Prussian

It was one of those warm November days, with cerulean skies and icy crimson squashes, when I walked over to her house. I’d picked a bunch of purple azaleas for her. She didn’t get holidays as often as the other actors, mainly because whatever fraction of London’s population came to the Theatre Royal for its dramas, came only because they loved her. Not that I could ever blame them, me being guilty of having done the same.

I knocked upon that wooden door after a month of being absent and out of contact. Guilt had brought me back, to apologize and make amends. Nobody answered. I tried pushing it open and, after a bit of struggle, it gave way.

The room was dark and smelled sharply of alcohol. The curtains were drawn and fluttered lightly in the breeze. There was not a sound. I ventured towards the bedroom she shared with her mother. The glass bottle of whiskey had left dark ring marks on the wooden stool, but what I saw next nearly stopped my heart. A round plastic container, opened, and tiny, spherical white pills spilled onto the surface – prussic acid.

And then my eyes went to the bed. It was like my muscles had lost movement, like my skeleton had collapsed. Her peach dress clung to her legs, the sleeves constricting her arms so they looked blanched. Her clothes were soaked and muddy. I rushed over to her and pulled her into my arms, calling her name over and over. She wouldn’t breathe. Her body was marble cold. The flowers I brought scattered on the floor, vivid against the dark shadows around me.

An animal-like cry erupted from within me and I wept. I knew her death was my doing. No amount of kisses would bring her to life. No promises of forevers would revive her. No number of apologies would forgive me for my sin.

I didn’t know how long I sat there, holding the corpse of the girl I loved close to my heart. Behind me, at the door, standing in quiet rage, was James Vane.

“When is she Sibyl Vane?”

“Never.”

*

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