Feckless Liar

The book Lucja held was heavy in her hand. It smelled of ink and musk. It smelled of heaven. It was her favorite scent in the world, but today even it couldn’t pull her out of her misery. She could feel the eyes on her and although she wanted to believe it was the half-naked man on the cover who drew attention, she knew it was the red, swollen eyes leaking water down her cheeks. She closed the book, giving up on reading, and placed it on the small table next to the newspaper. 

When her mother had called only days ago to let her know about the freak accident which had taken his life, she cried for hours.  Truthfully she’d wondered if it were a joke because there was no way that Roland was dead. The pain at the confirmation was nothing she’d ever experienced before. Hell, the only reason she’d left her apartment today was because of work.

Lucja picked up the newspaper and examined his face. His eyes were brilliantly blue, framed by dark eyebrows hitched in amusement. His auburn hair was messy as always, but it was the smile that stopped her breath. She’d always thought him beautiful, an Adonis out of her own dreams, but now seeing that face, all she felt was pain. Her chest tightened and her throat became thick. She sighed through her nose. She would never see that smirk again, never have that need to both kiss him or punch him. 

Roland McNeil 02/05/1990 to 02/15/2021

Lucja had to get a grip. She knew that, but everything still felt so new, so raw. Lucja took a long breath, closed the paper, and slipped it into the bag on the floor next to her. As she sat straight, her eyes were drawn toward the front window. Should feel someone’s attention on her. Not the pitying glances from before, but as if they willed her to notice them.

The afternoon light filtered in, basking the first few tables in its warmth. A couple sat, heads together near the door. A woman with a laptop, headphones on, hunched over her keyboard. The cafe was insanely busy today. Every table was filled with happy voices as they discussed their weekend, or business people meeting for a quick lunch break. So many faces swam around her, but it was the small seat in the corner that caught her attention and caused her to freeze mid-motion. 

A man sat there, his lips were curved in the very same smirk she’d just been missing. It was the one she’d always known, the one that could stop a woman in her tracks. He wore his trademark gray t-shirt and jeans just as he always did. 

Was she imagining this? Lucja didn’t know. It was possible, she supposed. She hadn’t exactly been sleeping well and her eyes felt so swollen that she wouldn’t be surprised to find her vision were impaired. So she stared, unable to look away.

Lucja had just begun to think she had lost her mind when a busty blond approached and began to flirt with him. She ground her teeth. Nope, it was real. 

Roland barely looked at the poor girl as she bent, low showing off her impressive assets, then tried to give him her number. She batted her eyes, pouted her lips, and even caressed his arm.  As she did this, Roland’s eyes were locked on Lucja. 

She began to pick at her nails – a nasty habit from childhood. He scowled but did not come over. He had to know her thoughts and the shock which ran through her. He also knew the anger which was building too. In her circle of friends, she wasn’t really known to hold back her temper. Or her claims over him for that matter. So when he leaned back in his chair, sipped his coffee as if nothing were wrong, and then winked,  she knew it was him. He was playing with her.

Lucja growled low, her eyes narrowing. 

He’d winked! He fakes his death and then decides to show up here and taunt her. Oh hell no. A fire built in her stomach. She focused her breaths. That was the only thing that was going to keep from either full-body tackling him or starting to scream. She looked down at her splayed fingers on the smooth wood of the table and counted to ten. 

Kill him and you’ll get arrested. Kill him and you’ll get arrested, she chanted in her head. When she had some control, she pushed herself to her feet, the chair sliding backward to fall to the ground. She picked up her bag, then her drink, and glided over to his table. 

His face paled with her cool approach. The apprehension in his eyes made her want to smile. When he set his own coffee hesitantly on the table then straightened slightly, she grinned wickedly.

The blond was still there, having yet to realize he wasn’t listening. Lucja didn’t care what she was saying, she just knew that Roland was there and she was pissed.

Roland’s eyes tracked her every move from the moment she’d stood. Okay, he’d tracked them from the moment he’d walked into this cafe. But when she appeared at the poor girl’s side, said hello, and then poured her nearly full iced coffee on his head, he knew he’d never loved her more. Roland gasped as the cold drink poured down his face. He jumped to his feet, trying to wipe off the whipped cream dripping from his temple and limit the amount on his clothes. It was no use, he was soaked.

Lucja smirked.  “Oh, Honey,” Lucja said to the girl. “He’s not worth it. He’ll just fake his death when he’s done with you and disappear from existence. I recommend you leave now because, truthfully, he’s not that great in bed. He’s just a feckless liar.” 

Lucja pulled the newspaper out of her purse and slammed it on the table, the obituaries section open for all to see. She glared daggers, spun on her heels, and strode out the front door. She could feel as every eye in the place watched her exist and knew she’d never be able to show her face there again. That was a shame because it was her favorite cafe along the east side. 

Her strides were long and hard. She pushed them faster needing to escape not just the scene, but him as well. 

He was alive. He’d left her to think him dead knowing what it would do to her. How it would hurt her! Lucja held her head high, not a trace of sorrow on her face as she made her way down the street and out of sight. It was only when she’d reached the entrance to a small courtyard that tears filled her eyes. She turned into it, away from the busy street. Her throat began to burn as she held back the heaving breaths which would lead to uncontrolled sobbing. She sat on a small concrete bench hidden away in a back alcove and waited. He would follow her, she knew it. She just hoped her heart would survive the encounter.

She knew it was him when the sound of heavy steps echoed. His gate was always easy to recognize, not just for the power, but because she’d spent her entire life waiting for it. She controlled her breathing and pushed back the tears. It wouldn’t save her anything. He’d know she’d been crying so she turned away. 

He knelt next to her. He was quiet as he scanned her, taking in all the signs of the pain and torment she’d undergone. He’d known what it would do to her, to think him dead, but he didn’t have a choice. Had he not done as they asked the outcome would’ve been much worse. It had killed him to lie to her. It had been worse to be apart from her. 

Gently, he placed his hands on her wrists and pulled them away from her face. Her skin was pink and wet, her eyes bloodshot. Yet, she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Even as she poured that drink over him, all he could think was that there was no other creature as magnificent.

 Still, Lucja didn’t look at him. So he brushed her beautiful golden hair behind her ear and lifted her chin. He leaned in and kissed her cheek – her skin soft under his lips. She inhaled sharply, but he didn’t let go. He pulled back to look into her eyes.

Lucja didn’t fight. In fact, she barely registered it as the shock of his touch short-circuited her brain. He was warm, his lips an electrical zap straight to her broken heart. When her gaze finally met his, she stopped breathing. 

Roland smiled as Lucja held her breath. It was something she did when she was overwhelmed and had always been a focus of ridicule from her parents. He, however, found it adorable. Roland chuckled then blew a quick burst of air on her face. 

She sucked in a breath, more of a gasp as his coffee and cedar scent hit her. His smile widened. 

“It’s not funny,” Lucja snapped. 

He had the nerve to chuckle again. “I’m not laughing.”

“Yes, you are and I’m too angry with you to find you charming,” she said, through her teeth.

His expression sobered. He dropped his eyes, and said, “I know and you have every reason to be. I just want to explain.”

“Explain? You want to explain?” Lucja pushed on his chest, but he didn’t budge. She growled. “So, you want to tell me how you faked your death then proceeded to not let me – ME of all people – know until you just show up at my favorite coffee shop? Really?” The volume of Lucja’s voice rose with each word. The air around her felt tight, the frigid rock beneath her taunting. If she weren’t careful, that cold would suck her in and consume her.

 She swayed a little. Between her heart beating so fast, the fact she’d not eaten since yesterday, and the considerable amount of crying she’d done over the last few days, Lucja’s body was running on empty. Her limbs felt heavy. She braced herself on the wall next to her.

“Are you okay?” Roland asked, worried.

With a droll look, she asked, “do I really need to answer that?”

“No. I guess you don’t.” Roland ran a hand through his hair. 

It was darker than she remembered it, a deepening in color which, in this light, made it appear nearly black. The shade made his eyes more vibrant.

“I need to explain,” he continued. “I hope you know I would never have left you if it weren’t necessary.” He rested his palms on her thighs as he spoke. The heat of her skin made him pause. 

She stayed silent so he continued, “There were…unforeseen circumstances as of late.”

“Which were?”

“Do you remember that story I told you about my grandfather? How he died at the age of thirty-one?” She nodded. He took a deep breath then said, “Well, come to find out… He’s not as dead as I thought.”

“So what? Faking one’s death is a familial trait then?”

“Luce,” he scolded. She just glared. “I didn’t understand at first either, but I do now.”

Roland shifted to sit next to her and took her hands. 

“Do you remember that story I told you when I was a kid? The one about my grandfather and the last time I saw him?”

“Of course. You snuck out and climbed in my window. You said you found your grandfather in the study with your father. They’d been arguing about you – I don’t remember about what.  Then you said he disappeared, shimmered then turned into smoke right there in front of you.”

“That’s right. You convinced me it was a dream. I hadn’t been sleeping well remember?” he asked. She squeezed his fingers and he lowered his voice to say, “Well, I learned last week that it wasn’t a dream.”

“What do you mean?”  

“Grandfather is alive and well. We, we…” Roland started but trailed off. His hands shook ever so slightly and sweat beaded down his back.

“We are not human,” a new voice said. 

Lucja spun to see a man materialize beside her. She stood and stepped back, bouncing off Roland’s chest. He steadied her as smoke billowed from the wall. It spun into the shape of a figure and, from one second to the next, it solidified and an older version of Roland.  Tall and well built, he stood like a man comfortable with his power. The gray at his temples and wrinkles lining his eyes did nothing to distract from his beauty. He screamed dangerous. 

“Hello Lucja,” he said, kindly. “I have heard a great deal about you.”

Lucja didn’t know what to do. She’d just witnessed… what the hell had she just witnessed?

“Okay,” was all she said. 

He smiled. “Please sit down child. You look exhausted.”

Lucja straightened, then said harshly, “Excuse me? I don’t think you have the right to tell me I look awful. First, as I have never met you, and second because I have a feeling that you are the reason he,” she jabbed her thumb into Roland’s chest, “was stupid enough to fake his death and not tell me about it.”

Roland’s grandfather laughed joyously. “I like her, Roland. You have done well. Lucja, let me introduce myself. I am Jorn, leader of the Shades.”

Lucja suddenly felt nauseous. She sat unceremoniously on the bench, her hand pressed to her stomach. Roland wrapped an arm around her and she leaned back into him for support. 

“Shades? I, I’m sorry sir, but I need more info here” she said. “Not human?”

Jorn sat on her other side. “Well, that’s not entirely true. Let’s just say we are one branch of humanity. Here, let me help you with that,” he said and placed a hand on her shoulder. 

Instantly, the nausea disappeared. She gasped. 

Jorn left his hand there for a long moment. His face shifted. She could tell he tried to hide his thoughts, but Lucja could read it just as she’d always been able to read Roland. The joy of meeting her slid to confusion, and then eventually to shock. 

“What did you do?” she asked.

He ignored her. He sat before her thinking, putting the pieces of his past together. When he finally spoke, he told her something that made her world spin uncontrollably.

“Did you know that I knew your father?” he asked. “Quite well in fact. He was part of my inner circle. He left a long time ago and now I know why.” 

“My father, Jim Baker? How?”

“No, dear one. Your father was Morrell Addland.”

Roland stiffened behind her. “That’s impossible.”

“No, it is not. It makes sense actually.”

Lucja glanced from one man to the other. “I don’t understand.” 

“Lucja, you’re one of us. I did not realize who you were until this very moment, but it would explain why Roland is so attached to you and how you carry his child so easily.”

“What?” Lucja and Roland asked in unison.

“No, I’m not. I’m not pregnant!” Lucja exclaimed.

Jorn stood. He took her hand and pulled her to her feet. He squeezed her arm.

“Yes, child, you are. She was just hiding from you until now. Our presence told her it was safe to show herself.” He shook his head and smiled. “She’s going to be powerful if she was able to hide you both this long.”

“She?” Lucja asked.

“What do you mean, Jorn?” Roland asked.

“I can explain more, but we must get them someplace safe and quickly.”

“We weren’t followed. I made sure of it.”

“Yes, but now that the pregnancy is known, they will be able to sense it. They will come for her.”

“If she’s one of us can we just travel by smoke?”

Lucja felt dizzy. There was so much happening in so little time. I leaned on Roland for support.

“No. The baby inhibits that. That, and she has never done it before. It’s too dangerous. We must get her home. Now!” Jorn said, his head swiveling to the doorway. “They’re close.”

Roland grabbed her hand and pulled her to the door, but Lucja’s feet were cemented to the floor. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t think. He spun back to her.

“I know you’re in shock. I am too, but we have to get out of here. It’s not safe. I promise to tell you everything, but please come with me.” 

He placed a hand on her stomach. She looked down and gasped to find a tiny bump where it was previously flat. Her baby girl had ‘hidden’ herself from her? Oh, man. She slid her hand over his.

“You won’t leave me?”

“I never planned to leave you in the first place. I fought to tell you.”

“He did,” Jorn said. “Even if you were not one of us, the offer would have been made to bring you into our world. Roland is too important and you were obviously his match. That has been clear from day one.”

“Clear?” Roland asked. “Then why all the yelling?”

“Because you’re a stubborn fool.” He slapped Roland on the back. “You get that from your grandmother.”

Roland snorted.

“You were really coming to get me? Either way?”

“Yes. I love you, Luce. I could never live without you,” he admitted.

Lucja kissed him. “Then let’s go. This world is nothing if you are not in it.” 

 Published on OBW Blog January 29, 2021 © Tracey Canole

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