Broken Locks:  A Tale of Orpheus
-THREE-

    Three musketeers…divided by avarice…watching each other with hawk’s gazes…staring…waiting…wondering.

    “Who goes next?” 

Thoughts finally laid claim to words, which hung in air like tendrils of smoke.

The eldest man stood and with a disparaging gaze, dropped a fifty on the table.  “It’s on you now.”

  Collecting his key, he departed slowly, shoulders rolling forward as though trying meet the ground, head downcast and forlorn.  Gone was the spirited laugh and playful flicker of mischief in his chocolate dancing eyes.  Hermes had been shackled.

    He climbed the wooden staircase to the balcony, allowing the stars to rain down their sympathy.  What had happened to his Olympus?  Had it not been two months ago that he stood at the crossroads of the four winds, hair whipping madly, soul tattered from pressures even he didn’t understand?  Had he not faced her, with somber gaze and hunched stance, and said it would be for the best if they both moved on?

    Chris Kirkpatrick had always been the oldest of the five curious souls the world knew as *NSYNC.  For the first time in his life, he felt the suffocating difference of a few short years.

    It had been he who had first learned of, and suggested a visit to, this fabled hotel deep in the heart of the city.  He had been first to earn a name, to be called Hermes, after the messenger God so precocious as to thwart even the great Zeus.  Hermes, courier to the dead, master of the four winds, patron of gamblers and card sharks and thieves.  Luck, though fickle and easily displeased, had always smiled down on the eager young man, through trial after trial and blows that would have devastated those of weaker resolve.  He had come through it, throwing the dice and laughing with glee as the chips fell where they may.

    Until now.

    It was a Thursday, he remembered, with the apple-tart winds of January swirling their last goodbyes, waiting for the sweet heaviness of snow to overtake the fields.  They were days of mixed emotions, of toasting the New Year while mourning the perfection of the past, and sensing the foreboding of the future.  They were days of nervousness, of plotting against archrivals while denying said rivalry, of praying for rewards while denying their importance…of perfectly crafted lies and strategically planned attacks.

    An abyss, she had said.  A chasm so great their so-called love could not ford it, nor would their hearts be strong enough to float them across the endless gulf.  They both knew it, she said.  They would remain colleagues, allies, trapped in the cool congeniality of business associates for an eternity of purgatory.  But love, the fabled poison of giddy men, was gone.  The arrow of Eros had snapped.

    He had gone along with it, a certain breed of cockiness mixing with his outwardly cavalier nature.  He would not let her see what her words had done.  He was Hermes, easily taken with new pursuits and content with watching time fly by around him.  The secret walls of Orpheus had been a powerful elixir; so much that a weakening man named Christopher had fooled himself into believing he was a God.

    He would learn quickly that he was not invincible.  When the first pangs of loneliness attacked he was almost able to dismiss them.  They were nagging, he thought, a minor setback, nothing that he couldn’t fix…until one afternoon, when news of Justin’s lawsuit and Joey’s terrible secret had broken, he had been consumed with the overwhelming desire to call her.  It was an odd sensation.  For hours he stared at the phone, wracking his pain-riddled brain for some reason, ANY reason, to call.  There was none.  Business was great.  Life, he proclaimed to his public, was great.  Then why, for the love of everything holy, did he feel his empire crashing down?  And why did he, so taken with watching lives of others move, suddenly feel its shackling depression?  He was able to sense, for the first time, the utter terror of standing still while life danced merrily away.

    That was three months ago, and still he sat, wondering where it all went wrong, his Gucci-clad feet dangling precariously over the edge of the stone balcony.  It was though he, Hermes, courier of the dead, had been banished to Tartarus himself.

    He shook his head defiantly.  No.  Enough was enough.

    He sniffled once as an errant tear escaped, only to hear its echo not five feet behind him.  Alarmed, he whirled around, peering into the shadows to see an outline of a white dress slumped in the corner.  Looking more carefully, he could identify the shape of a woman’s body, supple and sleek, most obviously one of the hotel’s many “muses.”  Carefully standing, he approached the young woman whose head was in her hands, russet ringlets splayed haphazardly across her shoulders and arms.

    He should have moved.  He should have walked through the lobby and summoned his car and disappeared to a place where his heart didn’t ache quite so much…but an overwhelming sense of recognition, of a soul meeting his mate, kept his feet firmly anchored to the ground.

    “Excuse me?” He said quietly, leaning down towards the woman’s ear.  “Are you all right?”

    She gazed up at him with startled gray eyes, lips quivering and stained with red, cheeks wet and salty.

    “Fine,” She replied softly, and though she searched in her heart for a smile, there was none to be found.

    “Can I help you at all?”

    “You can sit for a drink.”

    Chris pondered her offer before resigning himself to fate and plopping down next to her, landing heavily on the sculpted marble floor.

    “Chris,” He said, offering his right hand.

    “Eurydice,” She spoke softly, accepting it.

    The pair exchanged wary glances, each wondering the other’s intentions, until at last Eurydice spoke.

    “I’m sorry for having you see me like this.  Mr. Ayuda likes to keep this place somewhat of a fairy tale.”

    “S’okay…Cinderella didn’t do half the things I’m sure have gone on behind these walls,” He cracked.

    She giggled then, the sound of champagne bubbles, and wiped her eyes carefully.  “I guess.”

    Eurydice, huh?  Damn, girl. You must be special.  Wasn’t she Orpheus’s mistress?”

    Eurydice smiled wanly before nodding.  “It’s just a title, really…Eurydice was just a girl, not a muse, not a goddess…but she seduced one of the most powerful, compelling men.”

    “How?”  Curious, precocious, like the God whose name he had earned.

    “Complete submission,” Quiet words followed by a bitter laugh, and then, once again, silence.

    She began to speak again some time later, weaving a tale of her arrival at Orpheus, of breaking a bond with a man she thought she adored who subsequently refused to allow her to escape.  He was obsessed, to the point of presenting a real danger, and so she had fled, pleading her case with the hotel’s proprietor.  To Mr. Ayuda, she had displayed the slavish qualities of the fabled Greek woman, and had been known as Eurydice ever since.

    “Orpheus had it easy.  Talent, star power, the choice of women…Eurydice was doomed always to be mediocre.”  She paused before saying, in the barest of whispers, “I want out of this hotel.”

    It was a running joke, really.  These women, the muses, the treasures of the hotel, doomed from the start to a life of servitude, shackled by chains of their own making.  The money, the recognition, the fringe benefits that the hotel offered were far too powerful an aphrodisiac to ever be overwhelmed by the desire to leave.  The desire, however, was there, and for Eurydice, it grew every day.  She wanted out…to return to that life mediocrity she had cursed so early on.  To return to a life of simple walls and doors and polite people who did not realize their true worth.  To escape the magnetic pull of the flame some of her so-called “clients” exuded, and to squelch the innate craving to bask in their reflected light.

    Chris stared back at the girl with the submissive eyes and elongated body, and felt a rush of pity.  Perhaps, then, she understood.  Perhaps, then…she knew.  With nary a split second devoted to thought he pressed his lips to hers in a heated rush.  It was a sweet kiss, slow and deep, filled with the longing of unfulfilled potential, and the realization that it would never happen again.

    The two stranded souls pulled apart, gazing intently into watering eyes, breathing heated by the flush of the kiss.

    Chris blinked once and dropped his key on the floor with a clatter.  He scampered to his feet and fled.  Not again.  He could not let it happen again.

    Eurydice stared at the scrap of metal flanked by garnets and gasped.  It was hers.  His key.  Her lock.  Eurydice bowed her head and cried.  Complete.  Submission.


PART IV

2001  ~A.

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