We've all felt bitterness, and I sit here with mine, alone at a small, corner table as the rest of the ballroom spins in celebration. I'm watching her as she dances in her long, white dress, her neck and wrists circled in lace, her waist hugged by a corset, hourglass-tight. She's on display in the middle of the hall, a delightful sight for her gracious guests, and they watch her wear the brightest of smiles, toes spinning, eyes gleaming, chestnut hair flowing soft. As she turns under the amber glow of brass chandelier, I watch her dance — with him.
When we were seven and small, just two houses apart, I played the highest general of war, fighting all my battles in her name. After my victory, she led my war horse home with its tether in her hand, while I asked for the other in marriage. She pledged her heart and soul to me, and promised to care for me everyday after. She made tea under the secret oak in our house of sticks and stones, and we filled her basket with flowers. We made plans for a day when we would build a mansion, with real tea, and children, and afternoon parties with lemon-anise cakes. We played jackstraws before sunset, and watched the moon through the kaleidoscope my father gave me. For years after, we walked near that secret oak, picking flowers for our mothers, and even kissing once or twice, until the suitor made his entrance.
He was courted by her parents, a wealthy son of a wealthy son, with prospects, and friends in powerful seats. The future of their perfect flower was ensured by a selfish plot to raise the family's standing. Her wretched mother, thirsty with greed on that dark night of his proposal, sewed a heart of paper maché inside the chest of my bride, and paid the devil with the one still beating, dripping with blood she could not poison.
So now she dances, in her beautiful, expensive dress, adorned with emeralds and gold, and a smile painted onto her face. See how easily they believe their own veneer, an empty smile that hides sadness beneath — her sadness born of losing me. Now I watch my true love, a bird clipped at the wings, heart hollowed by monsters, and I left with only a friend.
I was dutiful in my toast to her, with family gathered listening for hopeful words of the future, my voice was optimistic, my clothes pressed clean, grand flourishes when appropriate and laughs when the words became too serious. In all my life, never have I put on such a lighthearted performance, with gestures of goodwill to them and praise for their eternal commitment. When we drank the wine, my nervousness was lost, and my heart genuinely relieved as I looked toward the future, because I had let slip no indication of what so many months of seething anger would soon flow through their veins as well.
How beautifully she dances; yes I heartily agree. She was always graceful even in her earliest years, when only I bore its witness. How gracefully she sways, in rhythm with the strings, just as other strings were pulled in the darkness of the cellar. How gracefully she slows, an exhausted bride. Greeting guests is hard work. Why shouldn't she raise a hand to her brow? How gracefully she stumbles, in her long, flowing dress. It is so difficult to keep balance when heartbreak takes its toll on her performance. How gracefully she falls, as the suitor scrambles to catch her. He is strong, no doubt, but could hardly foresee her collapse just beside him.
How convenient they should care now, when her head is on the floor. How endearing the concern they show for her in front of their rich peers, the businessmen, the proper wealthy folk. How worried they are for her happiness. They cared nothing for her feelings — those feelings for me when they forced her hand in marriage.
We have dined with the deviant, my love, but we have already toasted to the angels, and they sing an aconitic serenade to call us to our place. Young metabolism absorbs quickly, and a thin bride should eat little on her wedding day, likening to my own appetite, vanished long ago. The bride is swooning! A splash of cold water. Cut the laces of her corset, with small scissors drawn hastily from your chatelaine, heavy with a hundred silver keys — none of which will unlock her from the door of death.
Forgive me, my love, for deceiving you, for telling you that I had let go of you — that I could let go of you. My later words were true, in the private toast I made alone with you, when I stole you away for just a minute or two — the least anyone could spare for a lifelong friend on this special day just before the dancing began. I told you we would always be together, a renewed vow of our childhood which I never forgot. Of course I drank first, as I knew you would never deny my gesture, and I easily let go of you after our embrace, and told you, "Go to him." Go to him. Let him receive you. Let him receive his bride of death. If he loves you will he not always follow where you go? May his heart ache as mine has for so long, but he will live. He will not follow you to where his wealth vanishes and his mistress servants sleep far away. Be careful not to kiss him in front of the pious guests — the lips that I kissed first, and so innocently.
Forgive me for the pain you must feel now, my sweet, and that I could not tell you of the plans I made for us. I have made the decisions for you, and I know you will soon thank me. Your sweetness would never allow you to abandon the ones you love for your own pure desires; your heart is too beautiful, and you deserve more than this dark merger.
The white walls are painted black now, and I see only the amber lights from above and the white of her dress, crumpled on the floor as they try in vain to revive my lovely, pre-angelic bride. A fuzzy outline of the groom charges toward me, his hands aching with fury from the dark revelation of my plot. I feel his hands around my throat, but vision of this world is almost vanquished, my stomach in knots feeling no different than it has for months of acid misery made physical now. My head swims in the swarming sounds of chaos, so much that his murderous accusations are hardly discernible. Live long in this barbarous world, Sir; you were made for it. My bride and I alone shall leave these devils in their miserable world, to be drunk on perfect wine and sorrow. My fiance and angel ascending, we are destined for something beautiful and eternal.
Modified photograph by Earl53 via Morguefile license