“Did you know that Mary Shelly lost her virginity on her mother’s grave? Quite grotesque, if you ask me. Not to mention impractical.” Celia yelped, dropping the book on the floor before, looking at the spot where the voice had come from.
She placed a hand on her heart, grimacing as she heard it beat erratically. She had never enjoyed jump scares, they made her feel like she was starring in some B-Horror film and she was the stereotypical dumb blonde who was about to get murdered.
“Do you live inside this place?” She inquired, laughing lightly while offering the intruder a glare. “Or are you following me?” The brown haired man gave her a secretive smirk and a nonchalant shrug but never replied to her question.
Frankly, Mick had, indeed, followed her. To his defence, he had done it because he knew it was time he told her who he really was and just why she had had the pleasure to make his acquaintance. He wasn’t used to being dishonest with anyone, or keeping secrets and she must have been pleased to meet him, he was an incredibly handsome devil and to top that he was smart as Hell. In fact, he was certain she had already made plans to leave Ax for him.
Mick strolled over to the young woman’s side, feeling the old wooden floor creak under his weight, and scrounged down, picking up the book she had dropped after he had smiled apologetically to Mrs. Doyle for frightening the poor girl.
And what a smile it was. Mick had the ability to smile at you and make you forget your every problem. He made you feel special and that’s exactly how he got out of trouble.
One smile and he was free as a bird.
He was the most beautiful mistake ever made, after all.
Except when it involved Aurelia.
She wasn’t charmed that easily.
She, apparently, preferred a good rough fuck to a smile and Mick wasn’t about to judge her for that.
“How do you know that, anyway?” Celia questioned him as he handed her the book back. Her dainty fingers swept across the cover, throwing away the imaginary dust it had acquired while relaxing on the floor, before abandoning it at a nearby table,
“That she banged Mr. Shelly on her mom’s grave?” He inquired with a roguish grin. Celia nodded softly, staring at the odd creature in front of her with a mixture of awe and curiosity. “You can Google it. Also, I studied English Lit at the University and I was really intrigued by her story” Her jaw dropped to the floor. “I know quite a few things about her, actually. After Mr. Shelly died she kept his heart with her always and not figuratively either. She literally carried around his calcified heart. She was hardcore like that.” Her jaw had hit the floor in amazement.
There she was again, judging the book by its cover.
It certainly wasn’t one of her proudest moments but the universe ought to cut her some slack. The man standing in front of her would never make anyone assume he had studied Shakespeare and the Brontë sisters. His expression, behind that smile that seemed to grace his face on a daily basis, was grim. His eyes told stories of pain and there was something unnerving about him. The colour wasn’t important, it was what feelings it brought to the surface when they looked at you.
He was like Ax.
He was exactly like Ax, come to think of it.
He had appeared out of nothing, almost as if he had been manifested the minute she had walked inside the bookshop.
No! She placed a hand, the same one that had been holding her heart in place, to cover her pretty mouth in shock.
She wanted to bang her head against a wall for not seeing the similarity before.
Mick saw the understanding in her eyes and he knew. He just knew.
She had found out all on her own. He had been right, she was a smart one.
“You know who my asshole of a best friend is, don’t you?” Mrs. Doyle laughed at the background. It’s about damn time, she thought, remembering her youth and how blind love had turned her.
“I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.” She muttered, feeling slightly embarrassed that she had been such a little fool. “In my defence, you are not similar, not in the sense most people are.” People could always tell that her and Jay were friends. They dressed similarly, talked with the same air of confidence.
But as she realized, only at that moment, so did Ax and Mick.
Mick lay a comforting hand on her shoulder, thankful that Ax wasn’t there to witness the moment, knowing fully well that if he had been, Mick would have said goodbye to that hand. “We only see what we wish to see and, sweetheart, you are as blind as a bat.” He said.
Bats aren’t blind. She countered but kept the thought to herself.
“I’m guessing you mean my charming personality and his usual tactic to respond to almost everything with a frown? Yeah, well that can’t be helped.”
She cracked a smile despite herself.
“I’m assuming you meeting me here wasn’t a coincidence.” She ran a hand through her raven hair, feeling hysteria bubble inside of her. Mick smiled guiltily at her. “Which time?” He asked, buying himself a few precious seconds.
She only cocked an eyebrow at him. “Yes.” It made sense too. She had just slipped away from Ax’s grip when Mick had suddenly appeared, making jokes and smiling secretively as if he knew all the secrets in the universe.
Perhaps, he did. He certainly knew a lot more than he was letting on.
“He made you follow me.” The statement might have been seemingly addressed to the man with the scotch coloured eyes but Celia’s voice was nothing but a whisper.
Mick nodded, not feeling the least bit guilty about his actions. “He was going crazy and the only reason why he let you out of his sight was because he had something to deal with.” She shook her head in disbelief.
“Let me out of his sight? He was also watching me? Bloody Hell, of course he was. He just doesn’t like the word no, does he?” She would kill him the next time she saw him.
While she had been hoping to catch a glimpse of his face around town, he had been watching her.
Was it too bad that a darker part of her, her own monster, was inexcusably pleased?
“I’m afraid not. He’s been like that for years.” He grimaced mockingly, his expression oddly playful. “I thought it was a phase but, apparently, I was wrong.” Mrs. Doyle let out a snicker and when the pair turned to look at her, as if suddenly remembering she was present, she averted her eyes, pretending to be reading intently the book she had been holding.
“You’re the best friend.” She stated the words, even though they were completely unnecessary. “The one whose father...” Celia trailed off, not wanting to repeat any of the things Ax had told her about Mick’s abomination of a father.
Something resembling uncertainty crossed his striking features. “Yes ma’am, that’s me. I’ve known the asshole for twenty seven years. In three years it’s our Pearl anniversary, actually.” They were just like Jay and Celia but those two would never get to celebrate anything. “I’m thinking about getting him a necklace, what do you think?”
She rubbed her hands over her eyes furiously, not allowing a single tear to make even a brief appearance. “Do you know where he is right now?” Mick’s lips tilted upwards in a secretive smile, forgetting all about his previous worry.
“Not telling.” He refused, feeling quite proud of himself.
“Why not?” She questioned in disbief.
“I can’t say.”
“For God’s sake, Michael, tell the girl where that idiot is or I will.” She had to be dreaming. What kind of an alternative universe had she stumbled into?
Mrs. Doyle was looking at a happy ending just waiting to happen and if anyone thought she wouldn’t do everything in her limited power to see those two together, he would be wrong.
Mick rolled his expressive eyes at the owner of the bookshop and huffed like a child that had just been refused candy. “He’s at his shop, fixing Eros’ car.” He admitted after Mrs. Doyle threw him another glare. Celia took a step in his direction and gave him a big smile. “Thank you. Now, was it that hard?”
“Now, wait a minute, young lady.” Mick scolded playfully at her while looking at his watch. “Don’t you have a class to attend to?”
Celia’s eyes widened significantly. She wouldn’t even dare to ask how in the ever loving Hell he knew her schedule. “Shit!” She exclaimed, running towards the exit.
“I’ll come by later for the book, Mrs. Doyle.”
It was a damn pity she didn’t stick around to see Mick share a knowing look with the older woman and hear them laugh hysterically.
Nathaniel Russ was a man of many talents.
He was a scholar, known for his strong beliefs and his stubborn ways. He was a man that could fight anyone who said a single word against Plato. He was a writer, a philosopher who had to stand the presence of hundreds of brats just because he wanted to pass on knowledge.
Nobody viewed the struggle the writer inside him faced.
Truth is, nobody is ever tortured as much as a good writer.
It takes a rotten brain to produce good words.
A healthy one could never realise the power behind the words, could never see the meaning. Sure, he could write them and they’d be pretty, oh so pretty, indeed. They would look beautiful on paper, sitting neatly, waiting for the reader’s eyes to fall on them before they went to the next lines which held even more beautiful words. The thing is, that is all they were.
Pretty but completely void.
It broke his mind just to think about it.
Nobody realised how his patience was hanging by a thread.
An extremely thin thread.
If he had to grade another paper on how Sappho was ‘totally into chicks’ he would rip his hair out.
He was a man with who had spent his entire night preparing a lecture about Diotima of Mantinea and Tullia d’Aragona, trying to see If he could make those bloody fools understand the existential importance the existence of a soul provided.
His wife had, eventually, given up on trying to convince him to come to bed.
She knew all too well how he was when he had set his mind on something.
She gazed at his hunched form and wondered if he had worked as hard for his lessons back when she had been a student. She was sure he hadn’t, he had been too busy dealing with another matter, at that specific point of their lives.
One that nearly took them apart.
He had been more spontaneous and bleak back then. He favoured Poe and Plath, the dark ones. He preferred talking about how meaningless it all was, how pointless.
He used to curl his upper lip in disgust every time anyone mentioned the existentialists.
On his good days, he would quote Bukowski.
Apparently, Aristotle and Plato were too damn joyous.
Her mind drifted back to the first words she had ever heard him utter.
“It is all ash and dry leaves and grief gone like an ocean liner.”
It had been a good day.
For the most part.
“Diotima of Mantinea was an ancient Greek philosopher and a priestess. Not much is known about her life but there is no doubt that it had been interesting. All we known of her is her role in Plato’s Symposium.” Nathaniel smiled to himself, thinking about the fact that he could finally get everything out of his chest.
It had always been like this, even during his worst, if he freed the words he would instantly feel weightless. That’s the only reason why he never needed to visit a psychologist.
“Diotima is mostly known for the fact that her ideals and her beliefs helped shape the general concept of Platonic Love. Impressive, isn’t it? If it hadn’t been for that woman, Platonic Love might never have existed, at least not as we know it.” He paced back and forth around the auditorium, loving the sound his footsteps made. “Some scholars, during the 16th century believed that she was a figment of Plato’s imagination, simply because she was a woman but there is ground evidence that Diotima was a real person.” He stopped in front of Lucas’ desk, giving him a glare. In truth, Nathan was begging him to argue. He needed to feel the rush in his veins as he showed him and every other misogynistic know-it-all that he wouldn’t tolerate ignorance.
Lucas disappointed him, offering only a shaky nod to the professor as if they had some secret truce between them.
Fucking pussy, the professor scolded. The things people will do for a decent grade.
“At a certain point of the Symposium they discuss their opinions on love and Socrates mentions that Diotima had taught him the philosophy of love, when he had been younger. For her, love is a means of ascent to contemplation of the Divine.” Suddenly the heavy doors of the auditorium opened, revealing a young black haired woman rushing towards her usual sit, near the back of the class. Her cheeks were flushed and she tried to avoid eye contact with her fellow classmates whose attention she had acquired the second she walked inside.
“What an honour it is for you to join us, Miss Saverino.” Nathan placed a hand over his clothed heart. “Were you otherwise occupied?” Snickers and laughs disguised as coughs filled the auditorium. There were rumours circling around about her involvement with Ax and those damn vultures wanted her blood for taking him away from them.
As if he had ever been theirs.
Claire, the girl Ax had humiliated, whispered loudly about what Celia’s activities might have involved.
Celia’s head bowed further down. If she kept that up nobody would be able to tell where the desk ended and where she began. “I’m truly sorry, Professor. It won’t happen again.” Mina was the only person who did not say a word. She simply sat and looked at her friend, the woman she had still so much to learn about with disbelief. Why wasn't she snapping at them? Had her encounter with Brian hurt her so much?
She couldn’t help herself when she heard Claire say those vulgar words. She got up from her seat quietly, not wanting to be caught by the professor, and went to stand next to the obnoxious woman.
It only took one threat from the blonde and her mouth sew itself closed.
At the sound of all those hushed voices something awoke within Nathan. Flashbacks brought him years back and in Celia’s place sat his wife. “You have started quite the commotion.” He commented before commanding everyone to shut up.
The professor eyed the young woman, deciding to take pity on her. He nodded at her and Celia felt the tension that surrounded her leave. “We were talking about Diotima of Mantinea and you actually arrived just on time for the good part.”
Celia nodded once again, her head almost banging against the old wooden desk. “Diotima talked about Erotic Love, as some of you may know there are eight different kinds of love but for now we will stick to Eros.” Their attention quickly returned to the one who would grade them.
“I find it incredibly fascinating when the ideologies of two great minds can be combined even when they don’t refer quite to the same time period. In such cases, time has no value.” Nathan couldn’t stop pacing.
It gave him great power.
Power not many knew how to use or how to appreciate, for that matter.
“Where am I going with this, Mr. Peters? Tell me.” His hands slammed hard on the wooden desk, casting the student’s chair to fly backwards. The professor’s eyes held a madness so great and powerful that it only the thought of it unleashed, provoked sheer terror.
The young man blinked anxiously. He was aware of Nathan’s dislike when it came to him. He couldn’t possibly be ignorant of something he had started himself. “I don’t know, Professor.” He muttered earnestly.
“Of course you don’t.” He said, expecting the answer. He had been teaching for quite some time, not much surprised him. “Of course you don’t, because when I tell you to study something, you never listen. You’re ignorant and you will remain ignorant if you never open a book, never see what truly hides beneath the surface of a painting. You will be ignorant if you never see.”
Celia knew where he was getting with his little speech.
She could almost hear the words buzz inside her ears, even before he uttered them.
“Tullia d’Aragona was a philosopher, a woman who indulged in both earthly and spiritual pleasures. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it.” He told the class, even though it appeared as if he was lecturing Lucas.
Celia raised her head, all traces of her embarrassment gone. She settled in her seat, resting her elbow on the old wooden desk before dropping her head on it with calm movements.
She was enthralled by the way Professor Russ spoke about philosophy. He seemed to be feeling every word. It appeared almost like the words were knives diving inside his bones, not caring about the wounds they created.
That’s why he was her favourite. He didn’t run away from the pain, he embraced it.
He let the words tear him to pieces and never once thought about telling them to stop.
Nathan smiled smugly as he saw Lucas’ eyes widen. “One of her most known works is named Dialogues on the Infinity of Love and it it was written in 1547. It is a Neo-Platonistassertion of women’s sexual and emotional inside an erotic or romantic, call it whatever you like, love.” He walked away from the student, his head held high, arrogance
Was rolling off of him in waves. “The surprising thing about her book is that the main character is a female, not one writer had ever attempted to even think about doing such a thing. She was a revolutionary. She gave women what they have been denied for so many centuries. She gave them equality.”
Even though she hanged from his mouth, her mind was still able to wonder to the newly found knowledge she had acquired only minutes ago. Had he really been watching her, silently like a predator before attacking? Did he care enough to have gone crazy, as Mick had claimed, without her presence? She shuddered at the idea.
Only it was not in fear.
The voyeuristic action thrilled her beyond words.
“Tulia lived in a time where all sensuality was considered sacrilegious but in her book she argues that those needs cannot be controlled. For Tullia, love is the product of carnal desire and spiritual need.” By the time the last word had found its way to his students ears, he had reached the podium. He leaned against it, his elbows supporting his weight.
“Can anyone tell me what the conclusion is? I’ve given you the facts, facts you can easily find on Wikipedia but what did you derive from them? That’s what I need to know.” Celia didn’t even think before raising her hand.
Nathan had nodded at her, flicking his wrist left wrist, his Rolex never moving an inch out of place. “Both believed that love should involve spiritual connection.” Nathan nodded, encouraging her to say more. “The reason why you chose them is that even though they lived in completely different time periods, even though they led completely different lives, they shared the belief that love can only exist if there is a deeper connection. If there isn’t, it isn’t love, it is lust.”
Nathan pushed himself away from the podium.
He turned to the rest of his students and smirked. “You have your answer.”
Ax had been leaning against the wall opposite from the entrance to the auditorium when Celia had found him. The small black-haired woman observed him silently as she moved closer to his powerful form, noting the book he was holding.
His eyes shot up from the page he had been reading, giving her his infamous smirk.
He held up the book, his rough fingers flicking the pages almost playfully, showing her in a very particular way, that nothing escaped from him. Not even the smallest detail.
Shameless. She muttered silently but felt herself smile back at him.
As soon as she reached his side, he handed the book over to her, making a mental note to go buy one for himself.
The title of the book?
The modern Prometheus, or as it is best known, Frankenstein.
A monster reading about a monster.