The bell tolls from the city, making me jump each time I hear the empty clang of the metal being struck. The sound frightens me. Each time a new ring is added to the toll marks another hour closer to Andrei’s death.
It’s all my fault too. It was me who made him use his magic where others could see it. It was only a matter of time before someone witnessed it and reported it to the authorities. It should be me walking to the Guillotine, not him.
The toll of the bell that marks the ninth hour resonates through the city. Three hours remaining. I sit in my parents’ study, trying my best to maintain composure… no, that’s not it. I could care less about composure now. I seek my parents understanding. My father, being the General of the King’s Musketeers should have enough sway to convince the authorities that Andrei is indeed innocent. I’m certain that if I told my parents the truth they would see through the lies and set Andrei free.
“Mother, please listening to what I have to say.” I ask her politely.
A woman with chestnut brown hair stands in the window looking out at the rose garden below. Her hair is tied back in an elaborate braid that Tamelle must have fashioned. She does have the best hand at hair. My mother, Lady Trevelle, spares me a glance over her shoulder. She is disappointed. She had a male witch under her nose the entire time and didn’t know it. She let him court her daughter. She’s frightened, but she knows, she must know I loved him.
“And what could you say to console me Rose. That you didn’t know? That he is innocent? That you were tricked?” her tone is sharp like a blade.
“No, he didn’t trick me. He didn’t trick anyone,” I insist, leaning forward in my chair, gloved hands pressed into my lap, gripping my skirt to keep them from shaking. “Can’t you see, he’s been framed!”
“And what makes you think that he was framed? He had no family when he came to us. It’s abundantly clear he was trying to work into our families good graces in order to make a name for himself,” she seethes.
“It’s not like that at all! Andrei would never-”
“Andrei would never what, Rose?” she turns now, pointed face looking at me with clear blue eyes. Eyes both my sisters have that I do not. Hair both my sisters have that I do not. “Andrei was a street urchin who dupped us with talent. He conned us all into believing he had nothing but the families priorities in his mind as well. We gave him a roof over his head, education, clothing, food. We very nearly gave him our daughter, Rose,” her voice chokes, mirroring the tears that brim my eyes.
“Mother, you’re mistaken. Andrei was a good man. He’s a good man!” my lip trembles. Why won’t she listen to me? “Please, where is father? Father knows he is good. Please let me speak to father.”
“He’s a boy, Rose! Fifteen! Your father is busy trying to clear this family’s name of treason. You may not speak to him now. The boy will die, they will see we were unknowingly housing a witch and they will pardon us. That is what will happen. So please, sit there while your father works to right this horrendous mess.”
My throat hurts from holding back my voice. I want to scream! She’s wrong! How could she possibly believe Andrei is evil? All he did was jump through time! It’s not his fault! He did it all for me! He loves me, and I, him! I have to try and help! I must!
The voice in my head hisses in agreement and I shudder.
I lower my chin, looking at the expensive wooden floor of my father’s study as mother steps out into the adjoining room. I’m left alone in the study with that voice and the vexing sound of the clock ticking in the corner. All it does is remind me of him.
I look up, swallowing tears as they also stream down my face. The room is not lit like it usually is. It feels dark, like my heart right now. I sniff as the door clicks open. I quickly wipe my face, regaining composure. Perhaps it’s father.
“Rose,” his deep voice sounds across the empty room. At last! Father!
I turn, looking at him. “Father! Oh, father. Please tell me he’ll be ok, please!” I beg, unable to hold back the wavering in my voice.
“Oh, Rose. I’m sorry, but it’s out of my hands. The boy was caught. He was seen performing a pagan act and therefore must be tried as such. I cannot release him.”
“But father! He was your best! He was mine! Can’t you do anything to absolve him? It wasn’t him! I swear!!” I beg, feeling my voice crack as I plead for Andrei’s innocence.
“And what would you know of his innocence, Rose? He had you fooled, dancing in the palm of his hand. I allowed him to court you. I, nor the court could trust a thing you say without claiming you’d been bewitched. I will hear none of it,” his voice grows cold.
My heart sink. Can’t he see he’s making a mistake? How can I possibly convince them? How could I possibly show them that Andrei is not a magic user when I know he is? I have to think of something! I have…
There is only one way, isn’t there.
Yesssss… there is one way. Thaaat way….
A cold, slimy voice hisses in my ear. I jump, startled, looking around. Where did it come from? It sounded almost… present. I see nothing but the dark shadows of an unlit room with windows wide open to allow the –
To allow the sunlight in… Why is it so dark in here?
“Father, can’t we turn on the lights?” I ask, my voice shaky.
He turns to look at me, a strange look in his eye. “What in God’s name are you talking about. Rose, the lights are on and the windows have been thrown open. Do I need to have the doctor look at you again?” he asks, shocked.
“No father. My mistake. It’s fine,” I dismiss. It must just be a trick of the eye. I’m tired, distraught. It’s not real.
Nooo. I ammm real…
There’s that voice again. It’s creepy and makes me feel… empty and hollow. I don’t like it. I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping it’s just a trick of the wind… or something.
“Rose, I have another meeting to attend. Please, do us a favour and go to your-”
“No!” I cut off, feeling the urgency in my stomach grow. “I will not wait around for Andrei to die! He is my beau!”
“He was a suitor and he fell out of favour!” my father bellows, growing angry. I’m scared stiff, leaning back in my chair. I’ve hardly ever see father get angry. He’s usually a calm man. But now, his voice grows and his eyes seem to twitch with tension and anger and I see his stash tremble with tension. “You will go to your room and speak nothing more of the matter!” he instructs.
“I will not!” I yell back, standing up, despite my desire to shrink away. “I need you to listen to me!” The only way is to refocus the blame. That’s the only way I can help him.
“I know Andrei is innocent! It wasn’t him that that witch using magic, it was me!” I shout. What in the world am I saying? Surely I’ll be damned to hell for this.
“What?” he spins around, eyes narrow and cold.
“I did it. I cast the spell. I’ve been reading some books and-”
“There is no way a daughter of mine is a witch,” he whispers in an intense voice.
“It’s true! I can prove it!” I say in a small voice.
“No, I will not believe it. There are no witches in my family,” he growls.
“Then explain to me why only my hair is black while both my sisters are brown like yours and mothers? Why are my eyes grey while yours are green and mothers are blue? There is a reason. I am different. You’ve always known it!” I shout, distraught.
“It’s not true!” father waves.
“Then why can I make things disappear?” I scream, frustration tearing my throat.
He stares at me. “Impossible.”
“It’s not! Look!” I tear the glove from my hand and grab the ornament from the desk by the window. I hold it up in front of my father, clasping it tightly so my fingers touch as the wrap about the base of the letter opener. In a moment, it’s gone.
Fathers gaze turns cold and empty as he looks at my trembling hand. “Impossible,” he whispers. “No…”
“It’s true, father. Please! Andrei is not at fault. Please let him go!” I drop the hand that was holding the opener, taking a step toward him. I hear the door behind me open. Father steps back, a fear I’ve never known in his eyes before.
“Stop!” He commands. I freeze. “No daughter of mine is a witch,” he says darkly. I hear a gasp from behind as the room grows slightly darker.
“Father! Listen to me!” I insist.
“No. My daughter is dead to me. I have no Rose. She is gone. He took her.”
My heart sinks, the darkness closing in, swallowing the windows. My chest feels tight and it’s hard to breathe. It’s as if the world around me dissolves into the inky blackness that has swallowed everything but myself.
Shh, now. Can’t you see? They never loved you.
‘No, you’re wrong. My parents, they are wonderful people, they always understand!’
You are better off without them. They could never understand this… what we have.
‘What do we have? Who are you?’ I ask the strange voice coming from the dark.
Why, I am the Void inside you, dear! I can make all the nasty things disappear! Come, listen to me and I’ll make all those who don’t want you, go away, ok? All you have to do is…
“Andrei?” I call out, my voice echos along the empty stone walls of the prisoners quarters. I hear dripping water and the scuttling sound of vermin. The place reeks of feces and urine. I hear chains shuffle from within the cells I pass, looking for Andrei.
“Rose? Is that you?” I hear a faint voice from further down the hall, so I quicken my pace, feet splashing through a puddle as I run.
“Andrei? Andrei!” I finally catch sight of him from behind the bars, his hands clasped together in a hand-sized blockade which is chained to the wall. He looks filthy, his face a little sunken in from the poor food. He doesn’t look like he’s eaten much at all in the last month.
His fine suit is stained and haggard, fraying at the hems, and the knees have holes in them from crawling to the bars in order to reach the stale bread they’ve tossed him. It pains me to see him in such a state. How could they have… No. Not anymore.
“Andrei, I’m so sorry!” I fall to my knees, not minding the filth my skirts touch. I reach a desperate hand through the bars toward him. I want to touch him. I need to feel him, to know that he’s ok.
He slowly shifts his weight onto his knees and crawls closer. “Rose, what are you doing here? I thought… you’d forgotten about me,” he croaks.
When he’s finally within reach my hand runs along his rough jawline, caressing his cheek lovingly. I feel hot tears on my cheeks and I press myself further into the bars, wanting to hold him.
“Andrei, I’m sorry! I tried. But -” I hiccup, my desperation getting the better of me. “They wouldn’t-” I choke, swallowing a sob.
“Shh, shh, don’t cry Rose. There’s nothing we could have done. I wasn’t careful enough. I’ve never had to hide it for this long before and it was bound to happen. I suppose I could jump in order to get out, but I don’t know how,” he sags into a fit of coughing.
“This place, it’s a wreck. You don’t belong here. You don’t deserve this! It’s all my fault,” I whine, tears dripping from my eyes.
“Don’t talk like that, Rose,” he says when he finally stops coughing. His voice, a little raspy. “We were both reckless. There’s no point both of us being in here,” he tries to console me. Why is he the one consoling me? He’s the one who’s got two hours till his death! How is he so calm!?
“It shouldn’t be you! I couldn’t live if you died! Stuck here? With no one? No! I won’t! I will get you out, somehow,” I tell him through my sobs.
He sighs, leaning his cheek into my palm. He looks so peaceful, I can’t understand why. I wish I could calm myself, but I can’t.
He opens his eyes and he looks up at me. “So, you couldn’t convince the General?” I shake my head, unable to speak the words, not after- No. “Rose…” his brows pull together in a look of concern as he looks at me. “You’re pale. What happened? Are you well?” he asks, at a time like this.
“I’m fine. All I need is you. Please, I’ll think of something. I promise,” I insist.
He leans forward, resting his brow against the bars and looking at me through them. I lean forward, giving him a gentle kiss. His lips, they’re cold, trembling from the chill in the air. October can be cold in France. The prison cells, being damp as they are, feel much colder than outside. I hiccup, trying to hold back a fresh wave of tears.
The bells toll the eleventh hour outside and I jump, pulling back from his kiss. I feel my body shake in anticipation and fright.
“Rose, it’ll be ok. We’ll figure it out,” he says hoarsely.
“How can you say that!?” I cry. “There’s one hour till your beheading! I don’t know what to do!” my heart flutters anxiously and I feel sick to my stomach.
“You need to go. They’ll be coming soon,” he reminds me.
“I can’t! I can’t leave you! I need you, Andrei. They didn’t… they won’t,” I hiccup, trying to form the words to tell him.
“What? Who didn’t what?” he asks, desperate to understand.
I breathe in a ragged breath. “They disowned me, father, mother. They cast me away. I tried to tell them and they wouldn’t listen, so I showed them. I had to!” I wheeze.
“Rose, what did you say? What are you saying? I don’t understand!” he looks confused, eyes turned down, a mix of sadness and perplexion on his disheveled face.
I guess I should tell him too… But… What if he does the same? What if he doesn’t want me after? I couldn’t! I can’t! “Nothing, It’s nothing. Please disregard what I said. I can’t make sense right now.”
He holds my gaze, sincerity in his eyes and nods. I hear an echo of a door down the hall.
“You have to go,” he hisses.
“No, wait. I’ll tell you. Please, don’t think ill of me,” I brace myself as I prepare to tell him my secret. He waits, watching, hands holding the bars with white knuckles.
I look down, too shy to say. “I too have a magic,” I whisper softly. I force myself to look up into his wide eyes. For a long moment, he’s silent.
“You do?” he asks, husky voice surprised.
I nod, squeezing my gloved hands together in my lap.
The noise returns, drawing both our attention back to the time. “There’s no time to explain. I wish I could,” I force myself to say.
“It’s alright. I trust you. I’ll wait. Now, go!” he insists.
I nod, reluctantly. “I don’t want to,” I say as I pull myself to my feet. His eyes follow me as I turn, dashing down the dank, stench-filled hall of the prison. I have to figure something out! I have to!
By Kayla West