(Author's Note: And so marks the beginning of my pathetic little plot...things will start to take place. Let's see if Luciana can handle all of them, hmm?)
by calligraphy smile
I have taken to calling him Charles.
No – no perhaps…surely that is not right.
It is his wish that I call him so.
Never would I assume to take authority
On something so far
So beyond my reach.
But this is no old and practiced habit of mine. It is unnatural – not right. The name is a soft and pliant taste lingering sweet in the bitter guilty places of my mouth. Charles. I almost feel as if I do not deserve to speak it aloud. Where he can hear and she can hear and even I can hear my own voice constructing the syllables of it. Always I have called my superiors by master. Never friend. And certainly never by name.
It is not right. It is unheard of. I am not practiced, nor am I worthy. It is too large a venture and most of the time, when I remember, I cannot do it. Not aloud. When I speak it is strange to even glance into the endless blue of his eyes. The blue tunneled vision of angels. They glisten as if with heaven's winking gentle gaze. And I am afraid, still afraid, regardless of everything. That he has done out of the simplest hope and mercy. That he promises to do for me.
But he is patient; he is ever mild in every uttered word. Every kindly painted gesture. When I begin to fall back into myself, retreat into the pleasant cool dark of my own head, he entices me back out. Into and underneath and surrounded in the light. Where he belongs and I can be with him.
When I stutter
When my skin flushes and flares up bright
He lifts my chin with calming warm fingertips.
And tells me all is well and all is right.
If I should slip – master – he merely smiles down at where I lie dismantled at his feet and picks me gently up. Pieces me back together.
Luciana, I am not him.
I want you to forget everything he ever told you, taught you and did to you.
I am simply Charles - to you and to everyone. No one more than that.
You are not inferior to me.
You are my equal in every way.
He is unhurried in his taken measures. He does not worry for the passing of time. Above everything, he is there, and he is willing. And it has taken so very long for me to learn.
The knowledge has found me – a savior at last!
It is very late. Moonlight has gone. Disappeared behind old and withered tufts of cloud. I do not remember sleeping, but waking does not return to me either in the hours passed in the absence of awareness. I have been in both it seems. In between them. Uncertain of which weighs down on me more. Crushed between unconsciousness and sleeplessness. I am still so very tired. Often I sleep. It does not seem strange that I should not recall something so second nature. So commonplace. It slips through the grip of my brain. Sand through gaps in the fingers.
Still so tired
Everything is blurred and my eyes are weary in their seeing. They wish to close again. Resume the hollowed out rest that escapes me. Where nothing can touch and shatter dreamed up solace. My body grows heavy over the propped up arms. My elbows begin to tingle as they gradually lose sensation. I sink back into the crumpled pillows, elbows unfolding. They return to my sides and I lie prone across the silent mattress.
The room is lit up. When sight returns I realize this and it comes with a rush of clarity. Blink, once. Blink, twice. All blotted out sight releases me. Rushes out and ushers the clear sharpness of wakefulness back in. By the third blink, I am fully awake, fully aware and everything inside of me is clenched and aching and my skin begins to squeeze out dew drops of sweat.
The lamp at my bedside yields a thin and watery layer of light. The bed and the floor looks soft and heady within the gold glow. The other has not been switched on. It lies in darkness. Dormant. Only this one has been turned on.
"You called my name," he says.
I do not even have to turn and flood my eyes with him.
He is there, underneath the doorway.
The glittering blue of him is wreathed in halo gold.
I turn. Without a word, without a sound, he sits down, eases into the long-backed pale blue armchair that has become enslaved to my bed side. He is still dressed only in pajamas – thin cotton ones for the settling of spring. No robe. It is too warm. New earthy heat seeps in from the grounds outside. Everything turns to green and color and stark brown menagerie shades. It is a pleasant heat that finds us here. No sticky thrum of summer.
He breathes. Inhale. Exhale. I count each unseen push and pull of his lungs. They hide within the folds of his clothes but still I see them. Still I feel the hollow throaty cadence of them. Because I know them and they are my own as much as they are his. These bodily rhythms that play without our knowing, without our recollection of their playing at all.
"You were dreaming," he explains. "I woke to hear you calling for me. I came in here, to make certain you were all right, and decided to stay. You were very frightened."
I draw my knees up. They are draped in white sheets shrouded in gray underbrush shadow. I stare down at the floor without knowing what I am looking at. "I called your name."
He smiles. I can see it shining softly in the corner of my eye. "Yes," he says. "Yes, you did. You called it without hesitation. Perhaps you think of me more as a mother hen than a friend."
"No!" A knee jerk reaction follows. My hand snaps out. It blindly searches for his and clutches what it finds. It is a strangling grip. The old strength revives itself in me.
"That…no…" Frustration born of wordlessness bubbles up. It froths in my mouth and makes it hard to speak. "You do not understand… that is not it at all."
But it is only a moment and I remember my place – in muted shame I draw the desperate hand away.
He takes it back, shields mine with his, and the warmth that peels me open and invades my entire cold-shelled body. I could melt into it - that unassuming clasp of his fingers fastening over my ashen knuckles. The reviving envelopment of his calming touch. It is as if his flesh is fashioned out of it. The fabric of perfect serenity rendered almost human. But the eyes – they betray the true form. No, he cannot be human. I have decided this long ago. He is too beautiful. Mercy is the velvet current which pushes through him, makes him alive. It is in his words and in his action too. I could no sooner call him human than I could an angel. Humanity is an inferior race to the one Charles belongs to.
"I wish you would not be afraid to confide in me," he says. "It will take time. Remember that we have all the time in the world, Luciana. Do not rush yourself into healing. Take as much of it as you need."
He releases my hand.
Wait, please, no
I wish you would not go
I want you here with me
You are the comfort in the storm.
"Come to me whenever you have need of reassurance."
His fingertips brush the ruffles in the sheets.
It takes all of me
The force of my nature
To smother the need – please, please don't go I need you now I want you to stay don't go…don't leave me here…you must stay.
"I will not turn you away."
There is not a moment of unconsciousness that passes when I do not dream. And the pleasantries of playful reverie do not come. These are not moving pictures in the head that fill my belly with fluttering little happy wings. I always wake in puddles of my own melting body. Skin puckering white and unsightly pink and parched from exertion. Legs aching from running nowhere, away from hidden predators. Fists clenched and knuckles like the pale smiling of ghosts.
I do not go to him. I cannot. Even as I remember what he has said – don't be afraid to come to me; I will not turn you away. There is always that possible exposure of self lurking in the undercurrent doubt. What if he should reveal his true thoughts to me? The celestial blue withering down to colorless human gray?
I could not take it – I won't - the sound of his voice paired with the words I know so well. Go. Get out. Leave this place and never return. The likeness of reflection that I keep of him – in mercy and in heaven's veiling light - is enough to calm the trembling of stale cold sweat. It numbs the pain. All I must do is close my eyes – and there. He is with me in spirit. I do not wish to shatter porcelain illusion that I keep of him. For me. All mine. For the sake of sanity - it is mine. For the sake of selfish longing - it belongs to me.
The day is a shelter. When it comes my heart rises with it and sinks down when it is gone. It shields me from the horrors of the night that I know must come. Mostly I sleep. I try and hoard all of it for when the light is near and the moon too far to stretch out her silver pale hand and touch me. I hardly leave my bed.
I do not hunger
I do not thirst
I do not leave this room unless necessity calls me.
I lie back and wait
And for what I do not know.
I hear footsteps vaguely. Transparent ones. Too thinly spread out. The white noise suspended over them nearly blots them out entirely.
Another pair falls in behind them. These are in a hurry. They are urgent.
Raven, what are you doing?
You can't just leave her in there.
I am hardly leaving her anywhere.
I hate it when you do that.
Leave her be.
I thought you knew what you were getting into when you took her in.
I – a pause. One that is ripe with self-doubt, self-questioning. A moment of reflection on past and present self. I do not know what you mean.
This isn't just a hungry vagrant you picked up off the street, Charles. She's been severely abused. If you leave her to her own devices, she will die in there. When was the last time she had anything to eat? Got some fresh air? Had a bath?
Are you implying that I am not taking proper care of my pet?
Fine. Be a smart ass. Because it's exactly what I'm implying.
I wish you would not treat me as if I am a child. I know what I am doing. I want to help her.
Then act like it, Charles. Do whatever you want with her. Help her – just do something before it's too late.
Counting down. Ten to one. One to ten. Over and over and over until the pain stops screaming through my burned up veins and my shredding brain and everything is starting to go black in the corners of my eyes.
Until it stops
And I can breathe
But the pain is still there.
"I want you to show me your ability again."
I want to cry. I already am. The sobs are painful and they make my bones bend and crack. Too much. I cannot take it all. I will die if they do not stop.
And all I can think of is how much I want to
How much I want to tell them to keep going
Until I stop panting here, on the ground, where I belong, altogether
And there will be no more pain just the numbing fingering darkness that will take me down into the depths of its belly and dismantle body from soul and I will be free just let me be free just please I want to be dead please I have never asked for anything in my life and this is all I want. Will you give me this one thing? Allow me one mercy? Just one?
I have not answered.
The searing hot smoldering of flesh falling burnt and melting and charred and peeled so slowly off until the raw and red layer shines blistering through oh god please let me…please I have never…I do not know how to do it! I never did. It was accident that led me to it. I do not know the way back please! Please will you not believe me?
"I don't know how!"
There is no reply. No sound to remind me he is here. I feel his eyes on me though. On my hair turned to string by watered down salt of the body. I am trembling. My back is in agony. Layer upon layer of burns turning just barely old and the new cover them in scarlet bleeding stripes. I can feel it. The blood. It grazes down my back. Pouring fingertips tracing downward. They memorize the grotesque peaks of spine.
Tears mingle with the sweat.
I cannot help but cry
Look at me, girl.
I do not recognize the voice invading my secret space for thought and it is too late before I realize it is Him the overlord the superior one that is speaking aloud and I did not hear him.
"Horace, if you would be so kind."
The milk-eyed man. He scrapes the sky with his head. Too tall. Too thick. He is walking rotting meat with ducts of cream for eyes. A mutant. A traitor to his kind. Carrying out the will of humanity who hates us.
What I would not give
To have a moment and a knife.
And I would dig those eyes from their sockets and stomp them into the ground while I dance around the rumble of his screams.
I want him to know what pain feels like. True pain. All of it. From the core to the tips of his skin.
I feel my head being torn back by the roots of my hair. My scalp twists in the seizing iron of his hold. I feel as if I am on fire. Everything crackling with the anguish of burning.
"A little higher if you will - yes, ah there. Perfection."
I will the bones in my neck to snap
Let me out
Carry out the mercy that he does not have enough heart to carry out for himself.
The inhuman fingers. They curl around the hungry point of my chin. Forced to look up. Into the cold eyes which hold in them no redeeming shade of humanity. They are two empty colored sockets. Ice blue. I feel cold just looking into them but it does nothing to soothe the aching burn crawling up my trembling back.
"Show me your ability."
"I can't – please I can't I don't know-"
"Hmm. I'm afraid that's not good enough," he says, throwing down my chin into the yielding filth of the ground and the blood and the collecting sweat. "You know what to do. Until she breaks."
The scorching hot iron comes down
A force not hard enough to break me in two
And I hear the bubbling of damaged wilting skin
But I wish it would
I want to shatter and become too small for them see and never again could they reassemble the glittering black pieces left behind.
Oh god how I wish it would.
Just do it. Let me go.
It is not the first time I wake to the scalding of white hot tears. Now it hearkens too closely to the nightmare I have just left and I sob harder. The pillow is not enough. Its method of soothing too lifeless and weightless and cold. I want Charles. I want him near. But I am afraid to ask it of him. I am afraid he will withdraw and I will lose him forever.
I could not bear that
Not now. I would surely break. I could not – could I ever? – no, there would be no survival in losing him too.
Arms enclose around my shivering form. Warmth is a rushing torrent and it covers me and hides me from the plaguing dark. The cool distance of the pillow's comfort dissipates and is replaced by hands that wipe the tears and the sticking hairs from my blotched burning cheeks. I come apart in them. A bloodless rupturing of the human form. There should be blood. God, there should be no end to the blood. My limbs should be fractured and fraying and splitting off from the rest of me. My brain turning to gray and coursing streams with no more remembering and no more thinking and no more of anything but the end of it all. And I should not be crying into the arm made of mirages and desperate measures. But I do. I wish it were Charles. Charles. God how I want him here with me for even just a fleeting half of a second. All I need is a moment. The warm blue of him. His voice and his words fusing together in gentleness and martyrdom.
Don't do it.
I moan open-mouthed into my pillow and my teeth scrape the fabric. Charles. His name surges from my thoughtless tongue before I can reign it in and keep it safe from the outside air. I have lost myself completely.
There is no me
I am a flood
Thrashing scarred hopeless flood.
The imagined hands have knuckles. My imagination has run rampant. I can feel them brushing up against the gaunt concave bones of my face. They grow sopping wet with dripping salt and sticky dried up tears.
"You needn't call for me," he says. I nearly stop my sobbing. "I am here, Luciana. I am here."
At the sound of his voice, so real, so life-like, authentic in almost every way, I turn and burrow deep into the hard flat plane of marble white chest. A button has come loose and I am soaking the warm exposed flesh. "I am sorry," I whisper into the skin. Plead with it to relay my message for me. To him. Only for him. "I am so sorry. Please forgive me. Oh god have mercy. I don't know what I would do if you did not forgive me. Please. Please."
"Hush, hush," he murmurs into my hair. His throat moves against my forehead. "You are hysterical. You need to calm down. It was only a dream, Luciana. It is not real. It is all in your head. Hush now. I am here. Hush."
He tries to touch my cheek again
Sweep the harsh jutting points of them with his fingertips
But in my remembering I forget
That he is the compassion
And they are the cruelty.
In my forgetting the old fear winds back up and makes me cringe away from him for just a moment as if he will strike me down.
You poor creature.
At last I am empty of weeping. I can soak him in my tears no more. I hold onto him for as long as I can. I do not know how long I can make this last, this place of sanctuary, this new haven, where I find that being held by him is the safest burrow in this world. He smells of cologne and fresh linen and runny desolation. It is a strange pairing of fragrance. I would have no other kind for him if it were my decision to make.
His fingers stop. They have been brushing through the crusting rime that has hardened in my hair. It has become soft again from the movements. For what seems like hours, he has threaded them over and over through the strands. Slowly they have grown slower in repetition. Their ministration becomes weary as he follows suit. So gradual is their winding down that I do not notice until it stops altogether. I think he must have fallen back asleep.
I cannot stop the alarmed spring of thought shooting up in my head
The repetitive soothing motions resume.
I have not left you.
If only I had words. I would ask him to go if he wished to. I would release him from my clawing grip on the wrinkled front of his shirt. I would lift my cheek from his pale gleaming chest and wipe the sticky remnants of tears from it as best I could. If I could. If only. I am not that strong. I want to keep him here. The revelation of finding that he is here and he is warm and he is gentle is one that I will not so easily let go.
I do not want him to leave.
I want him to stay.
But I know I can only keep him as long as I can.
His lips move against my forehead. "There now. You're calm."
He sounds so painfully tired. Stubbornness becomes more faint upon realizing how very drained of all energy he must be. It would be a kindness to let him return to his own bed. Let the leech latch onto her detached and lifeless pillow for comfort instead.
I cannot bring myself to do it yet
Just a moment more
Born of old habit and shame, I cannot stop the whisper that tumbles out of my mouth. It is in such a hurry to be heard. "I am sorry."
"There is nothing to be sorry for," he replies, the radiant width of his smile somehow translated into his voice. I can hear its sharp sparking mirth from down here, where I cannot see it. "Did I not tell you I was here if you should need me?"
"Yes, but - "
He shakes a little with wearied threadbare laughter. "No, no. You cannot argue with me. You see, I know what I am talking about."
I can hear him swallow against my ear and it brings to my awareness the crashing and receding waves of his breathing and the softly pounding heart riding along with the hollow current sound. Silence amplifies them. They become louder as we climb into our caving quiet. Slow and soft surrender comes as time lapses and the memories of the night wither down to ashes and dust. My eyes grow heavy. The lids above them cannot hold them open for much longer. I am so tired. Always tired.
His voice echoes in my head for the last time before I must disappear.
Back to the place where sense is dulled and the dozing mind is alive and well.
I am always here, Luciana.
The sunlit ceiling is the first thing I see.
Not a neck the color of porcelain.
And I do not hear the crash and fall of breath and heartbeat anymore.
He has gone.
I do not mind as much as I first thought, but still the ache of loneliness sets itself deep into a place where I cannot reach. My fingers clench the sheets, trying to counteract the hurt. It does not go away.
"I am here."
The voice is loud against the booming quiet of the room. My head snaps over, never leaving the pillow. Warm blue eyes the color of what heaven must be. Yes, they are the portrait likeness of man-made angels. I sink back further into the bed.
"How are you feeling?" He asks of me. "Better?"
I try to compose a word, a reply, but nothing comes of it besides a throaty croak. It is all but dry. Charles must have known this would happen. He has come equipped with a glass of water and a small plate of food.
"I have been neglecting you and for this I beg your forgiveness," he says. "It is only that I have been called away often. Pressing matters were, and still are, at hand. If I am not here, Raven will look after you. Don't you worry. I will not abandon you again. I will make certain you are cared for if I must leave. It was cruel of me, I know. I can only attempt to redeem myself in your eyes. I suppose only time will tell if the error of my ways have been forgotten."
His hand rests absently on the coverlet. It does not know it is there I think by the small twitch of reminder that snaps through it. I reach out, touch the pale blinding flesh. It jumps a little. I look up into his calm and warm and gentle eyes and see gratitude in them. Sincerity underlines the sentiment like an afterthought, an involuntary brush of the heart against reason.
"You must be thirsty. I don't think I've seen you out of this room since you first came here. Mind you, this will change. I will have you out of this place if I must drag you out by your toes," he says, turning to the glass on the nightstand, and my stomach rumbles at the sight of food. He does not hear it. The astonishing color of his gaze falls on me again and I almost feel that tugging reflex to retreat back inside beginning to bloom. It stops, half alive, half dead and is forgotten. "Here you are, darling."
I am sorry for the world that I have brought you into.
I will never know if you will ever forgive me.
But know I loved you from the first time I saw you.
I hope that is enough.
I snap back into awareness. The glass slips from my hand. Down it goes, falling, fast descent, until it shatters on the hard pitted wood below.
"Good god," he breathes, excitement coiling under every word. "So that is your ability!"
My eyes had been squeezed tightly shut. I almost did not realize I could not see until I heard him speak. And when I open them, the light staggering for a moment, trying to readjust to the colored world – I almost cannot believe what I am seeing.
The glass had fallen.
It lies in pieces on the floor.
But the water is suspended midair
Jerking with the movements which match mine.
I am controlling it.