“With this kiss the promise is sealed.” Raiva’s lips curled into a mischievous grin as she raised her pinky to her lips.
I wanted to spit on my own but the ritual required a kiss. Had I known, had I any inclination that her kiss and my promise was sealing the fate of the one person who stood any chance of making the right choice, I would have elected to die, no…I was going to die no matter what. What is worse than dying? I couldn’t think of an answer at the moment.
“Ryder?” Raiva’s finger was extended and waiting for my own. “Do you choose me or not?” Her other hand was on her hip.
“I need a minute.” I looked across the room and though the wailing and pounding behind the mirror came with no sound, inside my head I could hear her voice and my heart swelled within my chest.
“He doesn’t want you Raiva.” Devlin laughed. “Come on Ryder. After all we’ve been through, make the right choice.” His greasy black bangs swayed over his left eye. He brushed it aside, looked towards the mirror. “Only you can save her.”
“Or save yourself.” Raiva sneered her lips towards the other spirit. “Devlin, don’t be so pompous. Ryder knows if he elects to go with you he will be giving her to me.” Raiva curled her fingers and gave a childish wave towards the mirror. “Would you rather she come with me or will you choose me?”
I clenched my teeth and closed my eyes. She is right. It’s either I go willingly or…
“It’s time. Make your choice.” Raiva growled. Her hand moved to her face and again she kissed her pinky finger. “Choose me or I will choose her.”
She snickered and winked at me. And in that instant I knew what was worse than dying. I knew then that there was no way in hell I could choose Raiva. But like hell would I ever let her make the choice that would take away the one person who was my equal. The one person who knew everything there was to know about me, who without her, I’d live eternally unwoven, unwhole, and that was worse than dying.
“Choose!” Devlin and Raiva’s voices, united with lust, anger, desire, and eagerness rolled all in one made me jump.
“Alright.” I didn’t have a watch but I knew my time was close to its demise. “I choose her.” I looked at the mirror. I met the eyes that were my own, who at that moment was shaking her head no. Her eyes saw right through me even though she couldn’t hear our words. “I’ll always choose her.”
“And I, Ryder, will choose her as well.” She spit on my face and turned towards the mirror.
Devlin folded his arms and leaned on his left leg. “Do you really want to stick around for this?”
His voice was soft, caring, and it surprised me. My feet wouldn’t move and I couldn’t not look.
Devlin shook his head. “Masochist much?” He turned as Raiva raised her hand to the mirror.
I watched the reflection ripple and I turned to Devlin who watched with a pained expression. I took a step towards Raiva then looked back at Devlin. I am the last thing he is interested in at the moment. That thought spawned a million cold hard truths and I froze. I looked from Raiva to Devlin and nearly cried. I’d finally figured it out. I understood Devlin in that moment. And all the while I felt myself sinking in hopelessness. “Wait! Stop. I choose you Raiva! Here.” I kissed my pinky finger and raised it up as I ran towards her.
“It’s too late.” Raiva giggled.
“No it’s not.” I screamed at her. “You want me to choose you. You want me to beg? Fine!” I fell to my knees at her feet. “Let me choose you. I was wrong. I choose you!”
“Ryder.” Devlin’s calm voice pained me and I couldn’t bear to look at him. “It is done.” He swallowed. “Come with me. Don’t make this any harder for you.” He looked at the mirror. “Or for her.”
Through gritted teeth I slowly looked up towards the mirror. My vision was impaired through all the tears and sweat. It’s already getting hotter. “I’m so sorry.” Our eyes met but I couldn’t look for longer than a couple seconds for the heat blurred everything. “I’ve failed you, sister.”
Riava kicked me away. “Go away dog. I’ve got a new pet to play with.” She raised her foot and began stepping through the mirror. She stopped midway and looked at Devlin. “He’ll spend forever knowing the truth. But so will you.” She licked her lips. “I’m certain Inka knows the truth now, however if she doesn’t, I’ll be ever so kind to inform her.”
Devlin didn’t respond and I couldn’t clear my eyes enough to see how he reacted. I reached out for the remaining ankle. It was all that was left of Raiva. When I wrapped my hands around it my palms and fingers seared from the fire coming forth from the mirror. I let go, crying in pain, not from my hands. I couldn’t feel that pain. I cried because of the truth. I’d chosen wrong.
“Come on Ryder.” Devlin uncrossed his arms, helping me up.
“There has to be a way to get Inka back.” I argued against his assistance.
“No! Come on man!” I thrust my arm out of his and backed away. “If you love her so damn much, why are you giving up?”
Devlin didn’t answer.
“I’ll never stop trying because obviously I love her more than you.” I sat down on the ground and hung my head between my legs. “She can’t be gone.”
“The goddess of the dead never gives back what she chooses. Just as you, the new guardian of the undead, will forever protect those who live eternally, as you do.”
“I’m not accepting that role.” I laughed. “You can keep it for now. When I have gotten my sister back, then maybe…no. I won’t even want it then.”
“You are attempting to change the way things have always been?” Devlin’s brows creased.
“And how do you propose we do this?”
I was about to reply when his words caught up with me. I raised my head and looked at him. “What do you mean, we?”
“Well, you obviously can’t do this alone.” Devlin offered his hand.
This time I took it. I pulled myself off the ground and looked back towards the mirror which had now gone a dull silver. “Where do we begin?”
“I have absolutely no friggin’ clue.” Devlin frowned. “But, I’d suggest we get that mirror someplace safe. That’s the way Inka went in and it’s the only way she can get out. If that’s even possible.”
I shook my head in agreement.
“How did you figure it out?” Devlin asked. “I never showed my love for her.”
“You’ve never been fully interested in me. When I thought about all the conversations and times we spent together, I realized it was Inka you were always looking at when you were talking to me.” I lowered my head. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize it in time.” I looked at Devlin. “What would have happened if I had chosen Raiva?”
“Does it even matter now?”
I closed my fists, drawing blood from my already torn and burnt palms. “It matters to me.”
“You are the guardian of the undead but if she were to have come with me, she would have been elected Goddess of both the dead and the undead, ensuring peace between…”
“Raiva would never have allowed that.”
“Perhaps you are right.” Devlin said. “Inka would have been able to take her on.” He smiled.
I laughed. “Yeah, she’s probably giving her hell as we speak, making Raiva’s life miserable.”
Devlin chuckled. “Are you saying she’s hard to live with?”
“Aren’t all women?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t know, but I sure would love to find out.”