“Do you need help? she asked.
“You can see me?” he said, surprised.
“What do you mean? Of course, I can see you. You’re standing in the middle of the sidewalk. I saw you from across Michigan Avenue. I mean, you kind of stand out, since everyone is giving you a very wide birth. I just thought maybe you needed help. Are you lost? Trying to get into The Art Institute? Can’t find your meds? Need someone to take your picture in front of The Bean?”
“Yes, the silver thing over there,” she said pointing at it.”
“You mean Cloud Gate?”
She nodded. “That’s what I said, The Bean.”
She didn’t seem to notice all the people staring at her, as they walked by. “So? What do you need?”
“Why are you offering to help me?” he asked, pulling at his black coat.
“You’re in Chicago. We have a rep for being friendly, didn’t you know that?”
“I did, actually,” he said. “But you’re the only one who saw me and stopped.”
“I guess it’s just my turn to help out a tourist.”
“How do you know I’m a tourist?”
“You’re cold, and look as if you didn’t expect to feel that way.”
“You’re right. How can you stand this weather?”
She shrugged. “I don’t like it, but it’s the price one pays for living here, I guess.”
“No one else can see me,” he sighed. “You know that, don’t you?”
“I’m beginning to think something is a bit off, since people are looking at me funny.”
“Where were you headed?”
“Me too,” he said, and they walked past the lion and went up the stairs. “Why are you going to the Gift Shop?”
“Postcards and to look at all the beautiful books.”
“You’re not going into the museum?”
“No. I like the Gift Shop better. The gift shop is alive, the paintings are dead.”
“Okay, but you’ll be buying postcards of the dead paintings.”
“I like the postcards better, and why can’t anyone see you?”
“Give me a second,” he said. “There, now others can see me, and you won’t look as if you’re talking to yourself.”
“You don’t look any different.”
“No. Not to you.”
She nodded. “Who’s your favorite artist?”
“Like them waring and bloody. Heads being bitten off, and the like? Saturn devouring his children type thing.”
“Something like that.”
“Why are you in town?”
“Try again,” she laughed. “No one comes here for a vacation at this time of the year, unless their crazy.”
“I think I might have to agree with that,” he said, shivering.
“People are looking at you now,” she said, grabbing a few postcards.
“Yes, they are.”
“Well, you’re insanely handsome, so it’s understandable.
“Oh, please. As if you didn’t know.”
He stared at her and then reached up and pushed her hair behind her ear. “You look just like…”
“I look just like what?”
“Never mind,” he said, shaking his head. “Show me the books you’re interested in.”
She dragged him to the book section and showed him one book after another, chatting, laughing and dismissing some artists, while sighing over others, as the day slipped away. He watched her, as they discussed art and artists, the city and life in general. She didn’t seem to notice those who were attracted to him, or those who looked at him in fear.
“And what about Vannie?” she said excitedly, laying a huge book on one of the book tables.
“You call him Vannie?”
“Yes. I named my Iguana Vannie, because of the whole ear thing.”
“I think he would have liked that,” he laughed.
“I think so too.”
“His brother Theo was a good person,” he said. “He was a generous soul. Kind, big hearted, and sincerely and deeply into the art world. He helped a lot of artists. Died too young, if you ask me. Syphilis. No antibiotics at that time. Terrible death.”
She looked at him. “You sound as if you knew him personally.”
“Do I?” he said. “I…I’ve read his letters and quiet a few books about him.”
“Some of them are no longer in print.”
“I saw where he lived, when I was in Paris. His front door was painted blue. I was inside a car but I wanted to get out and lean against the building.”
“I can understand that,” he said, truthfully.
“Who are you?”
“I’m your father.”
The postcards fell from her grasp. “You were going to say that I looked like my mother, weren’t you.”
“Did you come here for me?”
“We want you to come home.”
“I am home.”
“We sent you here to keep you safe, while you grew up.”
“It’s time to come back and take your rightful place.”
“I’m going to walk away now. If you try and follow me, I’ll scream as loud as I can. Why were you invisible?”
He sighed. “Because I’m not actually as human as most of the people who live here. Neither are you.”
Someone walked by and picked up the postcards and handed them to her. She thanked them, but never looked away from the man standing in front of her.
“Most of the people who live here?” she stuttered.
“What can I say. Things aren’t always what they seem to be.”
“Isn’t my mother dead?”
“No, why would she be dead?”
“Because in all the fairy tales the mothers are dead. All the Queens who aren’t dead are evil, all women are dead, or evil, except for the one innocent girl who…am I that girl?”
“Then what am I?”
“Can we talk about this somewhere less public?”
“I don’t think I can move.”
He put his arm around her and walked her to the check-out counter. “I’ll take these,” he said, putting the postcards on the counter, “and those books on the shelves behind you,” he said. “Have them delivered to this address, please.” He put a white card on next to the register.
“Uh, all those books?” asked the guy behind the counter. “Where did they come from?”
“Yes. All of them and I’m assuming they came from the bookshelves.”
“There’s like a hundred books there,” said the checker.
“Put it on here,” he said, handing him a credit card.
“If you say so.”
“Do I have evil stepsisters,” she whispered. “Please tell me I don’t have evil stepsisters.”
“You don’t have evil stepsisters. You’re an only child.”
“Well, I guess that’s something,” she said in relief.
He smiled and took back his card. “Deliver them tonight,” he said.
“Sure,” said the guy. “Not a problem. Tonight.”
“Do you have a library?” she asked, as they walked out of The Art Institute.
“I have an entire building full of books. I bought those for you.”
“You bought me a million dollars worth of books?”
“You seemed to like them, and they weren’t even close to a million dollars.”
She sat down on the step. “Is a million dollars a lot?”
“No. Not to me.”
“I didn’t think so.”
“Look, it’s not as complicated as it seems, or at least it doesn’t have to be.”
“Just get it over with, okay,” she said. “What’s going on? And do you know what Dark Matter, or Dark Energy is? Either one. I want to know, so bad. Or do black holes open to different universes? Do you know the answer to that?”
He grinned. “You’re JUST like your mother. She can’t wait to see you, by the way”
“You could have seen me for my entire life. NOT SEEING ME was your choice.”
“Yes,” he sighed. “I know. It wasn’t an easy decision.”
“I suppose you looked in on me from afar, like in all those sappy movies.”
“Of course. You’ve also been protected by guards and familiars, your entire life.”
“How could I not know that?”
“If you knew that, how would they have protected you?”
“I think there’s a flaw in that thinking, but I’m too confused to figure it out right now. What about the Dark Energy or Dark Matter? Anything? Black holes? And are you going to kidnap me?”
“I’m not going to kidnap you. We just want you to come home.”
“Where exactly is home? Fairy?”
“No, not fairy,” he said. “I’m Morningstar.”
“There is no devil. I just felt that humans should be free, while the other side insisted they be manipulated and controlled. Look how well THAT turned out,” he hissed.
“So you want to take me to Hell?”
“There is no hell.”
“No, no kidding,” he said.
“You’re not evil?”
“No. Your mother and I are trying to help humanity. Unfortunately, humans are under a spell cast on them by the other side and reinforced by the church and the republicans. Basically by the status quo, which is run by semi-human males. They are all about enslavement and manipulation, greed and violence.”
“That makes perfect sense,” she said. “If I come with you, will I have to kill anyone?”
“We can talk about those things later.”
“You’re life will be one of service.”
“What kind of service?”
“We can talk about that later as well.”
“I want to bring my cat.”
“It was mean of you to leave me.”
“It was necessary. But I understand how it must feel to you.”
“I don’t think you do,” she said.”
“No. I probably don’t. Just know that it was necessary.”
“It doesn’t feel that way. Not to me.”
“Are you ready meet your mother?”
“I guess. Where is she?”
“We’re staying at a hotel. We would like to leave tomorrow, if you can be ready by then.”
“What if I don’t want to go?”
“Then you can stay here.”
“But didn’t you just put me in danger, by showing yourself.”
“So it didn’t look as if you were talking to yourself and so that we could be together in the Gift Shop, like ordinary people, and because I wanted to give you a choice.”
“A choice between a life I know and one that I don’t?”
“Are you in danger as well?”
“Can we have take-out for dinner?”
“We can have anything you want.”
“Will you tell me about Dark Matter, Dark Energy and black holes?
“I’ll tell you what I know, so far.”
“Were you here from the beginning of everything?” she asked.
He smiled at her. “From before the beginning.”
“Wow!” she said. “You look great for a guy your age.”
He burst out laughing. “Thank you.”
“Am I human?”
She looked down at her hands. What does that mean, exactly?”
“Nothing much. Nothing is pure anything, everything is a little of this and a little of that.”
“Is there magic where we’re going?”
He smiled. “There’s always magic.