The paper was old, crackling funny when it fought against manhandling it. Some of the pages were still sticky, so even Efren hadn’t looked between them. But whoever was ripping them didn’t care about the intricate decorations on the edges and pulled them apart with a sickening sounds that made Efren want to shout. That was not how you treated old manuscripts. Even if it was 1950s copy of the original.
“Why can’t they be better organized?” Man’s voice complained as what he read wasn’t what he was looking for.
“Creative mind, I guess. Leave it alone, will you?”
Marc sounded way too far for where he left him.
Efren frowned, opened his eyes slowly and saw them sitting behind kitchen counter. He found himself laying on his side on the sofa with pillows supporting his head and legs while his body was covered with blanket from Steven’s bedroom. The scent of Steven irritated his nose and was close to revolting when it mixed with Marc’s still lingering scent on his hands.
“That’s not my blanket.”
“Hey, you’re back.” Marc called over softly. “It was the closest one I could find.”
Efren pushed it away from his shoulder, down to his middle so the bothersome scent would be further away from his nose.
There was a glass of water on the coffee table in front of him with small carafe meant for wine. Few pieces of cucumbers were floating in it and for a second Efren wondered if he was still dreaming. Who in this time of century still did that at home? Then again, making food pretty was Marc’s specialty. And of course, Cedrick would find it utmost important for it to be presentable? No, he would go with minimalistic ice cubes – they would send a message of efficiency and clarity.
There was this sound again, ripping of a page edge, pulling Efren’s attention back to the duo.
“I’m glad you brought the book.” His voice sounded hoarse and the moment he spoke, he knew why the water was there, his mouth parched. “It’s not for public reading.” He added and poured himself some after he sat up. Marc set down the last page and waited. “How long was I out?”
“Few hours.” The cushion next to his legs cave in and Marc’s hand touched his forehead. “You’re not hot anymore.”
Marc nodded. “Get up, I made some light dinner, and you need your energy, so…”
The fingers slipped away. It wasn’t enough. It was soothing, just what Efren needed. He wanted to touch him, but he was out of reach before his hand reached to his shirt and his fingers grabbed the empty air. He watched him go back, disappointed. Moment later he felt lightheaded how needy he’d become. He wasn’t a kid anymore, he shouldn’t act like one either. He shoved the blanket aside and got up, heading straight to the bathroom.
After he’d washed his face and hands twice, checking any little spot as liver spot or any other marker that he was getting old, which seemed odd thought even to him for that’s not how it would happen, he would not age sixty years in one day. His body would just die on him. Like a damned corpse would. Even if they’d get the stuff together now, would his body last? He checked himself once more before he discarded the towel and went back. There was a slight breeze coming from his side and he turned to see, where it came from.
The French doors were open. It would be so easy to slip through them, open the back gate and just keep walking.
A plate clank on the surface of the table as it was placed in front of him together with a fork. It was a salad, the last thing he wanted right now. But as if to read his mind, pan hovered next to it a second later and slipped a piece of fried salmon on top of it.
“You’re welcome, but I’d prefer if you ate instead of staring at it.” Marc noted, taking the pan back to the hot plate.
Steven had taken hold of the book and was going through it from where Marc had left off. Efren knew neither of them would recognize what they were searching for. It wasn’t hidden. In fact, it was written out in large letters SOUL TRAVEL. It was surrounded child-like color pen drawings of butterflies and birds.
Efren sat down and started to eat. He kept eye on the turning pages, watching them slip by as he filled his mouth with cucumber and tomatoes, salad and spinach. He hated spinach, did they have it in the house? Marc’s food was too healthy, he decided and pushed the spinach aside. A fork appeared over the table and pushed the leaf back towards his pile. He looked up to the hand and then to Marc’s determined grin.
“Eat it or I feed it to you.” He warned.
They glanced at Steven at the same time, but he gallantly ignored them. He ate it, feeling his face warm with embarrassments. He was using same tricks as he did on Pearl. But it was completely different to be the target of his attention instead of the blushing teenager. She allowed her dad feed her when she was younger, but since she went to school, all such games had turned into threats no self respecting young lady could allow to be fulfilled.
Five minutes later he had finished his plate and Marc cleared the table.
“Now,” Steven began, turning the book and pushing it in front of him, “it would go much faster if you show us that ritual.”
He slid it closer, marveling it for the first time over weeks. It never failed to impress him, although there was nothing left from the original aside the covers. And few pages that had gathered all the extra information over the years.