There is a sense in which we are all each other's consequences.
The spring weather was tumultuous these days, constantly teasing warmth before fading back into the blistery winds and chilling cold of winter. Despite the edge to the present forecast, Rhiannon McKay found herself prowling the streets, cautiously optimistic in regards to the temperature. Despite the evident need for a scarf and gloves, the angel’s only true defense was the thick, corded sweater she had pulled around her.
It was after dark, and the city was quiet, the natives not finding anything worthy to draw them from their homes in this weekday evening. At the still point of all the communist-era architecture is Rhiannon, soaking in the natural music of life as it progressed in its relentless machinations.
She wears a faint, earnest grin, even as unruly wind swipes and cuts as her minimal defenses, the melody of rattling trees, leaves scraping the concrete, the distant sound of cars and highways, the din of families in their homes, it all drew the angel near to the wild beating heart of life. Her mind is blank, consumed only by this present experience.
The angel is quite good at this. Blocking out everything but the moment she currently exists in is something she has taken lifetimes to hone, but the success is now evident. That is until thoughts of nature’s symphony draw her to music, and then, to a friend.
It surprised her just how easy it had been to talk to this woman, enough so that even in these idle, carefree moments, her thoughts drifted in many ways back to their initial day together. Discussions of music, phones, Wendy’s. The younger woman is a reminder of the complexity of human existence, but also of the joy that true connections bring. And it is the angel’s firm belief a connection exists between she and Soleil.
As she had promised, Rhiannon is in the process of preparing a mixtape. While every other facet of her life is easy to discern, to decide, to dictate, music is not. Music is such a complex, holy ritual for the angel that she has subsequently spent hours sitting at her also new laptop, searching and planning, and then erasing completely all progress she had made. For whatever reason, she needed this selection to be perfectly representative of her taste, and of what she wanted to present herself as to Soleil.
Pulling up the notes on her phone, Rhiannon scans over the most recent attempt at a master list.
1. Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon
2. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) – Michael Jackson
3. Easy Lover – Phil Collins
4. Red Red Wine – UB40
5. Waiting For a Girl Like You – Foreigner
6. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
In one way or another, she hoped the songs, their titles, the content, everything be amusing and hopefully, ironic. She begins to wonder if it correct to present this woman with a mixtape. After all, they are most certainly given to one’s intended. She blinks, closing out the application. She definitely needs to brush up on modern ‘lingo’.
The battle with her conscious is two-fold. Legally, technically, Rhiannon McKay is married to Callum. She is not certain how long her existence in this body will last, and therefore, what the angel desires and what is best for Rhiannon are two entirely different things. However, it is not as if Callum could not seek her out. If he wanted her back, he would be able to find her. But he does not, and so Rhiannon has continued to execute her own will.
Placing the wireless earbuds into her ears, Rhiannon is only a few taps away from pressing play on where she had left off. The Decemberists. She is beginning her musical education, making the attempt the folksy, indie rock style that Soleil extols. While there was no promise this band was something she was interested in, Rhiannon found the sound appealing.
She is still standing still, the melody of ‘Make You Better’ breaching the aforementioned silence.
But we're not so starry-eyed anymore
Like the perfect paramour you were in your letters
And won't it all just come around to make you
Let it all unbreak you to the day you met her
But it'd make you better
She stands almost perfectly still, weighing on the words. As silence replaces sound at the end of the song, a decision is made.
Initially, it takes several failed attempts at proper grammar and spelling before her chilled fingers manage to type a proper message out.
I am broadening my musical horizons.
I know it is late, but would you like to meet for a drink?
I will use ‘Google’ to find a bar with a jukebox.
It's beautiful in the way we move
But what's a girl to do when you can't seem to choose?
You're beautiful but we must restrain
When your mind is split two ways
That's when the comedown plays.
Honne was making anthems, churning out songs for the heartbroken and for lovers, alike, for the confused and disheartened, for those who couldn’t find the right words to use. Their music was difficult not to identify with - Soleil was convinced of that. The way they made synth and soul work together was surprising, but the emotion and intimacy it exuded was captivating. That was why they were presently Soleil’s favorite band. The lyrics of 'Someone That Loves You' floated around in her head.
She deemed Honne’s album 'Warm on a Cold Night' an appropriate soundtrack for the day. She was home from work, and was glad, seeing as the tumultuous wind rattled through the almost bare trees on the pavement below her window. Without a car, she found it tortuous to walk in any kind of harsh weather. Instead, she’d spent the first hour or so wrapped up in her sheets, alternating her gaze between the ceiling and the LED numbers of her digital clock.
It was only when her needy, three-legged pitbull Fish became restless that she got up. She often felt bad for the poor b*stard - being cooped up in the shoebox she called an apartment must be frustrating. At least when he was at the Compound with Elouise Orlav, his other ‘mother’, he had space to dispense all his energy. Once Fish had been taken out and fed, Soleil plopped onto her dilapidated couch, dressed in nothing but an oversized Boston College t-shirt. She considered watching TV, considered reading one of the many books that had begun to accumulate on her coffee table. But, she didn’t quite have the attention span for either.
She got up and stood at the window for a while, watching as cars rolled by on the street. People battled the frigid wind by pulling their coats tighter around their bodies, and Soleil laughed – perhaps irreverently – when small dogs and children struggled to stay upright. As the day passed before her, she became increasingly more grateful that she was inside. Eventually, she returned to the couch, remembering that she’d been given the task of creating a playlist for her new friend, Rhiannon.
Soleil didn't even know the woman's last name. But, she was the very first person she'd felt a connection to since leaving Boston. This connection, this bond, whatever it was she felt for or shared with this woman, was like nothing else. Initially drawn in by Rhiannon’s striking caramel-colored eyes, Soleil approached the woman with no expectations – had in mind only a simple hello, and a ‘welcome to the neighborhood.’ But as time passed, she found herself staying in touch for the simple fact that Rhiannon was intriguing. Her mannerisms, her enthusiasm, her easily discernible fervor for life and the world was intoxicating. Her heart and eyes were opened to new emotions and possibilities. And Rhiannon had quickly proven herself as the kind of company Soleil wanted to keep.
She knew it was going to be a project. An ordeal, even. Soleil needed this playlist to be perfect. She had so much music to pick from, so much music she wanted to share. The more she scrolled through her music library, the harder it became to choose. Ten or so songs, a reasonable number, to exemplify her taste? That was some kind of bullsh*t limitation.
Soleil almost regretted agreeing to it; it’d been years since the last time she made a playlist, and the act wasn’t just about throwing random songs together. There was an art to creating playlists. A good playlist needed an overarching theme or message, the progression of songs required flow and continuity. Soleil wasn’t sure she possessed enough skill and finesse to compile the right songs, much less create a playlist good enough to share.
1. White Lies – Max Frost
2. Tighten Up – The Black Keys
3. R U Mine? – Arctic Monkeys
4. Dancing on Quicksand – Bad Suns
5. Breakin’ Up – Rilo Kiley
6. Smile Like You Mean It – the Killers
7. Somebody Else – the 1975
8. If I Could Change Your Mind – HAIM
9. Drinkee – Sofi Tukker
10. Fais Rien – Moi Je
Her phone gave out a startling ring. Other than Fish’s sporadic snorts, it was the first new sound in an embarrassingly long stretch of time. She hadn't realized how long she'd been sedentary until her muscles let out a silent whine as she reached for her phone. She smiled, though, realizing it was a text from Rhiannon. She replied quickly and eagerly after giving the playlist one last glance. A semi-satisfactory list of songs to share with, it was a start, at least. She had a lot more music she wanted to expose Rhiannon to, afterall.
Absolutely. Just let me know where, I’ll be there asap.
Rhiannon’s mind continues to wander long after she receives Soleil’s response. She is a hopeless wanderer, every thought leading down a winding path that only ends in a question. Her feet carry her without conscious effort, continuing on down the quiet streets without a care. The angel removes her earbuds, stuffing them haphazardly back into one of her pockets. Best not to lose those, right?
No matter the starting point – her thoughts navigate her to the same end point: Callum.
Sharing a life with Callum McKay has crossed her mind on several occasions. They are married. He loves her. Technically. He loves a Rhiannon that no longer exists. But the body is still here, and should Rhiannon leave these mortal bonds, will her conscience return? Is it not within her duties to ensure that her stay in this vessel is as true to the life its owner lived?
Yet, the angel is feeling selfish. She is drawn not to the man she should learn to love, but to the possibility of a new life, with a woman who intrigues her. She is rarely left guessing with any human, but her fascination with her new friend has left the angel second-guessing every rule she had ever established for herself. How is she to know, after all, what her purpose is?
Was this placement, in this scenario, all a part of ‘His’ plan?
Rhiannon isn’t sure. She and the Big Guy don’t share a very verbal relationship.
And the many times she laid unconscious in her hospital bed, listening to Callum weep against her, his calloused hands holding hers – they never once felt the way Soleil’s had.
So the angel steps into the bar, finally cognizant of her surroundings as she takes in all of the lifted stares of patrons that are focused directly on her. She is not used to being the spectacle of attention. When she walks down the street, enters a building, by simply living and breathing, the angel attracts others too her. She has looked in a mirror, she has seen pictures. The angel understands Rhiannon is a good-looking woman. The sort of human that others stop on the pavement to stare at. And, in this instance, the kind of good-looking that cuts off conversation mid-sentence.
It makes flying under the radar increasingly more difficult.
With an awkward smile, Rhiannon shuffles around tables and stools, making her way to a rugged, torn booth far from curious eyes. And then, she pulls out her phone, analyzing her text before responding.
There does not appear to be a jukebox here.
Nevertheless, I am here. Waiting for you.
The bar Rhiannon had picked was one Soleil frequented. It was quaint; she’d grown fond of the long, mahogany bar, and how faint the patterns of the booth upholstery had become over the years. The oil painting that hung crookedly above the back bar was her favorite thing in the entire establishment. By traditional standards, it was poorly done – sloppy brushstrokes of strange, incompatible colors formed the disproportionate figure of a naked woman in slumber. And yet, it was somehow a glorious combination of grace, promiscuity, boldness and strength. Soleil had always thought of it as a metaphor. For what? She wasn’t sure, but she had a feeling she’d find out soon enough.
Good choice. Give me 15, I'm within walking distance.
Giddy excitement bubbled up in her chest as she slipped into a pair of jeans and a sweater. She’d spent some time reflecting on Rhiannon’s enigmatic allure. There was something natural, something familiar in the way their fingers had laced together on the day they’d gone to Wendy’s, and from then, Soleil knew that the woman with caramel colored eyes would be some kind of presence in her life.
Soleil worried, though; what of her social skills? She supposed that working as a waitress provided a constant outlet for human interaction, but she wasn’t sure if that’d hold true for actually getting to know someone. It’d been a long time since she’d put in a concerted effort to establish a relationship. In the years following the accident, Soleil had, for the most part, withdrawn into herself; she only interacted with others when she needed something, namely a place to crash or some dough to support her destructive habits.
The thought of her last meaningful relationship floated into her consciousness. Jacy. Her brother was the last person she’d truly known, the last she’d ever loved. Granted, they were siblings, so they were obligated. But, Jacy had a twin, and he very well could’ve chosen Jacob.
She couldn’t let herself get too lost in thought, however. She had somewhere to be.
Popping in earbuds, she snatched up a coat and headed off toward the bar. Nick’s was only 2 blocks away, and Soleil knew that her naturally hastened gait would get her to her destination in no time.
Well, you see these angels?
These angels see the light.
Yeah, I had my troubles,
Troubles, all right.
I’ve been seeing angels.
The first verse of Khalid’s 'Angels' came to an end as she pushed through the bar’s front door. Her eyes sought out one familiar face, in particular. Over the din of the bar, Soleil greeted the woman before her with a simple 'hello' and a warm smile.
"Something to drink?"
A lurid, enigmatic happiness is plastered to Rhiannon’s expression as she read Soleil’s response. An acceptance to her invitation, and an estimated time of arrival she could handle. She had truly meant ‘ASAP’. While the angel had no fantastic sense of direction, she banked on the fact that Soleil was far more competent than she.
In the wait between the text and her arrival, the angel sticks her earbuds back into place, tapping away on her phone until a new song has the opportunity to fill the void. ‘Night Like This’ by LP.
‘You are the one, you are the only one I was born to know.
Beyond the crush of any summer lust and we dared to go,
To chain our hearts and tear apart and come together again,
A lover’s bane forever will remain’
She finds herself caught by the lyrics, and even as the song transitions ‘One Last Mistake’ to ‘Tokyo Sunrise’, she cannot help but trace parallels she hopes can exist between she and Soleil. But, the angel is the most intense of realists, most often to her detriment. Yet, the prospect of seeing Soleil Whitaker again fills the woman with so much hope she can hear it with each thundering thrum of her heart. It is not difficult for her to form bonds, especially with the souls she feels drawn towards. In all possibilities, in one of Soleil’s past lifetimes, they had communed. It was as if a trace of the angel was marked upon the other woman, leaving her unique from all others she had encountered.
Soleil is special in a sacred manner in which Rhiannon had yet to discover. But, she sorely intended to.
Just as ‘Tokyo Sunrise’ transitions into ‘Salvation’, someone is speaking to her.
No, not just someone.
It is laughable the excitement that teemed within the angel the minute expectations transitioned into reality. “Whatever you are having!” She blurts, standing with such haste her knee slams against the table’s edge. She ignored the pain, her expression consumed by an unadulterated smile. She is unsure whether to offer a hug or a handshake, so in her whirlwind of action she… Does both? The hold is tragic for Rhiannon, who had hoped that she could be more smooth after their initial encounter and Wendy’s, where she had quite possibly run into every single object within the fine dining establishment.
She wants to be quantifiably more impressing in this encounter, but she is already off to a miserable start. “I am so glad you came. Was this difficult for you to find?” She inquires with genuine interest. There is no such thing as ‘small talk’ to the angel. Interaction of any kind with mortals intrigues her.
This mortal, more than anyone else.
“I was just listening to… ‘LP’. Are you familiar with her work?” Eagerness drips from every pore of Rhiannon McKay, enthusiastic at the prospect of engaging with the other woman in any scenario. “She has a beautiful voice. Here,” She beckons, before sliding right back into booth, offering a spare earbud to Soleil, leaving the seat beside her empty to accommodate the length of the cord.
Rhiannon’s excitement was palpable, and Soleil took pleasure in the way the woman smiled at her. She countered her enthusiasm with a wide, genuine smile of her own. It’d only been a short period of time since their first encounter, and she was beyond thrilled to know that Rhiannon had been listening to the music she’d suggested. Soleil had spent the last few days awaiting, perhaps overzealously, word from her new friend.
“I live 2 blocks away,” she said in response to the woman’s initial question, her hands now stuffed into her jacket pockets, “I come here often, actually. I’m sorry about the jukebox.”
She offered a small grin before tilting her head in the direction of the bar, indicating that she was off to order the drinks. She promised to be quick – the bartender knew her usual, and had two pints of Blue Moon topped with orange slices ready even before Soleil was halfway to the mahogany bar. Gratefully, she bobbed her head before shuffling back to the booth in which Rhiannon sat.
As if to fill the space between them, Soleil began to ramble, forgetting entirely about Rhiannon’s inquiry about LP. Seemingly random words and thoughts regarding the newly acquired beverages spilled out from between her lips. “I hope you don’t mind citrus,” she began, “This is one of my favorites. Some people like to say that it’s a summer beer because of the orange, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with a Belgian white, regardless of the weather.”
Her mouth snapped shut upon realizing that Rhiannon was, more than likely, not concerned about whether or not Blue Moon was seasonal. She smiled sheepishly as she slid the tall glass across the table.
Nerves. That’s what it must’ve been since Soleil was not known to be talkative, at least not so much in the last few years. She’d been social once. But, social interaction that spanned beyond small talk and trivial conversation had been cut to the minimum after she moved from one large city to another, even larger, even more intimidating place. She was just another face in the urban abyss, so meaningful connections were a rarity.
“I’ll get you something else if you’re not a fan. I swear I won’t be offended.”
Rhiannon was still patiently holding out an earbud when Soleil found the decency to stop talking. Realization dawned over her oblivious skull, and she blushed before moving from her own seat. Her fingertips brushed lightly against Rhiannon’s as she gladly took the offered earbud. She’d only heard a few of LP’s songs – ‘Lost on You’, ‘Wasted’, ‘All I Have’ – but, was very much intrigued by the rhythm and musicality of the singer/songwriter. There was something pure and raw about the woman’s voice; the honesty and emotion in the lyrics often left Soleil rattled. Shoulder to shoulder, they listened to ‘Salvation.’
When you arrived at my door, I didn’t recognize
And the light on the shore, it was in your eyes.
Soleil was struck by how intensely the lyrics resonated in her chest. As she handed back the earbud, she became fully aware of the significance of the song's third line:
‘And the light on the shore, it was in your eyes.’
She'd spent some time fixated on the color of Rhiannon’s eyes, and up until this moment, she'd been unable to peg exactly what it was she found so intriguing. Eyes were windows into the soul, that she was convinced of. So, in hearing ‘Salvation,’ Soleil realized that the light in Rhiannon’s eyes was nothing she’d ever seen before. It was one that seemed to have lasted, without dimming, through centuries, through many, many lifetimes. That was what had drawn Soleil in - the gripping possibility that Rhiannon had a secret to tell. Afterall, she, too, had some of her own.
“My turn,” Soleil stated abruptly, reaching into her back pocket for her own phone. She scrolled through her music library for a few moments before letting out a triumphant ‘ah!’ She'd had grown very fond of downtempo music in the last few days, so, in that moment, she deemed Majid Jordan – with his sultry R&B voice, and clever, emotional lyrics – as an artist she had to share.
Her Dr. Dre Bluetooth earbuds, however, would force the two women to sit in closer proximity to one another. And it shouldn’t have been a big deal. There was an exceedingly simple solution, afterall. But, Soleil’s common sense and logic had both been scrambled upon the realization that ‘Salvation’ bore a significant relevance to her current situation.
“We can always just plug yours in,” she offered with a shrug, not knowing if her seemingly out-of-context statement would make sense to the woman beside her.