Candle Seven (Part 1)

Dear Readers: Note to self (and to give you a tiny glimpse into my mind) don’t try to write a serial story while moving from one state to another. The good news is that Candle Seven is so long that it’s coming in two parts, and both Candle Seven (Part 2) and Candle Eight should be up by tomorrow, barring any further catastrophes.

–Emily

Candle Seven

04.13.12 I’ve worked on the small sculpture while Mark slept. That’s four nights, about seven hours each night, except the night he was tossing and turning, and even then he asked me to give him a little space. So I sat downstairs and worked while he paced, keeping one ear open the whole time. Now here I am on the last day with my sculpture finished, but with one small problem left. How do I paint it?

Painting is NOT my strength, and painting the clay figurines will take a skilled, steady hand.

I could use magic, as I did when I created the sphere of glass. Magicking the paints on would almost work, except I can’t imagine what the end result would look like. Without that image firmly fixed in my mind, I might ruin my creation. I won’t chance that. But what’s the alternative? Who can paint my figurines other than me? This community is supposedly full of artists, but I don’t know a single one.

 

The genie ducked into the first open art gallery he found. He’d brought the interlocked figurines with him.

“Welcome to Dorchester’s. Are you looking for anything in particular this morning?”

Luke held out the small sculpture. “I need to find out if someone can paint this for me. I’ve — ”

“I’m sorry, sir. We don’t do painting here. We only sell artwork.”

“Thank you.”

Fifteen galleries later — four more in the Tampa Bay area, six others in the United States, and five in Europe — Luke poofed himself home. He magicked himself into the kitchen and loosed a string of curses in three languages, including his native tongue, which had expired in its original version centuries ago. Switching to English at last, he demanded of the house at large, “How am I supposed to finish this if I have no way to finish it?”

He set the figurine on the counter and snagged the kettle off the stove. Maybe a cup of chamomile or peppermint will help me think. After filling the kettle, he began his hunt through the cupboard.

*****

Having kicked off his shoes after his run, Mark skidded down the hall to the kitchen in his socks. Luke’s yell had raised the hair on his arms and the back of his neck.

He paused in the doorway, giving his lover a moment to calm down. Only an idiot went into a dangerous situation without all the facts. And only a man with a death wish flies unprepared into a situation with a nearly all-powerful genie. Even if said genie is my lover.

Luke stood near the counter. His usually neat, slightly longer than regulation blond hair, hung in his eyes. “How am I supposed to finish this if I have no way to finish it?” He stomped to the stove, yanked the kettle off the back burner, and clattered it against the sink as he filled it.

Mark spotted the small sculpture on the counter and retreated. If this was about Luke’s gift to him, he didn’t need to be here. Still, had he ever seen Luke get so upset over something so trivial? That’s my M.O., not his. Maybe we’re focusing on the wrong things here. Maybe we should give these gifts a rest for the next three days. All I really want is to spend time with him.

He’d reached the living room. His gaze dropped to the gifts Luke had given him. Sitting on the coffee table, they looked vulnerable. Mark crossed to them and crouched. These can’t stay here. They’re going to get broken.

The sounds of Luke making tea drifted out of the kitchen.

He probably won’t be open to the idea of setting these gifts aside until he’s calmer. At least that’s how I’d be. Mark tugged a small box from under the table. Luke had been meaning to organize some shells he’d found on the beach in the box, but it would serve a better purpose now, especially divided as it was into many small compartments. Gently, he set each gift in its own space.

Then, rising, he crept to the back door and let himself out. He closed the door silently behind him.

*****

Luke swirled the last sip of chamomile tea and milk in the bottom of his cup. He’d been staring at this last little bit for nearly ten minutes. His mind ached and he could feel the figurines glaring at him from their peaceful pose.

“Do you have signs of your faith? Totems of being a Listener?” he heard his lover ask again. “What do you use to show faith?”

Nothing really, my Mark, but there’s an image and sensation I call to mind now every time I need to remind myself what faith in the physical is like. In spite of his frustration, Luke smiled.

Back when he and Mark met, some of the first progress they made in terms of physical contact centered around the way Mark liked to be held. The best thing about the dragon’s most comfortable position, at least to Luke’s way of thinking, was that Mark hadn’t realized what he enjoyed or why until the day he’d drawn his knees to his chest. Luke, driven by instinct, had at once wrapped his arms around this man he’d barely known at the time, one arm behind Mark’s back and the other around his knees. Almost at once, Mark had relaxed into Luke’s embrace. His faith in Luke’s promise not to hurt him in that vulnerable position still sometimes made Luke’s chest tight.

Luke had sculpted his lover first, taking great care with Mark’s peaceful expression and crossed arms. Then he’d formed the small version of himself around Mark. He’d been careful to connect them only where they touched naturally, like where “Mark’s” cheek rested against “Luke’s” chest.

The genie stood and carried his cup to the sink. As he poured out the last sip of tea, he sighed. “It’s perfect in every detail. It looks like my Mark. I feel his warmth against me when I look at what I made. But it’s not finished. If I want Mark to feel the comfort I feel — ”

Why should he? Since when does an artist’s exact vision carry to his audience unchanged?

Luke fumbled the cup as the voice of the One-Who-Decides blew through his mind like an errant breeze.

He struggled to pull his wits together. I wanted to answer Mark’s question.

This time the answer was in his own mental voice. And painting the figureines is going to do that? Leaving them unpainted is going to ruin the desired affect?

Both valid questions. Luke stared down at the still-running faucet. He put his hand under the water, breaking the stream. How important was  a coat of paint?

Or, put another way, why are you obsessing about this instead of allowing the real question to burn its path through your mind?

Luke yanked his hand out of the water. “What real question? I’ve been spending most of the day worrying about — ”

   “Maybe there’s a way I can finish my schooling online.” Luke’s words, two days gone, had been prompted by a mournful look in Mark’s eyes as he came up out of the water at dawn. He wants me to stay here.

Luke turned off the water, grabbed a nearby towel, and dried his hands. “I miss him too, but the only reason he’s really upset is that he’s shedding. His emotions are so close to the surface he can’t control them.”

Do you really miss him?

“What sort of question is that? Of course I miss him. I pushed to be with him during this first Hanukkah season, and during at least part of his second-ever shedding.”

His mind demanded, What about the times you forget about him completely in the midst of an exciting new class?

Luke snorted. “That’s normal. No couple, no matter how loving, spends every moment thinking about each other. If they did, they wouldn’t grow.”

Then why, My Listener, are you determined to insinuate yourself back into his here-and-now world before it’s time?

“Because he looked… Because…” Luke shook his head as the answer dissolved. He laughed softly. “Now what do I do?”

But he had that answer.

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