Attractions: Hearts of Darkness
He was already short of breath when he went from a brisk walk to a jog. He held his hand tightly to his pants pocket, reassuring himself that the item there was secure. He was running late as it was and the anticipation of meeting his girl for a special date was accelerating his pulse twofold.
He didn't, for the life of him, understand why the blazes she wanted to meet in the cemetery. Who in the world starts their Valentine's day there? When he'd seen her yesterday and mentioned he had a present for her, she smiled shyly and looked at him with hungry eyes that would've made most red-blooded american young men all warm across his skin but actually made something in his stomach clench. It was a feeling his brain was telling him was irrational and yet his body seemed tuned into some primordial instinct that was desperately trying to communicate something. A sphinx, cool and distant, she mentioned almost casually that she had something very special in store for him and gave the details–time and location–to which he was now racing to meet.
The ring in his pocket was intended to be a gift, something to try to tell her he really loved her, not just simply was attracted to her. He'd leave out the macabre nature of how he came by the ring a few months ago, of course. But he knew it'd make one spectacular Valentine's Day present and was fairly confident that Ellie would both love it and (hopefully) reciprocate something equally as mind blowing as she'd already alluded to. His mind went to all sorts of places, both romantic and salacious.
"Charlie!" Her voice shot out of a corner of the darkening terrain. It was dusk and already fairly chilly. He picked up to a jog again and met up with her, embracing her, and putting pecks all over her face and neck between short breaths. She laughed softly, not resisting, but not acquiescing entirely. He'd felt this strange distance before, but it was simply her way. She seemed at times to be somewhere else, never really HERE at any given time. It was one of the things that intrigued him, honestly.
"I missed you, doll," he said, his breath coming back to him. A sphinx's smile in return, eyes hidden in pockets of darkness from the waning light.
She took his hand and walked him a ways, making small talk and catching up since their last encounter. She stopped after a time in front of a large monument surrounded by a dozen or so little satellite markers. He looked about as best he could in the murky, late winter sunlight and made out "Kingsbury" on the monument. Whatever little thing Ellie was getting at he would play along but his patience was secretly already wearing thin.
She gestured with her chin at a stone nearest her feet, one of the larger ones. Charlie squinted and read Ella Kingsbury. Shrugging, he looked at her somewhat confused.
She spoke quietly. "Ella was Jonathan Kingsbury's only daughter. When she was 28 she was engaged to a man named Felix Brunton and they were very much in love. Unbeknownst to either of them, Jonathan Kingsbury had fathered an illegitimate child with a housemaid. This child would've been Felix's cousin. Jonathan Kingsbury knew that secrets and information cross pillows in the darkness that otherwise would never see the light. Rather than have his shame eventually illuminated he simply had Felix murdered. Out of the way the day before the wedding."
She looked at him for a moment. Her eyes glistened in those final rays poking through the treeline. He was truly confused and a little bit bothered. She took his hand and stepped over the stone towards others farther away. She spoke as she walked, "Ella died that night when she saw a vision of Felix in her mirror. Her sadness and horror mixed inside of her like hemlock and nightshade. It was a terrible death.”
She stopped in front of another stone and fell silent. He fumbled about in his pocket, anxious to move this rendezvous away from grisly tales about that creepy, cursed family and more towards romantic escapades. He dropped the ring and as he bent down he saw the stone in front of them said Felix Brunton.
As he stood she grabbed him by his lapels and kissed him. He was surprised, taken off balance. She'd never been so forward before. They tumbled to the grass and he felt his toes go numb. And then his feet. And then his legs. In fact as they kissed the heat that he expected to be spreading throughout his body was actually a deep, cold abyss unspooling inside his limbs. He felt dizzy and nauseous.
He opened his eyes as she pulled away and the breath caught in his throat like a wedge. She sat astride him, eyes grey as the sky above her, squinting that distant look that sent the few functioning nerve endings left in him recoiling in abject terror.
"I'm sorry, Charlie. You were exactly the man I needed when I needed him." She held his throat while her other hand worked at his chest. He heard tearing and scraping and terrible cracking noises. He felt nothing. "Thank you for giving me your heart, sweet, clueless boy. But my heart has always been Felix's." She leaned in close. "And now, yours is too."
He turned his head as tears gushed out of eyes that were about to close forever. The huge, ornate ruby ring in the grass caught the final ray of sunshine like a spectacular drop of blood on fire.