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Black Magic Sanction: Page 69
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I survived losing Kisten. I - "
"Shut the hell up!" he shouted, and I drew my hand back. "It's not going to be okay. You don't understand. Everything I was ended with her, I loved her."
My face warmed, and I couldn't stop myself. "I don't understand?" I said, my fear that he was going to die coming out as anger. "I don't understand?" I stood, heart pounding. "How dare you tell me I don't understand!"
Pierce's eyes were wide. He clearly thought yelling at Jenks wasn't the best way to convince him to live, but I wasn't going to let Jenks fall into the poor-me syndrome and die.
"You saw me suffer after Kisten died," I said, and his dust-wet, red-rimmed eyes went wide. "You yourself told me I was going to be okay and that I'd love someone again. I lost my dad when I was ten. I watched him die like you watched Matalina. I held his hand and promised him I'd be okay. My mother told me it was going to be all right, and one day it was. Don't sit there and tell me that because you've got wings and cry sparkles your pain is more than mine. It hurts. It hurts like hell. And it's going to be okay! Don't you dare give up because it's hard," I said, vision swimming. "Don't you dare, Jenks."
Tears falling, I turned away. "I need you too much," I added, shaking Pierce's hand off my shoulder. Damn it, I hadn't wanted to cry in front of him - in front of either of them.
"I'm sorry," I said miserably. "I can't tell you how sorry I am about Matalina. You were beautiful together." I was still staring at the wall, seeing it swim. Taking a deep breath, I wiped my eyes. "Matalina is gone, but you're not. She wanted you to live, and I need you. It's selfish, but I do. You've done too much to give up and not see how it ends. You said last year that you were angry because you were going to die and Ivy and I were going to continue on." I turned, and the grief in his eyes made a flash of guilt rise in me. "Life's a bitch, Jenks. But if you don't live out what's given to you, what's the point?"
"I didn't know it was going to hurt this much," Jenks said, eyes going almost panicked. "She told me to live, but there's no reason to. She was why I did everything!"
He was only eighteen. How could I help him find a way to understand?
Pierce's voice eased into the moss-smelling air as if it belonged, shocking me. "Living on is not betraying her," he said, standing alone by the empty fireplace at the far end of the room.
"It is!" Jenks stood, catching his balance with a hum of wings. "How can I feel anything when she is not here with me? She said to live, but why? It doesn't mean anything!"
With the patience of hard-won wisdom, Pierce raised his eyes. "It will."
"How do you know?" Jenks said bitterly. "You've never done anything, dead in the ground for a hundred years."
Face placid, Pierce said, "I have loved. I have lost everything because death came early. I've seen it from your view. I've lived it from Matalina's. She wants you to live. To love. To be happy. That's what she wants. I can promise you that."
"You... ," Jenks started vehemently, then hesitated. "You have," he whispered.
Pierce set the figure of a mantis back on the mantel. "I loved a woman with all my soul. And I left her though I strove not to. She lived on, found love, married, had children who are old today, but I saw her face in their pictures, and I smiled."
I sniffed, thinking my coming here was a travesty. I was trying to help Jenks live when Pierce had lived more than both of us put together. Not in years, but in experience.
Seeming to start to understand, Jenks collapsed back onto the hummock of moss. "When does it stop hurting?" he asked, hand around his middle.
I lifted a shoulder and let it fall. All of us were damaged, but it made us stronger, maybe. Maybe it just made us more fragile.
"The mind numbs," Pierce said. "The memories blur. Others take their place. A long time. Maybe never."
"I will never forget Matalina," Jenks vowed. "No matter how long I live."
"But you will live." Pierce faced us squarely. "Others need you. You know it. Otherwise, why tell Jax to take the land? That's not pixy tradition. It's against everything you know. Why do that if you don't feel a responsibility for something else?"
Jenks blinked fast as he thought about that, and Pierce stood beside me. "You've reached past your limits, pixy," he said. "Now you have to live up to your ideas. You have to live up to them."
A light silver dust was sifting from Jenks as he silently cried. "I'll never hear her again," he said softly. "I'll never know her thoughts on a sunset or her opinion of a seed. How will I know if it will grow? She was always right. Always." Misery in his face, he looked up. Relief spilled into me. He wanted to live. He just didn't know how.
Pierce handed him his glass of honey. "YouTl know. Come with me on the first full moon of spring. We will tour the cemeteries. I need to find my sweetheart. I need to put flowers on her grave and thank her for going on without me."
My chest seemed heavy, and my throat was tight. I couldn't help but wonder, though, if Pierce had been measuring me against his eighteenth-century love. That was something I could never be. I didn't know if I even wanted to be with a man who wanted a woman like that.
"I will," Jenks said seriously, not drinking the honey. "And you will sing with me about Matalina."
Hope mixed with melancholy, and I crossed the room to give him a hug. "Are you ready to go?" I asked him. Matalina wanted him to burn their home.
Jenks's eyes flicked down to the glass in his hand. "Not yet."
I took the solstice light out of his hand. "I missed you, Jenks," I said, giving him a hug and shocking myself when I found wings back there. "Just for that breath of time I thought you were gone. Don't do that to me again."
He took a breath, then another. It came ragged, full of his emotion. "I miss her so much," he said, and suddenly he was holding me tight as he cried angry sobs into my hair. "I miss her so damn much."
So I held him, my own tears falling anew as we gave comfort to each other. It had been worth it. All the blackness on my soul was worth this. And no one would convince me that this was damning. It couldn't be.
There was a hollow place in my middle that wasn't from not having eaten all day. The sun was nearing the horizon, and the leaves that hadn't been burned were stark against the blue and pink of sunset. Almost like an oil, the scent of ash coated me. The heat from Jenks's stump burning was a gentle warmth this close to the ground instead of the expected inferno.
To one side of me, Pierce stood, his hands clasped before him with a white-knuckled strength, his expression pained from a memory he wouldn't share. Sunset would be here soon, and he'd ignored all my suggestions to leave. He claimed Al would leave him alone as long as he was "protecting" me. I didn't need protecting. Okay, maybe I did.
One of Jenks's returning children had given Pierce a heavier coat, garden stained and looking like it hadn't been washed since last fall. It went all the way to the ground, and Pierce looked odd with his dirty bare feet peeping out from under it.
Jenks was a tortured presence at my other side as his home burned with Matalina inside it. Tears glittered into dust as they fell from him, a pure silver that gave him an unreal glow, almost as if he were a ghost. Each breath was pained, rising from deep within him, hurting.
His children were in the garden, silent. All but Jax had returned, their grief tempered with the unknown.
Never had a pixy tried to live past his or her spouse, and though happy they were together, there was no understanding of what came next - joyful that their father was alive, yet mourning their mother. They were confused, not understanding how they could be both.
The flames took on rims of blue and green as the rooms laden with pixy dust caught, a funnel of heat making the flame swirl into a spire, as if reaching for the heavens. Jenks's fingers brushed mine and took them. Fire cleansed, but nothing could stop the heartache.
"Tears could not be equal, if I wept diamonds from the skies," Jenks whispered, empty and bereft. "My word silent, though I should howl. Muffled by death, my wings can't lift me high enough to find you. I feel you within. Unaware of my pain. Not knowing why I mourn."
He lifted his eyes to mine, a glimmer of tears showing. "And why I breathe alone."
I shifted my bare feet, cold on the earth. I wasn't a poet. I had no words. Tears blurred my sight as we stood and watched his life burn.
Today had been harder than anything I'd ever endured, watching Jenks's children come home, one by one, each not knowing why they were drawn back or how to react. I could imagine what usually happened to the lonely souls that were cast into the world, hurting and alone. Watching them realize that they had one another to share their grief with was both painful and a joy.
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