I pulled the door open and walked out.
The meetings always ended this way. I arrived alone, I left alone. It was better for me this way. Easier. In the twilight, the sun hung low way out in the ocean and there was the hint of autumn in the California air. I loved this time of night, after school, but before evening mass; I had the cemetery to myself.
Tonight the darkness hung over the cemetery like a thick, wet blanket. No stars. No moon. Even my footsteps on the sidewalk made no sound at all. It reminded me of Hell. Of how all the sound got sucked away there, how everything got sucked away into nothingness.
I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and held my breath, listening. When I heard the leaves rustle in the slight breeze, and the distant wail of a siren somewhere down in the valley, my breath whooshed out along with some of the tension. Hell wasn’t here.
I stopped in the usual place, with its memories of whispered belonging and hopeful kisses. The place that tore my heart right out of my chest. The cherubic angel welcomed me, his praying hands seeming to hold all my hopes and dreams between them. I traced my fingertips over the back of one pudgy stone hand before sitting on the bench directly across from the statue.
I closed my eyes and sought the memories that stung like ice against my heart, the memories that meant everything to me. I relished every one of those frost-cold bites, because each of them represented love. The love I’d had. The love I’d lost.
Well, not lost so much as betrayed. Because of me, Michael had been cursed with an eternity in Hell—a place in utter opposition to everything that defined him. Where he was golden, Hell was shadowed. Where he was Gardian—a warrior of Asgard—Hell was populated with demons, those very souls Michael had helped to banish from our eternal home. Where Michael had chosen loyalty to the rule of Asgard and the right of all Gardians to Ascension, Loki, my father, stood against all of those things. And Father would stop at nothing to crush him, to rid Michael of his goodness.
Just like he’d done with me.
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