Dark Impulse Ch. 05byAurora Black©
Department of Art History and Archeology
New York City
March 30, 2001 - One Week Later
Grace stood at the window, her eyes fixed on the street below. She absently watched the ebb and flow of people as they went about their business, seeing everything and nothing. It began to rain, and with each drop that hit the pavement, the same thought echoed through her mind.
I can't believe that I called him. What would have happened if he'd answered?
Startled, she quickly pulled herself out of her reverie and turned away from the rainy windowpane. One of her students, Carrie, was watching her with a nervous expression from where she sat, and Grace felt her cheeks flush. Thankfully, they were alone in Grace's office; if her daydreaming had occurred in the crowded auditorium where she usually conducted her classes, it would have been greatly unprofessional, not to mention embarrassing.
Giving herself a mental shake, Grace managed a sheepish grin and returned to her chair. "I apologize for that, Carrie. What was I talking about before I drifted away?"
Carrie cleared her throat and reviewed her notes. "You were discussing the concept of Humanism and its effects on the Italian Renaissance."
Recognition dawned on Grace. "Okay, yes. Humanism is considered to be the most significant intellectual movement of the Renaissance. As its name implies, humanism was a philosophy that was characterized by its blending of the concern of the history and actions of all human beings and their influence in the world, and religious duty. This was a major shift from the view that was presented during the Middle Ages, when the focus was only on religion; the people's duty to God and the preparation of the soul for the afterlife."
Grace glanced at Carrie and saw that she had the younger woman's undivided attention. She continued. "The humanistic movement greatly shaped the art of the Renaissance; the entire period was devoted to the celebration of human nature, intelligence and individuality as well as the human body itself. The Italians, in their search for inspiration for this new way of thinking, resurrected the ancient Greek and Roman texts; many works during this period were based on the classical sculptures and frescoes as well."
Carrie's pen flew on the paper as she spoke, and Grace watched her with amusement as she remembered herself at that age. She'd been an entirely different person then, ages before she'd ever heard of a Shadow Hunter.
While observing her student, a feeling of envy rose within her, taking her by surprise and giving her pause while she tried to figure out why. She hadn't wanted to go back to that time in her life; in fact, she was relieved that all those years of school were behind her. What she envied about Carrie was her innocence.
Grace wished that her slate could be washed clean; that she could erase every moment that she'd spent with him from her memory, the man that she couldn't bear to think about. All those memories remained with her, haunting her. They were enough to fill a lifetime. A thousand lifetimes.
But how can I wish that I'd never met him, when he gave me my greatest joy?
The sounds of scribbling had stopped, and Grace snapped out of her trance. She took a deep breath before continuing, avoiding Carrie's concerned gaze.
"Let's get down to the major players of humanistic representation during the Renaissance. In chronological order, Giotto was one of the first artists to portray nature realistically in his frescoes, setting the tone for the many painters that followed."
Grace felt a tightening sensation in her skull from an oncoming migraine, and she struggled to repeat the main points of her lecture. She forced herself to push on.
"Donatello was one of the first sculptors who attempted to capture the dramatic art form of the human body in his works. Afterward, the three most famous artists of the period came, the "triple threat," which I like to call them: Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. They were the ones who..."
At the sound of her son's name from her own lips, Grace's week-long anxiety once again overwhelmed her. She stopped in mid-sentence, and Carrie looked up from her notes.
Grace glanced at her watch. "I'm sorry, Carrie, but I'm not feeling well right now. Besides, our time is up anyway. Have you gotten enough information? Is there anything else that you'd like cleared up?"
Carrie closed her notebook and stood. "I have more than enough to go on. Thank you very much for your help, Doctor. I apologize for not being able to attend the actual lecture last week, but..."
Grace held up a hand. "I understand that you needed to be with your grandmother at the time, Carrie. I never judged you for not showing up."
Carrie let out a sigh of relief. "You wouldn't believe how much that sets me at ease. Most professors wouldn't care that I had a family emergency; their egos would demand that every seat had to be filled and woe to anyone who has higher priorities than showing up to their lectures."
Grace nodded in agreement, having worked with such types herself. "Well, unlike most professors, I like to believe that I have a working heart. How is your grandmother, by the way?"
"She's doing much better, thank you. The chemo hit her pretty hard at first, but she's slowly beginning to feel like herself again."
Grace picked up a pen from her desk and toyed with it. "Will the treatment be able to shrink the tumor enough for the doctors to operate on it?"
"Her doctors are all very optimistic about the procedure."
Carrie was finished gathering her stuff and putting on her coat. Grace got up from her desk to walk her out. "I truly hope that everything works out for her, Carrie."
"Thank you, Doctor, for everything."
Grace gave Carrie her warmest smile as she opened her office door.
"You're welcome, but do me a favor, would you? Don't tell the others about my helping you out; it would really destroy my reputation as a cast-iron bitch. It took a couple of years for me to build that persona, and one word of my good deed would topple it all down like a house of cards."
Carrie laughed. "Don't worry! Your secret is safe with me. Bye, bye!"
"Okay, bye now. Be careful out there, and I'll see you in class next week."
After Carrie left, Grace returned to her desk and pressed the intercom button for her secretary.
"Yes, Dr. Nakimura?"
"Evelyn, would you please bring me a cup of chamomile tea? I'd like to warm myself up before I go out in that rain."
Grace paced around her office, her arms wrapped around herself. The chill in her bones ran deep, and it had nothing to do with the weather. She'd been avoiding her husband over the past week, trying to delay the inevitable discussion that they so desperately needed to have.
David, perhaps sensing that something was wrong between them, had moved into the guest bedroom and began spending more time at the office instead of at home. She had been both saddened and relieved by the gesture; she felt as if she needed more time to process her feelings and to find someone whom she could trust to analyze the evidence that she'd collected.
She picked up the phone and dialed, her heart in her throat.
"This is the Anami residence. How may I help you?"
It was the family maid, Miyuki. In Grace's opinion, her personality had a lot to be desired, but her manners and cleaning skills more than made up for it.
"Hello, Miyuki. Let me speak with Debbie, please."
A few seconds later, Debbie, the nanny, came on the line. "Mrs. Anami?"
Grace remembered that when she interviewed her for the position two years before, Debbie had reminded her so much of Rebecca Knight, Gabriel's energetic and feisty grandmother, that the other applicants didn't stand a chance. Debbie was like the Southern equivalent of Mrs. Doubtfire, full of wit and charm, and Grace just had to have her. And since Debbie had four grandchildren of her own in the city, Grace believed that she was more than capable of caring for her little boy.
"Hello, Debbie. How is Rafe doing?"
"He's just fine, ma'am. He's in his room with his coloring books. Today I took him to the Central Park Zoo, and afterwards we went out to lunch."
Grace closed her eyes, forcing out her last question.
"Debbie, has Mr. Anami had any contact with Rafe today?"
"No ma'am, not today. He left for the office shortly after you did, and he hasn't returned yet. Why do you ask?"
Grace's mind struggled to find a suitable lie. "Well, as you know, Rafe's birthday is coming up. So right about now we're searching for clues as to what our son would like on his special day; perhaps you may be able to help me with that later. Anyway, I was concerned that Mr. Anami would try and ask Rafe directly what he wants. You know him, he always goes straight to the point. I, however, want my little man to be surprised when he opens his presents. Do you see what I'm getting at?"
Debbie made a "mmm-hmm" sound, her Southern accent reaching Grace through the phone and making her smile despite the butterflies in her stomach.
"Oh, I understand completely. Don't worry, Mrs. Anami. I won't let him interrogate little Rafey, not on my watch."
"Thanks a lot, Debbie. Put my baby on the phone for a moment, would you?"
Grace waited for her son to come to the phone, feelings of guilt lancing through her. It was a lame excuse, the story about the presents. The way it sounded to her own ears, she may as well have screamed at Debbie to lock Rafe in his room to save him from his monster father.
I've put off talking with David for long enough. We're going to take care of this today, so help me.
"Hi, sweetheart. How are you?"
The false cheer that she'd injected into her voice tasted like ash in her mouth, and she could hear her blood pounding in her ears.
He was so intuitive at such a young age, so much that it scared her at times. She immediately dropped the pretense; she should have known that she couldn't fool him, even over the phone.
"I'm really down today, baby. I needed to call and see if you were okay."
Evelyn came in with the tea that Grace had requested, setting it down on her desk. Grace mouthed "thank you" to her before returning her attention to the phone. She sipped the herbal brew, sighing as the warmth enveloped her.
"I had that dream again last night."
Rafe said it matter-of-factly, but with more than a little trepidation. Grace felt her heart kick in her chest at the slight tremble in her son's voice. It was as if he were bracing himself, expecting his nightmare to come true at any moment.
"Tell me about it, honey. You'll feel better for sharing it, I promise."
He took a deep breath before speaking.
"I am standing in a clearing in the middle of nowhere. All is dark, yet I can still see. I sense that I'm being watched by many eyes. I hear you shout to me in the distance, 'Rafe, stay away! It's not safe here.' But I can't help but come closer. You're afraid that I'll get hurt, but somehow I feel safe. The sun rises, and I see two men facing each other in combat. Their faces are in shadow, but I know that one of them is my father. The light blinds me, and I stumble to the ground. You scream. I look for you from the spot where I've fallen, but I can't see you."
Rafe paused for a long moment and Grace sat motionless, transfixed by the present tense of his words. Her tea grew cold as she gripped the phone tightly, waiting for him to continue. When he spoke again, his voice was filled with wonder.
"Suddenly, a large hand appears in front of my face. I look up, and I see a man that I've never seen before. The sun is at his back, so I don't see his face. 'Don't be afraid,' he says in a voice that is low and soothing. I do not fear him. I cannot fear him. I reach for his hand, but I wake up before I can make contact. What does it all mean, Mommy?"
Grace bit her tongue, trying to keep a sob from escaping her throat. She felt as if she would choke if she spoke. She knew exactly what the last part of Rafe's dream meant, and her soul wept.
What have I done?
After a minute, she managed to get a grip on her emotions so she could respond.
"Um, I'm not sure, sweetheart. But I can tell you how we can find out. We should keep a journal handy so we can write down the details of your dreams as they come to you. If the dream changes in any way to reveal more information, we can make a note of it and see if anything else comes to light. How does that sound?"
"It sounds good. Can we go out later and get one?"
"Of course, baby. I'll tell you what: I'm going to leave the school now, and after I take care of a few things I'll come home to get you so we can buy one right away."
"Okay, Mom. I'll see you in a while."
Grace felt a tear slide down her cheek, followed by another.
"I love you. You know that, don't you?"
"I know. I love you too. Bye."
The soft click of the other end of the line shutting down echoed in her brain. Grace let the phone slip from her fingers and back into its cradle. Her vision blurred as more tears threatened to fall, but she refused to let them win. She rose from her desk and gathered her things to leave for the day, determined to see David.
After I clear things up with him, maybe I'll find the strength to deal with other matters. Maybe.
She opened one of her desk drawers and retrieved a tiny cellular phone. She pressed one of the programmed speed-dial buttons before holding it up to her ear.
It was Ryu, her personal limo driver. While Grace taught class or worked in her office, he waited in the nearby parking garage until she was ready to be driven home or anywhere else she wanted. That was his job, driving and waiting. It sounded incredibly boring to her, and she wondered if he was in agony with all that time on his hands. But if he was ever dissatisfied with his duties, he never let on.
"Ryu, it's me. I'm ready to leave now. Have the car ready for me at the usual corner, please."
"Right away, Madam."
Grace took a final look at her office, hoping that she didn't forget anything. It was 5pm on a Friday, so she didn't want to have to come back if she'd left something important behind. Once she was sure that she had everything that she needed, she put on her coat, grabbing her briefcase and laptop before walking out the door.
In the waiting room, she regarded Evelyn, her personal secretary and good friend. She was sitting at her desk, completely absorbed in a book. Her long, curly hair fell in ringlets about her pretty face, and her medium-brown skin glowed with health. The expression on her face, however, worried Grace. She looked seriously stressed out.
"Got any plans for the weekend, Evie?"
Evelyn looked up from her desk, where she had a stack of textbooks open and ready for study. Her full lips curved into a smile as her eyes swept over them before addressing Grace.
"You're kidding, right? Girl, I'd be lucky if I had plans for next year at this rate! How on earth did you manage to do this, and for two of them simultaneously? I feel like I'm going to lose my mind with just this one!"
Grace smiled briefly, remembering her own studying frenzy when she was earning her own doctorates. Unlike herself, Evelyn chose to wait until her son was a bit older before returning to school, and as a divorced mother without the support and means that Grace had been fortunate enough to have, it was extremely difficult.
She walked up to where Evelyn sat and squeezed her shoulder in encouragement. Evelyn's hazel-brown eyes met Grace's darker ones, and the two women grinned.
"It'll get easier, hon. I promise you that it will. How is little Leon taking it?"
Evelyn sighed. "I wish that I could say that it's all sunshine and smiles, but it's not. He misses me, and it doesn't help that his father lives all the way in Queens near La Guardia. That's one hell of a commute for me to drop him off and pick him up every day."
Grace's brow furrowed in thought. "Evie, you can't go on like this or else you'll burn out before the semester's over. Listen, I have an idea. Bring Leon to the penthouse on Park Avenue - no, wait a second for me to finish - bring him over and Debbie will take care of both him as well as Rafe while we ride to work together. She'll take great care of them, and they'll have nice field trips to museums and walks in Central Park. At the end of the day, you'll come home with me, hang out, pick up your son. Think about how wonderful it would be for both Leon and Rafe to spend time with each other since they're the same age! You were worried about Leon not having any play friends, remember?"
Evelyn's face was skeptical. "I was worried, yes, but what about Leon's father? I definitely have to discuss this with him. I appreciate your offer, but... I hope that you won't be offended, Grace, but I'm not sure that I feel comfortable with my son spending time in your posh surroundings before coming home to my two-bedroom apartment in the East Village. I'm afraid that this arrangement might spoil him somehow or make him feel inferior because your son has such a pretty house full of toys while he has only a small collection of Hot Wheels and baseball cards."
Grace sighed. She'd expected this reaction from Evelyn, who had a great sense of pride and was reluctant to ask for or accept help from anyone.
"Just think about it, okay? Please. I didn't mean any harm by offering, you know that. I just want you to make it to your goal without feeling overwhelmed by the pressure. If eliminating the daily commute would help free up time that you can use for either study or quality time with Leon, go for it. As for Leon's, or I should say your feelings about my house, that's for you and he to decide. I think that he knows how lucky he is to have you as a mother, that you love him and that you do the best that you can to provide for him. No one can beat that."
Grace squeezed Evelyn's hand. "Just take your time and let me know. Have a good weekend, and I'll see you on Monday."
She spun on her heel, turning towards her friend. "Yeah?"
Grace smiled and left the room.
* * *
The limo weaved its way through the streets of Manhattan, its sleek blackness drawing many admiring glances from passing pedestrians.
Grace leaned against the plush leather seat, watching the world pass from the safe and anonymous haven that was her tinted-glass window. She could look out, but none could look in. Shielding one's emotions; it was an ideal philosophy that she'd taken to heart when she had first returned to New York from abroad five years before, married to one of the world's richest businessmen and mother to a newborn child. She'd learned to shroud herself in mystery, to keep everyone guessing as to what lay beneath her elegant and cool exterior.
Everyone except those who had been close to her, that is. She was afraid now of letting her control slip, of revealing herself to those who needed to remain clueless about the contents of her soul. She was afraid of becoming an open book, with scandalous secrets just waiting to be read by the wrong person.
This is Gabriel Knight. I'm not in right now...
She gasped aloud, alarming her driver. "Are you alright, Madam?"
Grace brought a hand to her forehead, and was surprised to find moisture there. She met Ryu's eyes in the rear-view mirror, and she forced a reassuring smile.
"Yes, I'm fine, Ryu. I'm sorry if I startled you."
"That's quite alright. We have a few minutes before we reach the building. Would you mind if I put on some music?"
Grace welcomed the suggestion; she needed something to take her mind off of its present course. "No, not at all. Please do."