“I’ve been in love with you the first time I’ve saw you.”
My voice cracked, I was never good at this kind of thing. I sat across from Candice and clutched her hands. Her perfect, smooth hands that still smelled of her favorite vanilla lotion. Her nails were angel white and perfectly curved, fingers interlaced and perfectly still…
Thanks to the silk rope tying together her wrists.
I squeezed those perfect hands and ran a hand through my hair, suddenly bashful even after all this time. “Candice, do you remember how we met?”
Candice said nothing, her soft pink lips pressed so harshly together they’d gone bloodless. She was shy too. Even being the social butterfly she was in public, she was anxious alone with me. I’d reassure her. “We met during your free period. You were wearing a pink dress that came to your knees, and your green sweater. You were… You were talking about my favorite subject.”
I released her hands and pulled out a book from my bag. Candice’s eyes widened as she recognized it. One of the books you weren’t allowed to take from the school library.
I flipped open the pages and halted on the page of Hera. My fingers stroked the face of the portrait there, a stylized picture of the Queen of Heaven. “You were talking about Hera, how vengeful she was to the mistresses of her husband. You admired how strong she was, and I suppose I started to admire you.”
A lock of Candice’s blonde hair fell into her face, and I paused my story to tuck it back behind her ear. “You didn’t notice me then. No one notices the school librarian, I know. But then you came in to return that book. It was another, smaller book on Greek Myths. You were embarrassed because it was late. You apologized. You were… very respectful. It was then I knew, Candice. I knew we were meant to be. I excused the lateness, just for you.”
I flipped the pages of the book.
“You want to know what my favorite myth is?”
I stopped on the page I had, so many times before.
“The Abduction of Persephone.”
It was one of the several classic works of the god and his lover, his wife.
“Some people translate it wrong, they call it the Rape of Persephone. Hah!” I laughed at that. “Rape. She wanted it. He knew how she desired him, and after gaining permission from her father, he took her from the field and to the Underworld. There she ate the Pomegranate, and became his queen.”
I got up and headed for my kitchen, returning with a bowl and a very special fruit.
Candice had not moved an inch. I carefully removed the book that had brought us together back into my bag, and set the bowl in front of us.
“That’s why I took you, Candice. Unfortunately, your father is dead. So I couldn’t ask for your hand. But I knew the way you took home from school, I knew where no one would interrupt us. And now, we can be together.” I reached across and pulled free the bonds from her wrists. “I can’t promise you the Underworld, but I can promise you every book in the world. Will you eat the pomegranate, my love? My own, perfect, Persephone?”
Candice looked at the fruit in front of her, blankly. Like she couldn’t comprehend it. Her fingers were now deeply tangled with the porcelain locket that hang around her neck… that locket was new.
I hadn’t seen her ever wear it before.
“Is that from another boy?”
I got up from the table and grabbed Candice by the shoulders. She shrieked and raised her hands in defense as I took the locket and ripped it from her neck, smashing it to the floor.
“What is this?! What is this?!” I shook Candice so roughly her head collided back with the chair. “Don’t you know I love you?! Is this you betraying me?”
“No! No!” She finally spoke. I released her in surprise. Other than the scream at the abduction, she hadn’t said a word. Candice flopped back on her chair and gasped for breath. “It’s… it’s from my fiancé. My… my father arranged my engagement before his death.”
My heart sank into my shoes. Unable to support myself, I collapsed in my chair in shock.
Candice bit her lip. “I… I like you, Mr. Jacobson! You’re a very kind man, but you shouldn’t have taken me. I know why you did it, but… but you shouldn’t have. And you shouldn’t have taken off the locket.” Her voice cracked and her eyes welled up with tears.
Now afraid for her, I got to my feet and gathered her in my arms. She went stiff and tried to squirm away but I held her tighter. I had to be there for her. “No, I won’t let your fiancé ruin this. Not for us. It’ll be okay. I’ll protect you from him.”
“You… you can’t.”
Candice finally pushed away from me and stood from her chair. She started to walk around my basement, almost like in a dream. “I met him first when I was six years old. At my father’s death bed.” Now it was her turn for a story.
“I was only a little girl. My dad was dying. Cancer. It was bad. But then his friend came to visit. My father looked at him before he… he seemed to understood, why he was there. And he said…” Candice covered her mouth for a brief moment, as if she was afraid to speak. “… He said, ‘Take care of her. I give you my blessing’. And then he passed away. The man left then, but after that, monthly, I got… toys.” Candice’s lips pulled into a smile, almost wistful. “Dolls, mostly. Lots of dolls. When I was thirteen, he told me about the engagement. He told me I wasn’t really attractive to him, I was only a dear, but as I matured, he’d honor my father’s blessing, and he’d marry me.”
She looked at the locket I’d thrown to the floor. “That… was my present. For my sixteenth birthday. After school this year I was going to go join him. I’m so sorry, Mr. Jacobson. I’m so sorry…”
I couldn’t stand this. My face had gone white. I kept shaking my head. How could this be? She hadn’t had any boyfriends, but I thought she’d done that for me. “But… but I love you…”
“I know… and that’s why I’m sorry.”
I was about to ask why when two ice cold hands grabbed me from behind.
They wrapped around my neck and nearly crushed my windpipe before throwing me to the floor. I was kicked over to my back and a solid boot stomped into my chest, knocking the air from me.
I was looking into the face of a nightmare.
His body was nothing but this black mist, with two fiery orange eyes. When he spoke, it echoed so loudly in my mind I screamed in pain.
“So, you thought you could court my bride to be?”
He lifted up his leg and brought down his boot on my shoulder. The bone snapped. He stomped down again, and again, until my arm was smashed into jelly. I was bawling in pain when he started on the next one.
I heard Candice cry.
“No! P… please! Don’t kill him! He learned his lesson! He wasn’t going to hurt me, please!”
The demon looked up, and for a moment I thought I saw pity behind those flickering eyes.
“… Go upstairs, Candice. You don’t want to see this.”
“No! Please!” Candice was crying… for me? I managed to crane my neck back to see her. Her face was red and tears were pouring down her face. “Please, if you love me… don’t kill him… he knows… he knows I’m your fiancée. You don’t have to kill him…”
The demon slowly stepped over to her, wiping the tears from her face with a misty hand.
“I’m afraid, Candice. That this grave insult, to offer my intended this fruit of lust, to ask for her hand, is not something I can ignore. Go upstairs. For you, my sweet girl, he will suffer no longer.”
Candice looked at me, before she nodded and she vanished up the steps.
The demon turned back to me.
“I promised your physical suffering would be no longer. But even as your body decays, I will enjoy tormenting your soul until there is nothing left.”