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Shelter Me

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"Take me in.

Take me.


- Anne Sexton, excerpt from Anna Who Was Mad



“Mary?” Lilith calls from outside the cottage door. “It… it’s me.”


The voice she uses is not her own. It is deeper and male. It is, in fact, Adam’s voice. Mary’s Adam. She hears Mary’s footsteps as she comes to the door and Lilith dons her glamour fully, ignoring the nausea that twists in her stomach as she sees her reflection in the window panes on the door.


Then the door is swinging open and the mortal is standing before her, all warmth and light after the coldness of the coven witches.


The mortal says nothing for a second, simply looking at Lilith. The confused shock on her face makes Lilith think, for a split-second, that her magical disguise is off somehow. 


“Adam?” Mary says and Lilith is reassured in more ways than one. She had forgotten how kind the schoolteacher’s voice was when Mary used it. Lilith had never mastered that aspect of her mortal disguise, even if their vocal cords had technically been the same. 


“Mary,” Lilith says. The mortal hesitates, but Lilith knows she can’t be outside in the darkness any longer than necessary. She bounds forward, pushing in towards the warmth of Mary’s cottage, her panic overcoming any thought or feeling. She shuts the door firmly behind her.


Mary reels back as Lilith bursts in. 


“I feared the worst, I... I- I thought you were dead,” Mary says, her voice trembling.


“No,” Lilith says, trying to come up with the right words, the right story to make Mary believe her. What would Adam say? Something sweet and reassuringly perfect, no doubt. He was always calling her “darling,” Lilith remembers with a pang. She starts again, “No, no, no. My darling, I am here. Uh,” Lilith falters in coming up with a lie. She finds herself spilling out the truth, instead: “but, Mary, someone’s after me. Someone bad, someone dangerous and I need you to hide me.” 


Mary still looks confused, maybe even a touch skeptical.


“But, w-where’ve you- where’ve you been? Who’s after you?”


“There’s no time to explain,” Lilith snaps, immediately regretting her tone when she sees Mary flinch. She tries to soften her voice. “You must, uh, hide me w-with your-” Lilith casts around in her brain for a word that fits the mortal. She lands on, “Your goodness! Only your goodness can protect me from what’s coming.”


Mary’s mouth opens slightly as if to speak, but nothing comes out. Her confusion is plain on her face. 


“Please,” Lilith begs, hating how pathetic she sounds in this man’s body, but unsure if she could say these words in her own voice. “Please, I- I am at your mercy. If you love me , help me.”


Mary nods and steps closer to place her hands gently on either side of Lilith’s false face. She looks into Adam’s eyes and says, 


“I love you. Of course… I’ll help you.” 


Lilith’s heart clenches oddly in her chest at Mary’s words and for one brief moment, she thinks the mortal means to kiss her. 


Then Mary pulls Lilith into a hug and Lilith can’t tell if she wishes they had kissed after all. 


She ushers Lilith through the living room and around the corner to the kitchen.


“Here,” Mary says, gesturing to one of the two wicker-seated chairs at her small kitchen table, “sit down, you look exhausted. I’ll put the kettle on.”


Lilith sits in silence. Her throat feels tight and she swallows once, feeling the unfamiliar sensation of her glamoured adam’s apple bob.


She watches Mary for a moment. The mortal fills the kettle at the sink and then moves the heavy cast iron skillet off of the largest burner. The stove clicks familiarly as Mary lights a match and brings it down to the gas. She doesn’t flinch as the fire catches with a whoosh . There is some strange comfort, being back in the quaint little cottage. Lilith hadn’t realized how much she had missed it.


“Mary,” Lilith says compulsively, not quite knowing what is about to come out of her mouth, “I…” Mary turns from the stove to face Lilith. “Thank you,” she finishes, meeting Mary’s eyes briefly before she has to turn her face away. The phrase leaves a strange taste in her mouth. She can’t quite identify it, but under Mary’s gaze, it makes her uncomfortable, leaves her feeling vulnerable and exposed.


“Adam,” Mary says, and Lilith looks back at the mortal, the false name giving her a sense of distance. Mary’s eyes are wide and earnest. “I still don’t understand… that is, I must confess… I thought you...” She trails off for a moment before shaking her head slightly and taking off her glasses to clean them with the hem of her sweater. She looks up, still polishing her glasses, and Lilith is frozen before her, struck still by the strange experience of suddenly looking into her own face.


Mary puts her glasses back on and bluntly asks, “What are you doing here?”


Lilith feels her stomach twist in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable way. She tries to think of a lie that would make sense, some explanation of where Mary’s Adam could have been this whole time. She swallows again, hating the glamour she is wearing.


“I have nowhere else to go,” she finally answers truthfully.


“But where have you been all this time?”


The kettle whistles, saving Lilith from answering right away. Mary busies herself with the cups and saucers, tea bags and sugar, bustling about the small kitchen in a way Lilith had never done.


Lilith watches Mary and sighs. She has no explanation. She is running from Satan, the Dark Lord himself, and there is no story or lie, nor even any half-truth that could possibly match the terror of reality. 


Mary sets Lilith’s tea in front of her and sits down, looking at Lilith expectantly. 


Lilith’s heart pounds in her chest, but a strange sense of calm washes over her. She realizes that she has only one choice if she is to make Mary understand.


She is, after all, trying to escape Lucifer, the great deceiver himself, and all of his trappings. She inhales deeply, hoping to breathe in the courage she has abandoned all these years, and exhales, trying to put her faith in this fidgety, slight, overwhelmingly good mortal.


“I’m afraid I’ve been... untruthful to you, Mary,” Lilith confesses in Adam’s voice.


“What do you mean, Adam?” 


Lilith steels herself.


“I am not who you think I am,” Lilith says, letting her true voice bleed into her false one. Mary’s eyes widen in confusion and fear and she stands abruptly, knocking her chair over behind her. 


“Adam?” She asks with a shaky voice.


Lilith stays seated and calmly raises one hand, passing it down over her face, letting the glamour fall away to reveal herself, a mirror image of the mortal before her, dressed in a trench coat and dark headscarf, sitting at Mary’s kitchen table.


Predictably, Mary screams.


Lilith winces at the noise, but quickly puts her hands up defensively when Mary reaches over to the countertop and picks up the cast iron pan. Her knuckles are white as she holds it up, ready to use it as a weapon.


“Please,” Lilith says quickly, “I mean you no harm!”


Mary’s eyes are wild and crazed, terrified, as she moves away from Lilith until the small of her back hits the kitchen counter.


“W-who are you?” Mary sputters. “What are you?”


Keeping her eyes on Mary, Lilith slowly and carefully removes the scarf covering her head to let her hair tumble down over her shoulders. She stays seated, watching Mary warily. They stare at each other for a moment, neither willing to look away. 


“Well?” Mary says, brandishing her makeshift weapon. “Answer me!” The pitch of her voice is nearing hysterical. 


Lilith tries to speak quietly and calmly, but the frightened beat of her heart seems to conduct her words into a frenzy as they spill from her lips.


“There’s no time to explain, Mary, but please, I need your help-- that much is true. I have deceived you tonight with magic, but I have not spoken a lie to you. You have no reason to trust me, but I beg of you: shelter me from Satan this night and I will tell you everything.” 


The words escape her mouth in a rush, relieved to finally be let out in her own true voice.


Mary’s white-knuckled grip on the heavy skillet has not loosened, and she looks at Lilith suspiciously, her eyes narrowing.


Lilith feels herself panicking. Has overestimated the mortal’s good heart?


“You must have questions,” Lilith blurts out. “I know you don’t understand the… the lapses in your mind. I can help you! I know what has happened to you and I,” Lilith falters, her tongue tripping on so much truth, “I want to help you now.


“Please believe me. The Dark Lord, Lucifer is after me-- he means to kill me, I think, or worse, I can’t...” Lilith’s voice cracks and she trails off, trying to take another breath, trying to calm herself. 


She looks at Mary, who has said nothing. But the mortal is no longer cowering against the counter. She has lowered the cast iron skillet slightly and is looking at Lilith with her brow furrowed. 


“I know you…” Mary says slowly.


Lilith’s heart leaps into her throat. What does Mary know? What exactly does she remember of her death and resurrection?


They are both startled by three loud knocks at the door that reverberate ominously. 


Mary looks towards the living room where the front door is, then back at Lilith, who is frozen in terror.


Whoever is outside knocks on the door again, pounding hard enough to rattle the glass panes.


“Please…” Lilith manages to whisper.


Mary says nothing, only turns away from Lilith and goes to answer the door, skillet still in hand.


Lilith stands, but remains in the kitchen. She has nowhere else to go, after all. She moves towards the doorway, but stays just out of sight, straining to listen and wondering if she’ll need to run again.


She hears Mary latch the thin chain on the door before the knob turns and the door is cracked open. 


“Oh,” Mary sounds surprised. “How can I help you, Father?”


Lilith hears the voice of Faustus Blackwood say, “Goodwoman Wardwell, my name is Father Brown. I’m visiting the homes of good Christian folks to warn them. Is yours a good Christian home?”


“I should hope it is, Father,” Mary answers before hesitantly asking, “How..? Warn them?”


“Evil is afoot. The Devil has come to Greendale.”


If Lilith didn’t feel sick to her stomach with fear, she would scoff at how obvious Lucifer was being.


“The Devil?” Mary asks.


Faustus’s voice hums a note of agreement.


“Let me in, Goody Wardwell, and I will protect you from him. Satan does not work alone. He has allies.”


“Allies?” There’s a pause before Mary goes on in a whisper: “Do you mean… witches?”


“Yes, witches. There are witches in Greendale. Some you may even know.”


“Who?” Mary’s voice cracks slightly, and she asks again, louder. “Who?”


“Grant me entrance to your home and I shall tell you. They seek to destroy you, to make you unholy. Tell me, Mary, are you weak? Will you let Satan take hold of you?”


“No!” Mary gasps.


“Do you not feel him, woman?” Mary makes a startled noise at his harsh tone. “Do you not know when the Devil himself is in your own home, manipulating you, appearing to you in some guise?”


“What guise?”


“He could appear to you as anyone, Mary. A friend, a student… an errant lover perhaps.”


“Anyone?” Mary asks, and Lilith dares to hope that there is some skepticism in the mortal’s voice.


“Anyone,” the Dark Lord confirms. “Now,” he says, and Lilith can hear his agitation, “Do I have your permission to come in, Goodwoman Wardwell?”


Mary hesitates and Lilith holds her breath. The old cottage groans as a sudden wind picks up. Lucifer has never been patient and it seems that Mary is holding him up longer than he had expected. As long as she refuses to grant him entrance, he has no power within her dwelling.


“Thank you for the warning, Father, but no. You may not come in.” Mary says with impressive calm, though her voice still shakes slightly.


The wind howls in the trees, making the windows of the cottage rattle.


“You foolish woman!” Lucifer barks. Lilith jumps, even though she knows she is out of his sight. “I know you’re in there!” he yells. “Reveal thyself, deceiver!”


“Get off of my property,” Mary says, her voice much higher in her alarm at Lucifer’s raised voice. She still manages a perfunctory, “Good evening,” before she manages to slam the door shut. 


The wind roars Lucifer’s anger, and Lilith’s blood runs cold. Now that he’s been denied by the mortal woman, he’ll be even worse to deal with when Lilith eventually must face him. But Mary has closed the door on Satan and bought Lilith one night, at least. 


Lilith hears the lock click. 


She peeks around the corner to see Mary sag back against the dark wood, one shaking hand coming up to cover her face for a moment. The iron skillet drops to the floor with a loud clang.


Lilith comes around the corner fully, finally able to breathe again. She feels calmer now, quieter, more in control of herself. 


“Thank you,” she says to Mary. 


They look at each other from across the room and then Mary speaks. 


“Who are you?” 


Lilith thinks of her various titles, all of the names gifted to her by devotees and enemies alike. 


“My name is Lilith,” is what she settles on. The simple truth from the beginning, with all the weight that it carries.


“Lilith,” Mary repeats. “You’re a witch.” It’s not a question. “Why-- how-- How is it, why do I feel as if… as if we’ve already met? As if I know you?” 


“Because we have, and you do.” Lilith says. 


She moves over to the wingback chair in front of the fire and runs her fingers over the back of the chair, feeling the worn fabric, so familiar to her after her months of living in the cottage. 


She keeps talking, her eyes still trained on the pattern of the fabric. “And I know you too, Mary Wardwell. Please,” Lilith makes a sweeping gesture that encompasses the couch and the other comfortable armchair in front of the fire, “sit down. I’m afraid this is quite a long story.” 


Mary looks wary, but she takes a step closer. 


Lilith sits down, hoping that lowering herself will make Mary more comfortable, less afraid. She folds her hands neatly in her lap, trying to look as diminutive as possible.


Mary slowly walks over to the sitting area, but she remains standing, her back to the fireplace, lit from behind by the flames, her Christian cross above her head. 


“You say you can… help me, that you can explain. So tell me: who are you, and what do you know?” Mary’s voice wavers only slightly. 


Lilith steels herself against the guilt and fear and anger and sadness threatening to spill over inside of her, and begins.