The morning of the wedding arrived fat with tradition, but Charlotte’s interest in all things matrimonial ebbed following dinner, so with a sliver of fruitcake wrapped in a doily, she withdrew.
Charlotte drew a bath, soaking until her hands and feet puckered like cracked slabs of stone; the water tepid and unwelcoming. A pot of fresh tea had been brewed and she skipped to the hearth where her nightdress lay across the floor. Her mother brought out the sliver of cake Charlotte had stolen away with from the wedding, having wrapped it in silken cloth, gilded with poppies made from threads of gold and deep amber.
‘Put this under your pillow, and your dreams will be filled with the one you shall marry,’ her mother said.
Charlotte’s raised her brow as her teeth descended into a warm buttered scone between sips of tea. After supper, she placed the sliver of cake under her downy pillow, fat with feathers and dust, snuffed out her light, pulled up her eiderdown and nuzzled into the mattress, her body full of leavened scone, her bowels still warm from the tea.
Charlotte’s breasts were on flash fire. She could see something dark dripping from her nipples and the air smelled metallic. Her head swooned upon realising her skirts were level with her waist; her legs spread and anchored to the end of the bed. Free were her hands, but she was unable to sit up for the pain that grieved above her pubis. Charlotte lifted her head and saw a dark line stretching from hip to hip.
Clouds hung in the sky, smudging the moon through an opening in the drapes.
Charlotte choked on a scream, and a cloth was shoved into her mouth. A dull pain rung out in her cheek. Her mouth filled with blood and veins popped through the skin of her temples, thick as velvet ropes. A figure on the floor kneeled in front of her – long sable hair tickling her shins – and as the figure moved upward, the hair, in thick fronds, pricked her thighs and there was breath in her face.
Drowsiness mangled her thoughts, though she knew that her nipples had been carved from her breasts, and her belly sliced open, revealing muscle and sinew, making the layers of her tulle skirt glisten with blood. She tried to spit and blood sprayed out of her lips, coating the corners like rouge. Muscles stiffened and blood dried on her skin, while ribs broke through like weeds cutting through soil to get to the sun.
Blood logged death rattles echo and the figure rips away the cloth dangling from her lips, plunging into her wet vermilion mouth.
The figure is silent, the only sound being the friction of a dry penis dipping into a bloody wetness.
Tangled with sweat in her nightdress, Charlotte smelled the sweetness of the cake, squashed and moist where it had made a brown mess of her sheets. Kicking away the eiderdown, she sat up and pressed her feet to the floor before walking numbly to the kitchen table where her breakfast cooled on the table.
‘Sweet dreams?’ asked her mother.
Charlotte, sweaty and blank, circled the rim of the thin China cup with her fingers while her mother pressed her. She gripped the cup with her hand, brought it to her lips and slurped loudly, tea dripping down her chin, warm and metallic.