Part 14

The next day in her other world was a Sunday.  No need to go to the music store, for it was closed, and no danger of seeing Love again.

Or so she thought.

Disturbingly early in the morning, while she was attempting to doze (that blissful state of not quite asleep, that was her only rest) she heard a knock at her door.  Her first thought was that it must be her landlady, though it was cruel and unusual of Mrs. Garner to be knocking at dawn on a Sunday.  It was not time for rent, yet.

“I’m coming,” she called, crawling free of her nearly flat air mattress and grabbing some clothes.  The idea that it might be Love flitted through her mind but flittered right back out again.  No; Muse would not ask who it was.  The only logical visitor was Mrs. Garner.

It wasn’t Mrs. Garner.

“I’m sorry.  I know you probably don’t want to see me,” said Love, standing irresolutely in the hallway.  “But please hear me out.”

Muse meant to say, “I’m completely unaffected by your presence, have no worries.”  Instead she managed “I’m” followed by a vague sort of mutter, before stopping, running a hand through her sleep-smooshed hair, and finally settling on, “Mmm?”

She realized in that moment how much she did not want Love to see the inside of her one room apartment, with the sad little deflated air mattress and the cardboard box shelves full of books.  Nor did she want him to look at the lonely card table, the camping chair, or the tiny old television with tinfoil enhanced rabbit ears, perched on an overturned laundry hamper.

Love did not, however, peer past her to gawk at the shamble that was her home.  He looked at her earnestly, and said, “There’s something I want to show you.  I would like you to see a place.  Would you consider going for a drive with me?”

He paused only a fraction of a moment, barely giving her time to respond, before he went on; “I remember quite clearly what you said on Saturday, and I’ve no intention of going over any of that again.  I understand your stance, and I’m not trying to argue again.”

Muse just looked at the floor and crossed her arms; her chagrin at him seeing her house was now replaced with an awareness that she had come to the door in a baggy old t-shirt that said “Just Do It” and a pair of violently orange and yellow flowered lounge pants.  She did not usually wear colors so bright, but they had been the cheapest pair on the thrift store rack.

Love, attributing more weight to her silence, fumbled onwards; “I’ll leave if you refuse, but I hope that you need not cut me out altogether?  Besides, I think that you will want to see this place.”

“What place?”

“It’s easier to show you.”

Muse tore her gaze away from the floorboards and said, “I have to change my clothes.”  She shut the door abruptly.

There was a moment of silence, then, through the door; “Does that mean you will come?”

“Give me a moment.  Yes.  Fine.  I’m coming,” Muse called back, while digging through her boxes to find some of her workday clothes that were still clean.  Mostly clean, rather; as Sunday was her laundry day and she barely had enough clothes to get through the week.  Oh why had she spent her paychecks on useless books and a lousy old television and not clothes?

She pulled on jeans and the least wrinkled shirt of the pile, spritzing it with air freshener.  As she flung a comb through her hair she listened to the disapproving voice in her head telling her; “Why are you going out with him?  He’s insufferable.  Can’t take no for an answer.  Thinks that by being polite and puppy-eyed he will get you to change your mind.  You shouldn’t.  You really shouldn’t.”

She assured this voice that her resolve was not shaken, and wove her wild mass of brown hair into a braided rope as quickly as she could.  Stepping into a pair of sandals, she opened the door.  Love stood patiently in the hall, looking as dapper as ever in a spotless white shirt and brown slacks.  He was always the neat and proper store manager when she saw him, no matter what the hour of morning.  The only thing about him not carefully composed was the curling black hair that fell across his forehead.  Though maybe that was just exactly as he intended it.

Oh well.  No matter.  Muse had never been the type to dress up and preen over her appearance.  This difference had not seemed to concern Love before, and she was determined not to start worrying over it now.

They went down to his car, a newish gray sedan.  The exterior and interior were as clean and neat as she would expect from Love.  He opened the door for her, ever the gentleman, and Muse sank into the leather upholstery, thinking that even if his life here was more modest than that of Love the God, he couldn’t be doing too badly.

He started up the car, and a CD playing classical music resumed.  Muse smiled.  Vivaldi.  She liked Vivaldi.

But then, there wasn’t much music that Muse didn’t like.  Even the rough, the strange, the commercial, the outright bad.  She couldn’t help it.  She thought that perhaps she should feel the opposite, be more snobbish, or selective, since she was the Goddess of Music.  Only the best for a goddess.  Funny, that.  Instead it just made her a fool for anything that came from a musicians’ mind.  Perhaps it was because they all prayed to her; their music was their prayer, and she could not help but listen, and smile.

They rode in silence, but for the Vivaldi.  It was not an uncomfortable lack of conversation, exactly, as Muse felt no anxiety over it or wish to break it.  But there was the knowledge that if they should begin to speak, a rehash of their argument might occur.

His car smelled a little like oranges, but not overwhelmingly so.  So found herself wondering if he used some sort of citrus leather cleaner, when he spoke;

“Where did you grow up?  Do you remember?”

She shook her head.  “I didn’t.”  Here again, was a subject which made her uncomfortable.  Love had, over the past few weeks of their eating and working together, made mention of his life growing up in this place.  Memories which could be nothing but false, for all their kind came from the Lake.

She had always supposed that because he was Love, he needed memories of growing up, of being loved by parents, of loving them in return, to stay sane.  What a sad way for Love to come into being after all — sprouted fully grown from an impersonal body of water.  No.  His (and other Immortals’) false memories were for their own safety.

She didn’t need these memories.  She had no use for the illusion of family and childhood.

This was the first time he had prompted her to share her supposed past; usually the same decorum that kept them from asking other Immortals where they lived and what they did in this other world, applied to questions about one’s “childhood.”

“I grew up here,” he said, though it was a needless repeat of what she already knew.  “It was a long time ago.  I’ve spent many years living elsewhere, but lately I came back.  There’s something to be said for home, no matter how it may change.”

“There is some beautiful countryside,” Muse observed, looking out the window.  Everything was in the full bloom of late spring, and the sun was bright and warm that morning.  They drove between tall trees and past meadows and fields.  Houses were sparse, and mostly old farmhouses.  This part of the world was, she must admit, not so unlike the other world.  It was less busy, more green, than many a city or suburb elsewhere.

“Yes,” Love agreed.  “It’s rural.  But, I like rural.  The hustle and bustle of cities gets somewhat tiring, after so many years.”

Muse nodded.  She had lived in a city before this, in a small flat even less appealing than her one room in the old farmhouse.  The life and music churning around her had been invigorating, for a time, but still she had been drawn to move here.  It wasn’t just the offer of the job, for there were music stores and music students aplenty in the city.

She liked this world with all its age and complexity, but sometimes she just needed to retreat to a quieter corner of it.

“Here we are,” said Love, breaking her from her reverie.  He turned off the road onto a grassy path, with just two narrow lines of dirt marking tire tracks.  It stretched on up a hill, and Muse saw nothing around it but more trees and long grass.  She wondered what was over the hill.

next: »