It was almost never going to work anyway
When I came to, Erica and Luke were leaning over me. Apparently I had hit my head pretty bad. While I had been unconscious Luke had cleared the café, and so now it was just us three. I looked at Erica again, happy she was alive, but knowing that she had left La Morte too early, so if she ever stepped out that door now she would instantly cease to live. She was trapped. A prisoner. Perhaps this was how Luke operated. He tricked people into leaving early and stole their souls. This way he never had to ‘pay out’. I found it so hard to reconcile. Not that Luke was so conniving. He was the Devil after all. That I should have expected. No, I couldn’t believe I had been sucked into all this mess. So ready was I to avoid dealing with my problems that I took the first easy path offered to me. And now I was trapped as well. Luke knew now I had feelings for Erica and I felt certain he would play on this scenario for his own ends. I was screwed pretty much.
‘Welcome back to reality,’ smiled Erica, helping Luke lift me to my feet and sit me in a booth.
‘Are you OK now, Erica?’ asked Luke, concern creasing his brow in a way I hadn’t seen before.
‘Yes, yes but we can talk about me in a minute, let’s sort this one out first,’ she smiled sadly, walking off to the bar.
‘Grab some towels, water and some whisky please,’ called Luke after her.
Luke sat down across from me and looked into my eyes. Slowly it dawned on me what he had said to make me fall and hit my head in the first place.
‘So,’ I said shakily, ‘you’re my father then?’
‘As far as I can tell, yes, though your mother never has nor never would admit it to you.’
‘And that’s also why she didn’t show any recognition of you when she came in a few months ago?’ I said skeptically.
‘Yes, that’s right,’ Luke sighed, ‘and she hasn’t been back in to visit you since then has she? Oh, she calls you of course, but she hasn’t actually come in here.’
Sitting in stunned silence I realised he was right. She hadn’t been in since then, and I hadn’t noticed. What sort of people were we!
‘She doesn’t want to see me,’ said Luke, ‘I ah…. hurt her …. No, no! Not in the way you’re thinking. Her feelings. I’m not a monster!’ he added quickly, noting the anger spreading across my face.’
‘Can you prove it? Or is this another game?’ I asked.
‘I can if that is required.’
‘I think you probably should,’ I insisted.
‘OK, fine… fine,’ he sighed again, ‘Erica sweetheart, can you bring me the emerald box too please?’
I didn’t like this. Proof would make this real. Real would make this horrible. Proof would make my whole life change. Again. I wasn’t really ready.
Erica returned and sat down next to me. She poured us each a glass of whisky, and then wiped and bandaged my head. It really wasn’t as bad as it looked, she said, still smiling that same sad smile. She then handed Luke the emerald box, which was about the size of a small lunchbox. Setting it gently in front of him on the table top, Luke opened it up. It was filled with folded paper. And envelopes. And photos. Pulling the whole pile out, he handed the stack of papers over to me. Including what looked like a birth certificate, sitting conveniently on the top. It was my birth certificate. Oh fuck it…
Still silent I shuffled through the letters and photos. There was my mum and Luke at a movie theatre. My mum and Luke on a boat ride. My mum and Luke outside our old house. Wait. What?
‘You’re older than you think. So is your mother. Your father adopted you when you were still little, and promised your mother he would never treat you as anyone but his own son, never say anything to you. The reason you have no memory of me was quite deliberate. I removed myself from your mind, at your mother’s request. It was the least I could do. I owed her that much.’
‘So how old am I then?’
‘Oh, in human years you may be closer to one hundred and thirty? We do age so very slowly.’
‘A hundred and thirty!’ I shouted, incredulous. This was just bloody ridiculous! I felt Erica jump a little in her seat, looking at me quite alarmed. A hundred and thirty?!
‘Your adopted father really is a very good man, Damian.’
‘So what did you do to my mother?’ I asked angrily. I had no other emotional place to go right now. Anger felt right.
‘She wanted a human life, she could have lived forever but she didn’t want to. I wouldn’t follow her. I felt it was too boring, too normal. I have missed her, every day, but she is not the woman I knew now. She got what she wanted. One life. Her own life.’
‘So she was once immortal?’
‘Yes, we were together for a long time, I didn’t want to leave her but I also didn’t want to watch her grow old and die. Then she met your father, and well … I faded into the background.’
‘How old is she then?’
‘Hmmm, let’s see… by now she would be four hundred and six? Though the human aging process has caught up with her now.’
‘So, what does this mean for me? Am I immortal or human, or a mix of both? Can I choose?’
‘Yes, no, no and … yes.’
‘Right and I guess that my cancer?’
‘Is already taken care of. I wasn’t sure if you were who I thought you were, but after your response to La Morte I …’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well it was so fast, so clever… so brutal…’
‘Well no one else had ever thought to do that… plus I kinda asked your mother anyway.’
‘That probably explains why she hasn’t come back then,’ I said sarcastically.
‘Might have had something to do with it.’
‘So I’m cured then? Can I leave this place now?’
‘Why? Don’t you want to stay here … at least finish up…’
‘Well I don’t need to if I’m cured, but what about Erica?’
‘Oh yes, well she never finished her stay,’ he said awkwardly.
‘I don’t want her to die, I love her damn it!’ I said angrily, before the shock of what I had just done hit me. I am such an idiot! There she was looking at me. Not comprehending what was going on. Maybe she hadn’t been paying attention. That would be a relief to be honest.
‘Damian! That’s so sweet but why?’ she asked looking at me in all innocence. She had been paying attention. Bugger.
‘I don’t know – why does anyone love anyone? Hormones?’ I replied weakly. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I wished Luke would stop time again. Perhaps freeze Erica this time and I could just run far away.
Taking hold of my hand Erica shook her head softly and smiled.
‘I would have liked to take advantage of that, too bad I’ll be dead soon,’ she said.
It broke the weirdness of the situation beautifully. No idea why. It just worked. Why did she have to be so perfect!
‘No you won’t,’ I said finally, ‘I have a feeling Luke is going to sort this out for us right now. Perhaps I just need something to bargain for?’ I added hopefully.
Luke smiled. We were back on familiar territory.
‘Damian, I wouldn’t let her die knowing that you love her. I’m the good guy remember? Not a monster? That’s the truth, whatever you might think of me. I’ve got a bad reputation, but it’s all based on lies. Now as for a deal, here’s what I can do for you…’
Later that night as Erica and I sat having a cuddle on the couch, watching Deadpool, I thought back over the afternoon’s events. Luke’s solution had been a clever one, and I hadn’t really lost that much in the end. Half my life for Erica’s. That’s what he had done. Given her half of my life. So we weren’t quite mortal, but we wouldn’t live forever either. A good balance. We would have to keep running La Morte however, and work with whatever charity cases Luke sent our way as he carried on much as he had before, but it was a fair enough deal. Surprisingly. I suppose Luke wasn’t that bad after all. At least Erica and I could both go outside now. See the world. We could enjoy our lives together. And I would have time to get to know Luke. I didn’t think I would ever call him father, but he seemed all right. And he was a blood relation after all. I could let him be part of my life, I guess he did save mine.