Thanks to Aly for kindly
beta reading this.
William stirred in his sleep, nuzzling his face deeper into the soft pillows to avoid the shaft of sunlight aimed at his eyes.
It was his fault of course. Muzzy headed with wine the night before, he'd neglected to pull the curtains carefully and they gaped, allowing the mid morning sun to flood the room.
He might have remained asleep, might have recaptured the dream that had curved his lips in a gentle smile but a perfunctory knock on his door ended all chance of that.
"Mr William! Still abed at this hour! I don't know what your sainted father would have said. He told me, "Martha", he said, "if you wake with the birds and go to bed with them too, you'll - ""
"Nanny!" moaned William. "Father never got up at dawn in his life, Mother never gets out of bed at all as far as I can see, and I've told you not to come in here until I ring."
"Nonsense. It's nearly ten. Sleeping your life away. Here's a nice cup of tea and I'll start your bath for you. Busy day today," she said, giving him a coy glance. "Isn't it Miss Cecily's birthday?"
The covers were flung back and William emerged, blinking owlishly. Reaching for his spectacles he smiled rather foolishly and said, in a gentler tone, "Run along now, Nanny. I'm awake, I promise."
After she had gone, he lay back on his pillows and grinned in anticipation. It was indeed Cecily's birthday and he had an invitation to her party. He also had a present. Hidden deep amongst his socks was a small box holding a diamond ring.
He was going to ask Cecily to marry him tonight. He could see the scene unfold before him; his imagination giving what he hoped was a glimpse of the events to come. She would be overwhelmed and shy, blushing a little perhaps. Possibly she would refuse him, as well brought up ladies were told to do by their mothers, the first few times of asking at least. But he would see her love for him in her eyes, no matter what her pouting, kissable lips said. He would see it shining like a, like a...
William jumped out of bed and grabbed for his pencil and notebook.
"Shining like a lamp? A beacon? Not much rhymes with those words. A star? Hmm. That might work."
After breakfast, William left the house to wander through the London streets. He was in search of a peaceful retreat where he could polish and perfect the birthday poem to his love. Overhead, the sun gleamed like a golden sovereign in the rich, blue, autumnal sky, touching his light brown hair with its radiance. Squinting at it resentfully, his hangover still with him, William turned his steps towards the dim corridors of his club.
William worked on his poem for several hours, his back to a window overlooking the small garden behind the club. All he saw was the paper in front of him, white to a casual observer, etched with ruddy hues to him, as he spilled his heart's blood over the paper, trying to tell Cecily of his feelings for her.
It was the best poem he had ever written. It flowed, it sung, it cried to the heavens.
Apart from the opening lines, that is.
"Now, what rhymes with 'illuminate'?" Looking up for the first time in hours, William caught sight of a clock. "Good heavens! I must dress for dinner."
Hastily gathering up his precious sheets of paper, he grabbed his hat and coat and scurried out of the door. On the steps, the rays of the setting sun caught him full in the face, as those of the rising sun had done earlier. Raising a hand to shield his watering eyes, for just a second William saw the street bathed in a red glow, unearthly yet curiously attractive.
Hurrying down the steps, he made for home, the sun behind him now, lighting his way as it sank below the buildings of London. As he arrived home, it vanished, leaving him outside his house with no light to see the keyhole. He could not waste time fumbling with the key; rapping impatiently, he called out, "Let me in! I say, Nanny, open the door quickly!"
The door was opened cautiously and Nanny's broad face appeared. "Oh, it's you home at last, sir. Come on in, quickly. There's been such terrible tales these last few days, all those dead bodies, I hardly like to think about them and you out there in the dark and all."
"Yes, yes, well, don't trouble yourself, Nanny. You're safe here and I'll be perfectly safe later. It's not as if I'll be in any rough parts of town after all. You can't expect me to miss the party because of what will undoubtedly turn out to be no more than a half starved, wild animal."
He put his arm around her plump shoulders and gave her a careless hug then turned toward the stairs. As he began to climb them, he paused and looked back at her.
"Nanny? Leave the light in the window for me later? So I can find my way in? Beastly dark out there tonight."
William raised his hand to his head, perplexity furrowing his brow. He simply had to finish this poem swiftly, before Cecily was so busy with her other admirers that she would be unable to slip away with him to somewhere quieter.
Taking a deep breath, he read the beginning of the poem to himself, his fingers tapping out the rhythm of the words. A laugh rang out and his head jerked up with startled joy. That was Cecily's laugh. None other had such sparkling life, such depths of merriment, and such undertones of quiet understanding. As if a Muse had heard his silent entreaties, the perfect phrase came to mind and he scrawled it at the top of the page.
Standing, he hurried over to join the throng around his beloved.
"I do see you," said Cecily, her face resolute and set. "That's the problem. You're nothing to me, William. You're beneath me."
William stared at her in disbelief. He had finally told Cecily of his feelings, in need of soothing affection after that boor had mocked his poetry. He had been summarily rejected and insulted. Raw pain tore through him and it was only pride that kept his face impassive. Cecily stood, flicked her skirts away from him contemptuously and sailed back to the guffawing crowd of onlookers.
William stood, his legs shaking, his heart thudding, his hands damp. Taking careful steps, looking neither left nor right, he made for the door.
"Sir!" exclaimed the butler, springing forward to open it for him. "Your hat, your coat -"
William brushed past him wordlessly and left the warm lighted house for the darkness beyond. In his hand was the poem. He glanced down and became aware of what he gripped so tightly. A sobbing laugh cracked the facade of indifference and he began to weep, rage overcoming the sorrow, the mortification spurring him to destroy. Ripping and tearing, he found solace of sorts in the utter obliteration of every word written in praise of a harpy, a fiend, a demon with an angel's face.
Careless of his surroundings, he did not notice an approaching group of people, a man escorting two ladies. They naturally assumed that William would step out of their way but instead he collided with them, snarling out a furious and unwise challenge,
"Bloody hell! Watch where you're going!"
He continued on his way, his hands still busy with the paper that shredded between his fingers, his eyes too blurred with tears to notice that he was being followed. Slumping onto a seat, he let the final scraps fall to the ground, taking with them all his rage, leaving behind emptiness worse than death. Drained of all emotion, he looked up into eyes of dark flame set in a face whose purity of feature took his breath away.
"And here I wonder," mused the woman. "What possible catastrophe came crashing down from heaven and brought this dashing stranger to tears?"
William was lost. As Drusilla's fangs tore at his throat, as she lapped his blood delicately, as life dripped away, he thought only of her words, words that had stabbed him to the heart with their insight.
"You walk in worlds the others can only begin to imagine."
He could see those worlds as he died, could see their splendour and their marvels. Faces, places, a kaleidoscope of swiftly changing images coursed before his eyes, teasing and tantalising him with infinite possibilities.
As he drank of her in return then sank into welcome, gentle oblivion, his final thought on this earth as William, was to wonder why all those worlds were so dark...
Return to Home
Click here if you'd like to send feedback