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Riley walked into the living room and narrowed her eyes at Jack. He had been looking a bit off lately, and she was convinced he was feeling it too. His normal cheer seemed to be lacking lately.
“I am fine.” He groused.
“No, you aren’t. I am making you an appointment with the doctor.”
“If you must, now let me watch this.”
Riley sat next to Jack as they watched a man talking about The Event. It had been a year and a half since the boys went missing – were killed by a spirit – and there had been a lot of different responses and reactions to this. Some called it a mass-scale fake. Some considered it the end of the world. This man, however, had a different take.
He was going on about how the barrier between the spirit and the living world was always going to be weakened over time and how it was a good thing. People would be able to connect with their dead relatives more easily. The mysteries of what happened next would be settled eventually. He concluded it by saying he hoped the barrier would disappear completely and the living world and the spirit one would just be permanently connected.
“Either that man doesn’t know what he is talking about, or” Jack began but then started to silently think.
“Or?” Riley prompted.
“Or he does, and the danger is what he wants.”
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“Chaos is a very powerful tool, and the further the barrier is weakened, the more there will be. I hope he is ignorant because if he knows what he is talking about, then he will present a danger to us all.”
Riley shuddered a little at the thought. Still, she was more focused on the way Jack looked. “I’m going to call the doctor now.”
The next day Ethan Hill sat around the TV with his friend Derek and Derek’s family, watching the same interview.
“This man is dangerous.” Ethan said.
“Or an idiot.” Emily said next to him.
“Being ignorant of what he is advocating for only changes the type of dangerous he is.” Ethan replied.
“Indeed.” Emily and Derek’s father agreed.
“Does this mean you are going to America for certain?” Derek asked, a bit of sadness in his tone.
“I was always going for certain. This does speed up the timeline, though. They will need a branch opened there sooner rather than later.”
“We will miss you a great deal.” Emily’s mother said.
“I will visit and stay in touch. I am moving, not cutting you off.” Ethan said, but in a softer tone, he added. “But the feeling is mutual.” After that, he quickly stood and left the room. The family didn’t take offense; they knew how Ethan was.
Emily followed a bit after. Ethan was standing looking out the window with a cup of tea nearby, probably over-steeped at this point.
“I thought you were going to wait a little while.”
Emily’s tone of voice broke Ethan’s heart a little; she was clearly feeling hurt and dejected. “I was, but this changes things, surely you realize that.”
Emily huffed and crossed her arms. “Everything?” She implored.
Ethan raised an eyebrow and studied her. “Are you incapable of joining me if I leave before you?”
“Will you still want me to work for you in a few years?”
“Yes. Emily, you were never going to be able to take the job right away. You are young, there was always going to be a delay, and it was always far more likely that you would change your mind than me.”
“You know why I want to come with you. I am not magically going to stop being in my family’s shadow after a few years.”
“But it might bother you less.”
Emily shook her head.
Ethan sighed but wasn’t going to fight the point. “Emily, you know that your whole family is important to me, that you are. Your parents are right to want you to wait until you are older before flying across the ocean for a job. They will also miss their daughter terribly. I respect their desire for you to wait, and you need to give it to them. The job offer is not going away. Whenever you are ready, I will have a place for you on my team.”
“Is being friends with the family the only reason?” Emily shifted, it was not often, but her insecurity did come out.
“I am not going to pretend it is not a factor, Emily. You know I consider you the closest I have ever had to a little sister. You also know me, though, would I offer you a job for only that reason?”
“No.” Emily admitted.
“You are skilled and young, so that means you only have more time for your skills to grow. It is actually my hope that your affection for me will sway you, not the other way around.”
“So stiff and formal.”
“Work on that, okay?”
“It will be easier when you do finally join me and tease me for it.”
Emily smiled at that. “You know we all love you, right? I am glad that my brother forced you to be his friend.”
Ethan gave a short chuckle but nodded in agreement.
Ethan had felt weird offering Emily a job when she was still so young, but he also knew that she was always going to follow in her family’s footsteps and join the business. She just didn’t want to work with them. Ethan had been working with PIRI to open an American branch for awhile now. He had assumed Emily would be a little older when things finally finalized, though. However, he had been right when he said The Event had changed things.
In the last year and a half, it wasn’t just that the spirit world had been confirmed, things were also growing more active. When Emily and Ethan had approached Emily’s parents about her accepting a job, Ethan had not been surprised when they insisted that she wait until she was twenty. Even that would be young for such a life-changing decision. He understood and respected Emily’s wish to make her own mark on the world instead of just being another member of her family team. He hoped that the two-year wait wouldn’t change things for her, but had also been telling the truth when he said he was convinced it was far more likely that she would than him ever rescinding his offer.