Present Day - New York
Debilitating guilt crushed Gabriel every time he interacted with Morgan. The Ange’el’s affection for the human was weakening his mandate to control her movements and influence her decisions. His task was, once again, to deceive and manipulate. He seemed destined to betray the confidence of those he held most dear.
They entered the Met via a back door. Gabriel led Morgan down a set of stairs and through three access doors that required him to type passcodes and scan his fingerprints. He carried a basket that had been given to him by the Met staff as they walked in the building.
“Are you taking me to the dungeons?” she said with anticipation.
“Yes, indeed. I have conspired to lock you in the safest place in New York. At this time, you are a prisoner of the Met, but I hope that soon you will rejoice in your captivity.”
“What’s in the basket?" She reached towards it.
“Curiosity killed the cat, Ma'am," he replied playfully, moving the basket away.
He opened the last door and led her into a large warehouse. Golden light filled the room, coming through several small windows protected by steel bars.
“Are these genuine?” Her inquisitive eyes opened wide with surprise.
“Yes, all genuine.” Paintings, dozens of paintings, by Klimt, her favourite artist. Gabriel knew she was deeply passionate about his work. He watched her as she held her breath for a few seconds, processing the burst of colour and beauty that surrounded them.
She quickly approached Danaë, which was on the floor. The painting was leaning against a wooden box that served as the container for transportation to the Met. She kneeled on the ground and, with teary eyes, sat before the great beauty and traced the fine detail of the masterpiece. A vulnerable, beautiful naked woman lay curled asleep, enveloped by her flaming orange hair and golden rain dust that flowed between her legs. She turned to him, pointing to the painting.
I know, he thought, staying at the door, giving her space to live the moment.
He allowed her to feel joy without having to contain it or to explain it. His eyes never left her. He watched her face light up and her eyes flicker. He found himself holding his breath, waiting for her approval.
She looked back at him. “How?” Her smile filled every corner of the room.
“Ange’el, my organisation, is a sponsor of the Met. When I learned that a Klimt exhibition was opening in a few weeks, I thought you wouldn’t like to miss it.” She nodded, excited.
They walked together around the room, pausing to observe each piece of art. For each, there was a quiet moment of wonder followed by animated conversation as they exchanged information about each painting. He noticed the joy flowing through her body; it was reflected in the way she almost danced as she moved and the way she almost sang as she talked. Her voice had a higher pitch, and her accent became more noticeable. Morgan’s southern European hands endorsed her words with vibrant and graceful gestures.
He shared his knowledge about the history and meaning of each piece with her and did his best to connect his commentary with her work and interests. He mentioned how Klimt’s paintings display the multifaceted scope of womanhood, introducing the cycle of life, love, sensuality, sexuality, strength, vulnerability, and death.
He asked why Danaë was her favourite, given her small passive role in the original Greek mythology—seduced by Zeus, who visited her in the form of golden rain. She paused for a second, contemplating his question.
“Her vulnerability and sensuality, her perfectly imperfect body and sexual awakening, her cheeks touched by passion,” she said, and as she looked into his eyes, she lowered her own and blushed. “I also love Water Serpents and Athena; they display very different characteristics of womanhood.”
He was still recovering from her words. She had moved him from the moment he’d seen her speak on TV three years ago—alive, passionate, intelligent, and master of a disarming candour. She used kindness, knowledge, and wit to move mountains. He realised he was staring at her, so he lowered his eyes. He took a step to his right, away from her, smiled, pointing to the portrait of Athena, the war goddess and said, “She reminds me of a dear cousin. I hope to have the opportunity to introduce her to you one day. Sky is a very special woman—a leader, like you.” He was unable to hide a tightness in his voice, as memories rose.
“I’d be delighted. You know,” she continued, “Danaë and Athena are both faces of every woman—vulnerability and power. I wonder when people will stop just valuing women as childbearing and sexual objects. They hunt and lust after youth, beauty and virginity, and then use and discard them, casting them out as old whores. We have such a long way to go to move past these old archetypes and symbols of womanhood.”
“The pursuit to preserve the best genes is the puppet master that controls us all. Worth is reduced and simplified to external beauty as everything else is too difficult to measure. The victims fall on both sides of the divide—the ones that have it and the ones that don’t.”
“That's true for women, but not for men.”
“That's a rather definite statement, don't you think?” he said with a smile.
“I don’t see how being handsome can possibly harm a man. It’s just another cheap privilege that took zero effort to attain.” She replied, distracted at the sight of Klimt’s Goldfish and Water Snakes paintings. He watched her get lost inside the pure femininity adorned in gold, ochre, and red that lay in front of her.
“Perhaps you are being a bit unfair–”
“Am I? Pretty girls are objectified, sexualised, and rarely taken seriously. Handsome men are glorified; it just seems to enhance their other qualities.” She suddenly stood up to face him, as if processing her own words. “Well, I mean, you know, it's harder for women. I bet your dashing looks have provided opportunity.” Her words were coated in honey as if apologising for her ill-considered outburst.
“I've paid for my looks all my life Morgan. You, of all people, should know to look beyond the surface.” He murmured, walking toward the door, turning his back to her as his eyebrows came down with the weight of memory.
“Gabriel, I'm sorry, I… didn't mean to offend you.” She walked toward him, placing her hand on his arm. “I'm a fool, a judgmental fool. I was thoughtless, distracted by all this beauty. Thank you. You’re so kind to bring me here. You don’t know how much this means to me. Gabriel…”
It took him a few moments to dig himself out of the hole of painful memories triggered by her words. The disgust and fear in the faces of half of the population of Ahe'ey was hard to forget. “I'm sorry. I should be apologising. You have unintentionally hit a very raw nerve. Sorry.”
“Would you like to share?” she offered, her voice full of regretful compassion. “I'm an idiot.”
He took a deep breath and turned to face her with an open smile, recovering his composure. For one brief moment, he unleashed his Ange'el glow—a beaming smile so powerful that washed away her anxiety and regret.
“No, perhaps some other day. Shall we go for a walk? We have plenty of treasures to experience.” Morgan followed him happily, still under his Ange'el charm.
Gabriel worked to contain his inner demons. He felt guilty every time he used his powers. He promised never again to use them on her. I will not be your puppet master, no matter what happens. The gifts of the Ange’el were a double-edged sword. The impact of his appearance was nothing when compared with the potency of his mind. He often wondered if the people of Ahe’ey were right; many feared and distrusted him. The Yi’ingo likened him to the monster that had started the war—Sathian, his kinsman and his mirror image. Perhaps his uncanny resemblance to Ahe'ey's worst villain was more than skin deep? He pushed aside the ghost that haunted his nightmares and, with a smile, offered his arm to Morgan who was happy to oblige.
Leave me a comment describing one of the key themes of Ahe’ey. I will be transferring 2 Steem dollars to the reader who writes the most insightful answer. I will announce the winner in tomorrow’s post. Good luck! Jamie
Have you missed previous chapters of Ahe'ey?
Chapter 1 - Beginnings
1 - Sky Falling: Read or listen.
2 - A Surprising Reception: Read or listen.
3 - I Will Find You: Read or listen.
4 - The Interview: Read or listen.
5 - Royal Orphans: Read.
6 - Breakfast with a View: Read.
7 - Water Angels: Read.
8 - Perfection: Read.
9 - Alone: Read.
Chapter 2 - Gravitational Pull
9 - Womanhood
Stop by tomorrow to enjoy the next episode of Ahe'ey.
Part 5 of the audiobook will be released later today.
- Danaë - Gustav Klimt [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Pallas Athene - Gustav Klimt [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Wasserschlangen I (Freundinnen I) - Gustav Klimt [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Goldfische - Gustav Klimt [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons