Coffee and Pearls - Chapter 2
The five minute car ride to the café seemed to last an eternity and it was one spent in awkward silence. Mercedes and I soon arrived downtown for work and we came in through the back door of the café. There I saw Lucius, standing in front of the fireplace dressed as he usually was in a button-up white shirt, dark jeans, and trench coat, looking as if he was expecting me. I muttered something under my breath about how I couldn’t go anywhere without being followed and Mercedes sighed. What on earth was I mumbling about this time? She asked, almost sarcastically. I told her to forget about it.
Lucius had returned for a duplicate performance of the previous night. He stayed around the cafe until I left and then followed me out, this time he didn’t talk to me, I assumed on account of Mercedes’ presence. Instead, he crossed the street to St. Ignatius Cathedral, kitty-corner from the Chinese restaurant, where he sat on the aging limestone steps, staring at me menacingly. I began to wonder why he didn’t enter on that brisk December evening.
Mercedes decided to stay over at my house that night. By the time we returned to the house all of the residual awkward feelings from the “Red Wine Incident” had vanished. The moment we walked through the kitchen door I put popcorn in the microwave and took two of the many cans of green tea from the refrigerator and two extra large boxes of candy from the cabinet. Our dwelling for such occasions was the basement, which contained all of our necessities. After setting up the fold out bed, we settled in for a long night of movie watching.
We stopped calling them “sleepovers” after the first time we had one of these get-togethers. We never slept; we had too much fun watching movies and acting like the boy-crazy teenage girls that we were.
We first watched timelessly classic reenactments of various Shakespearean plays but our quiet night was transformed when a stray piece of popcorn bounced off of my head. I threw a handful of popcorn back at her. Some time later, popcorn lay scattered all over the carpeted floor and puddles of green tea stood on the coffee table where we were playing Shots.
At about one in the morning there was a soft knock on the outside basement door. It was Michael, on his way home from shutting down his dad’s mechanics shop for the night. He said that his suspicion grew when he drove past and noticed the basement light on and recalled that Josh and Zach, my older brothers, weren’t yet home for the holidays. He came to the conclusion that it could only mean that Mercedes and I were down there alone. With that knowledge he figured that he had better come down to keep our noise level from escalating. He told me it was the perfect opportunity to teach us how to wreak havoc quietly. Heaven only knew that when we chose to be mischievous, we did it with a platoon. It wasn’t long before Michael went home and I knew that if I got to see him the next day he would tell me all about the hell his mother gave him about being home so late.
Mercedes and I stayed up the entire night and my mother was kind enough to give us both the day off work despite the fact that we didn’t deserve it. She claimed that it was so we didn’t exhaust ourselves but we exhausted ourselves thoroughly enough by jumping all over the couches as I had done with my brothers as a five year old.
My father had told me that he would be working late and my mom always closed up Homebodies on Tuesdays so I wasn’t expecting any one home that night in time to make us dinner. Mercedes and I decided that we were half starved from our vigorous activities so we made ourselves a pizza.
As I removed it from the oven, an impish giggle coming from the living room startled me to the point of nearly dropping the pan. I knew it sounded irrational but I asked Mercedes if she heard it too but our conversation ended with her trying to make a very bad joke about “my ghosts.” I wanted to tell her that they weren’t ghosts at all. These “ghosts” that she had referenced had been appearing to me for years but the incident with Lucius was the only vision that wasn’t merely a fleeting glimpse. I knew then that they weren’t ghosts. Is that what Lucius meant when he said I knew about them? But what did I know about them and why the hell couldn’t I remember if I really did know?
Ignoring the giggling, I persuaded myself that my mind was playing games with me because I was too tired. It wasn’t long after that Mercedes finally went home and I turned in for the night.
I slept well past noon on the next day but decided to stay in bed regardless. I rolled over in bed and for a moment I could have sworn I heard Lucius say my name. It startled me. I sat up straight in bed and there he was, sitting in the big, black leather office chair in my bedroom, which had become known as The World Domination Chair to my friends and me. I stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind me out of frustration for the fact that it seemed so simple for him to follow me undetected. I returned after having had some coffee and when I opened the door he was leaning there, against the doorjamb, arms folded and smirking.
“How has your life been going since our very first encounter? It’s not so perfect now, is it? Didn’t one of your friends try committing suicide? And your ex-boyfriend, the one before Michael, broke off the relationship because you told him what you saw and he thought you were absolutely insane. Deaths in the family, emotionally distraught friends…but really, how are you personally?”
I rolled my eyes and shoved my way past him. “I know you’re not here to mock my pain and I know that you aren’t the least bit worried about me. Why the hell are you here and what do you want from me?” To keep myself busy, I began picking up the dirty clothes from the carpeted floor and tossing them in the hamper.
“Now, now, darling. There is no need to get upset.” He slowly drew closer and soon he was circling me again. “You know exactly what I want from you. I want you to know about them and us. You can hear us and communicate with us, why don’t you try to learn and understand us? Then you won’t be second-guessing yourself when your eyes tear up or your hair really does fall into your face. Just think, if you could understand you could at least attempt to come off as sane.”
I had had enough. “I’m getting the strangest feeling that this is some sort of twisted simulation of Eve being tempted in the Garden. You’re trying to lure me into something that has the potential to be destructive. Now, if you aren’t going to tell me why you’re haunting me then at least tell me what you are.”
He laughed softly but maliciously. “Dearest,” he breathed down the back of my neck, “Don’t you see, that is for me to know and for you to find out.”
When I turned to look at him, he had vanished, again, leaving no trace of himself. “Damn it,” I muttered under my breath.
Just then I heard the front door creak open and then harshly close and Mercedes projected her belated morning greeting. I came to join her in the kitchen and noticed that she had brought coffee for me. As we sat and sipped coffee she mentioned the incident with the red wine and I could tell that she was genuinely concerned. I tried to act completely innocent, to pretend that I had absolutely no idea what had gone on but she knew better. She didn’t believe any of it for a second so I tried my best to explain it using the most miniscule amount of detail that I could with out seeming too suspicious. She shrugged it off and blamed it on “my ghosts.” I didn’t argue, I was too busy inwardly fuming about Lucius to try and contradict her statement.
Mercedes and I moped around the house before she started up about “my ghosts” again and I didn’t want to hear about it anymore. I told her to get her coat and I practically dragged her to the Theosophical Society Library. My goal was to prove to her that they weren’t ghosts but something else entirely.
Being the devout Catholic that I was, I shouldn’t have stepped foot in that place but I knew, for a fact, that the millions of pages of information that lay between the covers of the thousands of books upon the shelves of that library were the only truly accurate sources of information outside of the Vatican.
Through a heavy wooden door, we entered the spacious library; floor to ceiling shelves filled to overflowing with books lined all but one wall. The other was a window that stretched to the high, beamed ceiling and was bordered by a red velvet curtain. A twisted cast-iron candelabrum hung in the center of the room suspended above one of the many oak tables. An unabridged encyclopedia lay open to an image that the caption told me was a depiction of Lucifer. The picture caught my attention immediately; there was something terribly familiar about it. As I drew closer to the open book, the illustration of Lucifer entranced me. What was it about that picture? I knew I had seen those piercing green eyes before but I couldn’t say where.
Mercedes had already found a book about mediums and ghosts and as she thrust it towards me I met her eyes. I could have sworn they were the same unearthly shade of green but when I shifted positions to look at the statue from a different angle, I could clearly see the features of Lucius carved into the wood. I let out a long string of curse words under my breath and returned the book to Mercedes, telling her that the contents of the book didn’t describe what my visions entailed. I went to the angels and demons section and found a paperback all about Lucifer’s rebellion, his fall, and his condemnation into Hell. Every illustration of him that I found looked almost exactly like the one before it and in every one I could see similarities to Lucius. All that was left to do was figure out what relation, if any, Lucius had to Lucifer.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the library and after what Mercedes thought was a long and fruitless search but I left on a new quest to reveal what ever it was that Lucius claimed I should have already known. I dropped Mercedes off at her house and as I pulled into the driveway of my own home I could see through the windows that every single light in my house was on. I knew it was Lucius and I didn’t doubt myself for even a second. After turning off and locking up my car I bolted up the front walk and threw open the front door. There was Lucius, sitting on the stairs, looking utterly annoyed. “It’s about time,” he sounded as if he was scolding me. “I can’t believe it took you this long to figure out something so incredibly simple. You humans thoroughly disappoint me.”
I stumbled over words as I tried to find the right words to say. “Are you a nephilim? I knew that Lucifer had numerous earthly children and I should have known that you are one of them, aren’t you?”
He scoffed. “You spent all that time in that damned library and that is all you suspected?” He stood and came closer shaking his finger at me. “You humans become more and more pathetic over the centuries. For being made in the image and likeness of God, your intelligence is insulting.”
I suggested that he leave, I wasn’t sure how many more of his harsh words I could endure.
“I would like for you to honestly put some effort into thinking this over and I’ll be keeping watch over you to make sure that you do.”
As he opened the front door to leave, I called after him. “If you want me to know this great secret, or if I already know it, then why don’t you just tell me?”
“And what fun would that be?” he asked as he left.
I dead-bolted the door behind him and went straight to bed, not worrying that I hadn’t eaten anything.
On Thursday morning I woke up extra early so that I could be there to open Homebodies at six. It was also the day that Josh and Zack would be coming home from college to stay until the spring semester began again in March. It meant that I had to clean and get the basement ready for them to temporarily move back in.
I quickly took a shower and pulled on jeans, a black polo, and converses and then, even more hurriedly, grabbed my purse and winter jacket and headed over to the café. I arrived half an hour before we opened for the day so I set up all of the machines and made myself a cappuccino. The first customer came in shortly after 6. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was Michael.
We talked for a few minutes before a whole group of customers came in, on their way to the train station. When Michael saw that I was about to have my hands full, he ordered his white chocolate coffee with whipped cream and kissed me good-bye to leave for work. When my mother, Elise, and another coworker arrived at the end of my shift, I was finally allowed to leave. As tempted as I was to go see Michael at his dad’s garage, I knew that I should have been heading home to begin cleaning. And that is exactly what I did.
By noon, the entire house was spotless and the two pullout beds in the basement were made. Promptly, at one o’clock I drove to the train station to pick up my older brothers. I took my dad’s car knowing that one of my brothers was going to insist on driving home. The last time one of them drove my car, they ended up destroying it and since my dad’s insurance was better, his was the car that would be placed in the line of duty.
Zach ended up driving us home and I was eternally grateful that he hadn’t been driving my car. Half a mile away from the train station he rear-ended a car, damaging Dad’s car more than the one he had hit. Which meant that we would have to wait for the tow truck to come and for our father to meet us at the mechanic shop to sign all of the insurance paperwork. Luckily, for Zach, the woman who was driving the other car decided that he was cute and she wouldn’t file any complaints. She even told him that he wouldn’t have to pay for the damage done to her car. She just drove off. Needless to say, dad was not happy with anything that happened but he wasn’t in the mood to make a scene out of it.
We finally returned home hours later only to be greeted with an enormous homecoming party for Josh and Zach and both sets of twins had come home as well. Michael, Mercedes, and Elise had even come to join our celebration. Michael and I helped both of my brothers bring their belongings into the basement. The two of us brought down the last of the bags while Josh and Zach made their beds.
As I sat down next to Michael on my brothers’ inflatable chair, Josh asked if anyone had been in the furnace room lately. Of course not, I told him, why would anyone have been in there? After all, the furnace had been moved to a different part of the house years ago, the furnace room was just closet space but nothing was stored in there because it was directly under leaky water pipes. Every one was too afraid to go in there anyway. I asked Josh why he would ask me that, thinking that he was only trying to start a ghost story. He told me that the light was on. That was ridiculous, that door had been locked for over a decade. No one touched it, no one looked at it and no one unlocked it because of the secrets it supposedly held. They said that bodies were buried in the concrete under where the furnace had been and every man, woman, and child who set food in that house was terrified of that room. Even as the contract for the house was pending, the real estate agent made sure that my parents understood the legend and rumors that came with the house.
I really believed that Josh was just trying to scare me but when I went around the staircase to check, the light pouring out from the crack under the door wasn’t difficult to see in the otherwise dingy room. I slowly backed away and all of a sudden I felt a warm breath on the back of my neck and then a whisper. “Boo!”
I screamed and ran back to Michael on the inflatable chair. I clung to him and as I looked up, Josh emerged from the shadows. I dissolved into tears. I couldn’t contain myself, I was firmly against crying but I couldn’t help it. Josh came over and pulled me into his arms, just as he did when I was little when he pushed me too hard on the trampoline or threw sand from the sand box in my hair. He began whispering his apologies; he didn’t think I would take it so harsh, it was only a joke. He thought I was over my paranoia of things that went bump in the dark, that the insomnia was over. I couldn’t respond. I sat there, shaking and crying, clinging to my oldest brother so tightly that no one could have torn me away no matter how hard they tried.
I must have fallen asleep because I woke up in my bed some time later, thoroughly confused about what exactly had gone on but then it came back to me. Instead of being upset with Josh, I cringed at the thought of the embarrassment I had brought on myself. I rolled over and saw Michael sitting in the World Domination Chair, reading one of the hundreds of novels that I owned. I got out of bed to stretch out and Michael suggested that we go down to the party. While we walked down the stairs, I apologized for the episode and for falling asleep as I had. He said that there was no need to apologize and he gently laced his fingers in mine as he took my hand. As we came to the bottom of the steps, my mother offered me a glass of champagne and I made my way over to Mercedes and Elise. She must have heard, or had been watching, because Mercedes gave me a look of alarm and complete concern. I turned down my mother’s offer and managed to make small talk with the girls for a few minutes when the song suddenly changed. Before I knew it, Michael had taken me by the waist and we were dancing across the living room floor.
Veni, Vidi, Vici
Last edited by Miette DuPain; 03-20-2007 at 03:27 PM..