Ch. 1 – Target Practice
She had always admired lovers, they were one of the most beautiful things about the world. Love was the one concept all belief systems could agree on. Love was what made artists and poets and writers; singers, musicians, and dancers. Love kept the world alive, if only it unearthed itself.
That night, her feet dangling stories above them, she watched her favorite kind of lovers exit a cab: the kind where they both loved each other, but were just friends. And even though the window sill she sat on wasn’t the comfiest, that didn’t stop her from giving herself a few moments to gaze at them adoringly. The girl grabbing the hands of the boy and separating their fingers. The boy squeezing her hands and laughing at whatever had just come out of the girl’s mouth. But she could tell he didn’t mind; even if the girl were insane he would still listen, his affection for her growing at every dropped syllable.
They were fools and they were friends; that was the only reason she could figure that they hadn’t kissed already. Sure, they were outside the girl’s building and sure, she had a curfew, but now the girl was twirling on the sidewalk, hands raised above her head as the boy gazed on longingly.
It was then Q realized what she had been doing and snapped out of her trance. Sighing to herself, she reached behind her and pulled out one slim arrow from her quiver, the end feathers soft, white, and fluffy. As she pulled it back against her mouth, she had to suppress a giggle, focusing on her prey below instead. They wouldn’t see it coming, but someone had to initiate the first blow.
And with a click of her heels, she let go and let the arrow soar straight into the boy’s heart, causing his knees to buckle. His eyes rolled up above him for just a split second, as a pair of black tights retreated back into a window. And then he fell, his head hitting the hard concrete and the taste of blood on his tongue as the world tilted.
“Henry, wouldn’t you just love to be like them? Those dancers at the ballet?” Gloria mused, pulling away and twirling in the middle of the sidewalk. Bodies brushed by, but Henry couldn’t help but smile as she danced to a rhythm all her own.
“Wouldn’t it be lovely?”
And then, just like that, something hard and thin struck his back, piercing him almost as if he had been stabbed. He stumbled for a moment, his hands reaching up and behind him, just below his shoulder blade. He looked up above him, two wiry legs, a mop of blonde hair, glowing green eyes, but now the pain had subsided and he was back to staring at Gloria. Except, she was no longer his crazy friend that danced in the middle of city sidewalks. She was no longer his “plus 1” to the opera, or prestigious dinners, or the ballet for that matter.
She was his date to the movies. She was the girl he kissed on a row boat in the middle of Central Park. She was the first girl he ever introduced to his parents. She was beautiful, she was lively, she was his or would be, because as all these thoughts and more rushed through his mind he was taking steps toward her and gathering her in his arms.
“Glo.” There, in the middle of the sidewalks, as bodies jostled to and fro, in front, in back, and alongside them, Henry kissed Gloria for the first time. Her knees buckled and soon his arms became the only thing supporting her. One of them saw stars and the other saw fireworks. It was corny and cliche and completely unexpected or preemptive. It was perfect.
Pulling away, Henry just smiled as Gloria raised a hand to her mouth. As her fingertips brushed her bottom lip, her eyes met his and she said the only thing she could manage: “I love you, too.”
Q didn’t need to look to know the arrow had worked its magic. She let the quiver fall from her back as she threw herself upon her musty bed. She had been caved up in this complex for weeks now, as soon as she was assigned to Henry, as soon as she discovered who this Gloria girl was.
But she had completed her task like always and there was a blissful oblivious couple on the loose, thanks to her. Using one foot to slide the boot off the other, Q fingered the tips of her bleached blonde waves, scowling as she noticed more scraggly split ends. She was blonde for now, grunge for now, but boy, the energy it took to look unkempt!
It wouldn’t be long now, she figured as she lay in the silence. No lights needed to be turned on, no reason for slipping under the covers. Soon the bells would jingle and the whiteness would consume her. She had done what those before her had done, she had done what she had been born to do. She had made two humans fall in love with the help of her bow. It was what all Cupids were meant for.
As Q heard the first bell she slowly lifted herself on the mattress, the room suddenly becoming lighter and lighter until all she could see was white.
Another happy set of lovers. Woo. Hoo. One more in 7 billion.
Another “job well done”, but it was bittersweet as always.
Another harsh reminder, but Q wouldn’t dwell on the awful truth yet again. Her own gaze had lingered too long and that had already left her feeling more hollow than usual. She heard voices on the other side of the whiteness and pushed down her feelings. No pity-party here and for what?
She had been taught all her life that what she would do for a living was a gift, a piece of heaven to those who needed someone to bring meaning in their lives. But Q had never let them know how she felt because to her this so-called “gift”, was a curse; it meant one thing and one thing only. And even though she saw many romances unfold overtime, none would ever compare to what she had once envisioned for herself. No way what she had was a gift. How could it be?
Because once you’re a Cupid, you can’t fall in love.