I had preconceived notions about what would take place between Nala and Simeon. Ideas that seemed simple enough. But as I’m finding out, nothing is ever as simple as I desire it to be…
“I’m not surprised,” he murmured from just over her shoulder.
Nala turned slightly, her eyes questioning. “About…?”
Simeon motioned to the painting with a nod of his head and padded closer, his bare feet making a barely perceptible sound on the cool, glossy hardwood of his studio’s floors. “That you were drawn to this. That you followed the breadcrumbs.”
She watched him for a moment. “Why?”
“Because of its perfection,” he answered, his gaze slitting. “It’s the human inclination to focus on aesthetics. Symmetry. We move to music with perfect melodies. Hang photos that please us. Buy pretty, shiny things in lieu of those that lack luster.” Circling her, he stopped, facing her head on. His head cocked at an angle and he whispered as he stared, “The beautiful ones.”
Nala’s throat worked. “You’ve said that before, but I haven’t quite figured out what it means.”
He caught the bottom rim of his mouth between his teeth and bit down, drawing her attention to his lips momentarily before he released it. “We’re so confused about the beautiful ones.”
Rubbing her palms against her arms, she tried and failed to wiggle out of his glare. “You talk in riddles.”
Simeon tapped his temple with a forefinger and winked at her. “Sorry, cher. It’s the mind of an artist. Our drum makes no sense…so when we play, the beat can be obscure.” He moved that finger down the bridge of her nose and uttered, “Do you know the irony of Lucifer’s tale?”
She blinked owlishly. “There’s irony?”
His laugh was low and rough. “The bible is rife with irony, sweetness. But his fall from glory is a paradox that I’ve contemplated on more occasions than healthy.” He withdrew his hand. “Do you know why he fell?”
Nala spoke without considering the words. “Because we were unworthy.”
Simeon paused a moment, regarding her. “Were we? Or did he simply believe so?”
Snared. He’d pried the first hinge off her door and she’d handed him the tools.
“Does it matter?”
His nod was slow. “Very much so.” He gave her reprieve by casting his eyes to the ceiling. “Lucifer made his descent because he didn’t consider us deserving of his servitude. We were ugly, twisted things in the dirt to him. No better than the animals we cage. We were pets that his master had formed in what he essentially perceived to be a bout of boredom. Our existence offended his ideals of what superiority and privilege were. How could he serve such things? Such cruel, imperfect, wallowing, easily tempted creatures with foul mouths and little to no respect for his god? How could he bow to these beings that were beneath his feet? Feet that walked streets of gold? He couldn’t. He wouldn’t dare. We were not pretty enough. We would never be pretty enough. So in the throes of an only child syndrome, he asked his master why angels weren’t enough. Why these winged beings with voices like sunlight and smiles like that could heal, weren’t enough? Because they should have been. They should have been all that his god needed. And yet, they weren’t.” She watched, enraptured as he talked, his voice a low calming bass that made her sway towards him as though she were a cobra that had been charmed.
Simeon hunted her with his stare again. “The creator desired these ugly, twisted, foul mouthed things that writhed in the dirt. These animalistic creatures with no more to offer than praise or curses. Fleshy. Broken. Marred. Striped. Decrepit. He wanted it all. He wanted to watch us dance. To watch us laugh. To watch us cry. To stare on as we hurt, shouted, murdered and committed unspeakable acts.” His perusal of her face was thoughtful. “That is the irony of his story, cher. Even the most perfect thing, formed by a perfect god, still wasn’t perfect enough. It still lacked. He still failed. His absence of compassion and obedience saw him cast away. His inability to accept that we would all fall short made him unclean. Even in the midst of how sullied we were, our sin made us the beautiful ones.”
Backing away, he held out a palm and beckoned her. “But still, we gravitate towards what looks splendid, what sounds whole. We still dance only when it makes sense. Love only when it seems to be absolute. We shun that which makes us feel impure and run from those decayed secretes beneath the bed.” His eyes took on a glow that made her shudder. “Don’t be afraid of your sin, Nala. Don’t hide from it. Don’t cast it away.” His voice dropped an octave. “Show it to me.”
“The Beautiful Ones” coming this fall…