Gerard learns more about the Healers. Anna understands about the photo.
Anna spoke while looking straight ahead. “What is it you wish to know?”
Gerard sighed, “Anna, come on. I’m confused as fuck. I get that you knew Lily from Pearl’s right?”
“Yes, she was one of the women who lived at Pearl’s during the time I spent there. Lily was one of the older ‘girls’ and she befriended me. I have tried to repay that kindness today.”
Gerard slowed his steps, “Okay, so Lily got turned by a Healer who did it without permission and they wacked him.”
Anna came to a complete standstill. A look of shock on her face, “Wacked him?"
“Shit, sorry.” Gerard said, “I didn’t mean it to sound like that.”
“Wacked him.” Anna repeated again shaking her head. “Yes, Gee they wacked him.”
He truly wasn’t sure if he’d upset her. “Anna, I’m just so fuckin’ confused I’m not sure what I’m saying.”
Anna reached out and brushed the hair from his eyes, “It is okay. I am sorry I could not explain my conversation with Lily back there but I am sure you understand why.”
“Yeah, I understand you couldn’t let Lily know you too were turned wrong.”
“I can never let anyone else know.” Anna said softly.
The early morning clouds released light raindrops. “Shit.” Gerard said. “Come on let’s get to the hotel before it starts to pour.”
Once they were safely inside their room Gerard started to question Anna again. “Okay so what the hell is that mark on Lily’s wrist?”
“The tattoo is used by the Healers to brand those who are considered unworthy. Lily’s maker broke the code of the Healers by turning her without permission. In turn she is considered unworthy of the Healer’s gifts.”
Gerard sat down on the bed and waited until Anna settled down next to him. “I don’t get it. Why punish her?”
“It is not fair but it is their way. Healers will not destroy one of their kind unless they have broken the code. Lily did not break the code but her Maker did. Since no other Healer came foreword to offer her protection she was branded.”
“I don’t understand.” Gerard said lighting a cigarette. “If she was turned then she was became one of them. Why does she need protection?”
“All of us who were turned are under the protection of our Makers. Only Pures need no protection as they were born as they are, not created.”
Gerard thought a moment, “So what’s considered not newly turned? I mean she said this Alex was only a Healer for about 200 years. That seems pretty fuckin’ old to me.”
“To a mortal that is old to someone who is immortal that is a child.” Anna said leaning back on her elbows.
He was struggling to understand. It was important to him to try to understand everything about Anna’s world. “So since she didn’t have anyone’s protection that’s a bad thing?”
“Healers have something that is similar to what humans consider a class structure. One who is branded is considered an outcast. They are not accepted into any social functions of the Healers. They are a Healer but they are considered undesirable. They must adhere to the rules but are not treated as equals.”
“Okay that’s pretty fucked up.” Gerard said feeling sorry for Lily. “Was what she said true, can another Healer just come along and take anything she has?”
“A Healer can take anything or anyone a branded Healer has acquired at any time. I have known mean spirited Healers and Pures who do so just for their own enjoyment.”
“But things will change for her now?”
Anna nodded, “Yes, Jacob has given her his protection. Once it becomes know in the Healer world Lily will not be branded anymore. Jacob has the power to remove the brand from her wrist. She will be able to make a good existence for herself. The protection of a Pure is considered the ultimate gift.”
Gerard snuffed out his cigarette then fell back on the bed. Rolling his head to face Anna he smiled, “I’m really trying to understand all of this.”
Anna nodded, “Yes, and I thank you for the effort. I could sense your anger when Lily referred to me as your Master.”
Gerard laughed, “Yeah, well I gotta admit I do still have a problem with that.” He reached out and stroked her cheek with his fingertip.
“I am sorry you are subject to situations you find upsetting.”
“Sugar, nothing is too upsetting if I’m doing it for you. So I guess you being Jacob’s only is a pretty big deal.”
Gerard rolled his head back to stare at the ceiling a moment, “So do they ever brand mortals that are blood bound?”
The question surprised Anna, “No, of course not.”
“Gee if I were taken in front of the council and found guilty you and Claire would be offered Jacob’s protection. You have nothing to worry about.”
He looked deeply into her eyes, “Is that what you think? Anna I’m not worried about myself. I’m just trying to figure this all out.”
Anna sighed, “Blood bound humans are never branded because they are simply not deemed important. They are considered..” She paused.
“Just say it Anna. I know they way they think ain’t what you really feel.”
“To Healers the blood bound humans are simply play things.”
“Pets.” Gerard muttered.
Anna nodded, “Yes. If something happens to the one they are bound to they are either taken over by another Healer or their memory is completely erased and they continue on with their life having no memory of the world of the Healers.”
This upset Gerard more than he wanted to admit. “I just can’t believe someone could make me forget you.” He shook his head, “No, on one could do that.”
“A very old Pure could do that.” Anna whispered.
Gerard sat up and before Anna could move he leaned over her pinning her arms at her side. He leaned down and looked into her eyes, “Never even think about that. Don’t you dare. You would take the most important thing in my life away from me.”
Anna blinked back tears, “I have only entertained the idea because at times I believe your life would be easier without me. You are healed and you have found yourself again. You could have a normal life.”
This turn of the conversation was upsetting him, “Anna, what the fuck are you thinking? Tell me the truth.”
Her voice quivered, “There are moments when I realize I am keeping you from having a normal life. I keep you from finding a woman who can give you children. I keep you from finding someone you can grow old with.”
Gerard shook his head slowly, “You ain’t keeping me from anything. I have a woman I love with all my heart and that is more than enough. This place in time is ours, Anna. We were meant to be together and nothing you could ever say would make me believe any different. I want to marry you.”
“Gee.” Anna said trying not to break into tears, “Even if we are given permission there would be only so many years I could remain at your side. In time when you begin to age and I do not I would be called to leave your side.”
He understood and that thought haunted him. “Yeah, I get you’d have to appear to leave me but we could still be together.”
“I just can not think about this now.” Anna said turning her head.
Gerard lowered his body so that he was now lying beside her. “We just need to live for today.” He said softly and he took her into this arms.
Anna closed her eyes and held him tightly. In her mind she was screaming, “But I am not alive” but she remained silent. He was right, this moment in times was there and she would not let anything take that from her.
“Hey, everyone already has their stuff in the van.” Mikey said as spotted Anna and Gerard coming down the stairs.
“Yeah, okay.” Gerard answered tiredly.
Alicia joined her husband at the foot of the stairs. “Next stop Colorado Springs.” She announced happily.
“Hope you found a nice place to crash.” Gerard yawned. Now sleep was definitely catching up with him.
“Sure did.” Alicia answered with a smile. “But it’s not in Colorado Springs actually it’s in Manitou which is kinda on the outskirts. They are little cabins set up in the hills that overlook this town.”
“Cabins?” Gerard repeated wondering just how rustic the cabins Alicia had reserved were.
“Yeah, we each get our own cabin. And we can just walk into Manitou. It’s a cool place. My mom took me there one year for vacation with I was about ten. There are all kinds of shops and a really fuckin’ cool outdoor arcade.”
Gerard tried to look enthused, “Sounds good.”
Mikey looked at his brother closely, “You okay? You look kinda tried.”
Anna could hear the concern in Mikey’s voice. “We did not get much sleep last night.”
Frank wandered over to join them. “Not much sleep?” He teased.
Anna smiled at him understand what he was implying, “We went for a walk and were out late.”
“Oh sure, sure.” Frank grinned at Anna.
“Zip it gnome.” Gerard said rolling his eyes at Frank. “So who’s driving?” He asked looking back at Mikey.
“Bob said he’d take the wheel.” Mikey answered.
“Yeah, that’s right.” Bob said as he and Claire walked through the front door. “All the bag are packed we just need to get your stuff stowed.” He said looking down at Gerard and Anna’s bags.
Anna started to lift hers but Bob grabbed it. “I got this.”
They all walked outside on to the porch. Anna immediately noticed that Claire seemed to be hanging back. She slowed her steps as the others started down the main stairs then moving towards the van.
‘What is wrong?” Anna said softly as she moved closer to Claire.
“Nothing.” Claire answered a bit too quickly.
Anna glanced over at her. “You are distressed about something. Have I done something to upset you?”
Claire stopped walking even though a light rain began to fall again, “No, of course not.”
Anna did not believe her. “We need to speak alone. Perhaps we can find the time later this afternoon.”
“That is not necessary.” Claire said starting to walk again having noticed Bob was waiting for her by the van.
“You do not wish to speak to me alone?” Anna asked softly.
Claire continued walking and spoke without turning, “I understand you wish to spend your time with Gerard and I wish to spend my time with my husband. That is just how things are.” With that she walked on to the van then slipped into the passenger seat.
Anna tried not to show the hurt she was feeling on her face. Gerard however turned and saw before she could paste a false smile on her face. He waited until she was close enough then whispered,” What’s wrong?”
Anna saw that the other were already inside the van waiting, “I will tell you later.”
Anna and Gee took their seats and Bob started the van.
“Hey we need to make a quick stop before we leave town.” Gerard said looking toward Bob. “Anna and I got a photo done last night and it should be ready now.”
Bob was about to question Gerard because he knew they could not have gotten a photo done last night. The shop was closing as he and Claire had been leaving.
Claire knew this too so she quickly put her hand out to touch Bob’s arm. The look she gave him when he glanced over was one he understood. He knew there were things about Anna and Gee that he didn’t understand. “Yeah, sure.” He answered then noticed Claire gave him a beautiful smile.
A few minutes later Bob pulled the van to a stop in front of the Old Tyme Photo shop.
“I’ll just run in and get it.” Gerard said to Anna.
“Hey so is the picture you got done like Bob and Claire’s?” Alicia asked.
Anna turned in her seat to answer, “Yes, it is a black and white tin type photo.”
“We should have got one done too.” Alicia said punching Mikey on the arm.
“Ouch” He said frowning while rubbing the injured spot.
Christa had been watching Anna and was pleased to see she seemed much better. However as soon as she got the chance she wanted to speak to her about Claire. Something seemed to be bothering the other woman and maybe Anna knew what it was.
Soon Gerard came out of the store with a flat bag clutched in his hand. He also was carrying something in his other hand that he shoved into his pocket before getting into the van.
“Oh lets see.” Alicia said as Gerard handed the bag to Anna.
Anna ignored her as she slowly slipped the photo form the bag. Gerard sat down and put his arm around her giving her shoulder a tight squeeze.
“Oh.’ Anna whispered softly looking down at the photo. She stared at it several moments feeling a wave of emotion.
“I wanna see.” Alicia whined.
Anna smiled and passed it back having already prepared herself for the reaction she knew the photo would receive.
“Holy shit.” Alicia said as she and Mikey looked at the photo. “Man, this makes you really look like that girl in the picture at the museum.”
“Yeah.” Mikey agreed.
“Hey pass it back so we can see.” Jamia said.
Alicia handed it over her shoulder so that Jamia, Frank, Ray and Christa could see it.
Anna smiled, “I often braided my hair when I was young.” She explained. “And yes I do know I look like the soiled dove in the photo back at the museum. I had seen that photo before and was teased about it.”
“Oh when you lived here?” Jamia asked.
Christa looked up from the photo to lock eyes with Anna. “You look so beautiful and sweet.”
“That’s because she is.” Gerard said softly.
“Hey maybe that girl in the photo was like a lost relative or something.” Alicia said.
“I do not believe so.” Anna laughed, “Just a strange coincidence.”
As the photo was passed back up Anna took it then turned to the front of the van knowing that Bob and Claire had not seen the photo. She handed it to Claire.
“You do look beautiful, so young and innocent.” Claire said softly.
“Hey, how come no one is saying how handsome I look?” Gerard teased.
Bob laughed, “Yeah, Gee you look real pretty too.”
Claire handed the photo back to Anna then turned back in her seat quickly.
As they headed out of town Gerard leaned over to whisper in Anna’s ear, “You do know why I wanted that photo, right?”
“You wanted me to realize that girl I was then is still inside me.”
“Yeah, Sugar. I love that sweet, beautiful girl.” He said before kissing her lips.
Anna laid her head on his shoulder, “And she loves you.”
While the others were talking and making plans for later in the day. Gerard took the opportunity to take something out of his pocket. “Lily said to give this to you.”
Anna looked down at the small locket suspended on a plain gold chain. She gasped, “That was mama’s. Oh Gee.” She blinked back tears, “I snuck it out of the house while the sheriff wasn’t watching. I took it off that night because..” she refused to let the guilt from the past wash over her again.
Gerard leaned down to whisper in her ear, “Lily said that once you disappeared she asked Pearl if she could have it. She said she was hoping you’d come back some day and she’d have it for you.”
Anna took it from his hand. “Oh I can not believe she kept it all this time.” Her fingers shook as she gently opened the locket to reveal the photos of her mother and father. “Daddy gave this to her as a wedding present.”
“Would you like me to help you put it on?”
“Yes, please.” Anna answered quickly wiping away a tear.
Once it was clasped around her neck Anna reached up to touch the locket. “It feels like they are with me now.”
“They have always been with you, Sugar.’ Gerard said gently.