This story is by MC Dalton and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“No, Calliope Jane, stop!”
Matilda’s voice raced across the heavens and washed over her like a flurry of Autumn leaves.
Calliope staggered back from the edge, her hands gripping the soft fabric of her indigo and twilight dress and her milky way tresses drifted across her face. If she did not do it now, she’d never find the courage again.
“Calliope please, don’t do this!” Matilda pleaded as she drifted toward her.
Her rich orange and copper gown, woven from gossamer and butterfly silk, fluttered at her heels and stirred up a frenzy of mist. It perfectly matched her hair that tumbled down her back like the changing leaves of an Autumn Oak.
“I love him,” Calliope said as she glanced down.
The ocean was a brilliant mix of topaz and cerulean, so unlike the oranges and reds of the bush just off its shore. Change had come both to the southern hemisphere and for Calliope Jane.
“We were made to love them my Sweet, not to die for them,” Matilda said. Her molten eyes shone bright with confusion.
“It’s not the love of a Guardian Tilly! You can never understand.” Calliope took a small step forward.
Matilda caught her arm.
“You’re right. I couldn’t begin to fathom why you would desert us, your home, and your family. All for a mortal?”
Fire swept through Calliope’s chest and up her throat. She understood why humans acted so brash and barbaric when anger rode their better judgement. It was a feeling which was hard to tame.
“You don’t get it!” She said through gritted teeth.
“Then help me understand why it is you would give up all we hold dear and fall.”
Calliope flinched at the use of the word, for that was where her choice would lead.
Like a leaf drifting to earth.
Disconnected from all she’d known.
Wingless, powerless and mortal.
“This is not a love which can be put into words. It’s an emotion far beyond the comprehension of the likes of us…you.”
Matilda gasped, “greater even than the love of our Creator?”
“No.” Calliope sighed and rubbed a hand down her face.
“There are different kinds of Love my friend. This one can only be understood when it is felt.”
“Calliope Jane, you did not!” Matilda’s long, thin finger pointed toward the quiver laying at her feet.
“Of course not. Besides my arrows are made only to affect humans.”
“Then how?” Matilda said as they sat, legs dangling over the edge.
Calliope shuddered and opened her heart. She allowed Matilda a glimpse of a memory. A single moment from a hundred centuries ago. The day a human soul had looked past the veil and they had recognized one another for who they were – two halves of a whole.
“I don’t know. It just… happened.”
Matilda shifted closer. Her wing stretched up and out, and wrapped itself around Calliope’s shoulders. The smell of lightning, crashing stars, and a hint of honey and sweet summer fruit drifted up her nose.
“I also love you.” Matilda whispered.
“And I you. But this is a love I can no longer ignore.”
“How?” Calliope shrugged.
“Try to put it into words… for me?” A wistful edge lined Matilda’s voice.
Calliope snuggled deeper into the soft downy warmth of her friend’s wing at the same time she stroked the tip of her own wing which tucked into her side. Was she truly willing to give all this away for a man?
“It’s sticky-sweet like toffee, and messy like dripping ice crème on a summer’s day. It’s searing hot and shocking cold. It’s the most frightening thing you could imagine and the bravest journey you could attempt.”
Calliope opened her heart a little more and shared with Tilly another memory.
Her first kiss.
A speakeasy, nineteen-twenty-five, Chicago.
She’d felt his heart reach out to her before his gaze had. She’d been unable to resist when he’d looked past the veil. Boy, was he magnificent. Standing on a small stage, trumpet in his hand.
The Blind Tiger, where he and his jazz band played, was packed to the brim. His dexterous, gravelly voice cast its spell over all and sundry. His skin, dark and rich, glowed with vitality in the seedy, yellow light.
She’d dared a kiss that night. A single meeting of the lips, beneath the young oak out the back of the club. Its falling leaves dropping on their heads like rufescent blessings from heaven.
Matilda groaned as her fingers stroked her lips.
Yes, that was exactly how she’d felt, and still did.
He’d written a song of that kiss. One she would forever hold close to her heart.
It had been so hard to leave and watch from a distance, as he lived yet another lifetime without her, in the arms of someone else. That was when she’d contemplated falling for the first time.
“And it’s as dark as the waters of the river of Death,” Calliope whispered.
“Then why choose it? Are you willing to risk all you are for a mortal?”
“Are you sure this love you speak of is not some curse?” Matilda asked.
A curse it truly was. But not in the sense Matilda meant it to be.
“Does this man know of the sacrifice you will make?” Matilda asked.
Calliope sat silent, staring down at the bleached baked sands, so stark against the russets and browns of the bush of Ponta Do Ouro, Mozambique.
“You’ve not yet shown yourself?”
Calliope shook her head.
She thought back to the scant occasions she’d crossed the veil in past lifetimes. The brief moments when they’d touched, spoken, or shared a dream. But this time she’d chosen not to. She wanted him to love her for who she would choose to become.
Human. Mortal. Plain.
“Oh, Calliope this gives me hope!”
Matilda jumped to her feet, pulling Calliope with her.
“Yes! Give it a little more time. Perhaps if you stay away from him it will break whatever hold this soul has on you.” Matilda said. “Think of all you will lose. Think of …me?” Her voice quivered.
Was she truly willing to bid adieu to her friend and all the wonders of heaven? Was it worth it? Was he worth it?
“No Tilly. I’ve made my decision. What use am I as the angel of love if my heart is broken? For too many lifetimes I’ve had to watch him try to love another, knowing full well I’m the other half of his heart and he mine.”
Calliope embraced her best friend one last time. The sadness in Matilda’s eyes almost too much for her to bear. She let go and stepped off the flocculent white terrace.
The wind screeched and howled as it rushed up, over, around and past her falling frame. Her body writhed and twisted as her wings ripped off her back. Her life essence congealed and turned to lead, as death bit into the very marrow of her bones.
Calliope dragged her aching self from the ocean and onto the beach. The salt from the sea bit and clawed at the raw wounds running down her shoulder blades. Every muscle she owned protested, and her joints screamed in agony. Water was not as soft a landing as she’d hoped.
With a trembling hand, she reached over her shoulder, stroked the wet torn flesh on her back, and winced. Blotches of hell flashed in and out of her vision. God, it hurt. But she’d known the price. She only prayed it was not for naught.
A familiar voice rode the breeze.
“I will always be here for you.”
The words wrapped around her, like a warm shawl on a chilly Autumn night, instantly healing her wounds, but leaving jagged reminders of who she once was.
“Thank you, Tilly.” She croaked.
Calliope made her way up the beach. Her limbs still ached, but her heart throbbed with excitement and joy. Beyond the sand, beneath a clump of coconut palms, stood the local shanty bar.
Inside, behind the counter, her Love. He stood tall and tanned – like a Sun God. His copper hair was wrapped into a tight bun on his head. His cheeks were dusted with day old beard and eyes, oh those lovely eyes, with a gaze as bright as a clear day in heaven.
Alexander felt her presence before he saw her. A familiarity stirred in his center at the sight of her uncommon beauty. Her white locks so stark against her caramel skin. But it was her eyes. Unsure where, but certain he’d gazed into those silver-grey diamonds before.
“Have we met?” He asked.
The change he’d longed for had come with the turning of the season, and Alexander knew in his heart of hearts, this was the woman he’d been waiting for his entire life.