Something of an interlude within Cassie’s story this time. You can find the preceding chapters here, here, here and here, here, here, here and the chapter before this one is here. Our own doubts can derail us from what could be, would be, or will be done. When that moment comes, sometimes we need an …
Act of Goddess
It wasn’t what the Temptress really wanted to be doing. She had an entire day to wait before seeing Keith and telling him the truth. The worst thing was sitting in her hotel room or the hotel’s bar listening to the off-key piano player and staring off into space.
She understood what she had to tell him; those were the easy words. The harder ones were those explaining that she loved him, wanted him, desired him … and couldn’t fulfill those wants here and now. Otherwise there and then would never happen. Cassie knew, without question, that Keith loved her in return. She feared how he would react to her pushing him away.
Truthfully, she didn’t want to. Selfishly, she thought she would be fine with Keith being hers, that things would work out. But then she also knew that wasn’t completely true.
Frustrated at her indecision, the silver-tail wandered the streets alone, wrapped in her thoughts and not really paying much mind to things—at least not until she arrived back at the park that started all of this. The bench she’d shared with Keith, the same one that he would share with Tera, seemed forlorn and alone among the fall leaves. As she settled in, it seemed apt that her own mood was reflective of the scene around her.
Cassie could see the garage across the street, see those inside working. A couple of times she saw Keith speaking with someone, working on that red convertible, being consumed with things and not seeing her.
She was, in a small way, grateful for that.
Just before noon, Keith stepped outside carrying a wooden box. The silver-tail watched curiously as her adored one set the box against a wall, rested upon it and seemed to fall asleep. Once again Cassie was reminded that this was Keith from before, he was human, and spending his evenings with her was, obviously, taking a toll … and that hurt inside.
The Temptress tried once again to come to terms with having and not having. Was this the right thing? Was this really all meant to be? Was she just making things up to soothe her own soul? There was a sound to her right. Someone was walking through the leaves towards her, which drew Cassie’s attention.
It couldn’t possibly be!
The Temptress couldn’t find words as she watched the woman with a mane of the darkest black hair, and the most piercing green eyes she’d ever seen approach her. It wasn’t Tera; that would have been a relief.
Cassie couldn’t find her voice as the visitor settled onto the bench beside her, embracing the confused silver-tail and hugging her tightly: “It seems like yesterday when you were running around the Realm with blue hair.” The hug was unexpected and so dearly needed.
The somewhat older woman considered Cassie critically: “My, you have grown into a beautiful silver-tail, haven’t you, Cassiopeia?”
Cassie answered finally: “Lil? What are you doing here?”
Lil—but not Lil—seemed confused by the question: “Whatever do you mean?”
“You never leave your cottage. This is so unlike you.”
Tapping a finger on her cheek, Lil replied: “Is it? That doesn’t seem like me.” She shifted on the bench, her hug fading away: “I’ll have to reconsider that.” She then focused her attention across the street: “He does look right doesn’t he?”
Cassie didn’t know why that bothered her–This was Lil, after all: “Leave him alone, Lil! He isn’t Tera’s …”
She held up a hand: “Of course he is. He’s the focal point of what was, what might be, and what will be.” Then she looked directly at Cassie: “You are here for a reason, Temptress.”
Feeling defensive, her answer was sharp: “Stay out of this, Lil! This is not your concern.”
Something changed in Lil’s manner and Cassie shivered: “It was my concern. All things must have happened as they were meant to. His was the soul that made all of us what we are. His beliefs in both of you made everything possible.”
“I don’t understand, Lil.”
The brunette seemed to relax: “Don’t you? You seemed to know what you wanted from the beginning.”
“I’m not his.”
Lil’s answer was shattering: “He was yours. He is yours.”
Clutching at the older succubi’s hand, Cassie begged: “Please, Lil, don’t give me false hopes. I know there is one Eternal for each of us.”
“As a red-tail will say to you … ‘Perhaps. Perhaps not.’”
The Temptress sighed, her fingers rubbing over Lil’s hand: “I just … want to be loved. Is that so much to ask for?”
“You’ll have to ask yourself that question when the time comes.”
The red-tail regarded Keith once more: “Tonight you will find the way to make everything happen. It was something that changed us all.”
“I have to tell him I love him, that the Realm exists, that his wish is real. Then I have to let go and have him fall in love with Tera. How do I do that?”
“You know the answer. He will understand.”
“Lil, I don’t.”
The brunette stood up, drawing Cassie from the bench to stand beside her. The embrace was comforting, the silver-tail could almost feel her red tail wrapped around her. She relaxed into the hug, closing her eyes as Lil spoke: “It’s obvious, Cassiopeia. It’s the one thing that matters for us all.”
A wind blew, leaves flying around them, a shiver tracing up the silver-tail’s spine and, when she opened her eyes, Lil was gone. But she left something behind on the bench. Cassie understood as she picked it up what really mattered wasn’t the now or then, it was the future still to be. For that was all that mattered now, no matter what Keith thought of her afterwards. The picture she held in her hands, surrounded by a silver frame, said it better than she ever could have.
Looking back to her adored one, still resting by the garage, Cassie sighed: “Faith manages.”