Maria sat off in a corner of the dark room. Dust tickled her nose. She twirled the thick braid of fringe from the pale curtain’s edge in her fingers. She wasn’t sure why she had been brought to the Great House this morning, but it didn’t feel good to her. Maria worried; had she done something wrong? Was she breaking rules she didn’t know about and didn’t understand? She heaved a sigh and wriggled back farther onto the settee. If she could have blended into the worn velvet fabric, she would have been just fine as pie. That didn’t happen though. Maria felt extraordinarily conspicuous.
Shadows coalesced near here, forming themselves into a staggering Caravaggio-inspired angel. Dark wings. Tall brooding eyes with such a knowing twinkle in them. Maria closed her eyes. The magnitude of that being, so close in proximity, shook her very soul to the core. He was too much to take in. Maria took quick shallow breaths until she heard the odd pop noise that announced he had fully materialized and now prepared to speak to her.
She opened her eyes to find herself staring downwards, noticing every detail of his bare feet. A part of her smiled inside to notice glints of glitter on his toenails.
He reached out and with his finger pulled Maria’s face up, her gaze up to meet his. Under her chin burned where his finger pressed her flesh. Maria choked on whatever word her body and brain were attempting to force out. The angel smiled. “Shhhhhhh.” Now his fingertip seared her lips as he hushed her. “You need not speak here, beloved Maria.”
Tears grew in her eyes. A strange heat began to circulate through her limbs. Her bladder pressed urgently for a release. Maria drew in a shaky breath, closing her eyes for a moment to recalibrate, praying it was permissible, trying to control herself before she peed all over the angel’s immaculate sparkly feet.
She looked him in the eye, cautious as a mouse in front of a hawk. She couldn’t speak, so she nodded.
His smile intoxicated her; the glimmer of clown in his eye taunted her. “The Lady has spoken to you this morning?” He knew she had. The Lady had sent him here to impress upon Maria the need for obedience and secrecy once above ground again. Again, Maria nodded, her hands twisting knots of themselves in her lap.
Now brisk, the angel outlined the highlights of the conditions of her return, and of her limitations. He spoke for some time. Maria’s brain swirled, a cyclone lost at sea and now in some monster’s grasp.
After he finished, the angel leaned over, stroked her hair out of her eyes, caressed her cheek with his lips, then whispered some parting words in her ear.
As the angel vanished, Maria slid to the floor, wetting herself in the process. All her mind kept telling her was you won’t be the same, you won’t be the same, you won’t be the same.
It all changes here. It all changes now. Salty copper filled Maria’s mouth as she bit her tongue once her head bounced off the dull old carpet.
That was the last she knew.