|Photo courtesy of Bee Felten-Leidel|
Welcome back to Day 11 of our Sirens Samhain Celebration! Before we go further, let's announce the winner of the Zoom Yoga Session with Jayme Conner...
Today's Music Selection: Deity by Wendy Rule
submitted by River Eno
Today's Article: A Short Story, "Perfect" by River Eno
We met on Halloween, walking the streets of my town illuminated by October’s full Hunter Moon. He was dressed as a vampire with white makeup, fake fangs and an accent I’d never heard before. I couldn’t tell how old he was. I was sixteen and dressed as a witch. He said I was perfect.
When I turned eighteen, he paid to have my eye color changed. It was all the rage. He assured me it wouldn’t be painful. They numbed me before the procedure, with a long needle in each eye. More serious pain came days after. The clamps used to keep my eyes open left bruises. And because my eyes were dark it took a good long while to bring them to a lighter color.
He said my brown eyes were beautiful, but green eyes set off my red hair, making me perfect. My mother cried for weeks. Said she didn’t recognize the person looking back at her. She said I looked cold and vacant and alien. I stayed with him after that. I couldn’t listen to her drone on about sweet talkers, and how he’d expect something in return for shelling out so much money.
At twenty-one he paid for me to have breast augmentation surgery. That’s what the doctor called it. He said he loved my slimmer more athletic body, but the blouses he bought me looked better with cleavage. It won’t hurt, he said. I was bedridden for a week, and the medication for the pain made me sick.
My mother cried, lamenting the daughter she’d had, compared the things I used to do — field hockey and track — to the new me, his girlfriend. She overreacted about everything.
For my twenty-fifth birthday he threw a Halloween masquerade in the polished gardens at his home outside town. He told me I was a full-grown woman and had a white silk dress made to show off my perfect body. The guests wore white gowns, black tuxedos, and beautifully ornate masks like at Carnevale. Expertly painted disguises with authentic gold and silver accents. Some adorned with jewels. Some covered their face entirely, expressionless and airbrushed a blushing rose gold with black mesh concealing the eyes.
I was formally introduced to every guest, over one hundred strangers. They curtsied and kissed my hand while he stood behind and a bit above me in a tailored tuxedo. At precisely three in the morning, bathed in the light of the full Hunter Moon he took me to the dais in the middle of the grounds, had me bow to his guests, and killed me.
When I woke the next evening, I marveled how the strength of my new body made it look graceful … flawless. He gave me clothes and told me I had to say a proper goodbye to my mother before we left for his estate in Dresden. He said I would feel guilty if I didn’t have closure, and he wanted our life to be perfect.
Mom burst into tears when she saw me, then got hysterical when I told her I was leaving the country. Nothing at all pleased her since dad left.
Many moons passed —then years, then decades.
He said he was throwing a masquerade for the Hunter Moon falling on Samhain. The first ball since my birth into the life. He said a new dress would arrive. Only I wanted to wear a costume like I’d seen at the first masquerade. He said the dress was already made and that was that.
I took the long way to the top of his family’s vast mountain manse to the attic filled with centuries old furniture and paintings. I wanted to find the costumes he’d shown me years ago from previous parties. The crate was made of dark cedar, the box lid hinged with medieval hardware. I tilted the lid back to get a good look at the choices and picked out a black ball gown with green accents. I gathered the material and went to stand in front of the Cheval mirror set by the wall. While admiring the dress I noticed a small, ordinary cardboard box set on a Lindenwood dresser behind me. The plainness of the box made it obvious in the sea of woods and precious metals.
It was the box my mother gave me when I left home. A collection of memories she threw together, to tether us through time, is what she said. I was strangely afraid to open it. I hadn’t thought of my life before the change, except when he told me she died. He said I needed to know.
A kitsch photo album sat on top of a few other items. I lifted it out and settled into a tall, dusty chair from the 1700’s. The first photos were of me when I was a baby. The classic ones, on the belly and sitting up with my big brown eyes wide.
Strange … I had forgotten my eyes were brown. I looked in the mirror. My pale green eyes were shocking compared to the warmth of the picture.
The next photo was of me and my mother at the beach on Labor Day. The following was when we lost the final game at the end of my senior year. My long, red hair hung in corkscrews. I was on the porch. I remembered my mom snapping the picture while I was upset … but suddenly … I could see myself through my mother’s eyes. And I was beautiful.
Pain attacked my chest and tears ran down my cheeks. A longing for who I was and all I’d lost completely enveloped me. I dressed and found him in the study. I set the picture on the desk in front of him.
“You said I was perfect.” I whispered.
“I knew you could be,” he smirked.
The ache in my chest grew to unbearable proportions. I hated him.
“Wear this at the ball.” He handed me a long black gown and left the room.
The costumes were as stunning as before. Coffins and headstones marked the grounds for a Halloween theme. The women wore black gowns and black eye masks. The men, black suits with white masks covering one side of their face. They complimented me and smiled.
The longer I stood with him, staring at the scene of revelers, the more indignation rose within me. My thoughts unraveled thinking of what he planned. And for the first time since we met, I decided I didn’t want it.
At precisely three am, he guided me to the fountain in the middle of the gardens, maneuvering me around coffins and fake head stones. Two masked men carried a sleek black coffin from the bushes and set it near the fountain. A stillness settled and he had me bow.
“Step in, my beloved.” He smiled as the lid was opened.
The word popped out. I looked at him, at the coffin and then all around me. I saw two wooden staves resting on the fountain edge.
Instinct had me move away from him, away from the crowd, toward the fountain. He frowned, strangely, then surrendered to his anger.
“Come now…” He gripped my arm with preternatural strength. “Do you not want this to be perfect?”
His grip hurt, and when he pulled me, my high heels wobbled on the grass, and I stumbled against the fountain’s edge, sliding a stave with me as he tightened his grip, pulling me upright. He sternly put me in my place.
Except … in that moment, calm and clarity rose within. One of those perfect instants in time. When everything came together as one. My fury. My understanding of what he had done to me and what he was going to do. His arrogance that he’d always had, allowing him to turn his back on me.
“To continue,” he said, and clapped his hands together. “Thank you all for com…”
Gripping the stake, I’d taken from the wall when I faltered, I threw up my arms, and I jammed the wood into his back until it burst through his chest. A collective gasp came from the guests as he slid off the stake and collapsed face first into the coffin. I was shaking as the mass of menacing onlookers approached.
A woman in a black mask with long feathers came forward. She seemed important. She looked at him. My teeth were chattering when she looked at me. She smiled and bent to one knee. The rest of the party goers following suit.
“I’ve seen his show dozens of times,” she said, “But this … this was the perfect ending … my queen.”
I looked over a sea of people genuflecting as he lay hemorrhaging in a coffin meant for my body. And I had to agree. This was perfect.