I hung up the phone and sighed. I stood and waited for James to finish his conversation with Asher. Poor Dante Jr., he never got to meet his father. And his father had not known about him until I marched right into to hell and demanded my brother’s soul. He was the hunter I gave my soul for, I still can’t bring myself to tell people I gave fifty years for him, so I just say I gave it for a Hunter, and of course Lucifer’s name. It was a good deal. I sighed and turned on the radio to the loudest music I could find. Some band from Iowa. Metal I think. Couldn’t place the name of the band, or the song, but the loud music helped drown out the voices in my head.
“Kari must you have that on music so loud?” James asked as he came up behind me and pulled me into his arms.
I pretended not to hear him. I was still contemplating Dante Jr.’s words. Why wasn’t I sharing with James? Why did I want to keep things from him? I fought to keep so many things from him. Fought against the instinct to tell him. I have spilled some of my secrets but there are so many more, and a couple more that I don’t want him to know. Mostly what I gave up for Asher’s life. What happened to prevent my changing to a demon. Things like that. I didn’t want him to know, and I knew I either had to tell him one day or lose him. There was a dull pain when I thought about losing him. It was like a part of my heart was dying.
“Must it be so loud?” James asked as he reached over me and turned it to some pop rock station. Some band singing about lost love and not being able to go home.
“It helps me to think.” I answered with a sigh.
“Well, let me help you not think.” James said as he bent to kiss my neck, and he started to pull me towards the bedroom. I let him lead me into the bedroom and for a few hours I allowed myself to be lost in him.
I woke with a start about three in the morning. I went and walked out to the balcony. It felt like I couldn’t breathe, I needed air. I didn’t even put on clothes. I needed to feel the cool air of the night. I looked at the stars. It seems like no matter how many years I have lived, the simplest things can calm me. My father use to tell me about the stars. And the nights I spent with Dante during wars, we use to point out constellations to each other, and tell the old myths of their origin. I put my hand on the tattoo of my arm. It was almost identical to the one that Dante had, it was a Marine Corps symbol; we were founding members in 1775; it was surrounded by thistles and music notes. His had my full name, and I had his name, along with the dates of his birth and death. I got some stares when I added the dates. I told the tattoo artist it was a family joke.
It was a point of pride, our tattoos. My brother and I together personified the seven deadlies. My other hand lay upon my hip, where a small colt was tattooed. I got it just about five days ago. It was on my right side; upon my left was Lucifer’s brand. He left it there when I marched into hell for my brother’s soul. First thing he did when I had agreed to the fifty year was to take his hand and brand me with a small pitchfork, where the handle ended with a pointed tail. He thought it would make me cry out, I didn’t make a sound. I was crying on the inside though, I never wanted his mark. He has only marked a couple other beings in his time, and he had children with both of them. Now I bear his mark as a daily reminder that he wants only what he cannot have, me.
“There you are.” James said and came to stand next to me. “Are you not cold? Do you want your robe?” He sounded upset that I would stand naked on the balcony where anybody could see.
Let them, I thought, after all I have been exposed in more ways than this in my existence. “I am fine.”
“I never really noticed your back tattoo.” James stated as he rubbed my back. “Why the dragons and the nine pointed stars?”
“The dragons represent a happier time, when my family was together, when I thought my parents were human. The purple represents my love for the mom that never truly existed. The green one for the father that created me. The stares represent the gifts of my life. My brothers, my nephew.” I told him and turned to the side and lifted my arm on my right side where two large flowers, a peony and a branch of lilacs. Within their branches were Asher’s and Killian’s names. “This is for the boys.” I took James hand and put it on my right hip over the colt. “This is for you.” I told him. “My life can be summed up by my tattoos. My mark of the wolf on the back of my neck. The Egyptian Hieroglyphs on my leg reminding me ‘In Life there is Death. But even in Death there is Life.’ The Saint Christopher medallion on my wrist, for safe travels in my life.” I wanted him to know me. Before the Deadlies killed me again.
“You want to know why I know the deadlies? The truth?”
“They tortured me for fifty years, in exchange for my brother’s soul. Dante was a fool. But I loved him. So I marched into hell after the second world war ended and offered myself to Lucifer. I would give fifty Earth years, in exchange for my brother’s soul. He was thinking about saying no. Then I asked for something else. His true name. In exchange I would stay silent, not a cry, not a scream, not a whimper, a moan, a tear at the pain, and he would let my brother’s soul go to judgment and eventually heaven, and I would have his true name. Giving me power over him. I know the deadlies because I use to personify them. Between me and my brother Dante we had them all covered. They had to love us. So it was a treat for them. They knew they couldn’t break me with their powers; I had already fell to them on Earth without breaking from them. Greed was the worse of them all. He never did anything more than to carve symbols full of poison into my body. The poison of the toads. Look.” I told James and pointed to the toads outside. “He is who I have to fight, and his sin is the one I fall to most of all. I have a greed I cannot control. My greed is a weakness, they never knew.” I told James, being honest for him. And waiting for him to leave me.
“Fifty years? For your brother?” Is all James asked.
“Lucifer’s real name is?”
“I will not tell you that. I have a greed for power. And his name gives me power. It is the name on our weapons from hell.”
“Why a greed for power?”
“Power is key to prevent heartache. I have enough; my soul is black with heartache. I do not want anymore.”