When she’d asked, Gabriel had agreed to pay for the lessons before Mertle had even gotten the sentence out.
“Whatever you need my dear.” Gabriel had greeted her with that fatherly warmth and promptly escorted Mertle from the shop that night a few weeks ago. He ensured she join him for supper to catch up. It might be odd to some people, this older man paying for all her expenses. She didn’t care what they thought. She knew the truth. Gabriel was well off and had few to dote on. He had been her father briefly in a past life and he wanted to see that she was okay in this one. He wanted her to pursue her dreams and live well. Who could refuse a rich sponsor with no strings attached?
It had been the best meal she had had in a long while. Living with Stephen meant a lot of pizza, since neither of them could cook very well. The two of them had talked for hours. She described how school was going, and had glazed over the troubles with her magical control.
The tone of the evening had changed at around nine o’clock. Gabriel became quiet, like he was preoccupied with something. He cleaned up, insisting that she was a guest and therefore not to touch the dishes. She got up and stood beside him as he washed dishes by hand, despite his state-of-the-art dishwasher.
“What is up with you?” she asked softly, arms crossed.
Gabriel half-heartedly smiled and stopped washing. He looked conflicted, tension on his face. His eyes sparkled sadly.
“You are a lot like her. The way you carry yourself. Your open heart. Your passion.”
“Like Adamina? But that was so long ago. How could I be like her? I have almost no connection with her in this life. Elizabeth is a nice enough person and all, don’t get me wrong.” Mertle frowned. “Do you always compare this life to Avalon?”
Gabriel shrugged and finished the last few dishes, drying his hands on the towel he had tucked into his belt, then tossing it on the counter.
“Do you still love her?”
Gabriel let the way up the stairs to his famous study. After any serious or exciting event, Gabriel would retire here with Raphael or, equally as often, alone. After his breakup with Elizabeth, Gabriel had locked himself in here for days. She had tried to visit, but her knock on his door had gone unanswered.
He indicated she should sit down in one of the luxuriously large leather chairs. It reached up and swallowed her in comfort. He poured himself a drink and then settled across from her. Swirling its amber contents, he avoided her eyes.
“I am going to tell you something. You must not tell anyone else. Not even Alan knows.”
Mertle nodded, wondering why he’d chosen her.
“I have a decision to make. I think I have already made it, actually.” He half-smiled again and tipped the contents of the glass into his mouth. “I am leaving. Very soon. For a very, very long time.”
“What do you mean?”
“I am returning to Heaven.”
Mertle jumped. “You can do that?”
“Is there anything I can do?”
Gabriel smiled. “No, just telling someone helps. Thank you for listening. I knew if I told Alan or Morgana they may try to stop me.”
They heard the front door close. Morgana called out. “Hello?”
Both Gabriel and Mertle’s heads turned towards her voice.
“Up here!” Gabriel shouted. “Please don’t say anything,” Gabriel pleaded to Mertle quietly.
She shook her head no. No, she wouldn’t tell anyone. She was still digesting the fact that he could go back to Heaven.
“What is it like up there?”
“It is a realm built with light. Everything shines as bright as a cloudless summer day. Angels are a part of infinity, merely ether themselves. Angels and God and Goddess are interconnected, one big web of thousands of thoughts, intentions, and emotions. There is no room for conflict, darkness or hate.” Gabriel looked as though he was a thousand miles away as he dreamily described it.
He was homesick, Mertle realized with sympathy.
“It is indescribable. You never yearn for anything while you are there. It’s the missions that do you in. The destruction of worlds, keeping vigil over the mortal realm, building armies…”
“If Heaven is so great, why the army?”
“Sometimes you need an army to do good. There are a lot of mortals who have the choice to decide what paths they take in life. Their purpose is to experience the physical world, aspects of Mother and Father in material. But the material world can only hold a small spark of the divine. The journey can feel alienating and lonely. The army is sent to guide mortals through the loneliness, the darkness.”
“That’s a nice thought.” Mertle smiled.
“It is. I got caught up in mortality. I lost sight of that.”
“Oh, hey!” Morgana exclaimed excitedly at Mertle. “I am glad you are still here. Come on. Girl’s night!” Morgana grabbed Mertle’s hand and dragged her out into the hall and down to the last door on the left. They had spent the night watching movies, doing each other’s nails, talking about boys, and laughing.