A bruised sky could leave a city in shatters. Too many hopes pinned on one higher good, but he doesn't always listen, doesn't always care, and sometimes you have to return to what you are running from, with blood and tears pooled in your hands, the votive offering to another god.
When Thea opened her eyes a flock of birds took flight, carrying on their backs the dream she had been searching for. She had sensed somebody watching her and had forced herself to wake. It was not the feeling of being stared at by desirous eyes that pierced her a hundred times with erectile instinct. These eyes were the eyes of a father watching a sleeping child, comforting, protective, aware. Thea opened her eyes and saw Christian.
He had come across her accidentally, had found her in the town square draped around the ivory contours of a statue. Sleeping, the shape of her body reflecting that of the stone Penitent Magdalene as though repentant of her own sins, previous or perhaps those she had yet to commit. He had watched her, willed her to open her eyes, and in that moment he had taken a fluid breath. It is said that when a drowning man is gasping for air in the swell of an ocean, euphoria will come when the struggle ends. When he stops thrashing useless limbs, stops trying to wrench oxygen through the throat, when he relaxes to use the gills he once had, then he can see a clear beginning. When Thea opened her eyes Christian breathed and then he took her in his arms, to exonerate, to liberate. She was his new beginning and he was hers.
Christian could be centuries old. Teutonic and Old Testament his eyes were the colour of earth and he was weary of his mistakes. For the past six months the music from his guitar had been a mournful sound. He touched the strings with a tenderness that could never be shared, losing himself, becoming embryonic, searching the fountainhead. Once he had brought new sounds into his music, new worlds in staccato synonymous with the things he wanted to forget, or the places he had never seen, easily tuning into Moroccan or Spanish, orange skies and blue seas, red flowers, white sands… But lately he had sought only to enhance the basest of emotions - regret, grief, anger. Since his wife had left him the music in his head and fingers was a bubonic plague, left over from the old world, aspiring to bring fast his death.
Thea was a chosen name, desirable for the mystery surrounding it. It seemed right for this woman of thirty to have created a false persona. She had the mien of a child, with her eyes far apart and a broad forehead, which gave her a look of curious intelligence that could only bring trouble. And like a child she had no physical fears. She thought nothing of being alone, of walking through the night with only her innocence for protection. She did not think of the night crawlers, those who slid between the salty lips of the clam and crawled on their bellies into the hollow trappings of their waking lives. And she was not afraid of loneliness. For should it begin to creep into her she could always shake it off with a new persona. Always an actress, always a liar, she could create a false lead, put a person off the scent by spraying the most alluring perfume of subterfuge. And soon Christian too began to lie again, believing in his lies not as the truth but simply as the artifice that fills in the lacuna between one self and the next.
Christian and Thea formed a pattern of meeting every Wednesday. Sometimes she would go to his dusty ground floor flat with its dresses, jewellery and perfume left behind by the wife, each item bought on a whim, each item loved and then abandoned. Christian would watch Thea circle the room, daring to enjoy the déjà vu. She had a lazy walk, low slung hips with a distinct rhythm of detachment. She moved as though her body were fragmentary, each part connected by thin thread so that as she sidled past she seemed to leave a hundred lipid segments in her wake. Christian wanted to throw her down and shake her, pour himself inside her and reconnect her. For he knew that once she had been solid, but something had broken her. If he could open her time and again, leaving a part of him within her, perhaps he could mend the dislocation, the hairline fractures. He could bite chunks off her and spit them out to the dogs if only to taste her for a second. But he couldn't make love to her. He lived in fear of his wife returning, catching them in an embrace, leaving him twice for a single reason. He was doomed to regret and any emotion of yore that could spring from the book of Revelation.
On the polished side of the wooden chest left behind by previous tenants, the names Christian and Bianca were scratched. If Christian were to look now he would see line over line over line scratched into a chasm to disregard the unity of names. Written beside it now in the same disjointed writing were the names Christian and Thea.
Thea was a libertine, aware of her body as much as Christian was aware he had no right to touch it. She could play the games as a woman and could think like a man. In truth, in all her acting and mendacity, she knew where she was leading, from the moment she had decided to return. A relationship is based on design. It is the illusion we all crave. In the first instance it matters little who we choose to be with. Over time we can perhaps grow to love that person whose presence at first sufficed to fill in the void and whose characteristics were mostly less important than we had imagined. We put up with the traits we dislike, as long as the person fulfils the task we desire, that of actor and partner. Christian was already the partner, now he was beginning to act. The design was set.
When Thea walked out of the bedroom wearing Bianca's wedding dress, Christian felt the burn of a lifelong stigma. She looked more like Magdalene now than ever, like a statue in ivory that folded around her feet and sloped across her strong back. Her face was hidden by the veil, keeping secret the truth of her identity, as Bianca, as Thea, each the same. The aurora borealis was clearer than ever and Christian's mind mapped out the skies. With the distinction and guidance found only in the hexagons of the Book of Changes Christian knew the pattern of regret and shame, of coming home, of realizing that which is lost, and that which has returned.