1956: An Interlude III
She smelled of earth, and lavender, and honey, and as Evan plunged his face deep into the wilderness of her hair he felt a part of him slip away. It was a dark part, a sullied slice of his soul that he’d employed to do what he’d done for a living. He was not sorry to feel it recede.
Verina moaned against his neck, bit him lightly, and Evan cried out, more at her pleasure than his own.
Afterward, they lay in her bed, she with her head on his chest, the sheet tangled between her long legs, revealing tantalizing triangles of flesh, and he with his arm wrapped possessively around her. Outside a light drizzle pattered the windowpane. Wind chimes jangled melodiously somewhere.
“I know why you came here,” Verina said after a moment. Her tone was not accusatory but sad. “I’ve dreamed of you for a long time.”
Evan stiffened against her. “I—what are you talking about?”
She sighed. “It’s sinful to lie to someone you’ve made love to. And may dampnacioun befall he who fessten flesh and breaken that merry band.”
Evan glanced at her. “What language is that?”
Verina shrugged. “Some dialect of Middle English. My father spoke it all the time. But you’re evading the subject.”
“Well, I don’t know what you said.”
Verina sighed. “I don’t like to be lied to. Especially not by a man I just slept with.” She rose, pulling on her dress—Evan felt some light go out of his eyes as she covered up.
“You sleep with a lot of men?” he asked, rising on one elbow.
Verina laughed, meeting his eyes with her mismatched ones. “And am I so quickly yours that you have a right to know such things?”
Evan shrugged. “Just a question,” he said.
“Tell me your real name and I’ll answer your question.”
Evan felt his face flush and threw away the blankets, swinging his legs out of bed so he could pull his own clothes on.
“Why is it so hard?” Verina asked. “I already know your name isn’t Bill Sanders.” Her inflection rose with the name, making Evan feel ridiculous for having used it at all.
“You have no idea what—” he stopped, hitched a deep breath and exhaled through his nose, then continued dressing. “It’s better you don’t know my name,” he grunted.
Verina leaned in front of him like a child inspecting a very interesting bug. “But I already do,” she said. “I’ve known you a long time, Evan Harmont.” He reeled on her, snatching her delicate wrist with one strong hand and bending it. She cried out and fell to her knees, staring up at him with hot, angry eyes.
“Where did you hear that name?” he snarled. “Where!”
She glowered back at him, unafraid. “I told you,” she said, restraining the urge to scream which, Evan knew, must have been very great; he had her hand bent nearly backward. “I’ve known you for a long time. I’ve dreamed of you. I know why you came here. Now let go of me.”
He let go and watched as she rubbed her wrist angrily. “I have to leave,” he muttered, snatching his jacket from the floor.
“Where will you go, Evan?” she called after him, but he was bounding for the door, thoughts of Rebecca and the girls already pouncing on him, tearing the guilt open in his heart like a fresh bleeding thing. “What will you tell your boss when you show up without my eye?”
The question froze him mid-stride. “Jesus Christ,” he whispered, his mouth trembling. He turned. Verina stood leaning against a thin wall in the scant hallway, her hands clasped disarmingly behind her. He couldn’t read her expression; her face was composed if a bit haughty. Evan didn’t like it, but what he liked less was the rising desire to take her back into the bedroom. “What do you want from me?” he asked.
She strolled forward, one foot in front of the other, seeming to study the ground. When she looked up he saw plainly that one eye was very different from the other. It was made of glass, and it bore his reflection with startling clarity. In Verina Magus’s eye, he looked like a man imprisoned. “You came here to kill me and take my eye,” she flicked a nail against the glass to emphasize her point, and Evan shuddered. “But I don’t want anything from you. You’ve been in my dreams. I’m satisfied having finally touched the flesh of my dream. As far as why you came—” She reached up, plucked out the glass eye, and held it out to him. The closed lid where that eye had been looked oddly deflated, but Verina Magus was still the most beautiful creature Evan had ever seen. “Take it,” she said sharply, gesturing at him with the eye. It was an odd thing, Evan saw, perfectly convex on one side and concave on the other. The iris a strange honey color closer to yellow.
He reached out, paused. “Why are you doing this?”
“You have a family,” she said simply and said no more. Evan took the eye, put it in his pocket, and then they stood staring at one another. Finally, Verina shrugged and said, “May the Mother watch over you.” She turned and walked away.
Evan watched her leave, feeling that dark slice of himself so newly vanquished come burning back. He shouldered this burden anew, along with the knowledge that he would never see Verina Magus again, and saw himself out.