Disclaimer: I do not own D. Gray Man. No financial gain is made from this. This is for entertainment purposes only.
I spent three blissful years. I learned, I cared, I forgave, I forgot, I cherished and I moved on. I traveled the world with General Yeegar. My teacher, my mentor, my protector, fatherly figure of wise words to keep me on the right track, even during my darkest. I saw the wonders I had only heard about from Pierre, the different people, architecture, tastes, colors. We never stayed on the same place long enough as so it became boring. I found balance and maybe, yes, happiness.
Three years of peace, of paradise built with effort and sacrifice. Of facing monsters, both supernatural and human.
But as expected, when it comes to the Devil, we live in borrowed time. Something in me knew it sadly. That he would come back to me. To finish what he started those three years ago. To make the fall even more painful. To steal everything I loved. To break this house I had built from my sorrow.
We had eight shards with us, which we had gathered with no little effort. Yeegar would decide where to travel next, and he usually had a good instinct. It might be the years of experience. We were in Belgium and we were ready to return to the Order Headquarters. So many shards of Innocence put a target on our backs. Two Finders traveled with us in the chariot. The night was upon us so I drew the curtain over the window.
"What do you think if after we return to the Order, we take a break, Eva?" Yeegar suddenly said. "Don't you want to see again your mother? I think we can take a week off. We have been working ahead."
I stared at the flowery drawings in the curtains. I did not want to admit that I was ashamed to go back. Scared even. To go back to the memories I had tried so hard to bury.
But Yeegar wanted to indulge me, so I just nodded.
We heard the horses neigh and the carriage came abruptly to a stop. One of the Finders hit his head against the wall.
"Stay here," Yeegar said, very serious, as he stepped outside.
The Finder was bleeding from the impact and I rummaged in my bag to find some alcohol and bandages. He touched gingerly the wound. "Oh, it's nothing, Abel," I reassured him.
But then we heard a loud crash and impacts. The carriage shook. Then the door opened.
I could not describe the feeling at seeing him again. It was a mix of everything, as if someone had taken the palette and mixed all colors together until you could no longer put a name to it. It felt like time had stopped and we were suddenly alone.
Tyki Mikk offered me his hand, always the gentleman. I took it, always the fool.
"Miss Eva?" Abel murmured.
No, he could not interrupt us. Tyki was smiling, looking at me and I felt bewitched. Now I could see it clearly under the moonlight. His dark skin, unnatural. The real face to the evil that had charmed me so long ago.
"Little Eva," he drawled. "Finally."
So hypnotized I was by the ghosts of the past that I could not notice the fight of Yeegar a few meters from the chariot, the dead driver, the crazed horses galloping in the distance.
I could not breathe. I could not see. I wanted to scream, yet I was silent.
His hand coaxed me out of the coach, and my other hand went to the top of the door. My fingers brushed the little locker where the spear rested. I smiled at him as he pulled me outside. Then I tried to kill him, to finally get rid of the last testament to my mistakes. I really wanted to see the spear cross his chest, the surprise in his eyes, the black blood that was sure to pour. I really prayed that I could do it, but God had abandoned me long ago.
Helpless I saw him grab at the weapon, the smirk resurface to his lips. He tugged, bringing us closer. He played with a loose strand of my hair. "Dear Eva, next time, try for real."
Then he made the spear shatter under his hand and mine. I dropped to my knees, searching for the impossible, to bring back its hope from the dust that flew on the cold night. I started to sob. My escape, my home, my salvation...
"It was time you got rid of that toy." I saw his moccasins circling me. "I mean, it did hurt you, didn't it?" He bended to look at my face. "You didn't tell them, right?" He laughed. "Oh, precious. So your little General does not know of the pain you were enduring to just be one of them." His finger lifted my chin, made me look at those pleased golden eyes. "Do not worry, we will make sure he knows."
"General," I whispered. I looked ahead and saw the glint of the chain. He was fighting invisible demons while a little girl laughed at his suffering. "Stop this."
"But this is just the beginning, princess. Come, let us join in the fun," he said as he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me along as a ragged doll. "Enough, Road."
The girl pouted. The General's eyes seemed to refocus on reality. He was in a bad state, panting, broken. The girl took my hand. "I am so happy. I finally meet you."
I glanced at our entwined hands and a sharp pain ran through my skull. I was scared. Afraid of what was coming next, of what was to become of Yeegar. And me.
I didn't dare to look as the General that had treated me as a daughter screamed. "You are missing the show," Road chastised me.
Then I heard steps and made the mistake to raise my gaze. In front of me, the demon I had succumbed to and the man that granted me pardon. But Yeegar was no more than a husk, empty, barely alive. "Now, General, it's time for farewells," Tyki grinned at his side. "Say goodbye to yet another student you failed to protect." He took his hand and waved at me. "Say goodbye, Eva. The time for games is finished."
I cried as the rain started to wash away the blood and tears.
The girl pulled at my hand. "Let's go home. I have already prepared your room," and her eyes glinted with a malice no child should be able to express.
We crossed the door together. A door in the middle of the night, of nowhere. A door to Hell.
She had prepared my room, she said. But I was offered no room. I was thrown inside a cage. A beautiful golden cage. I caressed its bars. A bird cage. Eerily similar to the cage I used for a Bird of Paradise. So long ago...
And they let me to rot there, no more company that one of those monsters they build, an Akuma, sickly dressed as a maid. How twisted. They let me in such darkness that I could not make out the walls of the room in which my pretty cage laid. There was no day and night, no way to know for how long I had been there, to count the hours. The Akuma helped me to my necessities, the only times I was allowed to leave my prison, but even then we did not step out of the black room. He fed me and controlled that I did not escape.
There was nothing to do expect wallow in the regrets, in that one mistake that would chase me until I drew my last breath.
A door opened one day, light pouring in so bright it hurt my eyes. A silhouette approached me and it guarded me from the unbearable light as my sight adjusted.
"Good morning, princess," Tyki smiled. "Ready for a day out?"
I spit at his face. He pulled out a handkerchief from his jacket's pocket and whipped his cheek. "Well, that was un-lady like. What happened, little Eva? Did the exorcists make you lose your manners?"
"I owe no respect to the likes of you," I said through gritted teeth.
"Enlighten me. What is that?"
My hands recovered some strength as I held to the bars with fury. "A demon. A hideous creature. A murderer."
He laughed. "But are you not one too?" His eyes turned cold. "Or have you forgotten?" He opened the cage and stepped in. I moved backwards. "Maybe you need reminding. Let's go Eva. Road has prepared a little trip for us. And truthfully, I think it will do you good."
"I am not going anywhere," I protested.
His smile widened and I saw further from the façade. This man wasn't wearing his true face. What laid underneath was maddening. I trembled. "I think a bit of air will do you good. You look pale. Let's go."
I followed as an obedient sheep, walking a few steps behind. When I looked at his back, I could almost forget the dark skin, the marks on the forehead, but I could not shake out what he had shown me laid underneath. We went outside, to what seemed as some Mediterranean village, deserted. The Sun hit my skin but it did not warm it up, so I decided this must be another twisted fantasy concocted by these monsters.
"This is the door," he suddenly stopped. It opened with a gentle push. He made a gesture, "After you, milady."
I crossed and felt vertigo. I grabbed his arm to not lose my footing. I took a deep breath, tried to keep the contents of my stomach in place.
He raised his eyebrows. "Feeling ok, darling?"
I glared at him.
"I guess you are alright if you can still make that face." He rolled his eyes.
I ignored him and looked ahead. I gasped. I realized where he had taken me.
As if reading my mind, he grinned and said, "Back to the beginning."
Bernarda's manor stood imposing over the well-trimmed gardens and a bit to its right, the last stones of the pigeon tower peaked in between the trees' crowns.
I was back home.
I looked at him for pity. "Why have you brought me here?"
He blinked, confused. "I thought you wanted to come here. Had you not told so to your little General?"
I closed my eyes, conjured patience. "People lie. Now take me back, please."
"You prefer to be back in the cage?"
"Anything but to be here with you."
He pursued his lips. "Okay then." Then he started to walk away.
"What? Wait! What are you doing?" I screamed at his back.
"What if I escape?"
He laughed. "I will find you back, do not worry about that, princess."
He left. Just like that.
And I stayed in place for a long while. Thinking about my options, about his words, about my feelings, for I was not sure he had any. Then I swallowed my pride and I strolled the gardens. And despite my fears, only nice memories came to my mind, and I ventured further.
I saw her with a complacent smile, reading, as I remembered her from my childhood, when we would still sell fish together in the crowded marketplace. She was dressed simple - she did not expect company.
"Mother," I whispered.
And she put the book down next to the jar of juice, in the little metal table she had set outside. Tears came to her eyes and then I realized I was crying too. I ran to her and we embraced. Forgetting about everything, past or future. There was only us in this present.
Then she moved to look at me. I was still wearing the exorcist uniform. "You look beautiful, Eva."
"I missed you so much, mother."
She hugged me again and then she ordered the service to prepare an aperitif. We walked inside and nothing had changed, yet I still marveled at every little detail.
"How long will you be staying?" she asked.
"I-I don't know." How to explain my bind?
"You can stay as long as you want."
"Where is Bernarda?" I asked as we entered the parlor. The high windows of the cathedral where us women would speak and sew.
Sacra took her place, the same she used to take three years ago, so I did the same. Her tone grew grave. "Bernarda is no longer with us."
My eyes widened. "Did she...?"
Mother shook her head. "She grew ill."
I nodded slowly. "So..."
"I am now living alone here. I was her last close heir."
"Are you happy here?"
She shrugged. "I cannot complain. I have everything I need, I am well tended too. Sometimes I meet with friends, like lady Pinel. Do you remember her?"
I smiled. "Of course."
"And you? Are you happy?"
I bit my lip. "There is a lot going on... We-we are fighting to bring peace, and that makes me happy. I feel useful. I think it is more than I deserve."
Servants carried to our table an assortment of small delicacies, sweet and salty, and coffee was served too.
"You still beat yourself about what happened with that man," mother pointed out as she served us two cups. She added two sugar cubes to mine, just like she knew that I liked.
"I cannot forgive myself for..." I sighed. "What happened to Lucille..."
"After you left, I had time to think. Bernarda and I did. I realized we were harsh on you. Maybe we share that guilt. We did not help you as we saw you going astray."
I felt the warm tears cloud my vision and my lip trembled. These were the memories I had avoided for three years. I did not want to relive them. "You tried to warn me."
"You were young," she sentenced. "I feel now you were trying to tell us something and we did not listen." She sipped her coffee. "Did you see that man again?"
I looked down "No." Lying again. Forced to play the same game that ruined me. Was I going to hurt any more innocent? I felt hatred burst in my chest.
"How is life in the Order? Oh, sorry, maybe you cannot speak about it..."
I shook my head. "Anyways, I don't want to talk about me. I would like to know about you. I am sorry I did not write back to any of your letters." I had not even opened them and now I wondered if they would forever keep their secrets hidden under a mattress. Would they keep my room in the Headquarters or had it already been claimed by somebody else? What a petty concern, I thought bitterly.
Mother's life was peaceful and as such, her stories were superfluous, but they were exquisite to my ears. Such a banality it was what I needed. I had dreamt so hard of living the extraordinary that I had forgotten the solace of the mundane. I drank her words with a second cup of coffee and sweets. Then, we headed out, for the weather was clement, and we walked through the gardens together. We reached the pigeon tower and our feet hesitated, as if protected by an invisible barrier.
"I closed it down after you left. It is just probably filled with dust and dirt," she said.
Dust and dirt. Everything I cared for became dust and dirt. I glanced at mother and felt fear. I had to leave before to hurt her.
"I must depart soon," I spoke up, remembering each cold stone in the tower, the way light used to steal warm hues off the birds' feathers. Now wooden planches forbid the Sun to cast its mercy on it.
"Are you sure you cannot spend the night?" Mother asked. "Please, daughter. I would like to wake up one more day knowing you near. I already asked the service to prepare your room."
I gulped, looked up at the tower that casted a long shadow over our heads and shivered. Suddenly, I wanted to bring it down, to demolish each stone. To bury under its rubble the time spent there and the devil that had known how to find me in my lair. Then I nodded slowly. "I will stay one night. For you, mother."
She smiled. "Let's go back and get ready. I will send message to Madame Pinel that finally we will be attending her party."
"A party?" I wanted to complain that I was too tired for parties when I really was not in the mood, but mother was ecstatic about it, so I kept quiet and let the servants dress me up.
"Adèle?" I asked surprised. I had barely recognised her. Her once full cheeks were now sullen and dark bags made her eyes look heavy, lost the shine of malice and guile.
"Miss Eva, nice to see you back," she commented disinterested as she fought to bring a shape to my hairdo.
"You look..." I struggled to find the less hurtful word, "... tired."
She sighed gravely, bothered by my wish to chat. "Things are changed since mademoiselle left."
"Mother doesn't treat you good?" I ventured.
"Oh no, Madam Sacra is most lovely. Truly caring. What goes on is outside of her domain."
"You speak so cryptically. You used to be blunter."
"I am afraid unplaced words might call up the devil," she said and she made the sign of the cross.
"You were not so careful when you helped the devil chase me," I rebuked.
"I do see now my mistake. He did tempt me too with wealth. Now he still collects payment to this day."
"Explain," I demanded.
She looked from left to right, scared that someone might hear us in the privacy of my room. "Since Bernarda left us," she made the cross again, "rest in peace, there is a demon that kills at night," she whispered.
The door suddenly opened and mother gasped. "You look like a woman now." I chuckled, running my hands over the cream colored fabric, remembering the oppression in my chest. "I mean, you are beautiful. I miss when you were just my little girl..."
I hugged mother. "I miss when I was just your little girl too," I laughed softly. "Things were easier then..."
She nodded. "Let's go. We should arrive a bit early so I can introduce you to everybody."
We stepped in the dark night with a tremor. It was uncharacteristically silent and I missed the sounds of night birds and the tree leaves' murmur as they caressed each other edged by the soft breeze. I was helped in the carriage by a servant and I could not hide my surprise.
"Why is a woman driving the coach, mother?" I asked. I had never seen such a thing.
She smiled softly. "Men do stay at home now during night."
I frowned. "Why is that?"
She laughed. "Things are changing, my dear. But let us enjoy the evening. Tomorrow you do part, you said."
Guilt silenced my curiosity and we arrived shortly at Pinel's manor - there was not much traffic in the roads. The summer residence was unchanged; the marble balustrade, the big hall to receive guests, the orchestra playing... Only one thing was amiss: no men in sight. The woman playing the violin finished her solo when we arrived.
"Sacra," Madame Pinel welcomed her with open arms. "Oh, who do we have here? Eva?" she asked surprised.
"Nice to meet you again, Madame Pinel," I said.
"Oh, call me Pauline. We don't use that many formalities anymore," she smiled. "But come, let me introduce you to the others."
I was made acquaintance with fourteen other women. Their backgrounds were unalike, most wives of important men - lawyers, doctors, politicians, etc. But also intellectuals, artists, writers and even an inventor. I had no words to describe my surprise at their gathering. What was going on?
"Well, now that we are all here," Pauline Pinel started, "let us all get our opinions through. What have you thought of your reading?"
"I did find interesting the couple dynamic between Adam and Eve," Hermine Récamier commented, "I felt they were presented as mutually dependent, and although they had different roles, they both accepted them instead of being forced into them."
"Very good point," Pauline agreed.
"What is going on?" I hissed as women continued their dissertation.
"Oh, sorry, I should have told you. We do have this group and we gather to discuss books we read. Tonight's topic is Milton's 'Paradise Lost'," mother explained.
"I do agree that Adam and Eve depend on each other, but also Adam communicates directly with God, whereas Eve must use Adam to get to God," Marie Paradis pointed out. "Would it not mean that women still need men as guidance?"
"What a preposterous notion. We did all arrive here without their help!" Charlotte du Barry joked and they all laughed over their drinks. Even the young violinist chuckled over the instrument.
"What about Lucifer?" Mother suddenly piped in.
"What about him?" Pauline asked.
"He is portrayed no more as the simple personification of evil, but he is given a psyche," she spoke and I was amazed by the depth of her observations. "He is almost a hero, a misunderstood rebel. 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven'," she quoted.
"Mmh...," Pauline paused, "Does he not lose all virtue when he goes against God? Is not his devotion to his cause that brings out our sympathy? Does that not make us forget that he cares for his cause alone?"
"Let us not forget that he tempts Eve and brings her demise too," Josephine Corday added.
"But does not Eve, although not very intelligent, long for knowledge too?" Mother continued. "She is the one that leaves Adam to roam the garden alone. Maybe Lucifer is not fully to blame for her Fall."
"I do agree with Sacra that Lucifer is a mostly complex character in this reading," Hermine piped in. "He is flawed but he perseveres to reach his end. The trouble is that his objective is humankind corruption. Which do make him admirable yet evil. But is that not the whole point? We sympathize with him because he is seductive. Could it not be telling us of the dangers of evil, attractive, seductive, luring us to our fall?"
"At the end, Satan is egoistic and demented," Josephine argued. "He did what he did just because he wanted to, because he does not agree to what God designed for him."
"I have not read the book," I announced, "but from what I am hearing, could there not be a parallelism between Eve's rebellion by taking the forbidden fruit and Lucifer's fight against God's rule?" At the end, they both fell... I realized.
"She does wonder if the fruit would make her 'more equal'..." Pauline reflected.
"'For inferior who is free?" Mother added.
"But she gets none," Josephine said. "Neither knowledge, neither freedom, neither equality. She just becomes miserable and drags Adam too in her mistake."
By now the group had divided into smaller discussions and for some reason I felt out of breath. I pegged it to the corset I was not used to wear anymore, but something told me the words that ringed in my ears were the real reason. Adam, Eve, the Fall, the devil... This was all nonsense. The devil was evil, Eva was stupid, their Fall was well-deserved and Adam was a wuss. I walked to the balcony and gritted my teeth.
"You look a bit pale," mother's soft voice pointed out to my right. "Are you feeling ok?"
"I am just a bit tired," I lied.
"I thought you would have liked to see us women doing something else than to sew and to look pretty next to a husband," she said.
My eyes widened. "I do! I do like it! It's just... " Something was off. "... I did not read the book you are discussing."
"Of course, I am sorry, my dear. I did not know you were coming. We should have done something else. I hear the restaurants are now lovely at night, without the loud conversation of men." A strong voice called back my mother. "Excuse me, I think Josephine wanted to discuss a bit more about the Fall of Eve. I will be back."
Something was off, I thought again. Where were the men?
In a trance, I went out and searched our carriage. The woman driver was waiting next to it, chatting animatedly with another girl my age over a bottle of genever.
"Take me back."
On the muted night, the hoofs of the horses echoed as bullets to the murder of my sanity. I needed to go back, back to the place of my Fall. I barely left the vehicle time to stop before I jumped out and fell on my hands and knees. I ran, my heels sounding as the hammer that closes the nails on the coffin to reason. She was ethereal in the night. The pigeon tower. Beginning and end.
I pulled at the wood planches with my bare hands, uncaring of the splinters digging into my palms, of the breaking nails. An animalistic growl escaped my throat as I forced the tower to reveal me her secrets. Why did Eve have to fall? Was she just dimwitted, seduced, or did she search for freedom? Why did the Devil fall? Was he vain, ambitious, a rebel or was it freedom that drove him mad? The answer had to be here, in this old tower.
I screamed when two hands pushed me away from it. I pushed the person and tried to take out another planch, but I was pulled and we both fell to the ground.
"Adèle?" I panted.
"What are you doing?" she scolded.
"I need to go inside the tower," I explained.
"Do not. Nobody should go inside. The tower needs to stay closed," she blurted out as she scrambled towards me, grabbed my shoulders to look me in the eye, to show me the seriousness of her words.
"Why?" Silence. "Why, Adèle? Why? What there is in the tower?"
"You guessed it. The tower keeps something inside." She sighed.
"Why there are no more men? Where are the men?" I pushed.
Adèle's eyes flew to the top of the tower, then she made the sign of the cross once more. "They are hiding."
"Hiding from what? Say it, please."
"From the demon trapped in the tower."
"A succubus. A demon disguised in the skin of a beautiful woman that lures them with her charms and... And we never hear of them again." Tears brimmed her old eyes, those eyes that lost their glint of wit. "It is a punishment, for what I did to you, for what we did to Lucille, for what we did to Bernarda. We are cursed. The tower is cursed."
Her hands fell from my shoulders and I walked back to the tower entrance. I pulled another planch over the sound of her sobbing, over her incoherent babbling. "It is time to face our demons," I muttered.
"Stop," a determined voice ordered me.
"Stop what you are doing right now," she repeated.
"Mother, what have you done?" I asked. "Who is in this tower? Who do you protect?"
"Lucille," she whispered.
"Lucille is not here. She cannot be. She died, mother," I argued, staring at the moss covered stone.
"Bernarda brought her back," she simply explained, as a parent teaching his son to count.
"Then Lucille is not here. What you keep is a monster."
Sacra gazed down, to the overgrown grass. "I cannot send her away. Even if I know she is a horror, even when I know she hurts people, I just can't..." she whimpered.
I paused. Took a deep breath. Chuckled sadly. Then I picked up one of the wooden planches, nails pointing menacingly. "I will carry this punishment for you. The consequences of our fall."
But I could no longer hear them as I pried off the last planches and entered the tower. And despite the darkness and the cold, a feeling warmed my chest. Proud, conciliatory with the mistakes that weighed me down for years, victorious. Even if I was defeated, I was fearless now. Finally free. I climbed up the stairs and the silence was no more. I could hear clearly my steps, my breathing, the fabric of the dress around my legs, the birds outside, the crickets, the leaves... and a lullaby. A sad melody sung by an angel. Or a demon.
I took the last step and rediscovered the chair. Old friend I had pulled up with much effort so long ago to read in solitude, looking at the now blocked window. Termites ate now at its legs. No pigeons were left. Their empty nests were still intact, ready to welcome life, disappointed by their fate.
"Took you long enough," Road said as she combed Lucille's perfect blonde hair. "I had just taught Lucille a song, want to listen to it too?"
"Quit your playing," I said, brandishing the wooden planch with the nail as a poor excuse of a weapon.
"You are right, it is getting late," Road said, throwing carelessly the comb away. She took Lucille's hand and helped her up the chair. "And I am sure you and Lucille have much catch up to do," she smirked wickedly before to open a door to her twisted world. "Shall we?" she threw over her shoulder as they crossed.
I glanced down, to the light that started to filter through the open entrance. I imagined mother waiting, worried. Innocent.
I glanced back to the impossible door and let the planch fall.
I did not belong to neither of these two worlds.
'Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light'.
I did not say goodbye.