The Curse

Death is a natural thing—as natural as birth. At least that was what everyone wanted to believe. But who could accept that? What was natural about burying a loved one six feet under the ground? What about when losing someone under unexplained circumstances?

Mournful souls had gathered for a final goodbye as dark, gray heavens wept a silent rain. Time itself stood still. There were no smiles, only grief that hung in the air like a thick blanket.

The rain cooled the pain that had settled in the pit of Adrian’s stomach. With unfocused eyes, he stared as the coffin that contained his mother’s lifeless body, slowly descended into the cold, hard ground.

At least her suffering had ended. Now his was just beginning.

He shook his head, attempting to come out of the darkness that was his new life. A new life—first without his father, and now without his mother.

He shivered, not from the cold, but because he did not know how to mourn the loss of his mother.

He glanced at his grandmother standing next to him with her arm wrapped around him like a warm, comforting blanket. Worry lines had formed around her brown eyes, making her look way older than she was.

That warmth was familiar. It had been there his entire life. While growing up, he was surrounded by people who adored him. If he closed his eyes, images assembled in his mind, but his mother was not in them—not that he could remember. After his father’s death, she just hadn’t known what to do with him though he knew she loved him. Too bad, his mother was gone before he knew what her love felt like.

“No matter what happens, just know that I will always love you,” his mother had told him, only weeks before her death. He had believed her.

His mother’s story had begun the year before.

No. According to his grandmother, Elena’s story began twelve years before.

***

The beginning was filled with happiness—happiness that George and Elena brought to each other’s lives. Even though they could’ve easily afforded a place of their own, they preferred to live with George’s parents for practical reasons.

Adrian was born shortly after they got married, and their babysitter—George’s mother—was within arm’s reach twenty-four hours. That way, they both could continue to work full time.

George was full of life and always smiling. Elena bragged how beautiful it was to have a husband who was always happy, his cheerfulness, infectious.

Life was good. Everyone was happy. And then tragedy struck. George was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.

“It’s treatable,” his doctor said. “Surgery is the primary treatment for stage-three colon cancer. It usually involves a bowel resection to remove the tumor and a margin of healthy tissue on each side of the tumor.”

The doctor had made it sound as if it was a simple procedure. Only it wasn’t.

Throughout the anesthetic administrations, George’s airway was supposed to be protected and guaranteed by inserting an endotracheal tube into his trachea. Instead, the tube was placed in his esophagus, and oxygen was not delivered to his lungs. After a brief period without oxygen, he suffered a cardiac arrest. George paid the price for that human error, with his life, leaving behind his beloved wife and one-year-old son, Adrian.

***

Elena understood. At least that was what everyone believed. Being understanding was her job.

Only two years before, over a span of six months, she had helped bring a baby boy into the world, was the maid of honor at his parents’ wedding, and then stood by their deathbeds when they were involved in a horrific car crash that killed all three.

She understood that death was part of life. It was part of her nursing job, but that was easy to understand. That was her job and death happened to other people.

This was different. George was her husband, and Elena hated God for taking him from her.

She and Adrian continued to live in the house with her in-laws, but part of her was buried with her husband. She simply did not know how to live without him.

Slowly, she withdrew into her own little shell that was her world. She had never planned to live as a recluse. To not want to see or talk to anyone for days at a time, but then she had never expected to be a widow before she reached thirty, either.

Days became weeks, weeks became months, and months became years. Elena quit being a mother to her son, and Roman and Carolina—George’s parents—became instant parents to Adrian.

***

Nine years later…

Elena had gotten on with her life, the way everyone told her she should. She slept. Ate. Woke up every morning and went to work. She hadn’t the inclination to do more. The pain had stopped. Or maybe it had just morphed into numbness, but one thing was clear. She still grieved, still pulled out memories and spun them around in her tormented mind, trying to relieve the happy days with her husband.

She watched Carolina dunk then stir the tea bag in her cup of steaming water. Her mother-in-law’s unfocused eyes told Elena that something preoccupied her mind.

“Elena, I’ve meant to speak to you,” Carolina said, at last.

Elena sipped from her own cup and shrugged, somewhat puzzled by Carolina’s profound tone. “Okay…”

Before marrying George, Elena hadn’t known what love was. She had never met her father, and her mother never wanted her. She had been raised by her grandmother, who was nothing more than a presence in Elena’s life. She had never hugged her or kissed her, or show her any affection. Marrying George and being part of his family, was the closest she had ever come to feel a parent’s love.

“How are you?” Carolina asked, keeping the same intense tone.

Elena raised an eyebrow. “Fine…”

“I mean—really. How are you doing?”

“I’m fine. Why?” She knew it was a lie, but, unfortunately, it was necessary.

“Honey… you are not fine. It’s been nine years since your husband died, and you are still grieving.”

“So? He was my husband. I loved him.”

“I understand that. I do. I am his mother, and I loved him too. I also know that George loved you more than anything, but this is not what he would’ve wanted for you.” Carolina gently covered Elena’s hand with hers. “Elena, you are so young. You have your whole life ahead of you. You need to live your life.”

“What are you saying? I am living my life… the only way I know how,” Elena said bowing her head.

Without warning, Carolina opened her arms and pulled Elena into a firm hug. When she drew back, tears shimmered in her eyes. “That is exactly what I am talking about, Elena. You made a choice to live your life in a shell, and this isn’t good.”

Elena caught herself wriggling her hands—her favorite nervous gesture—and stopped. “I did not make this choice, Mom. God made this choice for me. I chose to marry; I chose to have a child with the man I loved, but I did not choose this.

Carolina blinked furiously trying to keep the tears from spilling. “I am so sorry, honey. I wish you did not have to go through all this. We don’t know why things happen the way they do, but you are young, you are beautiful, and your son needs a father figure. George is not coming back, and I know he would’ve wanted you and Adrian to be happy. Go out. Start dating, and start living your life. You deserve to be happy.”

“I am happy. And Adrian has Dad as a father figure. We could not ask for more.”

“Oh, honey. I am delighted that you trust Roman to be a father figure for Adrian.” She gave Elena’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Roman and I are not going anywhere. We will always be here for Adrian and you. But I want you to have someone in your life. You should not let what happened to George stop you from living.”

Carolina’s words ended in a gut-wrenching reality settling somewhere deep into Elena’s mind. She nodded in agreement only because she had no good argument to counter Carolina’s claim. Except for the ticking of the antique grandfather clock in the far corner, a heavy silence hovered in the air.

***

Elena forced a smile, but it felt stiff and unnatural. At Carolina’s persistence, she had agreed to go on her first date with Adam—a local man, also a member of Carolina’s church.

What am I doing? Why did I let Carolina talk me into this? Elena thought, accepting Adam’s outstretched arm.

She expected anger to rise, but none did, and her doubts soon disappeared when she discovered that she enjoyed his company. They were very different from one another, yet she felt attracted to him from the moment she saw him. She was a pessimist; he was an optimist. She was shy; he was not. He liked company; she was a loner.

I used to like company before… she stilled her thoughts. I shouldn’t go there.

***

Her fingers toyed with her ring and the diamond glinted in the morning sun. After everything that had happened, Elena thought that she would never love again. To her surprise, her first date with Adam had led to another and soon, Elena found herself falling in love with him. He was good to her, and he adored Adrian.

She had silently admitted that although Adrian loved his grandfather, like most ten-year-old boys, he needed a father figure who had the same level of energy as him, and Adam was it. And when Adam showed up at her house early in the morning and asked her to marry him, she did not hesitate.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Yes, I’ll gladly marry you,” she said, and Adam had slipped the ring on her finger then they kissed again. “But now I must go to work,” she added breaking the kiss.

Yanking her purse, she sprinted to the bus station.

A smile lit up her face as she waited for the bus, still admiring her ring when a young gypsy appeared out of nowhere. She hummed and pirouetted, holding her long dress with one hand and extending her other arm in mid-air as if dancing with an unseen partner. She approached Elena.

“I suggest you leave Adam alone,” the young gypsy whispered to Elena while taking another spin in front of her.

Elena was sure she didn’t know the young woman. “What?” she frowned, startled by the girl’s words.

The gypsy took another spin, obviously not in a hurry to answer Elena’s question. “You heard me,” she said at last. Marry him, and you’ll live to regret it,” the gypsy threatened, this time, a notch louder.

Elena opened her mouth to reply, but the young woman disappeared around the corner as fast as she had appeared.

The bus came and soon Elena forgot about the gypsy’s threat.

***

Adam finished shipping some livestock and arrived home late to find his wife and stepson playing in the kitchen with a big black cat.

“And who is this?” Adam asked jovially.

Once Elena and Adam got married, she and Adrian had moved into Adam’s farmhouse. Everyone, including Roman and Carolina, who had remained a big part of Elena’s new family, had been pleased that Elena had sprung back to life, and she had brought with her the perfect father for Adrian. She was happier than she’d been in a long time as she eased back into her parenting duties.

“This is our new family addition. She’s our cat,” said Elena, giving Adam a welcome home hug and kiss. “She appeared at the door and wanted to come in. I asked around, but none of our neighbors has a missing cat, so I guess she’s ours.”

“Can we keep her? Please?” Adrian pleaded.

Adam bent down and scratched the cat under her chin. She purred and stretched.

“Well, okay then. I guess we have a cat,” he said, taking his usual seat at the dinner table. The cat leaped on Adam’s lap. “You are a very nice kitty,” Adam said to the cat and she purred loudly.

“Adam,” Elena said. She sounded more worried than she intended, and Adam turned to look at her. “The neighbors acted rather odd when I told them about the cat. They seemed to think she is a witch. They told me to get rid of her.”

“Mom, those are fantasies you find in books. Right, Adam?”

“A witch?” Adam asked, and laughed heartily. “Are you a witch, little cat?”

The cat yawned and stretched on Adam’s lap.

“She said, no,” Adam said and continued to laugh at his self-crafted wit as Adrian joined in. Reluctantly, Elena laughed with them. It seemed such a ludicrous notion she regretted voicing it aloud.

***

The days had become shorter as winter approached, and it was almost dark by the time Elena returned from work. From the bus station, she hurried down the road hoping to get home before dark since she had not brought a flashlight with her. She rounded a corner and saw a group of black cats standing in the middle of the road. They were nearly invisible in the growing dark.

As Elena drew nearer, one cat called her name. She stopped and frowned. That was impossible.

I must be hallucinating, she thought.

Then the cat called out again, “Elena, we don’t want to harm you, but we will if we have to.”

Elena’s mouth dropped open in shock. She shook her head hard, not believing her ears. How ridiculous, she thought. Cats don’t talk. She sidestepped around them and hurried past the little group, deliberately looking the other way. A dog’s bark echoed in the thick nightly air, seemingly coming from nowhere and everywhere all at the same time.

Suddenly, a small black cat jumped from the group and stood directly in front of her. Elena stopped and looked down at its large green eyes that glowed in the fading light.

“I have a message for you,” the cat said. “Leave Adam, or you’ll live to regret it.” Then, the cat stalked passed her and joined the other cats grouped in the middle of the road.

“What if I don’t want to?” Elena raised her chin in defiance. She couldn’t believe that she was actually arguing with a cat.

The cats murmured among themselves. “That’s what his previous fiancée said,” said another cat.

“I hope she’s not that stupid. Elvira would never let her have him,” said another.

“Who’s Elvira?” asked Elena.

“You don’t know?” asked one cat, standing on two paws.

“Tell her,” said another. “She has the right to know.”

“Know what?” asked Elena, gradually mystified by her motivation to listen to a bunch of cats.

“Elvira is your cat. She’s close by and watching you. She’s always close by, and she’s always watching. She’s been in love with Adam since… forever,” said another cat with a smirk. “They are destined to be together, you see? Elvira warned his fiancée, but she wouldn’t listen, so she got rid of her. Puff! And she was gone. Just like that.”

“This is crazy,” Elena said. I can’t believe I’m talking with a bunch of cats.

She shook her head and hurried away as fast as she could. In the las few months, their stray cat had become an essential part of their household. She would purr them awake each morning, and would beg for milk when George brought in the morning’s milking. She followed Elena around supervising her housework in the afternoons and sat by the fire at night while they read to Adrian. But to think that her cat was in love with Adam, was crazy.

The cats shouted behind her. “You better listen!”

Around her, the world got darker and a veil of silence descended as the cats’ words started to sink in.

Adam’s fiancée?

She vaguely recalled the story. Adam had been engaged once, and on his wedding day, his bride-to-be had left him at the altar—not a word, not a reason. Nothing.

He had tried to find her, but his search and the search from the local police turned out nothing. The woman had disappeared without a trace, and no one, not even her family had ever heard from her again.

Elena silently admitted that the young woman’s disappearance was bizarre. But the cats’ story seemed unbelievable. That could not be true.

Could it?

Elena forced herself to walk even faster trying to get as far away as she could from the talking cats. Not that she believed the cats had spoken. It was all a strange hallucination brought on by too much work, but it was creepy, so she did not stop until she reached the safety of her porch.

She paused to catch her breath but did not want to explain to Adam that she was seeing and hearing impossible things. When her breathing calmed and she felt sufficiently composed, she went into the house and tried to act normal. But not before she locked the door behind her.

A trickle of paranoia can’t hurt.

The cat greeted her narrowing her eyes and looking at her suspiciously. She twitched her tail, and a window flew open with a bang. The cat leaped through it and disappeared into the night.

Alerted by the commotion Adam came into the room. “What was that?”

“Wind gust opened a window,” Elena lied. “Adam, do you believe in—” she stopped in mid-sentence knowing how stupid it sounded even to her own ears.

“In what?”

“Never mind, it’s stupid.”

Settling both hands on her shoulders, he said, “No. Tell me. You sound concerned.”

“It’s nothing, really. Just a crazy thought about Armageddon,” she lied again.

“Oh, honey. The world will not end. And if it does, you and I will survive,” Adam assured her, wrapping his arms around his wife and planting a gentle kiss on her forehead.

Elena faked a smile in her husband’s embrace, but her mind was elsewhere.

***

The phone chimed, startling Elena. She dashed across the room and answered, expecting her doctor’s call. The night she had encountered the talking cats, Elena had gone to bed with a terrible headache. From then on, her headaches had progressed to horrifying migraines, and when a month had passed and her headaches worsened, she had consulted her doctor.

“Hi Elena, this is Dr. Tonil.” Her doctor’s voice scratched through the line when she answered. Elena shivered slightly. “Elena, I have some good news,” he added.

Elena waited for him to continue.

“You’re pregnant.” The silence at Elena’s end prompted the doctor to recap. “You’re going to have a baby; aren’t you excited?” A trace of impatience touched his voice.

From a mirror on the wall, Elena’s own image squinted back at her. Her face was pale, her brown hair a tangled mess and the dark shadows beneath her eyes suggested she hadn’t slept in days.

Pregnant? “Yeah… yeah. Of course I am,” Elena said, trying to absorb the doctor’s words.

“We need to make an appointment for another consultation, now that we may have found the source of your headaches,” said the doctor.

“Okay. I’ll call you. Thank you,” Elena said, and absent-mindedly ended the conversation.

“What?” Adam wanted to know.

She looked into his gaze for a reaction. “I’m pregnant,” she said. He didn’t have children, and he and Elena had not discussed having children, so she was unsure about his reaction.

Adam took another step toward her, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her with passion. God works in mysterious ways,” Adam said, clearly pleased by the unexpected news.

***

Elena twitched at a searing headache, fighting another revolt at the same time. Extreme morning sickness had forced Adam to rush her to the hospital.

“Everything will be okay, sweetheart,” Adam assured her.

Tests had been done but except for some hormonal deficiency, mother and baby were fine. In spite of the positive results, Elena’s headaches had amplified, but her doctor hadn’t been too concerned and prescribed hormone replacements.

Now her headaches had increased to an unbearable level and Elena had to go back to him. Something seemed off. Her extreme morning sickness indicated increased levels of estrogen and progesterone and contradicted the lab’s results and the doctor’s theory that she had a hormonal deficiency.

“Promise me,” she said through teary eyes.

Adam took her hand in his and kissed it gently, attempting a smile. “I promise,” he echoed softly.

But as they would soon find out, that was one promise he wouldn’t be able to keep because shortly after she arrived at the hospital, she miscarried.

“You promised… you promised that everything will be fine!” she cried out.

***

Her words still went through Adam like bullets. Naturally, Elena and Adam were both devastated by the miscarriage, but Elena seem less able to handle it. An innate alarm raked over her family when her inexplicable weight loss persisted, and she slowly went back to her after-George-shell. She had been in and out of the hospital and more blood and other tests were done, but they turned out nothing. According to the tests, Elena had a clean bill of health, yet she was getting visibly weaker and sicker.

Adam studied her. She lied on her hospital bed, pale and still. Like death. Awake or sleeping, she looked the same.

Fighting back tears, his eyes shifted from Roman to Carolina, to the doctor, to the nurse, hoping someone, anyone, would give him the answers he looked for. No one could.

He followed the doctor out into the hallway. “Tell me her chances,” Adam demanded.

“Adam—” The doctor started to say something, but Adam held up a staying palm.

“Give me a number,” he insisted. Something he could hang his faith on. Otherwise, his hopes were not worth a damn; no better than a child’s wish for a unicorn. We couldn’t find one, dear. Was that what the doctor was telling him?

The doctor pushed his hands into the pockets of his white coat and shook his head. Adam pressed. “Sixty-forty? Eighty-twenty? One out of ten? One out of a hundred?”

He was beginning to sound hysterical, but he knew the doctor understood. They all did. His wife was dying, and no one knew why. He looked over his shoulder at Roman, who had followed him out of Elena’s room, and had now placed a hand on Adam’s shoulder. It took all of his self-control to resist jerking free of him.

The doctor’s eyes met his. “It’s hard to say in cases like this. We don’t know what’s wrong with her.”

There are no other cases like this! Adam wanted to scream at him. This is my wife. Instead, he calmly said, “So we just sit and watch her expire?”

The doctor sighed. Adam took the sigh as a yes and looked up towards the heavens.

How about this, God?

God, however, had given up listening to Adam a long time ago. No doubt because he had stopped praying to God. But now he didn’t care if faith no greater than a grain could move mountains. The mountains could stay put. All he asked for was the life of his wife. So what prayer hadn’t been good enough? His heartbeat slowed. Time stopped. He exhaled. His shoulders slumped.

Feeling a small hand on his arm, he jerked. “Adam, is my mom gonna die?”

Adam’s face tightened into a frown. He closed his eyes fighting back tears. He wished he could lie and say that he wouldn’t let that happen, but Adrian was a smart boy. Instead, Adam took a deep breath and said, “I wish I could answer that, but I don’t know, Adrian.” He placed his hands on Adrian’s shoulders and looking him in the eyes, he said, “But what I do know is that I’ll do everything in my power not to let that happen. I promise you. Okay?”

“Okay,” Adrian said, his voice a mere whisper.

Adam patted Adrian on his shoulder then ruffled his hair. “I got some stuff to do, so go home with Grandpa, and I’ll come to pick you up when I’m done; okay?”

Adrian nodded, and Adam walked down the open staircase from the second floor. Freed from the calm layer surrounding his wife’s bedside, the feelings of anger, the gleaming sense of frustration, returned. It was something more than the celestial injustice. It was his stand-point. Up until then he’d fuelled Elena with love, but now she had fallen into a stage where he could no longer reach her. Faced with a wife who did nothing, he felt he had nothing more to give, except fulfilling his parental responsibilities toward Adrian.

***

“Good morning, Adam,” said Father Isaia.

“Good morning, Father. Thank you for coming on such short notice.”

By now Adam’s anger and frustration had morphed into downright fear. Elena’s headaches had progressed to seizures, then to hallucinations. She began to hear voices which told her that she was damned and that she should kill herself. Various doctors had determined that she suffered from postpartum depression and was considering suicide.

For the next few months, she was in and out of different hospitals and treatment centers, but her medication only made her hallucinations worse.

After the family had decided to bring her home for good, Carolina suggested bringing a priest to pray over Elena, and with no other available options, Adam had agreed.

Anything, if it can help, he’d thought so they had called Father Isaia.

“Oh, no worries. I wish it were under different circumstances,” Father Isaia said, breaking into Adam’s thick thoughts. “How is she?” he asked, as he began to prepare for his prayer.

“Not good. I’m scared, Father,” Adam said, a sense of panic rising within him.

Father Isaia took Adam’s hand in his. “I know you are, son. Put your trust in God.” Adam nodded and Father Isaia patted Adam on his shoulder then went back to his ritual. “Where is she?” he asked once he finished.

“She’s upstairs. She was unable to get up in the last couple of days.”

Roman and Carolina arrived, and they all headed toward Elena’s bedroom. A loud rumble from Elena’s room halted the somber procession half-way up the stairs. Adam shifted his gaze from Roman to Carolina then ran, taking the steps two at a time, his footsteps pounding loudly on the hardwood steps. It only took him a few strides to enter Elena’s room. She was sprawled face-down beside her bed.

“Elena!” he screamed.

“Mmmm,” she moaned as Adam picked her up.

“For heaven’s sake, what were you trying to do?”

“I… was… thirsty.” Elena struggled to speak, pausing after each word. She looked tired and thin. Her nightgown clung to her as if she was a coat hanger. Adam lifted her effortlessly and placed her on her bed while the others stood by the door.

“Okay. Okay. I’ll bring you a glass of water. Father Isaia is here,” Adam said, nodding toward where Father Isaia stood.

“Nooo…” Elena moaned again, with her eyes half closed.

Father Isaia approached and gently touched her hand. “Good morning Elena. How do you feel?”

She turned her head and looked the other way. Ignoring her non-response, Father Isaia said a prayer and completed the blessing by a triple sprinkling with Holy Water. “Elena is blessed by the sprinkling of this Holy Water. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

Elena pulled the covers over her head, but Father Isaia gently pulled the covers back. He gave her Holy Water to drink. She refused. He tried again. “Just a sip,” he said, softly.

Elena’s eyes became hollow as she seemed to intercept an invisible something. Feelings of terror and sadness filled the air. Father Isaia dipped his hand in the Holy Water and brushed it over Elena’s face.

“NOOOO!” Elena roared suddenly from the top of her lungs, prompting Father Isaia to jolt back. Her voice chilled the room. It bared a striking resemblance to a growl. The darkness surrounding her chased away the last sliver of light and Elena looked like a mound of dark matter with a distorted face, in the middle of her bed.

“What happened?” Adam came back running into the room when he heard the unearthly roar. Elena’s deformed face looked back at them. Adam’s jaw dropped. “What the—”

Father Isaia said another quick prayer and left the room, visibly disturbed by the sight. Adam followed him down the stairs. “What was that?”

“Son, you need an Exorcist,” said Father Isaia.

“A what?” Adam asked, not because he didn’t know what an Exorcist was, but because he was shocked to hear the priest suggest that his wife was possessed. He understood perfectly what Father Isaia had said, but reality felt distant… like it was happening to someone else.

***

“What is happening to me?” Elena asked in a lucid moment while examining her scratched arms.

Adam could not answer that. No one could. Since Father Isaia’s visit, Elena’s situation had worsened rapidly. Sometimes she screamed for hours. Tearing off her clothes, attacking whoever came in her room or crawling under her bed and refusing to come out, had become regular occurrences.

She exchanged a worried look with Adam when she suddenly seemed to remember something. “The young gypsy from the bus station and the group of cats,” she murmured.

“What?” Adam had no idea what she meant.

She tried to explain that the gypsy and the cats were witches and that they put a curse her.

Another hallucination, Adam decided silently.

“It has to be that,” she insisted, ignoring her husband’s silence. “They warned me. Our cat has not returned since that night. What if she is Elvira? The cats told me that she’s always close by.”

Adam looked in dismay at his wife. He didn’t believe in such things. But what if… If good exists, then evil must exist too.

“I want to call Carolina and Roman,” Elena said suddenly.

***

“But an exorcist? Aren’t we ahead of ourselves, here?” Roman’s tone sounded raspy.

After some debate, they had all agreed that something was out of the ordinary, but an exorcist? None of them were prepared for that kind of intervention. Silence hovered heavy above them. Carolina spoke cutting into the uneasy moment. “Roman might be right. If she thinks she’s cursed, perhaps more prayer will take care of that.”

“What do you suggest?” Adam had been trying to deal with the situation but frankly, he was running out of options.

“Let’s take Elena to the monastery. More prayer can’t hurt her.”

Without further debate, they hauled her in Adam’s SUV, which was big enough for all of them. The short drive was uneventful but a hysterical, evil laugh really, erupted from Elena’s chest at the sight of priests and crosses, and it lasted for the duration of the prayer.

“This is more serious than I thought. We shouldn’t be playing around with whatever this is. We have to agree that this is more than any of us could handle?” said Carolina.

Not having another family of his own, Adam had come to rely on Roman and Carolina just as much as Elena had once. Now Elena had reached a point where nothing seemed to matter to her because her lucid moments seemed few and far in between. “What do you suggest we do?” Adam asked unfocused.

Carolina looked down as if ashamed of what she was about to say. “Father Isaia told us to bring in an Exorcist.”

***

The Exorcist had arrived a few days later, but not surprisingly, he did nothing to help Elena. She had growled at him. Then she began to laugh her usual cynical laughter when he started commanding the demon to be silent in the name of Jesus Christ. She had roared and struggled and spat in everyone’s faces. It had taken four men to hold her down, but the exorcist had left apologizing for not being able to do anything for her.

In another lucid moment, Elena had forced herself to fast, believing that it would rid her of her curse. In a last attempt, Adam brought in an old woman who claimed to be familiar with witchcraft. “A black magic curse was placed on Elena—one that can only be lifted by the one who placed it,” the woman advised in a remorseful tone. “I suggest you find the gypsy,” she said firmly.

Following the woman’s advice, Adam had tried desperately to find the gypsy girl. He’d spent days and nights looking for her, but it was all in vain. His stomach had tied into one big knot when he found Elena unresponsive. Dead in her sleep.

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