Cardinal Points

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To say that the pancakes available from Denny’s at 00:godawfulearly in the morning weren’t terribly appetizing would be an understatement. Nate sawed through them, slathered them in maple syrup and swallowed the thick concoction down, feeling it hit his gut like a freight train. And yet across from him Ophelia ate her pancakes with a poise and dignity that belied her severely ill state, and the disgusting state of the food they were ingesting.  The other patron’s of Denny’s at this time were the kind you would expect to see out of a cheap Hollywood movie. A ‘just one step above homeless’ man, sitting in a booth and nursing his coffee to have an excuse to stay inside, a table of mostly drunk students who weren’t quite done cavorting about for the night, and what looked like a frazzled young woman who had pulled too many hours working this week, and it was only half of what she needed to work to feel accomplished. No one looked happy though that might have been Nathaniel’s own state of mind painting the room with an aura of gloom.

Nate knew that anyone else would be trying to pull him into a conversation to try and pinpoint just why exactly he was still up short hours before sunrise, especially as he had to work the next day, but Ophelia just provided him with silent, comforting company. And he returned the favor by not being one of the umpteenth masses to bother her about her health. She probably should be sleeping right now, she definitely should be trying to eat more than the few measly mouthfuls she’d already swallowed and he probably shouldn’t have dragged her out of the house in the Autumn without making sure she was wrapped up in suffocating layers. But Nathaniel had spent his entire life with Ophelia being independent and strong willed and he wasn’t going to try and take that from her now just because she was sick. Besides, Nate had long ago learned that pretty much any female will eventually start to talk if he just stayed silent long enough; it seemed to be hard wired into the X chromosome to fill in the silence.

“So what crazy costume have you and Grace decided on this year?” Ophelia asked, her interest seeming to be bland but Nate knew that she was always amused by the strange attire they pulled out of nowhere for the event.

Nate hated to disappoint but he just wasn’t into the idea for a change and was plainly honest. “Actually I’m not going this year. Grace has a date and I’m just… I think I’m going to use the night to catch up on my ever fleeing sleeping habits.” He replied.

“Oh.” Ophelia replied and if Nate hadn’t known her so well, he would have missed the surprise in her tone. There were days that it seemed the Sphinx had more emotional content than the woman sitting across from him, but Nathaniel was always used to looking past the surface and seeing more, it’s what made his photography so amazing. “I’ve seen your two closest male role models so I must applaud you on your ability to be mature without the need for excessive violence.”

Nathaniel nearly choked on his pop as she said that, knowing that it was a reference to his father and her own half brother. The tired waiter and the few other patrons all stared at Nate as he coughed and sputtered, nearly coming to an early demise on his drink before he managed a painful swallow and got the choking under control. If Ophelia honestly thought he was above excessive violence, then she certainly had never heard about Grace’s eighteenth birthday or the fact that he had nearly killed a man with his bare hands that night. That or his father and adoptive uncle were a lot more violent than he had ever heard about and Nate had been willing to bet money on the fact that he had heard all the stories his strange family had to tell.

He knew about his mother’s history, the abuse and rape she endured. Nate knew that he was a happy accident that had helped keep his father from hating himself in a way that Nathaniel only knew all too well. It seemed that the Vega men had something dark inside that took over and it haunted them always. His Bisabuelo had died with his secrets, but his Abuelo and father both carried a violent temper that Nate hadn’t escaped even with his mother’s more laid back personality to balance him out. Ruefully Nate had to admit; that after seeing his little sister lay into an ex-boyfriend who tried to push intimacy too far, that maybe it wasn’t just the men who were prone to volatile passions.

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