~The Journal of Etta Castle Teague I found that I liked to watch Jørn wake up in the morning. He was so predictable in the mornings. He was predictable, period. Something about that was comforting. The way his face would contort like he was about to sneeze, but never did, squeezing his pillow near to death, before completely relaxing. I think I liked the way he looked most once he relaxed; the hardness of the muscles in his back flexing, and then smoothing out into a state of nirvana. Sometimes he would turn to me no matter where I was in the room once his eyes had opened, and then he would say my name as if it were a question. “Etta?” It was almost as if he was trying to make sure he was awake and not stuck in some reoccurring dream, a dream where I wasn’t really there. The sad thing is he doesn’t realize that I am not really here…not in the way he thinks. One of us is living a lie.
Jørn rolled over, groaned and hugged his pillow to his face. Relaxing, he shifted again under the sheets before lifting up slightly, and resting his weight on his elbow. His dark eyes immediately wondered the bedroom until finding her, as if drawn by magnets. He narrowed them sharply once they had met their mark. He said her name through the fog of waking and waited for her to answer.
For several seconds, far more than was necessary, Etta silently stared at him, barely blinking, her mascara wand dangled in her hands, locked at the ready. Her expression was blank, exposing nothing of her thoughts.
As if the awkward silence had not taken hold of them, Etta turned her back to him, shoving the wand back into the black pigment and began to pull it through her lashes. “Long night? Too much to drink?” She typically didn’t bother herself with the details of his binges, but she couldn’t help but be the least bit irritated with his calling all Friday night only to go incognito on Saturday morning. He wasn’t even home when she had come looking for him. The bandages on his forearms also taunted her. It had been a while since he had physically hurt himself from drinking.
She knew when she asked him about his escapade that he wasn’t going to be able to answer. It was that or he chose not to. All she knew for sure was that he drank to a point whereas he could make it home by himself. Yesterday was a shock to everyone in Greenwich Pass. Etta was certain it was no different for Jørn. The fact she couldn’t get him on the phone and had not heard from him since Friday attested to that.
The narrow slits of Jørn’s eyes only deepened. His lips tightened beneath the black hairs of his beard. Cold tension began to fill the atmosphere around them. The reflection of the electric currents around him fanned out violently around him in a flash of colors. A pinkish orange hue was the most dominant. Baldwin’s was the same way when he was angry with her. It stood to reason that Jørn’s would be no different. Even the sound of his frequency was ominous.
So he’s angry? What the heck does he have to be angry about? She considered calling him out on it, but decided on a different course of action. She was the one who had the right to be angry. Arguing about it would have been nothing but a waste of time.
“You should cut your hair.” She finally said, leaning back from the mirror, waiting for his usual response—shut down and retreat. She wanted to jab him.
Jørn’s eye twitched. The marble stillness of his body and stare shattered like broken glass. He grunted and pushed the bed linens away. Standing ramrod straight, the muscles in his shoulders and back tightening again, he walked towards the guest bathroom without a single word.
Etta watched him in the mirror as she applied her lip gloss, her eyes following his retreating frame until they locked onto the other being in the room.
Baldwin gave her a reproving look. Etta responded in turn.
“Why do you torment him, Etta?” He ran his hands down his face.
Etta waited until she could hear the shower running in the other bathroom before she said anything. She let her eyes shut for a moment, allowing the strain upon them to loosen. Her eyes felt like she was wearing contact lenses, and both of them had flipped or folded at the same time. She was still getting used to the sight gift she had received from the incident at the Yard. The colors were still intense, but far less volatile, the sounds and frequency she had all but pushed to the background, blocking it off as white noise.
She said, “I am not trying to torment him,” Baldwin cocked his brow. She raised her hand. “Okay, I don’t generally try to torment him. But he does need to cut his hair. He looks too much like you. Besides that he is all riled up this morning—”
“He didn’t even say anything, besides your name.”
Etta tapped her temple with her finger. “Did you forget about my recent development? Jørn was angry, I don’t know what about, but he is angry. His currents were all fiery like yours were yesterday.”
“Both of us have our reasons.”
“Whatever. Did you see the way he scowled at me?” She huffed. “If his eyes were razors I would be bleeding to death.”
Baldwin moved towards the hallway. “Etta, he has been left in the dark for years. So let’s just assume he received second hand information about what happened yesterday. Or let’s make it something as simple as the fact that there was chaos yesterday, and you failed to make contact with him.” He looked at her over his shoulder. “I would be livid if I was worried about you, trying to find you, and 24 hours passed without a word. And then the first thing you say to me when I do see you is something snarky or just out right hurtful.”
Etta grimaced. Why was everything that seemed to go wrong between her and Jørn somehow always her fault in Baldwin’s eyes? She didn’t bother asking. Instead she headed towards the guest bathroom. She doubted that in his state last night Jørn would have had the mind or the ear to hear anyone out her on stopping the ascension. Addressing that would have to come later. The least she could do was talk to him about the phone calls or the lack there of. He had been worried about her on Friday night. She would just have to let that be her reason for apologizing.
* * *
Jørn sat on the closed toilet seat, his knees bobbing nervously, his hands over his mouth. He was running the shower to buy himself some time. He was hiding. The angry awkward cloud that hovered around him had made him retreat. It was either that or him exploding with angry roars. Etta telling him to cut his hair again, reminding him of Baldwin again, had made a sickening fire rise up in his belly.
He felt like he had caught her cheating and she didn’t even know he was on to her, like he was holding on to life changing information and she was none the wiser. He was, and she was. Etta had lied to him and had been lying to him, so had Baldwin, wherever he might have been.
His fist clenched. Brødre uden døden. Brothers beyond death. They had said that whenever they parted, even with the last message Jørn had received from Baldwin, were the Danish words added. If Baldwin was messing around with Etta he was going to wish he had died once Jørn was through with him. He left her. Jørn married her. There was no turning back.
Etta’s knuckles rapping on the doorframe sent his stomach into lurching. He sat up straight, but did not make any attempt to move towards the door. He wasn’t ready to confront this. Not yet. Why had the sense of betrayal stolen his tongue away?
* * *
Baldwin peeked his head through the door and then looked back at Etta. “He’s just sitting there. He hasn’t even gotten in the shower.”
Etta pinched her eyes closed. “I am married to a rabbit,” She whispered suddenly feeling irritated at his retreat. She rather he yelled and fussed than hide away. She knocked on the door and then shook the doorknob. They needed to hash it out and move on whether he liked it or not. And if it came down to it she was going to suggest he go to Alcoholics Anonymous. The world was hitting major speed bumps. It was best he be sober than sloppy, and in the way. “Jørn, stop wasting water. I know you are not in the shower. Stop hiding in there. Open up! Let’s talk.”
* * *
Jørn stared at the bathroom door with utter offense. Etta’s tone was nothing but that, offensive. Generally speaking, he understood her ways. He had come to know her as guarded while everyone else simple wrote her off as rude. Right now she was just being plain hurtful.
His brow furrowed and his eyes stung. She thought he was an idiot, a stumbling drunk idiot, in need of pacifying. And now she wanted to talk. She had not given him the privilege or lent him the trust to let him know what she was up to. She had not thought him worth the effort to lie to rest his fears about Baldwin, not knowing what had become of him. She was there when he filed the missing person reports a few years after Heidi had ascended, and never once did she tell him not to waste his time. Why? Because the two had been plotting and planning all the while behind his back!
He stood up, and turned off the shower before walking to the door, letting his hand hover over the doorknob. He was suddenly so enraged that he could have crushed it with his bare hand. She had hurt him, cut him so deeply with all of this, and now she was accusing him of playing the role of coward just because he needed time to processes.
He laughed inwardly, but it was writhe with sarcasm. At least Etta was being consistent in her treatment of him. She was the same way when it came to him dealing with ascensions; emotionally detached and simply disinterested. He wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction, not this time. He had prayed for this moment, and now it was at hand.
He yanked the door open guns blazing.
* * *
The door swung opened so quickly that it slammed against the adjacent wall. Etta leaped back, totally unprepared. Jørn glowered down at her when he pushed forward, careful not to touch her. His eyes seared into hers just long enough for her to stumble back completely off guard. He heart lodged in her throat. He had never looked at her like that. His jaw was so rigid, and the currents around him were a dangerous color of red, almost fiery white towards his skin. His frequency was nothing short of a roar.
The veins in his forearms stuck out against the flexed muscles of his arms as he clenched his fist, protruding past the bandages. He stood in front of the window in the sitting room, one hand on his hip and the other over his mouth, his stance wide like he was ready for a gun fight.
Etta swallowed down the knot that had leapt into her throat. The colors around Jørn had decreased in fire, but he was still far from calm. He suddenly turned to face her, his round shoulders raised like a charging bull.
“You want to talk, Etta? Fine. Sit. Let’s talk!” He pointed to the couch and waited for her to come forward.
Etta spared Baldwin a confused look, but he was playing the part of possum himself. Obviously he had not seen this side of Jørn either. Etta tapped into her secret place, tucking the sudden panic that had hit her between the ribs away from sight, and emotional contact. If the Pulse ever looked for it, they would never find it, they would never find any of her hearts thoughts. They would never know, just like Jørn would never know.
Jørn was upset, so much so that his predictability had gone down the drain with the shower water, and all Etta could think to do was comply and try to temper the sudden trembling that had risen in her bones. She sat down on the couch painted on her cool expression and waited for him to join her.
Jørn stared down at her before he too sat down, his posture still very rigid.
Etta studied his face, the set of his jaw, the ticking in his muscles, even the dark liquid brown of his eyes. He was going to cry. She sighed and shook of the sudden discomfort that had smacked her between the eyes. She ached for him. His posture, the threat of his tears, them sitting, made her think of Heidi Flagg, and the night she and Jørn had first been together. It had changed her whole world.
She steadied her voice. “What’s this about?”
Jørn’s head snapped towards her. He looked as if she had slapped him. “What’s this about? Seriously?! Oh, I can name off several things, but I will start with a question first.”
He shifted his body so that he was facing her. Even with the space between them the tension was suffocating. “Where were you yesterday? And who were you with?”
Was this a trick question? She gave the obvious answer. “I was at the Yard, like I told you I would be,” She watched the currents whip and snap around him shifting in color. The deep red was rising again. He clearly didn’t like that answer. “Is this, is this about the phone?” She hated how small her voice was sounding. “Are you angry because we didn’t talk yesterday?” She thought about Baldwin constantly nagging about it. Maybe he’d been right.
That only made things worse. Jørn’s face contorted. “Do you think that I am that petty to be this upset with you over the phone?!”
“But you are not upset, Jørn, you’re practically enraged.”
“I have the right to be!” He finally yelled, his voice set in a growl that made her flinch. “But I will address the phone issue that you want to make out to be so darn small. I called you 19 times. Nineteen!”
“You did not call me 19 times,” She chuckled nervously. Why was she nervous?
“Check your phone, Etta, or did you lose it at the Yard?”
She sighed and raised her hands. “I am not going to argue with you about this. I am sorry if you felt like I was ignoring you—”
“You have done enough of that for me to be resigned to it! This is about the fact that I didn’t know what happened to you—”
“Nothing happened to me! And I don’t ignore you.” Her voice had far less starch. She did ignore him. She did it often. But hearing him say he had resigned to it, that he had settled for it, plucked more than a nerve. It cut through several of her heart strings and made bile rise upon her tongue.
“How was I supposed to know that?! How was I supposed to know you were okay? And. Yes. You. Do. You have been ignoring me for a long time.” Silence settled for a brief moment. Jørn covered his mouth and reigned in his tone. “I wonder if my name was Nobody, if you would have answered my calls.” His gaze darkened.
Etta clamped her mouths shut before her face contorted with irritation. “What does Nobody have to do with this?”
“Everything! One call, that is all I wanted from you. But you didn’t even think that much of me to give that.”
“That is not fair! I do think about you.”
“You think I am an idiot. That’s what you think about me.”
Etta leaned back and turned her head away, shaking it in shear disbelief. She refused to make eye contact with Baldwin. She was grateful that he had refrained for throwing in his two cents for once. She turned back to Jørn. His gaze had not left her nor had it lessened in intensity. The evidence that he was jealous of Nobody and truly believed she thought him an idiot resonated all over him.
It frustrated her to no end. Yes, she thought he had his flaws, she had flaws. But she certainly didn’t think idiocy was one of his. She thought he was brilliant, but if she said that now she doubted he would receive it. She tried a different course of action, not bothering to address Nobody, not yet at least. She couldn’t. “Jørn, I don’t think you are an idiot.” He snorted and rolled his eyes and made the attempt to stand. Etta grabbed his hand with both of hers. “Will you please tell me where this is coming from?”
He slid his hand from hers. “This is coming from the fact that for the last decade you have looked me in the face and lied to me. You have pretended. What else are you lying about? Who is Nobody?”
Etta’s brow came together. What had she lied about? She hadn’t lied to him. “Nobody is nobody! They are irrelevant!”
“Then tell me who they are!”
“They don’t matter, Jørn.”
“To me they do.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. She wasn’t going there, not about them. “I haven’t lied to you about anything.” She stated flatly hoping he would just take it. He didn’t but she knew better.
He finally stood, with a snort of derision. “You haven’t?”
She stood with him, shaking her head no. “No I haven’t, and quite frankly I am lost here.”
His eyes narrowed. “If you haven’t been lying to me, treating me like some idiot, or worse some stand-in guy, if Nobody is nobody as you say, then tell me who was it who helped you stop the ascension yesterday.”
Her jaw locked. This was about Baldwin. He thought Nobody was Baldwin. The thought nearly made her laugh out loud. She should have been prepared for this. She had imagined how this moment would be, had played it out in her mind several times, but she had never imagined it like this, this volatile. In Etta’s mind she had pictured it a happier occasion even if bittersweet, tearful even, but enraged? The thought had never crossed her mind. She certainly had not anticipated Nobody being confused for Baldwin, or even being in her life at all.
If she wasn’t mistaken, Jørn was not only angry but jealous. You betrayed his trust, that is what he thinks. That is why he said you think he is an idiot. She thought about the conversation that she’d had with Baldwin yesterday. He had accused her flat out about the mistake.
Jørn had called her a liar. That stung a whole lot more. She was somewhat of a liar, but not the way he was thinking.
She steepled her hands under her nose and sat down again. Very little she had said to Baldwin about her decision to leave him in the dark had pacified him. She was less convinced that she could pacify Jørn. “I know what you are thinking,”
“You don’t know what I am thinking.”
She looked up at him. “You think I betrayed your trust, left you in the dark. You think Nobody is Baldwin.”
“He’s not?” Sarcasm
“No. He is not. I told you Nobody is irrelevant. They aren’t important.”
“And Baldwin is.”
Another gut punch. “Jørn!”
“Fine, assuming I believe what you are saying, you still let me believe that my only cousin was dead or missing, that you didn’t know where he was or what happened to him, when all this time,” His voice cracked. He clenched his jaw. “All this time you knew he was alive. You’ve known where he is, you have been communicating with him. Imagine how I felt, how I feel, having to get that information from Doris, and not from you! My wife didn’t think enough of me to tell me!”
“Doris? When did you see Doris?”
“Yesterday, when I was going out of my mind looking for you, only to be told that not only were you okay, but that you and Baldwin had stopped the ascension. And don’t change the subject!” His voice was strained, the current storm around him was now a sickly blue color, with hints of red and yellow. Jørn finally dropped back down on the couch next to her. “Where is he, Etta? Where has he been?”
Baldwin stood next to him, his head down and his arms around himself as if he was the thinking man, sadness was evident all around him as well. The mournful vibrations almost made Etta moan or cover her ears to keep from hearing. She pressed it back into the background with grinding teeth as she reached for Jørn’s hand again. Again he pulled away.
“Please, hold my hand.” She said, her brow drawn. She was more frank than compassionate. She needed him to understand. She needed not to get drawn into a whirlwind of emotions—no matter how much it hurt Jørn, or hurt her—and lose site of the course ahead. Too much was at stake.
He did not give her his hand. She took hold of it anyway, and scooted closer to him. “I am sorry. I am sorry that you had to find out like this—”
He tried to snatch away, but Etta gripped his hand even tighter between hers. “I didn’t have to find out like this. You could have told me! You should have told me.”
“I couldn’t. Just like Mr. Albert and the others didn’t tell anyone that they were on the Council.”
“But you knew he was, didn’t you? That’s why you stopped talking to him.”
His tone was so accusatory, but she was going to have to suck it up. “Yes.”
“Did he tell you?”
“No, I figured it out. Don’t ask how.” She saw the question right on the threshold of his lips. “As a matter of fact, don’t ask anything else. Please.”
“How can you ask me that?! Don’t ask anything else? Where is my cousin, Etta? What have you two been up to? How did you stop the ascension? What in the hell are we dealing with!” He would have kept going had she not put her hand over his mouth.
He growled and went to stand again. Etta leaped on to his lap. Straddling him, she cradled his face with her hands. He grabbed her waist, ready to eject her from his lap.
“Jørn just listen! LISTEN!” He stopped struggling, though he could have easily moved her aside with very little effort. “I am sorry I hurt you. It’s not what I want!”
The look he gave her told her he didn’t believe her.
“Its not!” She said again. “I am sorry I made you feel like an idiot. I don’t think you are an idiot.” Jørn’s flesh was hot against her palms. “I know that sorry may not be good enough,”
His nostrils flared again. “Where is Baldwin, Etta?”
“He is safe.”
“I didn’t ask you that, I asked you where he is.”
She shook her head. “I can’t tell you that.”
“I have the right to know.”
“I can’t tell you that.”
His teeth clenched. “What can you tell me, then?”
“I can’t tell you very much, but I will tell you what I can, and that is going to have to be enough.”
“You don’t trust me.” Another statement, not a question.
“This is not about trust. And if it is, then you need to trust me.” She pointed to herself. “Do you trust me?”
* * *
Jørn held on to her waist, the feel of her hands upon his face, the weight of her on his lap was almost suffocating under the circumstances. The confrontation had gotten him nowhere. The only knowledge that he had gained was that Baldwin, who he still suspected was Nobody, was indeed not dead. He was not missing. He was just missing from action, and the only person who knew anything about him was like a tomb.
Etta wasn’t going to talk. No matter what she said, Jørn couldn’t bring himself past the mountain of her actions. She had lied. She was still lying. She didn’t trust him. What did that mean in the long term? What did that mean about them? This was probably why she had refused to give him a child, start a family with him.
He closed his eyes against the stabbing pain that had ripped through his middle, and dared not ask the question. He knew full well he would not get a straight answer or an answer at all. “No, Etta,” He tightened his grip around her waist and lifted her from his lap. Ignoring her protest, he sat her on the couch beside him and stood, making his way to the bedroom before she could latch on to him again. “No, I don’t trust you. I don’t even know what you are saying right now.”
“Jørn, just listen,”
“Listen to what? You aren’t saying anything. You’ve lied to me all this time. He has lied to me all this time! Jokes on me.” Saying the words was like a fist to the gut. He turned again and went into the bedroom.
Etta called out behind him. “Jørn, you are thinking micro when this is a macro issue! This isn’t some joke!”
Jørn closed the door and slid down to the ground, sitting as if he was completely exhausted, and he was. This was a macro issue? No, Etta had gotten it wrong. This was a micro issue, it was their life, his life, his small little world that he had built with her. But he didn’t even know what that meant anymore. He didn’t even know if it was real or ever had been in the first place.
*For Next or Previous Chapter(s), Please follow this LINK to the TABLE OF CONTENTS