– The Vision of the Middle Pillar. Arrow.
The Mystery Of Atheism.1 –
“How can I escape this bitter Destiny. From one side the light that touches my face ...
From the other the shadow that envelops me in its embrace ...
And since I don’t know how to live without the light, or how to survive without the shadow,
everything in me is tearing apart, reducing me to an amorphous tired bundle of a person.”
No one was home when we returned, and I supposed that Lea and Alexander were roaming the streets in search of Telane.
Gabriel left me in my room, promising in a soft whisper he’d be back soon, and I found myself standing there, in the same exact place he’d left me, my eyes fixed on the door, awaiting his return. I only relaxed when I saw him back at the door and his surprised expression, as he noticed I hadn’t moved an inch, left me embarrassed.
In slow steps that made me tremble as he passed by me, he crossed the room and placed the tray he’d been carrying on my desk.
“You need to eat,” he stated in that tone that didn’t allow further discussion, and stepped back, leaning against the wall on the other side, so that I could avoid my tremors.
I looked at what he’d brought me and smiled at the fuming plate of soup, accompanied by two slices of toast and a tall glass of peach juice. No more chocolate cookies, I thought, sitting down and taking a long sip of my favorite juice. As always he’d been right. I was starving.
And yet, his presence there, in my room, was much more important than any plate of food. And so, as soon as I put down my glass, I turned back to look at him, just to make sure he was still there, although I could clearly feel his presence in the air around us.
I just sat there for a moment, watching him, my heart beating too fast, although he was far enough to spare me from my usual symptoms. His hair was back to being short again, but his eyes were still violet, and his face was so perfect that I wished I could touch it. I blushed, too embarrassed by my own thoughts, but still couldn’t look away.
“Eat,” he commanded once again, but my fear of him not being there the next time I turned back spoke louder than his order impossible to disobey.
“And you? Will you stay?”
“You rather I go?”
“No!” The immediacy of my answer left us both in silence. I lowered my gaze, regretting having talked before thinking, and took a deep breath. “But I know you want to go after Telane,” I added and shuddered at the idea.
“Sigweardiel and Lea are looking for her,” he simply replied and I found myself smiling again.
“You’ll stay then.”
“As long as you want me to stay.” His indifferent tone didn’t go unnoticed.
“What about you? What do you want?” I insisted, determined not to let him avoid my initial question, and Gabriel looked away, and didn’t answer. Which really irked me and made words I didn’t mean sprout out of my lips. “Just go then! Go after her! Since it seems she doesn’t even want to kill you! She wants you to win this war and be with her!” His incredulous expression made me even angrier. I turned my back on him, grabbing the spoon, and filled my mouth with scalding soup. I was immediately embarrassed by my own words. I couldn’t even understand why I felt so angry!
“I think you’re mistaken,” he finally said in his lustrous voice as I stuffed my mouth with the forth spoonful of mushroom soup. “It may be true that she wants me to win this war. But Telane does not wish to belong to anyone. This is precisely her only chance to free herself from that destiny. She knows I won’t claim her, even if I win.”
I didn’t answer and kept swallowing my soup. Then I turned to the toast and devoured it voraciously, as if stuffing my mouth with food could prevent me from spitting out any more nonsense. I almost choked at the speed I ate and had to resort to a few more long sips of peach juice to push it all down.
“Mariane? Are you angry?” His uncertain, somewhat worried tone caught me off guard and I put down the glass.
“Yes. At myself ... for being such so childish, and an idiot, and unable to think before I speak.” I turned to look at him. He smiled condescendingly.
“You’re tired. You need to rest.” Although I wished I could contradict him once more, I knew he was right. And yet, even though I knew I was being childish again, I found myself exactly in the same point I’d been when our talk had begun.
“And you?” I asked, embarrassed, and he smiled gently.
“I’ll stay here.”
“The whole night?”
“Yes. That’s also what I want.”
I smiled in a silly explosion of happiness and, completely forgetting my aching muscles, jumped from my chair and grabbed my pajamas, running towards the door.
“Be right back!” I told him, completely ignoring his puzzled look, and ran out again.
I went to the bathroom and changed clothes as fast as I could, washing my face and brushing my teeth at the speed of light. I stopped for an instant before my image on the mirror and, for a split second, was able to question the righteousness of my actions. I turned off the water and took a deep breath. Even while trying to think about what I should do, I still couldn’t stop worrying if he’d still be there when I returned.
I went back to the room in a more normal pace and stopped by the door to look inside. Relief washed over me when I found him standing exactly where I’d left him, and the way he looked at me made feel embarrassingly conscious of myself.
I walked in small but fast steps to my bed and his low-chuckled laughter made me cringe as if he were about to attack me.
“Really. And here I was wondering why you had left in such a hurry,” he commented. “As to be expected, only you could wear a thing like that. It’s unbelievable. A female your age wearing pajamas with bears!” He mocked, still laughing, and if I’d been embarrassed before I could almost dig my own grave and bury myself at that.
I pulled my cotton top down, as if it could cover me from head to toe, and slid under the protection of my quilt, trying to escape his evil gaze.
“I’ve always worn pajamas like this!” I contested, defensively. “And besides, I’m no female! I’m just a girl!” I added, displeased with that denomination, as though he were putting me together with all the females he had known before.
“Yes, but a girl with no sense of sensuality whatsoever,” he replied with a sorrowful tone, and I pulled the quilt around me, watching him suspiciously, which made him laugh again.
“Well, I’m really sorry for that!” I grunted. “But since you already know that, you could at least return me my clothes!” I added and he looked surprised.
“Still hanging on that? What do you want them for? Your new clothes fit you much better.” I averted my gaze and buried my chin on the quilt.
“Those things are all too thin and too delicate for me,” I complained. “I feel like I could be naked at any time. It’s really stressful, always worrying if I won’t end up tearing something.”
“Nonsense. Everything fits you perfectly. After all, I was the one who chose them," he added impossibly smug. Over time I’d come to understand that whenever that pride thing of his came into play, there was no use arguing. “But, if you want, I can always get you some new pajamas.” Even though he was clearly joking, I still jumped in panic.
“No way!” I refused immediately, trying to picture what kinds of small pieces of fabric would be acceptable pajamas in his mind, and was immediately sorry I’d tried, too shocked with my own imagination. Gabriel gave me one of his evil crooked smiles, which made me really restless, and I made plans to hide all my bear and sheep pajamas in the morning.
“Sleep now. You have to rest,” he told me softly and I couldn’t stop my insecurity from coming back. He seemed to notice it as well, and so he just bent down and sat on the floor, his back against the wall, just like I’d found him when I’d woken the day before. “I’ll stay here till dawn. Unless you’re unable to sleep with me so close to you.”
I lay down as quickly as I could and pulled the quilt up to my ears.
“See you tomorrow,” I told him, making sure there wouldn’t be even the slightest chance of arguing his last supposition and he smiled.
“Sleep well, Mariane.”