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Peter Gray

Shame

It’s a terrible shame that she should die.

A terrible shame, indeed. Her head cracked open by the sharp ridges of a rocky cliff. Blood dripping down the dusty grey rocks, pooling down to the icy water below.

Her screams still echoed across the empty shore, blotting out the haunting call of a bird’s song from the forest just behind me. I can still hear it, can you? If you close your eyes long enough can you hear her high-pitch wails; her cries of: “Oh God, please!”

I looked down at my hands, but they would not shake, they were firm and solid as ever. I was glad to be rid of the women once and for all.

My wife was dead.

Gone forever.

Good riddance.

***

The gardener was the first to see me walk along the back of the stables, her inquisitive stare demanded an answer.

I simply nodded my head at her as I passed her by. “Good morning, Mr. O’ Connor,” she cried out behind me.

I made no reply.

The inside of the house was uncommonly warm, I caught a reflection of myself in the mirror as I walked down the long hallway belonging to my master. My hair was all disheveled, wild like the feathers of a raven as it stuck up on its ends. I made sure to smooth it down with careful precision, setting down the greys upon my temples until it looked somewhat presentable. My tie was next to readjust, for it fell at an awkward angle down my chest. There, I decided, and let out a shallow breath before I withdrew from the looking glass once more.

The grandfather clock chimed somewhere down the hall, and right on cue I heard that elegant ensemble, that majestically beautiful music played by none other but herself. For many times it called to me, haunted me in my dreams. I’ve gone mad because of it. Or am I already mad?

Are we aware of being insane, or do the insane people simply believe that they are in fact sane?

They will lock me away for sure because of what I have done. It is the very reason that I must leave this place, but not without her.

“My Ladyship plays beautifully this morning,” I piped up in a deeply sonorous voice.

“You say that every morning, Mr. O’ Connor,” teased this graceful looking woman with her back to me. She never missed a beat, not a single error in her playing as she knew I was drawing near. “And I am not her Ladyship, as I have told you before.”

“Many times, yes,” I admitted. “But in time you must acknowledge the title is now rightfully yours.”

Her frosty blue eyes focused on the music sheet ahead of her, so I resumed my normal place next to the edge of the rounded leather booth. I boldly took a seat next to her, and with this unexpected movement she suddenly stopped her practised recital. “Mr. O’ Connor?”

“I’m going away.”

“You are?”

“I am,” I entreated, and leaned into her space a little more. “Far away.”

“Are you not happy here?”

“I am,” I acknowledged. “But I’d be much happier somewhere else.”

“Is it forever?” she asked, her lips so soft and pink it was the greatest temptation to not kiss her there and then.

“Forever and ever, my sweet.” She smiled at her childhood nickname, accepting it even when she was a woman grown. “I shall never come back.”

“Oh, but you must! For my name day at least.”

“That I could never do. Not even for you,” I urged, and laid a careful hand on the side of her arm. Her cheeks flushed instantly, it was so different now that she was older, she was aware of every touch and gesture I offered to her. The young women licked the bottom of her lips, her cheeks sunk deeply to create narrow little dents that amused me greatly. I would miss it, I knew, which is why she must come with me.

“I know you, Mr. O’ Connor, you would do anything for me.”

“Anything?” I teased and leaned into her space all the more. Her lips were just inches away from mine now, her lips taunt and ready to be pressed up against my own. It had been so long since we kissed, so long since I had her pressed against the narrow bookshelf to have her be devoured by me. She swore an oath that it should never happen again, but I knew in time that she would give in.

“You could never leave me,” she said with the uttermost confidence, while tossing back long black ringlets away from her face.

“Then I am sorry to break your heart.”

She gasped at my utterance, astounded that my words were true. “Mr. O’ Connor?”

“I’m afraid this is our last time together.”

“No.”

“It’s true.” I pretended to lay a comforting hand over her own, but it was more to feel her- touch her. I let my fingers spread out wider, brushing the top of her wrists where the sleeves of her dress just ended. She blushed again, darker this time, and I knew I had her.

“Where are you going again?”

I leaned into the last of her space and whispered deep into her ear, “It’s a secret.”

“You will not tell me?”

“On one condition.”

“What is that?”

I smiled at her, an awful one that did not reach my eyes. “You kiss me.”

She opened her mouth wide in astonishment, fearful at what I had just said. I inched backwards, letting her consider the matter for the moment. My eyes blinked softly, taking in the fresh paleness of her face in the cool morning light; she wore a dress in a soft shade of pink, a light contrast to the whiteness of her skin. Raven black hair tumbled down her back and the side of her shoulders, looking so alluring even when her curly tresses matched the stark hue of my own jetty locks.

Sylvia is taking too long to decide, I deliberated, and inched myself away with my hand returning to my lap.

Lady Sylvia turned in her seat, letting her hands return to the keyboard again. She played a different tune this time, much sadder than before. Her eyes watered up like soft dews of water, making her vision cloudy as she tried to compose herself. I watched her carefully, never letting my eyes stray away from hers.

“It’s not true,” she muttered, as she continued to play the piano. “You aren’t leaving.”

“I must! Urgent business.”

“Father could never depart from you.”

“I’m afraid he will. The note is already on his desk.”

“He never told me.”

“I left it there last night.”

“You never told me,” she argued back with bitterness.

“I knew it would break your heart.” I moved up the smooth leather bench until my thigh was pressed against her own; her fingers fumbled and she pressed down hard on the wrong note. “And I can see I was right.”

“I thought you said I was your favourite.”

“You are, love, very much so.”

“Do the others know?”

“Only you.”

“Is it because…” she let her fingers glide away from the instrument, and let it curl up in a little ball against her lap. “…because of us.”

“Is that what you think?”

“You’re married.”

“I am.”

“And you don’t love her.”

“Have I ever said that?”

“I…” she shifted in her seat uncomfortably, accidentally brushing her arms against my own. “Well, I know you don’t.”

“Why?” I breathed out hurriedly.

“Because you kissed me.”

I licked my bottom lip with wantonness. “I did.”

“You kissed me, and…”

“And?”

“It was more than a kiss.”

I smiled at her cruelly. “And what was it then?”

“It was like this,” she responded, and suddenly swooped upward to press her lips against mine. Her young, smooth looking hands glided up my chest and found its way to the back of my nape, pulling me forward so I could kiss her back. I opened my lips to engulf her wholly, kissing her with such urgency in case I feared it would be our last.

No. It will be one of many.

My hands arrested her waist tightly, pulling her into my chest. I knew there was a difference in her kissing, it was filled with longing and regret. “Please don’t leave me,” she begged, her lips forming over the bottom of my chin, pressing against the smoothness of my cleanly shaven chin. “I’ll die.”

I let her kiss me longer, knowing it was only a matter of time till everything fell into my plan.

Her lips traveled over my narrow jawline, fingers splaying across my shortly trimmed hair at the sides of my head. “Fraser,” she whispered, her voice deep and throaty. “Fraser, please.”

I thought it was time to play a little game, letting my hands wander along her dress till it reached the side of her thigh.

“Fraser, stay,” she moaned, and then inched her head backwards with her hands resting on both sides of my silvery temples.

“Sylvia, I must go.”

Her eyes were downcast, and I knew I had her. “But you could come with me.”

“I could?”

“Yes.”

“But where are you going?”

“Ah, you kissed me so I must tell.”

“You must.”

“To America.”

“America?”

“Yes, and from there I will attend to a certain matter of business.”

“I always wanted to go to America.”

“I know,” I assured her, with a devious grin. Let me dangle a carrot before her and see if she will take the bait. “And you can see it with your own eyes, if you come with me.”

“Couldn’t we all come?”

“Your whole family?” I chuckled. “If only, but I have only two tickets, and no more than that.”

“Father can buy some.”

“So last minute,” I chided. “No, I should be on my way now, if it wasn’t for you.”

She looked sullen again and did her best to depart from my arms.

“But I have good news,” I rapped out quickly. “Mary has taken ill suddenly, so this spare ticket isn’t entirely wasted.”

“Will she be alright?”

“A severe flu, nothing to worry your pretty head about.”

“She seemed fine last night.”

“You know how these things are, and she likes to sleep with the window open at night. Besides, Sylvia, you know how my wife likes to take those early morning walks. Can you imagine the dangers she must face there? Something even more than a flu, why one wrong step and…”

“Oh, but that could never happen to Mary.”

I pecked the tip of her nose ever so lightly with pleasure. “You are much too fond of that word,” I chided her. “Now, I must leave you.”

She gasped as I rose from my seat, taken back that I was halfway to the closed door when she called out my name. “Fraser?”

I heard her soft slippers pad across the hardwood floor behind me, intent on following me as I strode down the hallway towards the front door. “Fraser,” she remonstrated, once I opened the long closet, and pulled back the last of the coats to get to my stored luggage. “Fraser!”

“Yes?”

“You really are leaving me.”

I pulled out a secretly concealed coat and threw it over my shoulders, flinging a darkly plaid scarf around my throat and pocketed my leather gloves for extra measure.

“You really are leaving me,” she uttered in a broken voice, as I continued to have my back to her.

“Forever and ever,” I related to her over my shoulder. “It’s such a shame, isn’t it?”

I heard her whimper behind me and made sure to hide that smirk, for I knew I had her neck right around a noose. “You can’t,” she squeaked.

“Then take it,” I relayed, and pulled out a train ticket out of my trouser pocket that would take us to London. She took the ticket from my hand and stared at it, seeing the name Mary O’ Connor printed over it. “And this,” I added, and held out a ring I had stolen from one of Mary’s possessions. “To make sure they know you are my wife.”

“But you have a wife.”

“I do.”

Her lips pouted miserably, and her hands shook as she held the ticket. “She can be the girl standing right here in front of me.”

“Fraser you are married.”

There was a certain madness to my eyes as I uttered out, “I am,” and then I leaned forward to press a meaningful kiss to the side of the cheek. The girl was young enough to be impressionable, and I knew my charm would work wonders with her. “I haven’t much time,” I relayed, and pulled out my pocket watch to add emphasis to my statement. “I should be gone.”

“I would have to tell my parents.”

“And you really think they’ll let you leave?”

“I can’t just go!” she yelled, much too loud for my liking. I took a hold of her arm and steered her to the front door. The heavy door softly closed behind us, before I whispered, “You forget there will be people up. Do you really wish to give away our plan?”

“I’m not going.”

“Then that is your decision,” I reasoned, and stretched my hand forward to retrieve the train ticket. “The ring too, Sylvia!”

 “She doesn’t deserve you,” she yelled out with bitterness. Sylvia looked down at the pale white steps, her grey tinted slippers glistening off the clean surface. She looked cold, suddenly, wrapping her lavender coloured house coat tighter around her slender frame. There was worry in her frosty blue eyes, and regret, and I sensed something else as well. “Do you truly love me, Fraser? I know you do in your own terrible way but…”

“I do love you, Sylvia, more than life itself.”

She looked at me with disbelief.

“I’d kill for you. Die for you. I’ll start my life over again just to make you mine.”

“You loved me all along, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” I drawled out with a hint of affection.

She stretched out her hands and suddenly hugged me, her favourite butler was more to her than words could say. “I’ll come with you, but I have to change.”

“I am one step ahead.”

“What?”

“You know me more than anyone. Why are you surprised?” I reasoned and pressed a finger to her lip so she would stay quiet. “Stay here.”

I returned to her a minute later with a luggage all packed for her, and a spare set of clothes for her to change into. “Where are you going?” she asked, once she held her luggage with a look of confusion.

“I have no intention of walking there, my sweet.”

“You are taking the car.”

“Borrowing it.”

“Without father’s permission.”

“You can go back home, you know.”

“No, I’m coming,” she implored, and ran ahead of me to lay her luggage down in front of the trunk. “Could I change in the back?”

“If you wish, but hurry.”

“What will Mary say?” she asked with excitement, feeling so giddy that she could finally take her place.

I smiled at her, before she ducked into the backseat. “She won’t say a word.”

 

 

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