Chapter Thirteen: Fever Dreams
This wasn’t a modern courtroom by any means. It looked more along the lines of something used during the French Revolution with heavy dark wood everywhere and flickering candle chandeliers providing the only light.
It was hot in the room and smelled of creosote and smoke. Everyone was perspiring profusely, using lacy white handkerchiefs to wipe their faces, most notably the bewigged lawyers and prosecutors smothered in long black robes. Considering that, it didn’t surprise me to catch the occasional scent of body odor wafting my way in the witness stand. I noticed a small folder of papers in front of me. Trying to be discreet, I used it to fan myself.
I didn’t recognize a soul in the courtroom and couldn’t help but wonder why I was even there. Looking around for someone I could ask, I spied the angel who was the attorney assigned to the defense. He was striking with a strong, masculine face and had the most piercing gray eyes I’d ever seen. Something told me I was here to help his case.
“Bring in the accused!” one of the three angel judges called out in such a loud, booming voice it startled me. When I turned to face them and I recognized who they were. It was as if the statues atop my parents’ grave had come to life. Or maybe the statues there had been modeled after them. Who knew?
Before I could fully register how improbable any of this was, everyone in the courtroom turned and faced the towering double doors at the back of the room expectantly.
“Who’s on trial here?” I asked the people closest to me, but no one would even look my way. I fixed all my attention now on the doors opened and gasped when I saw the prisoner.
It was Pershabael. He was chained around his wrists, his waist, and his ankles. Even from where I sat, I could see he’d been mistreated. His eyes were bruised, the corner of his mouth had been split, and his amber wings were in tatters. He looked grimy, thin, and pale as if he’d been locked away somewhere dirty and dark for a long time.
They’d sent him to hell, I realized. That was confirmed by the fact he was being escorted into the courtroom by two of the most repulsive-looking creatures that I’d ever seen. Demons, no doubt. They each brandished huge broadswords which they used to drive the angel forward, even though they were also carrying no less than three guns apiece.
“Percy!” I screamed, feeling faint and nauseous, knowing I had brought this on him. This was all my fault. I had to help him somehow. No matter what it took.
“Mya?” Pershabael called back. It seemed as if he couldn’t find me. “Mya, where are you?”
“I’m here!” I yelled and waved my arm. There were too many people in front of me however and I don’t think he saw me.
The judge closest to me shook his fist at me. “Order!” he screeched. “Young woman, we will not tolerate such outbursts in this courtroom!”
Out of fear, I tried to calm down but I couldn’t stop crying. “I’m sorry!” I wailed to the judge and everyone around me, and most of all to my poor angel.
I watched as the two demons forced Pershabael forward, up against a pillar I hadn’t noticed before in the middle of the aisle. They made him face it and then shackled him to it. They tore his shirt off of him as if it were made of paper. I didn’t understand what they were doing until I saw one of the demons held a long black bull whip.
Pershabael’s eyes widened at the sight of it. Worry crossed his face and his breathing became labored as if he knew what they were about to do to him. My heart all but stopped.
“Are you here before us to seek forgiveness for what you have done?” the judge in the middle asked Pershabael.
“No,” my angel said and shook his head. “I’m not sorry. I love her.”
The judge shook his head too and gestured at the demon to proceed.
I watched as Pershabael braced himself against his chains in anticipation and every muscle in his body tensed. The demon hauled the whip back and then cracked it down the center of the angel’s exposed back.
Even the sound of it made me jump. Pershabael gasped, and then took several deep breaths as if trying to work through the pain. After a few moments, his body slumped against the pillar.
“Stop!” I commanded them. “Why are you punishing him when he hasn’t even been condemned yet?” I was baffled. I hadn’t even been given the chance to help him.
“It’s his plea,” the angel acting as the prosecuting attorney said with a sneer. Everything about him was so pale he looked like he could have been an albino. “He should be punished for it.”
“Your Honors, if I may,” the handsome attorney for the defense said, rising to his feet. He gestured at Pershabael. “I ask that my defendant be spared. His love for this woman is perfect and true. His devotion to her should be praised, not punished. She makes his heart beat. How can any of you condemn a love like theirs? Love is to be celebrated.”
Singing suddenly rang out in the courtroom from a thousand heavenly voices. I looked up and saw a choir of cherubic angels circling the high ceilings in synchronized formations like orbiting stars. They sang the praises of true love not with their voices, but with their tiny silver wings.
I gestured up at them, enraptured by the beauty of their song.
“This is the very reason he should not be spared!” the prosecutor yelled, rendering the choir mute. The tiny winged figures seemed to fade away. “It’s not true love. He has fallen into the realm of obsession, infatuation, and possession. He claims to love her, but he neglects her. He takes advantage of her feelings for him. Condemn him. He no longer has a place among us.”
The judge once more directed his question at Pershabael. “Don’t you want to be forgiven for loving this woman?”
“No,” Pershabael repeated. “I’m not sorry that I love her. She love me too. I know she does.”
Again the grotesque demon whipped him. I could see the angry red welts cris-crossing the angel’s perfect back from here.
“Please stop,” I begged the judges. “What do I have to do? What do you want from me?” I wanted to go to Pershabael and take him in my arms and tell him how much I loved him. He didn’t deserve this for loving me.
“His love is true,” the defense shot back. “See for yourself. Hear her declare to all above and below how much she loves him! Ask her! She’ll more than tell you!”
“Exactly!” replied the prosecutor . “She’ll speak of her love because she is under his power. She won’t deny it. She can’t. Ask her! She’ll more than tell you!”
I looked at both the prosecutor and the defense attorney and shook my head. A cold fear washed over me. If I said I loved him, I would prove them both right. I didn’t know what to do.
“What say you, woman?” the judge farthest from me asked now. “Do you dare deny the love you bear for the angel, Pershabael? Do you love him or not? Save him or condemn him. It’s up to you now.”
I clutched my hands together in desperation. I didn’t know what to say or do. I felt completely helpless and afraid.
“Don’t I get any counsel?” I asked. I was trembling so hard my teeth were chattering. How I could feel so cold in such a sweltering courtroom was beyond me.
“You get no counsel!” the middle judge all but spat back at me. “You are making a mockery of this proceeding. Speak the truth. Or be held in contempt.”
“Mya!” Pershabael called to me. “Speak the truth. Tell me you love me. Don’t be afraid.”
I looked over at him, chained to that pillar, beaten and bleeding and knew what I had to do to save him. It would be the hardest thing for me to do and I knew it would hurt Pershabael beyond any of his current physical wounds, but it had to be done.
“I don’t love you!” I shrieked at the top of my lungs. “I love another!” I searched the faces of all the judges and the attorneys on the floor. I knew I had done the right thing, but they all stared at me as if shocked.
And then I heard the most pain-filled, heart-wrenching scream. I knew at once who it was, and my eyes flooded with tears.
“Release him,” the judges declared in unison. They rose as one from the bench, disappeared-- replaced by the stone monument in Idlewild. The courtroom erupted in a deafening turmoil.
The two hideous demons flanked either side of Pershabael and unlocked him from his shackles. The chains fell free and disappeared as well. The angel collapsed to his knees in front of the pillar. I looked on in horror as the demons raised their swords and slashed them across the base of Pershabael’s wings. The wings snapped away from the angel’s body and disappeared. Pershabael screamed again, but his back was already healed and free of all traces of blood and whip marks by the time the demons lowered their swords. Then the demons disappeared.
Silence descended over the courtroom as the attorney, the prosecutor, and all those in attendance disappeared as well. The only ones left in the room now were Pershabael and me.
He remained on the floor, softly weeping into his hands and rocking back and forth.
I knew I had broken his heart, but I tried to reassure myself with the fact that at least he was free from harm. I had done the right thing.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. It was an inadequate thing to say at this point. I looked around, wishing I could just disappear too. I couldn’t stand listening to my angel cry anymore. I wanted to get away so badly now. I wanted to just go home. I was shivering and feeling faint. I clutched the side of the witness stand for support.
“Mya?” Pershabael called out to me. “Mya, please don’t leave me. I love you.”
I shook my head. My heart couldn’t take much more of this. I had to leave now. “I’m sorry, Percy. I’m so sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you. I’m sorry for everything.”
Suddenly everything went black. I must have disappeared.
“Sssssh,” I heard someone soothe me from a distance.
I woke shaking, my body wracked with pain and seized with feverish chills.
I felt strong arms around me, lifting me and supporting me. Warm, soft skin that smelled like a spring rain shower surrounded me and large, calloused hands stroked my forehead, brushing back my sweat-dampened hair. The hand was soon replaced by a cool wet cloth that felt like water dousing a fire. I stopped shivering and took a deep steadying breath. I had to pry my eyes open, but the sight of Pershabael’s beautiful face that greeted me was so worth the effort, I cracked a smile.
“Percy,” I replied, snuggling closer to him.
“Ssssh, I’m here,” he consoled me and pressed the cool cloth to my forehead again.
I slumped against his chest in total surrender, feeling warm and safe and at peace for the first time in weeks despite my raging fever.
“I had the most horrible dream,” I mumbled into his skin.
“I figured,” the angel replied quietly. “I heard you cry out in your sleep. When I came to check on you, you were burning up with fever. It’s breaking now. You’ll feel better soon.” He wrapped his arms around me and gave me a gentle hug.
“I already feel better,” I confessed in all honesty. Just having him hold me had done wonders. “I’m glad you’re here.”
I felt Pershabael exhale and a sense of tension I hadn’t been aware of before, seeped from his body. He stroked my hair.
“Really?” he asked, clearly needing to be sure I meant what I had just said. “You weren’t all that happy to see me.”
I nodded. “Really.” I licked my dry lips. “We need to take care of Mercedes. She’s hurting and sadder than I first realized. She needs her friends close now.”
Pershabael continued to stroke my hair. “I’ll care for her. That’s what I came to do, but I’m here for you too, Mya. I’ll do whatever you need me to. You do know that, don’t you?” He lowered his head and touched his lips to the top of my head.
I looked up at him. I wanted to lose myself in his love and surrender to my passion for him. It took all I had not to pull him down on the bed over me. Of course, the fever gripping me helped keep that urge at bay. I licked my lips again.
“About Justin,” I began, ready to confess all.
“I understand, Mya. I honestly do,” he said, his voice soft and low. “I reckoned eventually this time might come and I just want to say…I’m happy for you. I really am. Justin seems like a great guy. He’ll be good for you. I know he will.”
I blinked up at him. That was all very noble of him, but then he was an angel. Of course, he’d step aside if that’s what I wanted him to do. He’d just said so.
“So…you’re all right with this then?”
The angel smiled at me. “Of course. If you’re happy, I will be too. I wish you only the best.”
I had to look away from him then. That sounded rehearsed like he’d just memorized lines from a script. He actually didn’t seem all that upset however. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him just taking our parting in stride now. But this was what I had wanted all along, wasn‘t it? I moaned.
“Still hurting? You want me to fetch you some aspirin or something?” He cradled me against his body with one arm as he fluffed my pillow with the other. “Here, lie down. Try to go back to sleep.”
“I don’t think I want to go back to sleep,” I told him, wrapping my arms around him to keep him with me. “What if I have those bad dreams again?”
He smiled at me. “You won’t. Think…of happy things.”
The angel shrugged. “Well, I don’t know. They’re your happy things. What makes you happy?”
Now I smiled as something popped into my head almost right away. “Will you sing to me?”
Pershabael seemed somewhat surprised by my request, but nodded his head once to agree to it. He sat up a little straighter and licked his lips. His expression told me he was thinking.
“Oh, okay, here’s one. Let’s see if I can remember how it goes.”
I was all ears and waited with eager anticipation.
When the angel started singing, I recognized the song and melted a little inside. I listened, my heart thudding with love inside my chest, my eyes even watering a bit. Of course he sang it beautifully, but I remember someone singing it who didn’t have such a good voice, but he’d warmed my heart just the same.
“Daddy used to sing that lullaby to me when I was little,” I told Pershabael when he’d finished.
“I know,” the angel said and reached out to brush his fingertips over my cheek.
Tears spilled down my face. Of course he did. Pershabael knew every last detail about me. He had watched me grow from a baby to a child to the woman I was today. He knew every little thing there was to know concerning me and had seen me at my very best and my very worst…and he still loved me.
“Thank you,” I whispered to him.
That made the angel smile. “You’re very welcome.” He hugged me again, and then released me. “Now. Go to sleep. Dream sweet dreams.”
Before I could protest, he eased me down on the bed and pulled the covers over me, tucking them around me to seal out the chill in the room. He caught sight of the window I’d just had replaced and cocked his head in question like a confused puppy would.
“What happened to the window?” he inquired, re-fixing his gaze on me. He leaned over me, his face only a few scant inches from mine.
For a moment, I couldn’t think. My eyes bored into the perfection of his angelic face and longing flooded my heart again. I wanted to kiss him so much it hurt.
“Um, I just decided I wanted something normal,” I said without realizing how that sounded.
At that, Pershabael’s expression withered. I knew he had applied what I had said about the window to his own situation.
“Normal is nice,” he responded in a rather monotonous voice. “Having something unusual will keep you intrigued for awhile, but of course, it loses its novelty in time.” He sat back and then got to his feet. “Try to get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I knew right then and there he was most definitely not as okay with our breaking-up as he’d first led me to believe. I felt lower than a worm now. I rolled to my opposite side and hugged the covers to my chest. I didn’t hear him leave, but I felt a cold emptiness fill the room once he’d gone.