Tuesday, 15 January 2008
~*~ Angel In Disguise ~*~
A WEEK LATER - TUESDAY.
Iz had worked at Bradley's Books for a little over six months and in that time she'd never seen anyone talk to Steve, yet since her conversation with him she'd found out they had a lot in common, and that he liked to talk more than anyone would've believed. Iz was stationed behind the cash register counting down the seconds until she could leave on her ten minute break. She was anxious to get out of the store because Bradley had been eyeing her conspicuously all morning. Iz groaned as Bradley, who had been helping a customer [he liked the people to know he ran a good business], brought the eldery woman over to the counter. Iz tried to hide behind the register, but it was a feeble attempt. Bradely approached the counter leading the woman by the elbow with a huge "look-at-me-mommy!" grin plastered on his face.
"And this is my finest employee, Iz, she'll take care of you, Ms. Williams." Bradley said flashing Ms. Williams his winning smile while simultaneously taking a sweeping glance at Iz's chest. Grinding her teeth to keep from screaming, Iz smiled and politely rang up Ms. Williams purchase. After ringing up Ms. Williams, Iz decided to call it done and take her break and follow Ms. Williams out, but Bradley caught her by the arm before she could even leave from behind the counter.
"And where do you think you're going?" Bradley inquired, gripping Iz's elbow tightly his nails digging into her skin.
Grimacing she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Steady...don't bite his head off, though God knows you want to. Smiling pleasantly Iz turned to Bradley and spoke in a tone that was so foreign to her she was afraid she might actually damage her vocal chords with it.
"I was going to take my break and get a coffee." She replied sweetly, and considered adding, so I don't have to be around you any longer, but she choked it down.
"I have another quick task for you." Bradley replied and Iz couldn't help but notice his suggestive tone.
"My break's in two minutes, can't it wait until I get back?" Iz questioned tartly.
Bradley's eyes narrowed, "Are you questioning my authority?"
"No." Iz replied much too quickly.
"I think you are." Bradley fired back, irritated.
Sighing heavily, Iz yanked her arm free of Bradley's grip. "I'm not questioning your "authority." I'm simply asking a question, so can it?" Iz added in a pleading tone.
"I suppose," Bradley began, his tone softening, "But I expect you back here promptly in ten minutes."
Yes, Dad. Iz thought but didn't say. She quickly hurried out the door into the bright sunshine of the afternoon, and hopped down the steps, turned right and entered Betsy's. While Iz was waiting patiently in line she dug through her wallet picking out singles; she didn't notice the tall shadow enter the store behind her.
"That was quite a performance." A deep, fatherly, voice spoke behind her.
Iz whirled around to face Steve smiling at her. She blushed, "Oh, that. I wasn't trying to tick him off; he just asks for it." Iz replied glumly, turning back around. Steve chuckled.
"Personally I'm surprised you put up with him."
Iz snorted, "Gotta pay the bills somehow."
"So you work a job you detest?" He inquired, genuinely intruiged.
"I don't detest my job," Iz replied defensively, "I just detest some of the people who work there." She finished glancing at him over her shoulder.
Steve laughed, "I know, I'm quite the annoyance," he teased.
Iz stepped up to the counter just as Steve cut in front of her. "Two coffees." He said placing the proper amount of cash on the counter. Iz glowered at him. "I can afford my own coffee, thank you very much."
"I know you can, but I saw you digging through your wallet, and besides, I haven't done anything nice for someone in a while. Don't want my karma to catch up with me." He said handing her a coffee and taking the other for himself, smiling.
"Well, thank you." Iz replied, tipping her cup in Steve's direction and then taking a sip herself. The coffee was bittersweet and deliciously warm.
"Your very welcome," Steve replied smiling. "Shall we sit?" He inquired gesturing to a booth by the window.
Iz led the way to the booth and slid onto her sit, Steve taking the seat across from her. Even sitting he towered over her and it was almost intimidating.
"You know, I don't honestly like the taste of coffee, especially not black coffee - too bland." Iz said conversationally, wrinkling her nose as if to emphasis her point.
"I know what you mean, but without it I don't know how I'd make it through a day."
"Me too." Iz agreed mutually. She still couldn't believe how much they shared in common; was fate intervening for her?
"So how long have you been working at Bradley's?" Steve questioned nonchalantly.
"'Bout six months, maybe a little more." She couldn't hide the bitterness he detected in her voice.
"Thought you said you didn't detest you job." He retorted mockingly, a grin turning up the corners of his mouth.
Flushing with color Iz replied tersely, "I don't detest it, like I said; just the people who work there."
Steve was grinning now as he stared out the window watching a young couple walk past the window, hands clasped together and fingers intertwined; the laugther and gaity of romance shining in their faces.
"I'm glad you work there anyway, its nice not having to avoid everyone I work with." He stated baldly, watching her reaction through the window.
Iz was momentarily stunned. Could he really mean that?
"Uhm...th-thanks." She stammered. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Steve was smiling again as he turned to look at her and once again she thought she saw his eyes flash a golden-fire yellow, but could that really be?
"I suppose we should be heading back. I wouldn't want to make you late and have Bradley reprimand you for being a bad girl." He teased, rising from his seat.
Iz frowned, "At this rate you're going to make me say something to him I'll regret."
Steve chuckled, "We wouldn't want that. I guess I'll stop while I'm ahead."
"Good." Iz replied smiling, climbing from her seat as well and following Steve to the door. Like a gentleman he held open the door for her. Stopping outside the door, Iz closed her eyes and relished in the warm sunlight as a gust of fall wind ripped down the street blowing random discarded trash through the gutter.
"Nice day." Steve commented noticing her closed eyes.
"It'll be nicer tonight."
"How come?" He asked intruiged, his head tilted sideways.
Iz opened one eye to look at him. "Nighttime is always better." She stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Steve laughed, "Just when I think I might actually have you figured out you prove me wrong."
Iz raised an eyebrow in interest, "You think you know me now?"
"No, but I hope to someday."
"And why is that?" Iz asked curiously, turning to face him now.
Steve shrugged, "Because I like you." And with that he turned and walked back to Bradley's Books, leaving Iz standing there on the sidewalk stunned into silence.
TUESDAY CONTINUED - 6PM.
Because I like you. Iz couldn't believe it. She hadn't dated anyone since highschool and that hadn't ended well. How could Steve, her silent obsession, like her? It was just absurd! Or was it? Was it really so unbelievable that a guy as attractive as Steve could like her - Busy Izzy? It was her Uncle's pet name for her; Busy Izzy. He had always teased her that she was always so busy with the way she sat outside and watched the clouds for hours on end that it ultimately became part of her nickname. When she thought about it, she realized she didn't think so highly of herself. She wasn't pessemistic, but she certainly didn't believe she was the most attractive female on this side of town. As she threw together a quick meal - hamburger helper - her thoughts wandered back to the scene in the coffee shop. That smile of his was so damn infectious! She found herself smiling now, just thinking about it. And his eyes, what was with those gorgeous eyes? What color were they? She realized she didn't know, yet she always caught herself staring into them, enchanted by something she saw, but what?
"The eyes are the windows into the soul" she recited to herself and the hamburger meat cooking in the skillet before her. That had been her uncles favorite saying. Her stomach rumbled then, distracting her thoughts. Inhaling the somehow delicious and disgusting scent of fatty food was making her stomach protest - feed me! Adding the cheesy potatoes like the directions said, she stirred the mixture together, let it cook a second longer until her stomach couldn't stand it, and took the whole skillet over to her card/dinner table. Grabbing a fork from a drawer next to the stove she plopped into her seat, loaded her fork with steaming cheesy hamburger-potatoe casserole and began eating straight from the pan. She was the only one in the house, who did she have to impress? Mmmm, that satisfys, her stomach said while her tongue protested as the just-cooked food burned off a layer of skin. Reaching for a glass she didn't have Iz gagged on the hot food and jumped to her feet. Too hot! she thought as she scrambled through the kitchen, collecting a tall glass, turning the faucet on full blast and filling the glass halfway. Not wanting to wait until the food had completely burned through her skin she raised the glass to her lips and gulped down the cool water and hamburger-helper in one swallow.
"Damnit!" she grumbled. I always do that! Refilling the glass and adding ice, Iz took the now ice-cold-and-sure-to-quell-that-burned-feeling glass over to the table to finish her dinner, which was still so hot that heat was rising from it in swirls. Grrr, I'll never be able to eat this without burning my whole mouth! Oh well. She thought, and dug in, flushing down the food with large gulps of water. Once she had consumed all her mouth could handle and her stomach required of the hamburger-helper she cleared the table and glanced at the clock. 6:30pm. That only took half an hour, shite, now what'll I do until 8? This was the worst part of living alone, Iz thought. There was no one to kill time with when you really needed to kill time. Eventually she decided she'd settle down and read for a while, it would kill time better than anything. Picking up her copy of Lisey's Story, by Stephen King off of the end table and phone stand, she nestled into the loveseat and began to read by fading sunlight.
Engrossed in a novel she'd read nearly a hundred times, the hours ticked by and soon enough it was eight o'clock. Iz only bothered to put in her book mark and check the time when all the light had faded from the sky and reading had become difficult. She glanced at the clock, 8:15pm. Perfect. Dropping the book on the other side of the loveseat, Iz got to her feet, fetched her jacket and proceeded to the door. Zipping up the jacket only halfway - she was never cold - she grabbed her keys off the peg by the door and headed out, locking up behind her. Her single apartment held no appeal for her. It was just a place to sleep at night and shower in the morning, otherwise, she could've done without it. Her real home was the cemetary. She'd loved the darkness of cemetaries at night ever since she was a child when her uncle Frank used to take her out there every night on Halloween and tell her ghost stories. It had scared all her cousins, but she'd enjoyed it plenty. There'd been something about her uncle, maybe it was the way he told his stories, that had made her fall in love with him. There had just been something about him, something different, that held her captive to his every word. When he spoke, she listened, even if she only happened to be passing. She could've picked him out of a crowd just by his voice alone; he had a husky rasp that reminded her of something, but she couldn't ever put a finger on what it was.
Walking along the lighted city street, hands jammed into her pockets she let her thoughts wander as cold, fall wind whipped around her. Now that she thought about it, there was something different about Steve too, and it wasn't his appearance or personality. No, there was a presence about him. The very same presence that had shrouded her uncle in mystery. The whole family had disliked uncle Frank, because he was so different, and because he took a special interest in Iz. He had doted upon her from the day she was born, buying her extravagant gifts and giving the others very little. He wasn't a rich man, never had been. He had drifted from job to job, but always managed to find something to fill his refrigerator and habit - alcohol. It was his downfall, but Iz had loved him no matter what. If it hadn't been for her, Frank would've vanished from the family tree long ago and no one would've bothered to care, but the relationship between them blossomed from the day she was born. Frank was there on the good graces of Iz's father. He'd needed a place to stay for a while when he was having trouble finding a job (he'd quit the week before) and Rick Mendez had been more than willing to let his brother stay in the house while his wife was in the hospital with the baby.
It was the night after Frank had temporarily moved in that Lisa Mendez went into labor. Rick and Frank (lightly soused) had rushed to the hospital and arrived just in time. Two hours later, exactly at midnight on All Hallows Eve, Izabell Mendez was born; a healthy 6lb baby with wide, round inquisitive eyes. After the chord was cut and the blood washed off, Iz was handed over to her mother, then to her father, and unexpectedly to Frank. In the instant that Rick passed his brand new baby girl over to his brother the magic caught. The invisible wire that passed between Frank and the baby was enough to sober the man for life. Which it did, from that night on he never drank another drop, until the day he died of course. All of this went unnoticed for what it really was, but Rick could tell his brother had been affected by the birth of his daughter in that very moment. It was as if Frank was holding the key to all the answers to every question ever asked. He held the baby so gently, so fatherly, and close, her tiny head resting in the crook of his elbow, as she gazed admiringly up at him, those wide brown eyes searching his. Something profound passed between them that night, and Iz only had a faint memory of it.
There was a reccuring dream she had, but it only came once in a great while. In the dream she was staring up at the most glorious face she'd ever seen. It was a man with bright yellow eyes, so unnatural but so beautiful and compelling at the same time. She simply stared into his eyes and was lost in them. They calmed her and told her that everything was okay, that everything would always be okay, because he was looking out for her. The rest of his face was lost in a haze because his eyes captivated her so, but she'd always assumed it was someone she knew. Suddenly she stopped walking, the gears in her head turning. A man with yellow eyes in her dream...and Steve's eyes, they appeared to flash a golden yellow every so often, when she was least expecting it. Could it be? No, that's crazy! How can you dream about someone you've never met? But the idea still entertained her all the way to the Cemetary.
The entrance to the Forest Cemetary was guarded by a white brick wall and gated arch. Iz skillfully climbed over the wall and silently dropped down onto the cemetary's lawn. Discreetly she crept up to the highest hill where a single grave rested underneath an oak tree. A smile parted her lips as she approached the grave.
"Evening, Franky." she whispered into the wind. It was crazy talking to dead people, but her uncle and her had shared a crazy relationship. She sat down in front of the grave and curled her legs indian style under her. The sky was devoid of life except for the radiance of the brilliant full moon. It gleamed silently, purposfully, like the guardian of the midnight dead. Iz was staring at it, entranced by it's solitary beauty, when a tall, dark shadow climbed over the top of the hill. Startled, Iz jerked nervously, her head whipping around to see the culprit of her involuntary twitch. Standing with his hands in his pockets and a smile on his face that showed two rows of perfect gleaming white teeth was Steve.
Iz's heart rate slowly returned to normal as relief washed over her at the knowledge of who her guest was. "You scared the be-jeez-us out of me, Steve." she accused, rising to her feet. Steve chuckled.
"Sorry about that, I didn't mean to scare you, but you seemed so engrossed by something in the sky, was it a UFO?" he added sarcastically.
"Ha-ha, very funny, wise guy. No, it was just the moon. No aliens come to destroy humanity yet, sadly."
"You want them to wipe out the human race? This shouldn't surprise me coming from the girl who enjoys trespassing illegally on government property that inhabits the dead."
Iz glared at him, "I don't want them to wipe out the human race, just certain people, maybe....like Bradley." Iz added sheepishly.
Steve's laughter boomed around the desolate cemetary. "Yes, it would be nice to know they probed him first, wouldn't it?"
Grinning Iz replied, "Very nice, but how did you know I'd be here? Are you stalking me?" She inquired nonchalantly.
"Maybe," he replied, grinning rougishly.
Iz raised an eyebrow, "I guess I'm not going to get a straight answer from a stalker now am I; what was I thinking." She rolled her eyes dramatically to emphasize her point.
He chuckled, "I don't know what you were thinking, but I'm sure it was something interesting."
"And what makes you say that?" Iz asked curiously, tipping her head.
Speaking seriously now Steve responded, "You're an interesting person. Most people seem to find me intimidating and shy away from me, but not you." He leaned forward slightly on the balls of his feet, staring at her with a smirk, almost as if he was asking, "why is that?"
"I do find you intimidating, you're so tall! But otherwise you're just another guy, right?"
"Right." Steve agreed, but too quickly. Iz could tell there was something he was hiding.
"You don't think of yourself as just another guy." It was more of a statement than an actual question.
Smiling innocently at her he replied, "Not really, no."
"And that's all I'm going to get out of you, isnt it?"
"For tonight, yes."
"But you'll tell me...another time?" Iz asked intruiged.
"If you want, sure." He was being vague and Iz found it relatively annoying.
She crossed her arms in front of her chest. "You're in a strange mood tonight. Does the full moon affect you like that?"
Steve looked at her blankly, but didn't say anything. She leaned her torso forward so that she had to look up under her eyelashes to see him. "Well? Does it?"
Iz frowned. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, I should be going." And he turned to leave, but instinctively Iz reached out and grabbed him by the arm. She was astonished to find that his skin was quite warm and his arm muscular, more so than she'd have thought by just looking at him. It worked, he stopped and turned to look at her, a look of surprise etched onto his face.
"You just got here, why are you leaving so soon?" Her ears began to redden as she realized that deep in her heart she really didn't want him to leave. She relished in his company and her heart sunk at the thought of him leaving so quickly. She hadn't realized it at first, but now that he was on the verge of walking off she noticed that as soon as she'd seen his face she felt whole. Like when he was gone a part of her was missing. This is nuts! I hardly know him and yet I'm attached!
"I have things I have to take care of, Iz. I'd love to stay, but I really can't." The urgency in his voice caught her off guard.
"Then why come in the first place if you couldn't stay?" She spat bitterly. She hadn't meant to say it, but it just rolled off her tongue before she could even think to stop it.
A shadow crossed his face, he looked hurt. Oh god, I have the power to hurt him! Oh no, oh no, oh no!
"You're right, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come. I'll leave now." He effortlessly pulled free from her grasp and vanished just like that. The darkness seemed to eat him up.
Iz's heart sank to the pit of her stomach the second he disappeared. No, damnit! This isn't right. It shouldn't be like this. He's just a guy, a co-worker, nothing more! He can't be...can he? This is absurd! I haven't felt this way since highschool - god, what am I going to do? Is it not apparent you're crazy about the guy Iz? It was crazy alright, but for the first time in her life she felt completely and utterly alone. He took that part of you with him when he left. That part that makes you feel alive. That knowledge didn't help her spirits any. They sank further and further into the dark spiral downward that now had her by the chin. She'd be lucky if she felt good until she saw him again.
Then, out of the darkness, came an earsplitting howl. It was a wolf's howl, a somber, agonizing sound that shattered her heart and the last of her resolve. I'm in love with him. I feel exactly like that wolf does, lost and empty without the one I love to fill the void. As the wolf continued to howl she remained where she stood, listening to it. The howl seemed to increase with intensity until it was almost unbearable. It was a sustained, penetrating, dejected note that stretched out for what felt like an eternity to Iz. When the sound eventually did die out, it died suddenly, breaking off into sobs. It was hard for Iz to believe that such a cry could resonate from the lungs of any animal; such a shrill, lasting note would've caused her vocal chords permanent damage. In the moment, she felt an unexplainable sense oneness with the creature that was so near, it's pain was her pain, but it could express it better, she thought. Iz hated to leave, but the cemetary was suddenly no longer so inviting and welcoming. The air had taken on a stale, bitter taste, and she decided it was better to leave than mope around among the dead. So she left, as silently and quickly as Steve had.