The doctors all wear white lab coats; a soothing colour, a trustworthy colour. Their uniforms are designed to make the patients feel calm, feel safe, in much the same way that the soothing pastel paint on the walls and the matching duvets on the beds are meant to instil a feeling of tranquillity.
There is nothing tranquil about the doctor standing in the doorway to Lilith Hughes’s bedroom. Lilith can tell from his nervous expression that he was coerced into being the bearer of this bad news, probably because he is so young. He has met Lilith before on one or two occasions, and is familiar with her condition; he knows that she isn’t prone to violent outbursts, but this knowledge doesn’t seem to help him.
"Do you remember me, Lilith?" he asks. "Dr. Fielding? Andy Fielding?"
Lilith looks up at him through her tangled veil of blonde hair. Even on the best of days, her faded blue eyes tell of a sadness she will never again be capable of expressing in words. Today is not the best of days.
Dr. Fielding crosses the room and sits down on the edge of the bed, directly opposite the chair where Lilith is half-lying, her arms curled protectively around her knees. He clears his throat.
"Lilith," he says again. She meets his eyes. The look in hers is almost heartbreaking. "Lilith, I’m afraid I have some bad news."
Physically, she withdraws further into herself. Mentally, she gathers up the frayed shreds of her sanity in preparation for what he’s going to say.
"I just got off the phone with David Tyrel," Dr. Andy Fielding continues, speaking quietly and gently. "Do you remember David? He’s the headmaster at Medenham Hall?"
For a moment it seems that Lilith is nonplussed. Then she swallows, her throat clicking dryly when she does, and nods.
"Yes," she says. "Yes, I remember Mr. Tyrel."
Dr. Fielding nods sadly. "He says… Lilith, I’m afraid Cassie’s gone missing."
"No," Lilith says immediately.
The doctor keeps nodding. "Yes," he says. "Yes. I’m so sorry, Lilith. The police have been informed, but they didn’t find any indication as to where she might have gone. Of course after the tragic loss of her best friend a few months ago – "
" – and taking into account the way she’s distanced herself from the faculty and other students, it’s not entirely surprising that she might feel running away was her only option. Lilith, it’s important that we don’t give ourselves false hopes – "
" – but at the same time we need to remember that she’s far from a lost cause. The authorities are doing everything they can to find her. In the meantime… we’re all here to help you stay strong, Lilith."
"No," Lilith says. "You’re wrong. She isn’t missing."
"I’m afraid she is. I’m so, so sorry, Lilith."
"She isn’t missing," Lilith repeats calmly. When she blinks a tear squeezes out of one eye, catching on her eyelashes before slowly trickling down her cheek. "She’s dead."
Dr. Fielding visibly recoils from these words, looking as shocked as if she had slapped him. His face seems suddenly paler than usual. It takes him a moment to compose himself.
"That…" His voice comes out weak and cracked, like that of a boy just entering adolescence. He clears his throat deeply before trying again. "That is a… a possibility," he allows, and goes on quickly: "But it seems much more likely that after the trauma of the past few months, the stress simply became too much for her to bear…"
"Doctor," Lilith says quietly. She’s taken her eyes off of his now, which is a small relief in its own way. She gazes into the corner – glares, to use a more accurate word – as if staring at the culprit of some imaginary crime.
"I know my daughter," she goes on. "She wouldn’t run away, not from Medenham. She knew she belonged there. She didn’t run away. She was killed. Murdered." The last word comes out as little more than a whisper.
Dr. Fielding leans forward, and, unable to help himself, asks in a hushed voice (sounding, perhaps, a little awed): "By who?"
"Who isn’t important," Lilith replies. "It was an accident. The girl was only trying to help. But he…" her voice trails off in a sob. She brings her left hand to her face and covers her eyes and soundlessly working mouth as best she can. With her right, she points to the empty corner of the room. "He killed my daughter! Took her friend and stole her heart and killed my daughter!" The rest is lost in incoherent screams of rage and grief.
Sighing, Dr. Fielding stands and leaves the room, in search of a strong sedative.
As soon as he is gone, Lilith lifts her head. The ebony shadow in the far corner of the lilac-decorated room lifts his in perfect unison. Their eyes meet, and Lilith understands how so many women, herself included, have gone mad under that red-rimmed gaze.
"Leave me alone," she whispers hoarsely. "There’s nothing left for you to take from me. There’s no reason for you to stay."
"This is hard on both of us, Lilith," he says, in the same old soft, let’s-be-reasonable tone. "You have to understand, she died for something greater than herself. She died for our son. Her son; your grandson, Lilith. I loved her, too – you understand that, don’t you?"
She makes no reply. She may be far gone, but she still knows when she is being baited.
"But surely you can understand, as well, how a mother will sacrifice her life for her child? Nothing you wouldn’t have done for her, am I right?"
Although his face remains impassive, Lilith knows he is smirking at her. Smirking and laughing hellishly inside, because even if he did love Cassie in his own twisted way, he has what he wants now. He has his son.
And not only did Lilith do nothing to protect her daughter – she was tricked into giving him free reign over them both.
"You lied to me," she says weakly. "You said you were her guardian angel."
He smiles. It is the smile of a grieving husband putting on a brave face in order to hide his pain. His eyes are wet. Crocodile tears, Lilith thinks bitterly.
"I was. I am. I’ll take care of her now."
Lilith has neither the strength nor the opportunity to reply; Dr. Fielding comes back into the room, closely followed by a round, middle-aged nurse with grandmotherly apple-cheeks and a hypodermic needle in her hand.
When she looks back into the corner, Azazeal is gone. With none of her usual protesting, Lilith submissively allows herself to be sedated.