The last section of this experiment in blogging my first draft. I understand why a first draft should be kept secret. It is messy and there are lots of weird turns and gaps. There have to be. It is a new thing with edges that don’t connect and spaces that require leaps. Still, I feel like there is a lot to work with here. I will post the revision whenever that is finished. For now, just thanks for reading whatever parts you have read and for being gentle.
Lana came out wearing lounge pants and an oversized tee-shirt. She was dressed for comfort. She sat down on an empty space on the couch. Gestured for Sebastian to come sit beside her. They sat in silence for a few minutes, just looking at the room.
“Do you want to stay in and talk? Or do you want to go out?”
Sebastian took her hand, which seemed so impossibly small and fragile in his. He had never before thought of Lana as something delicate that could be so easily crushed.
“It doesn’t matter at all to me. I just want to be beside you.”
She kissed his cheek. “That’s so sweet.” Patting his hand. Then, “Where have you been? I mean, you’ve been gone a long time.”
“Not so long in the scheme of things, but it felt like a very long time to me as well. I had some things I had to take care of. Housekeeping. I’ve got it all sorted out now,” he told her.
He nodded. “Some decisions. Some loose ends to tie up.”
“Oh. Like a girlfriend or something?”
“No. Nothing like that. Just had to put things in order. It doesn’t matter now. I’m here. I can stay as long as you like. I can stay forever.”
Lana shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Forever,” she said. ““That’s quite a long time. That’s a pretty big mouthful.”
“I don’t mean to scare you,” he told her.
“You don’t,” she said, then kissed him. It was the warm, soft welcome invitation kiss he remembered from so long ago. He gave it right back to her. And soon they were fumbling and rubbing and smoothing and stumbling from the couch to the hallway past the bathroom door to the bedroom where there was no time or need for long conversations. Their hands, bodies and mouths remembered exactly what to say.
It was over quickly and then they lay in bed, neither of them knowing what to say.
“That was different,” Lana said at last.
“I mean, you were different. What’s different about you? What changed?”
“That is what I have been wanting to tell you. I have forsworn by accursed heritage. I have severed my wings and turned my back on my family. I am no longer an Inbetweener. I am finally free and we can be together. Really together.”
Sebastian watched Lana take this information in. The expression on her face like she had a mouthful of curdled milk. It was not the expression Sebastian had hoped for. It had something in it other than the look of amazed surprise.
“You did what?” she said at last.
“I surrendered my wings. I am mortal. I can live with you now. I am free.”
“Free?” she shouted. “How could you? Oh, God!” Lana buried her face in her hands.
Sebastian reached out, pulled her hands from her face as gently as he could. “Don’t worry. Everything is okay now. I can be with you forever. Everything is okay.”
“How could you? I can’t believe you did this.”
“To be with you,” he said.
“To be with me?”
“You shouldn’t have done this.”
“It is okay. It was an easy choice. Now we can be together.”
“I can’t believe you did this. You should have warned me. You should have told me before doing. This.”
And Sebastian slowly realized the expression in her voice was not amazement or wonder. It was anger. Pure, vile, bitter anger. And for the first time, his fully mortal heart knew the icy ache of savage fear.
Sebastian reached out to touch Lana. She turned from his touch as if the feel of his hand was unpleasant, repulsive.
“I did this for you.”
Lana screamed, pushed him out of the bed. Sebastian reeled backward, once again feeling himself expulsed from the place where he belonged. Felt his father’s hands and the hands of the thousand Host. He felt himself being pushed out of heaven.
Sebastian fell to the floor, the short, brutal work of gravity always dragging bodies down. The oppressive weight of the world and his place in it. For the first time, Sebastian considered that he might have made a mistake, an impetuous, adolescent mistake. He was only 600 years old. Perhaps he had been rash. He shook the thoughts from his head. Those thoughts could not serve him now. He had made his choice. He had made his bed, and even though he had been pushed out of it, he must now try to lie in it.
Lana was crying. Sebastian sat up, peering at Lana from the edge of the mattress. Lana was crying. She had her back turned toward him so he could not see her face but he had studied humankind for centuries. Had studied Lana for such a long time. He recognized the inward slump, the hunched shoulders. Lana was crippled by something he had done. Sebastian felt an insatiable need to fix it, to make things better somehow.
“I did this thing for us,” he said. “So we can be together. That is all I ever wanted. And now it is possible.”
Lana turned to face him. Her eyes large and bright with emotion. This was a thing Sebastian had not expected. He knew it happened but he had never been in the presence of Lana while she cried. Her face was red and swollen. Mucus dripping from her nose. Her lips trembling involuntarily, like some quivering mollusk.
Sebastian was back in bed, stroking Lana’s hair, hoping to smooth the rough edges of her distress using only his hands.
“I did this for us,” he said again.
Lana said nothing. Sebastian gazing into her face, trying to catch her eyes. Lana looking at a spot just over his shoulder at the far-side of the room. She was there, but she was not.
“I couldn’t stay the way I was. I had to change things. Now we are the same. Now we can be together.”
Silence. Lana stopped crying, focused her attention on just breathing. Sebastian watched the careful way she brought her breath in and back out again. Like it was a thing that required much concentration.
And then, in the smallest possible voice, like a whisper in the folds of his brain, she said, “I don’t want this.”
And for the second time, Sebastian felt himself falling, though the plunge was entirely inside himself. The velocity with which he plummeted. The wind howling around his ears as he fell uncontrolled through the brutal, empty expanse. And this time there was no ground to catch him. There was no floor. He fell and fell and fell. Darkness and confusion swallowed him.
Sebastian had no memory of leaving Lana’s bed or apartment, though he now wandered the dark, empty streets of the city. He felt numb and bruised deep inside. This feeling was entirely new. He was acquainted with the urgent piquancy of desire and curiosity but this swallowing sadness was a new thing. It carried him in its stomach as he moved through the world, noticing for the time not the miracle of the light but the miracle of the darknesses that sat between the lights. And the people who moved in this night-time city with him. The lovers walking home from a date. The drunk staggering along the sidewalk. Even the mice and rats and other skulking, shadowy things driven by hunger and need. How these things moved like him, a body in darkness moving from light to light and the miracle of the space between lights where mystery lay.
Sebastian came to a public square, where the buildings made way for grass and trees and an open patch of sky. Sebastian looked up. So many of the stars and planets he knew were obscured by the light. But he was familiar with the darkness. The darkness was his home.
Sebastian looked up and tried to imagine his mother and father and grandparents looking down at him. Would they have it in them to feel proud of him? He had solved the elusive equation. He finally knew what it meant to be human. It was not love or sex or any one of a million mere ambitions.
It was loss. The constant possibility of loss and the uncertainty that came with it. Already, he felt Lana was a million miles away from him. There was a vast, impossible separation between them that could not be breached. And the loneliness that seemed ready to crush him, closed in around him like a capsule and he felt a wild, perverse exhilaration.
Far stronger than gravity, this was the ineffable force that pressed them to the earth. The yearning for things that cannot be kept and the certainty of pain that came from it. Sebastian had made a careful study of human kind and had made his greatest discovery. He had solved the puzzle of human love. It was not only the fierce need and desire that came with the initial attraction. It was the mournful breaking of the heart in solitude. Inevitable but satisfying.
He had given everything he had and found it had not been enough. He had been wrong, perhaps, to give so much.
Sebastian thought of Frieda. She was now his only friend. His first friend. He would find her and thank her for her kindnesses. He would cry on her couch and laugh at her jokes.
A weight shifted inside of him. The pain and bewilderment did not disappear but it moved aside.
Sebastian smiled to his family. It did not matter if they could see him or if they would pay attention. It was enough to know that he was smiling. That he could smile. That he could bear the price he had paid and carry it with him.
Sebastian left the park and began walking again. He would walk as far as his feet would carry him, and, when they would no longer carry him, he would rest and see how that felt. It was a new thing he had found. There was fear and dread and disappointment but he found there was bravery there as well. He had given his wings so he could no longer fly but he could walk anywhere his feet would carry him.
And so he began, understanding.
Earth is the right place for love.