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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


2. Chapter 2 Dark Angel

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2213   Review this Chapter

Bella

I loved the smell of the incense. When the priest walked by swinging his thurible, I always inhaled slowly and let the scent wash over me. It’s the way I imagined heaven would smell.

I loved the hushed, reverent silence broken by the priest as he intoned his Latin phrases. Even the asthmatic coughs of the white-hared ladies and the sudden wails from the infants as they fussed in their mother's arms were music. It was the music of humanity and it made me feel profoundly grateful for this place of holiness.

I loved the wide, soaring spaces and the filtered light as it streamed through the stained glass windows. My church, Our Lady of the Waters, had a beautiful rose window above the altar, done in colors of ruby, emerald and sapphire. After I had recited my rosary for hours, I would stare at that window, and it would suck me in until I was a part of it, and all my insides were splayed out in multicolor like that window and God’s love passed through me like sunshine through glass.

I loved the smell of the well-worn leather pads of the kneelers and the musty smell of the hymnals and epistles. I loved the smell of the candles lit by the faithful as the smoke carried their prayers to heaven.

But it was the statues of the saints that were my favorites. Their knowing, sorrowful faces as they looked down from their niches in the walls were the faces of the protectors of the world, remote yet caring, unknowable and all-seeing.

It was the Virgin that I prayed to the most, for she knew the sorrows of women. Her gentle face was sad with the weight of what the world held for women. Her Son was too removed, too Almighty, for me to believe he would hear my most personal prayers.

I fingered my rosary made of pearls and rubies. I had saved my tips for weeks before I had enough to order it online. I was alone in my pew, the eighth one back on the left side. The service had been over an hour ago, but I stayed on my knees and prayed. I slumped and sat back on my heels after the fifth time through the rosary.

The church was empty, the liturgists having left for dinner. Confession would not begin for another hour, and the only sound was from a deacon as he replaced the candles at the altar and then departed through the priests' door by the altar. It closed behind him, ringing hollowly through the nave.

Although I could have stayed there all night, it was time for me to leave. Softly, so I would not disturb the holy silence, I gathered my things and headed down the central aisle of the pews, the carpet masking the sound of my small steps.

That’s when I saw the angel. He was lying in the pew two rows before the end, murmuring to himself. He was dressed like any young man of our time, in leather pants and jacket. But it was his face that gave away his true nature. He was pale and ethereal, and as his lips moved slightly with his words, I could see how perfectly formed his features were. His eyebrows were knitted slightly above his closed eyes as if he was in deep concentration. His jaw line was strong and well defined, his lips full and sensual. I couldn’t make out the words of his litany, but his face was immensely sorrowful. Only angels can be that sad; it was just for them and God to know all of the sins of the world. His dark russet hair was tossed every which way as if he had just flown to earth on a mission of great importance. He was lying on his back in the padded pew, his hands clasped together on his stomach, his long legs crossed at the ankles.

I was overcome by the knowledge that God had allowed me to see one of his holiest creatures; it was a sign of great grace and I whispered my thanks to Him.

The angel’s eyes flew open and instantly he was beside me. He moved as angels do, faster than sight, in one moment lying down and in the next, towering over me. If I had any doubts that he was a human man, they were dispelled with the speed in which he moved. His face had turned suddenly fearsome, beautiful and terrible at the same time. “Who are you?” he demanded. Even in anger, his voice was musical and alluring.

“Isabella Swan,” I breathed, too surprised to add any honorific. How did one address angels? Had I angered him? I dropped my eyes to the floor, trembling a little as I stood before his judgment.

There was a pause and I waited. Finally, timidly, I raised my eyes, feeling his gaze on my face. His expression had softened, perhaps in response to my obvious trepidation. “I’m sorry if I frightened you.”

“Th-that’s alright,” I stammered. “I’m surprised to see one of your kind here.”

That surprised him. His dark elegant eyebrows rose and he took a step back. “My kind.” It wasn’t a question. His eyes narrowed as he appraised me.

I hoped I was worthy of his appraisal. I took another step closer to him, following the most intense aroma I had ever smelled. It was baking bread, laundry dried outdoors and early spring mornings all wrapped in one. It was the kind of smell that made you want to bury your nose in it and spend your life inhaling. I spoke the first thing that came to my mind. “Why are you here?” I wondered aloud.

His beautiful lips were pursed in confusion. He met my question with one of his own. “Why can’t I hear you?”

I raised my eyes to his face. His eyes were truly angelic. Deep golden pools, almost cat-like in their color, made him look slightly feral yet touched by a light that made him glow from within by God’s grace. I was as puzzled as he. “You can’t hear me?” I murmured.

I saw the tiny movement of his nostrils as they flared. “You smell human,” he said softly as if he expected otherwise. His eyes suddenly grew a dark, flat black as his pupils expanded so that the gold was squeezed out. It made the hairs on the back of my neck rise. “In fact, you smell wonderful.” He took a step closer.

The intensity of his presence was overwhelming. If God's plan for me was to leave earth with this angel, I would try not to be afraid. I just wanted to know. Somberly, I asked him, "Have you come to take me?"

Another surprised look crossed his face. His quick intake of breath hissed through his teeth. "Do you want me... to take you?" he asked softly as if afraid of my answer.

"Is that what you're here for?" I asked. I was proud that my voice didn't shake, but inside I was churning. He was so intensely beautiful, so inhumanly radiant. The urge to prove to myself that this was no self-imagined dream was overwhelming. Boldly, I reached out and lightly grasped his fingers as his arm hung loosely at his side. His hand was as cold and as firm as an oak bough frozen in mid-winter, like he had indeed flown from heaven.

He jumped at my touch as if it had shocked him. His expression moved from surprise through amazement to fear. "I'm not here for anything," he disavowed, taking another step back. He was staring at me as if my presence frightened him, as if I were making him lose some kind of control. "Emmett!" he yelled, his voice echoing in the church, like he was a child calling for help.

Instantly, another angel appeared beside him, even brawnier and more muscular than the first. Two angels. I bowed my head to my chest and closed my eyes. Surely, I was blessed beyond measure to witness the finest of God's creatures.

The two of them spoke incredibly fast and unintelligibly to my earthbound ears. Finally, the brawny one laid a hand on my angel and spoke the first words I could understand. "Edward, you need to leave. You would be throwing away everything you're trying to accomplish."

I raised my head at that. My angel's eyes had not moved from me. I had to know. "Is that your name? Edward?"

His eyes were still widely dilated, giving him a ferocious yet fearful look. He nodded and then swallowed hard. "I'm leaving now," he whispered.

"May I pray to you?" I asked. Perhaps this angel was for me; no, that was a vain, egotistical thought and I shook it from my head.

His eyes widened. "Pray for me, Isabella Swan, pray for me," he whispered softly and then the two of them vanished.

I could feel the swoon coming. The presence of the sacred did that to me. The pews, the arches and the candles began swirling madly and I fell to the ground as a blackness filled with the Holy Spirit overtook me.

**********

The monsignor was calling my name softly. "Isabella... Isabella."

Still tingling with awe at the vision I'd been allowed to see, I slowly opened my eyes. I was on my back on the carpet between pews, my rosary still clutched in my hand. The monsignor's face hung above me, his wizened and kind face full of concern. "My dear, are you alright?"

As I struggled to rise to a sitting position, I noticed two of the deacons standing over me. One of them moved as if to help me, but the monsignor waved him back.

"Did you see them, Father?" I asked him earnestly.

"See what?" He was kneeling beside me, peering into my face. His vestments pooled around his knees like a black puddle.

"There were angels, Father, angels!" I whispered, expecting to see his delight and to share the wonder.

His response was disappointing. "Angels?" he said skeptically. "Isabella, have you been eating? You remember what we discussed. God does not want you to starve yourself—"

"No, I've been good. Really." I had been good. I'd been making an effort to treat myself gently. "Didn't you see them? Oh, they were beautiful!" I looked at their faces, varying degrees of disbelief written on all of them.

The monsignor smiled condescendingly. "Child, you must have been dreaming." He looked up at two of the deacons who stood above us.

"No, there were angels. I touched one. "

The monsignor frowned. "Don't say such things. It's sacrilegious."

I looked at his stern face and the unsmiling faces of the deacons. "Yes, Monsignor."

Still, I knew. There had been angels. I would remember my angel's beauty forever. Edward.

******

That night, after work, I sat by the open window of my apartment, thankful for the small breeze that stirred the hot humid air. After spending hours in the frigid air-conditioning of the diner, the heat was warm and welcome. Still, the humidity was uncomfortable; I could feel the damp hair sticking to my neck. Even after three years, I missed the dry searing heat of Phoenix.

The moon had vanished behind the horizon. I loved a moonless night. The dark was warm and comforting, washing away the color, leaving the night naked to interpretation. You could be whatever you wanted on a night like this, and no one could tell you different. The blackness hid all the ugliness, so you could just dwell on the beauty.

I had tried to tell Jessica about my encounter with the divine, but her doubts and cynicism were stinging. As the event grew older and dimmer, my own doubts began creeping in, and I was left wondering what had really happened. But looking out at the deep blackness of the night, I knew with all my heart that what I had seen was rare and unusual, above nature and beyond faith. I remembered the smell of my angel: baking bread, laundry dried outdoors and early spring mornings all wrapped together. I took that and the image of his pale, haunting face with me as I lied down in my bed to sleep.