THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 4.5 - I HATE YOUR GOD

A soft but persistent knocking stirred Becky from her sleep. It took a few seconds for her to peel her tear-encrusted eyes open, which she promptly wished she hadn’t once the morning light blinded her. She flopped around on her bed, burying her head in the pillows. The knocking sounded again.

She groaned. “What do you want, Craig?” she said, half-muffled by the pillow.

“How, did you know it was me?” Came his response.

Another groan. “Because you’re the only one who knocks,” Becky replied, flatly.

“Oh.” Silence prevailed.

With a huff, Becky disentangled herself from the sheet. She fought her way into her dressing gown before opening the door, then turned and walked back into the room, letting Craig decide whether to enter or not.

She heaved her case onto the bed and flung it open. Vaguely, she was aware the angel hovered nearby.

“I brought this through for you,” Craig said, uncharacteristically reserved.

Glancing up, she saw her laptop, its lid raised, the power light still on. She sighed. Cain had forgotten to shut everything down again. She’d considered buying one for him but then realised dank cellars, and the likes wouldn’t do it any favours. So she’d allowed him to use her’s, setting up email and Facebook accounts for him.

“Thanks,” she replied, dismissive, stuffing some more of her clothing into her case. She pointed to the dresser. “Just put it over there. I need to shower.”

He placed the laptop where she indicated. “Ok. I’ll wait in the lounge.”

Stopping midway to the ensuite, Becky whirled around, agitated. “I don’t need a baby-sitter, Craig! I’m a big girl now.”

She was answered by a grunt which instantly made her feel a little guilty for snapping at him. Her mood was not of his making, and although her emotions were all over the place, she felt terrible for venting. “I’m sorry,” she said with a sigh. “I haven’t slept well.”

Craig dug his hands in his pockets and nodded acceptance.

“Look- ” Becky began as she moved towards him. “I know Cain’s gone - .” She reined in the next sentiment - A lot sooner than I had hoped, but...

“He does care for you, Becky,” Craig injected, his voice now confident.

Startled by his comment, she frowned. Then the remnants of last night’s bitterness rose once more. ”Does he? The thing about being a vampire, Craig - or indeed, an angel -” She gestured present company, “- is that tomorrow literally never comes for you. You have eternity to do whatever it is you feel you must do. Talking monkeys, like me, on the other hand, are limited. That’s why we care so deeply and completely; because we don’t have time on our side.” And still, I’m too damn scared to open up; but what’s the point anyway, she thought as sadness threatened to engulf her.

The angel continued to stand, hands in pockets, just staring at her. His silence was unusual.

Becky snorted - an attempt to disguise her awkwardness. “What! You’re not going to try and convert me, Craig? Why are you not preaching your usual thee’s and thou’s?”

“And what good would that do you, Becky?” He replied after a moment, his face serene.

His response surprised her. She stumbled back, quickly correcting her footing.

“You cling as passionately to your beliefs as I do mine,” the angel announced.

Becky could not fathom his reaction. Out of the two Fallen who had befriended her, Craig was the more severe and seldom missed an opportunity to try to persuade her God existed. Granted he didn’t preach out of thin air, but when she displayed some form of grievance against the Almighty or His “Plan”, Craig would enter into a debate with her, although it was never heated. Now it seemed he’d accepted her inveterate beliefs, for all he did not share them, and this left Becky discombobulated.

She huffed her frustration. Nonetheless, thoughts became audible as they tumbled from her lips. “I hate your God.”

Craig’s mouth curved into a smile. “How can you hate that which you do not believe in?”

Becky groaned. “I thought as much! Trying reverse psychology or some other devious form of argument, are we?”

“No,” Craig replied. “But, hate is just a word for you. You do not have it in you to truly hate.”

“Oh, spare me! I can...” Her words hung in the air as Craig’s hands clasped the sides of her head. She looked up into his eyes. They shone amber, liquid flame. Panicked, she tried to wrest her way free, but his grip was like a clamp keeping her pinned.

A sensation she could not at first identify coursed though her, swirling within, like hands sweeping through multi veils, uncovering whatever lay behind. Then the disturbing realisation hit her - she was being invaded, probed, exposed. Craig, or rather Kokabiel, was combing through her mind, searching, analysing.

A surge of old images burst forth - all tumbling, jumbled and disassociated, but still maintaining their potency. Faces from long ago swam in Becky’s head, voices ebbing and flowing; some happy, encouraging, others mocking and unkind.

Gradually, the trajectory of these memories slowed, falling into place, forming an order. People in her life, workmates, customers, friends - all were being ‘sifted’ through, scrutinised, noted.

Michael’s image loomed before her in a myriad of emotions. Initially overwhelming and blissful they turned to distrust and heartbreak from seeing him with his last conquest. Her eyes welled - the wound still a little tender, even after all these months. But, something else had replaced that initial hurt.

Cain.

As images from their last time together manifested, Becky’s tears flowed freely. Her hands rose to cover Craig’s, her fingers trying to peel his from her head, but he would not relent. Fiercely his eyes burned as he approached the new truth behind Becky’s current state of mind. “Stop!” she whimpered. “Stop this!”

Abruptly, he pulled his hands away, leaving Becky gasping, feeling violated.

She stared, disbelieving as Craig’s eyes gradually lost their fire and cooled to the familiar hazel. “Why would you do that?” she breathed.

“To understand why it is, you feel so miserable.”

Becky was rubbing her temples, although there was no physical pain, just emotional exhaustion. “You could have just asked!” she whined.

“And would you have told me?”

His question left her in shock. Inwardly, she was screaming at him - What the fuck did you find in there? Dread prevented her from asking him outright.

“You envy the dead.”

"What?” Now he seemed to be able to read her thoughts without even touching her. Reeling from what had passed over the last few minutes, she was unable to say anything further.

“You should not be jealous of her,” Craig explained. “Cain cannot understand he was not responsible for Melantha’s death. She had asked that he turn her, yes, but it was a lifestyle she could not adapt to, and for that, he feels guilt. Unnecessarily. Nevertheless, it is a burden he continues to carry.”

Still unable to speak, Becky focused on trying to hide the shame of having her innermost thoughts and feelings deciphered.

With a curt nod, the angel turned and headed towards the door. Before leaving, Craig faced her again. “Perhaps I should not say this, but if you love him as much as you seem to, you will not press Cain to do that which he fears will cause you more pain than joy. You know he is a tormented man; he shoulders much regret. At loggerheads with his faith and more recently, his identity, he nevertheless has made keeping you safe a priority; even though you may not see it that way.”

Without waiting for a response, he quietly left the room, the door shutting with a small click.

Becky stood, immersed in embarrassment and shame, wishing she was a million miles away. A pressing need to remove herself from the villa washed over her, so she turned towards the bathroom, planning to get herself ready for her journey.

A small ping stopped her in her tracks. She looked at her laptop. On closer inspection, she saw a notification flashing on Cain’s email. The pull was irresistible, and before she took the time to check herself, her fingers brushed over the keyboard.

Her eyes scanned the professional-looking invitation which opened once she hit the link. The name of the establishment - ‘Nitelife’- was nothing elaborate in itself; it was fairly commonplace, she thought. But why would Cain be interested in the likes of a nightclub? Then one of the associates’ names caught her attention. It was one she’d overheard Nick and Craig telling Cain.

‘Magpie’.

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