I saw myself reflected back as the Queen of Wands, fiery and glowing, as the Empress round and beautiful and pure. An emblem of passion and sensuality shining out of pale milk, powdery skin. I looked like pure white icicle fragments covered in blood. That blood being the hair that curled over my shoulders in a red so deep it was burgundy. The curls were tight and liquid like, the way they rolled over my shoulders like a trickling trail of crimson. Creation and passion was shining out like a super nova star from my blue eyes.
“How is this possible?” I asked Riley.
“How is what possible?”
“I’m beautiful now.”
“Wait? You weren’t beautiful before?”
I reach out and touch the mirror, tracing my face with Gardenia scented fingertips. “Not like this. Never like this. This is perfection. This is the way I would see myself in daydreams, this is the way I would look…”
“When you were with the master, on those nights when you were supposed to be sleeping?”
“On those nights that I was sleeping you mean. I would see Killian in nightmares.”
“Why do you call them nightmares, Empress?”
“Because nightmares are the only things that are ever truly beautiful. She dreams and she dreams, but she loves the nightmares. She sees him in the nightmares frightening but beautiful”
“You’ve said those words before.”
I walked over to Riley and took the shift that he held in his hands. I slid it over the top of my crimson head, letting it fall effortlessly over my body as if I was nothing but air. I pulled the back of my hair from the neckline and turned towards the bed, handing the corset to Riley.
“Do you know how to lace these?”
Riley nodded, looking at me.
“It’s been a long time.” I explained.
He didn’t ask me what I meant. I suppose he thought that I had meant that it had been a long time sense I had laced up a corset. I looked at him again, no; maybe he did know what I meant.
I grabbed the bedpost as Riley wrapped the corset around my torso. His small, pudgy finger nimbly began to loosen the stays, lacing them through the appropriate holes.
My thoughts began to wonder back to that day when I was twelve, the day that Chane had first called me an ugly and annoying screechy voiced twit.
The image of Chane’s face as it was now invaded my mind and my stomach clenched as if it was biting the skin of my abdomen. Yes, Chane had grown much more kinder to me over the years.
But on that day, I had run home through a veil of sadness, leaving a trail of tears behind me. Emilie did not follow me, but instead had stayed behind to yell at her big brother, screeching the whole time in the way that seemed to annoy him so much.
When I had reached my home, I ran straight up to my room, pass the confused face of my mother, and collapsed on my bed. My tears rained down in a puddle mess upon the comforter, raining down in a tempest. It was in the eye of this tempest, that I fell asleep.
If I told you I find you surprisingly alluring, would it scare you away?” He said.
“Surprisingly alluring? Most people just refer to me as annoyingly giddy.”
“Why not at all.”
“You look good in that dress.” He sighed.
I looked down at the icicle blue dress that draped over me. It was aquatic looking and it shimmered. Maybe once a time I would have loved it.
“I look like a sea mermaid in this dress.”
“I think I want you.” He said. And I caught his profile in the dim light. “I think I love you.
“And do you think you can handle a shimmering sea mermaid?” I asked him.
“You don’t look too much like a shimmering sea mermaid too me.” He said, “You look like mystery.”
“Just like Sara D’Angelo, she was a mystery; no one knows what happened to her.”
“They say she disappeared into the mirrors.” I remembered. “That’s why all the mirrors in the main house keep breaking.”
“Shattering.” He replied, monochromatic.
“I want to spend the night there. I want to sleep and have nightmares. I love nightmares.”
He shivered, but I continued.
“She dreams and dreams but she loves the nightmares. She sees him in the nightmares frightening but beautiful.”
“What happened to you?” He asked.
“What do you mean?”
“They say you were once a child of light, color, happiness. One who was scared of nothing, one who chased away the nightmares.”
“I fell in love with the darkness.”
“So did Sara, and then it swallowed her up.”
“No it didn’t.” I said, “It smothered her with its love.”
“In the shadows?”
“In the shadows.”
“I fear the shadows.” He said. He turned and stared at one of his paintings.
“That girl is standing in the shadows,” I realized. “It’s so dark you can barely see her crimson hair.”
“She looks like you.” He said.
I stared at him, and then back to the picture. “How long have you been painting that?”
“It seems like a lifetime.”
“They say you are strange, quiet, crazy, as if diseased with your wild stories. Too much toxic paint.” I snorted.
“Do you think that as well?” he asked. His accent was thick and English and he stared at me. I suddenly realized how startling his eyes were, as if kohl lined. They were piercing and black and drowning, and at the same time revealing. They were revealing something that will reflect out of the shadows, as if he was a shining devil crawling in the forest.
“No I said, I think you’re the man in the nightmares.”
Yes, now I remembered the dream. Remembered how much it had confused me, me being a twelve year old girl dreaming about a man who was much older then I was, talking to me in such a way. By now, I was used to Killian meeting me at night, joining me with him in the unthinkable sin that was now just an after thought.
But I still had the question of why, why did I see these things, love this way? Why did I have such strange orgasmic pleasure just from a vision, a dream, and a divination?
“There you are Empress,” Riley said, patting my laced up back. I hadn’t even felt him tighten the stays, and I was shocked to find that there was no pinching discomfort against my skin. I could breathe fine, and my breast didn’t feel as if they were pressured by a stiff weight.
‘Thank you Riley. You did a wonderful job.”
“Then I’ll leave you to finish dressing Empress,” He said. “While I go bring the carriage around.”
“Riley!” I called out to him.
He turned around. “Yes?”
“Who is Sara D’Angelo?”
Riley frowned and for a moment looking sad, as if my words had pinched all the features of his face together. “You shouldn’t be asking me these questions Empress.”
He quickly hurried out of the room before I could bother him with more questions.
I took up the light blue gown and slid myself into it, wrapping it around me so that I could lace up the front. I once again stopped and stared at my reflection in the armoire mirror. The dress was as blue as the sky in summer, as blue as the ocean on a clear day down in Marseilles, as blue as pure ice.
It was the dress from the dream.
The dress was at least a century old or more, the tight quarter length sleeves that tightened around my arms should have made me feel uncomfortably itchy and warm, but the neckline was wide and scooped, exposing my collarbone and shoulders. The sleeves and the collar were line with snowflake lace and the satin skirt sprouted from my hips to cascade down to the floor in a waterfall tumble. In it’s time, the dress must have been an elaborate, beautiful ball gown, worn to parties and formal affairs.
Yet there was something strange and informal about the way it would lace loosely up to front, exposing much more then was suitable. Perhaps if I had a bodice to put under it, it would be less risqué, I thought. But no, there was something about this dress, about the low neckline and the thin material of the skirt and the sweet smell that lingered along the hem that made me believe that this was a more private dress then it might seem. That it’s purpose indeed served more then just parties, formal dinners, or balls.
I went down the staircase into the foyer below. It was illuminated by sunlight, the revelations mural looked more like a heavenly tapestry then a story of the apocalypse.
My eyes fell on a portrait that hung by the door. It was a portrait of me, the portrait from the dream.
I walked towards it and bent down, staring at the portrait through slanted eyes. Killian had painted me against a dark background, as if I was sitting in shadow. My hair was inappropriately loose and flowing down my back and around my face, wild and untamed like the stems on an exotic vine. My own eyes peered back at me foreign and sinister, they were smiling in that painting, smiling in a way that gave me shivers. My portrait eyes held knowledge that I knew I did not at the moment possess. They seemed to be mocking me, mocking the way I was now. The foolish, hierophant.
As for the actual smile in the painting, it might as well have been a sneer. It suggested far more then I would ever dream of suggesting. I stepped backwards from the frame where the picture watched me, me the Empress, the mistress of conquête.
Riley opened the front door to tell me that the carriage was ready, saving me from the reflection of myself.
He helped me into it and we began to drive out of Paris, to my village that lay on the outskirts. It was a village of merchants, who had done well for themselves, Emilie’s father and my own, both rich and dead, being just two of those merchants. Our fathers were men who knew what it was like to be poor, and what it was like to be a servant. So we had none. Emilie’s mother took Ada in out of charity. At my household, my mother and I cared for the Villa ourselves.
The ride took an hour, an hour that seemed so quickened and disillusioned in the night, only to be prolonged and tedious during the day.
Finally, Riley pulled turned his carriage down our lane. We passed Emilie’s house, where Chane sat on the front stoop, smoking a cigarette. There was a clawing in my throat the instant that I saw him, and my face grew flushed. I couldn’t help but stick my head out the window to watch him as we drove by. He looked up and his eyes caught mine.
He ran up to the carriage and banged the side of it with his fist. Killian’s bay mare, Bloodstone stopped and reared, her shoed hooves slipping on the cobble stone streets.
“Oye!” Exclaimed Riley.
“Get out of that despicable thing!” I heard him shout.
“What do you think you are doing?” I screamed at Chane, batting him away with an ungloved hand. Chane grabbed that hand and stared up at me, his eyes growing wide at the sight of me sitting there, transformed.
“Oh Lyris, my love, what happened to you?”
“Riley! I’m going to be getting out here. Thank you so much for taking me home!”
I pushed on the carriage door so that it flew open, almost hitting Chane in the face. I jumped from the carriage without his assistance and turned towards him, my eyes flailing.
“You leave me alone Chane! I am of no concern of yours.”
I turned to walk away from him but he grabbed my arm and yanked me towards the door of his Villa. “Oh but you are, I swear that you are mom petite chou!”
“Let me go!” I clawed at his hand on my arm, where his fingernails dug into the delicate skin. “Chane, you’re hurting me!’
He pushed me through the door to the Villa and into the sitting room, throwing me down on the chaise couch. He leaned over me, placing his arms on each side of me and using them to support his weight. His breath smelled clean like linen. I looked up into his eyes, those sparkling green eyes, and I met his gaze with one of defiance.
“Oh, but I bet it didn’t hurt last night. Did it you little putain? I saw you with him, I saw you dancing with your dandy. You left us without a word, oh you are a whore!”
My teeth clenched as the red hot boiling anger began to rush through me, as if injected into my blood. The cells were formulating, melting into liquid, melting my bones. My entire body was boiling liquid meant to scour and sear.
“You would have had your way with me last night just the same as him, and you know it Chane.”
“So you admit to giving yourself to that, that…”
“That what?” I spit. “You know nothing about me or him. You want to pretend to love me, but I am a phantom to you, I am an idea to you. I am not that silly girl who played with you when we were children Chane, I was never that girl.”
Chane reached forward and grabbed my face in his hand, squeezing my chin. “I will make you that girl, I swear it Lyris, I won’t loose you to some pimp!”
“Oh there are no whores here Chane, and the only pimp is you! Have you staked such an unspeakable claim over me?”
“I loved you Lyris!” He shouted, standing up. I sat up on the couch, the dress made a hissing sound as it slid over the linen. I straightened my spine and stared at him, mocking the expression of my portrait. Chane was not looking at me.
“You never told me. And the God’s do not tell secrets. Was I supposed to wait for you to show your love for me, wait like an old spinster in a dusty room? I think not Chane. There is more to my destiny then a silly infatuation that you have. If you had wanted me then you should have taken me when you had the chance.”
“I have that chance now.” He lunged at me again, tearing at the dress. “If I he can have you, then I can as well. Your just a center piece now, to be shared enjoyed and to be tired of.”
I fought him as he began to undo the laces of the precious dress. “You even wear the garments of a putain!” He sneered.
My heart quickened as I felt the laces loosen their hold on me, he folded the front of the dress back, laying my corset bare. His gaze lingered to the swell of my breast trapped beneath the tight fabric. The scar on my chest was revealed to him.
“Oh Lyris.” He moaned. He sat back unto the floor, bringing his knees up to his chin; he looked at me with a cold, raw fear. “How could you? You break my heart.”
“I know, and I wish I could not. I would rather be alone until the day I lie cold in my grave then to break your heart. For loneliness seems so much more appealing then being a heartbreaker. But, death kisses me in visions, opens my eyes, and clears the veil”
“The veil that I felt has smothered me my entire life. I don’t think I could explain it to you Chane. There are so many things that you don’t seem to understand. You think life is a folk tale.”
“Life is slowly revealing that it is indeed a folk tale, for those folk tales are grim things.”
“I’m sorry, but now you understand why I gave myself to him.”
“He had power over you.”
I shook my head slowly. “No, this is one vampire who would not allow me to look into his eyes.”
“You are so ignorant Lyris! Do you even know what you are saying? They have their other ways of entrapping you. They will make you believe lies and deny truths simply with a smile! How could you let him mark you!”
I slid down to the floor and touched Chane’s face. “I will let him bind me to him, I will become his human servant.”
Chane stared at me in horror, his eyes were wide. “You don’t know what you are talking about.”
I nodded. “I do Chane, this is my fate. I have had visions of this sense I was a young, young girl. In those visions, I was already bound to him. The vampire. Once they claim us we cannot escape them.”
“Won’t you try Lyris? Won’t you fight him?”
“I can’t fight him Chane. I love him.”
“He has enchanted you to love him.”
I ran a finger through his curls. “Maybe so. But I love him all the same.”
Tears began to leak out of Chane’s eyes. “I’m going to loose you aren’t I?”
“Oh Lyris. Your family is surely cursed by those of the undead.”
“What do you mean?”
He shook his head and covered my hand with his own, leaning in to kiss me.
His lips were cool and moist, the way Romeo’s dead lips must have tasted, empty of drugs and poison. A fated kiss. A kiss that will bind you to death.
“I love you.” He murmured against my mouth. “I swear by Aphrodite’s girdle I love you Lyris.”
“There is nothing we can do with this love Chane.”
He leaned back away from me and buried his face in his hands. I dragged myself up, back onto the couch, sitting up against the curved elegant back.
“Where is everyone?” I asked him, slowly rolling the skirt of the dress up above my knees.
“They are at the market, looking for you.” He looked at me. “By Pan, what are you doing Lyris?”
“Just this once. Chane. I want you inside of me; I want to give you my power. “
He stood up and walked to the couch, leaning over me. “I will fight for you Lyris, know that. I will do whatever it takes to spend eternity with you.”
“Even if it means sacrificing your soul?”
“Damned Lyris. You are my soul.”
His head dropped and his kiss was firm and welcoming as our lips met, he invaded me with that kiss, tasting me, trying to draw out of me whatever power Killian had over me. My body trembled as I felt his firm hand glide under the skirt and the shift to rest upon the naked mound between my legs. He rubbed his open palm firmly over my body, and I began to shake, remembering the way Killian had touched me last night with such sure, heated fingertips and now how Chane touched me so attentively, slowly and cautiously. I reached my arms around him and pulled his body tight to mine, deepening the kiss. His open palm pressed even harder onto my body and my hips reached up towards it, craving his power, craving the way he would feel beneath my skin. His chest pressed down on the corset and my nipples began to harden beneath it and I pulled him even tighter to me.
Suddenly his palm closed slightly and my hips jerked as his finger slid into the wetness that had formed inside my waiting body. I wanted him. I wanted him to take from me what was waiting deep inside my conscious mind, what I had to give outside of daydreams and enchantment. I pushed his torso from my body and my hand slid down to his groin. I felt the hardness of him beneath his clothes as he let out a low murmur of pleasure. “You are my Goddess,” He murmered.
I pressed my hand harder against him and with my other hand, I began to pull at his waistcoat and pants
Suddenly his fingers left me as he rose from the bed. Within moments his clothes were on the floor and he stood naked in front of me. The sweat caused by the heat of the parlor glistened on his naked and perfectly pale body. My eyes feasted on the muscles that stood out proudly on his legs and arms.
His lips touched mine again as he slid gently between my legs, easing the skirt of the dress higher until it bunched around my waist
I felt him ease himself between my legs, felt his strong hands around my hips, felt the head of him enter me and then felt the sudden thrust as he drove into me. He had raised my legs and I immediately clasped them around his neck and locked my ankles together as he knelt beneath my quivering body. He filled every corner as I opened myself up for him. I gasped as the pleasure overtook me and he thrust himself deep into me, tearing at my body, invading all that I tried to lay away, hidden from the world.
My body began to shake as an orgasm began to rise within me. Wave after wave of him washed over me and I felt him collapse upon my trembling body, he looked aquatic, the way the sweat glistened over his skin.
I kissed his temple. “Lyris.” He whispered.
“Ssh. Don’t you say a word.” Was my reply.
“I will fight for you Lyris.” He said. “You will be mine”