Here is part two of my short story about gargoyles, Under His Wing. For part one, click HERE.
The days turned into weeks, and Callie was sitting on her balcony, watching the changing leaves float slowly to the soft ground. As much as she hated it, she was going to have to give some thought into leaving her little fortress. The air was crisp and she pulled her sweater a little tighter around her shoulders. Long ago, she had moved the bistro table over to Roman's side of the balcony. It was completely ridiculous, but she felt better with him standing guard on her balcony.
Maybe she was finally losing her mind. All this time on the run had taken its toll, and had her resorting to talking to stone statues. In her defense, Roman was the perfect listener. He never interrupted. He let her scream, cry, pound on his chest, and curse the world without a single complaint. He patiently listened as she told him about her history with David. How he had become controlling and abusive not long after they were married. Callie told Roman how she had made plans to run away after he had threatened to kill her the first time. Once free of him, she thought David wouldn't bother looking for her. Callie figured he would just move on and find a new woman to torture. She figured wrong.
The first time he found her, David beat her so badly, she wound up in the hospital. Callie left there in the middle of the night, as soon as she was able to move. Telling the nurses she needed to stretch her legs a bit, Callie took some dirty scrubs from a laundry bin and changed in the bathroom, keeping her head down and walking out into the dark parking lot. David had taken her clothes, so she went to the 24 hour gym where she kept an "emergency bag." She stayed in a cheap motel until she was well enough to travel. That's when Callie realized that she would never be free. David would never accept the fact that she had left him, and he wouldn't rest until one of them was dead.
Roman listened without judging, his stone jaw unmoving in the moonlight. Callie liked to imagine that Roman hated David, especially after she'd had too much wine and her mind began to wander. She would caress Roman's wings and share all her hopes and dreams with him. How she wanted her life to be instead of the nightmare she was living in. How she loved books, and had hoped to use the inheritance her parents left her to open her own book store. Sometimes Callie took out a few of the books she had been able to keep with her and would read to Roman, pretending he liked the sound of her voice.
"Well, my dear, the wine is all gone, I guess that means it's time to hit the sack. Goodnight Roman."
Callie closed the book she had been reading and took her legs out of the spot she liked to rest them in the curve of Roman's wing. Leaving her wine glass and the empty bottle on the table, she stumbled into her room. Callie stopped as a sound in the kitchen had her sobered up and on high alert. Eyes darting back and forth, she tried to remember if she'd locked the back door in the kitchen. Surely she wouldn't have been so careless. With the false sense of security that had begun to take over her mind these last few months, Callie had to admit that she may not have locked all the doors and windows downstairs.
Creeping over to the closet, she pulled out her aluminum baseball bat and made her way silently downstairs. Thankfully, the lights were off, so he wouldn't be able to see her easily. Unfortunately, she wouldn't be able to see him well either. Callie waited until her eyes adjusted before she left the shelter of the stairway and headed towards the kitchen. On her way through, she also grabbed a knife out of the wooden block on the counter next to the gas stove. Every nerve cell in her body was screaming out as she fought to control her breathing, which sounded like a runaway locomotive in her ears. She couldn't give away her location.
A loud sound to her left made Callie yelp before she could stop herself. By the light of the moon, she could see the shutter that had come loose and was flapping outside the kitchen window. Callie let out a sigh of relief, realizing that was the same sound she'd heard when she was upstairs. The front and back doors were locked. It had become so much of a habit now, that she couldn't believe she had doubted herself.
Callie still made a thorough check of the downstairs rooms for her own peace of mind before going outside to secure the shutter. Coming back in through the kitchen door, she made sure to lock it behind her. It wouldn't hurt to check all the windows too she thought. After making the rounds downstairs, she trudged back up to her room. As an afterthought, she checked all the upstairs rooms as well. Never hurt to be cautious.
Satisfied that the house was safe, Callie jumped in the shower. The hot water felt wonderful, and she could feel her bunched muscles starting to relax. She took her time, and gave herself a chance to unwind. The lights were still off in her room when she left the bathroom. Callie threw on some sweat pants and an oversized t-shirt, before going out on the balcony to tell Roman goodnight.
"Everything's ok, Roman," she told the stony face as she cupped his cheek and ran her thumb over his lower lip as she often did.
"Seriously?" She suddenly dropped her hands and ran them through her wet hair. "I'm officially losing my mind. It's like that Tom Hanks movie where he's stranded on an island , and he talks to a ball he calls Wilson. I guess you're my Wilson, Roman."
Callie patted his chest and turned back towards the French doors, silently reminding herself, yet again, that she needed to cut back on the wine.
"Good night Roman," she whispered.
"Who the fuck is Roman?"
Callie knew that voice all too well. She fought to keep the nausea in check as her body shook with the sudden chill of terror that overwhelmed her.
"No one, David."
"Don't lie to me, bitch."
She didn't need to have the lights on to know what his face looked like. The handsome features would be twisted with a sick rage that he kept well hidden from everyone. She was the only one alive who knew the monster he kept trapped inside that beautiful cage.
"I'm not lying. It's the nickname I've given to the gargoyle statue on the balcony. You can check yourself if you don't believe me. He reminds me of the ones we saw in Rome on our honeymoon," she said, hoping to pacify him.
Callie could see him moving out of the corner of her eye. David took a step out onto the balcony.
"Well, what do you know?" he said, sounding surprised.
This was her only chance. With David distracted by the gargoyle statue, Callie made a run for her baseball bat that she had left beside the door when she came upstairs. As her hands wrapped around the handle, David's fingers tangled in her hair and jerked her backwards. She screamed, and Davie ripped the bat out of her hands. Even in the dark, she was close enough to see the fury burning in his brown eyes. The shadows crawling over his face made him much more frightening than Roman's stone features.
David picked her up easily and tossed Callie onto the bed. She bounced once before he was on top of her, pinning her down. He straddled her and held her hands above her head with one of his, using the other one to slap her so hard she saw stars. Normally, Callie would try to beg and plead for mercy at this point, but it never worked. She struggled, but she was no match for him. So this was it. This was the moment she had been dreading. The moment her luck finally ran out.
His free hand wrapped around her neck and squeezed. When that didn't work, David let go of her hands, so he could use both of his to strangle her. Callie fought for her life. She hit, scratched and punched at every part of David she could reach, but he seemed unaffected by her blows.
She felt her eyes and tongue bulge. Lungs burning, her face felt hot while her brain and body weakened from the lack of oxygen. Callie's arms felt heavy, and she no longer had the strength to hold them up. The realization that she was actually going to die didn't bring Callie the peace she had hoped for. She didn't want to die. It wasn't fair that David would get away with killing her and go on to live his life the way he wanted to. He never had to live in fear or hide from the very person who promised to love him forever.
As the darkness closed in, Callie still wanted to fight, but her body didn't respond. She felt light, as if David's weight had been lifted off of her.
The strange voice commanding her was deep and powerful. The words vibrated through her chest, willing her to comply. Callie sucked in a painful gulp of air that had her lungs revolting. Coughing uncontrollably, tears fell unchecked down her cheeks as she struggled to understand what was happening. Had David changed his mind? Was he going to drag out her suffering for his own sick pleasure?
"I was afraid I was too late."
That deep voice again. Callie opened her eyes to see the silhouette of wings and large ears against the light shining through the open balcony doors. Even with his face hidden by the shadows, Callie knew it was not David's voice or the outline of his body, but her mind refused to accept what her eyes were seeing. Maybe she really was dead, or unconscious, and her mind was seeing what she had secretly hoped for.
"Ro...Roman?" she croaked, her voice on fire.
He turned slightly, and she could see his full lips curl into a wicked smile. "You know, I like that name," he said softly.
"I don't understand..." She wanted to say more, but her throat would not cooperate.
"I am not sure I do either," he started, looking out into the night. "This place is strange to me. I do not remember how I came be here. When you touched me that first night, I was..." he paused as if searching for the right words, "awakened."
"Heard me? All this time?" she asked, keeping her words to a minimum to save her raging throat.
Roman smiled at her, cupping her cheek and running his thumb along her lower lip as she had often done to him.
"Awkward," she rasped.
He chuckled. "Not at all. I love the sound of your voice."
Roman looked over his shoulder, and his smile fell away. The fierce expression on his face caused Callie to flinch. He immediately smiled again to calm her.
"Callie," he said in soothing tones, "you will never have to live in fear again. This I swear to you. When I heard you scream, I fought to free myself from the bindings of the stone. I feared I would be too late, and I almost was..." he trailed off, looking lost.
"But you weren't." She wanted to say more, but her voice wasn't going to cooperate. Instead, she placed a shaky hand on his thigh.
Roman pulled Callie up gently and cradled her in his arms. "No one will ever hurt you again. I promise."
He kissed her lightly on the forehead, and settled her back onto her pillows.
"Sleep now," he said, brushing her damp hair away from her face
Callie's eyelids felt heavy as she watched Roman pick up her ex like a bag of trash. David's head was turned at a grotesque angle, his dead eyes empty.
"I shall return soon to watch over you."
Once on the balcony, Roman's wings stretched out, and Callie felt a slight breeze as she watched him carry away her pain.
"Goodnight Roman," she sighed, slipping off to sleep.