La Divina Tragedia

A Story from Confession

By Jackson O'Connor

Ah life. 'Tis but a bitter pill.

To those whose eyes are clouded with ash and dust.

The musings of a black heart and gray mind

Begging with silent might

For blessings from the Lord.

Twixt the dying of the sun

And the cool unrepentant face of the moon

To cast gossamer pale starlight o'erhead

Where the thorny rose may prick the heart

What secrets hast thou spoken, in haste, to the lying darkness?

And what haste hast thou flung carelessly

Lighting the cynical flame,

To blister the skin and pox the lips with cruel lines

Let us cast aside our doubts

And like discard our wrath

Thou, in faith, shall follow and listen

Whilst we find the path…

Tread behind my footprints whilst I show thee the mistakes of thine mind's eye

Fluttering wings carried the Seraphim up higher through the cloudy circle of light. For upon a golden throne sat the Lord. His face turned aside and curtained by long flowing hair. Attendants and Seraphim attended on his words, and more than a few held the Herald's Trumpets, the trumpets that would signal the Apocalypse. Simriel brushed his doublet and bowed low. The Lord did not look at him nor did he speak but he knew he listened.

"Lord. I hast heard from the mouth of Cassiel a tale fit for your ears. I beg your forgiveness for such frivolity but thou should pass judgment upon this tale. For I think Cassiel has been aught too merciful as she was of late."

A voice met his ear, with no gender and it boomed with wisdom,

"There is no such a thing as too much mercy. Mercy is deserved by all. Tell me this tale; I am weary to hear it."

Simriel bowed again and began as the shadowy cloaked figure of Cassiel alighted beside him, her black wings ruffled. "Thou wouldst begin without me, Simriel? To think you would have told slander to our Lord. Words most suited to the Regent, I expect Simriel. But hark tell the tale as I told it to you. I shall clear any discrepancies in thine own words."

Simriel would have blushed, if he could, but he put on a face of humility and began to speak.

Tom could hear his parents shouting though the heating vents. Warped and distorted beyond recognition, but they were fighting again. They were always fighting. Mother drank, and dad wanted her to stop. So they fought, until they shouted themselves hoarse. Sometimes Tom shut his ears with his pillow or drowned them out with his loud music. Sometimes he just got out of the house. He absently kicked a rubber ball on the floor. His mother hated him all the time because he wasn't the bright, little boy he used to be. She Berated him and herself alike for him growing up. He felt like she blamed him for being a teenager. She always clucked at him for slaving over rhymes and poems rather than his homework. She said he was going nowhere. Dad just shook his head at him; he wanted a boy who could play football or baseball. Instead he got a loner who would rather trap himself in his room to be alone with his creative angst rather than the outside would. He called him a shut-in when he thought he wasn't listening. His parents fought over what to do with him. Kick him out of the house? Make him get a job? Tom didn't care. He'd run out of tears to cry long ago. And when Tom wasn't at home, he was at school. He sighed and lay on his back looking at the ceiling. The kids there, his very own peers, looked at him like a bullfrog in human clothing. They balled up paper and threw it at him, calling him various names: Emo, Creep, Ghoul, Goth and all sorts of more unsavory names. He winced from their remembered insults. People were always stealing his notebook where he wrote his poems, where he drew them in flowing cursive and illuminated capitols. Putting them in the school newspaper as a joke. It was embarrassing having people mock him for writing. He thought it was beautiful, they said it was stupid and whiny. Did no one love him at all? He had given up on everything, even his poetry. His pens lay unused on his desk, his notebook dusty. There was nothing left for him and he curled up wishing upon every unseen star in the late evening sky that he would just melt away to dust.

Tom lamented silently about his world he was victimized by. He rolled over, shivering suddenly. He looked absently at his mirror, the mirror that showed him his smoothly chiseled face with its curtain of black hair. His long, skinny legs kept in even tighter denim. He pulled the hood of his hoodie over his head and buried his face in the pillow as his parents shouting match reached a new crescendo. Just as he looked out of his hood he saw something odd on his mirror. Frost was creeping across the glass, breaking up the image with its soft fronds. Soon the whole mirror was frozen over and black ooze began swirling behind the glass, turning it from iced-over glass to a deep inkwell. He stood and took his hood off and walked up to it cautiously. Suddenly a smooth hand reached out of the mirror and beckoned him with a crooked finger. The hand's fingernails were scarlet, long and pointed. Tom blinked about three times before he reached out. The hand turned and firmly grasped his, pulling him jarringly foreword. His face slipped seamlessly though the mirror's face. On the other side the inky darkness swirled for a few moments before his room re-coalesced. But it was different. Different because of a sprawled body on the bed. His very own body. He walked up to it. Glassy eyes, his own eyes, met his. Dried spittle on his own lips. He shivered. My corpse? Oh God! Oh God! What is this, Where am I, Am I dreaming.

"Jarring, is it not?" an androgynous voice called from behind him. Its arms around the mirror's edge, a being in a hooded cloak and black robe stalked towards him. The same hands that had pulled him into this nightmare. "One so full of life? Now thine eyes dim and the breath is stolen by the cold and gray. Gone to where the punish'd are set to toil. But yet here you are. Mine name is Cassiel. I am the Angel of Death." and the figure bowed its head. "Blessed be this journey I set thee on, if thou shalt follow me. I am your guide, for you see. Your dark thoughts betray a lack of depth or understanding. Life is not to be lightly cast aside. I break my own rules to show you this."

Tom, bristling, burst out "What the HELL are you talking about?"

Cassiel shook its head and said "Shame. Hell you doth speak of? Shall be your home if you doth take the action you envision. Just as you wanted it. To die a painful death. A poison on your lips. Neither last words nor death rattle for anyone to hear. Thou art cold and pale now as the soul departs on its newfound wings but instead of soaring it plummets with leaden wings. Take my hand, mortal, and I shall show you the consequence of your actions." And held out its hand.

It was true. Tom sometimes pondered killing himself but was too afraid. Didn't know what lay beyond Death's Door. He didn't want to leave a mess, for someone to clean up after him.

"This is your one chance. Lest I revoke my mercy and drag your pathetic excuse for a soul to the darkness of Hell to be tortured for your loss of judgment and logic."

And Tom reached a tentative hand out "If I do this will you tell me why?"

Cassiel nodded and he clasped the hand again. It was cool to the touch, and his own sweaty hand felt slippery.

A vague gray filet drifted over his eyes and Cassiel spoke, "So here my task is set to you. I shall show you the consequence of thine actions. Pertaining to your parents first, for their reactions should be that which strikes you roughest. Free the chains of your mortal mind. This is no dream."

The voice was not as warped as it had been, but it was still genderless. The world around him seemed to accelerate the sun moving through the sky out the window sinking down in a race to reach the horizon.

"Angel….person…Can you tell me why exactly you're doing this?"

Cassiel did not answer at first.

"Silent treatment?" said Tom trying to make Cassiel say something.

Cassiel let go and pointed at his door. "Mercy I reserve for all, though I have shown none. Treasure this." said Cassiel simply.

His door opened and his mother looked in. It was like a silent nightmare. Tom saw is mother screaming and begging his inanimate corpse to spring to life.

Tom wrung his hands, his mind churning. Cassiel waved a hand and the scene melted into gray shadows as his father burst in as well. Endless gray reformed and Cassiel led Tom down a Hospital corridor.

"Why can't anyone see us?" asked Tom waving his hands in front of a nurse trying to get their attention.

"This is only what might be. We are not here in body. Hear what they say, mortal," said Cassiel in return.

It Pointed at a closed door. Opening it slowly it was a coroner's office. Noises from the world around him faded into his ears.

"…and you are certain he had no prior history of depression or suicidal thoughts or actions?" asked the Coroner, a sober look to his face.

Tom's mother was still in tears and his Father sighed and shook his head. The Coroner clasped his hands together and said, "I'm very sorry for your loss." Tom's father nodded. The scene crumbled back to gray shadows before placing him in his house again. Cassiel stood off to the side. Tom's parents were fighting.

"Well HE wouldn't have killed himself if you had been a better Mother to him!" his father was shouting.

"That was OUR son! And we are burying him in a week. How DARE you accuse me of being a bad parent," his mother retorted sharply "We were both terrible parents." And with that she walked to the door grabbing her keys.

"Where are you going?" his father snapped. Tom winced and made a step towards Cassiel.

"OUT!" shouted Tom's mother before slamming the door. Tom's father collapsed into a chair and buried his face in his arms.

Tom walked up to Cassiel and said "I…never knew my parents would miss me. But look at them fighting still!" Cassiel shook its head. "I was just another thing for them to shout over," said Tom irritably.

Cassiel crossed its arms and said with the featureless voice "You have yet you do not see." And stepped over to Tom's father, laying a hand on his shoulder. He didn't feel it. Cassiel continued to speak "Even the most solid of marriages are stricken with fights." Then the scene began to melt into the gray, featureless expanse again.

The scene reformed as Cassiel walked toward him, showing the kitchen again. Tom's mother was there, hunched over the sink. He walked tentatively over saying "Mom?" Reaching her, he saw she was pouring out her booze from her flasks and bottles into the sink.

"What is she…" started Tom looking back at Cassiel

"Grief causes many to kick their painful habits. Blame for atrocity curdles the hearts of all," Before walking away into the den. Tom followed and time began accelerating again; blurs passed by him many times before Tom stood next to Cassiel in the middle of the den in front of the television. Tom's father was stuffing clothing into a box, Tom's clothing. Walking upstairs and into his room, it was bare, his bed sheets stripped off, his drawers open. Boxes were stacked on the floor, boxes of his things. Everything from his stuffed animals to his notebook of poetry. The way it sat in these boxes it looked like useless junk. His mother carried the boxes downstairs her face twisted by grief. Downstairs again, Cassiel still stood, waiting patiently. Tom's mother went and embraced his father.

His mother whimpered "I can't believe he's really gone." All his father did is hold his mother and reassure her. The image faded again as Cassiel changed the scene.

In the gray, swirling mass Tom walked towards Cassiel and grabbed it saying "What the HELL are you doing to me?"

Cassiel stopped weaving the scene leaving them in inky gray confusion "Of what do you refer," returned Cassiel, turning the darkened hood towards him. Were those eyes that glittered inside that hood?

"This! Showing me these things!"

Cassiel crossed its arms and said, "This is only the beginning, mortal. Steel your knees. This may shake your core." And it uncrossed its arms walking away from him as the scene melted together.

A funeral parlor with rows of metal chairs, his family was there. All of them including the aunts and uncles he never even knew he had. On the other side of the aisle there was a large group of kids from his school. Tom's throat caught as he surveyed the crowd. He walked tiptoe to Cassiel's side near his own open coffin. He barely managed to squeak out "Why?" before his mother advanced and stood at the podium. Her hands still had the shakes from her long years of alcohol abuse, but she dabbed at her eyes with a black handkerchief and read the piece of paper on the podium.

"Your elegy, Mortal." Commented Cassiel as Tom's mother started to speak.

"Hello Everyone, if you don't know me I'm Tom's Mother, Cassandra. I know not many of you knew Tom well; even I didn't know my own son as good as I wanted to. He was a bright, little boy. He always brought me home A pluses on his quizzes, I remember…" and Tom's mother broke for a moment to sniffle. "I remember making a Styrofoam model of the planet Saturn with him for a 3rd Grade art project. I remember helping him write his first English paper…." She broke off again, an errant tear in her eye. She dabbed at it and continued. "When he got older, we grew apart. I knew it would happen; every baby bird has to leave the nest some day. I still loved him but…..I had problems. I didn't mother him like I should have. Now I'm burying him in the ground." She stopped for a moment or two and said with sorrow in her voice "I should have talked to him more! And I blame myself for this every night. But I can't bring him back, and I'm trying to be content with knowing he's in a better place." She stopped again, breaking down a bit. "He…..wrote poetry too you know. It's beautiful. He wrote one about pain and sorrow and loss. I hope, some day, I can publish these. So other people can be moved by the beauty of his words." She stopped and read aloud one of his poems. Dammit, Mom, thought Tom as she faltered a bit trying to start.

"How bitter are the gray winds of time?

To flutter by with nary hello nor goodbye.

To disgrace the hallow land they tread, it makes us all as good as dead.

Color drains to earth unseen, to make the flowers bloom gold and green.

No rainbows spring from pots of gold, or among all the angels a spare halo.

For you, my love is gone to waste, and now my heart leaves empty lines to trace.

I'll wait for you, until the first winter snows.

To cry for you, till the cold wind shakes the willows.

If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane,

I'd crawl my way to heaven and bring you home again…."

Tom's mother faltered again unable to finish.

"These are all but broken words from a broken heart," Finished Tom. His father came up and held his mother and helped her sit.

He spoke into the microphone and said "If anyone in Tom's class would like to share any memories we'd be honored to hear them," and sat back down.

Tom walked over to Cassiel and said through clenched teeth, "Why are you doing this to me?"

Cassiel's shadowed eyes perused his figure and said, "It must be heard by thine own ears. Whether you take them to your core or not, 'tis your own choice. But I caution thee beware."

Suddenly the image faded into the distance as a blood red hue overtook his sight and Cassiel's voice took on malevolence "Darkness haunts your path. Under starless skies to blunder into damnation. Cursed forever to the Seventh Circle of Hell, as a blackthorn bush." The world returned to the grayish hue that separated Tom from the events and Cassiel's voice returned to normal "Fitting, is it not?" commented Cassiel and it pointed at the podium. One of the football stars, one of Tom's main nemeses, had taken to the podium.

"Uh, I didn't Tom that well to be honest. He was an OK kid; he was really quiet. Only spoke when spoken to….he was always wowing the art teacher with the stuff me drew. Like weird stuff….he was a smart kid." He shrugged and said "Damn shame he had to go….hope he's in a better place," and went to sit back down.

Awkward silence fell over the scene as Tom went to walk back to the head of the aisle to wait. He saw someone in the back getting up. Tom squinted to see though the foggy, gray edges of the scene. It was a girl he knew, and she was pretty to him. Blonde hair with her bangs dyed pink. Thin with sizeable curves, a pearl stud in her left nostril and glittering blue eyes fresh with unwept tears. She was always in black jeans and short skirts with fishnets and black converse.

She went up to the podium, brushed her hair back and said a little too loud, for it feedbacked a bit in the beginning, "I never really spent time with Tom. But I knew he was a good kid. He…he was brilliant. I I…loved his poetry so much. It spoke to me, deep down. And I'm not afraid to say I wished I wasn't so shy. Or I would've said it to him. I'm going to miss him for the rest of my life…." And she burst into tears and ran out of the room running though Tom himself. Tom patted his body before remembering he really wasn't there.

Tom followed the girl, jogging a bit to go out the doors. She was in the corner her head in her lap. She was sobbing now, the poor thing. Tom wished he could've held her and said it's alright, I'm still here, but he couldn't. He wasn't really there. It was all a nightmare. A horrible, lucid nightmare. The girl pulled her knees close as she cried, making her mascara run in black lines down her face.

"She would have given you everything you desired," said Cassiel's voice as it approached him from behind where Tom stood. "She would have followed you to the altar. She loved you that much. Now, her heart is broken into a multitude of tiny fragments."

Tom's throat clenched as he choked out, "Will she move on? Will she get better?" Cassiel shook its head, "She will carry the pain the rest of her life."

The scene faded into the grayness and the girl's sobs faded away.

"Sara…that's her name. I always thought she was beautiful."

Cassiel took a step toward him and said, "Beauty is judged by that which beholds. You do not see aught but her appearance. You see the depth of soul within her generous heart. But it is not pity that moves her to love you, but a genuine bond that ran deeper than you knew. Now all she has to embrace are the thorns you left behind." The scene changed once more as Cassiel turned away from him.

A rainy, cold and wet day. His coffin was poised over a fresh grave. The priest from his church, and a group of family and a few school kids stood to watch. Sara was there too, dressed in a mourner's attire complete with a veil.

As the Undertaker lowered the coffin into the earth the priest spoke a blessing, "Our Father, who art in heaven. Cast your eyes upon this child. In life served you, in death may he be conveyed to heaven by your angels. We pray to you, o lord, to take up his soul heaven. To be forever in the presence of your love. We pray to the Lord."

And everyone at the funeral returned "The Lord hear our prayer."

"And now we commit his body to the ground. From whence we were all born. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Amen."

Each mourner cast a handful of white flower peals into the fresh grave which was sodden from the rain.

When Sara approached she said to the coffin, "The heavens weep for you, Tom. I will always hold you in my heart." And cast a flurry of red petals. Their juxtaposition drawing attention.

Though he could not feel the rain, he felt the cold and empty feeling rain gave him. The priest bowed his head, crossed himself and left with the mourners. Cassiel and Tom stood alone as the Undertaker shoveled the dirt over the fresh grave.

"What the hell do you think your doing to me? I've had enough!" spat Tom at Cassiel. Time sped up and the grave was now covered in white and red flowers, the sun glowing high in the sky. Cassiel stepped over to him and pointed at the cemetery gates. It was Sara, though she was taller and older. She carried a bouquet of white and red roses. She carefully avoided trodding on the patch of pretty, little flowers and laid the flowers at his grave, brushing the moss tendrils off and whispering, "I didn't forget. I almost did…." She stopped to brush away a tear "It's only been three years but I still miss you. I hope you can hear me up there. I will always love you." She stroked the gravestone gently before standing slowly and walking away.

Tom turned to Cassiel to see it brings its hands up to its hood. Untying the knot and casting back the hood, throwing the cloak to the ground, great black feathery wings unfurled from behind the Angel's back. It was a woman, a beautiful woman, the likes of which Tom had never seen. It dazzled him as the sunlight sparkled across the wings like pinpricks of starlight. Cassiel's voice was clear now; a strong, musical womanly voice

"I won't hide myself from you any longer. Though I would blind you, were we in the mortal world. My beauty is not yours to take, but I see something analogous."

The scene flowed to gray for a moment before reforming. A messy apartment, with a flickering computer screen, a couch with clothes on it, and a big black cat sleeping peacefully on a window sill. It must be Sara's apartment thought Tom, looking around. Cassiel folded her wings to her side and pointed out the bedroom where Sara was curled up, crying. She was holding a frame in her hands as she cried. She pulled it away from her heart and stroked the side of the frame. She then replaced it on her nightstand. It was a picture of him, Tom, from one of his Art Portfolio classes. He was smiling and waving at the camera. He remembered Sara taking that picture; she asked him to, "Look happy for just a second! I'm taking pictures for the yearbook!" Cassiel walked into the room and stood in the doorway. Sara walked though Cassiel's shape and threw on a coat, grabbed her keys from a little, woven bowl and walked out the door.

"Cassiel…I…" Cassiel shook her head and said "We are almost finished here. This is the last thing I shall show you," and held out her hand. Tom clasped one and then the other. Slipping just a bit too close in together Cassiel said "A moment..." and pulled him closer to her.

He could feel her gentle breaths as she closed her great wings around them both, curtaining them from the world. Tom felt a little uncomfortably close to Cassiel, able to feel her gentle breaths. His face level with hers as she looked at him, the shadows hiding her eyes almost completely except for the subtle hint of emotion. Tom's hand crawled up from Cassiel's hands to her face seemingly without him noticing fully, cupping her cheeks. Sidling close Cassiel's breath caught as their lips inched closer. Just as Tom was about to place the kiss on Cassiel's angelic lips, she placed a finger on his lips and pulled her wings back. The gray world around them was swirling violently and Tom's arms were around her slender waist.

"I….cannot….." stuttered Cassiel pushing herself away and turning her back to him.

Tom walked in front of Cassiel and said, "I'm sorry. We were a little too close, I lost control." said Cassiel, a hand on her face. Then she shook her head at him.

"No the mistake was mine. My emotions took my reigns for a moment." She smoothed back her wavy, black hair and pursed her purple lips. Batting one of her long lashed eyes she said, "I've always had a problem with despairing, handsome men. They all but steal the breath from my lips." She put her hands on his shoulders and said, "Lets try again; this time I lay a promise not to draw you so close as to make mine heart flutter," and pulled him close enough, curtaining them wish her wings again. Her subtle lilac perfume drifted into Tom's nose making him weak in the knees. "I sense the blazing candle deep within you. Stifle it lest my heart's hunger get the best of me," said Cassiel in her bright voice.

Cassiel lifted the curtain of her voluminous wings up to reveal they were in a clean, hospital ward hallway. Tom backed a few steps away from Cassiel as she straightened her wings behind her. Pointing at her Tom said, "I know what you're doing to me now…"

Cassiel cocked her head to the side like a confused puppy and said, "Explain?"

Tom said, speaking as much with his voice as his hands, "You're just trying to rope me into your arms. Oh Tom, don't kill yourself because I am madly in love with you. But you can't love me because I'm an immortal Angel. I know! Let's go into this storage closet and have dirty sex!" Tom even imitated Cassiel high pitched sweet voice. "Come on, I'm not thick."

Cassiel cupped her face in her hands a moment and said "That's not it at all. Thou art befuddled." She took a step towards him, but Tom took a step back. "I shall not hurt thou," said Cassiel, pleading with her eyes. Tom allowed her to take two steps towards him and she placed a graceful hand on his left shoulder, "I am an Angel. I can do things mortals can never dream of. I used a tiny piece of that immortal power….I…" she stopped pulling her hands closer to her breast. "My heart is fluttering, I no not how to explain. I am….lonesome…."

Tom sighed and said "So am I; kindred spirits?"

Cassiel shook her head, her brow creased with effort, "As an Angel I mustn't breed or let myself feel anything. But I was always curious, about human emotion. And I latched onto one of the most pure." she drew her arms around his shoulders, and Toms hands snuck up around her slender waist again. "Love. The purest of all human emotions. It seeks nothing in return for it but the same. Undying commitment, a consummate desire that burns the flesh with passion." Now Tom swallowed as a bead of sweat broke on his brow. She was far too close for comfort, but that nagging male part of his brain was whispering, she's beautiful, she wants you. What's wrong with you? But as he always did when he felt even a smidgen of feeling for any woman he throttled it. But the heat between them still remained, and he was still clutching her sinuous form. Flicking her finger on Tom's lips she said, "I cannot give you myself…though I would not say no if you asked it of me….I must and shall always remain a virgin….and these lips must remain unkissed." Then, finally, Cassiel broke her awkward touch and Tom stumbled back a bit. "But I can give you the closest thing I can give to you of me. The woman who would have loved you," said Cassiel as she pointed down the hallway at a blank, white door with a small window. Tom approached the door as Cassiel stood outside. Inside the padded room was Sara, her eyes rheumy and sunken, her form emaciated. Her hair was scraggly and dirty.

"Oh god, Sara. What's happened to you?" he asked, though he knew she could not hear.

She was staring blankly at the floor, eyes glazed over seeing but not understanding. A doctor entered with a tray of food and asked her patiently to eat something. Sara looked up with pitiful eyes that all but gutted Tom. He felt sick to his stomach, he wanted to cry and hold her but he couldn't. It's all a nightmare. A horrible nightmare! And I'm the cause of it! Because I was gutless and took the easy way out, said Tom's inner voice. His conscience continued to nibble at him as Sara pushed the food away mumbling a response.

The doctor said "Please, Sara, you're sick and you need food." But Sara shook her head. "I don't want to eat anymore…" croaked Sara in a flat voice. Tom's legs shook as he backed out of the room and it melted into the gray shadows before his eyes. Cassiel was there, shaking her head but saying nothing and turning aside to her right, her head down.

A scene formed again, a hospital room. Machines beeping and ticking, all attached in some way to Sara. She lay in a hospital bed, her eyes half closed. Her mother was there at her side, holding her hand. "There's nothing more we can do," said a doctor in a white lab coat. "She has lost so much weight her kidneys are failing. The injections of vitamins aren't helping. She needs food and she won't eat…"

Sara's mother was weeping watching her daughter waste away. "C…Can't you use a f….feeding tube?"

The Doctor nodded but said, "What happens when we take her off of it? She will probably go back to her self-destructive behavior. She will need serious psychiatric help to get over this…"

Tom clutched the side of the hospital bed, shaking now as a few hot tears fell from his eyes. He was watching the woman who would have loved him more than anything wasting away to a skeleton because of him.

Cassiel placed a soothing hand on his shoulder and said "Weep not. This is not what must come to pass." But Tom couldn't take it anymore.

He rounded on Cassiel, angrily. "No, it won't. But this is the last straw. I won't let her die because of a stupid decision. I won't let you toy with me, like some pawn in some game. My heart is not a plaything and my emotions are not a game. Take me back to the real world. I've learned my lesson!"

Cassiel stood and shook her head. Where Sara lay, her eyes were glazed over and her hand limp. The machines all beeping in a long steady note. Tom clenched his fists until his knuckles were white, trying not to move to strike Cassiel. The world melted into gray shadows for a moment, flickering to one last place.

It was a sunny afternoon in an empty churchyard. There were two graves in front of them. One read Tom Allen Hesser. Born 1991 - Died 2009. May Angels keep him always. And next to it another gravestone reading Here lies Sara Savannah Dawn. Born 1992 – Died 2022. She died of a broken heart. Tom couldn't take it anymore, and he broke down and cried there at this imaginary nightmare's gravestone of a girl he barely knew. A girl who, in different circumstances, would have loved him loyally and truly. He let the tears flow freely and he shook with every sob. On his knees for what seemed like eternity, he let all the tears out. Watching his parents' sorrow and now the decline and sad, lonely death of a woman pining after a dead man.

Finally, he stood. Wiping his face on his sleeve he said begging, "Please, Cassiel, take me home. I know what my life means now. No matter what, I'll always have hope for the better!"

Cassiel smiled widely and held out her hands. Tom embraced her and just as the world was fading to swirling gray ink once more, he took a chance, wrapped his arms around her back and laid a gentle kiss on her angelic lips. It was almost not even a kiss, just brushing his lips against her own. But that electric surge he got from such a gentle touch was parried by her fierce return that probed in his mouth. For a moment there was no him or her, just a hot, melding bond that transcended anything Tom had ever imagined.

As Cassiel's wings folded over him she whispered to him as his lips searched for her swan-like neck "I forgive you…"

Tom woke back in his room, but remembered his magical journey in a never-never land of could've beens. His parents had stopped fighting. Tom ran downstairs and saw his mother sitting on the couch watching television.

Sitting down next to her he asked nicely "What are you watching, mom?" surprised at his interest she said, "It's called "House" You'll love it. Come on watch an episode with me…"

The next day in school, Tom found Sara at her locker pushing a mound of books from one class in exchange for a mound of books for another.

"Hi." Said Tom awkwardly.

Sara said back brightly "Hi! What's up?"

Tom shrugged "Nothing really. I heard you like my poetry…"

She looked embarrassed and said, looking at her feet, "I just…like them is all…"

He smiled and said "Hey, why don't we do something Friday night. Would you like that?"

She was practically jumping up and down with glee saying "Yeah! Sure! Does 8:00 sound good to you?"

It was about a month after Tom and Sara started officially dating, according to high school standards. Rumors were flying about how all-of-a-sudden the creepy, emo kid was happy and was going out with the pretty, goth chick with the piercing. Let them guess he told himself. In Sara's room, a tidy little place with posters of heavy metal bands and her scattered drawings and paintings of macabre and strangely exciting landscapes, he lay with her on her black, satin sheets. They were cuddling together, just the way she liked it. She had had a bad day, and she had asked him to make it better.

Sitting up with his head on his shoulder and her eyes closed she said quietly, "I love you more than anything in the world, Tom. I will love always and forever…"

Whispering in her ear he said back, "I love you more than I do all stars in the sky. There's no words I could compose to write a song about half your beauty." Slowly she moved Tom moved over top of her, their bodies close together. Cooing softly she pulled him in close and laid a sweet kiss on his lips. Molding into her arms he felt the same blistering fire in his breast.

"Remember…I gave you something greater than what I could give…" said a whispering voice, Cassiel's voice. But it wasn't Cassiel, an angel he wasn't fully sure existed, this was a flesh and blood person. She moaned quietly as he kissed her down her neck tracing soft caresses on her back, "Oh God, Tom." Whispered Sara as she closed her beautiful eyes. "Be gentle…"

Simriel ended the tale there, not wishing to explore the mortal man and woman loosing their virginal grace.

Cassiel looked at Simriel with a bemused expression and said, "Little dost thou know, I did not orchestrate this as a surrogate. I did not want of him to kiss me in the first place. Better than thou hast done, a boy child begotten of mortal mother, didst thou proclaim this to all of us. A prideful gleam in thine eye?"

Simriel said with anger touching his words "Better than thou, whore! You meant to connive him to lay his lips upon yours from the start!"

"I am no whore! You are the one with a son! I am as pure as I have always been while you strut about as impure as if thou doth were covered in soot."

Simriel shook his head, not wanting to get involved in an argument and took to his wings and glided away.

Cassiel stood before the Lord and said, "Didst thou enjoy this story?" He did neither nod nor say anything but the silence itself proclaimed an answer

"Thank you, o Lord." And she turned to depart.

"Cassiel. Is't thou pure of heart and mind?" said the wise voice.

Cassiel hung her head and said "Alas, I am passion's slave. Yet I could not want to see such a man with potential to question whether 'tis best to be or not to be…" and she took flight and glided away from the golden throne at the pinnacle of Heaven. Leaving behind her misgivings, fears and doubts. There is goodness and justice still in the heart of man, thought Cassiel, And love has conquered all, once more.