Part 21

Muse lingered among the graves for a few moments.  It occurred to her that she was stranded here, without a car (well, one that ran, anyway) and that she should probably be doing something about it.

She didn’t understand the draw this place held for her, how she had come here without knowing it.  Was it only because she would find Beauty here?  Why was that important?  She had learned that Love was indeed looking for her, but that didn’t feel like the answer.

She decided to go back to her car, see if it had burst into flames yet.  She found a blond haired, blue eyed Beauty waiting for her.  The car was intact.

“I suppose you are stranded here,” said Beauty.

Muse nodded.  She felt a few splashes of rain on her head, and looked up.  Fat drops struck her forehead and dribbled down her face.  She heard the sound of Beauty opening an umbrella.

“Come with me.”

She looked back down.  Beauty’s face was not friendly, exactly, or inviting, really, and Muse wondered at the offer.

“I can’t just leave you out in the rain,” Beauty answered her unasked question.

“You can,” she replied.  “I can sit in my car until it passes.”

“And then what will you do?  Repair it yourself?”

Muse blinked away raindrops.  Her hair and clothes were already starting to weight down with water.  Reluctantly she stepped under the umbrella, and walked with Beauty.  There was nothing in her car worth taking with her, or worrying about.

They walked up the street and then down another, and came to Beauty’s home.  It was no more than a five minute walk from the graveyard, and Muse guessed she went there often.

Beauty’s home was pretty and modest, a two story red brick house behind a picket fence.  The front yard was a well tended garden with a winding stone pathway, several bird feeders, and two benches.

Muse followed her inside.  Beauty shook out the umbrella and left it by the front door, and Muse brushed wet strands of hair away from her face, taking in her surroundings.  The inside was much like the outside —  a garden.  There were cut flowers and flowers in pots, sitting on the floor, the tables, the window ledges, and hanging from hooks in the ceiling.

“You like flowers,” Muse observed.

Beauty made no answer, just walked down the hallway to the kitchen.  Muse followed, damply.

“I don’t have guests very often,” Beauty said, stopping by a window which looked out over the back yard.  “All my dinners are of the frozen boxed sort.  I hope you don’t mind.”

“You don’t have to feed me,” Muse said guiltily.  “I’ll just stay here till the rain lets up, then if you can show me where a car repair place is, I’ll be on my way.”

Beauty turned around to look at her.  “Don’t be ridiculous.  I’m trying to be hospitable.  It’s late; you’ll eat dinner and then you can sleep in the guest room.”  She swept a glance over Muse’s wet clothing and added, “I have some clothes you can wear.  They should fit, we’re about the same size.”

Muse fidgeted underneath her blue-eyed stare.  “Really, you don’t have to be nice to me. I’m . . . I’m quite used to fending for myself, and no one would blame you for—”

“Being unkind?”  Beauty raised one perfect eyebrow.  “No, as long as you’re in my house you’ll eat something, take a bath, wear dry clothes, and sleep in the guest room.  If you find all that unbearable you’ll just have to run off.”

Muse looked at the floor.  She wondered if this was a trap of some sort.  Beauty took her reaction as consent (Muse thought of it as resignation) and went over to the freezer.  “Swedish meatball?  Chicken alfredo?  Cheesy lasagna? Fried pork and mashed potatoes?” she rattled off the choices.

“Swedish meatball,” Muse sighed.  “Could I, em, shower before dinner?”

It had been a while since she showered.

“Of course,” said Beauty, shutting the freezer door.  “Take off your shoes and follow me.”

They went upstairs, and Muse looked at the framed pictures on the staircase wall curiously.  They were old, sepia toned portraits and daguerreotypes.  She couldn’t be sure if Beauty was in them, because she could look like anything, and the flat photos could not capture her aura.  Muse saw a portrait of a beautiful young bride and her gallant groom, and wondered if that was Beauty and her Peter Van Loren.  She didn’t ask.

In the shower, Muse mulled over her guilt.  She’d stolen away Beauty’s lover (the living one, anyway) and was now making a nuisance of herself, stranded practically on her doorstep.  If her attitude toward Love was any indication, Beauty surely did not like the idea of company intruding upon her life in this world.  And Muse must surely be the last person, mortal or Immortal, that Beauty would welcome.  Muse wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d just left her in that graveyard.  It’s what she expected.  It’s what she deserved.

Not that she regretted it.  Beauty had lost Love the moment she forbade him entry into her other life, it was only a matter of time before he went to someone else.  But that didn’t mean she should be hospitable to that someone else.

Muse wouldn’t be, if she were in those shoes.

It was all very bothersome.

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