Caelum Sky Chapter 26
1633-NewCastle upon Tyne, England
My name was Joan. At least this time around it was; In 1633, I was 10 years old. My father was a wealthy lawman with a strict hand, my mother a robust, strong and able bodied woman. They raised eight children; I had six older brothers, one younger sister. We lived a good life far from the wretches of peasant living; my father had made sure of it.
For a while my mother made sure to home school us, judging the local school house to much too mixed for her tastes, for her refinery. When times grew tougher, when my father's dignity came into question and doubts passed about the town, my mother had to occupy more of her time with paid work; she was a brilliant seamstress, sewing any thought or idea into an amazing work of design. We tried to use my older brothers to help teach the lessons, but with my father out of the house most days, and my mother busy with herself, nothing was ever taught. This was also the time they blamed when I learned my brashness; my harsh, blunt way of speaking that was 'rather unbecoming of such a fine woman as myself.' I spoke like the men did, cursed like the men did, and frightened my schoolmates when I finally made my entrance at the local school. Not that I wasn't polite or respectful, I was the eternal optimist. But my manner of speaking was pretty terrible.
So we started attending school, my sister and I. She was a soft-spoken, easy going thing; she fit in perfectly. I couldn't make a friend to save my soul. I tried, over and over, trying to schmooze in with the other kids, trying to win myself over a chum, a pal, a something. I would not be deterred; eventually, someone would crack. Someone would appreciate me for how I was, I was upbeat through each rejection, taking a long sigh and turning about, trying to pinpoint someone else to prey on each lunchtime break.
Bored one day in particular, I wandered away from the teacher, squatting about in a patch of daisies. Some girls I knew who sat in front of me talked not twenty feet away, more than likely about how the weird girl was off sitting in a patch of flowers; I stood with a smile instantly, tossing back the flower I held and walking up to them like we were old friends. Without hesitation you could see them tense up, turn their backs away from me just a bit, forced to talk to me out of polite mannerism.
"Prithee, Why dost thou tarry
I stopped narrating, turning to Raziel, lip curled back.
"Can I just
.paraphrase this? 'Ye olde English' , it ye olde sucks. Trying to remember after all this time, it's going to give me ye-olde ulcer." I scratched the back of my head, straightening up and looking at the angel, his eyes still wide and panicked, bug- eyed. "Also, do you realize that we're actually talking to one another?"
The eyes darted up to my face just once as he threw his hands partially in the air, completely exasperated and nerves fried, face back to the ground. I lingered for a second, grinning again, going back to the story. "I'll paraphrase."
"I say, why are you sitting in that there flower patch?" the girls giggled to themselves, throwing in the double-meaning words that implied I was socially backwards for doing so.
"I like how it smells." I said simply, dusting off my period-appropriate ruffled shoulders and fixing my period appropriate hair. The girls laughed some more.
"I bet it smells better then that barn you were raised behind!" They laughed outright at me as I stared at them politely smiling back, face never flickering or giving in to their insults.
"Would you like to come over and play sometime?" I invited, taking a step closer. The laughing stopped as both girls took a step away.
"For the last time, no!" They turned their backs to me, rushing off, heading back towards the comfort and safety of the teacher's careful eyes. One girl stopped suddenly, looking over her back. "I think I know of someone who would, though." The other girl stopped as well, furious whispering going on between the two of them, ending with more hilarious snickering. I perked up to their conversation, seeing if this was the opening I was waiting for, if this was something beyond childish teasing. The two girls rushed closer to me, the shorter one pointing far out in the field, the very edge of the schoolyard limits at the small, crumpled figure sitting at the base of a tree.
"Him?" I questioned incredulously that they'd think he'd want to talk to me. The shortest, scrappiest, nastiest person in the entire schoolyard; he fought with the other boys constantly. The rumors that flew about his head; that he was raised by the dogs of the streets, that half the bruises were from his father, the rest from the kids, all sorts of bogus, ridiculous things. His name was Christopher.
I scratched my head as the two girls backed me up, urging me to over there to talk to him. Mulling it over, I suddenly snared them both by the wrists. "That sounds like a fantastic idea!" I pulled them towards him, still a good fifty yards out as they suddenly bucked and thrashed about, desperate to stay out of his sight, showing their true sentiments. Letting go, I continued towards him, walking flatly in his direction, destined to show them wrong, set on at least trying to talk with him, something a lot of people feared. Pfft. Schoolyard politics.
The closer I got, the smaller he seemed, legs pulled tightly to his chest; he was covered in bruises like the rumors spoke, scratches and cuts as well. It was at least every other day when you'd hear about a fight with Christopher involved, with burry origins on just who started what. Teachers lectured him day in and day out, and he'd just stand there, eyes glazed over, ignoring it. Sent to the back of the classroom or sitting at the very front, it didn't matter. He was one of the more hated people in this school then I was, I mean, I was just obnoxious. Maybe trying to talk with him, to make friends with him was a natural move. He had his head pulled into his knees, hunched in a sort of fetal position with his back against the tree. Christopher didn't hear me coming up to stand next to him, only noticed that I blocked the sun from his back, that I cast a shadow over him. I spoke as he slowly unraveled.
"Hey. Are you sick?"
"What?" He gave me a sort of look, a sort of 'what the hell's wrong with you' look. No worries, I was used to that sort of glance. Leaning over, I grabbed his wrist, hoisting the thin stick of a boy up onto his feet easily. His hair was a darker sort of auburn, bushy eyebrows popping up in surprise. I was at least four inches taller than him; it didn't say much, I was taller than a lot of my classmates. It added to the oddity factor. But I pulled Christopher to his feet, the boy's eyes wide, blue; startled, but not angry. Not at first, at least. I peered into them, leaning closer.
"Did you know you've got freckles in your eye?" I squinted at him. He used his free hand to cover his one eye, looking away."You don't look ill. Why are you sitting all the way out here?"
I let go of him as he rubbed his wrists, glaring at me. My smile didn't falter, turning a supposed-to be intimidating glare into something of confusion, looking around like I was playing a joke on him. I didn't stop, elaborating instead, turning my back on him and opening my arms to the schoolyard.
"There's a lot better places then sitting out here! You can see all the way to the market if you climb to the top of
" I looked back behind me, finding him gone, Christopher trudging out away from me, out to the complete opposite side of the play area. I didn't follow.
The next day, I tried again. This time, I didn't even bother going through an introduction or making my presence known, I just sat at the same tree he did on the far side before he even got there. After some time I heard him coming along, sitting down where he sat before, sighing a lot and grumbling under his breath. Remaining extremely quiet, I put my head around the side where he was, making the boy jump.
"So you like to sit out here by yourself?" Christopher grabbed at the ground, eyes turning wide to me.
"It's none of your business!" I leaned away a little, smile ebbing away. He continued staring at me, both of us just glaring at one another, trying to over-nice or over-intimidate the other to leaving. After a moment, I smiled again, sitting back against the tree. I could hear him get frustrated on the other side, sitting back as well.
"It's not. But still, I'd like to know." I yawned and stretched out, looking out over the landscape. Christopher didn't answer; he still sat there, but he didn't run off. Relaxing back against the tree, I tried to figure why anyone would sit here, day after day, secluding themselves. It wasn't the best view, just a hill in the distance with some grass on it, a few trees and general scrub brush. If anything, where we sat was a kind of reminder how trapped you were in this town, like the world ended over the hills.
"You can leave, you know." Christopher finally spoke up, voice low and annoyed. I cracked a quick chuckle, closing my eyes and staying put.
"Oh, I know I can, But I've got no reason to." The two of us were at a sort of stalemate; Christopher didn't' want to leave because he apparently claimed this tree in a property agreement I wasn't aware of, and I didn't want to leave because I finally found someone that put up with me in a sort of way.
It was an entire week that he didn't say a word to me; he'd just sigh in annoyance every time I sat in the same spot, against that same tree at the edge of the schoolyard. He wouldn't look at me in class, wouldn't acknowledge me any other time beyond sounding like he was in a great deal of pain every day that I came back. I ignored it. I sat in completely silence, never saying a word as he never said a word to me for our thirty minute class break.
That next week, he practically stormed to the spot, grumbling and muttering under his breath the entire way; looking around the tree, there was a new set of developing bruises on his arm he held gingerly, glaring at me for a second before sitting down heavily. I bit my lip, wanting to ask the obvious question but kept my mouth shut, turning back around, my hair-bow crumpling against the tree like it always did. He sighed a lot more, clearing his throat, nervously trying to say something. I leaned over in anticipation, as soon as my face was clear to him; he got annoyed in no time flat.
"What is it you want!?" he screeched at me, finally breaking the code of sighing and grunts of annoyance. I gave a sort of smirk.
"I don't want anything."
"Why do you keep coming out here, then?" He looked around, not unlike a modern-day version of himself did, trying to find another person to validate an oddity for him. I only sat there, listening, not leaving, not taking offense and annoying him further. "They don't like you, you know"
"They say that you're crazy" he was trying to find a weak point in my armor of confidence. School politics was not the way to get to it. I smirked.
"And uncivilized." I smiled and shrugged, driving him off the deep end, "Doesn't that bother you!?"
"Should it?" I questioned, faintly aware that our arguing was drawing a crowd, that it was alerting the other children in the area.
"Yes!" He screeched, shaking his head a little. "It should!" I kind of shrugged, turning back against the tree.
"It doesn't." He huffed in annoyance some more, but I cut him off, "They can think what they'd like, no matter how wrong or impolite it might be. They're still wrong." He was leaning over, watching me, looking at me as I spoke like I needed to take the short wagon to school. I laughed, my eyes to him.
"Everyone says those kinds of things; you think you're immune to it?" Christopher suddenly sat straight up.
"What do they say about me?"
I leaned farther back against the tree, counting on my fingers. "Mostly that you're mean, violent, and like to start fights and hate everyone and other things along those lines." There was a sort of scuffling sound, I thought he had kicked something on the other side of the tree; leaning over, he had an arm to his face, trying to cover that he was crying. Instantly, my front sort of dropped, my thick skin thinned out. I couldn't stand to see men cry. "Don't cry!" He switched arms, before just putting both hands over his face and leaning forwards, letting out this high-pitched wheezing sound. Like planned choreography, a few of the more annoying kids, the kids Christopher usually fought with were right there to kick him when he was down, there to take advantage of the situation. They walked up to him, already laughing.
"It's rather appropriate your time is best spent with the girls, you weak mongrel." The lead boy got the others to start on him, spouting things like they'd get fleas from him, why he bother coming to school, etc and so forth. I turned to Christopher, barely hearing his breath getting shorter, his teeth pulling back, gearing up to strike back. Switching back to the kids in front of us, snorting in annoyance, I acted first.
Wailing out in a long, drawn out cry, like an obnoxious bugle, I anxiously shifted closer to Christopher, grabbing a hold of the sleeve of his shirt, wailing out again. It instantly stopped all the teasing, the kids acting as they should when a woman's wailing in panic as I started spurting out as much bullshit story as I could manage to think of.
"Ohhh Christopher, you were so brave!" I started out, burying my head in his shoulder, something I had to lean over to do, "Don't cry to protect my dignity, you scared off the terrible Grisbane all by yourself, you should be a hero! I was just so scared, so afraid, I'm just so beside myself in terror, don't' cry to cover my womanly inadequacies!" I bawled, openly crying my heart out.
Raziel raised his head up, glaring at me, no longer in a state of complete horror. I stopped.
"It was something along those lines. Don't look at me like that."
As I continued sobbing, I secretly dug my own fingers at my arm, scratching three deep lines across my upper shoulder. Raising an eye up, I scoped out how well my story had worked. It didn't have to be fool proof, I just had to raise doubts, had to make them question. As soon as that happens, the details, they don't really matter. Everyone was dead silent as I waited for that one kid, that one idiot to turn the tide. Christopher as well; his face was red, glaring at me in utter confusion, arms still up by his face and hidden from the rest of the children's views.
what?" It came from the back as I jumped at the opportunity, leaping to my feet with a complete turnaround of emotion.
"You haven't heard the legend of the demon hound with the forty eyes that lives in the far reaches of these hills?" I called out like a great prophet, speaking to them all. "It sneaks in when your backs are turned, devours children, pulls them away into the hills and you're never seen again. It almost got me!" I spun on my heels, brandishing the scratches up my own arm. I turned slightly towards Christopher, pointing at him.
"He's been sitting here, guarding us all from the Grisbane, keeping watch. If he wasn't here
" I held an arm up to my face, sobbing deeply again. I could see Christopher continuing to watch me closely, eyebrows furrowing in a sort of bewildered concern, looking back to the other children before back to me. Sucking up my tears I leaned back, eyes red, puffy. One doesn't live in a family of eight without knowing how to cry on command.
"And after all that, for you to say such things
" I got faux-weepy again, putting the boy on the spot and praying he got the idea, "Christopher, do they even deserve to know the secret of how you've been keeping the Grisbane at bay?" His eyes got wide as I turned my back on the rest of the kids, holding a hand out and waiting for an answer. The kid looked to me quickly, before back to them, and back to me as I raised my eyebrows once, face twitching. His eyes flickered, unsure.
.No?" I grinned quickly once, eyes flaring a little, trying to get him to elaborate. He suddenly furrowed his eyebrows, crossing his arms, "They don't." I couldn't be happier. Instantly I turned back around, angry and belligerent as I was infamously known to be.
"Alright, you heard him, beat it you lily skinned scoundrels! Hopefully the Grisbane visits you in your sleep, tears your throat out and leaves you for the birds!" I stomped towards them, hands out, shooing them away like mice. They looked at one another, slowly dispersing, the crowds settling away. "Shoo! Get, you pig faced simpletons!"
"Job well done on rescuing a loon, Christopher." One of the boys said in passing, the rest of them sort of grumbling under their breath, creating a general displeasure at my behavior once again. But their focus was no longer the small, scrappy boy sitting behind me; he wiped at his face one last time, clearing up, looking around in a bit of daze as I scared off the last of them, class lunch break ending as the teacher rang the bell, calling us back inside. Christopher stood up, brushing a hand through his hair, nervous.
"Thanks." He said quickly, looking around for any of the remaining kids and awkward as all get out. I smiled, rubbing my arm a little, looking around and seeing if everything was clear. We needed to go somewhere, just he and I.
"We're not done." I wiped my crocodile tears away and fixed my bow. "Follow me."
The two of us crossed the town, heading away from it and ignoring the fact that we should've still been in school. He didn't question dropping everything and leaving, it was probably a good move anyway considering things were still tense for both him and I with the other kids. We finally reached the limits, the base of one of the larger hills bordering our town, pausing at the bottom before starting the trek up it.
"Isn't our teacher going to be mad?"
"Probably It's not much farther." I kept a steady pace, working hard to get up the steep incline; Christopher struggled more with it, wheezing and gasping, sickly-sounding. I paused, a little concerned as he went straight past me, pushing on. With a bit of a chuckle I followed, the two of us reaching the top of the hill in no time.
"What's up here?" He said, glancing around, already sounding annoyed that he made the arduous journey up the hill for no cash prize at the end. I pointed behind us, pointed at the town in the valley, where we came from.
"What do you see?" I questioned, sitting down like an old sage. Christopher looked at me, then back to the town, shrugging.
"Bigger then that!" I put my hands up the air.
"Our town with some hills?"
"Bigger, bigger!" I almost shouted it, voice dead in the open air. Christopher looked around, trying to see the point, trying to figure out the visual thing we came here to see, shaking his head and shrugging.
"I don't know, I give up. Sky?" I stood up quickly, almost jumping into the air.
"It's everything else!" I beamed as he turned to me like I was a dimwit. Snarking, I elaborated on. "It's the world beyond it; what people think of you, or me, matters only in that tiny part of town. Right there. That's the only place where stupid name calling matters. But look! Think of everything else, all the other towns, it matters in just that little spot. It's nothing. It's not important." He turned back to the landscape, raising his eyebrows just a little.
"Hm." I watched his face, made sure he got it, turning back to the town that rolled beneath us.
"That's what we came here to see."
It seemed like it got through, seemed to make a difference. He got in less fights, nothing really stopped, but the fights did ease up a lot. He also didn't mind it that I sat by the tree with him each and every day; he never said much, but he'd listen to whatever I was babbling about, which was more than anyone besides family ever did.
"Then winter came along. You got sick
" I turned vaguely at him, the story dawning on me, unraveling as the words came to my mouth. "Really sick. Your family was a lower social rank then mine; they couldn't afford the same good, healthy food. All of a sudden, you just weren't at school anymore." My lip kinda twitched as I said it, wanting to laugh, but feeling that emotional wrath starting to weigh on me. Raziel was turned away, still listening, hand on his head and elbow on his knees, hunched over. His fingers etched around the metal headband he wore.
"A few of our classmates actually let me know."
"He's sick." The one boy said, looking at the grass before looking to the empty tree, now known as the Grisbane tree. I didn't see him the classroom, using this time to snoop around for some answers why.
"Yeah, really sick with the disease." The other chimed in.
"The disease." Like that helped to narrow it down.
"The one with the spots?" I questioned fearfully.
"No, no, that's the sickness." I tilted my head, looking a little baffled, a little at lost what to do as I rubbed my arms for warmth. Scanning about I tightened my gaze, storming up to the schoolhouse, the teacher sitting on the back porch, watching all the kids in their various activities. Sneaking around her I got into the schoolroom, walking up to the teacher's desk and looking for a directory of sorts, finding out where Christopher lived. Memorizing the address I grabbed my things, leaving out the front, setting out to track him down. Being sick
he'd get behind in his classes, be left out. I wouldn't have it.
Christopher lived on the poor end of town, the type my mother and father both warned me about. It wasn't a bad neighborhood exactly, with medieval crimes of sorts happening but it was pretty filthy, it lacked some of the commodities of my own area like clean water. It held a lot of danger to a young, unwed, girl such as me, a thought that chased my mind as I pushed on, book under my arms and a bag of leeches in the other hand. Trudging along, I finally saw a familiar face, sleeping just inside one of the shanties in the middle of the neighborhood.
"Hey!" I shouted, running up to stand just outside of the entrance. His eyes popped open, scared, wary and into confusion as he saw me standing there. He looked terrible; his cheeks were puffed out bad, generally looking pale and anemic even more so then usual. A rag next to the bed was speckled in blood. I tried not to show how freaked out I was.
"Joan?" He questioned, looking around a little before back to me. "Why are you here?"
Nervously, I held up the bag of leeches, still dripping with pond water. "I brought leeches!" He instantly looked a lot sicker, shying away.
"Aren't those expensive?" He rolled over in his cot, facing more towards me. I kicked off my shoes, soggy dress dragging on the ground
"Not if you catch them yourself." I raised the bag up, "They're supposed to suck out the bad blood that's making you sick. It's worth a shot at least." I turned back to him, dancing around the elephant in the room with a sort of ease.
"Gah, your cheeks are puffy." I pulled two leeches out, placing them on his face, "I'm gonna put two on your puffy cheeks." As I decked the small boy out in a menagerie of squirming, bloodsucking leeches, his father entered into the room behind me. I almost dropped the bag.
"Christopher, who's this?" He pointed at me as I froze in fear.
"Someone from school" He said quickly, averting his eyes away from his dad. The man looked over the two of us, skeptical. With my one free hand I reached back, pulling forward the schoolbooks quickly.
"The teacher sent me to read up on the lessons for the day." I smiled, cowering. I wasn't a fan of adults; not that my own parents weren't wonderful in their own way, but over and over, they had warned me about what the lower class would do, given the chance. Left things open ended on just what they meant, but I wasn't completely without prejudice, it was something I'd grown up with. "Sir."
"Aren't you Harold's daughter?" the man said, a little confused. I nodded quickly
"Ah." He turned away from the room, muttering under his breath. Christopher looked up, genuinely surprised.
"The politician?" I grumbled under my breath; I was not the type who liked to be known for their father's accomplishments. But everyone in town knew of him; it might've been half the reason I was so tolerated.
"That's the one- So today, we learned about the regency." I propped the text up on my legs, leaning back against the cot so he could see the book as well.
"Did the teacher really send you?" he questioned, moving more over to look. I bust out laughing.
"Hell no" The teacher cared about her students, but they'd never take that much care of their students. I put down the book, looking over him, "Are the leeches working?" He pulled a hand out from underneath the covers, trying to tug one from his face.
"I don't think so."
" Augh, damn these archaic forms of health care!" I shook a fist to the sky.
"You did not say that." He said quickly, back still turned to me. I stopped shaking my fist in the modern time, hands slapping to my knees; it was the first thing he'd said since I started. Part of me worried he actually fell asleep, turned away like that. The other part wondered if my retelling here was doing nothing but anger and frustrate him in ye-olde torment.
So I spent the next three weeks there. I'd wait and hope he'd come to class so I wouldn't have to duck out, dodging the questions both my parents and my teacher asked; I blamed the other; Had to stay late to help the teacher out, had to duck out early and head home to help out my folks. It worked for about two weeks.
Christopher never really said he was glad to see me, but I could tell when I walked in, how he'd perk up and listen as much as he could before eventually falling asleep, that he expected me to be there. Each day, you could see him getting worse, see him wasting away. He wasn't recovering. His family couldn't afford doctors, just whatever wacky form of treatment I brought in, which may or may not have ever matched the actual disease he had. If he had knocked out particularly early, I'd help out with whatever chores he may have had, his father resilient to let me work at first, but eventually taking some pride in having the upper class work for the lower.
I stayed late one day in particular, finally heading home at nearly dusk. My house was a fifteen minute journey away on foot, but this time I ran, knowing I was late, knowing I'd face some music for this. As I entered the back door of my father's home, he was right there waiting for me.
The best he got out of me was that I was elsewhere then school. I didn't tell him I was visiting a sick boy in the lower class section, didn't tell him where some of his stolen money had gone to, wouldn't say a word beyond that yes, indeed, I had gone elsewhere. It was the first truly stubborn and obstinate act of rebellion. He threatened with pulling me out of school, with keeping me basically tied up and locked here in the house. I begged and pleaded, cried and fought for the right to stay. I won, but not without a painful reminder to keep my mind where it needed to be, the first time he'd struck me. None of it stopped me for a second to keep returning there, each and every day without falter. I wasn't sure how much longer he'd be around.
It was by my sister's graces that I wasn't completely hung by my heels for it; she told my mother that I was off visiting a sick friend of mine, that I was safe and well. She never told my father this, as by a stroke of good luck he would be away for the next month altogether.
One day, the fourth week in, I arrived there as I always did, and he was on his feet. I practically leapt to the entrance, excited that he was feeling better. But as he turned to me, as those gaunt, pale eyes came upon me, I knew this was not that case. Struggling for words, I reached out to help him stand; he pulled away weakly, leaning against the wall.
"Let's go, I'm sick of the inside of this house." He immediately started walking out the door, blanket wrapped tightly around his body to keep warm.
"Hey, yeah, okay, let's go!" I said enthusiastically, my face in utter horror when he wasn't looking. I remained precariously cautious, waiting for him to fall over or just outright pass out. He didn't. He coughed and wheezed and struggled, but he didn't fail, not once. After a block of extreme caution, I sided up next to him.
"So, where are we going?" His dead, flat glare was focused just ahead of him, heading out of town; I knew where we were going. I still thought it polite to ask. Gagging for air, he pushed on.
"Up." His pace went a little faster, fast even for me to keep up. I kept quiet, mind internally panicking; I wanted to believe this was a good sign, that this was a step into recovery, that he was on the mend. Reaching the bottom of the hill we first went up over a month and a half ago, he stopped, leaning back just a little, sizing it up.
"We don't have to go up to the t--" I offered as Christopher suddenly grunted, eyes furrowed in extreme determination, marching up the hill with more vigor he had done the first time, "Jesus Christ!" I loped after him, trying to reason, to calm him down. But just one look in his eyes, and icy haze of the blue they once were, I knew he wouldn't, not until he killed himself in the process. It must've been something decided, a wish from more than just five minutes ago. Biting my lip, I followed stubbornly, standing right behind him.
The pace didn't last long, his gasping got more erratic, more strained as he made it to the halfway mark. Christopher slowed to a stutter of the original speed; without a word I put my hands to his fevered back, pushing, continuing the pace. If he wanted to see the top, god dammit, he'd see the top. Damn the consequences. He shuffled, feet still working, forward momentum provided by myself. In twice the time it took to get halfway, we finally made it to the top, both of us falling over, strained, gasping for air.
"You okay?" I asked, sitting down and fixing my hair. I saw him nod, pulling the blanket closer to him, wrapping up tight. I looked onto the land, desolate, dreary one that it was as in the middle of winter, but it still held a view, still brought everything in perspective like it always did. The two of us sat there in silence for at least twenty minutes; I didn't want to spoil this for him, didn't want to chinse it up with morals and stories and folklore that'd make him feel better. For one of the few times in my lives, nothing said was better; it was Christopher that broke the silence.
"Do you believe in heaven?" I grabbed the grass nervously with the question.
"Well, of course." I sat closer to him, "Where this is no hurt, no pain, where you get to fly around as angels and do whatever you'd like, live forever, never be forgotten. It's paradise. Who wouldn't believe in that?" My words hung in the air without response.
Feeling like I said the wrong thing, I went on.
"Why, don't you?" I joked, leaning over to push his shoulder gently. He tumbled forward, barely conscious, barely hanging on. "Christopher!" I shrieked, instantly trying to pick him up, trying to carry him back down the hill; after a few steps we fell, tumbling, tossing and turning down that hill as we rolled to a stop, my knees bloody and scraped up. His body flung farther down the hill, the blanket behind him; I could the sores on his back, still see him breathing, there was still hope.
Grabbing the blanket I covered him, scrambling down the hill and into town, shouting and calling for help at the top of my lungs. I got the attention of a carriage driver, parked and waiting for someone, the two of us retrieving Christopher and running through town, racing back for his house. When we got there his parents practically sprung from the door, cradling him and placing him gently in the cot, the same one he had been in for a month.
"Found 'm halfway up the hill with her." The man said, backing away from the home, demonizing me in the process. They glared at me, shrieking at the top of their lungs.
"What was he doing out there?!" I was bent over, bowing before them, pleading for my forgiveness, saying I was sorry, over and over and over and over again. His father brought a hand up to strike me, to hit me like I deserved when his mother stopped him, noting angry how I was nobility, that he couldn't hit me unless they'd incur the wrath of my father. His dad kept the hand raised, bit his lip as he looked back to his son and tearing up. The hand turned to a point, straight out the door. "You need to leave, now. You've done enough damage to me and my son." My eyes pulled back in fear. No
I couldn't leave, not at the end like this, not after I'd been keeping care, working hard to make this last month the best it could be. I mean, not once had I tried to be a bother and now I was an accessory to his death.
" I stuttered, struck. It couldn't end like this; his father for the first time, pushing me forcibly out of his house and into the street, shoving me hard with his foot. No, please... Then came a voice.
STAY!" he shouted, coughing badly as I pushed my way around his father and sitting next to his cot.
"Christopher!" I choked out, watching him as his breath got shorter, more tormented, fighting to stay alive. He gripped the blanket in pain.
no one gets forgotten" he coughed some more, taking shallow breaths. I nodded quickly as he turned to me, blue eyes wide open, "Well don't forget me, okay?" I could see myself in those eyes as I shook my head, heart hurting terribly.
"Never! I won't forget, ever!" I leaned over him, mind recording this all. Christopher smiled, the first I had ever seen in the months we had been friends, heartfelt and honest.
"Good. I'm glad" he closed his eyes, turning away from me. His breaths grew more calm, more relaxed, breathing deeper, slower, quieter until they finally stopped. Mine stopped too, waiting for the next one, waiting for it all to be okay, to turn out. I've had friends die on me in the past, even in that lifetime. It was a part of life; it was the constant reminder how fragile everything could be, in a time period where a disease, or a sickness, was a death sentence. You numb to it, in some degree. I gagged a little, still holding my breath.
This? I wasn't numb to this. Fighting, struggling, I had to take a breath; I had to gasp for air. He didn't. Bending down low I wailed out loud, crumpling.
I sat there, eyes wide as that song ended, as the door closed once again, as the world around me began to turn. My head snapped over to Raziel, back still turned, then back out in front of me, face streaked in tears.
Oh." I leaned forward, wiping my eyes. It didn't hit me until it was all out there, until the story wrapped up and it really was just the two of us sitting there in the auditorium, amongst the wreckage I had caused. The violence. Well, disjointed parts of me had caused. My stomach twisted into a knot, ashamed and alarmed on just what damage my story had done, "Listen, I'm sorry, I should've used a little more discretion, it just all kinda bubbled out
" He raised a hand quickly, stopping me from saying any more.
apologize, alright?" His voice was ragged, more distraught then anything; I didn't blame him. "You're the last person who should be apologizing. " I folded my legs underneath me, keeping quiet. He went back into a sort of thinking pose; larger wings practically flopped on the floor.
"I treated you like crap, that whole time. You do not get to apologize for anything." He pulled at his hair, half his armor strewn about in disappointment, just the sparkly shin-guard boots remaining. His tone lowered to nothing, burbling under his breath, "Why did you put up with that?" Digging for words, I came up short, mouth flopping open with the best I could string together.
"You were a nice guy beneath it all, just frustrated with what you had to put up with. I could see that from the first day." I used my one toe-claw to scratch at my other foot. "No one should have to live with a stigma like that."
"This from the demon." He didn't mean it as an insult but you could tell he regretted saying it, trying to grab onto those words as they already left; face turning enough to me that you could tell he was still pretty upset. The angel turned back, away from me, leaning over more like I was. "This
.was for you."
I glanced up, tilting my head a little. "What was?"
"This!" He pointed to himself, raising the weapon for a second and finishing off with a fluff of his wings, "You took care of me, protected me, and helped every way you possibly could
" He threw his headband across the floor in frustration.
"I wanted to return the favor. If not to you, then someone else. I wanted to be as helpful, at least somewhere. With the stupid Grisbane thing you made up, an exorcist seemed like a natural move." He put a hand back to his face, leaning off kilter. I was moved, eyes watering up again. All I'd ever wanted in the lives I had lived, was to make a difference to someone, to influence them for the better. " I heard there was an epidemic there a few years later, killed a lot of people off. I waited for you; what happened?"
I scrunched closer to him, just sitting alongside, long pair of legs sticking out far in front of me.
"I survived." I chuckled lightly, voice drooping all of a sudden, "Typhoid got my sister, too. That whole
that was Typhoid, by the way. No, I managed to live through all sorts of disease waves and died in childbirth at 26." Raziel shot up, surprised.
"You got married?" It wasn't the best conversation, but it brought a little relief from the heaviness of the topic at hand. You could see his face was still red; he had been crying, his back turned like that before. My own face wasn't much better.
"Married at 17, had three kids- well, two and a quarter. I guess." He looked a little hurt, a little off-put that I seemed to continue my life with no real snag that I'd witnessed my best friend die painfully over the course of a month. I smirked, "My personality died that day too." That wasn't even half of it; my father had me married off, trying to bring me happiness; I remembered I spent a lot of my days like a zombie, dead on the inside, withered and worn out. I got to my knees, walking over wobbily to the headband across the floor and standing just in front of it. For me. That had all been for me. Picking it up, I inspected the thing in my hands.
"Four hundred years. Never forgot once." I could feel myself starting to blubber again the weight of time, of emotion. I turned around as he still sat there, wiping his own face a few more times, using the headband to visually punctuate my words, "That's why your recent death bothered me as much as it did. Reminded me of the first one." He got from where he stood, ambling slowly towards me like he was ashamed of himself. Fumbling with the headband a few more times, I reached out to him with it when he was close enough. The angel ignored the offering and hugged me tightly, wrapping his arms around my shoulders.
"I'm sorry, and thank you." He said plainly as I just about lost it, leaning over and returning the gesture. Stoic facades didn't last long as we both started crying again out of joy, him a lot softer then I. "Finally"
I choked up a little, laughing.
"My sentiments exactly." I was overjoyed and fulfilled as a person on many different levels, that enormous burden off my shoulders for good. "This means you're going to stop trying to kill me, right?"
The angel laughed while the demon cried tears of happiness.