Salvation ~ Short Story


This one I started before the prompt to be perfectly honest but it just seemed so perfect that I had only written half of it when the prompt came up. It’s not perfect, not edited but even if I were to modify it the bottom line would remain unchanged.

There are things in life that seem to have been pre-ordained. Or are they? Redemption/Salvation has always been a theme I am attracted to. Our choices can always make a difference: so in answer to the daily prompt Que Sera Sera.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/prompt-que-sera-sera/

~~~

“Hey, that’s a really cool tattoo you got.”
She brought the towel closer to her hiding said ‘tattoo’ from view as she turned around to face the girl who had just commented. She seemed to be having a major one of her own that spread like sleeves from the strings her bikini top, over her arms and down to her wrist. It looked familiar and she felt a shiver run down her spine.
“Thank you.” She said, knowing that she sounded neither cool nor grateful for the comment.
“Who did it for you?” The girl – well she looked at least a couple of years younger than her – asked sounding more enthusiastic despite the lack of excitement on her part.
“You would not know.” She hoped the girl would go away. But it would have been too easy.
“Come on. I know almost all the artists in the city.”
“Well it was not made here.”
“Really? Where then?”
She sighed. “Italy…”
“Now that is cool. May I?” She did not wait for an answer and moving behind her, she tugged at the towel revealing the part of her skin that was inked. The swimsuit was hiding most of it but still. When the girl pulled at the swimsuit she jerked away.
“Hey!”
“Sorry.” She sounded more disappointed than sorry. But still she smiled as she looked back at her. “I understand. I am just a stranger. But it is really cool. I love peculiar inks… and yours is definitely special… It has a meaning.” It was not even a question. The young woman’s excitement might have been contagious if she had not learned to hate that tattoo.
“Yeah well, where I come from, it really is not.”
“Bah, don’t worry about it. Most people, they don’t understand what it means. We’re different that scares them. I’m Ariel, by the way.”
Interesting how this stranger had pinpointed exactly what her life was. There was something compelling about her, almost familiar. So she took the hand Ariel was extending.
“Lilah.” The young woman smiled and as she shook her hand, Lilah’s finger brushed the extremity of the tattoo. She had a sudden sensation of softness and then a shock that caused her to let go. “Sorry. Static.” Ariel laughed.
“It’s alright. I get that a lot.”
“I’m sorry I have to go though.”
“Oh look at me, I keep talking. I hope to see you again.”
“Maybe… I come regularly.”
“Cool. Have a good day.”
“Thank you, same to too.”
She dashed out of the women showers and dressed into her jeans before heading out. She would shower at home next time. She was unsettled… on her way home she kept revisiting her handshake with the young woman. She had definitely felt as if the tattoo had the texture of feathers… and she knew what it meant.

~~~

“Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been two days since my last confession.”
“Delilah?” The priest paused. He knew why she came; he knew her best after all.
“I have seen another Father.”
“Delilah…” There was sorrow in his voice and resignation.
“I know Father. But…”
“Delilah,” he stopped himself. She knew what he was about to say; but he could not, not in his capacity as a priest. “What of this one?”
“A woman Father. She had wings pink like a flamingo. She thought my mark…” now she was the one to pause. She didn’t like to talk about it. “… She thought it meant something.”
The priest sighed.
“Did she say what?”
“No Father…” Maybe she was just hoping Ariel thought her ‘ink’ meant something. Then again, she might have read more in the woman’s statement than was intended.
“Child…”
“I know it is sin Father to believe I can see angels and that I am not damned but I want to hope. Is it wrong?”
“Delilah it is never wrong to hope. Hope and prayer pave the road to salvation, even for you; but not if you continue in your erring ways. Angels would not reveal themselves to one such as you or me. We could not survive their light…”
“I know… I’m sorry. Forgive me.”
“Delilah, I want you to fast for the next two days. You will attend the Compline with us, and the Lauds with the sisters all week. Pray and find the Lord and His wisdom. He loves you.”
“Yes Father.” She bowed her head in penance.
“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
“Amen.”
She stood and exited the confessional. Father Francesco left his seat too as no one else was here. The church had emptied fast after the evening mass.
“Have dinner with us Delilah.”
“Of course Father.”
She did not eat; that was the point. Father Francesco was trying really hard to save her soul and made sure she did her penance. He knew she would; she did everything she could to not disappoint him. She knew he left his beloved monastery to take care of her as he was – in essence – ordered. But no matter how hard she tried she kept seeing them. Like the mark she wore on her back these hallucinations scared everyone. So she had remained in the care of priests and nuns first at the Santa Maria dei Penitenti orphanage somewhere in Northern Italy then in New York after she was five.

~~~

That night she looked at that mark once more; she had not done so in years. She usually did not want to see it; her parents gave her up because of it. At least that is what she was told; a child marked for the devil the nuns called her. But tonight she tried to see what Ariel did: a cool tattoo… it was not a tattoo of course but a birthmark although she could never say it. The drawing was just too clear for it to be natural; a dragon crushing an angel beneath its claw, the spear of the winged fighter broken underneath him as he tried to reach for something that was not there. She had never felt that way before but it seemed obvious; the angel’s face was looking away from the dragon and his arm was extended as his hand appeared to be closing onto emptiness. She shook her head as she shrugged her pyjama top over her shoulders. It was stupid. That birthmark was not cool, it was just plain stupid; and who in the universe felt it was a nice thing to have carved on one’s back? It was a cruel joke. She had felt that way for so long… and yet she believed that there was more to the salvation of her soul than a drawing on her skin. At least she hoped it was true with all her heart. And so she prayed to thank Him for what she had, to ask for His forgiveness when she erred and to beg Him to let her make the right choices; only according to the priests these were always the wrong ones. Because not only did she wear the sign of the devil killing the archangel she saw things that she was not supposed to.

What could she do about the fact that she could see angels? More than once she had noticed them in the sky or as they touched someone in the street as if to induce an act of kindness. She could see them and she felt His presence in such a strong way sometimes, in the light that suffused the clouds as the sun set or hid behind them, in the voices lifted in song during the mass, in the small gesture of someone helping a stranger. If anyone else spoke that way, it would be poetry, but for her to say it was blasphemy. What could she do? What of the fallen ones? Never would she tell anyone about them… they were just as beautiful in a way as the others but with wings broken, incapable to lift themselves in flight, grounded like penguins but well capable of hurting. Beware their seductive tongues, cruel like one of the birds’ beak. Liars and tempters she always tried to avoid them but they were so hard to identify for few angels ever spread their wings or even showed them as Ariel had done at the pool. Something was happening; she had seen six of them in as many weeks both true and fallen. They were not cautious or maybe they did not care. Either way it scared her even though she had no one to explain this to. They would either send her to an exorcist or worse to a psych ward, where whatever she had to say would remain unheard. She fell asleep wondering about what to do… and woke as the alarm rang to join the sisters for the Lauds. She did her penance, she prayed and for a while it seemed even though she was a sinner as every other mortal in the world, she was not a walking blasphemy. Father Francesco still carefully monitored her days but she could live a life somewhat resembling that of people her age at this time of the year: final exams, running outside or swimming. All but the parties. For a while she felt normal; she even attended a meeting with alumnae of the Convent of the Sacred Heart where she studied until senior high. For the first time, she actually did not feel entirely estranged.
“De Santo! Wow, it’s been forever.” She turned around to see Elizabeth, her one friend from school. She had a superb smile on her face and she looked very much pregnant, which did not prevent her from bringing Delilah in a gentle embrace.
“Hey Bradshaw.”
“It’s Cooper now, which you’d know if you’d bothered reading my invitation.” Her friend replied, pretending to be annoyed.
“One year right?” Liz nodded. “And your studies?”
“Are you kidding? Dom works with his father now; I don’t need to worry.”
“I thought you wanted to be a lawyer.”
“I did. But Dom is one and I can take care of our house and with the little one on the way, I can focus on our family.”
“You happy?”
“Very.”
“Well it’s great then.”
“What about you?”
“Not much. Still studying.”
“You’re finishing the first year of your PhD right?” She nodded. “Subject? Don’t tell me. Let me guess. Angels and demons.”
“Not far.” Delilah smiled as Liz started laughing. “The representation of angels and demons in Italian Renaissance. Or at least that’s the idea.”
“You haven’t changed Lilah.” Liz’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Do you still see them?” She was the only one who staid with her when one of their classmates found and distributed her psych evaluation. Liz always thought it was cool whether she actually believed her or not. She didn’t know if the Liz she was talking to now was the same as before; that was what happened when one did not keep in touch. But she had never lied to Liz.
“Sometimes. Too often for Father Francesco’s taste.”
“And you still don’t know what it means?”
“No… I am not sure it’s something I am meant to know though.”
“Bah… anyway, what of boys? Do you have one in your life?”
“Someone crazy like me? No. My shrink says it’s not a good idea.”
“Who cares what these creeps say? You still seeing Morgenstern?”
“Yes.”
“Well, he hasn’t helped you much right? Let me see. Dom has some really cool friends at the office. They’re not likely to become partners before he does but they make decent money and they’re smart so they won’t feel threatened by a PhD student. Let me invite you at one of our soirees? Please pretty please. We haven’t seen each other in so long. I’ve missed you.”
It was endearing and she had missed Liz too, having a friend, someone who knew her. It was unlikely any of Dominic’s friends would find her interesting but spending time with them would be nice.
“Ok…”
“Great, what’s your phone number.” Liz fished out her smartphone from her purse and entered the number that Delilah gave her. “That a cell?” She nodded and took her own phone to type in her friend’s. “Right, so let’s say next Saturday 5:30pm.”
“What do I bring?”
“Just yourself.”
“Come on Liz…”
“You’re a student, certainly broke because it’s not the priests that will give you cash for fun.” Liz raised an eyebrow at her as she laughed. “That’s what I thought. So that’s settled. I see you next week and don’t come with a curfew cause I’ll speak to the Father myself if you do.”
She raised her hands, palms out calling for peace.
“Fine, fine.”

~~~

When Liz opened the door to their apartment the next Saturday Delilah felt herself blush. Liz looked as if she were going to a fundraiser. Delilah’s eyes dropped down to her pair of black trousers and white blouse.
“Gee Liz, I feel underdressed.”
“It’s ok. You’re the first in. Dom isn’t back yet. Come in…” Delilah’s eyes opened wide as Liz gave her a tour of the apartment. It was huge and beautiful. There was money there. Her friends had done well. “I have something you can wear. We still are the same size… before I was pregnant that is. I feel like a whale right now.”
“You’re kidding?”
“No I’m not. You have no idea how heavy that is. And not practical at all. Come and help me. I can’t get down to grab the shoes.”
“You’re not lending me shoes Bradshaw.”
“Course I am Crazy. You’re not wearing snickers with the clothes I’m lending you.”
“Well don’t lend me clothes then.”
“You’re as stubborn as I remember. Come on. Please.”
“And you’re still a bully.”
“A lovable one though right?”
“Sure.”
Delilah dropped on her knees to grab the shoes Liz wanted her to put on; at least it was a small heel. When she stood Liz had three hangers holding assortments of clothes.
“I’m still not a Barbie doll Liz.”
Liz ignored her and put one dress against her breast then a pair of trousers and a silk white shirt; same style she was wearing but much higher quality. She looked hopefully to her friend who threw the trousers on the chair beside her. Liz disappeared in the dress-in.
“Why not the trousers?”
“Because they require higher heels Lilah and I know you hate them.” Came her friend’s voice as if from far away. “Got it. That’s perfect.” Liz re-entered in the room with an emerald dress. “I have never worn it because I bought it just before I found out I was pregnant and I took a few inches right from the start. It will bring out your eyes.”
As it happened the dress had a low back, which revealed part of her mark but Liz argued that everyone would think it was a tattoo and that she had a killer body that she should show off. Delilah blushed embarrassed yet amused.
“You could still be a lawyer if you wanted.”
“You’re easy. You never could say no to me. Got you in troubles enough times. Come on, get in there.”
“What if Dom comes in? Or your guests?”
“It’s 6pm, Dom will be here soon, but the other guests won’t arrive before 7.”
“You lied?” She said in mock shock.
“I did not. I said I had missed you and wanted to spend time with you. That’s what we are doing. And I want men to know that you are clever, but also hot.”
“And raised by the Church.”
“Oh come on Lilah, it’s not like you are going to sleep with any of these guys now. But it’s worth putting your best foot forward.”
“Tell me it’s not only guys.”
“Of course not, half and half. And two married couples.”
“How many people Liz?”
“Twelve.” She gasped. “Don’t freak out. I am counting Dom and me. Look I know it sounds like a lot but it won’t be.”
“Sure… but don’t expect me to hold conversations. You know how I get among strangers.”
“I do. But they’ll love you. Let me dress your hair?”
“Sure, now that we’re there. But no make-up.”
“You don’t need it. Never have. You may not know it but you’re beautiful Lilah.” She shrugged. “It’s true and I hate that those priests make you feel you’re not… I wish you would dress so other could see what I do.”
“No one can see me as you do. They don’t know me.”
“Well we haven’t been too good at keeping in touch with each other.”
“It’s a first step right?”
“Yep. Come take a seat.”
Liz brought her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck as they caught up and laughed a lot. Liz had not changed much… They had just finished when Dom came in holding bottles; Delilah helped him set them on the kitchen counter while Liz started the oven.
“I see that Liz is still playing doll with you.” He said as he hugged her. She punched him lightly on the shoulder; she’d always liked Dom. He was easy-going and smart, and the way he looked at Liz was so protective and loving. “It’s good to see you Lilah.”
“Good to see you too.”
“I promise we’ll try not to bore you to death with legal discussions.”
“All the guests are lawyers?”
“Yes, pretty much, except Gabe’s brother. I’m not sure what he does… I’ve never met him so far; he travels a lot. He is here for the week so she asked if he could come.”
“Flight attendant?”
“I don’t think so… Gabe says he’s smarter than her and she’s clever as hell. I wouldn’t want to be the one arguing against her. I’m surprised she doesn’t work for the DA in fact. Ethics like hers… she won’t argue a case if she doesn’t like the client. Usually if she doesn’t they’re guilty; she has a sixth sense for that.”
“Stop talking about that Angel or you’ll be in trouble Dominic Ralph Cooper.” Dom’s eyes met hers and they laughed.
“Angel?”
“Liz says Gabrielle has the body of one of Victoria Secret‘s angels.”
“She’s got everything then, the smarts and the body.”
“Like my wife… and like you.” Delilah punched him again.
“Kiss ass,” Liz said as she finally joined them and kissed him lovingly. “He’s right though,” her friend added nodding to her.

Gabrielle did in fact have a model’s body; the long sleeved purple dress she wore showed it off nicely, particularly her endless legs. She was also kind and impossible not to like. It was clear that Liz was very fond of her and that it was a shared sentiment.
“So you are Lilah?” She asked after Liz introduced her. “Liz and Dom speak fondly of you. I was wondering when I’d meet you.”
“Ah… I have been remiss in my duties as a friend. I could blame my studies but…”
“Lilah can blame the priests.” Liz snickered.
“Priests?” Gabrielle asked.
Delilah rolled her eyes at Liz who stuck out her tongue before walking away. Typical!
“My guardian is a priest. It’s always been a joke for Liz.”
“Well, I’m surprised you even dare wearing that dress.” The other woman said eying the green dress that stopped just above her knees.
“Ah… I usually wouldn’t. That’s Liz’s. I came way underdressed for this.” Considering everyone was dressed to the nines, she’d have looked like a waitress at a fundraiser.
“I get it: our family’s quite religious too. I am not the most outrageous but definitely not as traditional as most.” She threw a look at her brother who was speaking with Dom. He wore a deep blue shirt and light grey trousers, and looked relaxed though something in his body seemed to be tense, always alert.
“Is he military?” Delilah asked as she observed. Gabrielle laughed, a crystalline sound. But she dropped her voice when she answered.
“Impressive. Few people can tell just by looking. Yes he is. I haven’t seen him in a long time. It’s cool that Dom and Liz invited him.”
As they sat for dinner, it became clear Liz wanted her to flirt as she was literally surrounded by young men. On her left Jordan worked in family law; on her right William, worked in litigation. They did not require much help to maintain the conversation and soon she was lost in translation. It was funny that they did not notice. Opposite her sat Gabrielle and her brother; and though he was listening intently to her as she excitedly exchanged ideas with Delilah’s neighbours he seemed to not care at all about the conversation, only about Gabe’s voice. The attentiveness in his body never left though.
“I’ll get dessert.” Liz spoke.
“Let me Liz.” Delilah volunteered.
“Thanks Lilah. It’s in the oven.” She aimed for the kitchen as her friend added. “And the ice cream’s in the freezer; it’s ready.”
“I’ll help. Stay where you are.” Someone answered.
Grabbing one mitt Delilah opened the oven and pulled out the apple pie Liz had prepared.
“Do you know where I can find the dessert plates?” She started and whipped around. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” It was Gabrielle’s brother.
“It’s ok… They’re behind you. I think we’re just supposed to put the iced ramekins on the plates and she’s already cut the pie.” Taking it out of the freezer, she handed him one of the small ramekins that held ice cream; he put it on the plate at the top of the pile.
“You’re not a lawyer are you? You looked lost out there.”
“No…” He remained silent as if he expected more. “History student.” She eventually added.
“Different.” He looked at her. “I’m Michael.”
“Gabrielle, Michael. Your parents had something for angels.” He frowned; she probably should have said something like ‘pleased to meet you’: instead she followed her thoughts. “Gabrielle said your family was religious. Gabriel, Michael, the archangels…”
“Yes… true. And you are Lilah, right?”
“Yes.”
“A nickname?”
“Yes.”
“Standing for?”
“Delilah.” She blurted as if compelled. He smiled.
“Also from the Bible.”
“Yeah, but not as positive I fear. I go by Lilah. It’s less portentous.”
“But not your name.”
She blushed at his tone and concentrated on preparing dessert until she dared to ask.
“Where were you stationed?”
“Gabe told you?” He didn’t sound too happy about it.
“No. I guessed. One of the brothers used to be a soldier; you have the same body language.”
“He taught you how to observe?”
“A little… So where were you?”
“Afghanistan, Iraq. Other places… but lately I was in Europe as an attaché.”
“And what does that mean?” He chuckled.
“I don’t really know. Consultant I guess… I’m done. Shall we?”
They brought the plates in a couple of trips. After they ate dessert Liz ushered them back to the living room. Most discussions continued around legalities and she did not participate much. Then suddenly Liz decided it was time to dance.
“She really wants to find you a guy, doesn’t she?” Gabrielle had found her again.
“She’s always made it her mission to make me do everything I would not. She’s trying to catch up on the four years she’s missed I guess.”
“You don’t seem to be too worried about it.”
“No, she would not force me. And I have missed her; I can play along.”
“Hence the dress?”
“That too.”
“She really cares for you.”
“I know.”
“She didn’t say why you could not come to their wedding.”
“She…”
“Gabe, will you dance?” One of the lawyers interrupted. Delilah shrugged and Gabrielle took the man’s hand. Dom and Liz were dancing as well and soon almost everybody had joined.
“I guess we should dance too. We don’t want to look rude.” It was Michael again.
“Why do I feel you don’t really care?”
“Seems you don’t worry about it much either. Or is it just for me?” She blushed, chastised.
“I’m sorry. I’d be happy to dance. You might not be.”
He smiled as he took her hand and led her into the dance; she had never danced. Not really. But he seemed to know exactly what he was doing. She shivered when his hand made contact with her bare skin. His hold was strong yet gentle as he guided her; it was easy to let him lead and it seemed to come naturally to her. Or maybe it was natural to him. But then…
“Why are you hiding your birthmark?” He whispered. She startled frantic. He did not release her; in fact his hold tightened, no longer gentle and yet not forceful. “I’ve been looking for you a long time Delilah.” His lips didn’t even seem to move. She looked around; no one had noticed. “They can’t hear…” His hand hovered near her mark causing her to shudder in terrified anticipation. When he finally touched it, it seemed feathers caressed her skin causing it to flush as if on fire. She had the sudden sensation she was being recognized – claimed? Almost two months. She had hoped. But there was no escaping what she was.
“Why are you trying to escape it?” He could hear her thoughts? “Not usually. This however is anything but usual. You are what you are. And so am I.” Military. Of course he was leader of the angelic host. Religious family indeed. She found herself laughing softly, which seemed to break the spell. She saw Liz look at her, a smile on her face. Let her friend believe they were flirting. Instead she felt a wave of dizziness wash over her. She needed…
“Water?” He asked… she nodded. They walked back to the dining room where she sat before reaching for the glass he set in front of her. He took a seat next to her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to scare you.”
“You have no idea…” She chuckled mirthlessly. She drunk some water before she asked him the one question he probably would not answer. “Are you here to kill me?”
His eyes met hers; he looked as if she’d slapped him.
“Why would you think that?”
“You asked me why I hide it; who would want the world to know they are the devil’s spawn? Or pawn rather because it doesn’t seem like I have choice.”
“Who told you that?”
“I was raised among nuns and priests. They taught me that.”
“Bigotry.” He sounded angry. “They don’t know the truth, they can’t understand.”
“And what is the truth?”
“Not here, not now. But it is no wonder we’ve had such a hard time to find you.” He seemed to consider. “Not a bad thing mind you, it would have been terrible if they found you first.”
“They?”
“You can guess. I know you felt the feathers… I imagine you can see all of us.”
She whispered bitterly. “They said I am crazy. Hallucinations. The devil’s finger on my soul.”
“You are not.” He took her hand causing her skin to tingle. “We’ve been waiting for you, searching for years.”
“Why?” He looked around… Not now he had said.
“Here you are!” Gabrielle interrupted entering the room followed by an upset Liz who was probably hoping Delilah would actually find a date tonight. “I…” She interrupted herself as Michael looked up towards her. Delilah did not see his expression as she was looking at his sister and Liz but she saw the female angel’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry. Raphael called.” Michael’s hand on hers tightened. “We have to go.” She was apologetic. “I’m so sorry Liz.”
“It’s ok. Is everything alright though?”
“It will be. Mike…”
He stood letting go of Delilah’s hand; she gasped suddenly cold and hollow. How could he fill the space like that?
“Let’s go.”
“Lilah, Dom asked if we could give you a ride back home, but you may want to stay longer… I’m sorry we have to cut the evening short.”
“Oh it’s alright. I’ll take the subway.”
“Not in that dress, you won’t.” It was Michael… she looked to him. For some reason the fact that she had something else to wear was the last thing she wanted to say.
“I appreciate your concern but you are not my father… all due respect.”
“That I’m not but… we’ll give you a lift.”
“Mike!” It was his sister who sounded as shocked as she was. “Liz, is it ok with you?”
Liz looked from Delilah to Michael and stopped there as if considering…
“Sure, I mean I can call Lilah and we’ll meet for lunch this week. Right dear?” What had just happened? “Let me grab your stuff.”
“Liz… I.” Her friend waved her away.
“Keep it. It’s alright…” What? No. She had not meant the dress. Lilah stood there stunned wondering what had happened. Within minutes Liz returned with a bag holding her clothes. “I’ll call you Tuesday ok.”
Liz hugged her… and went back to her other guests as if she was already gone. She looked at Gabrielle who shrugged and then Michael who took her hand. The sense of emptiness left her but the impression that she had no choice replaced it.
“Let’s go. Give me the keys Gabe, I’ll drive.”
Soon they were in the car; she insisted on being in the back. She did want to change after all and while driving it was unlikely the angel would look. She started with her trousers, which were on quite quickly. There was however no way to put her shirt on without removing the dress and she needed to put her bra on. She turned within the hold of the safety belt and pulled the dress over her head before she clasped the hooks of her bra.
“Lilah…” Gabrielle started before she gasped.
“What?” She answered as she shrugged the shirt over her shoulders and turned to the front.
“It’s Delilah, Gabe…” Her brother answered. “And she is the one we’ve been looking for.”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways…” Gabrielle said chuckling. “What were the chances of us all being at that soiree and you wearing a dress that would allow him to recognize you?”
“The odds were low,” He said. “But here we are. Why did Raphael need us?”
“Jophiel was wounded pretty badly and Uriel as well. They have news.”
“Ariel?” The tension in his voice was palpable.
“Is ok. That is thanks to her they are not gone.”
“Ariel? Is she the girl I met at the pool?” Delilah said…
“Yes. That’s why I came back from Italy: her certainty she’d seen you convinced me. I have been there almost twenty years looking for you.”
“Why?”
“That’s where you were born.”
“I know that, thank you. That is where I lived until a priest brought me here.”
The angel looked at her in the rear view mirror.
“A priest?”
“I told you before. I had a religious upbringing.”
“Yes by people who taught you that you were a tool for the devil.”
“And that is not what I am?”
“No.”
“Then explain to me. No actually tell me what just happened with Liz.”
“It’s fairly simple actually. She understood you had to leave.”
“How? What did you do to her?” He hesitated.
“Mortals hear the message of the Lord sometimes; not always,” Gabrielle explained gently. “But Liz is faithful; she heard within that you were needed elsewhere. She accepted it.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because we cannot risk losing sight of you. Not anymore…”
“And why is that?”
“Because you were prophesized.”
“Mike…” Gabrielle’s voice was filled with concern.
“You are a Nephilim. The first in millennia.”
“Mike…”
“Their love was forbidden…”
“Michael…”
“That is enough for now Gabrielle…”
That was all he said for the rest of the night about her past, and for many weeks afterwards.

~~~

She was standing by the window looking out. The city was spreading at her feet and she found herself wondering what it would feel like to fly over the buildings as the angels did.
“So. How have things been, Delilah? It has been a few weeks already since our last session. You cancelled.”
“Yes. I went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart.”
“Ah, yes you spoke of the alumni meeting. How did it go this time?”
“It went well… I saw Liz.”
“Liz Bradshaw? No wait she is married now.”
“Yes.”
“Delilah…” She could hear the scowl in his voice. Morgenstern never liked Elizabeth, never liked the fact she was her best friend. “That girl has always put you in trouble.”
“She didn’t put me in trouble. I put myself in the situations. She never forced me.”
“Maybe, but we both know you could never say no to her.” He was talking a lot today. He seemed to realize it and he asked. “So what of Liz?”
“She invited me for dinner.” He said nothing. “I went to their apartment. It was a nice evening. I met new people.” She stopped; for the first time in her life she did not want to tell everything to Morgenstern.
“You met a young man you liked.” It was almost not a question.
“I don’t know if like is the right word.”
“Love then?” There was something in his voice that she had never heard before. And she did not like it. “You know it’s not…”
“I know. I don’t know if it’s love. I don’t know him. It was more like a sense of familiarity, of belonging… I’m not sure why.”
“And what is his name?”
“Michael.” She barely heard the intake of breath. “What?”
“Funny.”
“Why so?” She really didn’t like the therapist’s tone today.
“Like the archangel.” He added and she shuddered. “Surely with your… fascination…” she knew he had meant obsession but had not said it… “You would have made the connection.”
“I did especially since his brother’s name,” She did not pause but she had a sudden wish to not tell him the entire truth. She could not have explained why. “Is Gabriel.”
Morgenstern gasped.
“Did you meet him?”
“Who his brother?” The doctor nodded. “Yes.” Morgenstern’s eyes narrowed slightly.
“Did he kiss you?”
“Michael? Of course not. It was the first time I met him.”
“Have you met him since?”
“Once…” Why was she lying today?
“And do you want to see him again?”
“I do. I want to understand.”
“Of course you do. It’s the first time you experience this: desire, want. This is new for you.
But be careful.”
“Am I not always?” She could not keep the longing from her voice.
“Delilah, I understand. I do; even more so than Father Francesco who loves you like a daughter. It is tempting. You are twenty-three after all. But you are also vulnerable and I don’t want a stranger to undo all the work we have done together. You hated medication; don’t do anything that will require you taking it again.”
Was it a threat? She remembered little about why she had to be put on medication, only knew that they had put her in a psych ward for two months and drugged her out of her wits. She missed school but also Liz’s wedding. She had felt out of her body for weeks after they stopped the medication as if she did not belong to herself, a little like the sense she’d had when Michael had touched her mark. She shivered.
“I won’t.”
“Good. So, tell me about him.”
She did, a little, not mentioning anything angelic; she really didn’t want to be locked up again. She went on till the end of her session.
“So Delilah, I will see you next week at the same time. You’ll tell me if you have seen this Michael again.”
“Sure, thank you Doctor.”
“And Delilah…”
“Yes?”
“Don’t let him kiss you.”
“Why?”
“A kiss is something powerful for someone like you.”
“Like me?”
“You have never been kissed till now child. The man who kisses you first will hold a power on you that you might not appreciate. Don’t give it away.”
She wanted to ask what “it” was but she didn’t.
“Oh… I’ll be careful.”
And with that she left. As she stepped out of the building she felt something. Turning her head towards the top of it, she saw a shadow at the top. An angel. Michael did say she would not go anywhere without one of them trailing her.

~~~

They had literally summoned her… it sounded so urgent. And yet she had not gone before she was done with her classes. Unlike them she had to belong in the world, something that was already hard. She took a cab to their apartment, a nice building close enough to Central Park. She buzzed their number.
“Finally!” came the answer. What was so urgent? She was scared.
When Gabrielle opened the door for her and led her to the living room she could almost taste and touch the tension. But just as she entered, Michael walked out.
“What’s happening?” Delilah asked… Gabrielle looked to her brother and shrugged as Raphael invited her to seat.
“He is wondering… well we all are what you were doing in a building with so many fallen.”
“What do you mean?”
“Every Tuesday for the past three weeks, you go to the corner of the 6th and…”
“I go see my therapist. Every Tuesday.” She replied defensively. “I only go to see him. I never set foot in any other office or apartment.”
“Why do you see a therapist Delilah?” Raphael asked kindly. Of course he would be the one to ask.
“Because I see you of course. When I first saw an angel, I was nine. I was so amazed and excited I told one of my friends… it ended being repeated to the school nurse. They thought I was seeking attention at first, but when I insisted it was true they said I was crazy. The priests agreed I should see a therapist instead of saying that they knew me to be the devil’s child. They’d have to go through therapy too.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you.” She shrugged.
“It’s just the truth. They sought a normal way to deal with my abnormal issues.”
“But it is not an issue Delilah.”
“Tell them that. Well you can’t right?”
“And you are not the devil’s child.”
“What am I then?” He did not answer that instead casting a quick glance towards the room where Michael had retreated.
“You do know you don’t need to go see him anymore?”
Could he be less kind? She wanted to be angry, except she could not. She sighed.
“I know it on a conscious level but he’s been here more than half my life. It’s hard to let go.”
“We all have to take a leap of faith once in a while.” His fingers drew the line of her jaw. “Even one such as you who knows as much as you believe.”
“Why is he furious with me?”
“Michael?” She nodded. “Because I believe my brother is finding himself attracted to you in ways he didn’t expect. And we aren’t known to be fast in anything.”
“Attracted to me?”
“You are a beautiful woman Delilah, don’t you know?” She shrugged. “It’s true; it’s sad the priests haven’t allowed you to see it. And we have…”
“That is enough Raphael…” Michael had re-entered the room and interrupted his brother as he stopped Gabrielle before. The healer shook his head.
“You will have to…”
“I know. But now is not the time.”
“What is it time for?”
“Food and a drink maybe.”
“I don’t drink…” Raphael chuckled. “Neither do you.”

~~~

“What do you think about going naked to the movies?”
“Sure…”
“Michael’s here.”
“What?”
“Oh sweetie…” Liz took her hand. “You really like him.”
Her friend had called and talked her into going shopping at Macy’s. It was hell. Figuratively speaking. There were too many people but Liz had decided Delilah needed a new wardrobe and in truth Delilah needed the distraction. Michael had avoided her for a couple of weeks; every time she went to their apartment he found a way to be heading out. Yet when he was here, he seemed to need touching her in one way or another. She was confused by that but she did like him very much even though she knew she was too far below him to count.
“I guess I do.”
“He’s playing hard to get?”
“What?”
“He’s giving or withholding affection leaving you wondering what the hell is going on.”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes he is. Idiot. Well let’s give him some incentive. When are you seeing him again?”
“I’m not sure. On Tuesday maybe.”
“Not going to see your shrink?”
“No.”
“Why?” She blushed. “Delilah? What did you do?”
“I lied.”
“You did?” Liz laughed. “Why?”
“I didn’t want to see him again. I told him I wasn’t in the city for the month.”
“Good for you. I don’t like him.”
“I know you don’t. Neither does Michael.”
“You told him about Morgenstern?” Delilah shrugged. “Oh that’s priceless. He really just needs a quick push if he hasn’t gone away yet. Let’s get you some dresses.”
“You just want to play doll again. You have your daughter for that now.”
“No. I want to show that guy he needs to take the extra step. And since I have the money, might as well splurge.”
“Liz… I don’t want you to spend this much on me. You already gave me a beautiful dress.”
“That was nothing! Consider this an early birthday present and a belated one. I haven’t offered you gifts in forever. Twenty-four… and you won’t even have a party.”
They went to a salon where attendants took care of hair and make-up, the young woman exclaiming over the quality of her skin and how it was she had never used any cosmetics. Liz looked so happy that it lifted her spirits. And so one little black dress, a pair of high-end quality trousers with a top, and matching pair of shoes and jewellery they came back to Liz’s apartment where her friend explained to her how to put the make-up in the same way the girl at the salon did. They had a movie night while Dom looked after Abigail and Liz drove her back to the building she lived in with the priests.
“You know Lilah. It’s time you found a place elsewhere.”
“I can’t Liz.”
“Will they oversee your life forever? Can’t you try to find love and make a life for yourself?”
“I don’t know.” She sighed. “I hope that once I have my Ph.D., I can leave but…”
“You’re not sure they’ll let you.”
“No.”
“Well… maybe Michael can be your way out.” She looked sharply at her friend who laughed.
“Liz. I’ve only known him two months; and not that well.”
“Nonsense. You’ve told him about your shrink. He’s the one. You’ve never told anyone about your shrink.”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure he’s impressed.”
“Well I’d say he is and with the clothes we got you he will be.”
“I love that you’re so optimistic.”
“I have to be. You and your damnation: you’re only damned because they make you believe you are. It’s always our choices Lilah. Damnation or salvation: no one can choose for you.”
“Thanks Liz.”
She hugged her friend and left with the bags holding her new possessions.

~~~

Central Park was beautiful dressed in its autumnal colours. They had been walking for a while and he’d finally taken her hand… Delilah felt his tension; she was tensed too. Suddenly he stopped and turned to face her; they had not exchanged a word in the two hours they’d been here and he did not seem to be willing to say anything yet. Instead he dropped his lips towards hers… Don’t let him kiss you. She wanted to let him, and yet she stepped back… she felt a strong pull towards him but she refused to answer it.
“What?” He asked surprise and hurt in his voice. He hadn’t expected her to refuse this.
“Tell me the truth. All of it.”
“Delilah…”
“Don’t I have the right to know?”
“I guess…” He sighed. “But Gabrielle and Raphael would be better at this than me.”
“You prevented both of them from telling me. And it’s you I want to hear it from.”
She fell silent; sometimes that’s all one could do.
“I don’t know quite where to start…” Still she remained silent. “You’re not going to help me, are you?” She shook her head. He grinned awkwardly. “That’s fair. Long ago some angels walked the earth… no you know that. The first Nephilim…” He paused bringing his hands over his face. She almost spoke then; she did not want to torture him, she just wanted to understand why she felt every time he touched her that she was not complete without him. That was too strong a feeling for her to comprehend. What did that mean?
“Let’s start with your parents.” She bit her lip. He was not looking at her as he started the story of… her story. “Their love was forbidden. Your mother was about to say her vows to become a nun. Her guardian angel, her guide fell in love with her, and she with him. He knew he could not but he loved her and he lay with her; and by doing that he fell. But because they truly loved each other she became pregnant with you… and was thrown out of the convent. That put your father in a rage and he destroyed it killing all who lived within; innocent died. So there was no returning to Heaven for him. He remained with your mother until you were born… but when he saw your mark he knew what you were meant to be. He might have fallen, might never be allowed redemption but you were his child. He knew he could not call upon the Lord to have one of us come, not anymore, but he could not let you fall into the hands of the others. He made your mother give you up that you could be protected. It broke her heart, and his but it was for you.”
Delilah’s tears were falling freely on her cheeks. She choked as she asked.
“How do you know this?”
He looked at her finally, and pushed a thumb against one of her cheeks to wipe away the tears. His touch burned and soothed her at the same time.
“I told you I have been searching for you. I found your parents… they told me.”
“They still alive?” She was breathless; she had never imagined in a million years that she could ask that question one day. And knew the answer as his eyes met hers with sorrow.
“I’m sorry Delilah. I truly am.”
“How?” He hesitated. “Please.”
“Your mother broke when she gave you up. She left your father and lived a life far removed from what she had known.” He was being kind: not giving her too many details. But she understood. “When I finally found her she had given up on life. She told me about your mark… I told her I was looking for you, told her who I was. I can only hope I helped her reconcile with our Lord and go in peace. But I don’t know for sure. Your father… Delilah he fell and when your mother left him he embraced his fall. I had to fight him to make him talk to me. He let me kill him but he would not tell me where he hid you because he didn’t want his Master to know. He might have fallen but he loved you.” She was trying to take all this in… “You have his eyes you know.” No she didn’t know. Was she damned because of her parents’ choice? That seemed so unfair… was anything her choice? Her feelings?
“Why do I feel this?”
“What?”
“When you touched my mark the first time at Liz’s, it felt as if I had been claimed. Why do I feel incomplete when you don’t touch me? Is that…?” He didn’t let her finish.
“That first night… I said you were prophesized. That is why your father hid you. “And thus she will come who shall mean the fall or redemption of all. She shall bear dragon and angel on her skin. Companion to the first of the host or the first of the fallen, let he who claims her first hold the power to save or damn them all.” Such were the words spoken by Gabrielle, messenger of the Lord more than three thousands years ago.”
He didn’t love her. She was just a means to an end… it hurt. But she didn’t say that.
“I am not a saviour. Jesus Christ is. He can save souls. He is the Son of God. I am not.”
“We are not talking about mortal souls Delilah. We are talking about the angels. You felt as if you were claimed because you belong to me. And I belong to you.”
“Am I just a pawn in your angelic wars then?” The Archangel looked surprised but didn’t answer, which saddened and angered her. “Morgenstern was right,” He gasped. “Too much power for one first kiss. I might not appreciate.”
“Morgenstern?”
“My therapist,” she chuckled sadly. She could not even contain the sarcasm. “You know… Lives in the same place as some fallen. You were not happy about it.”
“When did he tell you this?” She heard panic in his voice.
“After I met you at Liz’s.”
“You told him about me?”
“Of course I did. I tell him everything… that’s how therapy works.”
“Did you tell him who I really was?”
“No!” She exclaimed. “In fact I even lied to him about you.”
“Why?”
“Because I didn’t like his tone when he spoke to me that day. When he said that it was funny your name was Michael what with my ‘fascination’ for angels, I mentioned it was even funnier since you had a brother named Gabriel. I almost said Raphael but it felt wrong to tell him. It was the first time I felt like that.”
He took her in his arms with an urgency that scared her…
“What else did you tell him?”
“Nothing… I didn’t want to even when he asked. I don’t want to be locked up again.”
He didn’t ask what she meant… “Do you know what Morgenstern mean?”
“No.” He didn’t care. It wasn’t love.
“It’s German for morning star. Lucifer.”
She gasped. “But.” His hold tightened. “Michael you are hurting me.”
He let her go as if she’d slapped him.
“I’m sorry. Oh God… fifteen years he has had you in his grasp.”
“No.”
“Fifteen years to lead you to his ways.”
“No. He didn’t.”
“Has he touched you?”
“No! He was my therapist. I…” She reached for the angel but he stepped away. “Don’t.” She felt the tears come back. “Don’t leave. Listen to me.” She took his hands in hers and thankfully he let her. “You were the first to touch me, my mark. Ever. The priests, the nuns, they would not do it. You should know this. I told you; when you touched it the first time, it felt as if I was claimed. If he had touched it, would I not have felt that before? Would you have been able to do it?”
“No… I don’t know.” He breathed. “Maybe…” He stepped away from her. “I don’t know.”
“Don’t. Please. Don’t.” She pleaded. “Please.”
But he turned around and left her where she was. It was a long time before she realized that the night had fallen and that she should go home.

~~~

“Delilah, are you ok?”
“Hum hum…” She answered.
“Delilah… Watch out!” A hand grabbed her, jerking her away. She’d almost crossed the street in the middle of the cars. Not unheard of in the city but well.
“Sorry Father.”
“Why did you come with me if you’re not going to be there?”
“I’m sorry. I was…”
“Distracted. I know, I noticed. Is everything alright?”
“Yes…”
“You haven’t been yourself lately. What’s going on?”
“Nothing important. Don’t worry about it.”
They had just left the shelter for addicts where Father Francesco came every Friday to give comfort and mass for those who wanted one. She’d come with him since she was ten although less frequently over the past year. Even less over the past few months and she’d felt bad about it.
“Is it a boy?”
She chuckled sadly: not really a boy. But she never had the opportunity to answer the question as a man stepped right in front of them, his face hidden by a hoody. His hand moved as if in slow motion holding a gun in her face.
“Give me your purse.” She was so shocked she could not move. It was not rare that such things happened in the neighbourhood but most people knew Father Francesco… who stepped in front of her.
“Come on brother. We have no money.”
“Get out of my way. I want her purse.”
“It’s ok Father.” She reached around and extended her hand opened that he could grab the purse without her hooking onto it by mistake. It was going to be alright. Except it was not. The man grabbed her hand instead and pulled her towards him, but Father Francesco’s frame was between them and he was the one who stumbled against the thief. Probably panicking he shot his gun. It sounded like an explosion and Father Francesco gasped as the man stepped back swearing loudly. The priest was falling and as she knelt beside him, the man ran.
“Wait! Wait! You have my phone.” He did not turn. “No. No. Father.” Delilah reached into his pocket. Please. Let him have his phone. He did. Shaking, trembling she dialled 9-1-1 and spoke to the dispatcher… it was not real. Would time not stop?
“Please come, fast.”
“The team is on its way.”
It was not fast enough she almost screamed…
“Delilah…” She met the priest’s gaze. “It will be ok.”
“Shush… the paramedics are on their way.”
“They won’t make it on time.”
“Yes they will.” People were starting to gather around them. Delilah wanted to scream at them; didn’t they have anything better to do than watch a man as he struggled for his life? She turned to tell them to go away but one man moved closer to them kneeling by the priest looking at her. “No… no go away.” She knew who he was, of course she knew who he was.
“I am sorry. There is not much you can do about this child.” The angel said.
“Go away.”
“Delilah. Who is this?” The wonder in his voice meant he could see the wings too.
“Azrael,” she whispered.
“So you do see them?” Father Francesco choked. “I am so sorry; we should have believed.”
“No.”
“It is time then?” The angel nodded and she started crying in earnest.
“Don’t. Please.” She said the same thing to Michael but he left anyway… And so did Father Francesco. The angel rested a hand on his forehead as Father Francesco exhaled his last breath. As Azrael literally disappeared bringing with him the priest’s soul, the ambulance arrived – too late to do anything. In shock, she let the medics pull her away from the body as they swarmed around it like bees. She felt rather than she saw one of them guide her away to check upon her. Within moments she started shivering…
“You are in shock. I’m sorry, the priest was not supposed to die…”
“What?” The voice came through the fog and she looked up on a face she had seen once before. “You?”
“Oh you remember me good. I was not sure you would. You were just a kid after all. But I don’t expect you remember my master…” He pointed out. They had moved away from the crowd, of course they had, and stood in a dark alleyway. She shivered again as she noticed three figures, dark and winged but with the crooked and broken shaped wings of the fallen. The man – he was dressed as a priest when he brought her to New York – shoved her towards them. She fell on her knees in front of one of them.
“How appropriate Delilah.” She knew that voice; too well. She’d heard it every Tuesday for almost fifteen years. Michael was right after all.
“It’s enough Forcas.” Another voice rose, one that she’d only ever heard in her head. That one voice she usually listened to when she wanted to get in trouble. It had always sounded rich and deep a voice worth listening to. When his hand rested on her brow she understood; the nuns had known all along that she was damned. He did claim her after all, only from a time when she could not remember. How did he find her when Michael had needed so much time? She started praying as he pulled her up asking for forgiveness for the sins she didn’t remember committing and those she did remember. He was not dashing but handsome enough to tempt men and women alike with his pale skin and halo of golden hair. Yet the gleam in his dark blue eyes was cruel even as he smiled. “It’s been a long time Delilah.” She didn’t answer. “Well for you. You don’t seem to remember. Twenty years isn’t that long for us. You’ve grown into a beautiful woman. Almost worthy of the queen of angels.”
“No…” She breathed… not sure of what it was she denied. Twenty years?
“What? You don’t think you are beautiful?” She shook her head. Terror threatened to overwhelm her. Deep within she called for help. “Forcas you did a poor job at keeping her on track. There is so much work to be done… See Delilah I’d rather have a willing bride but it seems Forcas here has not helped you much. He was always more interested in ethics. He should have known better.” The other fallen stepped backwards as if he’d been slapped and keeled over with a silent scream. He wreathed on the floor as if he were in pain; she couldn’t keep her eyes away from him even when Lucifer started talking again. “I had hoped to get to know you differently but it seems my annoying siblings found a way to get to you. I had to take a shortcut and I don’t like it.” She looked at him once more. “I had planned this so carefully; even dated your friend Liz for a while that it might not be entirely out of place that I cross your path some time soon in the future. But Michael wants you. I don’t think he ever desired anything this badly…” That seemed to pierce through her fear for a second.
“No he doesn’t.”
“What?” His gaze pierced her that she dared interrupt him. She took a step backwards into the other Fallen’s chest.
“Michael, he doesn’t want me. He knew it was too late.”
He laughed and she shivered; there was beauty in his laughter but also a sense of something rotten, spoiled. He had been the most beloved of the Lord before he fell; it showed.
“So he has lost you?” That was not what she had said but she didn’t tell him that. “Hell has no fury…” He reached for her hand. The sense of belonging that she had felt with Michael spread along her skin only laced with darkness and a sudden certainty; if he did kiss her she would lose herself within him. There would be nothing left of what and who she had been. “I can feel it; it’s here. That potential for darkness. It will be less painful if you embrace it.” He was not talking to her, not really. She was just a tool; she’d just be another slave.
“That is enough Samael,” a female voice resounded behind them. “Leave her alone.”
“Hello Gabrielle.” Delilah tried to turn but his hold tightened. “Stay here love.” The word tasted rotten in her mouth but she found herself rooted where she was.
“Delilah, are you ok?”
She nodded but the truth was that she was scared almost out of her wits.
“How did you find us?”
“How do you think Samael?”
His fingers caressed her face and she shivered in terrified anticipation; his hand closed around her neck pressing against her windpipe. Struggling to breathe she quickly felt dizzy.
“Did you pray Delilah?” She bit her lips that she didn’t whimper. “I asked you a question.”
“Yes…” She breathed. He laughed even as he released the pressure.
“And only Gabrielle answered. You are truly hopeless sister. She is obviously mine; you can’t save her. Alone you stand no chance.”
“What makes you think she came alone Samael?”
The sound of wings could be heard and shadows landed around them at least two dozens.
“Raphael; this is to be a fight. Why are you here? You always remain behind.” There was no answer and the first of the fallen laughed. “Oh Michael hasn’t come. You were right love; he knew you were lost. And he didn’t tell them.” Apparently she still had hoped maybe she was wrong for silent tears started running down her face. He laughed. “Ah. There it is that darkness. There might not be a fight after all. Come.”
He pulled her against him; that first kiss. She knew what would come. There might be no redemption coming from the angels but that didn’t mean she had to give in to him. Liz had said it: salvation must come from her. Yet she couldn’t pull away; his lips only just brushed hers the darkness within leaping in answer. She didn’t want this; would the Lord above truly allow it?
“Delilah. I’m near.”
She hadn’t expected that voice; she gasped in shock. It spurred her into motion; she tried to step away only Samael was holding her tight. She kicked him in the knees and the surprise caused him to let her go. She fell away from him and pushed herself further on her hands; they revolted with the pain caused by the fall but she didn’t care.
“How?” He was furious. His entire being seemed to burn with a dark fire as he walked towards her. She would probably not escape him but he couldn’t claim her; faith had counted for something after all. Around them a fight broke out; there were only three of the fallen beside their leader but they formed a tight barrier between the angels and her. He knelt and seized her hand again. His hold wasn’t gentle; in fact it felt as if he had claws instead of fingers that traced lines of blood on her skin. “I told you Delilah,” he hissed. “I’d rather have a willing bride but I don’t care much.”
“Let her go serpent.” His head snapped up.
“Michael.” He seized her and brought her so close to him she felt his breath against her ear. “You have come. Too late. She’s mine.”
She couldn’t see the angel’s face.
“Obviously not or we would all have turned. You haven’t claimed her truly.”
Something cold suddenly rested on her neck.
“Let me through Michael or she dies.”
“I’d rather she dies than becomes your slave Samael.”
“Oh but I will enjoy it; you will all serve me. Not only little Delilah here, but all of you. With all of you at my feet I’ll reclaim Heaven too. What will He do without his army?”
“No.” She whispered; she wouldn’t be an instrument of destruction. She freed one hand and placed it against the one he held the knife with. Before she could think or be afraid; before he could do anything she forced him to cut her neck.
“NO!” Two voices screamed in unison; she fell as if in slow motion. There was darkness and light but she couldn’t focus. She spared a thought to wonder if Azrael would come or if she were meant for hell. Which of the fallen tarried to bring the damned? She didn’t know that. There was someone laughing and then nothing.

~~~

“She’s waking up.”
“She should…”
“Silence, both of you.” A soothing voice ordered. Her mind registered the tone: Raphael. She tried to say his name but no sound came out. There was pain so much pain; in her throat, her head, everywhere; her entire body seemed to have been battered relentlessly. “I’m here Delilah. We all are.” Who? Why? “Don’t try to talk. You can’t.”
She opened her eyes slowly; by her side sat Raphael. Behind him Michael, Gabrielle and Samael watched her intently. Why would they all be here? She bit her lips as her hands reached for her neck. They were heavily bandaged and Raphael took them in his.
“Don’t. It’s fine. You’re fine. You will be.” Her eyes moved from him to his siblings including the one fallen. “Shush. Don’t worry about it. You are still yourself.”
“She should be mine.”
“Samael; for her sake I allowed you here. You will be silent or this truce will be over.” Why her sake? What had she done? “Gabrielle will you explain?”
“No. I will,” it was Michael. He had come after all. He sat opposite his brother and took her hand. She could feel the heat through the bandages. “You did something very stupid Delilah. And extremely courageous. You know what happens to those who commit suicide…” she nodded fighting back the tears; had she done exactly what she had sought to prevent? “You chose to die.” She met his eyes. “I know what I said. I didn’t expect you to act this way. But because you did it not to save yourself but us… the Lord granted mercy.” What did that mean? “You are both dark and light, fallen and blessed. You chose for yourself. Neither Samael nor I can lay claim on you. We remain as we were and so shall you; almost.”
But why was Samael here?
“I’m here because though I cannot claim you a part of you is mine. And because you claimed yourself a part of me is yours.” What did that mean? Like Michael and Raphael it seemed the Fallen could hear her or guess at what she tried to say. “Our Father has a wicked sense of humour sometimes. You were willing to damn your soul to prevent the fall of all angels; he is teaching me a lesson by binding me to you that I might learn why he loved man better than us.” There was resentment and anger in his voice. He was not happy about this but he had no choice. He had not expected such a twist in the story.
“And me.” Michael added. “That I be reminded of the same.”
She didn’t want them to be bound to her. She wanted… she didn’t know.
“Calm down Delilah.” Raphael said leaning a hand on her brow. “Our Father was merciful but you still almost died. By all accounts you should have. In this Samael is right. Be grateful our Father loves you. But now you must rest.”
She was grateful; that there had been redemption. But she wished finding it hadn’t cost Father Francesco his life.
“I know,” someone said even as she fell asleep.
~~~
“Lilah?” She had woken in a room suffused with a soft light. Gabrielle was sitting by the bed. “Raphael said you would be thirsty.” She was. “I thought you might be hungry.” Gabrielle chuckled. She smiled; she was starving. “Good.” She had brought soup and some soft bread.
“Th…” she couldn’t finish the word; it hurt and the sound wouldn’t come out.
“Don’t try. Not yet. You damaged the vocal cords. It’s going to be a while before you can speak normally again. You don’t need to thank me.” Delilah reached for the bowl; her hands were still in bandages but not as heavy as before. How long had she slept? “Three days. Raphael thought you might need another day.” She failed to grab the bowl, her hands not strong enough to hold it, almost causing it to fall. “Be patient. It’ll be a while before you can do everything you want to.” She sighed. “Don’t worry. You’re lucky you know. I’ll help you.” Gabrielle spoon-fed her slowly; swallowing proved painful but she felt better for the food. “What you did was crazy, you know that?” She shrugged; she did the only thing that felt right. “Raphael prayed long before He answered. I think Michael would have ripped Azrael to shreds if he’d come any closer to you.” So she had been supposed to die; but who had laughed? “Laughed? Lilah, no one laughed. We were all worried. Even Samael. He was just as anxious as Michael to save you. Surprisingly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it feel this strongly.”
“How?” She managed to whisper.
“I’m not sure I understand… when he claimed your mark twenty years ago you were too young to choose. In order to make it easier when he met you again he left a part of him inside you. Except that without knowing it he bound himself to you. And you have walked your own path; despite everything you’ve kept faith.” That still didn’t mean anything to her. “Don’t worry about it Lilah. We don’t understand all of it either but the Lord’s message was clear. You made your own choices and you cannot be compelled to either side. Your choice to die wasn’t unlike…”
“Gabrielle,” she shivered. That voice. “Can you please go save the kitchen from Ariel? She is trying to cook something you prepared and won’t let any of us get in.”
“Oh no.” The angel stood. “Who even let her in the kitchen? Mike, can you…?”
“I’ll be there.” Even as Gabrielle left he took her seat. Only when he did he made contact with her skin and that sense of belonging spread inside her making her heart clench. If he left again she’d die. “I know I told you already but what you did was extremely courageous.” She had expected him to say stupid or crazy. “No. Dangerous yes. You scared us. Me.”

She met his gaze, surprised that he said this. There was relief and sorrow and so much more in his eyes. It seemed the thought she might not be for him after all had terrified him. And that was why he had pushed her away. Or was she just hoping again?
“Are you? Do you?” She rasped; but in truth she couldn’t say the words. She was scared of that sense of belonging to him as if she was not whole without him. She may have chosen for herself but this was different.
“Don’t try to speak. Raphael said to wait.” He murmured softly even as his fingers ran down her arm. He seemed to hesitate but the intensity of his gaze made her shiver. She had refused him once; he wouldn’t try to kiss her again even if he must die of it. This was her choice to make. In fact he might not want her to. But she needed to know. She extended her bandaged hand towards his face trying to sit up. Her entire body revolted against it as pain hit her. She didn’t mind; she had to. And he wasn’t going to help her. She looked up to him even as he smiled; she smiled back. Slowly, painfully her mouth came closer to his… but not enough.
“Michael,” she breathed her throat raw with the pain, her heart hurting from being so close and yet so far. It was as near as begging him as one could go and he heard it. Though he didn’t answer and reached behind her back and carefully brought her against him, causing her heart to clench. She did love him so much it hurt physically, more than anything else. She finally reached up and kissed him. And he let her… when he kissed her back, she found herself breathless.
As gentleness turned to passion and need he seemed to glow. Soon she was basking in a gold and white light that shone as bright as the sun except when she opened her eyes she could look at it without being blinded. As if he knew she was watching him Michael let go of her mouth, albeit reluctantly and holding onto her opened his eyes as well. He smiled.
“So you can truly see me.” She nodded. He laid her back on the bed before stepping away from her causing her to gasp though he kept his hands on her skin trailing them from her shoulders down her arms till he held her wrists. Delilah looked down to see the feathers of his wings start moving on his skin. Slowly very slowly it looked to her as if they were lifting away from his body. Michael was unfolding his wings detaching the feathers from the skin; they tore through the shirt he was wearing revealing the muscular upper body of a soldier used to action. But his wings were all she looked at; they were a pearly white though not from any bird she’d ever heard of. She had always been able to identify them, but not his. She looked to his shoulders as the wings lifted from his skin there; she gasped bringing her fingers to her mouth as they finally spread their entire span. They were glowing and so was he. One hand still on her lips she reached with the other to his arm. She knew somehow she should not touch his wings. She brushed his skin, perfect and free of any ‘ink’.
“White eagle…” He breathed; he didn’t need her to ask. He could hear her. He wrapped one hand around hers and kissed her brow. His mouth on her skin was compelling; she may not be claimed or compelled but he had claimed her heart well and truly. She reached up for him and he embraced her his wings folding around them even as their lips met again. And as they did a sense a burning suffused her entire body; her back suddenly caught fire. It hurt badly enough she whimpered against his lips though neither of them seemed capable of stopping. He seemed compelled as much as she… but she was burning.
“Marry me.” He eventually whispered in her ear causing her heart to stop for a second. She leaned back meeting his gaze. “I know I can’t claim you but…” awkward and painful her fingers found his lips. Of course she would spend the rest of her life loving him but that was it: the rest of her life. How short would it be for him whose life was endless? “Delilah I love you… You are Nephilim. And…” He stopped himself. She reached with her second hand framing his face with her broken fingers. “I can’t tell you.” She blinked. “I have to show you. Raphael will be mad at me.” She placed one hand on her heart. “Your choice. I know. Still… Fine. Just let me…” She shook her head no painfully. She liked seeing him with his wings freed. He looked the way he should. He smiled and gathered her in his arms. “You cannot stand either yet Delilah.” What had she done? “Samael and Raphael tried to explain it but I didn’t really listen. What I know is that you are supposed to rest.” He sat her in a chair in front of a mirror; she gasped. Her right arm seemed to be a gigantic bruise black; her hands she knew… her neck was held in a thick bandage and her face was bruised, her eyes black and blue and swollen. How could they look at her? “You’re beautiful Delilah. These will go away fast enough.” He let go of her hand and she felt a sudden shudder of fear.
“No.” She mumbled.
“I’m not leaving. But you must see.” He was back fast with another high mirror that he held against him and stood behind her. She brought her hands to her mouth in shock. She could not reach over her shoulder so she trailed her fingers on her right arm: not a bruise in fact. It was the black broken wing of the fallen; that was why the fingers on her right hand were broken and why she couldn’t walk. Fallen and blessed. Being with Michael would always burn her because she was both dark and light. “Does it scare you?” If he meant the pain of loving him, no she was only afraid he didn’t love her. “I do love you.” If he meant the wings; yes, she was terrified. The Lord had a wicked sense of humour for sure. That was the laugh she’d heard. “A laugh? No one laughed Delilah. We were all too worried.” There was a laugh. The laugh someone loosed when a prank played out the way they wanted. “It would be cruel.” No it would be a test of faith. And a reminder to Samael that ultimately God’s gift to man wasn’t only love but also free will. No one could be claimed indefinitely; Heaven was a gift to be earned one choice at a time, one selfless act could change the balance. “Do you really think Samael would have owned you if you hadn’t wanted to die to save us?”
It was a possibility; one she believed strongly in. Liz had been right. Something stirred deep within her as if someone spoke to her and acquiesced to what she was thinking.

©scolpron2014

I don’t recall where I found the picture; I’ll put the link as soon as I do.

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