[A/n: Answer to Azure's dare to write an 80% fluff 20% angst fic.]
[disclaimer: Names of characters were borrowed from Madeleine L'Engle's book ' Many Waters]
[OTHERS: this is version 1.0 of ' Another Why' LLes©2004. Proofread. considered beta- status]
It was raining. Small puddles have gathered around the open grave, where the mourning people have come to stand, paying their last respects to the diseased and family. Everyone was in black, but a somber man stood under a family-sized umbrella, a crimson shawl, faded, gripped tightly in his hand.
Sentimental value had its place as well.
Several white roses lay scattered atop the coffin which was being lowered to the bottom of its last resting place- six feet below ground. Women were crying, being held by their husbands which looked apathetic. Their own voices would have been drowned by their wives' wails.
An equally somber young woman looked up at the somber man. Grief stained her black eyes as she watched her father.
"Mum's gone, dad"
A hollow, chilling wind added its own voice to the lament filling the cemetery. The small crowd that stood near the edge of the grave slowly dwindled, till the father and daughter duo was left alone. The rain has not stopped.
The old, somber man was staring at the coffin, disbelief sprawled clearly on his features. This horrible truth sank in and bit. And the man wept- the white soul-blood pouring from the wound. This was the only reaction the somber-man could give in his state of grief. He wailed not-his voice has gone out before him, still echoing in the hallway of the State hospital where his wife was pronounced ' dead upon arrival '. His memories faded quickly, having lived only on them for 5 days while his wife was being lamented. He could only cry.
She WAS gone.
And he did.
The night of the funeral, he did not sleep, but returned to her in the memories burned into him by either pain or passion, or both- those he knew he couldn't forget.
Questions hounded him. Questions, damn them, that screamed for answers even though he knew they could never be answered. His wife was gone.
One such memory- his wedding night, which reminded him of sorrow. He and his wife ran away, their child still in her womb was growing slowly and steadily. Insecurities followed them and they were weary.
The somber-man gripped the blankets covering him, and remembered the conversation he had with his new wife. His new wife. . . then.. .
She was beside him on his bed. . their bed facing the enormous window which seemed to occupy most of their room. The moonlight was slowly ebbing away, retreating to the darkness with the moon. They heard a bell echo through the night marking the hour before dawn and the time the people's morning tasks begun. One of his hands was gripping her hair, and the other, caressing her bare arm as he whispered into her ear.
"I love you." He kissed her neck. "I love you." He stroked her lips. "I love you." His golden-brown hair fell across her face as he bent down to kiss her collarbone.
"stop" she moaned, his sensual touch sending her reeling, making her head spin and her heart race. "just. . . stop. . . for a moment?" she half begged, half forced herself to say. She was enjoying this.
He looked up, wearing a disappointed puppy-dog face. Two pairs of black eyes met in the glow of the filtered moonlight and were held together.
"What?" he asked.
"This is wrong, Adnarel and you know it." she said, no tears shown in her eyes. Her voice was hollow. No grief. Nothing.
"You agreed to it, Alatariel-no turning back now." The man called Adnarel answered, his voice husky. "MY Alatariel."
"You don't fuckin' know the consequences of this do you?" Alatariel, the woman which Adnarel claimed to be his own, hissed. "My parents are going to find out, El. What will you say? This. . . this thing inside me's growing and you're too chicken to have it. . ." words momentarily failed her. "Removed." Her voice was full of sorrow. "WE have no future."
"Oh COME ON, ALA!" his voice exploded, pushing away the confusing emotion: guilt. He placed his mouth firmly on top of hers, to stifle her words and what he feared was true. . is true. She started to gag, to push at his bare body pressing upon her, suffocating her with his mouth. She bit him, his tongue started bleeding and he choked upon his own blood.
Spitting it out, he slapped her, causing her head to hit the hard bed-railing. She fell, sprawled on the floor, becoming one with the pool of sheets sliding off the bed.
He wiped his mouth and banished the urge to cry, looking at his pale wife and at her slowly rounding abdomen where his child lay. He had hurt them both, and he knew it.
Guilt and the slow, darkened night swallowed him.
Adnarel shivered, the memory of Alatariel that night, how pale she had been, how bruised her face looked before she fainted. Disbelief covered her face that her lover, the one whispering sweet ' I love you' s to her ear, the one lovingly stroking her face, the one who's hand she felt wipe away her tears, could ever hurt her.
The Somber-man turned away from his memories. A fresh batch of tears threw themselves down his cheek. He did not bother to wipe them away.
He closed his eyes as though to forget and hide from his own mind. But, sadly, it was no use. He could never hide from her. He could never deceive her. They were, after all, one and the same.
The hospital smelled faintly of alcohol. The liquid-substance was the water here, being used daily on hundreds of people- to ease their pain, to give pain, to help heal them.
A dark shadow seemed to engulf him. His mind was trapped, overshadowed by dirty, black wings whose filth and closeness seemed to drain him. He was under the protection of confusion and he was shaking uncontrollably.
He was pacing the lobby, he had not been permitted inside the delivery room. His heart was racing, he could feel the heart beating wildly inside him and wondered, would he ever hear his own child's heartbeat? How would it feel like to have your son to hold, to hear the heart that you know you created? How?
His mind was making patters of the black and blue and yellow tiles. He was scanning the wall opposite the chairs for anything. Then, his eyes became fixed on the double doors at the end of the hallway. The lights were dim and hardly gave any light at all. The narrow space nearly choked Adnarel as he impatiently watched the clock in its slow procession.
Suddenly, the roar of a tiny lion snapped him out of his waking trance. He stood around, temporarily not registering the fact that he had heard his new child's first cry. His feet carried him off down the hallway and, all of a sudden, it seemed to swell, to become a great street and he was a small being not ready to accept what awaited at the end. He needed more time. The doors opened slowly, revealing a doctor, face covered with sweat, and a tiny bundle of blue blankets, stained with the opposing crimson of blood, in his arms.
Adnarel couldn't breathe. He was alone inside the universe of a hallway, alone with this. . . this creature that couldn't have possibly come to be his. . to be part of him. No, of course not.
"Congratulations, son." The surgeon said, smiling. He has, probably, delivered a lot more babies than Adnarel has ever seen. The surgeon held out the baby to Adnarel, carefully watching the overwhelmed young man.
"It's a boy."
The surgeon's voice was a knife that ripped the uncertainty that hung about Adnarel. Fatherly pride took him as he held his new son close. Like HIS wife, this was HIS new son. HIS new son.
The Somber-man turned, from the dim hallway, he had come back to the equally dark present. Oh! The memories. . .
He had often asked himself, as he stared at the fading black and white [sometimes gray and dark brown] photograph: Why was it that he could have treated his wife this way? True, he had hit her and bruised her many, many times before, but he knew in the end that she forgave him. He was undeserving of such unrequited love such as his wife had given him.
The photograph showed a family, happy, as their smiles rose from ear to ear. There was the Somber-man, twenty-five years before. Beside him, stood his wife. The Somber-man could not see it in the faded photograph [which had been set on his bedside-table for so long, he could not remember when it was not there], but he knew exactly how much silver, moonlit hairs she had, how her face had wrinkled as she showed her, somehow, everyday smile. He knew that she still had the bruise on her crimson shawl-covered arm that he had given her the night before.
The Somber-man looked at the two children beside him and his wife. There was Admael, his young son, standing before his father and in his wife's arms was their daughter: Aariel. Admael was wearing a worried look, something that one would not expect to see on such a young child's face. The Somber-man could not blame his son for not smiling. He had just witnessed his father violently punch his mother and Admael had held a grudge since.
Scarring his son at such an early age. Delivering his daughter into a world where her first uttered word was 'Hate', and he had given his son a reason never to follow in his footsteps. . . He was the worst father. And he knew it.
Unable to handle his shaking body, Somber-man rose and sat, staring out of the window at the moon. Again, thought he, with those damn memories. . .but, as much as he loathed the past, he also wanted to visit it, knowing the path he took to finally realize: He was still loved. He asked himself if he would consult sleeping pills if he could not sleep. Somber-man was drained to the bone, his spirit dwindling away.
" Papa!" the tiny lion's voice shook with rage. Admael ran to his mother who was cowering under her husband's glare. Adnarel's eyes were red and out of focus, he held an empty bottle in one hand and a baseball bat in the other.
A crimson shawl, the one in the photograph, was dripping with blood and was hanging off the wife's pale shoulder.
The tiny kitchen was a mess, spaghetti on the floor and pieces of broken china lay scattered, forgotten, near the sink. It was a battlefield.
'Whore!" Adnarel screamed in his rage, raising the baseball bat high over his head to have it land on the woman's uncovered head.
The Somber-man closed his eyes. He had been angry. It was the alcohol. . . he had not meant to kill Admael, he did not mean to curse his wife. . . declaring over and over that she had a secret relationship with their mailman, that being the reason he always came by. Yes, Somber-man told himself, it was the alcohol.
"Papa!" Admael screamed again. His father turned his blood-eyes to his firstborn son and staggered towards him.
"NO!" a terrified-woman scream landed on deaf ears in the background, as Adnarel slowly, evilly, crazily, lifted the bat again to smite his son. The young boy only knew this: his mother was being beaten up by his father and this was not good. Such a young mind.
"Son of a bitch, close your eyes!" Adnarel said, cracking a maniac grin. It dawned on poor Admael's mind that he was being addressed and obediently, stoically, closed his eyes.
What did my son see? Somber-man wondered, as he traced a hand across one of the old scars on his forehead. The scar was the result of his wife's valiant, yet worthless effort to turn his hand away from his son. She had tried to turn his gaze from their son to her, her claw-like, manicured nails digging into his skin and scratching him severely. What did Admael see, Somber-man thought, when I killed him?
Blood came rushing out of the fractured skull and an eerie hush fell on the silent spectators. Adnarel, perhaps realizing what happened to him in his madness, rolled his eyes and fainted, his body laying inches away from the corpse that once as Admael, his own son. HIS own son. Two screams, creeping out of the mouths of two frightened females rent the air in the tiny kitchen. There were two dead bodies to tend to, after all.
Adnarel awoke in a small cell, his hands bound by a cold metal, with his wife mourning beside him. Then, his son's bewildered, hating face came to him and he wept. For the first time, he wept not for himself or for losing anything he owned, he wept for Admael and his grief that his last vision was this: being killed by his own father that spawned him.
The moonlight crawled past the thick, cold window bars and slid gracefully onto the floor. His wife had left hours ago. She had stayed to tell him what madness he had done, where he was and what he was going to do. She told him also that she did not blame him and held peace. She blamed the liquor, the ' Hell Drink' , for possessing him. Adnarel had not heard such foolishness. He let the dark devour him and give him thoughts of suicide and death. He wanted to die and felt he deserved it. He did, after all, kill his own flesh and blood, was it not the next step only to kill himself? His son's death meant that part of him had died already. . was it not right for the rest to follow?
Adnarel lay, facing away from the light, starring at the barred doors and smelling the foul odor of the public bathroom down the hall. He lay, rocking himself and muttering sometimes, incoherent phrases.
"I killed him. . . ' Good'. . .I killed him. . ."
He went to jail and attended Rehabilitation classes. He vowed then that he would harm not his wife or his daughter. He did not think he would be able to handle the grief and guilt that consumed him after his discovery of his son's death, and means of it. He did not think he would forgive himself—he will not forgive himself . . . he would lay no hard hand on neither one of them. He vowed also that, should this vow be broken, he would take his own life. Adnarel thought also that, should this grief come upon him, he would have no other option. He was a weak man, after all. He will not be able to bear the burden, his hands being soiled by the blood of his own family. He constantly reminded himself of his vow by the nightly lacerations he applied to his body. On his arms lay one month's worth of pain, and his thigh he cleaved two month's punishments, and so on.
Several years passed, but he never experienced abandonment.
Here, Somber-man paused, a thought springing to mind. A curious thought that would have to be addressed. Later.
Every Christmas, he saw Aariel and his wife. So it was with New Year and Birthdays. He was still very much involved with his family's life. He was grateful that he was not forgotten and even more grateful that he was still accepted. But, aside from the awkward silences that occurred when his wife was alone with him, she did nothing more to touch on Admael's death. No. It was Aariel that made the first move.
"Papa?" Aariel asked suddenly, holding on to her father's arm as she moved beside him and her mother in the park inside the Jail.
"Hmm?" Adnarel answered, too distracted by the little boys playing in the sprawling fields to his right, the children of his other inmates. "What is it, Aariel?"
" Where is Admael?" she asked. Adnarel stopped. His eyes watering, the vision starting in his mind. His crazed actions, his son's last withering glare. . .
"Admael's gone, Aariel." Alatariel said curtly, taking her daughter's hand away, and leading her to the swing set and sandbox on the other side of the park. "He's simply gone."
Later, as Alatariel and Adnarel sat, looking from afar for their daughter, lost in a forest of bodies as she played with her playmates, Adnarel took Alatariel's hand.
"I have not been a very good husband, Alatariel, have I?"
"No." Alatariel answered not with unkindness or coldness. Simply with truth.
Somber-man looked up in time to see a clear, cold, consoling moon. After he had been released from his prison life and had received full merits for his Rehabilitation classes, he had returned to his family. He had hoped, perhaps, to settle the score. He gave them the best that he could offer-for the remainder of his life with them. He strove to complete them and build them a vision of what could have been, of what a father SHOULD be.
His love and efforts were genuine and from the very depth of his soul. His efforts, though valiant, were met only with more grief. Somber-man remembered, now more painfully, what, he reckoned, was the last chapter of his life before the end. He had given his daughter everything he wished to give to Admael as well as to himself: a good education and a life worth writing about.
It was 20 years after Admael's death, which was four years after Aariel's birth. There were chairs and tables in the Seraph's lawn, all clothed in blues and whites. Children were playing in the temporarily blocked street as the adults ate, using the table-matching cutlery and trying their best not to spill on the very-expensive-looking table cloths. Bright blue ribbons were hanging from the windowpanes, their tails flowing down unto the grass making tiny rivers and rivulets from their frayed ends.
It was the friends-and-family-only after-wedding party of Aariel Seraph-Ilamiphil and Eblis Ilamiphil.
Adnarel and Alatariel were sitting in one of the biggest tables in the lawn-party. They were eating wedding-cake and drinking glass after glass of champagne.
"El, You'd best stop drinking too much. You might get drunk. . . again." Alatariel teased.
True, her husband had seemed to everyone a changed man after coming back from the Rehab center. It was true, that he had changed, matured, grown and accepted himself for the murder of his son. He had been seen by the Church as well as the government and was promptly pronounced ' cured' by both parties. Yet, Alatariel could not bring herself to trust him with liquor. She never could.
"Just one more-hic-glass, Ala!" Adnarel cooed, putting one hand under her chin and tilting her head up, another hand gripped a champagne glass tightly.
He bent low to her, and whispered. "Do you see your daughter? She is happy, isn't she?" He pointed to Aariel, who was kissing Eblis whilst dancing with him on the grass. The sun was setting, causing the couple to take an ethereal glow, likening them to the heavenly bodies also gracing the heavens above. "I will not let anyone jeopardize this day for her. I will not. I won't. Trust me." He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. He was a changed man. He knew it.
He saw an old scar from his days at the Jail and he cringed.
And so, the night wore on. The guests retired soon after, their sons and daughters washed and fed were sleeping soundly. Only Adnarel, Alatariel and the Newlyweds were left. The deep silence of the night engulfed them as the light, romantic music played on in the background.
Struck with a sudden idea, Adnarel rose and offered his hand to Alatariel.
"A dance?" He asked. The old glitter returned to his eyes as his, now, snow-white hair gleamed, illuminating the golden-browns still left in the flood of silver. He smiled.
The old pair and new couple took the floor and fell to the power of the gentle music. Their feet moved in rhythm and grace to the new song.
Silence fell among the four people, absorbed so in the folds of deep and new awakened love. It was then that Adnarel noticed his wife's perspiration and paleness.
"Are you ok?" he asked.
"Yes, yes. I'm fine, Adnarel." She answered wearily, though it showed that she was not. She denied having to go inside and rest, wanting to dance more. Adnarel complied.
"You did a good job, Ala, raising our daughter."
"Oh, I had help."
Adnarel smiled again.
" I hope she's going to be happy with Eblis."
They looked over to their daughter and to their new son-in-law. Eblis and Aariel's eyes were closed, so intent in their dance and embrace.
"They're new in-love."
"Yes, do you think they'll realize how hard it will become?" Adnarel looked worried for his daughter.
"Does it matter? What matters is how they're going to face it, what decisions they're going to make."
"Yes, I suppose you're right. . . as usual." He added in a low voice, clearly voicing out his praise for her. It was, after all, well deserved.
" As usual? Yes, you're right about that. . . for once." She was playing along and a grin crept to her old, worry-lined face. " I suppose. I guess I was right about you too, Adnarel."
"About me?" confused, Adnarel looked down. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, I was right in choosing you to be my partner in this crime called 'life'. I don't regret that decision."
"I think you should have thought better." Adnarel stopped dancing, bowed down and rubbed his toe.
"No. you were a magnificent father to Aariel."
" 'to Aariel' ". . . The Somber-man said under his breath. Then, " but not to Admael, so it would seem." He said out loud to the tree beyond his window, hoping it could hear.
" I had hoped to be more."
"Oh." Alatariel was surprised. "Really, more what?"
"Like a better husband."
"But you are."
"I was not. . . am not. . . never will be. . ."
"I still love you, don't I?"
Silence followed this remark. Adnarel could not believe his ears. He was still loved. He had always been so. It was true that he knew he was still loved, but, to actually hear it made it more real. It was a myth, a fog about him that reassured him in doubt, but now, it was a guide in the night rather than a dim light far off.
"Why do I still love you, Adnarel?" Alatariel voiced out her thoughts. Then, she looked up, suddenly afraid of his reactions.
He only smiled.
"You're not supposed to know, Alatariel."
He kissed her then. It was a short kiss, merely brushing his lips on hers for a moment. But, it was enough for all their passion to come rushing back. It was as though Admael's death was forgiven and Adnarel was new in-love. It was as though a great, invisible weight about his chest had been cast off. He was still loved. In the arms of their lovers, they wept. For once, Adnarel was light of heart.
Somber-man stopped. Yes. That was all that mattered, wasn't it? It mattered not that that very same night, Alatariel died. It didn't matter that she had a heart attack shortly before dawn. It didn't matter that Somber-man, who was Adnarel, still loved her. It only mattered that she loved Adnarel who was Somber-man.
The ambulance was a blaze of red-fire that came speeding out of the orange-dawn. It was a passing wind that troubled the trees' withering leaves and made the dogs bark out in fear and suspicion. It sped by the peaceful, happy, content people of the suburbs in the early light of a windy, chilly day of Autumn.
Inside the ambulance, an elderly woman, whose husband had a white shirt over his beer-belly, was strapped and plugged into the heart of the machines, her hand being gripped by the man.
"Hold on." He urged her, tightening his grip. "You're going to make it."
The old lady gasped in reply. "No, Adnarel." She seemed to be suffocating. " Remember when we ran away?" Her chest was heaving up and down, her eyes were going out of focus and she looked like she was groping in the dark. " You didn't want to let Admael go, didn't you?"
Adnarel shook his head and croaked. " No"
"Well, you've got to let ME go. . . can you do that?"
He answered truthfully. "No, not yet, Ala."
"You know you've got to. I've told you I love you. Do you love me?"
"Of course." For the third time, Adnarel was crying. Big tears fell on his hands, on his scars.
"I love you, Alatariel."
"I don't know."
She smiled. For the last time. "Good."
It was almost dawn. Somber-man could see the light outline of the sun on the East. His eyes dropped from another night's lost sleep. He addressed his thought now.
"I still love you, Alatariel."
And, as though out of tradition, he continued. "And, I don't know why."
He folded a wrinkled, tear-stained letter and put it on the desk in front of him. It was going to be part of the new book he was writing, dedicated to his wife, as almost all his published books were.
Why do I still love you?
Your bronze sunlight for its own, adding to the moon's slow shine. I picture your eyes, gazing, unseeing into the East waiting for it to blaze in the fiery spirit known as the sun. You who await the sudden call of birds and beasts and understands. You who stole my wandering heart.
Why do I love you and your free spirit intertwined with strength, woven with .life and destiny.
Oh my wife! How do you bewitch me so? You hands lay peacefully on your lap. Clothed to show all your majesty, my beautiful flower.
As I look upon you now- in pure white as when we first [ touched, became one ] your mysteries unearthed, your problems all shared, sorrows halfed and joys celebrated. We are one. We were one.
Till death do us part.
Now parted. Why do I still love you? Was this emotion that coursed through my veins for neigh 50 years an illusion? Was I spellbound by your beauty? Are you a witch? Mage?
No. you are not. I know.
My part, dear other half- you sleep now in peace?
I've lain with you for so long [send me not from your side]. Your body I've discovered and cherished. You've bared your soul.
Now- I know you.
I love you.
Sweet love, your breath still lingers on my face, your arms around me. . . love? Where are you/ I know you, your beauty. I love you because. . .
My voice fades when I think of the answer.
It was not your perfection which drew me to you. You had faults and you shared them.
Over time I've seen and felt your irrational hand and quick-rising temper. Over time I've felt your injustice and cruelty. I've suffered for your pride. In time I've cracked your perfect guise and you stood naked before me. imperfect. Misshapen. Clouded. YOU
I was not bewitched
I am sane.
It was not your beauty.
Lines of care and age have shown over the long- toiling years.
I was not blind to love a perfect woman.
You, you are simply YOU.
I love you .Why? Because you did and I held you in honor to be repaid.
All under the question, which Adnarel penned down as a farewell to her: Another Why.
[a'n: MURDER ME and put your name/ nick name beside your critique. Many thanks.]
MURDER MEand put your name/ nickname after your critique. Many thanks.