Chapter 18: Determination

Ailsa and her husband returned the next day, bearing gifts, luggage, and news of another pregnancy. Aille tearfully reunited with her older sister, and after many introductions, exchanging of presents, and an outrageous, table-packed dinner, Aille was finally given time to spend with her sister, her kindred spirit.

"How far along are you?" asked Aille, placing a delicate hand on Ailsa's womb. The dark-eyed Ailsa smiled.

"Four months," she answered. "Morning sickness thankfully hasn't been a problem this time around. With Anna, it was awful. I could barely leave the bathroom for those nine months."

"Yikes," said Aille sympathetically. They fell silent for a second, looking out into the distance, where the sunset was casting a gorgeous array of warm colours across the sky.

"Living in one place really suits Mom and Dad, doesn't it?" said Ailsa. "They don't seem antsy at all."

"It's most likely because of Anna. She's all over the place," Aille admitted.

"Belial seems to be handling her pretty well," pointed her sister, and near the edge of the beach, her unofficial significant other was building an evening sandcastle with Anna. He was fixated on the challenge, entirely focused, and Anna seemed to have been relegated to the job of collecting materials. Both seemed happy with the arrangement.

"Yeah," said Aille softly. Ailsa noticed the change in her voice.

"You love him, don't you," she said, in more of a statement than a question. Aille nodded.

"He seems to care a lot about you as well," Ailsa continued, skipping over the part most people usually went to – that Aille was newly divorced.

"I know," smiled Aille, her eyes on Belial.

Once the initial boundary between Aille and Belial in terms of a long-term relationship was blurred, and the two began to trust each other – or more specifically, Aille began to trust Belial – things began to move a lot quicker than expected. Aille left her parents but instead of traipsing off to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as she had with Patrick, she moved with Belial to a more populated area, to introduce – and in her case, re-introduce – them to modern society.

Because Belial was technically not alive, though he was a human being, he did not have any birth papers or government forms even documenting his existence, and Aille did not have access to anyone who would be able to have those papers made. Not even her family knew where he had come from or what he used to be, and she had no plans to tell them. There was no way to prove it without sounding terribly unhinged, and while it had been hell to legitimately lose control of her mind, being treated that way was even worse.

Instead, Aille took a job in town and with the help of her parents, purchased a small house nearby. To keep Belial from going insane with boredom, she made sure to choose an area with many young, unemployed men like himself, so that he would have people to spend time with and perhaps learn how to be human from. He was unhappy with being a housewife, but the payoff for Aille was so great – for once, she was the breadwinner, in control – that he eventually conceded and let her dominate the relationship in the workplace, so long as he was able to dominate in the bedroom.

Of course, when Aille was not working, she spent every waking moment with Belial, most often teaching him the ways of the humans. Modern electronic devices brought them closer, because with the time Aille spent away from civilization with Patrick, and even before that, living as a nomad with her parents, she was unfamiliar with the workings of DVD players, cell phones and computers, Belial even more so.

Still, the technology intrigued them, and once the two discovered video games, an intoxicating mix of wasted time and the opportunity to compete with one another, it quickly became their new obsession, one that warranted purchasing an entire system, once the money was saved, and eventually, took them to markets nearby the shore, where an old friend of Aille's owned a video game shop, and, coincidentally, near the boat dock she had first seen Patrick all those years ago.

When Belial and Aille took a trip down to the video game store, they made a day out of it because it was too arduous to walk all that way for a game, however addictive it was. Armed with water bottles, snacks and unfortunately matching khaki pants, they traipsed down to the shore.

The visit itself wasn't too remarkable, but what happened after the pair left the video game shop was.

Fernando, Aille's old friend, picked his shop specifically because of its view of the boat dock. He owned one himself, and loved it so much that he needed to keep it in his line of vision at all times, just to make sure it was still there. As Aille and Belial exited the store, they had the same view.

Just ahead, even when squinting in the bright mid-afternoon sun, three figures could be seen at the dock. One was the proprietor, who was a kind and old-fashioned man who believed in the protection of one's most precious tangible possessions, and one who was trusted even by people who did not live on the island for the best boats.

Even after the year and a bit that had passed, Aille knew the other two individuals as well as she knew herself.

Belial asked her what was the matter, but she was frozen on the spot, overcome with intense emotion and want that was not what she experienced with Belial. Her ex-husband was a venomous, outrageously conservative prat, but her son was innocent, young, and did not deserve to be raised the way his father had.

She marched over, not appearing to realize that her hand still held Belial's, and by now, the remnants of his supernatural strength had fully receded, leaving nothing but his human hand behind, and one that was somewhat easily tugged on by the urgent, determined one of his significant other.

At first, he was unsure of her motivations, until he saw what she had seen earlier. His jaw tightened and involuntarily, he straightened, eyeing up his rival.

"Excuse me," said Aille, her voice tight. The three men looked up. One broke into a grin when he saw and remembered her, one stood shocked, tears building up in his eyes, and the last wore an expression identical to Belial's.

"Aille," said Patrick. His gaze flicked to Belial, who was gripping her hand to keep from throttling her ex-husband. "And your lover, I suppose?"

"Patrick," hissed Aille, warningly. The proprietor, who sensed the obvious tension, graciously excused himself. Lucas looked up at the three adults, squeezing his father's hand nervously.

"Mommy?" he squeaked. The daggers shot from Aille's eyes waned when she heard the innocent, childlike sound of her son's voice. She bent down and held her arms open. "Hi, darling," she breathed. But when Lucas didn't rush into her embrace, as she expected him to, she glared up at Patrick.

"What have you done to him?" she demanded. "Doesn't he remember his own mother?"

Patrick held his son's hand tighter. "He doesn't have a mother," he snarled. "The floozy ran off with her demon lover."

Belial made an aggressive move toward Patrick, but Aille pushed him back. "Don't, Belial," she said quietly. "This is between Patrick and me."

Patrick stepped forward. "There is nothing between you and me," he hissed. "You left because you were unfaithful to me. I will not allow my son to be subjected to your influence. And if you return to Alkyd, you will be executed as such."

Aille slapped him, surprising even herself with the gesture. Patrick stepped back in surprise.

"He is my son too, Patrick," she bit back.

"You are dead to him," said Patrick.

"Not according to Australian law."

"I won't share custody with you," he retorted. "Not with the mainland ideas you're putting in his head, and certainly not with that demon –"

"He is not a demon," she insisted. "He's human."

"He is still evil," asserted Patrick.

"And what are you?" said Aille. "What about your convoluted, backward ideas –"

"You didn't have a problem with them when you married me," he snapped.

"I didn't care." And she regretted that. "I was in love with you."

The singular phrase seemed to be enough to deflate his anger. They both took a breather and stepped back before either of them said something they regretted, which they didn't want, certainly not in front of their son.

"Aille," Patrick sighed. "Aille, I loved you too." He looked down at their son, who was crying silently. She looked at her ex-husband with a pointed glare, and he relented. Aille bent once more and took her son gently into her arms, wiping his tears and whispering to him.

Belial stood off to the side, clearly itching to fight Patrick but choosing not to only for Aille. While his ex-wife was distracted with their son, Patrick glanced surreptitiously at the demon. He didn't have the supernatural glow Patrick remembered from past experience, but there was still something strange about his eyes. They were an unnatural shade of blue.

"What are we going to do?" asked Aille, capturing his attention once more. Lucas had calmed down and was quietly playing with his mother's hair. "Even if we wanted to share custody, shipping him from here to Alkyd is too dangerous. I can't believe you even brought him here."

"This isn't the first time," he said defensively. "Lucas needs to grow up, become a man. My father first took me on the boat when I was three."

"Of course," she grumbled. "I don't suppose you can move away from Alkyd, then."

"I don't suppose you can move back to Kiribati," he responded.

"If I return, you'll have me put to death, won't you?" demanded Aille.

Patrick sighed in frustration. "Aille..." he said, sounding unsure of himself. "I don't know."

"Why? You seemed sure of yourself when it happened." Aille said spitefully. "I told you –"

"If he raped you," Patrick spat, "why in the name of everything that is good in the world are you with him?"

"I..." Now she was unsure of herself. Belial's lips were pursed, clearly disapproving, but he said nothing. "It's complicated."

"I'm sure it is," said Patrick, with sarcasm. "I'll take our son home, then, where he belongs."

"He belongs with both his parents," said Aille firmly. "You can't have sole custody."

"Village protocol dictates that I do." He eyed Aille with contempt. "And you'll stay away if you know what's good for you. I might be unsure of what to do, but the rest of Alkyd will condemn you if you come back."

"You and your village rules," Aille muttered. She stroked Lucas's feathery hair. "He's my son too." Her gaze cut to Patrick's frustrated face. "I don't understand how you can separate us."

"What else can I do?" he asked her testily. "You're with the demon, and Lucas needs a steady father figure."

"What about a mother?" snarled Aille. "Or are you already married?"

Patrick's eyes narrowed, but the spark of anger in his eyes dimmed. "No," he said, and he sounded almost regretful. Belial snorted. Aille silenced him with a warning look. He wasn't used to taking the orders of a woman, but found that it was getting easier to do so. "There's no one else."

"What do you mean?" There were plenty of eligible women in the village who would probably kill to become the wife of the handsome leader.

"I can't believe this," said Belial, and when Aille turned once more to shush him, he shook his head. "Aille," he said, and she listened to him only because of the tone to his voice. It sounded jealous.

"What is it, Belial?"

"He still loves you," he responded. "You want her back, don't you?"

Patrick shook his head, not in a negative response, but in a way that showed he didn't want to say. Aille looked at him quizzically.

"Well?" she said. "Do you?"

"What does it matter?" he said gruffly. "We've both moved on, haven't we?"

"You haven't," muttered Belial. "You didn't appreciate her when she was yours, and now that she's moved onto someone else, you think she'll fall in love with you again?"

"Belial," said Aille desperately. "Don't –"

"No, Aille, you had your say, I stayed quiet." He put a finger to his lips. "Shh."

"You'll listen to the demon," said Patrick, "but you won't listen to me, Aille?"

"Shut up," snapped Belial, "and listen."

Patrick glared.

"You don't really want to execute her," continued Belial, "and you don't really want to leave without her. But you will, because she's not yours and she doesn't love you."

"Wait – he can't leave with Lucas –" Aille put in.

"I will admit," interrupted Belial, "that I did some awful things as a demon. But I didn't care about any of that when I loved Aille. There is nothing that I wouldn't do for her, but I suppose you were willing to burn her at the stake for your principles."

"I thought," started Patrick, "she had committed adultery."

"You're an idiot," said Belial. "And now you've lost your wife." He took Aille's hand and proceeded to walk away.

"Wait!" shouted Aille. "What about Lucas?" Belial stopped.

"He was born of you and your ex-husband," he said. "Do you really want him?"

"Of course I do," she cried. "That is my child."

"I won't give him to you," snapped Patrick.

"Why not?" demanded Aille.

He hesitated. "He's all I have," Patrick said helplessly.

Aille said nothing. It was true. She had her family, far-reaching and getting bigger by the year, and of course Belial, who she loved dearly. Patrick had a village to lead, friends from childhood but no one who held the deep connection that could only be shared by the closest of bonds – familial bonds. But Lucas was her son, the only son that survived. She wanted him.

"How often do you come here?" she asked Patrick.

"Every couple of months," said her ex-husband. "Why?"

"If you've been bringing him here for the past year, he's gotten used to it," said Belial. "Share custody of him."

Patrick opened his mouth to argue. "It's only fair," said Aille firmly. "He belongs to both of us."

"You want me to bring him here, have you take him for a few months, and then take him back?" said Patrick.

Aille nodded.

Patrick agreed to the proposal. That in no way meant that he wanted to give up his son for a few months of the year to the ex-wife he was still in love with and the demon she loved. But his first and foremost value had always been one of duty, and it was his to be fair, especially when dealing with his family. He was not fair to Aille, who had been telling the truth all that time ago, and it was his obligation to repent for that sin.

Belial was repenting as well, in a way. For his treatment of Aille, he'd had to suffer through the months of courtship she'd put him through in order to be sure that he truly cared for her and wasn't simply looking to take advantage of her once more. He'd passed the test, and now, he was reaping the rewards. Patrick still had a ways to go. As for Aille, she'd been controlled by both men, and had sought retribution in each case, from Patrick in the form of divorce, then from Belial in the form of repayment. And now, she had her son.

The violation of her body and the destruction of both her innocence and sanity spawned a resurrection that was stronger than what she had to begin with.

Aille was reborn.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this story. It was one of the first ones I actually wrote (as a novella) even before Sweet Temptation, Artistic Expression and the others. I hope you were happy with the ending and that you review one last time. :) Thanks again! ~ absentmindedprofessor

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