They closed the curtains and covered the mirrors, drawing in close and tight and safe. This wasn’t a time for the living, sun in the sky or no. This was one of the four days that belonged to the others, the dead and the never-so, the ones who dwelled in a distant place the living would only see when time had finished marching and their personal hourglass was empty of sand. This was her time. And it had been her time since 1927 and a boy with none of the manners he ought to have. Her hair was still bobbed short and her skirt still swirled around her knees, or at least it did on these days. Any other day and you’d never have picked her out of the crowd of college co-eds. Today, she was free to be herself though and to dance to a record that hadn’t been played anywhere but her mind since that year. Today, she smiled at a pretty girl and held out her hand, promising forever to the newly dead.
I was fidgeting with the fork again, spinning it between my fingers as I watched the door. The waiter was standing near the kitchen giving me this piteous look and I felt miserable. The placemat drew my eyes again and I wondered if she was going to show up at all. I was about to reach for my phone when the little bell above the door rang and my eyes snapped up. A woman like none I’d ever seen before stood just inside the door with a little frown of concentration on her face. But my shoulders only slumped. She wasn’t Jessica. This was pretty quickly sizing up to be the worst Valentine’s ever. That was when the woman slid into the empty seat opposite me and gave me a smile.
“Sorry, I’m late.”
For a long moment, I just stared into her eyes. It was like looking at the ocean; bottomless, beautiful, and a little bit terrifying. Then I gave my head a little shake.
Her smile turned a little sad and she nodded.
“I’m here to make sure you don’t spend today alone. She’s not coming.”
I looked down again and then back up, forcing a smile.
“You don’t have to do this. I’ll be alright.”
She shook her head and her hair fell loose around her shoulders.
“Let me just make this up to you. After all, it shouldn’t have happened.” She hesitated and then smiled at the approaching waiter. “A bottle of sauvignon blanc, if you would? Thank you.”
“Right away, Miss.”
He gave me a grin and a wink and walked off to fetch the bottle in question.
“What do you mean ‘shouldn’t have happened’? Is everything alright?”
But she didn’t seem to hear me. She leaned in, smiling.
“So, handsome, what is it you do?”
That was how the evening went. She suggested a few appetizers I’d never had before, calling them crudités and teasing me into trying them. She flirted and we laughed and at last, we sat there with sundae between us. That was when she finally answered my question.
“You’ll see Jessica tomorrow, just so you know. Once I’ve had a chance to fix things. But I couldn’t let you be alone tonight. Not when it was all because of my son and his leaden arrows.” She smiled cryptically. “Eros feels rather badly about his mistake.”
Laughter coursed through oaken bowsbut Sarra walked alone
no lover had she to be with tonight
nor o’er leap smoldering coals
Hand in hand, lovers did leap
for bounty and younglings to come
but she was alone and strayed from the path
out to where legends do roam
She sat ‘neath a tree to ponder the time
when nearby snapped a twig
eyes that were the leaves of spring
pulled her deep into his soul
Full of mystery, cloaked in might
he stood casually, hand outstretched
with a slight smile, he spake thusly
“How wonderful ’tis to see you here on this Beltane night.”
“I know you not yet seems you know me.”
came her surprised reply
“Are you from near of have you traveled far,
to see me this Beltane night?”
“You know me more than you would know,
and I you in turn.
But for your second question,
these very woods are more home.”
It was in that instant that she did see
his skin held a shade of greenery
from atop his chestnut locks did sprout
antlers of which a stag would be proud
He smiled knowingly as she took in the sight
was he a demon, elemental or sprite?
perhaps one of those who ruled all out world
one of the gods of glade and dell
Shee took his hand, got to her feet
she knew him now for who he was
soon their lips did meet
passion leapt from god to woman
He held her tight against his chest
her arms looped round his waist
the scent of leaves, of forest of dew
covered Sarra in blankets of calm
Years passed by and Sarra sat
‘fore the fire with a babe
to her she told the story of whence
and the day she’d met the girl’s da
“Brother, I have something of a question for you.”
Cliff looked up, setting aside the leather he was cleaning.
“Is that so?”
The Prince of Knives and Thorns leaned against the wall of the stables tossing one of his many throwing knives lightly in one hand.
“I have noticed, of late, that you spend a great deal of time with my sister. More than I would think to see between friends. And I have seen, once or twice, a form I believe to be hers sneaking out of your chambers of an evening.”
Eyes wide, Cliff could feel his cheeks going hot. Keeping his eyes on that knife, he stood.
“None of that was a question, you know.”
The Prince chuckled, catching his knife by the hilt in a smooth motion.
“Then I will speak plainly. Are you and my sister involved romantically?”
Lying would be stupid, far more stupid than admitting to what was quite obviously there. Even if it was looking more and more likely he was about to be turned into the Prince’s personal pin cushion. Then, much to Cliff’s surprise, the Prince sheathed the knife completely and stepped in to give him a hug.
“Good! You too are insufferably perfect for each other and I had been bereft thinking neither of you had noticed!”
I was in the middle of yet another evening spent sitting on the front porch, staring out at the fireflies in the night and wondering where I’d gone wrong in my life when my phone beeped shrilly at me.
“Detective Calloway here.”
The door opened behind me and I turned. My wife stood there, a slight frown of worry on her face.
“We need you to come in. It’s…bad.”
“I’ll be right there.”
I hung up and slipped my phone back into my pocket.
“Lils, I’ve got to go.”
She stepped out into the night, bare feet barely making a sound on the wood of the porch.
“I was an ass, I know. I’m sorry. We can talk more when I get home.”
I pulled her into a hug and she slipped her arms around my waist.
“Promise me you’ll be alright.”
That stopped me cold and I looked at her oddly.
“What? Lily, I’m going to check out a crime scene. It’s not like I’m haring off to chase a killer by myself. And anyway, you know Mason’d kill me if I did something stupid.”
She leaned against my chest and sighed.
“I know that. But I just can’t shake this feeling like…”
Reaching to tilt her chin up, I kissed her gently.
“I’ll be home in a bit. Just as soon as we’ve processed the scene and I file my report. I’ll text you once I’m back at the station. How’s that sound?”
She nodded slowly and stepped back.
“I’ll wait up.”
lips touch in fiery passion
hands clasp, hands grasp
clinging in darkness
never let go
just playing a game
the widow’s kiss
The silence was overbearing, the silence and the darkness. The sky was empty now. No stars shone in the infinite and the only sound left to us was our beating hearts, hers and mine. We had come this far to stop her and only I remained. The mission was a failure. She held out her hand to me. I stood and accepted it.
“We will bring about a new age, Adam. Accept that. Accept that we will bring about a new people, a new future. Embrace your fate.”
Hers was a forked tongue that told only lies, but I ate them whole. I drew her into my arms and our lips met, tasting sweet and sticky. Her mouth was still, after all, covered in crimson horror. She smiled and let the bitten heart fall from her fingers, reaching to tangle her fingers in my hair.
“I accept my fate, Eve.”
There, in her starship, I understood madness.