I don’t get to answer him as an almighty crash comes through the front door. I watch on dumbstruck as another Max tackles his doppelganger to the floor away from me. I take the opportunity and flee from the house out the front door. I’m in my car and out the driveway like a shot just driving. I don’t even know where I’m going. This entire night has been mad and I have no sanctuary from it. A thought suddenly occurs to me and I swing the car around towards the other side of town.
When I arrive in the car park the place is deserted, and rightly so at four in the morning. I run across the dew covered grass trying carefully not to trip over the grey stones in the dimly lit cemetery. I fall in a heap to the ground before my father’s plot. I start to hyperventilate as I try to get my breathing under control.
“I’m sorry Papa, I didn’t know where else to go.” I whisper my pleas in French as I start to breathe normally again to the point of calm. Then exhaustion crashes into me like a truck. The warmth on my face stirs me as I sit up from the concrete slab that I’m leaning against. Then the warmth on my face is mirrored in my stomach.
My head whips around the cemetery as I see Max slowly approaching me. Then the warmth in my belly starts to flame as I let a tear of anguish slide down my cheek before I scream out in pain as my entire body feels like it caught fire. Max is on his knees beside me in a moment, but he doesn’t touch me.
I fall back to the cool slab of stone trying desperately to put out the embers in my blood after the flash burn form Hell itself. I look at Max pleadingly and my heart breaks as I see the anguish on his face. The pure deep ocean blue eyes staring back at me with nothing but concern and compassion. “McKenna, its me.” He pleads desperately. I nod my head at him as I hug the stone a bit longer.
“I know.” I breathe out feeling exhausted. He looks completely shattered by my words.
“How can you be so sure? How do you know? Your faith in me is something I will never understand.” I reach up to caress his cheek gently and smile sweetly at him.
“You’re Max. My heart knows it for sure, we always see clearest with our hearts.” I tell him certainly. He looks heartbroken by my words as I sit up to look at him curiously. “What’s wrong?”
“Your faith in me. It’s so strong. I feel like I’ve betrayed you.” He confesses sadly as his eyes plead for forgiveness.
“How?” I ask uncertain I want to know the answer. His eyes are distracted by an early morning respects payer entering the cemetery near the main gate. “How?” I prompt again more urgently. His eyes snap back to mine regret filled shaking his head.
“I didn’t believe you would.” He shakes his head letting the words die. “I mean I didn’t have faith that you would—.” He trails off again looking angry with himself. I exhale in relief as I comprehend what he’s trying to say.
“You didn’t think I’d be able to tell the difference between you and a Daemon?” I ask him evenly. He looks like I struck him, and he seems so guilty. “Oh my God, did you send that creature to me?”
“No. Of course not. I wouldn’t let another Daemon within a mile of you for the rest of my life if I could help it.” He spits indignantly as his eyes swirl into a storm of obsidian and ocean blue.
“What happened? Where were you?” I ask feeling a little hurt that he knew about this Daemon’s plans to visit me and didn’t stop him. He looks devastated as I feel him in my mind. He shakes his head apologetically.
“Lucifer restrained me. He made a game of it. He said that if Lynx —the doppelganger Daemon— could seduce you then I would be we sent to the deepest pit of Hell never to see you again.” He explains and my heart jumps to my throat as I start to scan him for injuries. He’s bleeding a little from his forehead and his arm is wrapped around his ribs. I start to reach out to him but he backs away from my touch like I’m a venomous snake.
“Then he said that if you could tell Lynx was an imposter, I’d be free to go.” He adds shamefully. “Lynx is known as the best doppelganger Daemon in existence. No one other than Lucifer has ever been able to tell him apart from the real person. They say his skills of deception are second only to Lucifer himself. I thought I was lost. I don’t deserve your concern for me McKenna, not when I doubted you to know me from a doppelganger.”
I breathe out a sigh of relief at the end of his story. I try to reach for him again as he darts back even further. I look at him sadly. “Max.” I say pleadingly. “I know you haven’t had much to have faith in in your existence.” I explain gently as I grab his free hand and hold it over my chest where my heart is beating frantically at his touch. “But you have to know that this will always know you, no matter what.”
His eyes search mine disbelievingly as he takes a step closer closing the distance between us. “You know I’m me right now, don’t you?” I ask him. He nods without hesitation. “Well how can you be so sure?”
“Because I just killed Lynx for daring to lay a hand on you. When I got to your house and saw you dressed next to his naked form, I’ve never been so relieved in my entire life.” He tells me. I glare at him a little insulted. He shakes his head at me. “Not because of the reason you think. I was freed, I knew you had denied him and knew he wasn’t me. He was not a creature that dealt with rejection well. I was so worried he’d hurt before I could get to you.”
I smile reassuringly at him as I reach up to kiss his cheek. “How did you know where to find me?” I ask intrigued. He smiles sadly at me.
“I knew you’d seek refuge, but there is no one alive you’d put in danger by going to them if Daemons were hunting you. So I just figured your next stop would be your guiding light.” He explains logically. I smile proudly at him.
“Seems like you know me pretty well too. Even if Lynx was still alive I’d bet my life you’d be able to tell the difference between me and a doppelganger.” I tell him matter-of-factly. He smiles a sad smile.
“I wish I had the faith in myself that you do.” I wrap my arms around the back of his neck as his free arm wraps around my waist. I hear him hiss as my torso presses into the arm clutching his ribs. I look at the area pointedly. “It’s nothing.” He proclaims like the warrior he is. I shake my head in mock disappointment at him.
“Now I’m certain it’s you.” I tease. Stubborn ass. He smiles a crooked smile at me pulling me tighter against him despite the pain it must be causing him.
“Tell me how you knew for sure, so soon. I thought he’d have you fooled for so long, but he barely lasted two hours.” He asses proudly. I smile brightly at him as I shake my head.
“I’m not telling you.” I state firmly feeling the warm glow in my belly and staring into his soul piercing ocean blue eyes with shards of obsidian in them. He narrows his gaze at me threateningly. I laugh at him. “I want you to have faith in something. Without knowing the how or why. Just believe that I will always know you. My heart will always recognize yours. No facts or truths, just faith and belief in that.”
He looks at me in complete awe before lowering his lips to mine to claim them like a prize for his belief. I laugh against his lips as we break away. Then Max winces in pain and I glare at him with a scolding gaze before ordering him towards the car. “Don’t you want to go to mass this morning?” He asks as he practically falls into the passenger seat of the car.
I drop into the driver’s side shaking my head. “I’m sure God will understand me wanting to take care of you over my usual silent prayers.”
“What do you pray for?” Max asks curiously completely ignorant of the personal nature of the question. I explain indulgently that I would always pray for the good health for the ones I love and forgiveness of their sins. Then I’d ask for acceptance and understating for not being able to repent my one great sin. He looks at me like I reached over and slapped him.
I shrug nonchalantly at him. “I guess his answer to my prayers is always ‘no’.” I tell him lightly. He shakes his head as a disgusted look falls over his features.
“That is the most unselfish prayer I’ve ever heard. I can’t believe He would leave his most beautiful child out in the cold like that.” I shake my head at him.
“I know he hears every word. I don’t believe he left me out in the cold. I just think I threw a wrench into his plans for me and he’s still trying to catch up.” I say playfully.
“You even have faith in the father who abandoned you at your time of need.” He says in awe. I shrug at him.
“I try not to look at it like that. I think that he gave me a choice, I chose to use the strength I had to end my suffering. Perhaps I could’ve found strength in my faith to persevere and endure my suffering at that time instead. I just couldn’t see the light through the darkness anymore.” I confess heartfelt. Max’s hand entwines with mine as I drive, trying not to let the tears fall from my eyes.
“You’re what He wanted to create all those years ago McKenna. I’m sure of it. You’re the purest soul I’ve ever met. Your fate is indescribably unjust.” He declares passionately. I smile sweetly at him. We continue the rest of our drive in silence as I try to focus on my relief that he is okay and back beside me. I know he can hear my thoughts as his mouth crooks up in the corner. I let my peripheral vision admire him the rest of the way home.