All is Well
by Amanda J. Capper
Alice finally found a calm spot. Found it barely in time to save her sanity; a few hours after her father announced she was to be wed and minutes before fear turned her into a screaming banshee. Found the sanctuary with the help of Agnes, her incandescent cat, dead these two months past. No, not necessarily dead. Simply gone, appearing only occasionally in the moments before blessed sleep.
“All will be well,” Agnes would purr. “He is a man. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“I’m to marry a man capable of murder, Agnes. Let us not forget that.”
“A man accused, not convicted,” Agnes assured her, and Alice would fall asleep slightly reassured.
Only to wake hours later, unable to breathe, her eyes wide, searching dark corners for Jonathon, convinced her husband-to-be was hiding and watching. Dull light would eventually fill her small room, revealing nothing but a simple bed and dresser. Having no sibling to confide in, never knowing her mother and unsure of her father, she would beg the silence for Agnes, her only friend. When the quiet refused her the cat, Alice would picture Agnes stuffed in a basket in the back of Jonathon’s carriage, removed by the agreement of both suitor and father because, as everyone knows, cats transmit diseases.
“You are a delicate child, Alice,” her father had said. “We must protect you.”
Delicate she may be, but stupid she wasn’t. The day she met Jonathon she suspected her father’s intentions. A doctor, even one as old as Jonathon, was more than a suitable match for the daughter of a tailor. Her father wasn’t protecting his only child; he was protecting his biggest investment.
And when the date was set, Alice did as Agnes taught her. Made herself available in body, but retreated to the calm spot in her soul that allowed her to watch what went on around her while participating as little as possible.
On the day of her wedding Alice watched from within herself, looking out the window of her eyes, making sure she smiled when expected, spoke when words were unavoidable and performed to the delight of her father. But from her window seat she could see her husband’s frown, sense his irritation at her reactions to his endearments.
“Your hands are cold, Alice,” he complained as they walked down the aisle and out to his black horses and stark carriage.
“Yes,” she answered, and sat quietly, stiffly, for the short ride to her new home.
The concern her husband showed her during the wedding was gone once the door to his house closed behind them. “The purpose of this union is children,” Jonathan said. “Go upstairs and make yourself available. And please,” he continued without ever looking at her, “no girlish hysterics. I won’t tolerate them.”
But she couldn’t help herself. She stopped herself from moaning by biting on the satin sheets but she couldn’t control the shivering. She searched desperately for the corner of her mind that was her haven but it evaded her, giving her seconds of hope and then dissipating, throwing her back into the large, dark room, and its locked windows and heavy drapery.
She heard Jonathon’s heavy tread on the stairs. Listened, straining her ears as he entered the outer room, knowing he was removing his clothes but not entirely sure what he would do next. Watched, as the door opened and the hunched form of her husband advanced toward the bed. She whispered for mercy, a strangled plea for compassion but her husband ignored her. He reached for the covers, his hands shaking. Alice closed her eyes, clamped them shut and held her breath. She heard him pant in anticipation and felt the cool of the room close over her body as he slowly drew the sheets away. But during the prolonged seconds as she waited for his dreaded touch, as Alice dimly became aware of the room’s sudden silence, she heard the comforting sound of a cat’s purr
Agnes. Alice opened her eyes, searching frantically for the cat but saw only her husband’s face, his eyes fixed on something in the distance beyond the bed. Alice watched, confused, as the lust in his face contorted to fear, as his whole body appeared to slacken and when his body fell to the floor, Alice swung around to see what was behind her. But there was nothing, no one. Just her in the room, with the dead body of her new husband.
The police and coroner were quick and professional. Mumbled about old men with bad hearts and vices for virgins, and then they were gone, leaving the large house to spend the rest of its days with only the three remaining occupants; Alice, of course; a glowing white cat, seen only by a few; and the dead doctor’s late wife, mangled and bloody, rumoured to walk the halls during the evening hours but never actually seen by anyone ever again.
Amanda J. Capper lives in Northern Ontario with her musician husband and their mutt, Maple. She reads, writes, and reviews (http://thegenreview.com/) full-time but thinks coherently only part-time. She has stories published on the Every Day Fiction site and is currently polishing a novel and preparing to query. www.ajcapper.com
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'BENEATH THE MOON AND STARS'