– The Path of Gimel - The Hegemone between the Pillars.
Preliminary: The Vision of the Unguided Universe.1 –
“My world was at peace, but it was cold and empty.
Now everyday there’s something new to fill that emptiness.
Without realizing it, I find myself buried and, although there’s enough air to breathe, I’m choking.
The emptiness from before was cold and lonely, but I miss its silence.
With effort, I try to regain my balance, certain that my mind
is like a trapezist, crossing an endless precipice over an invisible wire.”
That morning when I went down to the kitchen Lea was already there, sitting on a chair, his bare feet dangling back and forth.
"Good morning, Mari," he greeted me with a smile and I sighed.
"Morning," I replied, lowering my voice to a whisper since I'd woken up with a terrible headache and loud sounds were sheer torture.
"Are you okay?" he asked me, sounding worried, and I nodded.
"Only tired. I didn't sleep all too well. Who cleaned all the glasses?" I remebered last night I'd gone to bed without picking them up, and Lea smiled smugly.
"Master did. He said it was dangerous leaving them around because I could cut myself," he replied, beaming with happiness. "It's exactly like you said. Everything's back to normal!"
I made myself smile, not wanting to ruin his happiness, and lightly caressed his dark, soft hair.
"I'm glad. What do you want for breakfast?" I opened the fridge checking our present food reserves, and grabbed the peach juice pack.
"Yogurt." That velvet voice sent shivers throughout my entire body and the pack slid between my stiff fingers, falling to the ground, spilling juice all over the place. I panicked. I hadn't felt his presence or his proximity and had been completely caught off guard due to his constant absences. "Oh well, this time, at least, nothing was broken," he observed, sounding amused, and I tried to relax, thankful for the breath of cold air from the fridge on my face.
It's just like in the beginning. Nothing has changed, I told myself and took out two yogurts, placing them on the table, before fetching the mop to clean up my mess.
I noticed that Lea was watching me, still looking worried, and I wished I could smile just to reassure him. My fingers stiffly clenched the mop's wooden handle and I finally saw the dark shadow that was Gabriel by the door.
I wanted to move forward to mop the floor, but the fridge was halfway between me and him, and my feet refused to obey. And then the floor was completely clean and the juice pack had disappeared. I raised my head, too astonished with what had just happened to think twice, and he took a step forward, slowly walking up to his usual place on the other side of the table.
"I see we have a lot to practice," he noted sarcastically with a mocking smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
I turned my back on him and put the mop back to its place. I made Lea some scrambled eggs and a huge cup of his beloved chocolate milk, and felt a bit better when he smiled, his eyes sparkling when I placed the plate in front of him. I took my place, munching down a piece of toast that I could hardly taste, and didn't dare challenge my knotted-up stomach any further than that, anxiously waiting for him to just finish and leave, so that I could exit through the door that stood right behind him.
Once my terrible guardian left his post, I ran upstairs and into the bathroom, diving my shaking hands under the cold running water.
"Mari ..." I looked at the small boy watching me from the door and made myself smile, trying to appease his worried expression.
"I'm okay. It's the same as always, nothing new."
"You know, he will not hurt you," he told me gently and I took a deep breath turning off the water.
"I know. But I can't help it. Don't worry. Everything's going to be all right," I guaranteed and stopped by my room to grab my stuff.
When I went back down he was already waiting for me by the door, holding his books under one arm. I sighed preparing myself for what awaited me, and he opened the door, stepping outside before me, so we could keep a sane distance between us.
We walked in silence, just as it had been in the beginning, and I dared observe his tall, lean figure. His strides were large but rhythmic and slow, the brown belted coat he wore reaching just bellow knee length, making him look older, as if he weren't much older than any other Human Being. We didn't exchange a single word practically all the way.
We were almost by the school gates when I noticed a blond boy waiting by the entrance, making my heart jump and warmth course through my veins. It was the first time I saw him so early in the morning and I couldn't help blush, knowing he'd been waiting for me.
"How do you want to do it?" I heard Gabriel's voice in a whisper, immediately stealing most of that warmth away. "What time do you want me?"
He meant our most recent deal, I recalled. And so that's how things were going to be from now on. If I didn't kept him busy, he'd go to her. Anger bubbled inside me and, once more, I asked myself why I'd agreed with his stupid conditions, when I could simply drive him to break that Contract and get rid of him once and for all. I was sure it wouldn't be all that difficult, taking into account his recent actions and explosions, and the clear effort he daily endured to keep himself under control.
"Go home after class," I answered between clenched teeth and he didn't say another word.
He walked past Michael, greeting him politely, and went on his way as if I didn't exist. His pace remained the same, his posture unchanged. I was nothing more than an unimportant toy for him to play with.
Michael accompanied me up to my floor and I couldn't help feeling discouraged at the thought of having to part ways with him.
"See you at lunch time?" he asked me hopefully and I averted my gaze, knowing I should tell him no, even as I nodded affirmatively.
I stood by the stairs, watching him leave and it felt like a dark cloud had just covered my personal sun.
As soon as I set foot in the classroom, a deafening silence fell over the entire room, critical looks following my every move. Sure it surprised me, especially some of the more disapproving expressions I saw on my classmate's faces. But, on the other hand, that wasn't the first time I had to endure something like that. The only difference was that before I had Steph to help me and support me. Now I was completely alone.
Instinctively I looked for her and found her sitting on Gabriel's desk. They were talking and she was smiling.
I crossed that unwelcoming room as fast as I could and took my seat.
"You're the talk of the whole school!" Joanne informed me with disdain, her expression belonging to that smaller group of people that clearly disapproved of something I supposedly had done. "Everyone's going around about how you spent last Wednesday with Michael Heaton doing only God knows what!" My lips parted wordlessly for a moment as my face flushed bright red. So that's why everyone was looking at me sideways. Somehow, someone had discovered our brief escape and blabbered about it. "Is that why you two have been all secretive like that?"
"Joanne," I started, trying to appeal to her understanding. "It's not what you're thinking. We just went for a walk. I'm not hiding anything!"
"Yeah, right! You and her, you deserve each other!" she spat, signaling Steph with a movement of her head. "I was only your friend while it was convenient to you. I guess I'm no good anymore, now that you both have your little boyfriends and are popular and all! Well, you can keep them, for all I care!" she finished with a sneer and turned forward as our teacher entered the room.
Steph returned to her seat, smiling happily, and sat down, ignoring the teacher's ironic rebukes.
I watched her discreetly for a moment, just as I'd done the day before, and was happy to see that she looked a bit more like the Steph I'd always known.