“Just at the top of those stairs, you’ll find a small room where you can watch the stage.” Ben directed me through a small door exiting from the lobby. “Nobody will know that you are up there.”
“What is it?” I questioned stepping into the dark stairwell.
“Before they got the computerized system, everything was run from that room up there. Please hurry inside before someone recognizes you.” Ben rushed me further in the stairway and shut the door.
The light up at the top of the stairs barely lit them enough to find my way up. I kicked the first step to check the steepness of them. After searching for a hand railing realizing that there wasn’t one I slid my hand up the wall to help keep my balance. Once I reached the top I saw the old consul that controlled everything just like Ben said. Looking over top of it the window gave me a great view over not only the stage, but the audience as well.
There were two chairs left up here and I took one turning around from the window throwing my coat into the other one. I ran my finger over some of the buttons to remove the excessive amount of dust that was building up on them. It was clear that no one had been up here for some time, most likely a few years.
I had no wish to be here at all, but it was nice to be out of the house that I had been held captive in for the past month. From what I understood though, it might have been longer, but I can only remember the last month. Ben and I had this planned for weeks now, but after everything that perspired last night I wanted to stay home. Whatever it was that I had seen it terrified me to the core.
It was no memory; of that much I was certain. It was a future, but what kind of a future I didn’t know. I could feel myself using magic like Anthony and Matt had done. I couldn’t use it now for some reason. I had tried several times. Just as I had tried several times to tell Matt what I had seen. When I had finally found the courage within myself to say something to him, he had already disappeared for the day.
How could I possibly tell him in a way that he would understand? Would he even consider the fact that I had seen a future in which his brother would kill him? Even though it wasn’t permanent, it obviously broke any kind of brotherly ties that held them together now. Would telling Matt now, break it before it even happened? One thing that I did know was if I didn’t tell him and it happened I would be to blame because I knew.
I was so lost in my thoughts that I had not heard the door open at the bottom of the stairs or the fact that the lights had dimmed in the auditorium. With his footsteps and voice echoing through the stairway I nearly jumped out of the chair. When I looked in his direction he was turning to go back down the stairs, but he turned back around, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t realize someone would be up here. I’m not sure where else to watch from. Do you mind if I join you?”
I grabbed my coat allowing him to take the other seat. “There is another chair.”
“Thank you.” I watched cautiously as this man took the chair. His eyes instantly went towards the window to watch the beginning of the ceremony. Slowly he stood up and leaned over the consul with his face nearly plastered against the glass. When I realized that he was completely intrigued by what was going on I turned back around in my chair. “Why would you risk being up here, if you not even going to watch?”
“I came to support, um, a friend, but I’m not sure anymore about our friendship.” I replied, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to even give a stranger that much. “Why aren’t you in the audience? Wouldn’t that give you a better view?”
“I wouldn’t risk having her see me. She made it quite transparent the last time I saw her that she didn’t want me in her life.” I listened as the man fell back down in the chair.
Slowly trying not to bring any attention to myself I began sliding my chair further away from his, “Are you stalking her?”
“No,” The man instantly answered, but then faltered, “I don’t know, maybe. I don’t want to. It is just that I haven’t seen her for some time, and I know that she will be here. I guess I just want to make sure that she is happy, and if she is happy without me in her life then I can accept that.”
“And if she isn’t?” I questioned.
The man inhaled deeply, “She will be. She’s been waiting so long for this day to finally come that I don’t know why she wouldn’t be.”
I fumbled the small diploma in my hands, “It’s just a piece of paper. Why wait for something that can’t really do anything for you?”
“She wouldn’t agree with that.” The man turned in his chair allowing a small screech to echo in the tiny room. “She would say that she’s finally achieved something, maybe. Maybe she would agree with you.”
“Sounds like you don’t know her very well.” I chuckled.
“I know her better than most.” He sighed and turned again. “And I know that even though she may appear happy today, she truly won’t be. She hasn’t been for some time now.”
“But you just want to see her happy, is that it?” I asked him finally turning around to see the stage through the window. There was no sound here in the room, but I could see the man at the podium speaking with all the graduates sitting in front of the audience.
“I would give my life for her happiness, but I’ve wronged her so many times that I fear she wouldn’t accept it.” The man peered over the edge again to study the people again. “She doesn’t love me anymore so it doesn’t matter. So this is it for me. I just want to see her smile one more time and then it is over. Everything I’ve done in my life has been for her, but she refuses to accept anything from me, not even my love. All I have left is her, and now that she is gone I’m completely and utterly lost.”
“Does she know that you love her?”
“Yes,” he leaned back in the chair as another speaker came out on the stage. “She knows. There was one moment in this life that she had given me such hope. I knew that moment when she looked in my eyes how much she cared. She loved me, even if it was just for a second, she loved me then. I was so afraid of when that moment would move on. I tried so hard to keep her there with me, but I lost her.”
“Why, if everything you say is true, can’t she love you back?” I couldn’t help but ask him now that it seemed he was on the brink of breaking down on me. He conveyed so much love for her, but he never explained why she didn’t except that he had wronged her.
The man leaned back in his seat and sighed deeply. I watched as his hands ran down over his face and he looked up towards the ceiling as he answered. “I think she’s afraid.”
“Terrified of falling in love,” He laughed lightly. “We should all be so lucky. Instead we fall so quick, that we have no idea what hits us. Are you in love, Miss?”
This time I sighed and glanced into the audience, “Explain to me what love is.”
“Is there any one person in your life that you would place their life above your own? You would do anything within your power just to see them smile. They are always on your mind especially when they aren’t around.” The man continued staring at the ceiling, “In short, is there anyone in your life that you don’t think you could live without?”
My eyes found Matt sitting in the audience, but then I looked at the man sharing this moment with me. “I don’t think I’ve ever found love.”
“Well, they do say it is better to love and lost than not loved at all.” The man finally leaned up in his seat, “I suggest you go out and find love.”
“So much easier said than done.” I turned my chair back around. Now that I had found Matt in the audience my eyes continued to land right on him. My mind kept wandering to the future that I had seen. Those feelings of losing him were still present within my skin and I feared that they would become real if I continued looking at him. “I don’t think I want to find myself in love. No offense, but I don’t want to end up like you. I don’t want to be in love with someone that won’t love me back.”
“She does love me.” The man exclaimed leaning forward to watch as the rows of graduates stood. “Or at least she did.”
“See, that is exactly what I mean.” I chuckled at his demise in love, but then grew solemn about the subject. “I don’t want to be you. I just want someone to love me and never take it back.”
“So you do know what love feels like.” He laughed at my expense. “I would have never thought.”
I stood up this time and watched as all the graduates walked onto the stage. Anthony was leading them all and instead of taking a seat he leisurely glided over to the podium. “Oh no. What is he doing?”
“Uh?” The man stood up beside me just as a flashlight glared into the window from the other side. My eyes quickly looked beyond the light to find the security guard motioning to others. I looked in Matt direction, but the man who I had been sharing this forbidden space with grabbed a hold of my arm ripping me away from the window. “I think it is time to go.”
For this being first time in meeting this man I had to agree with him. He had pulled me halfway down the stairs before I realized that I had left my coat and diploma on the chair. I stopped momentarily so that I could go back to get them, but he had pulled on my arm not aware that I needed to back. Instead of going up the stairs as I had wished I landed in this man’s arms at the bottom of the dark stairwell.
His breath was warm on my face and I looked for his eyes in the darkness. His arms were wrapped around my body tenderly and yet so firmly refusing to allow me to fall. I looked for his eyes, but I only caught a breeze from his head as he whipped it around in the direction of the door. The smell of him engulfed me completely. A sweet spice aroma ate at my soul. In this moment I had forgotten what we running from or what the point was in running.
“We must go.” The man’s voice broke me out of whatever trace I had drowned myself in with him.
After I was planted once again on my feet and he wasn’t so near I had remembered why I had decided to return to the small room at the top of the stairs. “I have to get my coat. It’s still up there.”
“There’s no time.” He noted throwing the door open blinding me. “I don’t know about you, but I cannot afford a trespassing fine.”
I wasn’t sure that a fine was what I was running from. I was more afraid of what Matt would say or do once he realized that I was out of the house. My fear was becoming more of a reality as I was being yanked in the direction of the door and I watched as he came through one of the doors. At first he looked confused, but as our eyes met I could see the disappointment welling inside of them. He didn’t chase after me like I thought he would.
It wasn’t any more than a second after I saw him come out several security guards came through another one. Unlike Matt they were pursuing us quite quickly. I turned my attention forward and pushed the man faster. We were side by side, hand in hand, running towards the same goal. My mind wandered to what would be our goal once we reached the doors. “Do you have a car?”
“I thought you would.” The man laughed as he pushed through the goal.
The rain hit my face breaking me into the reality that we would be running for some time now. Unless Matt decided to just instantly appear in front of us like he did quite often now. Disappearing and reappearing. I swear most of the time any more he had done it just to annoy me. I did realize that after sometime when Buddy was around whatever powers Matt had were reduced to nothing.
Finally after we were a few blocks from the school I looked back noticing that they were no longer after us. I slowed pulling on the man’s hand beckoning him to stop. This was the most exercise that I had done in a month and with my lack of sleep it took everything within me not to collapse right there in the middle of the street.
I raised my face to the sky and allowed the rain drops to fall freely on me. As I tried to catch my breath the man that I had spent this exhausting time with was now, it seemed, having a conversation with himself. When I finally felt I was able to speak without gasping for air I looked up at him. By now he stopped talking and as I let my eyes fall on him he backed away from me.
He was much older than I thought he would have been. He couldn’t have been much older than twenty five, but for being so in love with someone just graduating I had assumed he would have been younger. I was immediately intrigued with the scar that stretched down over his eye. There were also several lines across his opposite cheek making me wonder what might have happened to him. What caught my attention above all were his eyes. Pain and confusion delved deep inside of the ember color.
His fingers ran through his golden hair leaving it to fall loosely over his face. “Ash?”
“Great!” I threw my hands up in the air and turned around. It was just another person that knew me, and I couldn’t remember them. Maybe Matt was right and I should just stay inside the house. I should have just listened to myself this morning and not left with Ben insistent pleading.
I began walking back towards the school when I realized that Matt would still be there. I tried to find my way back to the house, but I was so lost in my own thoughts on the way here that I didn’t know which way Ben had drove. I was sure that I had walked around the whole town twice, but not one place looked the same. That was until I saw him again.
By the time that I sat down next to him on the curb I was completely soaked by the rain. My coat was back at the school sitting on the chair up in that tiny room. I had thought now that I knew kind of where I was to go back and get it. Since I was a student I couldn’t get into much trouble for being there. It would ruin Matt’s story of me being horribly ill, if I just showed up like I had. Perhaps the story was already blown if someone noticed me other than this man.
He didn’t even give notice of me sitting next to him until I began shivering fiercely. Without a word he stood up, leaving me to worry that he was just going to walk away. I looked up to ask him, what I had come to ask him, but he began placing his jacket over my shoulders. The warmth from his body inside nearly heated mine immediately.
I smiled to thank him, but he had ignored me completely. Making my appreciation louder I turned towards him, but he stared directly at the street. After several minutes of my constant staring he finally spoke, “What more could you possible want from me?”
He still refused to look at me, but he wasn’t angry. When I looked away from him and in the direction that he was staring he threw his hands up in the air. I could only presume that it was an objection to my silence. It was clear that he had given so much to me that I didn’t know and I wasn’t sure if I was right to ask him for something as simple as directions. I was also aware of the confusion I would cause by asking something like that of him.
“I’m sorry.” I apologize for everything that I had done to him even though I had no idea what it was.
The man stood up and looked down on me. “Is this some kind of game for you? Honestly, what am I supposed to say now? I poured out my heart in there thinking it was some stranger just to find out it was you. You, who just sits there, why, are you doing it just to torture me? And what is the apology for? Please just smile and pretend to be happy so I can leave. I’m tired of you killing me with my own love.”
It was clear by the time he was done verbally attacking me that I was the one he was searching for in the group of graduates. Tears filled my eyes to the brim. Whether they had fallen over I didn’t know. My face was already wet from the rain cascading down on me. Slowly I gathered my legs under me and I turned ready to walk away from him. I didn’t want to hurt this man anymore than I already had, but I thought it would just be easier for him not to know.
I took one step, but then turned back around. I didn’t dare look into his eyes for fear of what I would see inside of them. Instead I kept them firmly planted on his chest. The rain had now drenched his white dress shirt and it clung to his skin showing yet another scar. This one was directly over his heart just like mine.
Even though I hated relinquishing my only source of heat I handed him back his jacket. “I’m sorry that I can’t smile and pretend to be happy. I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done to you in the past and perhaps one day you’ll find someone else to love.”
The guy ripped his jacket out of my outstretched hand. “See this is exactly what I mean by you can’t accept anything from me. Not even something as simple as this. Instead you apologize and hope I find someone else to love. Ash, I can’t love anyone but you. Isn’t that what you just asked for, someone to love you and never take it back? Please don’t walk away again without telling me why you won’t let me love you.”
My tears continued boiling just at the rim of my eyes. I didn’t wish to break his heart even more especially when I saw the pain pouring through his eyes as he lifted my face towards him. Quickly I pulled myself back away from him letting my stare fall back to the ground. “I can’t.”
“You mean you won’t.” He stepped forward and I could feel his eyes gazing down on me.
There was no holding back my fears as I looked back into his eyes, “I can’t. I literally can’t tell you why.”
Confusion leapt through his eyes now as he questioned me. “And why is it that you can’t?”
“Because I don’t even know who you are.” I didn’t know if I would be able to explain it to him and I hoped that I didn’t have to when I saw him step back away from me. “I’m so sorry.”
I watched as he looked around for answers in the rain, but there wouldn’t be any to be found. Finally after he looked inside himself he looked to me. “I guess it’s really over then. You ripped me completely out of your life. I’m sorry that you had to meet me again.”
Most people would have asked how or what happened, but not this man. As I watched him turn to walk away I was afraid. Not of being left alone here and lost in a town that I didn’t know. I was afraid that I had hurt him more than I could understand. I was also terrified of the fact that I had thrown away love before I even had the chance to feel it. This man loved me and he had assumed that I forgot him intentionally.
“Wait!” I nearly screamed at him when he was still only few short feet away from me. I had this fear that he was ready to disappear like Matt does. “I need you to know that I didn’t do this. I want you to understand this wasn’t my choice.”
“And whose choice was it? Sure as hell wasn’t mine.” He turned and I could see the anger growing in his face. “I should have known the moment that I told you that I would rather be a beggar and still love you that you would do this. I was really hoping my time in coming here wouldn’t be wasted, but it would seem it was. Even after you ripped me out of your heart and took everything from me you still can’t seem to find happiness.
I could have been happy losing everything in my life if I could just see your smile one more time and you couldn’t even give me that much. No, all I get from you is a small token of your love just to have you rip it away from me. I have been starting to really question why I love you so damn much. I don’t know if it is all the memories that have built them up inside of me since I first saw you or if it is because I will never really have your love.
Hell, I even went to your father, he who knows all. He told me that he saw you love me, in this life, but I was not as I was. So I gave up the only thing that you left me with just for your love. I gave what was left of me for you, but you can’t even remember who I am. How can you love me now that I am nothing?”
I melted right there in self pity. I believed everything this man said even though I didn’t understand most of it. It was clear that I had turned into some hideous cruel woman to everyone around me. I didn’t want to be that woman at all. I had wanted to ask him for forgiveness, and something told me that he would give it to me without question. I knew though that I could never forgive myself for what I had become therefore I had no right to ask forgiveness of everyone else.
There was no way of expressing how I felt to this man. The only thing I could do was stand there in front of him with the rain pouring into my eyes as I looked up to him. The anger on his face slowly fell away as did his glance. “Forgive me. If this wasn’t your choice or mine, whose was it? Who would have that kind of powers to reach into your mind and pull me from it?”
“Marc.” My answer was clear and as plain as day, but he looked at me oddly. “Marc had those kinds of powers.”
“Who told you this? Who said it was,” The man choked on the name as it came out, “Marc?”
I found it quite unusual that this was the first person I had come in contact with that didn’t correct me when I said his name. Nearly every time I mention the name Marc around Matt or Anthony they would remind me each time that I called him Marcus. “Do you know him?”
“It is clear that you don’t.” He began laughing, “Ash, it’s me and I can assure you that I did not steal your memories.”
Matt told me how in love Marc was with me and here was this man pouring out his heart. I wanted to slap myself for not seeing it sooner, but instead I let my hand fly across his face instead. It left an abundant amount of shock afterwards nearly making me sorry that I had done it. Never before in my life had I struck anyone, but the rage building up inside of me was thrust forward. A month’s worth of being ignored only to find him here leaped right through me.
“I’m not lying this time I swear.” Marc begged for credence. “As much as I have wished in the past to remove all your memories of what I’ve done to you I wouldn’t. Please believe me.”
The irritation had built up enough inside of me that the cool rain no longer made me shiver under its unrelenting drops. It seemed as though I had ignored them completely and they evaporated with the wind. Although the rain had dissipated my tears did not. Everything built up inside of me making me want to scream in protest against it. The confusion was the worst of the pain. If it was not Marc, then who?
“Ash?” I could hear his voice, but he was gone from my sight. The stress from the last hour had built up so much within me that it exhausted my mind. I tried to focus on one thing at the moment the smell. If I couldn’t think clearly in the moment I knew that smell. It was the aroma that I had sniffed inside of his arms. It drew me in and I wanted to keep it.
“Ash, wake up.” His voice came once again with his spicy sweet smell. I opened my eyes to see a smile rise from his lips. The light shined in his light brown eyes when they caught mine in their stare. “How are you?”
“Aren’t we all?” Marc’s smile climbed into me and was returned. “You fainted on me. Are you alright?”
I inhaled his scent deeply, “That depends.”
Hope gleamed inside of his eyes, but I could see a sense of fear behind his optimism. “If I may ask, on what?”
“You say you love me and declare that you know me better than most.” Slowly I sat myself up, but my eyes remain focused on his. I didn’t care where I was. The bed was warm and I was out of the rain. “Tell me then if it is true, what is my favorite flower.”
“Lilies.” A bit confused he smiled still, “It has always been lilies.”
“When did we first meet?”
“Is this a trick question, Ash?” He immediately withdrew his hope and sat straight up beside me. Once I shook my head he, it seemed searched for the answers within himself refusing to look at me now. “The first time I met you was over a hundred years ago now, but the first time you laid eyes on me was less than twenty.”
After he answered his eyes shot straight to mine and I could see that he was questioning if that was the answer that I was wanting. The truth was I just wanted to know. Neither Matt nor Anthony could give me these answers. Marc would be the only one that could give me the truth. I laid my head back against the headboard and closed my eyes. “Tell me about when you first meet me over a hundred years ago.”
It wasn’t clear to me how he would have been able to meet me that far back in time, but so far it didn’t seem unfitting. His voice began and I was hoping that it would bring back the memory into my mind. “I was searching for a way to break the spell and I pushed my mind to the future. I woke up in a world that I didn’t know and didn’t understand. I found myself in the city searching for Michael, but instead an angel wondered into my path. You knew me, but I was unable to remember the past that had transpired from when I pushed myself into the future.”
“So our circumstances have switched it seems.” I lifted my head and smiled at him. “Tell me, what is my favorite aroma?”
“What?” Marc questioned.
I reached and latched a hold of his shirt drawing him nearer to me. Sniffing deeply I absorbed him into me. “It is you.”
“Ash, what are you talking about?” Marc tried to pull back against my grip, but refusing to allow the buttons to rip off of his shirt he stayed within my grasp. I wasn’t sure if my next move would be considered proper or even right because technically this man was still a stranger to me. The love that he had enveloped my heart with when he spread it out there for the girl who turned out to be me I wanted to feel it, embrace it, kiss it.
My heart raced as our lips came together. The blood boiled in my veins and I release his shirt only to allow my fingers to wrap around his shoulders, over the back of his neck, and I left them tangled in his golden hair. His arms wrapped around my waist pulling my body closer to his.
I knew love now, even though it was with a stranger. There was no way I would want to lose it or release it in anyway. It wasn’t clear to me how I could not love this man, but his endearing love eased the pain in my heart. His lips erased all the confusion of not remembering who he was. In this moment I loved him without regret.