A breezy chill swept through the vicinity.
A perfect morning.
A bell dings in the back room and he turns.
He smirks. They’ll never guess.
And besides. There’s Plan B. There’s always Plan B, consciously planned or not.
Cackling dies in his throat as he glances around, making sure there is nothing left in this room, and then moves on to the next. There still was one last touch to each, but he was saving that for last.
It is picturesque, surpasses his best expectations, though not his wildest. No, his wildest are not to be considered, not yet. He still has to find the scents! Yes, that is next.
Now he passes the decorative vase filled with lavender, the teddy bear that used to give such comfort. They did nothing for him, personally, but the Emperor’s daughter loved them; even though her younger brother preferred the monster next to it.
He smiles, more of a grimace that never reaches even his lips. He was the real monster here, according to them.
He throws his head back and stares at the ceiling a minute, and his eyes widen madly as a scene, a memory, flashes before his eyes.
“Nicholas!” A smile lit her face. A genuine smile! Were there ever such a thing, it would be this. He tried for one in return, but he could never match this radiance, and he knew it. That did not deter her.
“Nicholas,” she repeated, nearly out of breath from dashing up to him. Her crimson hair waved in the wind that was prominent even then.
He nodded a greeting, quickly falling back into his usual posture. “Cheyenne.”
Her smile missed a beat. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head, a bit too vigorously to be realistic. “Nothing.”
She frowned. “Nick…”
He scowled at her. “What?”
She swallowed, not making eye contact. “…Nothing.” He cocked his head at her.
She smiled at the ground. “Yeah?”
“You…” He shook his head. How could he tell her she was beautiful, tell her to smile because it lit up her corner of the world so easily… But how could he tell her that?
“Well…” she started, and he stopped trying to think of a polite way to phrase his thoughts and let her speak.
“I was wondering if you’d be our best man?”
He went cold with numb shock as she continued to stutter through an explanation of how he had proposed and when the wedding would be, and how she would only have a Maid-of-Honor and he a Best Man, and how her Maid would be someone from their school days… but he did not hear any of this. He was not listening.
Cue the peculiar, aching feeling of heartbreak.
Having to stand there and be asked to help this process along.
And he tilted his head down to look her square in the eye, an incomprehensive anger, a rage, built up inside him, and he shoved her away. She looked stunned at this. And he yelled at her, actually yelled at her, one single word —
Her eyes widened and he turned away at this, striding in the opposite direction and she called after him, screamed after him, and he didn’t turn —
He never looked back.
Did you know you were going to marry the future Emperor of all the Western Atlas?
Now he shakes with the pure emotion of the memory and screams at the world, a bloody, curdling cry. The cry of a dying animal.
Maybe that was more suiting than first impression gives away.
The screaming continues for a good long minute and he is almost frothing when finished, looking around with renewed purpose. Clenched fists pummel the air in vain attempt to relieve this sudden feeling.
He hurries to climb out the broken window in the back that he’d entered from, gather the scented things and tear off the bright red petals, one by one, life by cruel life, until none are left – red was her favorite color! – gathers them up and leaves the stem behind. When he reaches the first room, he sets them down and presses two petals gently between palms, as if trying to make them absolutely flat. Tore each in two and laid two halves under each pillow. Gathered those remaining up again, and moved on to the next room. Repeated, until he got to her room — he put the rest gently in a circlet around where her head would be. Smiles sadly and bitterly at them.
Should he have yelled at her like that?
If nothing else, it justified his feelings.
Striking a match against his face, he drops it to the carpet. Turns and leaps back out of the window, for good.
I put tulips under all the pillows and then set fire to the house.
Cheyenne had loved flowers. Especially tulips.
Had been fascinated with fire, and how it danced and made shadows on all the walls.
Would this make her happy, this combination of the two?
It is only later he notices a long cut staining the pale skin of his arm red, with a scarlet blood that seems unreal.
After all this, he figures, should he still have blood beating through him?
[a/n: written for a library challenge; prompt italicized. past tense is the flashback. this tune seems to fit, if you prefer listening and reading — Double or Nothing; Nine Lashes. Chesh, it’s not terrible. I don’t think.]