, and make a terrible racket. I am certain we are all going to be blasted to smithereens any moment now.
The house screams. Or maybe it’s the supposed-to-be-a-god voice. I’m beginning to think that it’s all the same thing. “Silence that mangy abomination!”
Jackie smirks. “Make me,” she challenges the house-voice.
My bedroom is instantly plunged into complete darkness. I begin to shake, and my body feels hot. “Shit, shit, shit!” I curse. “Not now. DAMMIT!”
I hear Sinan’s voice cut through the gloom. “Layla? Use your power. Tis no other option.”
“I refuse,” I tell him. “You have no idea how much trouble it is.
Jackie snorts from somewhere close to me. “I’m not doing this alone, chile.”
I can feel my teeth lengthening. My hair is growing rapidly, as are my nails. My senses are sharpening, and I can see shapes in the darkness. I find my voice.
“Did you do this, old man?” I accuse my father.
“I sure did not,” he assures me, then promptly dashes my hopes. “But I’m almost certain HE did.”
“So what do I do now?” I rasp in my new voice.
I can see and hear Jackie stiffen. “Layla? Are you touching me?”
“I think we’ve got company.”
Have I mentioned that I hate my life?