Chernabog looks in the mirror he’s been standing in front of for the past quarter hour. He looks human, but beyond that he has difficulty differentiating this body from that of every other human on the planet. He doesn’t poke or prod at the human jumpsuit. There is just too much of him in it. Chernabog feels the whole of him might burst from the fleshy restraints. Gods and demons weren’t meant for such insignificant casings.
“Well?” Belobog asks.
Chernabog busies himself tightening his tie and straightening his suit jacket. He focuses on as much nothing as he can. “This body is…” he indicates himself with a sweep of his hand, finally settling on, “weak.”
“Small, overfull, boiling. It’s too limited.”
Belobog nods. He grabs Chernabog’s face between his hands and pushes some of his light into the body. Chernabog grunts and pushes Belobog away with a muttered, “Better.” Chernabog isn’t sure what his brother has done, but the body now seems more able and less suffocating.
Belobog slaps a hand on Chernabog’s back. “Try to be… Or, try not to be… Well, try to have fun in any case,” he says. Chernabog shutters, settling in his skin, and heads for the door.
Chernabog taps his fingers on the table as he watches Beatrice walk through the restaurant door. She appears absolutely delightful. Chernabog actually notices her hair—long, dark waves. As she walks toward him she smiles, her unpainted lips only a shade or two darker than her pale skin. She leans slightly to the right and waves uncertainly. He beckons her over and she comes, weaving through the tables.
Chernabog pulls Beatrice’s seat out for her, then takes his seat across from her and bares his teeth in an approximation of a smile.
“This place is wonderful,” Beatrice says, taking in their surroundings as she settles in her chair. “I wonder if there’s anything on the menu I can eat.”
“If you try hard enough, you’ll find there’s almost nothing you can’t eat,” Chernabog says. To his surprise, Beatrice chuckles.
“A sense of humor. I like that,” she says. “I’m vegan.”
“Never heard of it.”
Beatrice waits to see if he’s joking. “No meat,” she says finally. “No dairy… No anything that comes from animals.”
“I think the word you mean is ‘masochist’,” Chernabog says. Why else would someone do that? He doesn’t ask the question aloud, afraid she might go on a tirade about the reason behind it all. She shrugs one shoulder, tilting her head to meet it, the smile still on her face.
“It’s just a choice. That’s one of the things we can rely on in this world, after all. Not saying that’s entirely good,” she says. “Hell, I chose to huff gasoline when I was younger and that wasn’t my best decision.”
Chernabog raises his eyebrows, wanting to hear more about her poor choices.
“Well,” Beatrice says, “I chose to marry a CEO. That turned right around to bite me in the ass. So now I choose to sing karaoke to offset the boredom of being an accountant. One of my better ideas, I think.”
Chernabog laughs, startling himself with the sound.
“And cartography. Can’t forget that,” Beatrice adds.
“I’m starting to be very glad you were able to get a babysitter tonight,” Chernabog says, surprised that he is, in fact, in a positive state of feeling.
“I’m sorry?” Beatrice says, confusion blossoming over her features.
“Your profile said you had a son. He must be very young since you can’t possibly be older than twenty-something. I only assumed…” he says, letting the statement hang in the air. For the briefest moment, he is concerned that he’s done something wrong. A moment is all it takes for Chernabog’s anger to find kindling in his fear.
Beatrice’s eyes lose focus. She looks down, then back at Chernabog. “I’m thirty-seven, actually,” she says and smiles, but it’s missing the previous joviality. She looks a little dizzy, makes a grab for the edges of the table. “He would have been eight this year.”
Chernabog hesitantly places his hand on Beatrice’s wrist. Through the touch, he can feel her pain. It’s so big, he wonders how she can hold it. His anger settles back down, dormant for now. He pulls his hand back and shifts uncomfortably. “I’m sorry,” he says, the words sounding to his own ears more cautious than sincere. “I shouldn’t have said… But why not take it out of your profile?”
“Because I do still have a son. That he isn’t here any longer doesn’t mean he never was.”