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78 Notes to Self

 

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Iva Herrera

~The Fool~

The door chime sounded, causing Ivelisse to glance up from lighting the fourth red Advent candle. Blowing on the match, she quickly consulted the paper schedule on the desk. No client lined up for her, but there it was in her mother's scrawl- Antonia, 130. Letting out a small, exasperated sigh, Iva lifted her lips into a welcoming smile just as the bottle-blond mountain of a woman barreled in.

"Hey, Iva. I'm running late as usual. Damned kids would not turn off their damned video games so we could leave. I swear to God, they are gonna be the death of me." There was a burnt orange lipstick smudge on her top two teeth. Long acrylic nails tapped the desk as she talked, a thick cloud of expensive perfume surrounded them both. "Listen, I can't stay over for the full hour reading. Of course, I'll still pay the full amount, I'd never do your sister wrong like that. Where is she?"

Despite her internally marveling at how a person can breeze in late and still be demanding, Iva maintained her mask of polite professionalism. "Actually, Luisa is down at St. Joan of Arc for Mass. I don't know how she booked you at the same time." Pencil in hand, Iva stood poised to reschedule. "How's Wednesday? Or maybe next weeke..."

"No! I need the reading today! It is an absolute emergency!" Antonia interrupted, expression frantic. Making a show to look at her phone then at Iva, she asked beseechingly, "What about you? You can do my reading!"

Pushing her chin back, Iva scowled. She was going to have words with Luisa when she got back. The fact was, she didn't have a client lined up until later in the afternoon. Iva just didn't care for Antonia. She was gauche, nouveau riche, and had weekly readings because she was convinced her husband was cheating on her. The cards had revealed that he likely was, but Luisa felt bad for Antonia and fed her a line of bullsh-t. Plus, it kept her coming back and that is what paid the bills. So rather than decline and have Antonia run to the next tarot reader down the block to learn her husband was a cheat, Iva nodded. "Yea, I can squeeze you in. Since you're Luisa's favorite client." There you go, Iva. Lay it on nice and thick.

She ushered the woman to the reading room, urging her to have a seat. The room was decorated just as one might expect a tarot reading room to look. Ambient lighting, decorative tapestries, and silks on the walls and draped over antique furniture. The table in the center of the small room was teak, carved with intricate designs along the edge and the legs. There were carvings on the top as well, but most of that was covered by a lush layer of black velvet. It served as a backdrop for the cards.

Antonia knew the drill. She sat down, dropping her oversized designer handbag to the ground with a thump. Her shoulders slumped down, as if downtrodden by the act of having to sit quietly and listen for an entire hour. Sitting down across from Antonia, Iva pulled out her deck of cards in a small chest on the table. Giving them a shuffle, she smiled pleasantly. "So Antonia. What brings you in? What can the cards tell you?" Her tone was soft, soothing.

Antonia snapped impatiently, "Marcel. Is he cheating on me? Luisa says he just has a wandering eye but he is always faithful. I think he's finally done it though. With his slut secretary. What is her name? Kelsey or Chelsea or something." She gave a disdainful wave of her hand, bracelets clanging together.

Clenching her teeth, Iva focused her gaze at the corner of the table. She needed to focus and this woman's histrionics were doing neither of them any favors. Ivelisse had been reading the tarot for as long as she could remember. To this day, she wasn't entirely sure where the messages came from. Luisa insisted it came from their gut, whatever that meant. The cards flowed between her hands, well worn and as familiar as an old friend. They were, to some extent, old friends. All 78 of them, each with their own personalities and messages.

"I swear, if that man is cheating on me, I will leave. I don't care if it's Christmas. I'll take the kids and go up to my mothers in Jersey. I'll call my lawyer first thing Wednesday and take that pig to the cleaners." Antonia continued to rant, working herself up into a froth over hypotheticals.

Iva fanned the cards out on the velvet and looked to Antonia. "With your question in your mind, pick three cards but leave them face down, please." As Antonia dragged the pads of her fingers along the cards, Iva smoothed the velvet cloth at the edges. Her fingertips grazed across one of the carvings, sending a familiar shiver down her spine. Brow furrowed, she looked more intently. Her heart seemed to freeze in her chest as she pulled back the velvet about an inch. The carving was not like the rest on the teak. This was rudimentary like a child etched it into the desk.

Leaning forward, Iva ran her fingers along the entirety of the emblem. It was an emblem, a sigil of sorts. Perhaps Luisa etched it? That seemed unlikely, as Luisa always was a stickler for treating their nice things accordingly. No. This seemed to be of a child's hand...

The world seemed to simultaneously spin and go liquid around her. Standing up with a start, Iva stared wild-eyed at the mark. She knew who had etched it.

She had. When she was a child.

In a swift movement, Iva haphazardly scooped up her cards, snatching the two that Antonia had selected. The robust woman squawked in objection. "Hey! Whadya doin'?" Antonia bellowed, long fingernails making a grasp for her cards.

Ivelisse made no move to stop. Flinging open the reading room door, she said hurriedly, "I'm sorry. The reading is canceled. You have to go." Her eyes were glassy, reality and memory waging a battle for who would gain control of her conscience.

Snatching up her large handbag, Antonia blustered, "I knew I should have just waited for Luisa, but you insisted. She is obviously the more gifted of the Herrera sisters. Oh, and I'm absolutely NOT paying for this!" She stomped toward the entrance.

Snapping to reality for a brief moment, Iva glared at Antonia. "Marcel is cheating on you. With Kelsey. And also with your neighbor Harmony, your sister Bethany, and his partner's wife Camilla." Without further ado, Iva locked the door behind Antonia, who was left on the stoop with mouth agape. She'd not believe her. As much as she accused her husband of infidelity, she had not wanted to believe it. So she wouldn't.

Clutching the cards to her chest, she fled to the back office. Slamming the door behind her for good measure, she tossed her cards onto the messy desk and scrambled for her phone. She dialed Luisa, even if she knew it was fruitless. "Ma! I need you. Something happened. Err, nothing bad. Just...something. I need to talk to you about when I was little. That drawing on the table in the reading room. Dammit, Ma!" She hung up and sent a text nearly as rambling and incohesive. It was Christmas Eve and Luisa was a devout Catholic. They called themselves sisters because they looked nearly the same age. In fact, Luisa sometimes looked just a few years younger than Ivelisse. Being truthful and announcing themselves as mother and daughter would raise more questions than they cared to answer.

Mostly because they weren't entirely sure how to answer.

Grabbing her purse, Iva shot out another text to her mother. "Heading home." Clambering down the stairs, Iva walked briskly from their studio on Roosevelt over to their Linden Court apartment. They had been one of the first tenants in the building upon its construction in 1920. Some questions couldn't be avoided. Luckily, they lived in Jackson Heights. In a neighborhood that was very ethnically diverse, multigenerational living wasn't uncommon. Add rent control and they could skim by without too much of a sideways glance.

Flinging the door open to her building, Iva didn't have the patience to wait for the elevator. Taking the stairs two at a time, she made it to the third floor without getting winded. Iva couldn't rightly say why exactly she was in such a hurry to get home. It was as though something was nipping at her heels. She wanted familiarity, safety after feeling like the bottom dropped out of her from seeing that vigil. How had she never noticed it before? Tossing her purse to the floor, she sat down on her bed, slowing down. Brows furrowed in thought, she ran over the events. The feeling as she touched the engraved sigil. How much it felt like a memory, but a foggy one she couldn't' quite reach. Staring blankly at the Turkish rug in the middle of her room, she licked her lips in thought. Another niggling sensation at the back of her head, urging her to the edge of the rug. Dropping to her knees, she crawled over to the edge of the finely woven rug and pulled it back. Iva gasped and clapped a hand over her mouth.

Etched into the hardwood floors was the sigil.

Slumping to the floor, Ivelisse blacked out.
December 24, 2018 01:56 am

Iva Herrera

~Six of Cups~

1922

A chubby, dimpled fist gripped a green crayon, driving the wax firmly onto paper. Ivelisse could hear her mother in the kitchen, cooking a pot of fabada. The entire flat smelled of spices and meat. A picture of contentment, the young girl continued to draw, happy to hear her mother's singing Asturian folk songs in the other room.

Small hands etched out three sigils with an ease telling of someone who'd drawn them before. And she had, frequently. Using any medium she could. Dragging her fingers in the sand when Luisa, Iva and her auntie Kyla would go to Brighton Beach. In the fogged mirror in the bathroom after a hot bath. Even by using food she didn't want to eat, much to the annoyance of Luisa. The sigils weren't just her favorite thing to draw, they were the only thing she drew. Too young to notice her mother's worried glances, Iva kept drawing to her heart's content. To her, they were more than just pretty symbols.

They called forth her friends.

Giggling, she clapped her hands excitedly as a tall, well-dressed man appeared on the couch in front of her. Impeccably dressed, his shirt sleeves were rolled up, revealing a snake tattoo up one forearm. He gave her an amused smile, as he always did. This was Vine. How did she know that? Little Iva couldn't say for certain. He'd never told her, not verbally anyway. He'd either sit and watch her play or get up and prowl the room. He seemed very interested in what her mother was doing, always keeping one eye in the direction in which Luisa remained. And when Luisa would enter the room or come near, he would disappear in the space of a blink. It made Iva feel a sense of sadness when he left. His presence made her feel light, playful.

Entering from the window, an inordinately tall man beamed a wide grin. His ruddy cheeks lifted with the act, eyes burning bright. It wasn't just an expression for Allocer; his eyes actually seemed to burn. Strawberry-wheat colored hair acted as a mane surrounding his large head. He was leonine in all aspects, including his deep gravely voice. When he spoke, it as if rocks were rolling together. It tickled her ears. She didn't understand it as the young child she was, but Allocer filled a missing role in her life. He was like the abuelo she didn't have. Her father's father had died before he had enlisted in the Army. And Luisa's father remained in Spain, unwilling to speak to his unwed daughter or the child produced out of wedlock. Allocer was warm, kind and generous. He was the embodiment of comfort. He would often encourage her to draw other things, a devoted teacher of the arts himself. She would shake her little head, dark bobbed hair shifting with the movement.

Following Allocer through the window was a ticked tabby cat, larger than most alley cats. With an abbreviated 'mrow!', the cat scampered to Ivelisse, rubbing against her and pushing himself onto her lap. Curled up, it began to purr. Fingers releasing the crayon, they found their way into his fur, stroking and scratching.

"She's got you wrapped around her finger, Marbas." Allocer rumbled, the sound filling the room and reverberating around her.

"¡Santo Dios!" Luisa shrieked, a bowl of fabada dropping to the floor. The stew splashed around, covering the Turkish rug with beans and meat. The woman moved swiftly to Ivelisse, batting the cat off her lap and scooping her up in a single move. "¿Quién eres tú? ¡Salí! Alejate de mi hija!" Her voice vibrated with rage, confusion, and fear as she demanded to know who they were and to get away from her daughter.

"You know who we are, Luisa." Allocer spoke in a language that was neither Spanish nor English, yet both Luisa and Ivelisse understood him plainly.

The woman nearly dropped her daughter, one hand touching the rosary at her neck. Beginning to walk backward, she recited the Lord's Prayer. "Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo. Santificado sea tu nombre. Venga tu reino..." Her voice was soft, soothing to Iva's ears even though she wasn't upset or scared. Not by her friends in the living room. Her mothers fear was starting to seep in as if she ought to be scared for a reason she didn't yet understand.

"Luisa. You know you can't keep her from us. She is ours as much as she is yours. As are you." Allocer's tone was calm, even though his words surely stung the young woman deeply.

This gave her pause. Setting the child down on the ground, Luisa smoothed dark hair away from Iva's face and whispered, "Ve a tu cuarto ahora." With a pat on her bottom, Luisa put her hands on Iva's shoulders to direct her down the hall. Iva nodded. Once inside her room, she didn't dare close her door. Instead, she stood listening, scared for her friends. For the man she knew as her abuelo and her little kitty.

Luisa stood tall in the doorway to the living room. Lifting her chin, she met the eyes of all three slowly and with purpose. "Ella es mía. Ella es de Santiago." Licking her lips, she sucked in a shaking breath. "Ve ahora. No vuelvas de nuevo. Si vuelves, serás desterrado."

Peering out of her bedroom, Iva watched with teary eyes as Vine approached her mother. He wasn't a tall man, but his presence made up for it. Reaching up, he touched her face with the tattooed hand. Leaning close, he whispered something into her mother's ear, causing Luisa to freeze. Iva froze as well, having never heard a word uttered from Vine. A pang of jealousy spread through her body, then turned to fear and anger as the three vanished.

"No! No, come back!" She let out a strangled yelp, running into the living room. Slipping on spilled fabada, Iva had a full tantrum, crying and wailing, grabbing her crayon and hastily drawing the sigils over and over.

Luisa stood frozen in place, staring blankly at the wall.
December 27, 2018 06:11 pm

Iva Herrera

~The Hierophant~

2018

A warm hand clapped against Iva's cheek, causing her to open her eyes with a start. Eyes glassy from losing consciousness, she looked around disoriented. Luisa sat next to her on her bed, a concerned expression covering her pretty, young face. Large dark eyes, full lips shaped like a bow, thick and lush black hair like her own. To anyone who didn't know their history, they'd say the two were sisters. And not in the trite, flattering way either. Luisa had stopped aging while pregnant with Ivelisse, frozen in time at 22 years of age. Iva had noticed her aging had stopped around the age of 30, or somewhere in that time frame. It wasn't strange to her, Luisa is the only mother she'd known. Still, they'd known it was odd and had tailored their stories over the years. To the outside world, they announced themselves as sisters. It made more sense and was completely believable.

Smiling softly, Iva put a hand over her mothers, then frowned. Sitting up in a hurry, she looked to the peeled back rug. Luisa's gaze followed. Upon seeing the exposed sigil, the matriarch gasped softly. "Oh, Ivelisse. What has happened?" Her voice was still tinged with the accent of her homeland, even though she left Spain a century prior. Living in the melting pot of all melting pots, Jackson Heights allowed a person to go days without hearing a spoken word of English. For more than one reason, Luisa clung to her first language, embracing English only as a matter of necessity.

Removing her mother's hand from her face, Iva looked at Luisa beseechingly. "No, mamá. You tell me. I had a vision, a memory. But it didn't explain it all. What is that? Why did I draw it? Where did my friends go?" Her voice wavered, revealing restrained emotion.

Luisa sat up straight, dark eyes filled with worry. "Oh, mi hija. Those were not your friends. Do not think of them. You must keep them from your mind. Come to mass with me tonight! We will pray over it."

Sliding off the bed, Iva knelt on the ground, fingers reaching out to trace the sigil. "No. Prayers won't give me answers, mamá. You need to tell me. I know you sent my friends away. I saw the memory."

"¡Basta! Stop that right now!" Luisa hurried over, swatting Iva's hand from the sigil. "You must not do that. They are not your friends. Stop saying that, Ivelisse!"

"What has gotten into you? Why won't you tell me what it means? Who were they?" Iva's voice raised an octave with each question, hysteria bubbling up quickly.

Clasping her daughter's hands in her own, Luisa's voice matched Iva's. "Demonio, Ivelisse! They are not friends. You must leave it alone. Just...leave it alone." Sucking in a breath and swallowing, she murmured, "Dios nos perdone."

Yanking her hands back, Iva hissed, "I don't need forgiveness, mamá. Tell me why they left and I will forgive you."

Luisa put a hand to her chest, taken aback by the words. "Forgive me? You will forgive me for protecting you from El Diablo and his minions?" In a fit of anger, Luisa stood up and marched over to an ivy hanging by the window. Reaching in, she pulled out an old dusty bottle and tossed it on Iva's bed. She proceeded to move through the apartment, pulling bottles from hidden spots, tossing them without care onto the bed, all while spitting out a litany of Spanish at her daughter.

"Eres tú quien debe buscar mi perdón. Tú eres quien trajo demonios a esta casa. He tratado de restaurar nuestras almas. Ciertamente nunca has ayudado. Negarse a ir a la iglesia. Negándose a encender las velas. Negarse a orar o pagar los diezmos. No tenemos alma. Eso no significa que vayamos voluntariamente con el demonio. No significa que aceptemos al diablo, hija mía." Standing with arms akimbo, Luisa stood by Iva's bed, nine dusty bottles of varying sizes and shapes lay on her well worn quilt.

"There. That is why they left. I banished the demons with the Witches Bottles. Open them and release them if you are so tempted. But I warn you, Ivelisse. Your soul is at stake. Both of our souls are at stake." Luisa marched to the couch, grabbing her purse. Without looking back, she said in a soft voice filled with regret. "I am going to Sister Maryann's for the evening. Choose wisely, mi hija."

The door clicked.
January 03, 2019 12:18 am

Iva Herrera

~Page of Wands~

Iva stared at the door, feeling a pang of being truly alone. This was the first time she knew her mother had kept something from her. Being companions for this long, Luisa was her best friend. It hurt. Her gaze dropped in remorse, stopping at the exposed sigil. Her fingers traced it completely, but nothing happened. No tingle down her spine. Just dust at the tip of her finger. Pushing up to standing, Iva walked to the bed and stared at the bottles.

Nine bottles haphazardly tossed onto the bed. Some were old soda bottles, stuffed with cloth and sealed with wax. Others had a screw top, paper label ripped off, leaving only yellowed adhesive behind. Despite being fogged with dust and time, Iva could see each one contained something. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she ran her fingers over them one by one, until grabbing the last. Shaking it, she looked inside. Dark strands of silken hair coiled at the bottom. Another held what looked to be baby teeth. Wrinkling her nose, she dropped it to the bed, repulsed.

Holding one filled with hair, she rolled it around in her palms, warming the glass. What had her mother said? Open them and release them. Release who? Her friends from when she was a child? Squinting, she looked closer at the bottle. Witches Bottle is what Luisa had called them. Grabbing her phone, she opened the web browser and searched.

Witch bottles began as countermagical devices used by both witches and non-witches as protection against other witchcraft and conjure.

Against conjure? Where the beings she called her friends actually ghosts or spectres? That made no sense. They didn't look like ghosts. Corporeal and decidedly not human. Not human. Iva's fingers rubbed the steel top. Heart pounding, she twisted the top off. Throwing the opened bottle to the ground, she stared at it as though it were going to burst into flames. It landed with a thud on the rug, lid skittering off under the bed.

Nothing happened.

Emboldened, Iva moved quickly, opening the next seven bottles. Tossing lids, wax, and bottles to the rug, she felt breathless with her choice. It was freeing. With each bottle opened, she was hyper-aware of her surroundings, of her physical body. Taking care to notice any slight change in herself or surroundings, Iva grabbed the last bottle. The wax on this one was fairly new, not brittle at all. Picking at it with a manicured nail, she bit her bottom lip. She paused.

This was it. Her mother had warned their souls were at stake. Luisa was a hothead. Iva knew this because she inherited it fully and completely. They both could be given to hyperbole and had a flair for the dramatic. So much so, Iva had a bit part in the original 1957 Broadway production of West Side Story. At Luisa's behest, she'd not pursued further acting outside of community theatre, lest she actually become famous. Iva had pretended to be miffed at the suggestion but was actually flattered Luisa thought that was a legitimate possibility.

Her nails had continued to work their way under the wax, chipping away at it and wedging it under the artificial tips. Staring down at the bottle in her lap, she noticed the wax top in one hand and the opened bottle in the other. Her entire body felt deflated. Nothing had happened. What had she expected? Bottles of hair, teeth, and cloth might actually...what?

A fat tear full of self-pity rolled down her cheek. She would never know. Luisa would certainly not tell her, the superstitious catholic that she was. Tossing the last bottle to the ground with disdain, Iva flopped back onto the bed and sighed.

"I don't remember you being a quitter." The sound of rocks rumbling down a hill formed the words just as a ticked tabby leaped onto her bed and butt its head against hers.
January 03, 2019 09:23 pm

Iva Herrera

~Judgement~

Allocer stood in the doorway, taking up the entire space. His eyes burned so brightly, she couldn't be sure what color they were. Reddish wheat-colored hair stood out like a lions mane around his head. He wore a long jacket of indeterminate fabric, tawny in color. They matched his dessert combat style boots, giving him a very jungle-militant look. Marbas purred and butted his head against her hand, golden eyes bright. Vine leaned against the bookshelf, arms crossed and a smirk across his lips. He was at least a foot shorter than Allocer and considerably more slender. He wore a classic three-piece suit, the style and tailoring incongruous with his scarred face and messy short hair. Seeing the three before her in their full, corporeal glory caused a flood of memories to return. It was so overwhelming, so staggering that Iva was unable to react for a moment. Images of time together with her three patrons flashed through her mind.

Sitting up, Iva's face light with delight and wonderment. Marbas curled onto her lap, then grumbled when she stood up. Clasping her hands together, she exclaimed, "It worked! I can't believe it! You are really here! You were real!" Tears sprang to her eyes, hands fiddling in front of her, unsure of what to do with herself.

Unable to resist, she cleared the space between and enveloped Allocer in a huge bear hug. Inhaling his spicy, familiar scent, she sobbed against his rough overcoat. She had missed him, oh how she had missed him. Her abuelo. Marbas circled her ankles. Feeling a hand ruffling her hair, she looked up to see Vine giving her a crooked smile. Releasing Allocer, she stood back. "I just can't believe it."

It was almost as if a blanket of heavy reality cloaked her. "She kept you from me. She sent you away. Those stupid bottles!" Iva wailed. She felt the urge to turn around and kick them in a childish fit but contained herself.

A strange metallic sound emitted from Vine. Looking up, she realized he was laughing softly, lips closed but curled up in amusement. The sound was deeply unsettling, feeling it skitter down her spine like a stray hair. He walked toward her and shook his head, leaning down to pick up a bottle. His expression of amusement grew as he tossed a bottle into a wastebasket near her bed. Giving a glance to Allocer, the giant in the doorway chuckled in return. "A Witch Bottle is powerful magic. Not to sound boastful, but it isn't powerful enough to keep the likes of us away."

Giving her a measured look, he continued. "Do you remember who we are, Ivelisse? What we are?"

Blinking a few times, her gaze darted around the room between the three of them. Chewing the inside of her cheek, she put most of her weight over one foot, the other foot tapping the hardwoods. "I remember your names." Her omission revealing much.

Stepping into the bedroom with just a few strides, boots clomping on the floor loudly, Iva felt the urge to step back inexplicably. It wasn't out of fear, but necessity. Thinking it would seem rude, she fought the urge and stood her ground. He noticed, raising a bushy red brow. "You know our names. That is a good start." He sat down on the edge of her bed, his weight causing the mattress to sink down worryingly low. Well, maybe it was time to get that Posturpedic like she'd been eying after all.

"Your mother made those Witch Bottles in an attempt to banish us. It doesn't work on those of our rank, but understanding her reasons and respecting her wishes, we stayed away. Don't be angry with her, Ivelisse. You're all she has in this world. She is troubled, very conflicted in her heart and mind. Protecting you comes easy." The cat jumped onto the bed, curling up on Iva's pillow. Allocer continued, eyes on the cat. "Marbas likes his cat form, but he can also look like us. You know...human."

It was her turn to raise a brow. Allocer looked like an alien from a fire planet in Human cosplay. Vine could pull it off, except for the part in which he never spoke or even parted his lips. It was like missing eyebrows. Once a person realized he never opened his mouth, not even to laugh or breath, it became unnerving. Allocer laughed, a deep rumbling noise that sounded more like heavy oak falling in the forest. "Okay, okay. So we don't completely look the part. But we aren't supposed to. We aren't human. Never have been, never will be." He paused. "Neither are you."

Not leaving much time for Iva to react to that statement, he put his beefy hand on Marbas' head. "Marbas is the oldest of us. He holds the rank of President, which is why his appearance as a domestic house cat is most fitting." Marbas chirped and stretched his paws out, eyes holding a sentient quality.

Pointing his chin toward Vine, who now crouched on the floor, spinning one of the bottles in a speed unhuman, Allocer continued. "Vine is a King and Earl. The middle child of the three of us. As Adler theorized, Vine definitely exhibits middle child syndrome." The crouching man growled. Or something. Again, it sounded like pieces of metal grinding against each other.

Looking at Iva plainly, he beamed a wide grin. "As my boyish good looks would hint at, I am the youngest of this mighty trio. I am a Duke. We each command 36 legions." His fiery eyes narrowed, stopping himself. "So that answers who we are, but not what. Do you know how we came about into your life? Has your mother told you anything?"

Sinking back, Iva sat at the head of her bed, taking care not to squish Marbas who snoozed. Running a hand through her hair, she shook her head. "No. She always acts weird and runs off to church any time it comes up. I know I've never been sick. I know neither of us has aged. Sure we use great moisturizer, but I'm going to be one hundred in a few months. One Hundred." She repeated with emphasis. "She hasn't aged a day that I've noticed. We aren't vampires or wolves. I guess I just figured we were blessed or something."

Vine coughed into his fist, standing up still holding one of the bottles. Allocer smiled tightly and sighed. "Blessed is one way to look at it. It is all relative, after all. I can guess she wouldn't describe it as such, but really it is no different."

Iva looked at him expectantly, her expression urging him on. He continued. "I suppose there is no time like the present. Clearly, you know you are different. You are like us. Obviously not at our rank, that comes with um..'time' I suppose. Although where we come from, time is not a unit of measure we recognize."

"We are demons, Ivelisse. As are you, your mother, and your father."

January 08, 2019 01:12 am

Iva Herrera

~Three of Swords~

Blinking, she was sure she heard wrong. Demons? Luisa was a demon? "Should she burst into flames when at St. Joans?" She asked, apropos of nothing. "Luisa, I mean. My father...was he one when they met? Is that why I am one? How did Luisa become one?" Her questions were flying out of her mouth rapid fire, coming so quick her brain didn't quite register the meaning of it all.

Vine sat down on her antique Haywood Brothers swivel desk chair, spinning around like a child, giving an odd grumble. Allocer shot him a glare, very likely miffed that he was the only verbal one of the three. Regardless, he seemed to relay whatever message Vine wanted to say. "Of course she wouldn't burst into flames. How do you think Catholic priests do not ignite immediately if that were the case?" Vine nodded slowly, seeming pleased with himself even if he hadn't been the one to voice the insult. Allocer continued. "I am a bit distressed that Luisa never told you of your origins. It seems a bit negligent, but I've never been a parent. I can imagine if she grapples with the truth of herself, it would be hard to impart that truth to you."

Again, Iva looked at him expectantly, eyes wide and mouth agape. "She told me they met in the war. That he was grievously injured and died while she cared for him. She said she moved to America out of shame for being pregnant out of wedlock. His family was here. They were just as conservative though, so they did little to help." Iva's voice held no bitterness, having lived through enough decades to witness the changing of times.

Allocer nodded. "That is all true, although much is omitted. Which I guess is in line with being a demon." He chuckled, quite amused, bushy brows leaping on his creased forehead like animated caterpillars. Dropping back down into the relaxed position, the furry caterpillars sat perched across his burning eyes. "The story your mother told you is true. The part omitted is where it gets interesting. Not to say a love story during a world war isn't."

Vine grumbled and spun again in his seat. Iva sat expectantly, now cross-legged at the head of her bed. Fingers idly stroking in Marbas' fur, she waited, attention rapt on Allocer's words.

The large man...demon, continued. "Your father had been injured, but was healing quickly. Your mother, on the other hand, was sick with Influenza. The flu- the Spanish Flu as it was called back then, hit her hard because she was in the early stages of pregnancy with you. She was in very bad shape, Ivelisse. When she told your father about you, he wept and held her fevered body in his arms, begging for his god to help."

Allocer crossed a leg over another, picking at his pants. "Any god nearby was not one who would answer calls for mercy. He was begging, Ivelisse. Begging for her to be healed. For someone to take him instead, to make sure his beloved and unborn child got to live."

Tears welled up in Iva's eyes. Her father, a man she'd never met, had been in so much pain after enduring so much. The ache was physical, the absence of him felt like she'd suddenly lost a limb. Allocer reached out and put a hand on her calf, warm and comforting. Marbas licked her hand before resuming his cat nap. "It was Vine who first heard his calls. Vine is...one who frequents areas of chaos. War can be quite chaotic. Hearing what was being requested, he called upon us." Allocer's gaze went to Marbas.

"Vine offered Santiago a deal. You and your mother would be healed. All three souls would be forfeit, joining our legions. But, you and your mother would live." Allocer paused, letting the weight of his words cover Iva like a blanket. Tone quieting, he added, "Ivelisse, she was very ill. Neither of you would have made it another week."

Clearing his throat, Allocer glanced at Vine. The smaller man gave a nod and made an unfamiliar gesture with his hand. Allocer's words came out with the same level of measured calm as all the others as if he were reading from a dictionary rather than recounting demon practices on the fields of France a century prior. "Vine is able to take souls. So he did. But that would not heal you or your mother. We worked as a perfect trifecta, giving your family what was bargained for. Marbas heals disease. And I granted you and Luisa immortality. Thus ensuring Santiago got his end of the bargain. You would both live."

Wiping under her eyes, noticing mascara covering her index finger, she asked in a wobbly voice, "What happened to my father? You took his soul...then what? Did he just keel over right there, next to my freshly healed mother?" The shrill edge to her voice woke Marbas. He crawled into her lap, demanding pets. Iva imagined her mother revived, seeing her beloved dead next to her, a pendulum swinging from one grief-stricken partner to the other.

"Without gifts from Infernal or Celestial beings, mortals cannot exist without a soul on the earthly plane for too long. There isn't a prescribed set of days they can exist, because we don't operate on 'time'. Your father was basically a husk of his former self. His essence remained, so your mother was able to tend to him as if he were completely himself. It was likely written that he succumbed to Influenza or complications of his injuries. Really, his body simply expired without a soul."

Iva blinked a few times, absorbing this information. She knew, she had instinctively knew something was different about them. Even more than the 'not aging' bit. Sure, she'd attributed it to something a bit more angelic, given her mother's propensity for attending mass without fail. Demons, though? "So...I...What about...I don't get..." Iva stuttered, unable to clearly articulate one single question. They jumbled at the front of her mind like a crowded subway, everyone angling to be the first one out.

The top thought that kept circulating in her mind- she was a demon. A demon. So was her devoutly Catholic mother who never missed mass. The woman who made sure her daughter had been baptized as an infant and confirmed as a teenager. How? There was nothing to confirm. No soul to cleanse, no soul to confirm as a Christian. While she'd never been exactly devout (on the contrary, even), she figured it was just wild oats being sown. Not an attribution to her absence of a soul. Her heart felt heavy for her mother most of all. Poor Luisa. How conflicted she must feel. Perhaps it explained her own piety, a need to compensate. As if somehow she might be let into heaven despite her Infernal core.

Allocer put his heavy hand on her shoulder and gave a squeeze. In truth, it kind of hurt but Iva kept that to herself. "I imagine you have many questions. Perhaps it'd be best if we showed you."
January 11, 2019 11:27 pm
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