One for the Burning Zeppelin
Thursday, February 19, 2009 - 4:17 PM
“Will you please stop that,” sighed Etienne.
“She agreed to it,” replied Charlotte, shuffling her cards.
Etienne glared at her. Rather, he glared at the gently lithe woman with thick, lustrous black hair who spoke with Charlotte's inflection and someone else's voice. A small, hesitant trio of candles lit the room and put flickers of fire into the woman's eyes, which did not match the wide innocence they were trying to convey.
Besides, Etienne could see Charlotte in those eyes, and he knew perfectly well Charlotte wasn't innocent.
“It's not right,” he said firmly, with more resolve than he preferred to feel.
“Etienne, she agreed. I have permission. Emily has always wanted you, anyway. She won't find your touch repulsive.”
Not knowing whether to sit or stand, Etienne leaned on the sill instead, frowning to himself. Emily did look quite a bit like Charlotte had looked, and watching Emily move and speak with Charlotte's unspoken language stirred him more than he expected. It had been a year since Charlotte's death, and death hadn't resolved anything.
He watched as the hands danced over the cards with Charlotte's deft motions, laying out a cross of archetypes. “I admit the temptation,” said Etienne, folding his arms. “But you know I can't accept that.”
“It was meant to be, Etienne. You are getting what I know you wished for. She looks so much like me, doesn't she? And she did agree...”
“Meant to be? Charlotte, don't start.”
“Being dead makes one a fatalist,” replied Charlotte, chuckling as Charlotte would, but it sounded alien coming from Emily's throat. “Besides, doesn't your faith proclaim all things happen for a reason? Isn't that why you chose the path you did?”
Frowning slightly, Etienne nodded. Searching for greater purpose, he'd accepted the bonds of immortality, sustained by the blood of mankind. He'd tired of wading through the useless, dying excuses that everyone else followed until their death. When he was offered a chance for something more, he accepted hungrily, and his life became a teetering balance of atonement and redemption. Without virtue, he would become a monster. But with the strength of the monster, he could serve virtue far better than he could as a normal human.
“Yes,” he said. “But I chose that because you died. You weren't there anymore.”
“And I couldn't leave you be,” she smiled. “But it took me a while to find you again. Aren't you happy I did?”
“I don't know what to think, Charlotte. I really don't.”
She tilted her head to one side, keeping the smile on him. “Then just feel.”
He smiled despite himself, and for a moment, it was easy to see Emily as Charlotte. “For you, yes. I have kept that with me, Charlotte. But this... I'm sorry, I can't get past the fact that isn't you.”
“You got past the part where you suck human blood to survive. Why is this so hard?”
Etienne couldn't help but laugh at her wry tone. “That's different. I drink from the enemy, Charlotte. I don't take from the innocent.”
“But they never offer, do they?”
He spat a quick reply, anger born from indecision. “And just how did you get so calm about this, anyway?”
“Etienne,” she said softly, pausing in her laying down the cards. “You never died, not really. I did. I wish I had the words to explain how that changes perspective, but no living language can express it properly. Just... consider this... even after that, even after all that, I am here because of you. For you.”
He watched Emily's face, uncannily mimicking Charlotte's own expressions, and finally sat down at the small table. His heart felt like it was remembering how to beat again, warmed by the mournful yearning in the dark eyes across from him.
“Emily watches over you during the day, Etienne,” whispered Charlotte. “Let her do this for you, too. Let us both do this for you.”
“Stay, then,” he said after a moment. “I... am going to pray, about this. But stay, at least. As a spirit, even if not in Emily.”
Smiling with open, softly growing delight, she held up the last card, showing the warm panorama of the Sun. “The Sun, which is something you fear now... but the card shows that your choice was the good one. Dead or not, Etienne, we haven't finished being happy with each other.”