We sat in silence. The blushing waitress cleared our plates while searching Enoch’s face for flirty glances, but his navy blue eyes focused steadily on me. I waited until she walked away before breaking the silence, surprised at the steadiness of my voice. “You know that I’m the Kachina. You know that I’ll ask to be cleansed.”
He nodded. “I do.”
“I don’t know a lot about Cleaners; in fact, as time goes on, I realize I don’t know a lot about anything, but I do know that in choosing to help me, because of who I am, who I’m supposed to be, things could be bad. For you.”
He laughed. “No, pretty one, things will be bad for you. You’re the one running from your destiny. I suspect without warning it will come back and smack you upside your head.”
He was the second man to call me pretty, and I could think of no more profound hint of premonition. The first man to call me beautiful had left me with pieces to mend. It seemed this might end in much the same way. I also knew, regardless of any rational arguments to be made on either of our parts, we were already resigned to our fate.
We sparred frequently. Some would say too frequently. Training required an equal emphasis on combat and Persuasion, but we were drawn to fighting. He was impossibly crisp in his movements, inventive and ridiculously fast. He’d been my choice for the Kachina. He was a birthright. His fighting skills rivaled my own, and, he seemed to know as much of the teachings as the elders themselves. It became an inside joke. The two of us best friends doomed to battle for the fate of the world. We’d joked while we sparred, teasing that a failed move had just cost the universe. We’d called each other Armageddon and laughed between bites of ice cream and apples.
“Do you remember that time when we were sparring and I clipped your jaw by mistake, made you bleed?” he asked. I fingered the small hint of a scar under my jaw line, nodding as I did. “You smiled,” he continued. “You thumbed the blood from your face, looked at me, smiled, and kneed me in the stomach, grappled me to the ground. I’d thought then, it was in you, whatever it takes to be okay, you had it and you didn’t even know. It was right there in the blood and smile living on your face.”
I choked back a sob that clawed like barbed wire in my throat. I was wrong. We were romance, the Shakespearean kind, because I was certain in that moment that I loved him. And now our love was the kind that could only be punctuated with blood. We were a tragedy. I knew it as clearly as I knew that I wasn’t ready to bleed for him again.