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10. Homecoming

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Caine returned to the inn the next day. And he had company with him.

Miss Deacon Burton herself.

Ah. And the plot thickens.

They flirted for a while – nothing out of the ordinary. It was like watching disaster flirt with catastrophe. They were both trouble walking in one way or another. Caine was responsible though – he had a good head on his shoulders. She was an addict; she was a fool and a sex fiend in her own way. I don’t know. I should have warned Caine, I should have told him to stay away. But he was an adult. And I knew better than to interfere in anyone else’s life. I was a disaster in myself. So it goes.

I thought about when to go back. The longer I stayed here though, the more at home I felt. It was relaxing. The only problem was that I was living off my inheritance. And eventual profits from the tattoo shop. I didn’t have anything to do here. I hadn’t created anything in the longest time. I felt so lost artistically. I didn’t know what to do, what direction to take. The possibilities were endless, as they tend to be when it comes to art. Like I said, I lent Caine my efforts at times, I figured that it might help me get going. I was wrong.

So I had to become accustomed to the latest addition to the inn residents, Deacon, who I’d been acquainted with at a distance for ages now. I felt like I knew her so well at times, and others, it was like I’d never met her before at all. I kept my distance, keeping myself to myself for the most part. I went to more races, mostly alone since Deacon was in town. Caine spent most of his time with her. I don’t know how he felt about her, in his own words, but you could see it in his eyes. He was completely star-struck, he saw something in her that none of the other guys did. I don’t know exactly what it was that got him. Perhaps it was hope, or potential? I don’t know. Maybe it was her sudden clean up that got to him. She had lived a life of chemical influence, sex, drugs, rock and roll – the whole bit. Now she was off most of the drugs, cut down on the guys, and for the most part, she was better for it. I tried to pretend I knew how he felt, but I was just as clueless as the next guy.

A few days went by, and then weeks. I was still here. I had heard from Irish through letters. I was shocked to hear from her at all. She let me know that everything was going all right, she mailed me a check of the profits from the tattoo parlor, along with copies of the books so I could keep up. Shirley was beginning to show, much to her disappointment. She was particularly proud of being one of the guys all the time, never letting her feminine nature stop her from doing anything. Reality just hit her, and it was doing a number to her self-consciousness. Moe was dealing with everything considerably well. Dusk was being surprisingly responsible. She said that he would be leaving the circus soon to work at the shop full time. I was proud of his decision. Him and Riley were getting more serious as time passed, a piece of information that I kept to myself. Beyond that, the rest were little updates of minimal importance, news about the bar, the new kids that she hired to replace the few missing. All in all, everything was working out just fine.

So here I am. In this moment, wondering where to go in my life. I have opportunity at every turn, and yet, I’m still stuck in the midst of madness without a clue as to which way to head. And then things took a twist for the more interesting.

I was walking yet again at some bizarre hour of the morning, again through fog and mist, when the familiar form that I’d met during my last trek appeared. She took a few steps, then made a sweeping turn and stopped. Her form was there, frozen in space. I blinked my eyes several times to distinguish if she were really an illusion or not. Yet, sure enough, the closer I came to her, the more lines were visible on her form. The more real she became. And the less distant I was from my land of delusion. This was something real, something tangible. And something I could never have. She was the ultimate in untouchable for a guy like me. And I knew it. I knew it from the first time I saw her. I briefly wondered if this was what swept over Caine when he first dealt with Deacon head on.

I crept closer until I was just a few feet away from her. She stood there, her breathing the only motion she took. She was dressed in light clothing, which swayed with the breeze. A cold wind came through, shivering through my spine. She didn’t move. I took another step and she remained yet again.

“Do you always roam around alone at such hours?”

“Do you have nothing better to do?” She responded, eyeing me curiously.

“Where’s your noble lad?”

She laughed, taking a step to the side, walking past me. I whirled around, falling in step slightly behind her. “Noble? What a presumptuous term.”

“You’re very articulate for a…”

She stopped, turning abruptly to look at me. Her brow furrowed, her eyes flashing for a moment. “A what?”

I coughed, looking down at the ground. “Nothing.”

She took a few steps towards me, forcing me back. I didn’t know what to do. This was a strange creature, and I was in a strange land. I thought about bolting, turning and running, but I knew she’d never respect me again. I’d never get even the lowliest of glares from her should I turn and run now. I can’t explain what caught me about her. Everything previous to this moment seemed to fade to black, and this seemed like the most important sentence I would ever utter. She crept closer, putting a hand on my face, pulling it towards hers.

“A what?”

“A…dream.”

She smiled slightly, letting go of me and stepping away. “Explain.”

I stepped back from her, beginning to involuntarily pace. I wondered when the last time I’d taken my medication was. It dawned on me right then that it’d been weeks. I had been snorting it too quickly; I’d run out and couldn’t get more without returning to the city and seeing my regular doctors. I didn’t want to create a problem here. I looked down at my hand, where it lay at my side. It was shaking uncontrollably. I tried to get my mind to function properly, but I could get nothing to work as it was meant to. I couldn’t explain. I wondered if she could see exactly how clueless I was. This was the closest I’d been to a girl since Brie. Nobody had ever reached out and touched me like she just did. I couldn’t explain it. Brie. Who the hell was Brie? The vague image of Brie that followed me day to day had disappeared with all the rest and here I was, standing here, shaking involuntarily, unsure if I was nervous or if it really was cold. Looking up at the sky, I saw it had started to rain. I truly was cold. She was waiting for my answer, the rain slipping sleekly off her hair. Her expression didn’t change; she didn’t shift her step impatiently. She just stood there, arms folded, waiting.

“This can’t possibly be real,” I muttered, blinking hard as the rain fell heavier. She just kept staring at me, trying to hold my gaze with hers.

“Tell me why.”

“Because in the waking world, the really real world, I’m invisible.”

And she walked all the way up to me, dangerously close, closer than I’d been to anyone in years, my own parents included, and she kissed me. This stranger, promised to someone else, the baby sister of the cops that were determined to put me away. And she backed away with a smile, her eyes locked on mine. I was lost in them, they were clear, carrying on for miles.

“Was that real?”

And I nodded. I nodded absentmindedly, hoping to shake myself back. I took off my coat and put it over her shoulders, leading her out of the rain. She came with me, without a complaint or smart-ass remark. She was docile and calm now. And I was intoxicated.

I lead her back to the inn, sneaking her up to my room as best as I could. We were both soaked to the skin. I didn’t know what to do. This was completely…surreal. I began to wonder if this was just a highly elaborate dream. Some dreams are so real that you can feel everything, every bit of it, and you wake up wondering where the water went that you were drowning in. And I was drowning all right, in the light, in the sound, in the rain and the sudden flow of emotion from my heart. And for that moment, right then, I felt more alive than I’d ever felt in my entire life. She was sitting on the bed, watching me pace around nervously again. I didn’t know what to do next. Where to go from here? She spared me the effort.

“And you, do you have a name, fellow wanderer?” She got up, standing in front of me, a hand on my chest.

“Hyde. I mean…Edward. My name’s Edward.”

She smiled. “Which is it, sir, Edward, or Hyde?”

I shrugged. “Whichever you prefer.”

And she was content. “I think I’ll stick with Ward all the same actually.”

And I let her have it. I didn’t give a damn what she called me as long as she stayed. She pulled me so close that our bodies were pressed together, as she turned her head to kiss me again. From there, the movements were graceful and swift, slipping onto the bed, wet clothes sliding off our bodies smoothly. Only once everything was said and done and we both lay side-by-side, sweat-drenched and exhausted, with her curled up next to me, did she reply to my most simple inquiry from our first meeting.

“Damiano.”

“Hm?” I turned my head to look at her. Her eyes turned up to mine as she stirred a little.

“My name. It’s Damiano. Or Miano. Or Mia. Or whatever other short little name you could come up with out of those letters.”

I kissed her forehead softly. “I think I prefer Miano.”

And nothing else was said. Nothing else needed to be said. She fell asleep, her head on my shoulder, my arms wrapped around her. After she’d dozed off and I’d started to come down off the initial high, I wondered what would happen if anyone found out about this. Who would kick the shit out of me first, her siblings or her current boyfriend. I wondered if this happened all the time, if she frequently wandered the streets in search of lovers. If this would ever happen again; would I get lost in the mist of her memories So many things plagued my mind, worries and concerns, but once I looked down at her, sleeping peacefully, all doubts were put to rest, and eventually, I joined her in peaceful slumber.

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