– Kether. The Hierophant prepares the Candidate.
The Vision of the Ineluctable Destiny.1 –
“Unavoidably, subtly, almost unnoticed, the chains that bind me grow ever stronger,
heavier and certainly unbreakable.
The promise that I may one day return to what I used to be slowly fades away,
and my new me is molded step by step, pain by pain, smile by smile ...”
I spent the rest of the long weekend with Lea and, thanks to him, time went by quickly, unable to consume me as it surely would have, had I stayed home alone during those four days.
Friday I received a call from Michael, wondering if everything was all right, worried that he hadn’t seen me the day before. I apologized for having missed him at school and, when he asked if I wanted to meet him that afternoon, I used the same excuse I’d used with my classmates, telling him that my aunt had come to spend the weekend, since it was Good Friday and all.
I tried to reach Steph, but her mother delivered me the same excuses over and over again — either she wasn’t home or she couldn’t get to the phone. I couldn’t help noticing her guilty tone as she had to lie to me repeatedly, making it clear that Steph was now actively avoiding me. I still tried to question Lea a few more times about what had happened last Tuesday, but he either told me that he didn’t know, or honestly replied that he wasn’t allowed to talk about that.
Over those four days I found out there were a lot of things Lea wasn’t allowed to talk about and, although I’d never had so many answers before, there were a lot more questions that needed to be asked.
Lea still slept on my bed, like he used to do when he was in his feline shape. Though I knew I should, I just couldn’t gather enough courage to tell him ‘no’ when he looked at me with his pleading expression and lonely silver eyes. And so, he curled up under my quilt, his face alight with such an intense happiness that I was immediately and completely defeated. That, of course, meant that every morning I woke up with his small, child-like body curled against mine, as if he needed human warmth to survive. Watching him sleep, quietly, his light soft hair spread over my pillow, always made me smile. Even though he now looked like a child, most of the times he still behaved like a small animal.
As promised, his wound disappeared after twenty-four hours and his skin recovered completely, without a single scar. His appetite was even more voracious than mine, although as I watched him eat I was sure he did it more out of pleasure than out of the need to feed.
Sunday Lea asked me if we could go out and so we went to a nearby park. I watched as he looked around him with wide-eyed amazement, staring in marvel at the most simple and mundane things, like trees, bushes and even the smallest of leaves or the green grass under his feet. When I asked him about the reason behind all those amazed expressions, Lea explained that he only knew the world outside my house through cat’s eyes. And everything changed, forms and colors, when he saw it through human eyes. I didn’t quite understand, but didn’t want to spoil his happiness with more questions. I sat on a wood bench and watched him run and laugh to himself with that pure, straightforward happiness that only children can feel. Of course I knew he was far from being Human, that ultimately he was nothing like me and everything like Gabriel. Still, I couldn’t make myself fear him, or hate him, or resent him. Painfully enough, I had to admit that child-like demon had completely won me over, a thought that made me shiver. He is a demon ... he is a demon, I repeated over and over in my head, but stupidly enough those words held no meaning whatsoever. It was like trying to force myself to believe that the trees around me were street lamps.
Monday I woke up later than usually. I’d spent the night before reading to Lea and I quieted my heart, reminding myself that it was a holiday.
My bed was empty, and so I sat up, looking for him around the room as I rubbed my sleepy eyes.
“Lea!” I called, standing up, and went downstairs. I looked for him all over the place but couldn’t find him. I was instantly worried to death! Where could he be? Demon or not, he was just a child who, as far as I’d gathered, knew very little about the outside world.
I took a deep breath trying to calm down, as I once more reminded myself that that child belonged to a world I didn’t know, and decided to make pancakes for breakfast, certain that he would love to try them.
I was on my twelfth pancake or so when the sound of his bell echoed in the kitchen and I almost dropped the frying pan, in an instinctive reflex that still reminded me of what had happened the last time I’d heard that sound.
“Lea!” I gasped, seeing him standing by the table, my heart beating too fast, and he forced a smile, noticing the frightened high pitch of my voice.
“Where have you been? What happened?” I asked, setting the frying pan down to approach him, and my fear turned back to worry, as I saw that his face, hands and clothes were all dirty, as if he’d fallen down.
“It’s nothing,” he answered with that same smile and I knew he wasn’t going to tell me anything else about the matter.
“Are you hungry?” I asked, changing the subject, and gently ruffled his black hair. His expression immediately came to life as he hastily nodded, making me smile. “Then go and wash your hands and face. I’m cooking something that I’m sure you’ll like.”
And there was no need to say anything else. Lea ran out of the kitchen, his bell ringing throughout the entire house, and I took a deep breath. He was so easy please.
I placed the pancakes on the table and took out the strawberry jam, sugar and cinnamon. I cut a few slices of cheese and mixed a huge glass of chocolate milk, another wonder he’d tried the day before and that had won him over completely.
Lea came back running. I could hear his footsteps against the wooden floor, but he stopped by the kitchen door to compose himself. I smiled seeing him straighten his tussled hair, and watched as he approached the table with a steady, grown-up-like pace, trying hard not to run again.
“What’s this?” he asked taking his place, curiously looking at the pancakes, and I put a golden, round disk on his plate.
“They’re called pancakes,” I answered. “And we eat them like this.” I showed, spreading a spoon of strawberry jam over the golden disk and folded it as he quietly observed my every move. “Try it.”
He obeyed, cutting a slice and driving it into his mouth. He munched it carefully, almost doubtfully, and the smile that shone across his face made me laugh once again. He devoured the rest in the blink of an eye.
I proceeded to having him try all the other variations, with cheese, sugar with cinnamon, syrup, and cheese with jam. Lea was delighted with every different version, pausing only to drink large gulps of milk that left brown whiskers over his mouth and across his cheeks.
“So? Did you like it?” I asked once all the pancakes had been devoured and he nodded vehemently, licking the inside of his empty glass.
“Very good,” he responded and I felt happy for his happiness, and started on the dishes. “Shame there’s nothing left. I’m sure Master would have liked them, too,” he added, sounding sad, and my hands froze for a split second. As much as I tried to forget about his existence, in Lea’s mind he was always present.
“Ah! Saying something like that after eating the whole bunch!” I countered, joking, trying to lighten his mood. “They wouldn’t taste good anyway. We’ll make more, some other time. You can even help me,” I suggested, and his expression became brighter. I took a deep breath and went back to my dishes. “Lea, if you’re not really a cat, why do you wear that collar?” I asked, drying my hands, and saw him reach for the small golden bell around his neck.
“I like this collar.”
“Did he ... did he put that on you?” I asked, feeling sorry for him, but Lea shook his head, smiling.
“No. I chose to wear it.”
“Because back at home, Master was always alone. And since no one wanted to get close to him, he started believing he didn’t need anyone to keep him company, even though I know that, deep inside, he felt lonely. I wanted to stay close to him, but he never wanted me around. And so I started to wear this bell. This way, even when he sent me away, he could still hear me, and know I was close by, until he slowly started to accept my presence.”
I placed a hand over his small head. “You love him very much.” Lea nodded and I placed a kiss on his dark hair. “Don’t worry, Lea. He loves you, too. You’re his ... family,” I added, not knowing if the word family meant the same to him, but that was how I’d ended up seeing them. Gabriel, too. The few times I’d honestly seen him smile was only when Lea was lying on his lap.
“You think so? You really think so?” I nodded before his hopeful expression.
“Of course. When we give something whole heartily we always end up receiving something in return,” I told him, confident, but he lowered his head looking depressed.
“But we, we can’t give. We can only take,” he whispered and I couldn’t understand what he meant by that.
I spent the afternoon teaching Lea how to play cards. His attentive expression and the speed with which he learned, especially how to cheat, occupied and amused me the whole afternoon.
It was already dark outside when I was painfully reminded that I’d have school the next day, which made me sick to my stomach. Any other time that would probably be because I hadn’t touched my homework or picked up a single book since last Thursday. But not this time. Going back to school meant going back to my problems and I was immediately reminded that I’d have to face Michael and my own feelings, not to mention the problem with Stephanie and Gabriel.
“Lea, you think he’ll return?” I asked while putting away the cards and he pulled his knees up against his chest.
“He has to.”
“Because of the Circle,” I guessed, remembering what he’d told me and Lea nodded. The Circle that no Human could see. I had to be sure I was ready to face him again and I instantly wished that that would only happen at school.