Chessarae is dangerous for you.
Melina’s words play in a loop in my head. Maybe I’m really not safe here. It’s only a coincidence that I wanted Luca. It wouldn’t have mattered if I didn’t, he would have taken me against my will. I am under no delusions about that. The cold and dark look on his face as he hovered above me in the night can attest to that.
But then I remember the tortured look that was there after I told him what he’d done and it threatens to rip my heart out of my chest. Especially when I remember what else Melina said. I should’ve had his nurse drown him when he was an infant.
What kind of mother says such a thing? My heart breaks for the childhood he must have had. He grew up knowing that his own mother wished that he’d never been born. I can only begin to imagine what kind of issues that would give him. And yet he still takes care of her, still gives her top of the line medical treatment. I think that goes a long way to show what kind of person that he really is.
I swallow hard.
I can’t abandon him. For reasons unknown to me, he’s chosen to let me in and expose everything that he is. Probably for the first time since he was a child, he’s made himself vulnerable to someone. To me. Against his better judgment, he’d like to hope that I can help him. I can sense that. And I just can’t bring myself to crush that fragile hope. I can’t do it.
So instead, I will stay. I’ll stay and try everything I can think of to help him.
Luca touches me in a place where I haven’t ever been touched. He pulls at my heart; his vulnerability, his darkness. He needs me. It appeals to the psychiatrist in me, but more than that, it appeals to the woman in me. The feeling is as strong as anything I’ve ever felt.
It’s as though I’m getting sucked out to sea in a dark current, the waves swelling above me and pulling me under… and I can’t swim away from it. I can’t leave him.
I can’t abandon him like his mother did. She didn’t physically leave, although that would probably have been healthier for him. No, she tore his heart apart by rejecting him when he needed her the most. I won’t do that. I won’t.
I walk restlessly on the beaches and in the gardens. I turn the situation over and over in my head and even though I have theories, I can’t make much progress in analyzing it until I have spoken with Luca in depth.
On the third day, my phone rings.
“Evangeline, it’s Luca.”
As if I wouldn’t recognize his voice.
“Hi,” I say softly. “Are you planning on coming home or have you made a run for it?”
“I’m so sorry,” he tells me. “It was a supply chain emergency that I had to handle in person. I’ll be home tonight so I’m calling to reschedule our date. I should arrive after dinner. Will that work for you? You could meet me in my study after you eat.”
“Of course,” I tell him. “It’s a date.”
We hang up and I take a walk in the fresh air and then put my notes together, organizing my thoughts as well. As much as I’m looking forward to it, hearing what Luca might tell me frightens me as well. I only hope I’m ready for it.
Luca isn’t back in time for dinner. He said that he wouldn’t arrive until afterward, but I guess I was still a little hopeful that he might be early. Instead, I’m alone once again in this huge room.
I pick at my food, pushing it around on my plate. I’m not hungry. I’m anxious. I’m scared about what Luca might tell me, about how I should process hearing un-hearable things.
I’m also anxious because I’ve never encountered a disorder like his and I have to wonder how much of it is as he thinks. Schizophrenia sometimes presents itself as paranoia. The patient gets crazy ideas and fully believes them. But Luca doesn’t seem Schizophrenic. He seems calm, lucid, intelligent. And dangerous.
I suck in my breath at the thought, at the memory of his eyes from the other morning. So dark, so pained, so full of emotions that I can’t even name. It wrenched something inside of me loose, something that I had hidden long ago.
The ability to care.
When my brother died, I lost the ability to care. Not because I wanted to, but because it was so very painful that I had to find a way to cope. My parents were not themselves during that time; they were so engrossed in their own grief and anger and devastation, that they didn’t really have it in them to help me through my own ordeal. I was left to deal with it alone. And the way I eventually handled it, the way that I was able to come through it intact, was to compartmentalize my emotions, to learn to step back from anything that might be painful. It’s why I’ve never been in a serious relationship.
I’ve been in sexual relationships. I’ve had casual relationships. But I’ve never had a lasting, deeply emotional relationship. I would never take that risk. I unconsciously made the decision long ago that nothing would ever hurt me again.
I know that drawing closer to Luca is taking a chance. I feel him pulling me to him, closer every day. Every time I see him, I want to be even closer. And he’s damaged. I don’t know to what extent yet, but my heart doesn’t seem to care.
I push my plate away and glance at the giant clock on the far end of the wall.
I pad through the quiet, darkened halls that lead to Luca’s study. But before I get there, I hear faint music.
I strain my ears and listen.
In this house, this large and silent house, the piano music that drifts down the empty hall is haunting and desolate. It causes chills to run up my spine and goose bumps to form on my arms. I don’t know why.
Without thinking, I turn into the direction that it is coming from.
I am led into a large open room that overlooks that sea through a wall of glistening windows. A grand piano is situated next to the windows and Luca sits at it, bathed in silvery moonlight as his slender hands deftly and gracefully play the ivory keys. His dress shirt is unbuttoned at the collar, his tie untied. He is immersed in the music that he is creating, oblivious to everything but the haunting melody that is flowing through the beautiful instrument beneath him and into the salty air around him.