There are times when I wish I had a different sort of job - one with more regular hours, and actual holidays. Working at a pharmacy is... Well, I'm very much at the mercy of my employers.
But we did go and have Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and her boyfriend. It went pretty well - my mom is pretty sharp, but she seemed to like Claire, and did her best to make her feel welcome. (In other words, she made a truly heroic effort to keep from asking too many questions about her family, education, long-term plans, and personal beliefs. I was frankly amazed.) Her boyfriend is a CPA; he mainly wanted to eat food, drink some beer, and watch the game. I wasn't too interested, but Claire joined him in the living room and used Mom's computer to surf the Internet. That actually worked pretty well, since it gave me some time alone with Mom.
Then, on Saturday, we went out to eat with my Dad and his wife. He took us to the P.F. Chang's downtown, which was really nice - and a bit more expensive than we could usually afford on our own. So all in all, it was a good holiday, even if I couldn't entirely escape from work.
It was also, in a strange way, very relaxed. The snake cult just about has to know where I work, though I suppose they might not know where I live. But with the holiday, Claire and I were heading out to new places at odd times, which felt a lot safer than staying with our usual routine. So all in all, it was a good holiday (well, and holiday weekend)...
...Until the Elders contacted me on Sunday. They had another target. They wanted me to take her out. They didn't care how.
I used the same combination of rituals that I used on the first target: one to make the kill, another to observe, so that I knew what had happened. And it worked fine. The ball of darkness went to suffocate its target, and my observer followed. This was the second real attack that they'd had me launch against the snake cult, and I wanted to see what was going on.
I was suspicious that the first assignment was a test of loyalty. I still am. Only now I'm doubly suspicious, because this target was a woman... and she looked like Claire. Oh, not precisely - longer hair, a somewhat lighter build, but the facial resemblance was so startling that I nearly called off the attack... which would have been disastrous. I can't believe that the Elders wouldn't have noticed. Were they testing to see if I'd kill Claire, if they commanded it?
Let's go back to reflecting on Thanksgiving. I'm thankful, enormously thankful, that the Elders didn't decide to have me kill Claire. I don't know how that would have ended, but I can safely say that it would have ended badly. (And yes, if you're wondering: I express my doubts and uncertainties here because I can't express them anywhere else. Even when I have my foot right on the edge of the cliff.)
This is something that I'm going to have to think about. Because the way things are going, it might actually come up. And if it does, I can't be caught off guard. I have to know what I mean to do.
If I were a Catholic, I'd pray that the Elders never pushed me into that position. But I'm not a Catholic, and I can't count on Providence to protect me... to protect us. I'll have to act more directly. And that means I'll have to hit the archives again. Happy holidays.