“Nothing in the cry of cicadas suggests they are about to die” -Matsuo Basho
“You’re gonna be late.” The deep voice stated, his tone dripping with annoyance. Lilith groaned as she turned over to see who the sleep invader was, as if it would be anyone else but her boyfriend, Brenner. She glared at his 6’ frame standing in the doorway as he flicked on the light to the bedroom; well, at least he claimed he was 6’. It was probably more like 5’10, maybe 5’11 on a good day.
She squinted her eyes shut when the sudden blinding light threatened to burn through her corneas, a daily occurrence she was never looking forward to. “I can wake myself up, you know I’m never late,” she groaned as she buried her face into the pillow, letting her irritation seep through her words. It was true, even when she would push the time past it’s limit, she was always punctual. Yet everyday Brenner would stomp his way up the stairs to their bedroom, make a passive aggressive statement, and then proceed to shock her system with the blazing overhead light. A part of her believed he only did it to piss her off just to fight with her later. A big part of her believed that. He was always doing things to make her frustrated and upset, and then he would retract back and claim victim, making her look like the crazy bitch.
“Whatever,” he retorted, turning back on his heels and stomping back down the stairs. “I’m only trying to help you.” Ah, there it is. The typical gas-lighting he did so well, playing the victim card because after all everything was her fault and he wasn’t to blame for anything. When he cheated it was her fault, when he purposefully pissed her off it was her fault, when he verbally berated her and tore down all of her self-confidence and worth it was definitely her fault. How dare she be anything but a submissive girlfriend that catered to his every will and had opinions and thoughts that were her own.
Lilith rolled her eyes as she groggily sat up, accepting defeat since she clearly wouldn’t have the luxury of sleeping in for a measly five more minutes. What time was it anyways? She reached over and grabbed her phone from the nightstand next to the bed, unlocking the screen and staring blankly at yet again another bright and disorienting light. 6:52am. She locked her phone screen and shut her forest green eyes, the long eyelashes that decorated them fluttering slightly as she did.
After a few short minutes of laying on the firm yet comfortable mattress, cocooned in soft blankets, Lilith reluctantly dragged herself up and slowly shuffled her feet across the carpeted ground towards the closet. She pulled open the cheaply made double doors and began searching through the layers of clothing, not really putting too much thought into what she would wear for her 5th day at her new office job. It was, after all, just a job as an assistant to add to her resume to hopefully get farther in life. After 21 years of living, three of which were spent working in agonizing retail and the chaotic food industry, she wanted to move forward and actually get somewhere in this insufferably long journey called life. Of course, this simple job as a lawyer’s assistant wasn’t going to fix everything going wrong in her life, but it was a start to at least getting somewhere farther from folding t-shirts and waiting tables.
She pulled out a pair of form fitting black slacks and a black button-up blouse, then decided to pair her boring and typical office outfit with a courageous pair of fire engine red wedges. They weren’t inappropriately tall or flashy, but she did usually play it safe with nudes or whites. “What the heck, let’s get crazy.” She muttered the Bob Ross quote to herself as she closed the closet doors and made her way to the bathroom, continuing on her voyage to become presentable for society.
After fastening her medium length dirty blonde hair in a low French braid down her back, Lilith applied her usual mascara, lip oil, and light concealer to mask the fact that she was a miserable sleep deprived mess that was constantly tormented by her inconsiderate boyfriend. She let out a sigh, accepting the image that looked back at her through the mirror, and exited the bathroom, turning the light off on her way out. She made her way downstairs and found the one bedroom one bath 700 sq. ft apartment empty, which wasn’t out of the ordinary. Brenner was often outside smoking cigarettes or driving to the gas station to buy more cigarettes, a habit that Lilith had managed to break for herself, but Brenner made no effort. They had promised to quit together; Lilith kept her promise, and as usual, he did not.
She walked into the narrow galley kitchen and opened the cupboard, pulling out a dry and not so appetizing granola bar that she would have to scarf down with plenty of water. She seldom made breakfast in the morning. If she did, Brenner would complain as to why she didn’t make him anything and then they’d get into another petty argument. She shoved the bar into her non-designer black purse and grabbed her keys, scanning the small apartment one last time to make sure she wasn’t leaving anything important behind. After letting out another sigh she made her way to the sliding glass door, pulling it open and stepping out into the hot morning weather. The strong Louisiana heat quickly clung to her body, the humidity threatening to undo all of her attempts at beauty and coaxing her blonde strands of hair to escape their braided prison. It was undeniably summer, and the feeling of suffocating on hot wet air made sure she knew that.
The screams of the cicadas echoed loudly around her, unseen yet still making themselves known as the most prominent presence. I wonder why they cry. Lilith thought to herself as she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, looking up into the tall and looming green trees as if she would expect to see the source of the screams. Their cries were comforting to her; she never felt alone knowing they were watching from the trees, and the screaming was almost nostalgic. They reminded her of the simpler times when she was a child, sitting by the small community pool with her feet dipped in the lukewarm water that reminded her of leftover bathtub water. Or when she would go out to the boat docks with her friends and they would jump in the murky brown lake, expecting to contract some kind of strange flesh-eating virus from the suspicious water. Or when she would ride her bike down the empty rundown roads of her small rural neighborhood, occasionally falling and scraping her knees. The cries of the cicadas were always there, watching and screaming as if they knew what would happen before it even happened. What events they must witness when no one knows they’re watching…
“So, you finally got up.” Brenner’s voice pulled her out of her thoughts, and she turned to look at him with a blank expression on her face. He was seated in a dirty plastic lawn chair on the small patio outside of the sliding glass door, a cigarette between his short yet strong fingers that he casually puffed on. He was dressed in his usual attire; old and dirty basketball shorts and a t-shirt that was too big for him. She asked him on several occasions to invest in some new clothes, preferably ones that weren’t made out of athletic material, but he always refused. “I like being comfortable and I don’t care what people think I look like” he would always say.
“I’ll be back after work,” she said blankly and leaned down to give him a quick peck on the lips, something she did more out of habit than anything else. He accepted the peck without looking up from his phone, reminding them both that the passion in their three year relationship had died long ago. The fire that was once between them was now replaced with complacency, habits, arguments, and resentment. Brenner ran his hand through his brown scruffy beard, scratching his chin lightly. “Okay,” he said unenthusiastically, still not looking up to really even acknowledge her. She turned and walked out to her car, looking forward to the 20 minute drive to work where she could listen to whatever she wanted and be alone in her thoughts.
Unfortunately, 20 minutes felt like five, and after passing the time by listening to some of her favorite classical cello pieces, Lilith finally pulled into her usual parking space behind the small attorney’s office, shutting off the car engine and collecting her things before stepping out. Her wedges satisfyingly clacked against the pavement as she walked to the front entrance, crunching slightly when they made contact with the small rocks and leaves that littered the sidewalk. She pulled the tinted black glass door to the entrance open and was greeted by the friendly receptionist before making her way to her own office in the back of the building. Once her purse and belongings were settled into place behind her deep mahogany desk, she made her way out to greet her attorney, Clark Williams. She liked to personally check with him first before she started her day, making sure his needs were met at the beginning of the day to avoid any issues. His door was open, so she politely peeked into the room. “Good morning Mr. Williams,” she smiled, and he lifted his eyes from the work on his desk to meet hers.
“Ah, good morning Lilith.” Mr. Williams nodded back at her. He was an older gentlemen, probably in his 40s or 50s, and definitely fit the attorney stereotype. Clean cut, graying hair that was slightly balding, shaven face, suit, slightly overweight, the whole package.
“I wanted to see if you needed anything before I got started on my work,” Lilith said as she placed her arms in front of her, slightly interlocking her fingers together.
“No, I think I’m okay for now,” he said while flipping through a cream colored folder that sat atop of his desk. She nodded and turned to walk out, relieved to not have to do any extra work on top of the mound of paperwork already piling on her desk. “Oh, there is one thing,” he said, snapping his fingers as he recalled a memory. Lilith tried to hide her disappointment when she turned back around to face him. “My colleague is returning from a business trip today, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned him before, Attorney Azazel,” Mr. Williams said without looking up at her. Azazel? Weird name. She thought to herself as she shifted her weight onto her right leg. “He can be a bit of an ass but don’t take it personally. He means well. Just wanted to let you know in case you see a strange man walking around the office.” She smiled and nodded, thanking him for the information before turning and finally walking back to her office.
She settled into her desk chair and pulled out the granola bar from her purse, ripping open its packaging to reveal the dry and unappealing contents. She sighed as she took a bite and turned on her work computer, making a mental note that she needed to invest in better granola. After checking her emails and creating a few spreadsheets, she soon realized she’d be needing a cup of coffee to give her a little more energy. She stood and dusted off some of the granola remnants from her work pants before making her way to the office’s small kitchen, but before she could even turn the corner, she found herself colliding with a rather tall and solid force. She stumbled back but managed to catch herself, silently cursing whatever this brick wall that appeared in front of her was.
“Oh shit! I’m so sorry!” A deep yet apologetic voice exclaimed. She looked up to see the face that belonged to this hybrid of a tree and wall and was pleasantly surprised that it was the face of a man that wasn’t too bad to look at. His deep blue eyes that were hidden behind slim glasses met hers, and an apologetic smile crept across his narrow yet still masculine face. He nervously ran a hand through his sandy blonde hair and extended his other hand out to her, waiting for her to shake it. “Guess I should be more careful, my bad, my name’s Cyrus.” She raised an eyebrow and took his hand in hers, shaking it lightly. He had a firm grip which wasn’t too surprising, even though he was pretty tall and lanky it did look like he worked out.
“Lilith, nice to meet you I guess,” she said in a sarcastic yet playful tone, making sure to drag out the “I guess”. He did almost knock her into another dimension after all, she wasn’t about to just let it slide without making him feel a little bad about it. Luckily, he seemed to have a good sense of humor and he laughed it off.
“I haven’t seen you around here before, are you new?” he asked while taking a minute to study her appearance.
“Yea, I just started Monday,” Lilith placed one hand on her hip as she shifted her weight. “Who knew on day five I might’ve ended up getting terminated by a tree,” she joked and he chuckled again, which she appreciated. Brenner didn’t laugh often at her jokes anymore, or really laugh at all for that matter, so it was a refreshing change to hear a man laugh and be playful.
“Excuse me, but I’m a paralegal tree thank you very much,” he joked lightheartedly. “Come on, I’ll buy you a coffee,” he said and tilted his head towards the kitchen before making his way in that direction, which he could easily get there in a few measly strides. Lilith felt like she almost had to jog to keep up, but being only 5’ that was a feeling she was used to.
“Buy one? They’re free!” She exclaimed, unable to contain her laughter. Her own laugh had been locked away for so long, it was almost foreign to her.
Once they were in the kitchen, Cyrus pulled out two starch white Styrofoam cups and began filling them with the dark bitter liquid from the overused coffee machine. As she watched him, she noticed he seemed to be a rather upbeat and happy person, smiling to himself at nothing in particular. He reminded her of a Disney character that was always humming and singing for no reason, which would normally annoy her but in his case it seemed natural. A small smile crept across her lips as she watched him, feeling as though she couldn’t resist his contagious positivity and charm.
Suddenly she felt a strong hand land gently on the small of her back, causing her to gasp slightly and jump forward. She glared behind her, ready to lay into whoever this creep who felt like it was necessary to touch her was, but the words within her brain quickly left her when her eyes landed on him. The mystery man stood in the doorway, his strong and obviously muscular body was dressed in dark grey slacks that hugged him a little too well, and a white button-down shirt that only complimented his muscles more. Of course, he had to have them rolled up and tucked neatly at his elbows, to show off his solid forearms and deliciously tanned skin. Lilith felt her face getting hot when she looked up, their eyes finally meeting after she had obviously checked him out for a few seconds too long. His honey brown eyes were surrounded by thick long eyelashes, and she found herself being able to easily get lost in them. His dark brown, almost black, hair was clean and styled; slightly shorter on the sides and longer at the top. She noticed a smirk beginning to form on his perfectly plump lips, lips that she desperately wanted to smack but also kiss at the same time.
“Oh hey Azazel, you’re back!” Cyrus exclaimed. Lilith silently thanked him for his outburst as it finally helped her tear her eyes away from the Greek god standing before her. So this is Azazel.