– The Garden of Nemo. The Work of the Magister Templi.1 –
“Why can’t Human Beings learn their lesson, like all the other creatures of the Earth?
And the cycles repeat themselves, day after day, year after year, life after life....
In truth we can only perceive the treasure that we held when, too late, we see it sink in eternal seas of life.
And then all that’s left is pain, sorrow and silence...”
To my surprise, as soon as we set foot inside the house, we were received by an extremely worried Lea and one clearly bad-humored Gabriel; all because Alexander had decided to kidnap me without any kind of previous warning.
“Where have you been?” he demanded in a menacing tone and Alexander threw is arm over my shoulders, pulling me closer and making me stumble against his warm body. We were both standing by the living room’s door, where we’d stopped to face Gabriel’s angry expression, and I couldn’t help notice that, as expected, everything was miraculously back to normal.
I looked up at Alexander, an angry protest in my lips, but the air around us was suddenly so heavy and charged with that frightening energy that it made me shuddered.
“Come on ...” Alexander sighed as if talking to a child, keeping his hold around me even though I tried to free myself, a broad smile on his lips. “Really? Are you going to throw a tantrum over a simple lunch out?” he asked, making me shiver, and my panicking gaze turned to Gabriel, towards his cold hard expression, his menacing black eyes intently set upon that arm that crushed me against him . Oh my God!, I thought, my heart hammering against my chest, that stupid black angel did have a death wish!
“I told you to bring her straight home,”Gabriel practically hissed and I tried once more to stand up straight but that arm kept me in place with iron strength.
“You told me to watch over her. And I did. But Mari needed some time off. And since you’re so poorly socially skilled I thought it best to take matters in my own hands,” he replied and my eyes shot up back at him, at his ... amused expression. He was doing it on propose!, I concluded with sheer terror. And using me! To make him mad! Which was working surprisingly well, I easily gathered, as my hands and legs started shaking and the mark on my wrist burned painfully.
When I shoved him yet again the cold fear I felt must have given me extra strength, or maybe Alexander decided to finally let me go. I stumbled away from him and urgently turned towards the origin of that silent dark threat.
“Just stop it!” I demanded, surprisingly more angry than afraid, and his eyes widened as surprise washed over his face; an expression that almost made me gasp in disbelief. That the perfect statue could make an expression like that was truly unbelievable. And yet it actually worked, I mused as the air became lighter and easier to breathe. Which only made me feel much more self-confidant as I faced him. “You have such an bad temper!” I criticized and now he seemed abash, staring at me as he I were an alien or something like that. “So what? We had lunch together! What is it to you, anyway? I’m free to have lunch with whoever I want!” I added and, for an instant, feared I’d gone too far. Gabriel pressed his lips together into a thin line, looking as if he was trying to restrain himself, and then suddenly relaxed, back to his usual cold and indifferent self, that made me silently sigh in relief.
“Go with Lea. He found signs of activity north from here,” he told Alexander, as if nothing had happened, and Alexander nodded, still smiling mischievously, winking at me before turning to leave. I heard the soft sound of Lea’s bell towards the kitchen and then silence ... and I knew I was alone with him.
He was standing by the table, where he’d been since we’d arrived. Not a new table that looked like the old one, I noticed, but the exact same table, down to the smallest detail, scratches and stains included. It was strange seeing him stand, I thought, when I’d almost taken for granted that I’d always find him sitting on the armchair.
For a moment he slowly looked around, as if searching for something, and it took me a while to notice that his expression looked bothered.
“I’m ... sorry ... for losing control like that ...” he ended up muttering and his obvious embarrassment left me dumbfounded. I couldn’t deny he had reacted like a control freak to my unexpected lunch out with Alexander, which had deeply annoyed me. But, even so, I’d never expected in my wildest dreams that the day would come when I'd hear him apologize. Above all, I wasn’t used to seeing so many foreign expressions flashing across his perfect, stony face. As I didn’t answer he went on, avoiding meeting my gaze. “If you had lunch together I imagine he ... he talked about me?” he finally asked, cutting straight to the point, and I nodded, still by the door, as if ready to run away at any moment. “What did he tell you? “
“He ...” I muttered, swallowing as I tried to unstuck my voice. Being alone with him was so much more intimidating ... Even knowing, as I now knew, that neither Alexander nor Lea would be able to protect me from him, even if they wanted to, I still felt safer when they were around. “He told me you are very powerful ... and that everyone fears you ...” I managed to say after quickly trying to ascertain what would be the safest thing to share. I did not wished to anger him again, but his bitter expression told me that I'd just failed in my attempt to please him.
“Feared ... yes ...” he confirmed. “What else did he tell you?”
“He told me about this war,” I replied, more firmly now, as I regained my confidence. “He told me that neither one of you have any desire to be a part of it, but that you had no other choice.”
“We never have a choice ...”
“Yes, he told about that too,” I confirmed.
“Did he tell you about us? About our way of living? Of how we met?” I quickly considered if I’d be able to get away with a lie. After all, I was obviously getting better at that day by day. Still, and against my better judgment, I ended up nodding, which made him look away in a mix of anger and disgust.
“Would you rather I didn’t know?” I asked and saw as his fists curl up into two tight pale balls.
“I’d rather you didn’t know anything. That you wouldn’t get yourself involved with things that are none of your concern. You do not belong in our world,” he plainly stated in his low, velvet voice and, somehow, the way he did it sent a unexpected jab into my chest.
“I guess you’re right about that,” I conceded, feeling strangely calm as I stood there, talking to him. “But what I did, that placed us both in this situation, nullifies all that,” I stated and he glared at me, once more in disbelief. I took a deep breath, allowing myself a quick moment to ponder my present situation, and decided to go on. After all, if what I wanted was the truth then it only made sense that I should start by being honest in the first place. Anyway, what good could possible come from trying to hide my thoughts from him? That was exactly what I’d been doing so far, with no success whatsoever. I remembered what Alexander had told me just a few moments ago. If I couldn’t win by fighting head on then I’d look for a way around. Sharing was my first new strategy; giving in hopes of receiving something in return. And who knew ... Maybe by learning a bit more about him, and him about me, we could end up better understanding each other ... “I may not belong in your world, and I certainly do not wish to, but right now there’s really no other way. This Contract binds me to you, but it also bids you to me. Maybe if this war didn’t exist ... maybe we could’ve just focused on this Contract’s terms, as you wish. In that point, Alexander is right. If it was my destiny to free you, I might as well have done so a few years from now.”
He sighed, running a hand across his face, looking suddenly tired.
“It’s as you say. I do not wish to have anything to do with this war.”
“And yet there’s nothing you can do to keep out of it.”
“I will not involve you in this! I swear!” he claimed with such intensify that the air vibrated around us, making a shiver.
“How can you swear something like that? The Contract that bids us involves me automatically!” I countered and he averted his gaze as if I’d scolded him. “You know, just this morning I was willing to give you whatever it is you want from me,” I confessed and he faced me alarmed, as if I’d just said the most terrifying thing, which made me smile briefly ... More expressions, I thought, and this one so human-like. “You see ... I’m really tired ...” I justified. “But, even tired, I’ve been fighting to keep my sanity, to understand the situation as best as I can, to deal with this daily routine so different from my previous life. Although I frequently blame you for all of this, deep down I’ve always known that doing so was just a way to appease my despairing mind. If I’m not to blame, neither are you, and we both are who we are. The difficult thing is knowing how to deal with it all. I also recognize, although I may not show it, that you’re always trying to control your ... true nature, as best as you can. And it’s been holding on to these certainties that I’ve been able to keep on living, waking up every morning, without getting any further explanations. But yesterday night ... you told Alexander that you spared me because you felt ... curious. Because I’m somehow different from other Human Beings. Which means that, in the end, this Contract is worthless. That once you’ve satisfied your curiosity you’ll simply destroy me, as you should have done that night. If I look at things this way then, all I’ve done trying to deal with all this, it’s been all for nothing ... My life is worthless ... And so I may as well give you whatever you want and be done with it!” I concluded and made a brief pause to take a deep breath. He stood completely still, his black eyes locked on me, his face apparently indifferent. Only the slight glow of his gaze told me that he was listening and that my words were able to reached him. “Alexander says I’m wrong and, although giving up sounded much easier, I decided to believe in his words. Ironically enough, I found out that I’m not really the giving up type,” I added with a smile. “And, because I chose to believe his words, I returned to the battle, even though I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand it ... Or if I should even be fighting ... If there’s a meaning to all of this ...” I added in a low voice and straightened my back to face him. “So I need to know ... what is it that you really want. If this is all a curiosity to you, then tell me what you want from me. I’ll tell you anything, do anything, and then you can just destroy me and be done with it. If all you want is to sleep with me, then I’m yours right now. I’m too tired of fighting for things that mean nothing to you. That you can simply take, whenever you want to. So ... just tell me ...”
I felt a knot tighten around my throat and the threads incarcerating my heart became dangerously tight, cutting me inside as I waited for his answer. Those few seconds of silence felt like an eternity.
“I ... need ... want ... wish ... you to keep fighting,” he finally told me, still facing me, and, for the first time, I felt warm at the sound of his deep velvet voice. “That you may survive my presence ... that you end up winning this battle ... and that you may remain yourself, as you were before our paths crossed, once I’ve left.” My heart jumped, beating faster, and I waited for the trembling that would surely follow ... but nothing happened. Gabriel took a deep breath and seemed disturbed once again. “However, as much as I’d like to tell you that I no longer wish this Contract, that’s not true either. I admit that what I wish is no longer the price I imposed on you ... not anymore ... but, as you’ve said it yourself, this is the only thing binding us together. If, on one hand, this Contract implies an obligation that does not please me, on the other hand without it I’d have no place in your life.” I clenched my coat’s flaps over my chest that strangely hurt and told myself I did not understand what he meant. He seemed to notice my distress and frowned, averting his gaze, looking annoyed. “You asked me what I wanted,” he pointed out, defensively.
“Yes ...” I admitted but was immediately at a loss for words. “Because ... I want to understand ...”
“The same way you wish your life would return to what it was, I also wish my life could be as it was before I came to this world ... It was all so much easier, then ... so much clear, so much obvious. You ask me what I want, but what I want constantly contradicts itself. I wish you to be happy, but I do not wish for many of the things that would make you happy to happen. So, if you’re able to smile when the things I do make you smile, and keep fighting when the things I do make you cry ...” He was suddenly silent and I had to blink to force myself to react. My heart was beating so fast I could swear he could hear it, keen as his auditory senses were. But beyond that I felt numb, my mind completely blank, as if I’d been shocked to death.
“Until when ... ?” I managed to ask and he smiled bitterly, leaving me breathless.
“Until you’re able to get rid of me, or until someone appears, able to destroy me,” he answered and suddenly raised his head, as if someone had called him from far away. “I have to go,” he simply told me, his tone abruptly hard, and disappeared just like that, within a magical rain of small dark sparks, leaving my living room unexpectedly empty.
It took me some time until I was able to react and, when I finally did, I dragged myself upstairs, still half numb. Undressing my coat, that I dropped on the bed, I went towards the PC and turned it on.
As expected a new message entered my inbox and I felt disappointment wash over me in anticipation, knowing that it was probably from Rachel, telling me that she couldn’t make it for Easter. I opened it, uninterested, only as an excuse not to think about all he'd just told me, and kept myself busy by reading what she'd written. My eyes stared blankly at the strange numbers and letters on the screen, unable to give them any meaning, and it took me a while to understand what I’d just read. Suddenly wide awake, I urgently went back to the beginning of the message and read it again. And then gain!, just to make sure I was reading it right, and finally my laughter echoed all over the now empty house. Without knowing how, and against all expectations, my mother was arriving in London on the seventh, at five pm.