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Short Story 28

Cruel Reality



All she wanted was the answer, but she had no idea how much she would hate it. Body cold, she stood before the window looking out through a lustrous fog that had played itself across the glass. There was snow falling, but within she knew it wouldn’t stick, it never did these days. The wind pushed and pulled against it in a drowsy manner, the world outside was silent.


In the back of the house there was movement. It was calm, but its pattern drew on her nerves straining them. Lizaveta felt that empty hole within her breast, that opening that had no recourse but to throb against her will mercilessly. Heat drew to her face as she thought of that night, that shameless night where it had all happened, how it plagued her to think of it. How many attempts had she made to pack it away, to destroy it. But that was impossible, there was nothing she could do to destroy it, what had been done had been done.


Slender cold fingers squeezed the fabric of the handkerchief which had a suffocating home in her grasp. The sound of the grandfather clock near the base of the stairs seemed in tune with every beat of her heart.


“Still waiting, are we?” It was the voice of Jane, a girl as plain as her name. She was a perpetual source of annoyance for anyone who she took a disliking, Lizaveta was just such a person.


Jane stood behind her, arms bound in front of her in a pretzel, deep set eyes scrutinizing her prey through their recessed caves, “Do you honestly think he is still going to come?”


“This has nothing to do with you, why don’t you go away.”


“And miss a chance to store your aimless hope in my memory? Why I wouldn’t take that from myself for anything,” Jane’s lips bent into a smile that was thin and full in all the wrong places, “Just imagine a girl like you, a nameless little orphan living in a boarding house thinking someone like him will come and save you. How ridiculous.”


“Go away, just go away, you horrible little thing.”


“Even if he wanted to come to you, he never would. There are far too many family expectations. But I suppose you can’t blame him really, he was always destined to get a flower from a good family tended carefully in a green house. But even so, how could he resist smelling the tempting little wildflower that always danced in the breeze every time he walked by. I mean there just out there for anyone one to pluck.”


“Jane if you don’t leave right now, I will push you down the stairs and watch to make sure you hit everyone step.”


“Oh, you are nasty aren’t you Lizzy, You pretend as well as anyone, but you are a horror.”


“Go away you awful thing and leave me be.”


“Oh fine, have it your way. Why shouldn’t you have a quiet moment to appreciate your disappointment, Oh beautiful Lizevate. But I promise you, you will freeze to death before he shows up. Mark my words.” Jane slunk away from the landing up the rest of the stairs with a chilling little giggle.


The urgency reached a fever pitch, Jane’s words a fan that bid the fire turned to a roaring blaze. He had to come, there was no way he would fail her, he never had before. He wouldn’t today.


Her eyes watched the tree a yard or more from the window on the landing where she stood looking with desire, it was here that he would always wait. She remembered the first day he caught her eye with a wave of his hand. It was terribly difficult for him, he wasn’t even supposed to be on the grounds. The lady’s boarding house she lived in had a sleek wrought iron fence that would have been difficult for anyone to climb, but he had managed it.


How handsome he had looked under the spring canopy, just a little sliver there by the dark gnarled bark. There were no two words about it Lizevate never would have given him the time of day if he hadn’t come to her. Even when she tried to ignore him he would be there looking up at her watching for hours.


To herself alone she could admit that he was the most beautiful young man she had ever seen. From the moment she had arrived in this small sleepy town she had thought so, but he was from a well to do family and she was just a little nobody orphan that had come to work for the local school. It was the position given her after graduating from childhood, her reward for remaining homeless and unwanted most of her life. She would have never permitted herself to believe that such a man would have taken notice of her, would have pursued her.


“Miss Beddingfield there is a letter for you.”


Without breathing she ran down the stairs and took it from the hand of the matron. There was nothing other than her name, not even a postmark. She didn’t wait for a word from the older woman bolting up the stairs. In the safety of her room she stroked the words on the front of the envelope knowing them intimately. This had to be it. What was hidden within were his precious words of explanation.


Turning it around she broke the light seal and took out the letter, her heart aching. All at once as she read her mouth went dry, a terrible tremble came to her lips.


My dearest Lizzy,


I feel ashamed of myself, I could not get myself to come to you as I used to. I am truly a monster for what I have done to you. I will not write in this letter all the things I should regret for having done, but the biggest is that I was ever captivated. That I laid my eyes on a girl so remarkable as you knowing that I would never be able to be to you as I should, I still pursued you. I am sorry Lizzy, really, I am.


It burdens my heart to think of what you are currently undergoing. How upset you must be, but truly this is entirely out of my hands. You see I am to be married to Ursula Hutting, a young lady of remarkable character and a daughter of a business associate of my father. This was arranged by our parents well before our meeting and as our family is in a rather complicated financial situation I am unable to break the engagement.


Please see it in your heart to forgive me. If I have ever meant anything to you allow that love that we shared to tame your anger. I know how hard this must be for you to read, it has been no small task to write. I am dreadfully sorry Lizaveta. Dreadfully. I will forever live burdened by what I have done to you, but please try and be happy so that one of us might be at least.


Yours always,


Wit


Her hands shook and, in an instant, crunched down on the paper. What an insult he had paid her. These pretty words. Forcing the paper into a ball she went to throw it but instead spread out the letter. She couldn’t tear it. She wouldn’t. It was an obelisk, a monument that stood between them and demonstrated their relationship. A sharp breath, had he known of this that day? Tears drew to her eyes, tears of hate and love. Tears of utter wretchedness. He had said in his letter that he and this Miss Ursula Hutting had been engaged for a long time.


It was impossible to go on here. She would have to go. She needed to leave. How could he have done this to her? How could he when he had done such a thing to her? When he had told her he loved her. When he had promised to marry her, to run away with her. How could she live with herself if she remained here always under his nose?


Going to her bed she removed a small box filled with letters and poems, all of them spoke of love and want, and all of them were written by him. By her love, the man that had consumed everything and meant everything to her. The first person who had ever offered her an intimate personal love. How bitter it all was now, how much she despised him.


On a compulsion she stood again, all those precious words falling at her feet. Her bag was taken down from the wardrobe. In a flurry she began to stuff all her things in it, finishing by collecting all the letters back into their box and squeezing it down the side.


She had a meager savings, she would take that and leave. All she had to do was go to the station and buy a ticket, any ticket. Her body trembled as she took the handle. Taking her things, she left the room going down to the matron’s room.


After making a sea of excuses she left and went to the train. There was no thought in her mind. Lizaveta was possessed by the need, the drive to get away. As far away as humanly possible. A wretched physical disgust her propellant.


Once at the train station she purchased a ticket on the recommendation of the station clerk and there she waited. Everything was transported, the sensations. The feelings. It was all skewed into a gigantic mass. All at once her body had gone numb. All her thoughts paused in that instant as true shock finally set in. When her train arrived thirty minutes later she boarded. Taking her seat without thinking through a single step, her body following the motion as if set upon a track she could not divert from.


By the time her mind returned the train was moving, going away from that place. Tears tread her face tracing damp lines the length of her cheeks falling from her chin to her skirt. Turning to the window she tried to prevent anyone from noticing. She dabbed her gloved hand against her face, catching the moisture, a hand pressed to her stomach. She felt sick. Yes, she had wanted so much to have an answer to that question. To whether or not he would come for her, but he wouldn’t and now… even though he knew, she had to leave the few things she had managed to gain behind. Jane was right. From the beginning that cruel little devil had been right.


The tears wouldn’t stop as the train continued. What a bitter feeling to know, but worse to realize, that the world didn’t stop for your suffering. But just like the train, it kept moving on. Heedless. Heartless. With you left to breathe the smoke it left behind.





End



Thank you so much for reading everyone!!



Prompt Sentence: All she wanted was the answer, but she had no idea how much she would hate it.


Word Count: 1843


©DecemberKnight 2023


Special thanks to Jennifer Latuperisa-Andersen from Unsplash for the use of the image!


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