Having barely slept that night, I glided into the kitchen like a zombie, finding Mom bent over the kitchen sink washing dishes, soap foam up to her elbows. Upon seeing her face, it became evident that I wasn’t the only one suffering from a lack of rest.
“Good morning,” I said, plopping onto a chair and rubbed my face. “Is there any coffee?” She nodded and pointed with her head toward the drip. “Where is Daniel?”
“Stayed at Grandpa’s last night.”
“Did you have a nice dinner?”
Mom looked at me, shaking the water off her hands. “What do you think?”
“No need,” she said, but her voice betrayed her.
“I just don’t understand all this secrecy.”
“There is no secrecy,” she said. “I already told you everything I know. It is us who don’t understand your motives. What you are trying to get at?”
“Same thing as always, Mom.” I looked pointedly at her. “Plain truth.”
“You want the truth? Then let me ask you to share some with me,” she said, wiping her hands with a towel. “Have you been practicing black magic?”
“Oh Mom, what in the world did Grandpa tell you?”
“He said you’ve been experimenting with dangerous things.”
“Like some form of sorcery.”
“Mom, listen. I got a book of spells from Ben once, but I gave it back. I swear, I never conducted a single ritual in it.”
“He said he’s been trying to teach you how to protect yourself. But apparently you’ve been conjuring spirits on your own. Do you realize the danger of that? Do you realize what you may have exposed yourself to?”
“No, Mom, you got it all backwards. I didn’t conjure anything. I had only answered a call,” I said in my defense. I didn’t understand why Grandpa would say such things to Mom. And if me practicing black magic was the conclusion of the discussion they had after I had left, then the hurt was double because obviously Daniel did not volunteer to straighten the facts. It made me feel very alone again.
“Who are you talking about? Who called to you?” Mom asked.
I swallowed. My noble quest was turning my life into a living pandemonium. Here I was again, tethering on the edge of revelation and insanity. Could the pursuit of truth make one crazy? Mom’s brain was probably wrapped in layers of stories Grandpa had told her. He had the advantage of really knowing what had happened; I was still lost in the maze.
“An angel, Mom.” A deep crease in Mom’s forehead relaxed. It seemed as if a flash of recollection ignited in her mind, so I quickly added, “And I have my reasons to believe that the same thing happened to you before you had Daniel.”
Mom’s eyes skimmed across the floor.
“Does the name Ramiel sound familiar?” I asked. But the wrinkle between her brows was back and she looked at me.
“What are you insinuating? That my pregnancy was the result of some angelic intervention?”
“I don’t know for sure. You see, this is what I’ve been trying to figure out and why I need you to try to remember what happened. And once the truth is out, Grandpa won’t be able to hide it from us anymore. Then all of us, including
Daniel, can give it a rest, because then we will know, and Daniel will reclaim the second half of his origin—”
“Eve,” Mom said, approaching me. She squatted next to me and put her hand on my lap. “Baby, it’s not what you think. You are mistaking fact for fantasy. I appreciate you trying to romanticize the past but the past is painful and you need to let it go before you involve yourself too deep in my story.”
I tried to say something but my words failed me. I was back to pushing rocks up a hill. I looked away, feeling the urge to leave the house. The walls were pressing down on me from each direction.
“Eve, look at me,” Mom said. I did so, but my eyes were blurry with rage and disappointment. “What happened twenty years ago is not something I want to analyze. I was raped. Believe me, if something like this happens to a person, they want to forget and move on.” Mom squeezed my hand. “Please, Eve. Help me do that. Help me forget.”
I stood under the shower, the rush of hot water muffling my groans, my insides contorting in protest. Either Mom was brainwashed or I was operating under a spell. Which was true? Should I swallow my pride, go back to Grandpa and beg him to talk to me? I intuited that no matter how mature I would make myself sound, he would stick to his story. Grandpa would not open up to me. I grunted and left the shower. In my my room, put on the heaviest piece of music I could find, cranked up the volume and got dressed for Kal’s party. I had to get out of the house. It was making me claustrophobic.
Kal’s garage was empty. Probably because I was too early. Inside, crackling sound seeped out of an amp in the corner of the room, and a small heater exhaled its orange heat,
breathing scant warmth into the chilly space. I walked outside through the back door, and into Kal’s orchard bathed in twilight. Above my head a vortex of a sinister mass was brewing in the partly overcast sky. The air was moist and unusually warm, the evening light taking on sepia tones. I longed to see the stars.
“Look who’s here,” I saw Crass emerge from behind a tree, exhaling a plume of smoke. “Want one?” he offered me a spare cigarette he pulled from behind his ear.
“Sure. Thanks,” I said, and he lit it off his own. The filter was wet where his mouth had touched it. “Are you the only one here?”
“They left to get the booze. I’m holding down the fort,” he coughed and spat. “So what’s new, temptress?”
“You don’t get it do you?” he said, spraying more saliva from between his teeth.
“I guess I don’t,” I said, and took a drag. The cigarette tasted nasty, but I didn’t want to offend Crass by throwing it out, so I kept holding it between my fingers. At least it gave me something to do with my hands.
“It’s like a veil of smoke around you, all sweet and musty,” he said, tracing an outline around my body with his hands. “Smells fucking delicious,” he said, making me look away.
I heard a peal of raucous voices coming from the street and glanced behind me with relief. “They’re back,” I said in an effort to diffuse some of the tension, dropped the cigarette, and went inside the garage.
Grabbing a spot in the corner with a bottle of beer in my hand, I reclined my back against the wall, watching as people trickled in. Soon I was catching up on town gossip and learning about new bands that had recently popped onto the metal scene. But Sariel kept coming into my mind, making me miss a lot of what was said. Finally, it dawned at me. What if the whole struggle between what I heard from Grandpa and what I felt for Sariel was a test of my will? There could be no test without opposites! The tenderness with which he spoke to me, the way he held me, were in such stark contrast to what Grandpa would have me believe. It had to be a test.
I needed to see Sariel again to tell him he had my allegiance. We belonged together and nothing could change that. And if what he said to me was true, we would find a way to be together somewhere, somehow.
I dumped my empty bottle into a makeshift trashcan, spotted Crass taking shots across the space, and pulled him outside to come smoke with me.
“What do you know about magic?” I asked, after he offered his light. It was completely dark outside.
“Depends what kind.”
“Don’t know. Any kind. How many are there?”
“Many. But for me, the darker, the better,” he grinned.
“Black magic then,” I said. “Do you practice it?”
“You bet. C’mon, you saw. Don’t play dumb.”
A vision of the hung cat flashed across my mind. “You’re not afraid of something bad happening to you after?” I asked, taking a drag. Another nasty smoke. Or maybe I was losing my taste for it.
“Like what?” he seemed confused.
“Like a swarm of demons descending upon your bed at night?”
Crass laughed. “That would be a dream. Why? What’s your deal with black magic?”
“I’m trying to contact a spirit.”
“A ghost?” he asked, but I shook my head. “A demon?” Crass arched his brows and smiled.
“A fallen angel,” I said, shaking off the ash. “Could you help me do that?”
Crass squinted his eyes at me. A chill ran down my spine but I didn’t give in to fear. He brought his face closer to mine, but I didn’t withdraw.
“Maybe I could,” his smoky breath pushed the hair off my face. “In fact, invocation is my specialty,” he neared his mouth to the crease of my neck, making all the little hairs stand upright. “The sacrifice you saw was for them.”
“Is this why you killed that animal?”
“Believe me, it made them very happy.” Crass slid his hands into his pockets and with a head gesture pushed the bangs off his eyes. “When?”
“Soon,” I said, too overwhelmed by what I had just heard.
“You know where I live,” Crass said, spat, and vanished inside Kal’s garage.
I didn’t follow him in. Instead, I decided to go straight home, thinking of how strange it was that creepy characters like Crass were more eager to help me than the good people I loved and wanted to trust. Crass was a gamble. I didn’t so much doubt his abilities but the intent behind them. But I had to see Sariel again at least to discern once and for all what was truth and what manipulation. And with is young warlock power, Crass could help me break through the barrier.
To get back home, I took the shortcut that led through unlit back roads and farm fields. I was alone in the desolate night, so I quickened my step. My eyes travelled up toward the sky. In front of me drifted the nearly full moon, most of which was obscured by clouds.
“I can barely remember your face. Have I lost you already?” I whispered.
I stopped in the middle of the road, closed my eyes and stretched out my arms. The birch trees that grew alongside the road rustled in the night breeze. The air smelled of moisture and earth. Keeping my eyes closed, I imagined the energy of the moon enter through the crown of my head. At once I felt clearer and empowered. I opened my eyes just as the clouds parted.
“Thank you,” I whispered. “Tomorrow I shall open the gates.”