Leaves crunched underfoot and the wind bit at her face. She tried to huddle more into her jacket. As she turned her face to avoid another powerful gust of wind, the beautiful rendition of an angel caught her gaze. She frowned as she tried to remember if she’d ever seen the carved gravestone before. She’d been visiting this cemetery every year for the past three years and took the same path. Surely she’d remember something of it’s like. It was so large and lifelike that it must have cost the family a fortune. And it seemed somehow out of place, as if it belonged in a museum somewhere, not in a cemetery that was nearly overrun with undergrowth.
Movement in her peripheral had her tearing her gaze from the gravestone to the man that was quickly approaching and soon kneeling before it. Raven hair fell forward like a shroud and shielded the man’s face from sight. She gasped and the hair fell away as he turned to look at her. Eyes the color of liquid gold bore into hers. Something about him, about those eyes, had her backing away and turning in the opposite direction. Once the man and the angel was out of sight, she broke into a run.
She soon found herself panting before the reason she’d come to the cemetery that day, in spite of the weather and the fact that she was due for work thirty minutes ago. She’d had to come. Today was her “birthday”, or at least the day her foster parents had found her on their door step. She was their miracle, their Moses. And in front of her stood the grave of the woman that had pushed her out into the river. Her biological mother.
“Isabeau Darling”, a smooth voice rumbled behind her. She stiffened and turned to lock eyes with the man that had been kneeling before the angel headstone. He’d followed her and his eyes seemed even brighter up close, as if backlit by some inner light. She shook the errant thought away. He was a man, nothing more, worse, a grieving man and she’d intruded on a clearly private moment.
“I’m sorry – “, she began.
“No need”, he interrupted. “My apologies, I did not mean to startle you.”
She sighed with relief. So, he wasn’t crazy. She forced her lips into a semblance of a smile and attempted to start over. “No, I startled you first. I’m sorry. I was just so taken aback by the headstone. It’s very beautiful.”
“Thank you”, he replied smoothly. “Lilith was her name, and I think she would have liked it.”
What an odd name, she thought. Odder still was his accent that she still couldn’t place. She forged on. “I’m sure she would have. It’s quite the tribute.” She frowned as she found herself saying, “Isabeau was my mother. My biological mother. I’m adopted and I only found out about her 3 years ago but she’s been gone for sometime. Her death certificate says she died only a few days after my parents discovered me.”
Some internal voice told her to quit talking and to walk away from the very strange stranger. He was dangerous, the voice seemed to scream. But try as she might to move her feet, they seemed to be glued to the ground.
The stranger seemed oblivious to her inner turmoil and smiled. Her heart stuttered to a stop. His whole face seemed transformed. Laugh lines made his eyes crinkle and his eyes appeared a darker shade of gold, a more normal shade. The unease melted away and she found herself staring. He didn’t seem to mind. His lips were moving, he was talking.
“-to God”, he finished. He noted her quizzical expression and repeated himself, “Isabeau means pledged to God. It’s a beautiful name. What’s yours?”
That voice came back, only more forceful this time. It told her not to give him her name, to walk away while she still could. She frowned and glanced down at her feet. With her eyes no longer on him, she found that she could move them and that they responded to her commands.
With that newfound knowledge, she kept her gaze on her feet and responded, “I should be going. I’m late for work.”