Taina and Arnaldo celebrate the Autumnal Equinox despite the dark magickal energy of the dhampirs and werewolf gangs.
Raindrops condensed out of the mist, soft at first, like gentle teardrops, then harder, pelting them like stones. The trees offered some protection, but water sluiced off Ritual Rock and pooled around it before cascading downhill into the gurgling sewers.
“We can forget about candles tonight.” The bag in her hand was drenched, the matches and incense ruined. Zeus looked like his legs and belly had been dipped in milk chocolate.
“No fall equinox under the moon and stars.” Arnaldo stripped off his sleeveless tee shirt, raised his face and palms aloft, allowing the water to run down the front of his body.
His lips moved in a silent confession as he walked deosil to banish transgressions or regrets, tracing the fingers of his left hand over Ritual Rock.
“They’re still there, even if you can’t see them.” Despite the abominable heat and humidity, she shivered.
Visualizing the sun turning the corner toward winter, slowly moving away from the Earth, only intensified the chill. Her life was changing as rapidly as the weather. She was turning toward the dark period of her life, perhaps the end of it. But tonight was not the time to think of that. A piece of everyone died in fall and winter, only to be reborn in the spring. Perhaps next spring, she would be back in Puerto Rico, and Arnaldo would come visit.
“Let this pain I harbor pass. Let peace replace vengeance. Let clarity of purpose replace confusion, despair.” Water rose to her ankles, jolting Taina out of meditation.
Rain fell over the empty streets like a sheer wall of water. A few cars, a bus plowed through the flood, wipers flapping wildly. She traveled backward to keep the deluge out of her face, maintain her focus, seal the circle, then bumped into Arnaldo.
They laughed, and he pulled her back against him under an outcropping to deflect the worst of the downpour. His body was solid as stone, and she allowed herself to lean against him. His beard and wiry chest hair prickled against her skin in a not-unpleasant way. There was no mistaking he was a male and she a female.
Zeus pressed himself against the rock but remained vigilant as his mistress let her guard drop.
Arnaldo flattened against her midriff, and he leaned down and whispered in Taina’s ear. “Blessed be the Mother of all life. Blessed be the life that comes from Her and returns to Her.”
They should have shared a cup of wine and burnt offerings, but instead both pressed their right hands on the granite and marble formation and walked deosil, Arnaldo still behind her, left hand on her shoulder.
Energy pulsed within the stone, a simmering volcano, dark, fraught with fear, confusion, despair. No, not tonight, this was a joyous occasion. Taina took her hand off Ritual Rock, turned and placed it on Arnaldo’s shoulder then directed her gaze downward to the circle.
A soothing green aura glinted off the muddy path they’d trod. He always spoke of hope, and her spirits rose. Together they could do good works. The rain again drove them to shelter under the rock ledge, hidden from view of the dhampir’s perch.
He divined her thoughts. “Hope is all we have, Taina.” He placed both his hands on her cheeks, leaned in to brush his lips down her neck. His hand slid behind and down her back and drew her close. “You’re trembling.”
Was it cold, fear, arousal? “Yes, all we have is hope. I think we’ve done all we can out side tonight.”
But she didn’t move. The smell of his damp hair, the power in his arms as they surrounded her exuded contentment, even as they stood in monsoon-like rains that had transformed St. Mary’s into some kind of magickal water park.
Las Tombas and Los Sangueros couldn’t be far away, but tonight the witches had claimed this space.