We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet is only love
which sets us fr-
"Yes!" Startled, Bella looked up from the book of poetry she was reading - and which she was supposed to be stocking - to the face of her manager, his face poised between amused and annoyed. Bella blushed heavily at being caught, looking up timidly now.
Benjamin rolled his eyes but chuckled lightly. He was here to free her after all. "Anyway, I wanted to come tell you that it appears I over-scheduled employees today, so I wanted to know if you wanted to go home an hour early?"
Eagerly, Bella nodded. While normally she loved working at the book store, summer had started, and many of the other employees were taking their vacations. Particularly the younger ones. Bella was only twenty-one but didn't really enjoy the things others in her age group did. So she declined from going anywhere, and therefore ended with the duty of picking up a bundle of the extra shifts now open. Yesterday she had worked a twelve hour day, and today was a ten. Well, at least now it was nine.
"Good," Benjamin said. "You work too much anyway, and I really appreciate it. Go clock out and get out of here. Enjoy the summer."
"Okay," Bella muttered. She knew that he was right. Summer in Washington was the only semi-decent time of the year and in theory she should be out there enjoying it.
Sighing, she went to the staff room, threw her backpack over her shoulder, clocked out, and left the building.
She felt unsettled as she drove away in her old, red motorbike, something a friend had taught her how to ride. Her father hated it. She loved it. It was the only thing she had that made her feel like she wasn't just wasting her life away going through the motions.
As she zoomed down the streets, she thought of what she would normally be doing about now. She would head immediately home and maybe watch some television, then spend the rest of the day writing. But it was actually sunny for once. There was a cool breeze; the air was warm. And while Bella's home-bound heart usually found pleasure only in the solitude of her quarters, it squeezed painfully at the thought of locking herself inside today.
"Why not?" Bella suddenly muttered to herself. "There's nothing saying I can't go out."
And there was one place where she had a sudden yearning to be.
She stopped at home briefly to change out of her work uniform and into a more suitable outfit of comfortable blue jeans and soft white tee, grabbed her favorite writing notebook and pen, and then she was out of her small one-bed, one-bath apartment and driving through the streets of Seattle, enjoying the atypical, pleasant breeze on the parts of her face that weren't covered up with a helmet.
On the outskirts of town, nearly an hour drive away for Bella, was her favorite park. She didn't go there as often as she would like because of the trip it was, but the thrumming in her veins told her the large forest reservation was where she needed to be, just this once.
Bella looked around as she parked, throwing down the kickstand and securing her helmet to the handle with a lock. The trees were large and overhanging. The bark was always dark with the constant moisture it received. Hanging moss draped like protective veils through the branches. The shadows that covered the ground were not as dark or blue or they normally were due to the sun, but all in all the place still held that dark, fairytale magic that made it one of Bella's favorite places in the world thus far.
For the most part the forest was left untouched. There was one concrete path that ran a circle around some of the wood, and a children's play set in a cleared out field.
The only other disturbances to the natural layout were man-made foot trails for hikers and joggers. It was down one of these paths that Bella began walking with her backpack full of supplies and her iPod playing in her ears.
The dirt was damp with rains from earlier in the week, and the trees blocked most of the sun's rays from reaching the forest floor. Bella shivered a little from the cool air rising from the ground, but marched forward determinedly.
A couple months ago, while walking down this very same trail, she had accidentally wondered off the path and into an untouched section of the wood. She might've been scared of losing her way, except that she ended up stumbling into the most beautiful, perfect meadow ever seen. It had been sunny that day as well with spring started, and fresh, lively wildflowers sprung up everywhere amidst soft, long grass, encased by a perfect circle of trees. It was her fairytale hideaway. And it was where she headed off to now for the second time, hoping to recapture that preserved magic - if she could find it again.
Bella paused suddenly by a gnarled, sad-looking tree. "I think you're the marker I made…" Bella muttered hesitantly, half to the tree, half to herself. The tree made no indication to her whether she was right or not, so, stealing herself up, Bella carefully began her descent off the path, stepping cautiously over fallen branches, slick mud, and nudged aside hanging moss and vines.
About ten minutes later, when Bella began to feel certain that she had made the wrong choice and lost her way, she stumblingly emerged through a curtain of vines into her meadow. She gasped happily, a rarely-used smile spreading over her face. It was exactly how she remembered it. It was perfect.
"Victory!" she declared, raising her fists in triumph, before throwing her pack to the ground and retrieving the blanket inside to spread on the slightly-damp ground. She lowered herself onto her stomach with a sigh, took out her notebook and pen, and began to scribble down the short story that had popped into her head on her walk here.
She was an aspiring author, but unfortunately she couldn't think of an idea good enough to turn into a novel truly worth reading, and she would settle for nothing less. So she just practiced most days instead, writing whatever she felt like.
The meadow was peaceful. Bella even took off her headphones to listen to gentle sounds around her. Birds occasionally rustling in the trees, the wind whistling through the grass with every light breeze, leaves being pressed into the ground by scurrying creatures. When the sun shone, the meadow sparkled from the reflection of light on lingering water droplets. And when the sun was covered by the occasional passing cloud, the meadow transformed into a more shadowy sort of magic. Bella was not normally a fan of hands-on nature, but as the day progressed and it got closer and closer to the time when she would have to leave, she felt a sense of loss permeate her mind.
Twilight fell and Bella knew that it was finally time to go. It was getting too dark to write anyway. But there was still a sinking in her stomach as she purposefully turned away from this sanctuary made just for her.
With a heavy heart and leaden feet, she began to make her way out of the meadow and into the trees.
Suddenly, a loud crack rang through the air from behind her. Bella automatically froze in fear as a multi-colored flash of light played on the trees in front of her, their source coming from behind, in the meadow.
Bella's immediate thought was that lightning had struck behind her, but a brief glance in the sky, now perfectly still, showed not a cloud in the sky. Heart pumping fast, she slowly turned back around to the empty space behind her.
But it was empty no longer. She wanted to gasp but couldn't find the air to breathe as she stared at the sight before her.
Now lying on the ground before her was the most beautiful man she'd ever seen. His long, lean build dressed in simple black clothing laid upon the soft grass and flowers limply, but there was still a grace in it. He had the most brilliant shade of hair Bella had never seen before, a subtle, glinting copper. And his face…his face was perfection. Chiseled jaw, straight nose, soft copper lashes dusting his cheekbones, strong brow. She could only wonder at what beauty lay behind his closed eyelids. His exquisiteness was such that he could only have been crafted by an artist with godly power.
And Bella knew that had to be the case because the strangest thing about the man was not the cracking sound that accompanied his arrival, the faux lightning, or his sudden, inexplicable appearance. It was the wings that lay underneath him, the same shade as his hair. As Bella watched, they fluttered lightly, and then began to fade; return, fade, then return, until finally they disappeared all together. Bella couldn't help but to approach, falling to her knees beside this otherworldly man in awe.
And then the angel began to stir.
Bella watched in amazement as his brow furrowed before his eyes started to slowly open, blinking. He looked completely disoriented, and it was a full minute before he could open his eyes all the way.
Bella gasped as she finally saw what lay beneath his eyelids, completing the beauty of his face. His eyes were an enchanting emerald green, such a perfect shade that she had never seen it on a person before, much the same as with his hair.
At her gasp, the fallen angel's eyes flashed to her. Sooner than she could even blink, he jumped up and stumbled away from her, falling back down as his legs buckled beneath him. He kept himself propped up by his arms as he breathed heavily, glaring at her but keeping silent.
Bella's heart was beating hard beneath her skin, and she too had fallen backward at his sudden movement. She stared, wide-eyed, back into his suspicious eyes.
"Are…are you okay?" Bella croaked, her throat run dry. The image of his wings flickering in and out of existence was burned in her cornea. It was surreal.
The angel didn't answer, staying still as a stone. His face reflected his caution. Bella suddenly considered whether he could even speak, or speak English.
He was beautiful, and if she had to place an origin to his features, she would say some kind of European. Then she wondered if that were even possible. Were angels born on Earth?
She shifted through her long-since-used French lessons in high school, the only other language she was semi-familiar with. "Um…est-ce que tu…parles…francais?" It was worth a try.
The angel moved at last, raising one eyebrow. Then his lips twitched into a crooked grin that took Bella's breath away.
He finally relaxed, adjusting to sit on the ground cross-legged away from her. "I speak many languages," he said, his quiet voice smooth and musical. "But where am I?"
Bella swallowed heavily. "W-Washington. State. In the United States. Seattle specifically," she answered. She wondered if that helped at all. The angel looked deep in thought.
Bella glanced at the sky. Only a few streaks and pink and purple were left in the sky. It was almost completely dark.
"We should get out of here," Bella said to him. "It's getting dark and we'll be stuck if we don't leave. You could…come with me if you want, for now. If you want." Bella couldn't believe any of this was really happening. She had never had a man stay over at her house, ever, and now she was inviting an…angel…It was impossible to wrap her mind around. And yet, it all seemed to be the perfect, most logical thing to do.
The angel was silent for several long moments, and then slowly nodded. "Yes, perhaps that would be best. For now." He raised to his feet, his legs slightly wobbly beneath him. He took a hesitant step, and then another one.
Bella scrambled to her own feet and cautiously walked toward him. "Do you want me to help you?" she asked, unsure. "Until you get the hang of it?" If she had wings, she wouldn't do much walking either.
He stared at her, eyes unreadable. "Yes," he finally repeated. "Thank you."
"Oh no problem," she said automatically, letting out a shaky laugh. This entire situation was unreal.
Bella put her arm around his waist and his arm came to lay on her shoulders. Bella barely made contact with anyone, and now she was pressed against the side of some godly creature. With an incredibly nice physique. She had to remember to keep breathing because passing out would help no one's case.
They began to stumble their way through the trees, searching for the trail. By the time they found it, the angel had become much more dexterous and balanced on his feet, and proceeded to then help Bella not to trip.
"So, what's your name?" Bella asked as they escaped the trail and she began leading them to her motorbike.
"Edward," he answered. "What should I call you?"
"Bella." She smiled. "Well here we are!" She waved a hand as they stopped next to her bike.
Edward stared at it. "Do you know how many people get killed on these things?" he asked in disdain. Well, that wasn't what she expected to come out of his mouth.
"Not an exact number, no." She swung a leg over the seat and scooted up close to the handlebars. "How do you know? Were you a guardian angel or something?" There was no point pretending she hadn't seen his wings.
Edward sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. "I can't talk about this right now," he told her, eyes darkening in the dim light.
"That's okay," Bella said. "You don't have to tell me. Yet." She picked up her helmet, contemplating. "I only have the one…" She held it out to him. "To ease your mind a little."
He gently pushed it back towards her. "You wear it Bella," he murmured, finally climbing behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist.
Bella felt her heart skip a beat when he said her name, and start to gallop as he held her, even if he was just doing it out of necessity. Taking a deep breath, she started the engine and carefully peeled off, beginning the journey home.
What a strange day.
The wind rushed past Edward's face as he clung onto the strange mortal that was helping him, whizzing through the city streets and artificial light.
He wasn't sure why he landed near this girl, Bella, but he was grateful the Horae had at least banished him with someone he could trust while he adjusted to his new situation. She was a little bit odder than any other human he had ever observed, but he could tell she was kind, and that was comforting. Especially when everything else was so off.
Edward felt a million things coursing through him and surrounding him that he didn't understand. Mortal emotions felt so different to immortal ones. Immortal emotions were clear and smooth; deep but light-weight. Mortal emotions were heavy. Everything mortal was heavy. His body felt heavy, his mind felt heavy, his feelings too. Or perhaps heavy wasn't the right word. Maybe everything felt more solid.
There were physical things happening inside him that he didn't understand because immortal bodies didn't operate in the same way as Earth-humans. His muscles ached as gravity weighed in on him for the first time. His tongue and throat felt dry and his discomfort told him that wasn't how it should be. His stomach felt like it was squeezing in on itself and it hurt. He had never felt pain that was purely physical before.
His throat suddenly constricted painfully. This he did recognize because immortals cried too. But he no longer was one. The Horae had kept true to their condemnation. He was banished. He was a mortal.
The only thing that felt remaining of his angelus self was a small handful of his power humming residually through him. Even a small bit of an angel's power went a long way but it still wasn't enough to break through the Immortalis Vēlum to get back to Caelum. The only place he could probably get to on the other side of the Vēlum with his remaining power was Hades, but that would be the last place he would ever go.
So he stored it away, sighing as he leaned on Bella's shoulder, replaying the events in his mind of how he wound up with this new fate.
This was probably end up being a novella. I'm really excited for it. Next chapter is already written, just waiting on your thoughts to post it.
- The Romanticidal Edwardian