“Hey Acacia, over here.” Mary waved me over to the table where she and her husband, Christian, were sitting.
“I thought you were going to be late and miss it all.” She smiled and pushed over a glass of the house wine, her finger trailing through the condensation that had formed from sitting in the warm room waiting for my arrival.
“Me too.” I hung my jacket over the chair. I sat down after I removed Mary’s handbag from it.
“Traffic was ridiculous, and the lights were short phasing again.”
I looked around the dark little bar. It looked like every seat was taken; everyone ready for the show except mine . It was hardly surprising though. WIL, Writers in Life , was holding its annual fundraising event. They organised writers, famous and local, to perform their work. We were in for readings, short plays, and singing. I was there to see Neil Gaiman who would be reading a new piece, The Basilisk in the Basement . Neil was up last as the big name of the evening. I wished I had been selected this year and not last year to perform so I’d get to meet him backstage.
The night seemed to fly by. We were up to the second to last performer of the night and I was on to my third wine. I was getting excited to hear Neil read.The man was always so amazing to hear live.
A young man took to the stage, guitar in hand. I wasn’t really paying attention but as he sat down, lit up by the stage lights, I glanced over. I could not look away. I felt something constrict inside me. It sounds impossible and clichéd but I fell in love in a single instant with a complete stranger. He wasn’t very tall sitting there with his dark hair falling over his forehead, his eyes twinkling in the light and sneakers on beneath his suit. My eyes drank in everything about him as my stomach did somersaults.
He began to play. The melody was haunting and his words of love and hope and promise seemed to be for me. I knew it was an illusion of the dark, the audience in shadow while the stage and man were all lit up, but his eyes seemed to hold mine for the entire song. By the end, as the harmony of the guitar and his voice faded, I felt like I was buzzing and my heart had left my chest to live somehow in both my stomach and in my throat.
He left the stage and the night’s MC returned asking everyone to give it up for Michael Gabriel. The applause was thunderous and I clapped on auto pilot. I clapped again as Neil was announced and came to the stage.
Neil’s new tale was great but I was distracted and barely heard the story I had been so excited about . Once Neil finished, he sat down at the table next to the stage ready to sign books and assorted paraphernalia. A queue formed instantly and I seemed the only one not rushing over to get my book signed, even though that was what I had planned. I headed instead for the other side of the stage where I could see Michael Gabriel putting his guitar away. He looked up as I approached and became flustered, or maybe that was just my imagination. He picked up the now locked guitar case as I approached him and rested it between us like a barrier.
“Hi my name’s Acacia.” I said offering my hand, which he pointedly ignored.
“Michael,” he replied.
“I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your performance.”
“Thanks.” He spent more time looking at the guitar case than me. He was the king of the one word reply, it seemed, and it was frustrating.
“I was wondering…”
“I’ve got to go.” He cut me off before I even finished my query. He picked up the guitar case, a large notebook and pushed past me, sending me stumbling back.
“Wow he’s rude.” Mary said moving over to me, helping me regain my footing. I didn’t reply to her; I just watched him cross to the stairs leading up to the street. He stopped at the bottom and looked back at me. I could have sworn that he looked sad, regretful even, but he shook his head and mounted the stairs two at a time and vanished from sight. I was confused at his rudeness but I was more confused by the way he had made me feel. I could have gone after him but one dismissal and rejection was more than my ego needed in a single night.
Days, weeks and months moved on as they so often do and life was normal from one day to the next. The only thing different was how distracted I was in the quiet moments by memories of that man and his song. It had been nearly three months since I had seen him and I still could not stop thinking about him.
I sat on my bed, the curtains open and the room lit by the full moon outside, just like the night when he had played. I was curled up around my pillow with a notepad sketching the view from the window…badly sketching the view from my window, when I was startled by a knock at the door. No one usually visited me at home unannounced and definitely not this late at night. I set the drawing aside and pulled my silk robe around me, tying it in place before I walked to the door and looked through the peephole. My heart just about stopped to see the object of my thoughts on the other side of the door. I fumbled the lock in my hurry to get the door open.
“Michael?” I spoke his name as if we were familiar with each other and he was simply returning after an absence. “What are you…”
As before he didn’t let me finish my query, he simply stepped into my apartment and swung the door shut behind him. He stepped into me, his hand moving to my chin, tilting my head up, he kissed me. His kiss turned every nerve in my body onto high and turned my legs to jelly. He swept me up into his arms, not breaking the kiss as he carried me into my bedroom.
I barely slept for three days as we discovered each other mentally, spiritually, emotionally and of course physically. On the third day, he dropped the bombshell. He had to leave for work, for three months, give or take, and he would have no ability to communicate with me during that time. The moment he was free, he would return to me but for only three days before work would take him away again. It was an insane thing to agree to but I had no hesitation at all when I told him I would wait for him.
I didn’t want him to go and I missed him fiercely the whole time he was gone. When he returned, it was amazing . Each time he left and returned, we crammed all our love into those three days . Each time he left, it got harder to let him go. My life became consumed by a shadow waiting for my three days in the light.
He has only been gone for four weeks this time. The moon is full and high again. I am lost and empty without him, this time is the worst. Somehow I can barely seem to live without him. No one else understands and they think I am weak to lose myself, my life, to another. However when he is not here with me, I no longer feel right. All I do is think about him and want to be with him. Nobody can understand.
The night was a little cool standing on the balcony looking out at the city that didn’t miss Michael the way I did. I looked up at the moonwith pen and journal in hand. I could only imagine the same moon shone down on Michael wherever he was in the world. I wondered if he looked up at it and thought of me as much as I thought of him.
As I had done as a child, I talked to the face in the moon. I had once believed it was some fairy queen or Goddess that lived there and listened to me. Now I talked to it for someone to talk to. The bright moon could understand, perhaps, better than a friend. The journal slid from my hands and I wrapped my hands around the balcony railing, leaning out as I looked up.
“There is love and there is love,” I said. “There is the love that is destined and rare, the love that Shakespeare and Tennyson glimpsed but most in a thousand lives will never witness or experience.” My fingers dug into the railing and a sad sigh shook my body. “However I have. I’ve found it and like some fairy tale or Greek myth I get it so rarely and I don’t know if I’ll ever have it again. I can’t live like this, it’s tearing me apart. I love him and I can’t live thinking and worrying about him. I can’t live without him here. I live for my time with him and I would give anything to just be with him. Wake to his face every day, not live apart ninety-nine percent of the time. I would do anything, sacrifice anything that is mine, to give for his love, to be his love.”
A loud booming voice rang out. I looked around confused. There was the sound of gunfire nearby and I saw the stray bullet in the instant my life was taken.
Michael appeared as her body crumpled, catching her easily in his arms. He gently placed her down on the balcony, tears falling down his cheeks and a thousand questions in his mind that were only quieted by the loss that flooded him, almost crippling him in that moment .
If anyone had seen him, he would have seemed as any grieving man as he leant forward and kissed her still warm lips. They would have missed seeing the shining blue aura that clung to him and the wings that spread as he lifted his head and howled out into the night at the moon. A normal mortal watching the scene would have missed the man and woman as they appeared and stood behind him shoulder to shoulder, bathed in silver and gold light.
But Michael did not miss them. He stood and turned to them. When he spoke, his voice shook.
“Will I see her again?”
“Do you wish to see her again?” The man asked.
“I love her with every aspect of my heart, my being. It is foolish of you to ask that.” Michael’s anger was rising to the surface above his grief.
“We warned you of the danger of loving a mortal woman, of inserting yourself into her life as you did. If you had simply watched and not played her the song in your heart, this would have been avoided.”
“I loved her, I could not stay away.” Michael growled, guilt lacing his anger from the truth of their words. If he had not performed, if he had not sung to her, needed her to know, needed her to love him back this would have all been avoided. But he would not have had the days and nights of love they had shared. They had been the brightest moments of his existence.
“What would you give, my son, to see her again?” The woman asked.
“All that I am, all that I possess, my gift, my task, my power. For even a moment in her arms, I would sacrifice everything. I would give it all up for her to return to me, even for just a moment.”
“We cannot give you that moment.” The man spoke and Michael looked away, tears hazing his sight.
“We can only give you forever.” The woman smiled and stepped apart from the man. Between the man and woman stood Acacia, resplendent in a soft rose light, her wings unfolding behind her. She smiled at Michael, her tears matching his. The woman took Michael’s right hand as the man took Acacia’s. They placed them against each other’s, covering them with their own.
“What love has joined, let none tear asunder.” The man intoned.
Michael’s eyes never left Acacia’s. He simply replied, “Thank you,” as the man and woman faded from the moment.
The two stood staring at each other, no more secrets, no more separations.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
Michael pulled her in against him and kissed her with the passion and purity that one can only find in tales of true love. As they kissed, the blue and rose glow that encompassed them mingled creating a rich violet. The light grew as they faded, soon there was only the light and then that too was gone.