A moment after the world went black; I was suddenly standing in an old Victorian style coffee shop. The walls were pale green and decorated with antique framed etchings. Thick bitter smells of coffee and cinnamon drifted through the air.
Gabriel sat at a table in the middle of the empty room. He cradled a large cup in both his elegant hands and leaned his head over the steam that eerily rose from it. His eyes were closed as he blew gently over the dark surface of the caramel colored liquid.
I gingerly walked towards the dark wooden table and sat in the empty chair opposite him.
His broad shoulders rose slightly as he inhaled the aroma and slowly sipped a tiny bit through pursed lips.
Before me, out of nowhere, appeared a large mug covered with frothy white whipped cream; strands of sweet caramel crisscrossed the top. I cupped my hands around it and shivered at the warmth. Even though I wasn’t in the snow any longer, I could still remember the iciness in my bones.
I lifted the heavy mug to my lips and tasted the creamy sweetness. Across from me, Gabriel opened his eyes. We stared at each other through the rising steam of our coffees without speaking.
Coming somewhere from out of the dark silence, hummed a low hissing sound and the all too familiar beeps of a life support machine. The faint sounds surrounded us and set a morbid mood against the beauty of the lovely soft Victorian style ambience.
I looked down to notice my fists were clenched tightly around my coffee mug. This was different. Much different from any other time I’d died. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on or are you still playing your cruel games with my soul?”
Gabriel’s face was expressionless as always. His features were more angelic than I’d ever seen, his skin was pure ivory and his eyes were the reflection of heaven itself. His form hummed with an invisible current that made me yearn to touch him. I clenched my cup tighter and focused my eyes on the dark wood of the table; the dark patterns of the knots of wood twisting and turning in their stillness.
His eyelids lowered and he tilted his head nodding to the side of us.
I glanced over to where his eyes had directed me. There, through a now transparent floor, was the image of a stark hospital room; Grace lay on the bed attached to machines and tubs. Just like before.
I felt my shoulders slump when I saw Shane and Lea occupying the seats in Grace’s room. They seemed to be in a heated discussion. As always, Shane was raking his hands through his hair. Even out of Grace’s body, I felt a tingly heat rise to my cheeks when I saw him. He was beautiful, perfect. I tried to swallow, but the emotion got caught in my throat and tears rolled out of my eyes.
“I hate you, Gabriel. I hate all of you,” I whispered through my tears. I could no longer hold back. “Humans have more goodness in them then angels. You have such emptiness in you.” I slammed the chair against the table and walked to the transparent part of the floor, brazenly sitting and hanging my feet over the side of the abyss. I would no longer go by anyone’s rules but mine.
I could hear his beautiful raspy voice. It echoed through the foggy opening and traveled right to the core of whatever was left of me.
“I pushed her, I pushed her too far. I practically pushed her right to Blake,” he murmured.
“No. Shane, trust me. She didn’t sleep with him. You don’t understand,” Lea’s tears manipulated her words.
Shane leaned his forehead in his hands, “I told her I was in love with her.”
Lea looked up at him, shocked.
He slid his hands through his dark hair and gazed at the ceiling exactly where I sat. I couldn’t catch my breath as his eyes slide over mine, wishing he could see me.
“What?” Lea gasped.
“I messed up. I thought she felt it too, I didn’t know she was really into her ex-boyfriend. I messed up and we fought. I pushed her away and now she’s here, I wasn’t there to protect her.”
Shane wiped at his eyes. “Yeah, that’s what she said in the Jeep when we were stuck in the snow. She didn’t want anyone but him.” He laughed roughly, “My fucking luck, the only time I let myself feel something for someone and there’s no chance, and now she’s got fucking machines breathing for her.”
“Do you think she’ll make it, Shane? Do you think...”
He stood up abruptly. “No. Life isn’t made of miracles, roses and cotton fucking candy, Lea. She’s in a coma. That sick bastard knew exactly where to cut her to make her bleed to death, to weaken her entire body before we could get her to a hospital. Think about what she felt! Think about what she suffered the whole time. How many times did they have to revive her? Even the doctor said to pray for a miracle in the same sentence he said how long we should wait before stopping the machines breathing life into her! There’s no such thing as miracles. Life doesn’t work that way, there’s no beauty in it, there’s no hope.”
He walked over to the bed that Grace’s body laid on and sat next to her. He leaned forward and brushed a dark lock of hair off her face.
Lea walked to the other side, took Grace’s hand, and held up her wrist. “Hope. It’s what’s tattooed on her wrist.”
“Love on this one,” Shane sighed.
“Faith is on the back of her neck,” Lea whispered. “Do you believe in heaven, Shane?”
His features changed from angry to agony. It twisted my soul into knots.
“She’ll go right to heaven, Lea, and I bet it’s the most beautiful place ever created. She’ll sing and all the angels will turn their heads to listen.”
Lea’s tears fell faster, and her body started shaking with sobs. “No, she won’t. She doesn’t ever get to go to heaven!”
My essence vibrated, shimmers of heat washed through me. Oh my God, she was going to tell Shane!
Shane brushed a finger over Grace’s check and I could swear I felt the heat on mine.
“She was a good person, Lea. She’ll go to heaven.”
“No, Shane. You don’t get it!” Through her tears, Lea rambled the almost incoherent explanation. “She was there, before Noah and the Ark and the flood. Her soul was there when the angels fell in love with the humans. They called them the Watchers, The Grigori. They made a pact together to marry the human women, to teach them to see clearly, there were like two hundred of them. They became fallen angels and when they married the women, they gave birth to the Nephilim, and they were all punished. She was the only one who never had a child. That’s her so called ex-boyfriend, Shane. She’s been looking for an angel for...”
“Stop,” Shane whispered. He didn’t look at Lea, but her mouth clamped shut, astonished that she said everything she did. Her hands clasped her mouth and she sobbed even harder.
Shane slid up to Grace’s face and cupped her chin. “That’s fucking impossible! Grace! Wake up!” He shook her body.
Lea pulled him away, “What the hell are you doing! Get off her. You’re going to kill her faster!”
He bolted up, looking suspiciously at the ceiling, hands covering his mouth; he dropped to his knees. “Gabriel,” he whispered.
My mind reeled. He was calling for Gabriel? He knew Gabriel? I tried to jump down through the hole to him, but the ceiling of the hospital room, even though transparent was solid. I stomped on the invisible floor, suspended somewhere between heaven and hell.
I watched Shane run through the hallways of the hospital yelling for Gabriel.
Through my tears, I set my focus on Gabriel, as he remained stoic, drinking his still steaming coffee. I ran to the table and pushing it with every ounce of strength I had, propelled it into the air. Coffee and cream flew through the air, but Gabriel stayed unaffected.
I stood in front of him and dropped my eyes to his level. “Shane? Gabriel, it was Shane?”
The edge of his stupid lips curled up the slightest bit, as if he was laughing at me inside. “Not really the most intricate plot twist, Grace, you should have seen it coming.”
I pushed him. Of course, he didn’t move, but I pushed him again anyway. “Go to him, Gabriel!” I grabbed at his shirt and balled the material into my fists. “You are going to go to him. Then you are going to come back here and tell me what I need to do to be with him again! Put me back in that body!”
His gaze stayed steady on mine.
“Don’t tell me that was my one chance. Tell me the truth. For once in your existence, do what’s right, and tell me what’s going on!” I kneeled down in front of him.
Gabriel gasped my face and pulled me forward, placing his closed lips on mine. He kissed me and held me there. Calmness rolled over my spirit in slow circling waves, my eyelids closed.
“Selah, see the truth,” his voice whispered. “Forgive me, I’ve always loved you.”
My eyes flared open; his lips still on mine. Lying in front of me was my garden. My father sat beneath the almond blossoms, waving to me in the sunshine. From somewhere behind the trees I could not see, my mother called for him. “Enoch,” she sang his name.
My insides retched. How I missed the innocence. Before I knew, what evil was. I felt my heart rip in half when I saw Shamsiel calling for me along the dirt pathway near the water, touching his hands against the bulrushes. Gabriel walked alongside him, best friends, always together.
My heart soared as I watched myself run into his arms. I leapt at him and laughing, he caught and twirled me. My feet tickled from the tall bulrushes that he swung me through. Gabriel stood back and watched quietly, smiling tightly. He hugged me next and brushed my hair from my face. “How blessed he is to have found you first,” he whispered. He caressed my lips with his thumb and then he left us and walked towards my house to greet my father. The touch had made the small hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Shamsiel and I walked holding hands and found a place near the waters to sit and sing. For hours, we’d sing, sometimes we played the lyre and laugh, other villagers would come to listen, we never minded; we never really noticed.
I watched with bated breath, as the sun began setting and he held me in his arms to say goodbye. He looked down into my eyes with such innocent love that hot tears burned my eyes. Our lips met and I remembered how it felt falling off the end of the earth right into heaven. I saw Gabriel hidden off to the side watching us, and tears filled his eyes.
Gabriel pushed me back, violently wrenching me from my heartbreaking vision. I collapsed backwards, crashing my bottom into the flipped over table. Heat spread over my cheeks, down my neck and traveled to the tips of my toes. It became hotter and boiled into rage.
“Why did you show me that! Because, that Gabriel is what I’ve been punished for all these years! An innocent kiss, we did nothing more!”
He moved closer to where I was sprawled out on the floor and hovered over me. “Did you ever wonder why you saw heaven in that kiss? Did you ever stop to wonder why everyone was wiped out but you?”
I sat up and crossed my arms waiting. “Please enlighten me. It’s only been two thousand years or so.”
The skin around his pale blue eyes tightened as if he were in pain. “We had to stop the suffering on earth, the fallen corrupted EVERYTHING! Nothing was right; nothing was whole with them here!” He inhaled deeply. As if he really needed air to breathe! “He made the oath with them. He was one of the fallen ones and he needed to be punished along with the rest of them! And I needed to get him away from you!”
“His crime was a kiss!”
“His crime was a kiss with you! The daughter of Enoch! Grandfather to Moses! You had pure blood in your veins and innocence branded on your soul! You were no mere human child! And now Azazel and the rest of the fallen know you exist and they all want to own you!”
“Why?” I screamed.
“Because you have more power than all the angels put together. When you prayed as a child, God answered. You have a will of your own, where as we can only do what is sanctioned by God!”
“What does that mean?” I screamed again.
“A fallen like Azazel can take over the heavens with you by his side. Any of the fallen, even Shamsiel.” He sighed, “You and your father were favored by God.”
“And you thought that Shamsiel searched for me all these years to take over heaven?”
Gabriel fell to his knees and hung his head low. “He never knew you existed. He thought you were escorted right into heaven. I don’t even know if he’ll believe me, he hardened himself, until he met Grace.”
“Is he like me? Does he jump into dying bodies and get the ass end of life? Or what?” I snapped.
“Most of his existence he was imprisoned in hell. He doesn’t deserve you, Selah. Look what he has done in his human form! He tried to erase the thought of you,” he whispered.
My body turned cold. He was right. Shane was nothing like the angel I kissed that day. I had thought my heart was broken before, but in that very moment, I knew true and utter despair. How would I ever get through this?
I slumped to the floor right where I stood. Gabriel sat down next to me and embraced me in his warm arms. He held me close and gently rocked me back and forth. “Stay with me and I will always take care of you, I will never hurt you.”
I wanted complete nothingness. I wanted all of this to end. I had enough. “I’m done, Gabriel. I can’t do this anymore.”
“You can’t forgive him for what he’s done. He is an angel, he was supposed to be the one to never falter, and the human was supposed to fail. I would have never left you, if you had chosen me.”
“You know nothing of love. You don’t get to choose who you fall in love with. Shamsiel would have never done the things he did, if he believed I was here waiting for him. You are not the hero here, Gabriel. You are one of them. And I hate all of you.”
Gabriel grabbed my face in his hands and I didn’t fight back. Why should I?
“Let me show you the truth then, so you will always know what he has done and how much and how long I’ve loved you,” he whispered and placed his lips back on mine.
Visions of Shane’s lips on nameless women, Shane’s dead body lying on the floor in a bathroom stall with a women sitting next to him giggling and Gabriel always in the shadows watching me, longing for me; loving me. His love turned into obsession. All the others shunned him. He set the fallen ones free to capture me, he never set Shamsiel free and he had no idea how he’d escaped. All he wanted was for the fallen to capture me and make me his own. He wanted to rule the heavens more than all the others. It was harsh and painful. I tore my lips from his and shoved him away as hard as I could.
“You fucking asshole! How can you say you love me and show me pain like that? Gabriel, I’m done. It’s over. Put me wherever you need to; end this punishment. If you have any love for me, end my suffering.”
“Tell me you’ll never love him again. Promise me that you will...”
“Shut up! Just shut the hell up! I will never promise you anything. I will always love Shamsiel. I may never forgive Shane for what he’s done, but that is none of your business. You hurt me far more than he ever will. You kept us apart and you lied to me all along. You were the one that made our punishment.”
He glared at me fiercely; his entire body glowed with power.
I smirked at his audacity. “Gabriel, do you think after everything that I have been through, I would be afraid of you? I have lost everything. I have lived dozens of lives. I have lost so many children, siblings, parents...there is nothing that you can do to me that I haven’t already been through. I’ve lived in hell all these years. An idiot with wings won’t scare me!”
He stood over me. Giant steel colored feathery wings silently emerged from behind his shoulders and reached to the ceiling and walls of the coffee shop. The edges of each feather looked as sharp as razor blades. They glistened and reflected the cafes lights as if they were made of metal. Maybe they were.
I folded my arms across my chest and stood my ground. “Yeah, um. So what, is that supposed to scare me?”
His features turned hard and his skin became marbleized with veins of gray spidered across it. Each strand of his hair thickened and hardened into a razor sharp spike. His hands turned into talons, baring serrated claws that tore through the thick wood of the table as he scraped across it.
Slowly, he advanced toward me until he hovered so close I could feel the coldness of the metal and stone that he transformed into. I still was not afraid.
When the ancient blue colored irises of his eyes turned into blazing fires of reds and yellows, I raised my hand and touched his cheek softly. The flames turned to embers, and then back to oceans of blue. When I placed my other hand along his torso, where a human heart should be, his skin softened and he became human like again. I did have power over him.
“You can’t begin to imagine how long I’ve waited for you to touch me,” he whispered.
“To what avail, Gabriel? I have been punished for centuries for just kissing an angel. What would my punishment be if I gave myself to you now? Shamsiel was thrown in hell, what would your penalty be?”
I moved even closer into him, touched my body to his. God help me, I wanted to hurt him and make him suffer for everything he’d done. “Tell me, Gabriel, as an archangel, I mean you are the messenger of God, what would happen if we were to...” I brushed my lips against his neck. If I could take him to hell, I was going to.
He swallowed, his throat moving and constricting under my lips.
“He hasn’t spoken with me. I’ve been on earth with you. I would suffer the fires of hell for you, but with us together we could rule the heavens.”
I slid my lips along his jaw right to his lips and kissed him. I could still hear Shane in the hospital room below us screaming for Gabriel to help him. I slowly pulled away and looked right into Gabriel’s eyes. His features were soft and wanting, his breaths came out heavy and lusty.
“Go to Shane, Gabriel, tell him everything. Then come back to me. Do that one thing for me, Gabriel, and I’m yours.”
He stood there looking at me.
I closed my eyes and hung my head in my hands. Everything just seemed to swirl around in my mind, memories, and lifetimes. The only thing that never changed was the perfection of that one long ago kiss.
When I reopened my eyes, the table and chairs were back where they belonged and I was alone. My coffee stood on the table waiting for me.
I sipped the warm caramel flavored coffee as I watched Shane crawl onto Grace’s bed and tenderly hold her in his arms.
For my sake, this better be a long coffee break, because I needed to get the hell out of here before that lunatic rogue angel came back for me. I stormed out of the coffee shop and into a dusty desert road, taking my coffee with me.
To be continued…