She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, a cleansing breath, an ill-fated attempt to relax even though she knew the very minute he arrived she’d be wound up as tightly as a spring.
The sweet smell of gardenias filled the room, preceding his materialization. When Elizabeth finally opened her eyes, he stood before her, as she knew he would. Dressed head to toe in alabaster, the fragrant white flowers in his lapel, he was strikingly handsome with angular cheekbones and cornflower blue eyes. He had no right to be so beautiful, so alluring.
“It’s time,” Louis stated, his soft baritone enfolding her like a thick fog, clouding her mind, weakening her resolve.
“No, not yet,” Elizabeth pleaded. Every year on her birthday for as long as she could remember, Louis came to visit, reminding her of the pact her mother had made, the obligation that only she could fulfill. Her eyes found the glass on the nightstand, and suddenly she felt thirsty.
“You’re 21 today. The debt must be paid,” he emphasized, “It’s not as if you haven’t known your lot in life since the day you were born,” he added.
“But my mother is dead!” Elizabeth shouted. “Surely her death negates any debts she incurred!” Elizabeth tried to sound convincing despite her weak position. He was right, her whole life was predecated on this moment. “This whole first-born child thing is ridiculous. How can you take away her very wish?”
“Elizabeth, my price has always been the same. You know I was magnanimous. Normally I take the child immediately after birth. But because your mother’s dearest wish was for a child, I agreed to let her keep you for 21 years, and I honored that despite her death. You were never really hers. You were always mine. It’s time to come home.”
Louis looked deeply into her eyes, trying to calm her, to draw her to him. She was perfect, with long dark hair cascading down her back and deep brown eyes. He’d known for years that she was the one. He’d convince her soon enough.
She felt his magnitism as she struggled to look away. “No,” Elizabeth cried, moving sideways towards the nightstand, “I’ll never go with you.” No matter how much she’d loved her mother, she couldn’t pay the price.
The gardenia’s weren’t enough to mask the scent of bitter almonds as Elizabeth downed the draught sitting on the bedside table.
Her eyes fluttered as she met his gaze. “I win,” she whispered.
Louis gave her a cold hard stare. Victorious, Elizabeth slipped into unconsciousness.
Breaking into a sly smile, he waited for her heart to stop.
The suicides always belonged to him.
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