A Letter

the old letter appears to have been water damaged somewhere along the way

Dearest Casimir,

I write you now, not knowing if you will receive this missive, not knowing if you will care. We exchanged such harsh words, the last we spoke, that it brings tears to my eyes to remember what should have been a sweet meeting. I know that you were bitterly angered at my decision to leave, but, my love, my sweet, my dearest, you also know that I had an obligation to find my sister.

I know that you asked me to wait until you were finished at the University before going off, but it had already been three months since anyone had had news of her, and that part of the world is simply unsafe. There was no one in the village who was willing to help find her, and I was her only family. You know all of this, but I remind you now of it, so that, hopefully, some understanding and pity might once again enter into your heart. I do so need you to understand this, before I tell the rest.

After our last meeting, I went straight home. Perhaps you received the letter I sent then? I have not heard back from you, and I can all too easily see you casting such a missive into the fire. Perhaps your anger has settled enough now that you will read on. In any event, I came home, and, finding the village much the same, and the house as empty as rumor had it, I went in search of other rumor.

Oh, beloved, if you had only been there to hear – but no, I am thankful you did not hear what they were saying about my family. I could withstand any insult alone, but had you been there…

They said that a traveling merchant – a snake-oil salesman of sorts – had come this way, and, Aleena, being the beautiful, charming, and naive girl that she was, fell for his diabolical ways. They said that she bartered her innocence for empty promises and a simple necklace, and when he disappeared the following day, she simply went mad and rushed into the nearby forest.

I decided to go after those rather dubious rumors, my sweet, and I, without so much as a plan, went after her. Oh, the foolishness of it all – to think that I could have found the girl, when others of the village could not. I thought, hoped, prayed, that my blood would call out to hers.

My blood might have called out to something, for, in the middle of the night, I, weary and lost, tumbled over a log and landed with my face in a very still lake. By then, I barely had the strength to pick myself up, and I started crying on the edge of that silent shore.

Perhaps my tears are what summoned it, but the next I knew, a Woman of the Lake rose. She was a frightening creature, with reeds in her hair, and claws and talons! She smiled at me, and I could see that she had bones caught in her fangs, where last she had supped on the denizens of the deep!

She continued to rise, until her feet were all that was left in the water, and I could see that for all her smile and hands were terrifying, her body was near to perfect and would seduce even you, my truest love. She was swathed in a white dress, but it left nothing to the imagination, as the icy waters dripped from her. Her perfection was such that only angels should have, and as I continued to stare, it seemed a change came over her.

She smiled again at me, and the sweetness of it made me mistrust what I had seen earlier. Then, she spoke to me, and her voice matched the perfection of her body. “Sweet sister, why do you cry?” She asked me.

I told her of my sister, who I feared was dead, and I told her… oh, Casimir, I told her of you, and how we had parted with words spoken in anger. I told her how I feared I’d never see either of my loves again, and how it tore at my heart. And, for every word that I spoke, she seemed to hear, and hearing, pulled more words out of me.

I told her then how I carried your child within me, and of the fear that I would not have the ability to correct the mistake to our reputations. As soon as those words spilled out, she transformed into the hideous beast I had seen before.

“You carry dishonor and heartbreak here into my world, and for this, you are my slave!” She roared into the night, as waves crashed upon the shore and soaked me. And then… then, my dearest, my beloved, she did grab me by my hair, and pulled me into the waters with her.

I fought. I fought for us, and for our child. I fought for our love, and my sister. But no fighting could ever win against her unholy strength. I lost this fight… and now, now my dearest love, I write to you from the bottom of her lake, in hopes that you will come and rescue me, as I could not rescue my sister.

I pray that the water demon keeps her word and allows this letter to call you to me. Save me, save the woman you love, I beg of you. Do not make me live out eternity in these sunless waters, crying for you every night. Save me from the nightmare of having to do to others what has been done to me.

I summon you, my heart’s champion, and know that I wait forever for you,

Yours eternally,

The book has another page attached to this entry, and, in another hand is written the words

Casimir never did read the letter that Chesna wrote him, for I, Boris, great-grandson of Casimir, found this letter on the Fifth day of May in the year of our Lord Eight-Teen Hundred and Fifty, unopened and hidden behind a brick inside the fireplace. I go now, carrying the blood of Casimir, and hoping that it is enough to rescue this lady from being a rusalka.


Worth A Thousand Words

She curled around the stuffed animal, weeping tears she thought would break her. Surely no human could contain this much hurt and survive. She hadn’t wanted to cry, had fought it tooth and nail; she’d tried being angry, shredding a small pillow and tearing out it’s stuffing, like an angry cat. When that had failed, when her tornado of furious emotion had left her spent, she’d laid on the bed, panting and tired.

That’s when the tears started. At first, there was just one or two, easily discounted as sweat from her angry rampage. Then, as she started thinking about what had happened, what was happening, more tears. A trickle, which stopped shortly after starting. She took a deep breath, convincing herself that it was over, and she’d survived. Being angry had worked, and she was over it.

She decided to test the wound, like a child probing a recently healed cut. After all, if she was over it, she wouldn’t have any problems looking at it, would she?

“Sarah, you know you can’t just walk into my place like this!” His big brown eyes and full lips that naturally rested in a self-satisfied smirk, combined into an expression of superior amusement at the world around him, even now, when he was breaking her apart.

“Ethan, I walk in on this, and you start blaming me? You’re having sex with her!” She gasped at the blow vocalizing what she’d walked in on gave her heart. “With Laura… Laura? My roommate, Ethan! I know that you’ve cheated in the past, but it’d always been with women I didn’t know. I could just turn the other way. But Laura?!” The woman in question paused in getting dressed, and opened her mouth, as if to say something. “Oh, don’t even. Don’t you dare even think about talking to me. We’ll have this out later, right now I’m talking to him.”

“Sarah, just calm down, okay? It’s not what it seems; it –”

“Not what it seems?” She blinked. Shook her head slightly, as if having encountered words in some foreign dialect. “It seems like you and my roommate were screwing. What else would it be?”

“Well, okay,” his tone was slightly defensive, “it was what it seems. But, you have to understand…” his voice trailed off at the flash of murder in her eyes.

“What, Ethan, do I have to understand? What exactly could you possibly say that would make this all better?”

His voice was quiet as he dropped his eyes and stared at his hands. “You have to understand, Sarah, that I don’t love you. I never did love you.” She thought she would fall, the words came as a shock. Her mouth opened slightly, striving for air that wouldn’t seem to enter her benumbed body. He looked at her, and tears were in his eyes. “All of those other women… I was trying to get you to break up with me, Sarah. I knew you’d known about them. I thought you would have enough self-respect to walk away from me.”

She let out a keening note. Words couldn’t come to her, not now. Laura spoke into the otherwise quiet room. “Ethan and I have been dating for almost as long as you two have, Sarah. We would have told you, but… well, everyone knows how you feel about him. We didn’t want to hurt you.” Sarah’s eyes locked onto Laura’s, and now anger replaced the false sympathy in Laura’s voice. “You never understood him, the way I do. You never gave him what I do. And still, with all of your fights, with all of the other women, with all of the insults, you remained. You just wouldn’t let him go. Had you done the right thing, just walked away, none of this would have happened.”

“Laura –”

“No, Ethan, she has to hear this. Sarah, you stifle the life out of any man who’s with you. Then, when they try to break away, you tell them how much you need them. How you couldn’t live without them. How they’re the center of your world. How could any caring person walk away from that? This is your fault, Sarah. He didn’t love you, but you made him stay. Now, you’re going to blame him for trying to make himself happy? That’s just more of the same selfish Sarah-behavior.”

Sarah’s mind whirled, as she gazed at blue silken sheets she’s laid in so many lazy afternoons. Suddenly, the world seemed to go still, and the light trickling in from the shuttered windows seemed to be too bright. Asking in a calm, glassy voice, “is this true?” She wasn’t sure who she was speaking to. Wasn’t sure it even mattered.

“Sarah, you always knew that you cared about me… asked me to care about you… what I’m trying to say is… I’m sorry, Sarah. I just… I never loved you, but I wanted… needed… you to walk away from me, so that I knew you’d be okay without me.”

Her eyes refusing to meet his, she looked instead at the wooden dresser, and the pictures resting there. She’d always wondered why her picture was never placed there. She nodded, slightly, as if to herself, and murmured, “you want me to be okay. Alright then. I’ll be okay.” Then, without a word, she walked away.

That had been two hours ago, and she’d gone to the apartment she’d shared with Laura, there to destroy that small heart pillow Ethan had given her for her last birthday. And, as she poked at the aching memory, new tears welled up inside of her. These were bitter, and massive, and she thought they’d never stop. She pulled her smiling stuffed animal to her, curling around it like the ache that fisted around her heart, and prayed that she’d die before the tears drowned her.

Across town, two newly freed lovers held each other and murmured that they’d done the only thing they could, reassuring each other.

Divorce Dolls

“Jenny, I don’t see why we have to go see him again,” I started, for what must have been the twentieth time that day. Her once kissable lips pursed, as her beetle black eyes flashed. I wondered vaguely how I had ever been drawn to her eyes – they just seemed creepy, now. I tried to ignore them as I looked for a parking space in the catastrophe that posed as a parking lot. The damn thing was always crowded.

She huffed out in exasperation, and I tried not to wince at her shrill tone as she gave me the same answer she’d given me the first time I’d launched my complaint. “Steven, I told you before; Dr. Mallory is very respected by my family. He saved Dayla and Fred’s marriage, and if I want to keep my trust fund, we have to at least try to work things out. My family simply doesn’t get divorced. I’m not going to allow you to ruin this part of my life, as well.” Nice, I thought, noting the open windows. Why don’t you say it louder, so every random stranger can hear you.

“The guy is a quack,” I sneered. “The only reason he ‘fixed’ their marriage is that Dayla is afraid of what a divorce would do to her political campaign. You can’t run off a family first podium and be divorced.” Jenny visibly ground her teeth, obviously gearing up to defend her sister, when I interrupted. “Look, nevermind, we’re here now. Let’s just get it over.” I maneuvered into a spot, and slammed into park. We got out of the SUV, the doors slamming shut in a kind of unison that years of practice between partners can grant, then trudged through the oppressive August heat to the counselor’s office.

We took our customary seats and waited in silence until being ushered in to the fung shuied room. Dr. Mallory had explained in his strangely high pitched voice that the room was decorated to encourage harmony, but I had a theory that he’d just bought whatever felt good to him while he was stoned. He gestured to the pillows and bean bags on the floor, and we obediently took up residency on the floor.

“Ah, good to see you children,” he started. He was always calling us children, and between that and seating us on the floor, I wondered if he had repressed urges to be a school teacher. “Steven, I believe we were last discussing how you felt sexually frustrated. I had some ideas on that, that we might try.” I had some ideas of my own, but it didn’t appear that anyone but me was interested in them. I waited for him to continue, when he reached over and pulled out two dolls. Gave one to each of us. “Here, you use your little dolly and pretend to be Jenny,” I looked down. He had given me the female. “Jenny will pretend to be you. This will give you some insight in to what each of you are thinking.”

I gazed at him in sick fascination. He couldn’t have been serious. He simply smiled back, blue eyes peering at me from old scholar’s glasses. Pure evil shouldn’t have looked so convivial. I looked at the female doll again. Then, in disgust, I threw it across the room. I would have leaped from the bean bag, but it was sucking me in. I had to settle for simply rolling out of it, and then standing. “No.” I panted. “I am not pretending to be a goddamn woman.” I stared at my wife. “I tried. Honestly tried. But, this guy is a quack and I’m through. I want out, and I don’t care how it’s done. Blame me. I don’t care. We’re done.” With that, I stormed out of the office to begin what was certainly going to be the worst few months of my life.
I looked at my father’s best friend and smiled at him. “Thank you, Jack. I don’t know how you came up with the doll idea, but it was perfect. I couldn’t have gone to daddy saying that I wanted a divorce, after not getting a prenup, but having Steven walk away first is going to make things so much easier.” He simply smiled and patted my hand. Everything was going to be just fine.