– The Magus of the Tarot. Mayan, the Maker of Illusion. The Seer in Illusion – Lilith.1 –
“If they tell me I’m condemned, I won’t doubt it.
It’s of my own free will that I dive into the darkness that, with arms wide open, invites me in.
And, for your arms of ice around my trembling, naked body, condemning my Soul seems a small price to pay …”
Alexander's and Jonathan’s late lunch was really more of a feast than of a simple lunch, easily erasing the heavy weight that Jonathan’s words had left me.
They’d set the table in the living room, under the excuse that we’d never fit in the kitchen, and the decoration was much like one would expect to find in a first class restaurant. I didn’t even question the origin of the golden hand-painted plates, or the tall delicate crystal glasses. The tablecloth was pure white linen and there were dark-red velvet pillows on each and every chair.
Lea skipped around the table, climbing onto a chair so that he could see the contents of the golden platters, and his silver eyes gleamed with anticipation.
Maybe it was because we were all together, or maybe because we were having lunch in the living room, a place where we only ate on special occasions, but I remembered to go and get my mother’s small digital camera, that, after a few brief explanations, was delivered into Lea’s curious hands. He immediately started taking pictures, flashing the camera everywhere, and I smiled at his childish happiness.
I served them all feeling strangely comfortable in the middle of the ruckus they made. Even Jonathan, I noticed, smiled when Lea started taking pictures of the plates filled with food as if they were true pieces of art.
It was as if we were just normal people, I thought. As if there weren’t any powers, or differences, and no war to be fought somewhere. I recalled Gabriel’s words when he’d said he wished time could stop, and I wished it too. There, near them, I felt like I was living in another world, a world where my pains and sufferings simply had no place.
We sat at the table long after there was nothing left, either from the veal or from the vanilla pudding they’d made. And I just kept quiet, listening as they shared normal everyday things that they’d seen and considered interesting. Alexander had seen a dog dressed in a coat, to which Lea immediately added that he’d seen a lady using a dog’s collar. Gabriel had found strange the man in the uniform, waving his arms in the air in the middle of the street, trying to command the cars around him and make the machines obey him; surely Humans had enough knowledge and technology to find a better way to avoid traffic jams. Lea wanted a pair of sneakers with flashing lights and wheels. Alexander still couldn’t understand how it was possible that hours of moving pictures could fit into something as small and thin as a DVD.
No one talked about serious matters, like combat strategies or Telane’s disappearance. No one wanted to burst that false and fleeting bubble of happiness, trying to extend it to its limits.
It was already dark outside when the phone rang, interrupting our conversation. My heart jumped at the shrieking sound and I immediately knew who it was, and yet wished I could pretend I hadn’t heard it and just remain sitting with them.
Gabriel’s gaze on me turned hard and cold, and it was so I didn’t have to face it any longer that I finally stood up and ran to the corridor.
“Mari ..." Michael’s voice sounded hoarse and spent, reopening the wound that had torn me inside that morning and which I’d somehow managed to forget.
“Michael,” I murmured, not knowing what else to say, and he sighed heavily.
“Mari … I’m really sorry for what happened,” he said, struggling against his own words, and the pain that filled me inside stole my strength away, forcing me to hold on to the small dresser just so I could keep standing. I didn’t want him to be sorry! The fault was all mine. “I don’t know what came over me. To tell you the truth, I haven’t been feeling all that well and I know it’s no excuse, but I wanted you to know and maybe ... forgive me.”
I felt myself falling into a dark pit of despair.
“Michael! There’s nothing to forgive! Please believe me. All this, all this mess, I’m the only one to blame! If anyone should be asking for forgiveness, then it’s me. I was the one who dragged you into all this,” I added, my voice breaking halfway, and he was silent for a moment.
“I wish ... I wish I could see you right now just to make sure you don’t ... despise me. But I’m afraid of what I might do,” he said softly and the tremors that made me shiver were warning enough of his proximity. I looked back, over my shoulder, and was faced with his cold, harsh gaze that filled me with dread, while Michael’s voice, on the other side of the phone, tore a deep gash in my heart. “I’m probably not going to school, tomorrow. I’ll take the weekend off and try to ... sort things out. And then maybe we can talk Monday?”
“Yes ... sure, of course.” I felt like crying.
“I’ll see you Monday then.”
“Okay,” I replied and felt him hesitate.
The pain that pierced my chest stole my breath away and the idea that he was about to hang up, cutting off that frail connection that had been reestablished between us sent me swirling down a spiral of panic.
“Wait!” I called out, before he could hang up, my hand shaking as I pressed the receiver against my ear, and the words just flowed out of my mouth, cruel words, but still words I just couldn’t stop myself from saying. “Michael! Please listen! And please, please don’t answer,” I told him and he waited in silence, as my throat dried. “I ... just need you to know ... that ... I do love you! Even though I may not show it. I’ve always loved you, since the moment I first saw you.”
He kept silent as my heart drummed against my throat, until I finally heard him breathe in, and his hoarse voice filled my ears again.
“See you Monday.”
Disappointment washed over me, as if I’d been expecting something else, even though I’d been the one making unreasonable demands, forbidding him to give me any other answer.
“See you Monday, Michael,” I forced myself to answer and the line went dead, leaving me only with that repetitive sound ringing in my ears.
The terrifying shadow that hovered over me ripped the phone from my hands, throwing it hard against the wall, plastic pieces flying everywhere. I cowered instinctively against the dresser, in a sharp gasp that didn’t even give me time to scream, and his white hand stopped inches from my face, trembling furiously, as if it had been held back by invisible chains. His crimson eyes were pure hatred, making me sink into a pool of dark terror. And then, the hand that almost touched me crashed against the wall, right beside my head, making me jump, and I heard pieces of plaster falling on the floor. His face came so close to mine that I could feel his sweet scent and, even shaking in terror, I still wished he would touch me.
“I’ll be going now before I do something really stupid.” I heard his voice in a cold hiss and his lips touched mine that kept trembling, in the cruelest most empty of kisses, before he disappeared in a thin rain of dark glitter.