Chapter 23 – Part 1

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Chapter 23 – Part 1

 

Chapter 23

 

ZID

– The Holy Guardian Angel. His instruction.1

 

"Because I feel I know I’m alive, that something more inhabits me,
even if what I feel slowly makes me sink into a dark ocean of terror.
Ah, how I wish that the threads that bind me were everlasting,"
eternally tying to me the cold, white hands that command them ...”

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1

I woke up with the sound of my noisy alarm clock, but unlike any other day I got dressed in record time and was flying out the door in less than five minutes.

I was already halfway down the stairs when I remembered Jonathan and turned back to check on him. He was still asleep like he’d been the entire previous day, but his sleeping expression looked much more peaceful, and so I left as quietly as possible so as not to disturb him.

I was smiling happily when I went back to the stairs. If Jonathan was still there that meant everyone else was as well. After the talk I’d overheard the night before I had half feared waking up to an empty house.

I hurried down the stairs and stopped by the kitchen door, my smile even brighter when I found them sitting at the table.

“Morning!” I greeted them, trying to contain my happiness, and Lea jumped from his chair, running across the kitchen to hug my legs.

“Morning, Mari! How are you feeling?”

I tousled his soft hair and smiled back at him.

“Much better. I got plenty of rest yesterday,” I replied and winked at him when he gave me a critical look. “Wow! Have you eaten?” I asked, my eyes immediately lost on the wonderful breakfast that awaited me, and Alexander gave me one of his mocking sneers.

“Izrail made a point of leaving it all there for your breakfast,” he informed me and I looked at the set table with renewed attention, my cheeks slightly blushing. There were only things I liked to eat in the morning — scrambled eggs, pancakes, little delicious-looking buns, cheese, five different types of jam, chocolate cereals and a variety of yogurt flavors that would certainly shame most neighborhood supermarkets. And, of course, my favorite peach juice.

“Where is he?” I asked, taking my seat and grabbing a small seed bun from the basket.

“He’s on watch. I’ll be taking his place soon,” Lea replied. “Alexander will take you to school.”

I looked back at him, searching for a confirmation, and immediately recalled what he’d said the night before. Somehow it almost felt as if right now he was my worst enemy.

“Is that really necessary? School isn’t that far away,” I pointed out and Lea folded his arms with an intransigent expression that didn’t match at all with his childish appearance.

“It’s necessary! And no arguing!” he firmly added and I sighed, knowing that there probably wouldn’t be any point in that. Those were, most likely, Gabriel’s orders, and neither one of them would disobey them.

Once he realized I had no intention to further insist on the subject, Lea seemed to relax and I even managed to convince him to try some of the jam.

After I ate enough for the whole day, I said goodbye to Lea and left for the cold morning. The weather had been warmer lately and the days were getting longer, which pleased me greatly. Soon we’d mostly have sunny days, no more nonstop rain and cold winds.

Alexander followed me in silence, his hands tucked inside his coat pockets. Unlike what happened when Gabriel walked me to school, he walked beside me, shortening his pace to keep up with my much smaller one.

We walked in silence for a few moments. Lately it seemed as if only unpleasant things happened or were said every time we were together. And, although I didn’t really resent him in anyway, the mood around us had become kind of awkward.

“Your wrist. Does it still hurt?” he finally asked, half hiding inside his coat, and I automatically pulled my sleeve down, asking myself when I’d forgotten about that. I’d noticed it the day before, the bruises around my wrist in the shape of his strong fingers, from the time he’d brutally dragged me to the kitchen.

“It’s nothing,” I replied. Above all, I didn’t want those stupid marks to become another point of conflict with Gabriel if he found out. “They’ll be gone in just a few days.”

“I’m sorry. It was never my intention.”

I looked up at him and shrugged, smiling at his sorrowful tone.

“It’s fine, really.”

And we were silent again. I hugged my books, turning my thoughts away from the real reason for that absence of words, and wondered if he would allow me to get to school without saying what he obviously had to tell me. Finally he sighed and I knew the moment had come.

“You have to ask him to leave,” he simply told me, as if he were certain without a doubt that I knew what he was talking about, and I faced him with that same certainty.

“I can’t and I won’t.”

He looked taken aback by my unwavering, almost unthinking, answer and seemed to need some time to regain his composure.

“What do you mean, you can’t? Why would you want him to stay?” he asked, sounding slightly annoyed, and I faced his dark-blood gaze.

“I need him.”

“Need him! What kind of justification is that? As long as we stay here, we’re all in danger. You’re no exception!” he argued, trying as hard as he could to change my mind, but I simply shrugged.

“Honestly? I don’t care.”

He stared at me, wordless again, almost shocked with my straightforwardness, and then his expression was one of tense, hardly contained fury.

“You don’t even know what you’re talking about!” he reproached me. “You think this is all a game?”

“I’m sorry. To tell you the truth, I already know all about your arguments. I overheard your talk yesterday,” I confessed and he was silenced once again. “I understand and agree with all of them. In my mind I know you’re completely right and I can easily foresee all the possible horrible scenarios that may result of my selfish request. But, even so, even knowing all this, I can’t send him away,” I added wholeheartedly, feeling relieved as I was sure that that was my real will.

“This is insane!”

“You may think as you wish. However, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my entire life. Until now all I’ve done was try to survive in the middle of the chaos that has taken over my life. And yet, when you left, it was as if I stopped existing all together. You think I didn’t fight with all my strength against the idea of needing him like this? But there’s nothing I can do. And, for once in my life, I decided to be selfish. If I have to die for it, then I’ll die.” I recognized on his face the exasperation that had marked his words the night before.

“Mariane, you’re a Gaalgha with no Guardian, but Izrail is a Deiwos. Worse, a Shedim. He can never take that place,” he insisted, sounding calmer now, and I smiled at him.

“You really think that that’s what I’m doing? Using him as a substitute?”

“Isn’t it?”

“Honestly? I don’t know. I guess I don’t want to know. It’s like I said, I don’t care. Whichever the way, the final result is the same. I’m not doing all this on a whim.”

“If you heard our talk, you know what I told him. And although he denies it, no matter how much he refuses to acknowledge it, the truth is that Izrail has developed feelings for you. And that’s something that should never be.”

My heart jumped at that. Since Steph’s visit I’d been trying very hard to avoid that subject. Right there and then I decided that I wouldn’t allow it to affect me, and kept my confident, tranquil tone.

“Why not?”

“Why not!” he repeated in disbelief and frowned as he searched for an adequate answer. “Because he is what he is. And beings like him aren’t created to have human feelings.”

“Spoken as a true Merifri, I suppose,” I mocked and he grew suddenly very quiet. “From what I understand, Merifri aren’t allowed to have feelings either, right? Or you wouldn’t be here right now.”

“That’s completely different!” he countered, struggling for arguments that would support his claim. “The feelings that Guardians develop for their Gaalgha come from an attraction between Souls. Because, in the end, a Gaalgha is much like a Merifri, but one that chose a different path. Both Souls shine the same way! However, a Gaalgha is also Human. And the freedom you possess is enticing to say the least. It’s almost like you’re bright, precious stones scattered amongst piles of dark coal. You are immensely persistent when facing adversities, but your purity of thought and feeling makes you extremely frail. The bond forged between a Gaalgha and his Guardian is forged for life. And although a Human life may look short from the point of view of a Merifri, the truth is that once in the Human world, time seems to slow down and everything’s different.” It was easy enough to see that he was no longer talking about me, but from his own personal experience. “But, a Deiwos? Deiwos do not establish bonds, they make Contracts! They cannot give, they can only take! These are completely opposite natures.”

“And I don’t know how to disagree,” I said, unwavering. “But what about you? What are you? If it’s like you say, what are you doing staying next to Jonathan all these years? Why try to help him? Why protect him all this time when it’s obvious he must be a weight. You’re no longer a Merifri. Why are you still protecting him?”

Alexander was quiet once again and I waited, knowing I’d just touched some sore points he’d much rather not have to talk about.

“I’m not saying I believe that Gabriel might have any kind of special feelings for me,” I continued. “To tell you the truth, I’ve been avoiding having to even think about it, because something like that would only make everything else much more complicated. I know nothing about you all, except for what you tell me. And so I cannot expect to understand what kinds of emotions someone like him is able to have. But, if he really feels something, whatever it may be, how can you say he’s not suppose to feel it? No one commands their own feelings and, from what I gather, in this you’re no different from us, or Mazzikin wouldn't exist. If that’s how things are, how can anyone say that this is wrong? Are not made for this, are not made for that. What kind of stupid logic is that? Iaidon are not made to love, and they all end up loving the Gaalgha they protect. Really? Either they have the ability to love or they don’t! And if they have the ability to love, how can they not have been made to love?”

I was embarrassingly aware that I’d allowed myself to become too enthusiastic about my argument, and that Alexander was staring at me with a really strange expression, almost as if he was standing before an alien from another planet.

I blushed, noticing we’d somehow stopped, and quickly turned to resume walking. I was definitely going to be late, I thought, and took a deep breath to calm my running heart. When the school gate finally came into sight, I knew instantly I’d been right. The entrance was practically deserted, all the students already in their classrooms, and so I sped up, reminding myself not to run since it would only make my sore ribs hurt even more.

“Mari? Do you have feelings for him?” That question, in that disconcerting tone of incredulity, almost sounded like an affirmation. My body was immediately frozen in place and my arms trembled, making me almost drop the books I was holding. “Is that it? Is that why you won’t let him leave?” he insisted, seeming to be struggling to believe his own words and, to my relief, part of me felt his questions as an attack and immediately jumped to my defense.

“I don’t know. You tell me. After all, you seem to know us even better than we know ourselves,” I replied, unable to hide the irony in my voice, but, even though I knew I had no reason to be so aggressive, anything was better than just keeping quiet.

“What are you talking about?”

“Jonathan, of course,” I answered reflexively, but my voice didn’t stop at that. “Did he? Did he also love you like you still love him?” The blood drained from his face, making him as pale as Gabriel, his eyes burning feverishly.

I was sorry for what I’d just said the moment the words left my lips. And yet I just couldn’t say what was needed to make things right again. So I just turned my back on him and hurriedly walked towards the main building, wishing that our talk had never taken place.

“He did. He did love me.” My heart almost stopped at the sound of his voice and, no matter how much I wished I could go on pretending I hadn’t heard him, my feet wouldn’t take another step. “Jonathan also loved me like I loved, and still love, and will always love him.”

I clenched my teeth hard and forced my feet to obey, running inside regardless of the pain. In truth I gladly welcomed it, since it made me kind of numb to all the other, much less physical pains piercing my chest.

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