Short Story: till death do us part?

Amber De Ruyt 11 April 2021

My world descends into madness as my senses are overwhelmed in a whirlwind of chaos, trying to distinguish the difference between reality and personifications of my panic.

Pinks, lilacs, pastel blues of every shade seem to encircle me and dance in their revelry, mocking my pale face and fake smile. I hear voices, some high pitched and muttering at the speed of sound, others squealing in a seemingly endless chorus, rising and falling with each quick beat of my heart. The blood seems to have lost its way through my body and is now rushing through my ears, creating a symphony of destruction in my mind and blocking out any reasonable conscience that might be trying to make itself heard. I smell the roses, their sickly sweet and overpowering aura intermingled with the scent of hairspray and deodorant, creating some sort of paradox between the natural and the synthetic. My fingers brush against silk as I clench my fist, soft against my skin as it wraps itself around my hand like poisoned ivy, only beautiful until one gets too close. My bare feet touch the carpet and my toes curl inwards as I feel the earth shaking beneath the chaos surrounding me, trying to ground my body as my spirit is swept away into a turbulent hurricane of anguish and despair.

My spiral into insanity is ground to a halt as I hear the tolling of the church bells and suddenly the world around me is frozen.

My stomach constricts, and my heart beat continues its sprint towards the ever-distant finish line as I try to stop my hands from trembling. I rise from my seat and walk amongst the statues in the room, taking a moment to breathe without running out of air. I step towards my friends as they stand in a cloud of silk and lilac, frantically arranging the roses whose smell had finally dulled. They were the ones who were with me from the beginning, listening to my stories as I went on an insane roller coaster ride from Wonderland to Tartarus. They seemed so supportive at the time, but did any of them bother to warn me? Did they simply forget to mention the abyss I seem to have fallen into after they convinced me to say yes? Then there was my mother, kneeling in front of the chair I just stood up from, a look of pride on her face that I had only ever seen once before, the day I ‘fixed’ my nose. I doubt she ever even considered telling me what was to come, she was too concerned with making sure that my father was seated as far away from her as possible and that the caterer didn’t overcook the fish. As I sigh and turn away, ready to reassume my dreaded position I catch a glimpse of a little silver shoe peeking through a crack in the door. I move forward to discover my niece to be the culprit, all dolled up in her pretty pink formal dress.

Despite the waves of anxiety that never ceased to course through my body, I shakily crouch down beside her and stare into her bright blue eyes, so filled with awe that I wonder if they might pop out of her head at any moment. She had been looking forward to this day more than anyone else but had been told to wait outside my room for fear she would break something or god forbid make a tiny smudge on one of our overpriced costumes. Some of my nerves seem to melt away at the sight of her eyes as I remember what it was like to be so innocently unaware, when the world seems much easier to navigate. Perhaps it would be easier to remain that way throughout a lifetime, oblivious to the perils that hide beneath veils and mountains of money, unseen to the outside world yet all too present to those whose lives lie within. Perhaps if that were the case I wouldn’t feel a million swords impaling my soul with their frustrated anger, refusing to stop despite my protests. The bells continue to toll in the background of my waking nightmare, the only sound to be heard that isn’t coming directly from inside my turbulent body and spirit until after a moment there is nothing I can do but collapse on the floor in a pile of white grandeur and weep.

For a few seconds there are nothing but tears, streaming down my face and drowning me in their despair as they seem to cry with me, increasing in volume with each hiccup of a breath. Then, slowly covering my spirit like a blanket of darkness over the sun, comes the fear. I suppose I hadn’t really been afraid before this moment, simply anxious or apprehensive. Now however, amid the frozen bodies of my loved ones in their satirical freeze frame of false pretences and unrealistic expectations I come to realise what all of this really means, beneath the frills and the bows. What it really means to give your life to someone and not be able to turn back. I wish I could tell you that the first thought that entered my mind was love, but that would just be another pretence used as a brushstroke on the canvas of a life that isn’t really mine. I lost control of my life long ago, had the quill used to write my story ripped out of my trembling fingers and whisked out of reach, leaving me to be nothing but a puppet in a world unwilling to cut me loose. A few hours from now, a ring will be placed on my finger carrying the weight of the sky within it and I will have no choice but to be dragged down to wherever it chooses to take me. A few hours from now my parents will be proud, my friends will be envious, and my future will be secure. A few hours from now, my life will be his. With this thought I feel the walls start to close in around me and my heart rate seems to be performing the final lap of its sprint, longing to reach the finish line and finally be given a moment of rest.

Almost instinctively, I reach up towards my neck and grab hold of my necklace, fiddling with the clasp until finally I manage to open the frame and catch a glimpse of what lies within. It only takes a second for the blocks in my mind to disappear as I look down at the tiny crumpled picture safely enclosed in the locket in my palm. All it takes is a peek at her long blonde hair or her bright green eyes for my entire being to melt as if on cue. You can still see the playfulness in her smile through the wrinkles and blemishes of time, although sometimes I do wonder whether some of the damage comes from my own tears. I have every tiny detail of this picture committed to memory, from the curve of her chin to the bend of her knee and all the way back up to the dimple in her right cheek. Somehow holding it in my hand makes her feel closer, as if with enough determination I could dissolve into the torn paper and be with her again, frozen in time. She always had a way of saying the wrong thing at the perfect time, filling me with a sense of fury and adoration which truly encompassed everything that meant being in love. Some summer days we would wake up and have glorious adventures in far off lands and some winter nights we would go to sleep with our limbs entwined in a way that could only be true of two souls whose bodies were shaped for the other’s touch. I slowly force myself to shut the locket and clutch it tightly in my hands. I swore to any god who was willing to hear me now that they could take my body and my wealth and anything else their greedy fingers can grab onto, but they would never take this memory away. Although in all fairness, my mother did try her hardest to do just that. There was something about her that just didn’t blend in with the colour scheme of the pre ordered wallpaper of her daughter’s life and for that reason and that reason alone, she had to be taken care of. Indefinitely.

I feel the world around me slowly starting to shift once again and I know that I don’t have long left in the safe little bubble of my subconscious. As I see my wedding planner’s anxious fingers start to twitch in the corner I wipe away the makeup dripping down my cheeks. As I notice the tailor’s needle getting ready to perform a stitch on my prison dress, I smooth down my skirts. As I catch a glimpse of my friends’ lips starting to move once again, I tuck my hair behind my ears before they can make yet another comment about its unruliness. As I watch my mother’s eyebrows furrow at the sight of yet another sign of incompetence, I rise from the cloud of white ashes surrounding me and go to reclaim my seat in the realm of reality.

I take one final look around as my Elysium of silence fades away and the world resumes its dance, twirling far out from my control. Now for the final touch… I take a deep breath in and as I release it with a great sigh, the insanity awakens once more, and the rehearsed smile is fixed on my face with a glue made of responsibilities and habit. The colours keep swirling, my mother keeps muttering and the flowers’ scent is still suffocating but through it all I just keep smiling. Because I’m scared that if I stop, my mask might start to slip.

That’s the most terrifying thought of all.