July 2, 2010

Artwork by Denver Robbins

David came home a couple of weeks later to find Anna sitting on the stairs next to her suitcase.

"So soon?"

"I can't stay here," Anna explained. "Too many reminders."

"Do you know where you're going?"

"Not entirely." She handed him a card with a telephone number on it. "I set up an answering service in case you need me, or just want to say hello. I'll be sure to check it at least once a week until I find a place to land."

"Okay," David nodded. "Do you need a ride?"

He drove her to the train station, hugged her goodbye before she boarded and waved her on as she left. She knew she was lucky to have him and crazy to leave him. When she checked her messages later that week she discovered that he had called her several times just to say hello.
 

 

Chapter 27 - Where The Road Takes Us

She spent the next few months traveling. Never staying in one place for more than a week or two. And then one day after hitching a ride to wherever the person who picked her up was going Anna found herself in a town she never thought she would return to. She was tempted to simply stick out her thumb and move on to the next town, but something made her stay. She wanted to see how much time had changed those she once knew, to see how well they had moved on without her. She needed it. So she found her way to the two story gray house that had been her Aunt's home more than two decades earlier and knocked on the door.

A teen-aged girl with chestnut hair opened the door.

She had been foolish to think that Iona still lived here. Maybe she should just walk away without her answers or perhaps this young girl's parents might know where she had gone. Unless they had not purchased the home from Iona... perhaps the public records...

"Can I help you?" asked the girl with chestnut hair.

"Are your parent's home?" Anna asked.

"Dad!" she hollered over her shoulder then turned her back to Anna and started toward the kitchen.

A broad shouldered man, older and refined with gray streaked chestnut hair entered the foyer from the kitchen, "Who is it dear?" he asked.

"I don't know. Some lady." Anna heard her say.

"Hello," said the man with a smile. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm sorry to disturb you." Anna began. "My name is Anna Parker, I'm looking for someone who used to live here."

"Used to live here?" he repeated quizzically, "You couldn't be looking for Emily could you?"

"You know Emily?" She smiled.

The man looked at her quizzically. "I know her pretty well I guess, gave her away at her wedding. She lives across town with her husband and son."

"Husband and son?" The words struck Anna like a sledgehammer to the chest.

"Yeah. Going on fifteen years now."

"Where does the time go?" she forced a smile.

"I can give you her address if you'd like."

"No." Anna said quickly. "No. I-" she stammered. She could never say the words she was thinking “ Emily can never see me again. "Actually I'm looking for Iona Dearing."

"You have been away a long time haven't you?" He chuckled. "I image you must have been very young the last time you were here then, either that or time has been far kinder to you than the rest of us. It's Trumbal now, Iona Trumbal. I'm her husband, Mark."

Her mouth dropped. "Iona married?" she heard the words escape her mouth before she had even had time to process the idea. "I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I'm afraid that came out wrong."

Mr. Trumbal laughed haughtily. "Darling?" He called over his shoulder, smiling ear to ear. "Someone at the door for you."

Twenty-four years can bring a lot of changes, Anna had no idea what to expect. Iona was wiping her hands on her apron as she came out of the kitchen. Iona stopped and stared with her mouth agape. Iona's hair was peppered with gray, she'd put on a few pounds, and her face was lined with life experiences. To Anna she looked truly beautiful. And she felt safe. She felt like home.

"Hello Iona." Anna smiled. "I didn't give you a heart attack did I?"

"Anna?" Iona squeaked.

Anna was starting to question her decision to visit Iona. Maybe this hadn't been the best idea. Perhaps a letter would have been more appropriate, and then Iona threw open her arms. They met each other in large strides. Anna breathed her in. Apples. Iona always smelled like apples.

After long turns of hugging, looking her over and hugging her again, Iona introduced Anna to her husband, Mark and her daughter Jennifer. Then she insisted that Anna stay at the house. Anna refused the offer, but as Mark took her bags upstairs to the guest room Anna realized that her refusal had fallen on the most stubborn of deaf ears.

After carefully considered catch-up conversation over coffee and apple pie Jennifer went to bed, Mark helped himself to a brandy and a book in the study and Iona and Anna curled up on the sofa in the guest room to talk.

"Iona, it is really very kind of you to offer, but I really think it's best if I don't stay."

"Why not?" Iona asked, offended.

"For one thing, I shouldn't even be here."

"Nonsense." Iona said.

"I don't sleep very well, sometimes I just don't sleep at all. Things are... complicated for me right now. It's too much of an imposition on you and your family."

"Nonsense." Iona scolded, "You can't impose on family, and you are family, like it or not."

"Iona-"

"Anna. I loved your mother. I still love your mother. She meant more to me than you could know. I love you and your sisters, as my own. I always have."

"I know." Anna tried to smile, but all she could do was cry. Fat tears filled her eyes and overflowed onto her cheeks.

"Anna what is it?" Iona gently brushed Anna's hair from her face. "What's happened?"

"Oh Aunt Iona, I was so stupid." Anna wailed.

"Now what could be as bad as all that?" Iona smiled at her but her soft brown eyes wrinkled with worry.

"I fell in love."

Iona looked confused for a moment, "Oh," she said, understanding. "Forbidden love." Iona nodded as a tear escaped her eye. "This, I understand."

"It's so much worse than that," Anna swallowed hard. "I left him three years ago, but I couldn't stay away. I kept going back. He never saw me, never knew I was even in town... Then a little over a year ago, he was killed."

"Oh Anna, I'm so sorry." Iona consoled.

"It was... a very convenient car accident," Anna covered her face with her hands and shook her head. "Fire and all!" she added, almost shouting.

Iona looked pale.

"I'm sorry." Anna said. "I didn't mean to drag out unpleasant memories. I just... I don't know what to do. My entire being aches for him. No matter what I do, where I go, I can't seem to move on. I can't get him out of my head. I don't have answers and... And I don't know what to do."

Iona took a deep breath, restraining her emotions. "Love is a tricky thing. Lord knows I don't have all the answers. I can tell you, you may never stop loving him, but you can stop longing for him."

"Is that what you did? With mother?"

"Mmm," Iona suppressed a sad smile.

"Did it work?"

"Well," Iona sighed. "Some days better than others, but my memories of her grow fonder with time. I miss her of course, I'll always miss her, but she lives on through our memories. Through you and your sisters."

"I just wish I had more answers," Anna said. "I've made some careless mistakes, made some bad decisions and I've managed to anger enough other immortals that I can't be sure who exactly might be behind his death."

"Oh." Iona shifted nervously "What has John got to say about all of this?"

"There's no need for pretense between us, Iona. Jonas is... avoiding me," she sighed, "I disappointed him."

"Nonsense." Iona said.

"I can't blame him, I'm not a very good person."

"No." Iona put her hand up. "Stop it. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone makes bad decisions. That doesn't make you a bad person."

"I appreciate that you see me as the innocent little girl you knew, but I don't think you're considering that someone killed the man I love as retribution for something I did." She bit her lip. "If I knew who it was... there is nothing that would keep me from bringing the war in my heart to their door."

"You're like your father," Iona sighed. "Preferring to see himself as the worst parts of himself and not the good. Forever the villain in his own eyes."

Anna scoffed. "I'm a-"

"Realist?" Iona finished with her.

Anna eyed her.

"You're father thought the same way." Iona explained.

"It's the truth," Anna said.

Iona nodded, dismissively. "Only as you see it my dear," she smiled.

"I am my father's daughter." Anna said. "Murderous nature and all."

Iona pursed her lips, then stood and crossed to the nightstand, pulled the drawer out and lifted out a false bottom. She retrieved a single key then replaced the bottom and the drawer. "I want to show you something," she said as she pulled the closet door open wide and ducked inside.

Anna leaned forward in her seat to get a better look.

At the very bottom of the closet was a small cupboard affixed with a lock. Iona unlocked the cupboard and retrieved a metal box with a green lid. Inside this box was a wooden box adorned with strange symbols.

"I've taken a vow," Iona said. "This will become Jennifer's soon," she sighed. "Whether she is ready for it or not."

She turned the box upside down and pulled the trim on one side. The base opened and a small key slid out then she closed the base set the box on the couch next to Anna and set the key on top of it.

"There's an empty journal and a pen in the nightstand. I'll give you until brunch tomorrow morning," she said. "Does eleven work for you?"

Anna eyed the box, and then her aunt and then she nodded.

"Good night, my dear." Iona leaned down kissed Anna on the forehead, just as she'd done thousands of times when Anna was young then left.

Anna lifted the wooden box onto her lap, unlocked it and lifted the lid. On the very top was a recently written letter in an envelope marked: To My Progeny.

Your life is proof of miracles and I am eternally grateful for this fact. Know, that I will always watch over you, as I have for each generation before you. As time changes, so too must our association. From this time on, you will not see me, you will not know me, but as you remain faithful to me, I will never be far from your heart.

The rest of the box was full of bits and pieces of what had to be a substantial collection of writings all about one man. Some were about him, and his life but most glorified him as a saint, an angel and expounded on how his kind and noble acts had saved them from tragedy, from illness, from tyranny.

He went by different names over the years, always starting with a D. Davith, Damien Darius, Daniel, Dain, Doran. Eventually, because of his helpful deeds, over time they began to refer to him as their guardian and their angel after a time, and because of the propensity for his name to change and with the confession that his real name had been removed from the record, he came to be referred to simply as Angel.

Any meaningful descriptions of him had also been removed from the writings. Some in re-written texts, others had simply been scratched out. As she looked on those with her immortal vision she was able to make out a very basic description. He was tall, his hair was dark brown, almost black and his eyes were brown and shone like warm copper. Another page, newer and signed by Grace Dearing explained that all descriptions and all drawings of his image had, for his safety, been removed and destroyed.

As she sifted through the journal entries, sappy poetry and stories told like fairytales she was able to piece together a few facts about her life.

She and Meline had three more half sisters and a half brother. Her half brother lived less than a day, but all of them lived seven centuries earlier. Grace and Iona were descended from the middle daughter, Claudia. This would have made Iona her niece, more than 25 generations removed.

She was also able to decipher throughout the prose, that if the need were great enough, there were clues hidden within these writings that if deciphered and followed would eventually and inevitably lead to him.

It was a tempting thought, this "valiant trek across the seas" as one of the poems stated. A journey that at its end would lead her to her doom "if thy bloodline be false," read another. In a perilous quest to find the "long held refuge of the angel who watches from afar."

And what would he, this highly touted guardian angel - her father - think of her, she wondered. Would he recognize her as his daughter? Would he welcome her with open arms? Would he kill her because she could not prove it? Did any of it matter? She had nothing better to do.

She made many notes, most of them of the shapes and symbols on the box as well as spread throughout the text. They were runes, but there was no cipher for them. She would have to do some research to find out what they meant.

The romanticized notions of angels and devils would have both amused and perturbed Gus. The thought made her smile, even as it caused her heart to ache. She missed him deeply, was haunted by the memory of him and wished that he were there to help her make sense of her life, of the riddles and runes.

On by the valley, down crest of the sea...
 

 

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart