She studies her face in the mirror; frigid turquoise eyes stare back, imitating the blank eyes of the dead. A sheet of white fabric floats idly around her black hairline, framing her pale, angular face. Absentmindedly, she brushes the cloth away before pressing her toughened hand against the glass, watching her mirror image do the same.
At least I have you.
Indecision lies in the curling of her youthful fingers, the worry of her lowered brow. Without a word she pulls the spider’s web of fabric over her face- an obscuring, shielding veil- and examines herself in the mirror.
Do I look the part of the jubilant bride?
She eases her lips into a masked, shy smile. She feels naked, though she’s wrapped in swaths of fabric. In the mirror, she resembles a doll dressed up in layers upon layers of heavenly snow. Just a mannequin, perhaps; a mold, practice for reality.
Maybe he won't notice.
Pushing herself into motion, she mechanically makes her way out of her room, focusing on the rhythmic step of her gait. To her, the empty echo of her bare feet resounds far louder than the ringing church bells, indistinguishable from the echoing call of a funeral.
One step at a time. Steady as she goes.
Perching at the end of the grand staircase lies a double door, surrounded by stained glass that obscures the scene awaiting her beyond. She eases herself down from the last stair-step and peeks out through the kaleidoscope of colors. An aisle stretches past rows and rows of unknown faces to a stage adorned with a nimiety of flowers.
There stands the man she doesn't love.
Is this worth it?
His back is turned, his face unseen; the man she wrongly accepted when he asked her to marry.
I would gratefully give my life to be a mosaic; incorruptible art, pieces of a beautiful memory. Creation that can never be given away.
But I can always be given away.
Tears stream from her eyes as she peels away from the cool glass, the face of the man who haunts her nightmares rather than dreams imbedded beneath her crimson eyelids. She crumples into a heap of fabric and angled bones against the immobile wall, seeking solace where none can be found. She burrows her tear-stained face in the cloth of her dress, equal in encasing love as her mother’s arms had once been before they were ripped from her grasp.
Father would have wanted this. Mother would have cried of joy. Are their deaths worth naught at all?
Their excitement at their find- a diamond in the rough, a man among boys- and yet she never felt a thing. She fingered her stiff-smiled mask in response to their eagerness and joyful dances. She smiled her gentle smile and nodded her head, knowing it would never happen- married to a man she never glanced at twice, never once associated with love, only necessity.
They wanted this. Be happy for them.
She clasps her hand around the pendant around her neck- filled with captured memories and frozen smiles. Things she shall never see again; her last memory, their splayed bodies, the roof collapsed over their heads.
The world is my enemy, but I'll cling to the tattered remains.
She shakily stands to her feet, tripping on the folds of her gown before righting herself once again. The tears have disappeared amongst the jungle of her hair, her tinged cheeks accenting the sharp angles of her face. A moment’s hesitation, a deep breath and a strong force of will; she eases one of the doors ajar and marches out into the open.
All faces turn her way, curiosity lining their eyes. The man remains still, examining the depicture behind the priest before finally turning to meet his bride. She has no father’s hand to hold and simply clenches her trembling fists instead.
Too late to turn back now.
She crosses the vast expanse and smiles up at him warily, taking his hand and squeezing it between her sweaty fingers. His cool gray eyes glance into hers- as stony as the rock they resemble- before turning back to the priest and his babble.
I’m terrified for all the wrong reasons.
She watches in a haze as the speech abruptly ends and is punctuated by dead silence from the onlookers.
Expectant but subdued; waiting for the noose to be fitted around my neck.
The priest watches her eyes widen as he hands her the knife. A slim, rusted thing that’s been used many times. Stained with red along the edge of the blade- marked forever.
Just as they intend to mark me.
The man roughly grabs her small wrist and slides the blade along his palm, cutting across all the lines made by use and letting a linear crimson flower bloom instead.
It’s petals dripped silently onto the polished floor as he waits for her to do the same.
The knife gleams in the dim candlelight.
In one swift motion and a gasp as she sucks in her breath, the tip of the blade slides across her hand in the opposite direction. Beading up like raindrops on a glass window, her blood seeps down her palm.
The man made to press his wounded hand to hers, thereby binding their families eternally.
She backs away as his hand was about to grasp hers, conjoining them together. Instead, her wound festers without fellowship as she saw his wounded face. Betrayal.
Fight or Flight; she speeds out the only exit, stained grass shattering from the heavy door slamming shut.
I can’t…I just can’t. I can’t do it.
Speeding out from the church courtyard and disappearing into the far trees, she won’t stop until she’s sure she’s safe- beyond everyone’s reach. The tightly woven branches whip against her as she runs past, attempting to hold her back. Brambles are crushed beneath her feet as her skin seems to burn from simultaneous exertion and cold. The tattered remains of her dress lift- broken, plucked wings- as she sprints into a nearby meadow.
Only then does she glance down at her marred hand, smeared with blood and dripping onto the long meadow grass. The multiple gashes from avenging branches from her escape through the trees. The wounds will heal, but she’ll still forever have the scar on her hand, marking her as one already wed.
Still trapped as ever.
Tears threaten her eyes. Her knees shake from the frigid cold, indifferent to her predicament.
What have I done?
She collapses in a heap, in the comforting grass that caresses her cheek and whispers sweet things as a gift from the wind. Thoughts invade her mind; his pained look, his broken heart, all the alternatives- anything, anything but this.
It’s all my fault.
She buries her face in the remains of her dress as the clouds close overhead, dimming the world below. The wailing sound of the church bells still calls out into the empty night.