By Velvet Durano
He'd always wondered where she went during the nights when the moon was full and the weather was warm and sultry. She always crept out of bed after midnight to stand outside her balcony as he lay sleeping, or pretending to sleep, wondering what she was doing outside on the balcony.
The first time he had walked out there to be with her, she was nowhere to be found. For a few harrowing moments, he'd thought that maybe she'd flung herself from the twentieth floor balcony and fallen down below. But there were no sirens roaring, no lights flashing at street level, and everywhere he looked, there was nothing that could have pointed to the fact that she had fallen. Or jumped.
There was nothing, no one to comfort him from his thoughts and his fears but a pair of gargoyles leering from the edge of her balcony, standing alongside him like guardians from long time past, as if keeping guard lest he'd follow suit to his own imagination.
Les gargouille. Imported from Europe, she told him. She had grown up with them -- these creatures whom most people called 'ugly gargoyles' with their frozen leers. She said she just couldn't leave them behind, not even when she came to America to live a new life.
They watch over me, she told him. They were neither ugly nor fierce. He found it difficult in the beginning to agree with her, but he knew that eventually, their stony features and leering grins wouldn't really matter. There was only her.
Exhausted from that night's lovemaking, he had fallen asleep on the couch facing the balcony, its doors flung open wide, as if hoping that she would return, like the angel he always thought she was. And that morning, she appeared, standing on the balcony, leaning against the cement rails watching him with her green eyes, smiling.
You worry too much, she had told him then. There are certain things you do not need worry about. I shall always return. Especially for you.
When he asked her where she had been, she only silenced him with a warm finger against his lips, her own swollen lips following suit to explore the depths of his mouth with her tongue, bribing his silence. She won every time.
He liked the way she touched him with her searing hands, her fingers playing little circles with his hair, entwining them around and around and tugging playfully till he would laugh and grab a handful of her lustrous brown hair and drag her down to the bed. They would make love all night, never once stopping and more than once he would fall into a deep sleep, barely knowing where he was and what day it was for she had that power in her eyes to entrance him and the dominion over his heart to lull him into an infant's sleep, making him forget the cases still unsolved, the people he'd yet get back to.
Though he could never truly understand what it was he felt for her, he knew it was not something he could tell his friends. He could not even joke about it at work, especially with his partner, the conservative Max.
He had known it the first time he saw her while responding to a call of a suicide in one of the high rises off Fifth. He had only been a patrolman then. She had opened the door to them and at the sight of her green eyes and dark hair, all words left him -- all thoughts rushing from his brain, spilling forth into nothing but a simple sigh when he finally remembered to say something.
Later that day, he made his way back to the building, standing by the gates across the street though he didn't know what he wanted to do or what on earth he was doing there. As if obeying some mysterious command, he looked up, his eyes drawn to the balcony with the pair of gargoyles standing guard on either side. She had been watching him all along and he remembered how all the hairs at the back of his neck stood up in attendance, and a chill traversed along his spine. It tingled and he liked it.
The next thing he would remember after that moment would come back to him on some nights like a dream. He couldn't recall how he made his way past the doorman and the bell desk and the old elevator that he had to manually operate to make it up to her floor. All he would ever remember was of her touch against his cheek, her fingers blazing a searing trail down his neck to stop by the collar of his shirt. She had cast her spell and he was caught in her web. He found that he had no complaints about that.
After that night, he would walk to her apartment after work, as if answering a call meant only for him. He scarcely thought of her when he was at the precinct or while he was busy tracking down witnesses and interrogating them. But the moment he left work, mostly late at night when the rain threatened to drench the city, he would remember her touch and go to her.
A few times they had made love on the balcony and she would sit along the railing, always unafraid while he held her tightly against him, never wanting to lose her. He wanted to be cocooned by her being, swathed in the scent of her.
I will not fall, she would reassure him. They won't let me fall, and neither will you. Many times he never bothered to wonder who she meant by 'they' for lost amidst the thunderous intermingling of pain and pleasure, he would pull her to him savagely, his mouth nestled against the hollow of her neck. He would gasp out loud, his eyes shut, not seeing the two guardians whose leers seemed to soften at her words.
She was his angel, and he never wanted to lose her. Such was the power in her green eyes and her lips that seared fire into his heart and loins.
That last night she had crept out of bed again and he felt alone, suddenly fearing that he would lose her forever. The warm summer nights had come and gone, and he had accepted her nightly excursions as if she were really an angel needing her flight in the middle of the night. Sometimes he caught himself wondering if her gargoyles flew alongside her, too, keeping watch over her for him. There seemed to be a trapped bird fluttering its wings furiously within his chest, its agitation traveling down into his belly, unsettling him. He was out of breath, though he had done nothing strenuous since finishing his shift at the 2-7.
Then as he watched her pacing back and forth on the balcony, naked in the fading light of fall, he realized what it was. Overhead, the skies seemed to rumble in agreement. In a moment of weakness, as they lay nestled amidst the covers, their sweat-covered bodies enveloped as one, he told her he loved her. When she had asked him if he spoke the truth, he had nodded, for he never believed in telling lies.
After that she had left the bed and began pacing, back and forth. The skies rumbled, its banks swollen and any minute now, he knew that the clouds would open up and she would be drenched, his angel. He got up quietly from the bed, and noticing the cold in the air, slipped a thick white robe she had bought for him at Lord and Taylor. He would wrap her in his arms and keep her warm and they would watch the lights of the city beneath them and the shadows of the park dancing amidst the carriage drivers who braved its paths. He would do nothing to pressure her. He just wanted to be with her. After all, hadn't he just told her he loved her?
Outside, he wrapped her slim warm body within the folds of his thick robe, feeling the bare skin of her smooth back against his body and feeling the stirring within his loins. Beside him one of the sentries growled at a perched bird but he didn't care. After all these months, he had gotten used to their staring and leering. After all they were only stone waterspouts of olden times.
So they stood in silence -- together watching the world down below them. Even in the darkness of night, they spied a carriage ferrying its passengers of tourists or probably a romantic couple across Central Park. The water in the reservoir glistened for a moment as the moon's reflection was stifled by a mass of rain clouds.
It seemed like forever, but finally she spoke and he held her breath. Would he wait for her, she had asked him, if she was to go away. His heart had seemed to stop beating for a minute after she said this, but he only nodded.
After another moment of silence, she pulled him closer to him, and he held her tightly, inhaling the scent of her deep into his lungs. It was going to be Halloween soon, she said, suddenly being playful as she nibbled his ear, and for a day everyone would show his or her true colors.
What would he be? She asked him, but he only shrugged.
I am only myself, he had replied. Nobody else out there has someone like you in his arms -- the way I do right now.
That's what I like about you, she whispered. You are what you are, and you have nothing to hide, nothing to be afraid of. And that, she added, is what I like most about you. You know yourself too well that you fear nothing, not even me.
Then she turned to face him and began to kiss him, his lips, his cheeks, his eyes, and his neck. She nibbled his ear and he moaned, his knees threatening to buckle beneath him, the bird in his belly fluttering its wings madly now than ever before. He thought he heard the thunder in the distance as she slipped the robe from his shoulders. The air was cold all around him but he could feel her body burning against his own, warming him and she pushed him down onto the floor, straddling him as he lay atop the warmth of white robe.
He could hear the rumblings of the skies above as he lay on the floor beneath her, watching her with lidded eyes, feeling intoxicated by her kisses, her legs straddling him, keeping him still. Her hands burned where they roamed, all along his chest and sliding down his belly that tightened as she touched him there...and there.
He felt giddy, like he always did when she touched him. He felt lightheaded and fought to keep his eyes open but the magic in her green eyes began its ministrations once again and he felt lost. She slid against him, leaning forward to kiss him fully on the mouth, exploring his secrets. Once again, he heard the sound of thunder as she kissed him. And before he even realized what was happening, the floor thundered and moved.
It was as if something had landed upon the balcony, its weight causing the marble floors to vibrate beneath them and he opened his eyes just as something scraped along his neck and he winced. She was nibbling against his neck and he brought his head to the side, suddenly pulling her away but the pain only intensified, sharply now, as if someone had inserted a needle into his arm, jabbing him. Only this time, it was along his neck and he couldn't move, not because his angel had straddled him and held him there, but because he could see two hulking pieces of stone alongside him, their leers ever present, but this time, he could see their eyes glistening, watching. Watching as he lost consciousness as she kissed her deadly kiss.
When he awoke, it was morning and she was gone. They were all gone. He remembered leaning out against the railings to explore the markings on the wall, trying to find any struts left bare from the gargoyles' flight. Yet there was nothing to indicate to him that those ancient waterspouts had ever been even built into the building.
He had gotten dressed and slipped the gun into its holster, but not before running his hand against the cold steel of its barrel, as if needing the reassurance. He could not explain what had happened last night. He wondered if he would ever need to explain anything anyway.
At the subway car, people seemed to stare at him strangely, and more than once he looked down to check if his tie was askew, his flag pin inverted. He did feel different and he reached up to touch his neck, his heart thundering wildly within his chest as the pads of his fingers explored unbroken skin. After that he felt stupid, but by then he had reached his stop and he brushed aside all thoughts of her and strode out of the open doors.
Halfway through the workday, a nauseating sensation hit him like a freight train as he and Max entered St. Patrick's Cathedral to speak to a priest who had some information about a recent parishioner who had just committed suicide. His neck throbbed, and his head felt like it was going to burst open. He felt his knees buckle beneath him and he gripped the burnished wood one of the pews for support as Max helped him sit down. Everything around him spun and the light streaming from the windows burned his eyes as he fought to control the urge to vomit.
When he brought his hand to his neck, it was drenched in sweat, his forehead cold and clammy. When he brought his hand down, he saw the smear of blood on his fingers and Max took him outside where he sat on the church steps, catching his breath.
You and your girls, Max had said exasperatedly while handing him a handkerchief. Here, wipe your neck. I guess you've been dating a biter.
Maybe the pain that he had felt when she bit along his neck last night had been real after all, he thought, as he stanched the flow of blood with the handkerchief. Max had entered the church to speak to the priest alone now, leaving him by the steps. He drew deep breaths into his lungs, feeding his body much-needed oxygen that had been sucked out of him when he stepped through the ancient stone doors of the cathedral.
He would see her again. He would demand what she had done to him, what she had created with his flesh and blood. But that night, there was no one to answer the door he had always walked through on the twentieth floor. When the doorman came up to see what the commotion was, he said that the woman had left that morning. No forwarding address.
He never saw her again, but the sensations simmering within his body and soul never banished her from his mind. The growing hunger that consumed him when the moon was full led him on his nightly prowls to mingle among the city's night revelers, even after a long day's work at the precinct. Sometimes he searched among their heavily made up faces for her green eyes and full lips. Most of the time he settled for a blonde, or maybe a brunette with voluptuous curves and weak morals.
It was two years before he noticed the two gargoyles positioned outside his building, two of them flanking his bedroom window and a smaller one, right above it. A few feet away, a little girl dressed in pink leotards and tights, her hair bathed in glitter, hopped in front of her brother who wore his Ninja Turtle costume proudly, an empty orange basket in his hand. They talked about all the candy they planned to eat the next day while their mother reminded them that they would end up going to the dentist if they did just that. The little girl pointed up to the balcony.
What an ugly Halloween decoration, she chirped and her mother told her to walk faster. This neighborhood, she said, was not safe.
Though he felt his heart skip a few beats, Mike Logan found himself beginning to smile and he closed his eyes as he unlocked his front door. He could hear her voice inside his head, speaking the way she used to speak to him, as if her lips were right against his ear. As he locked the door to his apartment behind him, he walked to the window and took a deep breath. Loosening his plaid tie and tossing it on the couch, he unlocked the latch that held the windowpanes shut and pulled it open.
He felt the slam of the cold air against his cheek and as he turned away, he paused. Did he just hear a sigh?
Joseph Campbell once wrote that gargoyles guarded the sacred for who else could guard them but the demons of hell? And as the cold wind caressed his skin, Mike slipped back into his apartment and sat down on the couch, waiting for night to fall. He no longer had to worry where she had been all those nights when he had lain asleep in her bed. And as he heard the sound of stone cracking, straining to move, he realized that she had been there all along.