Every Last Kiss

Page 30

“I’m impressed.”

Lachesis appeared from thin air into the chair next to me.I startled for a moment and then sat up to face her.

“You’re impressed?”I purposely kept my voice quiet, so I wouldn’t wake Hasani.

“Of course.You balanced a thin line between life and death.And you came back from it.”

“I don’t know how I did it,”I admitted.

“Of course you don’t,”she agreed.“But the important thing was that you were able to do it.There is something special about you, Charmian. I’ve known that all along.”

“What does that mean?”

She shook her head gently.

“The rules haven’t changed, my dear.Things will be revealed to you only as necessary, not before.I just wanted you to know that you have pleased us.”

“Thank you,”I whispered.

“And now you know what you must do,”she prodded.

I nodded sadly.

“Life will continue on.And you will be returned to where you belong.But first, because you have pleased me, I will grant you one more day here.You may spend one more night with your love.You have earned it.”

She stared at me with glistening icy eyes, as old as the sun.

“Hasani and Cleopatra will have no memory of the incident in the cave.Our secret is safe from Hasani and Cleopatra will only be aware that you were able to retrieve your bloodstone.You are now back on track.Handle your Daedal.Finish your mission.”

“What about Annen?”I asked.

“He is gone.There is no need to concern yourself with him now.”

“And Pothinus?”

“Ahmose escorted him back to where he belonged… and he has died the death meant for him.”

A wicked sense of satisfaction grew in me at the thought of his head on a spike outside the city.That cur had almost killed Hasani.He deserved anything he got and then some. I hoped the blade had been dull.

Lachesis’ expression grew gentle.

“Sleep now,”she instructed, her hand brushing my hair back.“You need the rest, little Keeper.”

I closed my eyes and I knew she was gone.


“Tell me what Annen meant,”I demanded several hours later, squarely facing Ahmose.

The ancient Aegis stared at me stubbornly, his lips pressed tightly together.

“You know that I cannot,”he finally answered.

We stood alone in the quiet midst of what would become the renovated Temple of the Phoenix.The construction efforts had ceased for the day and the light from the moon cast oblong shadows along the stone walls of the empty temple.

“You can, though.We have broken out of the confines of ordinary, Ahmose, simply by being here. You haven’t been forthcoming with me, priest.And I want to know why.Is it possible to withdraw from the Order and live a normal life?”

“How do you define normal, Charmian?”he asked softly.“Each individual on the planet has a purpose.That you already know. Do you feel it would be normal to turn your back on your own?”

“I’m not sure.But I would love to find out what it felt like to live a life that didn’t always end in death and tragedy.”

“Ah, Charmian.Death comes to us all.But yours always means something great.Don’t you find comfort in that?”

I stared at him steadily.“I’m not sure anymore.I think … that I find it a little unfair.”

“Of course it is unfair.But there are many things in life that are unfair.Is it fair that Cleopatra must carry so much responsibility in each life?So much heartache?I think not.Is it fair that some are born as lowly servants in every life- condemned to struggle just to survive?I think not.But it is the way of the world.You can’t change it.”

“But I can,”I argued.“If I wanted.Annen knows a way.”

“But Annen is gone.And he cannot possibly know of the consequences.And quite frankly, neither do I.I’ve consulted with the Elders and no one has ever seen such a thing. I think, Charmian, that deep down, you know it is too dangerous.Otherwise, you would have asked Annen when you had the chance.”

He was right.I had been afraid that I might be tempted by Annen’s story- enough to risk catastrophe.I couldn’t be sure of what would happen to me.Was purgatory or hell real?If so, if I challenged the Fates and God and whatever was planned for me… perhaps I would wind up in eternal punishment.That would not be pleasant.There was too much unknown to act on it now.

“Charmian, in every life, you make an enormous difference on the world.Millions of people are dependent on your actions.Do not take that lightly. What you have been given- your role in life- is an honor.”

I nodded slowly as I listened.That much was true.It was an honor.And a burden.I sighed heavily.

“What did Annen mean when he said ‘the Keres wouldn’t stand for this’?Who are the Keres?”

Ahmose stared at me quietly with hislips pursed, then shook his head slowly.

“That is not something meant for you to know. Not right now.”

I sighed again and changed the subject.

“When will you return me to Macy’s life?”

“You mean, your life?”he asked with a small smile.“You always speak of Macy as a separate person, when you are the same.”

“It’s just how I differentiate- how I keep my sanity.You’ve thrust me into a strange world, priest.”I scowled.

“I didn’t,”he answered softly.“But I do apologize.In every life, you act with grace.You don’t complain about your lot. You simply do what is expected of you.I admire you for that.”

I turned to him in surprise.“You do?”

“Of course.You have a very good soul, as pure as I’ve seen. Lachesis was right.There is something special anddifferent in you.  It is an honor to work with you.”

He bowed his head slightly toward me and I stepped back in astonishment.This ancient Elder was honored to work with me?Craziness.

Sensing my discomfort, he smoothly changed the subject.

“You have until tomorrow, my lady.”

I stared at him once again.


He nodded.“Yes.Lachesis has instructed me to return you tomorrow, before Alexandria is conquered by Rome.”

My mind started swimming.“I can’t watch Hasani die, Ahmose.I cannot do it.”

“I know,”he replied sympathetically.“And I am not suggesting you should. Spend the evening with your friends.Spend the night with Hasani, and then in the morning, before everything unravels… I will take you away from here.”

“Before everyone else dies,”I added sadly.

“Yes, before everyone dies.”Ahmose paused, studying my face. “Charmian, we are not signing death warrants- we are just repairing history.It has all already unfolded before.You know this.”

I nodded silently, not trusting my voice.Finally, I felt that I could speak.

“Alright, priest.Shall we go now?”I asked, gazing wistfully at the tranquil scenery outside of the temple doors.

“Now,”he nodded.

I sighed and grasped the bloodstone firmly as he circled my hands with his own.I had been hoping that we could put it off for just a little while longer. But there was no use delaying the inevitable, I guess.

As he began murmuring, I closed my eyes before the blackness overtook me and forced them shut.The pulsing electricity flowed through my body and the overwhelming sensations began, straightened out my fingers and toes.

My spine crackled and then it was done.I might not ever get used to the abrupt finish.It was startling.

I opened my eyes to discover night time and stars twinkling high above Alexandria.Cleopatra rose from her bed.

“You’re back!”she exclaimed happily, clapping her hands.“I’ve been so worried.”

“Why is that, my queen?”I asked wearily.

“I don’t know.I suspect I’m simply unsettled after all that has happened.Why do you seem so sad?Did something happen?”

“I will be staying through the night, your highness.And then I’ll be returning to Pasadena.I cannot stay for the actual end.Charmian will still be here, of course, but the part of me that is Macy will return home.”

She nodded solemnly.“I know. I guessed as much.”

Ever the queen, she drew her sadness and despair inside of her, pulling it away where no one else could see it. No one else but me.She squared her shoulders.

“We should prepare for dinner, then, Charmian,”she said as she sat at her vanity stool.“Let us both look extraordinarily beautiful tonight, shall we?”Her face was sad as she picked up her hairbrush.

“Let us also not be sad,”I added as I began gathering her hair into a bun to tuck under her wig.“Not tonight, my queen.Tonight, we celebrate our lives and the lives of those we love.”

Meeting my gaze in the mirror, she nodded and gave me a weak smile.“You’re very wise, my love.Some of my wisdom must have rubbed off on you over the years.”

I rolled my eyes.“Or vice versa.”

She smiled and rose from her seat, crossing to a massive ebony jewelry box.“What to wear, what to wear…”she murmured as she sifted through the costly trinkets.She lifted out the white satin band of her diadem.

“I think I’ll wear this.”

My breath froze in my throat.She would be wearing that very diadem on the day we died.In fact, after she died, I would be adjusting it for her when Roman soldiers broke into her tomb.  And then, I would collapse at their feet as I closed my eyes for the last time.I squeezed my eyes shut against the memory of their angry faces.No, not tonight.I would not think about that tonight.

“Excellent choice,”I smiled, taking it from her as she sat back down.I wove it expertly through her wig until it was snug enough not to move.

As I painted her eyes and lips, I caught my hands shaking and willfully tried to still them before she noticed.I saw her glance at me, so I knew that she had not missed it.She missed nothing, which sometimes was really annoying.

“Be happy, Charmian,”she whispered. “Remember tonight?We are having a magnificent party.”I nodded and stepped back.

“You are finished, my queen,”I murmured.Staring at her in the mirror, she was every inch a queen.Her blue eye paint and thickly applied kohl emphasized the darkness of her eyes, while her crushed pearl powder caught the light of the oil lamps.She looked positively radiant.I was suddenly startled to find her staring directly into my eyes.

“What?”I asked.

“It’s your turn, my love.We must both look magnificent tonight.”Crossing to her armoire, she dug out a beautiful, practically transparent sheath.It was so thin and flimsy that it almost had the consistency of a cicada wing.I felt as though it might tear apart in my fingers, but of course it didn’t.

I stripped down and pulled it on, allowing the diaphanous material to float down to my ankles.Reaching for my hairpins, I let down my hair.It tumbled down my back in an ebony wave.Cleopatra pushed my shoulders gently down until I was sitting in her seat.

Bending in front of me, she painstakingly painted my eyelids with malachite and dark black kohl. By the time she was finished, my green eyes popped, perfectly showcased by the artful presentation.

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