Anyway, in time for some quick before-Christmas reading, here's part three of four (?): CIPHER.
Prompt: “Dying is easy. Coming back is where things get tricky."
Perspective: First Person
Genres: Supernatural, Secrets, Drama
Length: 1077 words
-Part three of four?
-Peculiarly Old-World manners
Author Notes: It's odd that this literally has all the same warnings as part one. I intended this to be a two parter, but it's going to take at least four.
Part three is about Ambrose assimilating the knowledge that encountering Jeremy (Jeremiah) imparted, as well as dwelling on the relationship they used to have together. It shows that the fascination is not a one-sided thing, and it shows some more depth to Ambrose. It also explains a little more about the message Jeremiah left for him!
Please read "Endowment" first and then "Crystalline" so things make sense, okay?
Either way, though, I felt completely out of my depth with the circumstances that had plopped into my lap. I never expected another person to have my particular… talent. I sure as hell never expected the first man I’d ever loved to have it! Jeremiah had been the person I knew would accept me no matter what, would keep my secrets come what may, would love me through anything.
I winced at that thought. Hell, for all intents and purposes it appeared he had loved me through things that most lovers would never tolerate. He’d loved me beyond death, abandonment, what he could consider cheating… If he had been following after me as long as he said, I’d literally done nothing but hurt him since I was five-and-twenty.
My heart clenched tightly in my chest at the thought of hurting Jeremiah. He had always been a warm, constant sort of man and I knew that when he loved, he loved with everything within him. It was beautiful and humbling all at once; it always had been. And I had loved him with so very much of myself that I’d never really gotten over him. Sure, I’d taken lovers, but none of them were him so they never quite measured up.
I prided myself on living with no regrets, yet how could I not regret all the pain I had caused him? How could he think to love me still, since all I ever brought him was more hurt?
Knowing now that the sensation of his soul brushing against mine would never change, I could recall the times he had touched the fringe edges of the lives I had built without him –each and every one of them, and sometimes more than once. And I should have known him each time, the way he had known me. He would ever be my Jeremiah, no matter what his face looked like, no matter the names he took. Each encounter included subtle clues, tiny hints and fragments. He was always so patient, so selfless, so loving –usually to the point of personal detriment.
Jeremiah had always had the bad habit of undervaluing himself. Even when we'd been children, he'd placed me above himself. Yet the was a comfort in knowing that he was still the man I'd loved first and best. In a world that no longer even resembled the one I had been born into, he was my constant, my loadstone: my never-shifting star by which to navigate the oceans of time I had been drowning in.
How lonely I had been, how lost without my constant! Yet he had too have been so much more so. I had believed Maman when she said we were the last, and I had accepted it as gospel. But Jeremiah had known of another like him, endowed with his talent and lifespan and years. Even centuries later, I ached for the loss of Maman and Kyalee, for their candles being snuffed out far too soon. But as the last member of the last family, I had tucked away the burning, bitter longing to exist with those like me, with my own kind.
How terrible to know that Jeremiah had experience the very same deep pain but only because I failed to see the familiar beloved soul flickering warmly behind his masks!
The room phone rang from the inn table beside me, startling me from my musings. I knew that it was about Jeremiah, knew it in my bones.
"Hello?" I inquired lightly.
"Mister Rives, this is Althea from the front desk. A gentlemen left you a message. How would you like to receive it?" Her tone was businesslike, polite, pleasant –almost soothing on the rawness of my emotions.
I knew the options well: she could read it back to me, I could pick up the message privately from a service node, or I could pick it up at the desk. "Why don't you just read it for me, dear?"
"He said, 'It's been a long time, old friend'. And he left a phone number but no name, I'm afraid. He said you would know who it was from." Althea paused, swallowing hard, almost audible wondering about the strange message.
I couldn't help but laugh out loud. "Oh, gods, I haven't heard from him in a long while," I replied, smiling at the familiar words. "I'm glad to know that he's about. Would you give me the number?"
'It's been a long time' had been a code of ours. We had used it when we wanted to spend time alone together. 'Oh, it's been a long time since I've picked apples' or 'It's been a long time since I've been the river', things like that would set locations for us to meet and spend some time with each other, to talk or touch or kiss –things that our community would find inappropriate, to say the least. After all, sneaking around in an actual Puritan society was a lot more difficult than one would think.
Althea rattled off the numbers while I dutifully recorded them. I thanked her graciously and hung up the phone.
Only then did I allow myself to puzzle over the message. Jeremiah had said, 'It's been a while', which meant he wanted to spend time alone with me –to meet up. But he hadn't specified where we were to meet.
My stomach twisted and turned in slow, tense circles as I pondered the few words he'd chosen. 'Old friend', he'd called me, but that had never been a part of the code we used.
What could those words mean, between the pair of us?
Have a very Merry Christmas, or a Happy Hanukkah, or whatever you do or don't celebrate. I'll catch up with you again before it's time to wish you a happy New Year.
Lots of love and Christmas magick!