I Give Away Myself For You

(John and Anna - April, 1958)


Cindy Rae

 

  

 

 

Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.
I were but little happy if I could say how much.
Lady, as you are mine, I am yours, I give away myself for you
...
and dote upon the exchange.

William Shakespeare – Much Ado About Nothing

 

 

 

John Pater looked down into the empty bassinet, which was to say he stared down into it. A lone candle shone near, emphasizing its unexpectedly deserted state.

His wife, Anna was speaking to him.

 And he was disappointed. Extremely.

"… so it's done, now, and it's done for the best. You'll see, John. You will." Anna Pater twisted a dishtowel in her fine, long fingers.

He looked up. His dark eyes followed Anna around the stone room they shared.

Will I? He thought it, but didn’t say it. Realization was still settling in.

Anna knew she’d done something which would upset her husband. She also felt sure she’d done the right thing.

But now it was she, not Jacob, and not Pascal the Elder, nor any of the rest of them, who would have to break the news to John, and soothe him through it. He was her husband. This was her task.

John did not look down into the bassinet again. That would be a useless gesture. It would still be just as empty, after all. Glancing over at Anna had not somehow caused Vincent to magically reappear, inside the place he often slept.

The chamber felt odd, and felt wrong. And quiet.

Too quiet. Much too quiet. Because my son is missing from it, that's why, John processed.

He crossed the large room to where the dining table sat, and pulled out a chair, very carefully. He didn’t want to hear the unpleasant sound of the wooden legs scraping the thinly carpeted stone floor. Such noises sometimes disrupted his concentration, and he knew he needed to concentrate, now.

The chair settled, as stably as three matched legs and one slightly shorter one would allow, on a floor which was uneven, to begin with. Then he sat, again, quite carefully, as if to do that any other way might cause him to misplace some errant body part.

The way Anna had obviously just “misplaced” their son.

His breathing was shallow, and his jawline was tense, beneath his thin beard. He was keeping himself under rigid control.

Anna didn’t mistake his taking a place at their dining table as an invitation to sit. She didn’t copy his motions, didn’t pull out the other chair, and sit with him.

Part of her, the animal part, the part that still listened to some instincts, and obeyed those, knew she didn’t dare.

But the adrenaline that coursed through Anna’s veins insisted on breaking the silence in the room, and what’s more, keeping it broken.

Fight or flight, insisted the hormone coursing through her slender, middle-aged body. Fight or flight.

But civilized, hopeful (and very worried, though she was trying not to show it), Anna could indulge in neither “fight” nor “flight,” at the moment; not and remain civilized, and hopeful.

So Anna did what most women do, when in the room with a displeased male. She opted for nervous chatter.

"So Jacob has him and I had to do it. You've been... obsessed, lately, John. You don't sleep, you don't eat. We seldom talk. Your every waking thought has been about Vincent, lately."

John threaded his fingers, and settled them on the table. Too quiet in here, he thought, thanks to the lack of an infant presence. Well, quiet except for this idiotic prattling.

John continued to think without speaking, without answering her. He made no attempt to fill in the silence, when she paused in her dialogue, clearly expecting him to say something to her.

Let her twist in the wind, a little, he thought.

It was a hangman’s reference, and John knew it. The barest flick of an eyelash was all that indicated that he had just spared a moment to wonder if he still remembered how to tie that particular knot.

Anna began wiping down the other end of the already-clean dining table, agitation forbidding her to stand still. The dark, battered wood had been long-cleared of the mismatched bowls that had served to hold their supper. There was no reason to wipe the table, now, save one. She was anxious.

And she was right about his lack of appetite, he knew. Well, at least about his lack of appetite for food, or sleep. He hadn't eaten the thin soup, their meager meal. He'd never had much desire for food, when he was working.

And he'd been working hard, lately.

She adjusted a set of flea-market-worthy salt and pepper shakers, also mismatched. They had been rescued from the garbage, and brought in as solos, one after the other.

Much as Vincent had been. Brought in alone, John thought.

The shakers had been salvaged, and then placed here, for their possible use.

Again, much as Vincent had been, John mused, aware that he was now thinking about salt shakers so he could avoid thinking about other, far uglier things.

"You'll see, John,” Anna continued her monologue. “It's... it's for the best. Perhaps in a few weeks... or months... we can go see him, again.”

She forced a smile. She was afraid of him, though she wasn’t sure exactly why. He’d never struck her.

He’d never had to. Until this day, she’d never openly crossed him.

One of us might see him again, John thought darkly. Do you know you rattle too much, wife?

John was furious, yet remained sitting nearly immobile, at the table. So furious he knew it was either sit in the wobbly chair, or beat his traitorous wife to death with his walking stick. He opted for the former. - And wasn't ready to discount the latter, just yet.

She stopped wiping, stopped adjusting, and simply twisted the dishrag again, in her slim fingers. One of those bore her wedding ring. He stared at the gold, and it offended him that she still wore it, after what she'd done, today.

"You're very quiet, John," she prompted.

Are you uneasy, Anna? You should be.

His deep, nearly mellifluous voice, when it came, almost sounded like it belonged to someone else, to John's sensitive ears. Ears that were ringing, right now. A sure sign that his blood pressure was stratospherically high, as he maintained his outward calm.

"What would you have me say?" he asked, cutting his eyes toward the still-empty baby furniture.

It wasn’t to check it for contents. The look was meant to accuse. It did.

Anna followed his nearly black gaze. A light blue blanket still lay rumpled at the bassinet’s foot, proof to John that her decision to spirit Vincent away had been a somewhat hasty one. This had been no careful plan. It had been a sudden decision, reached, then acted upon.

We may have a few things in common, yet, Anna.

John's eyes continued to sweep the room, taking in information.

She'd looted a drawer, for Vincent’s clothes, and taken his favorite teether, the ones he was chewing through as his fangs came in. His favorite crib toy was gone with him, but some few others remained, in a box by their bed.

Stuffed animals mostly, though a silent rattle bore mute witness to his son’s hurried departure, as well.

John had not favored giving him toys, wanting to see what the effects of such an experiment might yield. But Anna had overridden his desires.

It will likely be the last day she does that, at least. He thought. And an unholy decision was made being weighed, and measured.

"I'd have you say you understand, John,” she replied.

She answered what for him, had been an utterly rhetorical question. Then she reached over and touched his hand, actually touched it, as it sat entwined with the other one, on the tabletop.

He willed himself not to recoil. It was truly all he could do to avoid striking her.

His skin was ice, to Anna’s touch. It startled her, for a moment, but she gave the hand a reassuring squeeze, before she withdrew her own.

“It’s for the best,” she repeated.

Something will be, he returned mentally, again opting to remain silent.

Anna Pater was no physician. If she had been, she might have run, might have had the knowledge to save her own life. She might have realized what she was seeing, what her sense of touch was trying to tell her, might have processed it all, and given in to the urge to flee.

His eyes were darker than normal because the muddy brown iris was giving way to the black of his pupils. John was managing a good bit of adrenaline of his own, and no amount of rigid stillness could hide the dilation of his eyes, as the black subsumed the brown. The obsidian circle was blowing wide, a clear sign of the depth of his unspoken distress. It was an involuntary body reaction, a thing he could not control. But it was a warning, nonetheless.

His was cold because his vital organs were hoarding blood, as he fought off the shock of entering the room to find his son gone. His staring, almost unblinking gaze was the unplanned, yet efficient posture of a predator animal, engaged in measuring prey.

He’d cut himself off from speech for the same reason a stalking lion did. Noise made the prey run, and running made the chase harder.

All were clues, and Anna wasn’t canny enough to pick up on them.

So John sat black-eyed, ice-handed, and deathly silent, still breathing shallow, and with a hard, almost blink-less stare.

All were signs, and all were warnings. Anna, had she been a doctor, or even a homeless dog, might have recognized them for what they were, and slunk away, if not run outright from him. Even a child would have known to leave the room and seek safety in numbers, driven by a keener survival instinct.

But Anna was not listening to instincts. Anna was listening to reason. And her reason told her that this was her husband, and that though he could often be firm, he had never struck her, and indeed, almost never even raised his voice. Anna expected his censure, even his ire. She did not expect much else.

His too-dark eyes remained steady on her, and continued to subtly telegraph his intentions.

Anna Pater, however, was not a doctor, or a homeless dog, or a child. Anna Pater was Anna Pater, Vincent’s rescuer and John’s dutiful wife, of many years.

And though she knew that part of him had always been, well, cold, if she was honest about that, he’d never hurt her, physically. Not once. Not ever.

John was a brilliant man, she knew. And brilliant men could be made to understand difficult things. That’s what brilliant men did. They understood things.

She and John were husband and wife, two adults, having a difficult, yet civilized (if currently one-sided) conversation. He could be shown her point of view. He could be made to see her side. He could be made to realize certain truths. She clung to the knowledge that kept her in the room, trying to soothe him, trying to reason with him.

Which was to say that she clung to the knowledge that doomed her.

"Things will be better, now, you'll see. I loved him too, but...well. We'll be fine. Things will go back, now. Back to the way they used to be, before."

You are so right, about that. You duplicitous, deceitful, barren shrew.

Anna’s hopeful eyes held his dark ones. He replied, because it was time to, since he did actually agree with her, in his way.

"Yesss,” he said, cradling the sibilant sound. “Back to the way they used to be," he rose from the table, his slender, graceful frame barely causing the chair to move backward. "That will be fine."

I'm about to become a single man, again.

Anna sighed in relief, mistaking his acceptance for compliance.

"I know it will be hard, at first,” she allowed. “But we'll get used to it, again. We really didn't have him all that long. And he'll still be around, still be near. It's just that, well, Jacob will be caring for him now. And we'll see him sometimes, you'll see..."

She set down the rag, as she rattled off sympathies and platitudes, trying to mend what could not be mended. She watched John as he crossed the room and uncapped a crystal wine decanter.

The top had come from a different set, and it rattled loosely against the neck of the bottle, as he lifted it clear. The round, finely cut lid clattered, as he set it on a chipped marble side table.

The sound was like a rifle shot, to John's ringing ears.

"He'll come to visit, sometimes, and ..."

Shut up! Will you just shut up, Anna!

His back to her, He made a fist, on the table, the only sign that John had just screamed at her, internally. Slowly, he loosened his grip, then flexed his hand. A ring shone, in the candlelight.

For John wore a gold ring, too. It just wasn’t a wedding band. And in all the long years of their marriage, John had never revealed what it was.

"You'll see. Any upset you feel is really 'much ado about nothing.’” She quoted the name of a play she probably hadn’t read since college.

“Just ‘much ado about nothing,’ she repeated. And little Devin will probably…”

Silence is the perfectest herald of joy!

Though that too, was shouted, inside, John realized how soothing the line from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing was. And that he was about to silence his errant wife, permanently.

His hand barely shook, as he poured wine into the large glass, and he contemplated it for a moment, not with a sense of remorse, but with a sense of tactics.

Should I pour one glass, or two?

Just dump in the white powder concealed in the ring, and hand the one glass to her? Or fix her glass, then pour himself a drink, and pretend to have some, with her?

John weighed his options, with a logician’s gift for running through those, quickly. Anna rarely drank. But tonight, she just might feel like having one. Especially if she sensed he was willing to have one, with her.

It was what civilized people did, after all. They drank, together.

Civilized people. More the fool her, for mistaking me for one.

He decided on two glasses, and the choice was made.

His need to review his options had removed him from her irritating commentary, and he found that once he'd reached the decision to pour each of them a glass of wine, he had to tune back in to the annoying sound of her all but ceaseless voice.

"… so he'll grow up with the other children. They'll learn to accept him, because he'll be like one of them, that way, not all isolated, like you were doing ... not that I don't understand. I know you were only trying to protect him, like you said." She hastened to add the last.

His back still to her, John opened the ring on an unseen hinge, and poured white powder into the wine glass on his left.

Left means sinister. And silence is the perfectest herald of joy.

Anna babbled on some more. Her feminine voice was too high to drone, and too nervous to adopt a steady cadence. He found the sound akin to nails on a chalkboard

Or nails in a coffin. He nearly smiled at the small, mental pun, as he clicked the ring closed.

“… and it’s April. Pascal might even make him an Easter basket…”

It's all right. Not much more of this.

He watched the fine powder sit on top of the red wine, then trickle down. He knew only a few sips would kill her. Such a ...comforting thought, that.

And if she doesn't drink it willingly, I can always just pour it down her disloyal throat. Did they give you thirty pieces of silver, Anna? Take off that gold ring, you Judas!

“He’ll be raised with brothers, and maybe sisters, one day, and…”

Silence is the perfect--

"... and I know you were close with him, but--"

He hoped Vincent learned to love Shakespeare. It was very useful, when dealing with wayward women. Shakespeare understood a great deal, about females, both willful and not. And in his plays, at least, he killed them often, John knew. It was a steadfast reason to admire the Bard.

Perhaps Shakespeare knew everything, he mused, as Anna continued to chatter like a simpleton.

You know you should run, Anna. The hunting creature inside John said, in his own, soothing voice. Know you should take yourself well clear of me. Every instinct you have bids you to do it, but your reason forces you to stay, forces you to try and “fix” things. As if you could ever repair this insult. How interesting, that you stayed to try. How interesting that it will cost you, so dearly. Did you think I never struck you because I loved you? How quaint. Did it never occur that I never hit you because I found the thought of jail… inconvenient?

The white powder continued to dissolve, and John resisted the urge to reach in, and stir it with his finger.

Patience.

"He'll never be like one of them." John responded to a comment she'd tossed out a few sentences back. For some reason, it felt necessary to correct her on this one misconception, before she died.

All visible traces of the poison were gone, combined and undetectable. He replaced the cap on the decanter, sliding it home very precisely, so it wouldn’t rattle.

"But he will be... magnificent,” John elaborated. “Thank you for rescuing him, Anna. If I never said 'thank you' for that, I feel I should have."

He turned, and offered her the glass in his left hand. She took it with nerveless fingers, as he picked up his own goblet. He held it steady, in his right.

"Thank you," she said, pleased to see he was taking it all so well.

"No, thank you, as I said. Cheers.” He clinked his glass with hers, and took a long swallow, inviting her to do the same, but not pressuring her in any way. He stepped away from her, giving her the illusion of safety, giving her the illusion that they might just be about to talk this out, like the two civilized adults she incorrectly assumed they were.

I am effective, Anna. I am not civilized. And neither is He. There is a world of difference. You took my son. How dare you insult us both, so thoroughly?

She took a sip from her glass, and he moved off, keeping his back to her, compounding her illusion that she was “safe,” while she killed herself.

“Please don’t blame Jacob,” she said.

“I do not blame Jacob.” It was a quick reply, and he glanced back at her.

I blame you.

She took another drink, and her small, white nails tapped the glass. John heard the sound, and recognized it for what it was.

Nervous, still. Good, he thought, even though he detested the sound of her fingernails on the goblet.

He turned away again, and gave her more room. He knew she was drinking, each time the tapping stopped. That she wouldn’t keep tapping the glass as she tilted it to swallow, but that she’d continue to make the sound again, once she lowered the deadly vessel that contained her destruction.

The knowledge and understanding of that came to John, even as he maintained his turned back.

The thing that’s annihilating you isn’t across the room from you, Anna. It’s in your hand. The thought was a very smug one. John, after all, was a very smug man.

Tap. Quiet. Tap, tap. Quiet.

She was trying to decide what to say next, as she ended herself, rattling her fingertips against the cheap glass as if the rhythm would help her know what platitude she should use, for the greatest effect. He knew it. He knew everything.

Ah, information. How I love you. He pretended to study the titles on their bookshelf. Paradise Lost caught his eye. Better to reign in Hell…

Tap, tap. Quiet. Tap, tap, tap. Quiet. Like the tunnel code he’d invented, yet different.

No letters, here, but ahhh, the message the sound is bringing me!

Her silences were damning her, and pleasing him. Her own edginess had her swallow twice more. It seemed fitting to him that her betrayal  should contribute to her demise, in ways both subtle and gross.

Nervousness made her thirsty. And thirst was prompting her to drink.

Staying away from her was continuing to make her feel safer, as the prey animal in her watched the predator in him pause near the bookshelf, and maintain his distance from her.

Oh, well, Anna mused. If he’s going to give me the silent treatment for a few days, well, that won’t be much different than how things have been, lately. It will pass.

 She would weather his displeasure. Then they would move on, from there. Anna was content that this was her course.

John pulled out and checked his pocket watch. The deadly dose had been delivered. The scientist in him was curious as to exactly how long this might actually take.

Anna caught the seemingly absent gesture.

"What... what time is it?" she asked, still trying to make conversation with him.

"Just past seven," he replied steadily, with a turn of his head. An unlucky number, for you.

He watched her take another agitated sip of the wine, then set it on the table she'd wiped down. He turned his head back to the books, still pretending to study the contents of his shelf. The Comedies of William Shakespeare. John knew Much Ado About Nothing was nestled in its pages. He tried to remember the length of the quote that had been hovering around his consciousness.

Silence is--

"They'll... they'll be giving him his bath, soon. Jacob, and Pascal, with his little son. Ruth will warm him up some cereal. Esther will be getting their pajamas ready, and ..."

A cramp hit her stomach, but it passed. And her husband simply kept his back to her, his demeanor unchanged.

"... and Peter Alcott will be down. He said he might bring some... bring some f- f-food..."

Are you stuttering, Anna? Finally? Do you feel your heart racing, as your brain goes numb?

He turned around completely and took another sip of his wine, as he saw the realization hit her eyes. She glanced at his pocket watch, still in his hand, and the expression on her face turned from “worried” to horror-struck.

The cover of the watch was still open.

His watch is still open. But he's already checked the time.

There was no reason to leave the cover on the watch open... unless he was monitoring the sweep of the second hand.

He's timing something.

She had a terrified half-second to realize “what.” A terrified half-second, and that was all. John knew, because he was timing her terrified half second, on his watch.

Anna Pater felt darkness close over her, as the second hand swept across the twelve. The watch was gold, and no matter how bad things had gotten, he’d refused to part with it. It was the same watch he would one day use for mesmerism.

He turned away from her again, negligently pleased that at least she'd stopped talking, and the room was now quieter. The gift of a closing throat, no doubt.

Her body, when it fell, fell almost softly, to the carpeted stone floor.

John snapped the cover of the watch closed and slipped it into his vest pocket, content with the results.

He considered lifting her onto the bed, trying to disguise the deed, at least for a while. Then he shrugged, both mentally and physically, and left her to lay where she'd fallen, near the table.

Lying her on a mattress wouldn't fool Jacob. The foam in her mouth would give him away, if not the darkening of her tongue. They'd know it was him.

It was fine that they did. He set his barely-touched glass near hers. They looked like another mismatched couple, in the room that already contained too many of those. Her glass was more than half-empty, while his was nearly full.

Ah... quiet. Now I can think.

The ability to do that uninterrupted caused John to become aware of something. John realized his wife had actually prompted him to rash action. Congratulations, Anna. You may have caused me to err.

Not about killing her. (That, John realized, had almost been a given, from the moment he entered the room.) About taking Vincent with him.

Left to plan this out, John knew he might have decided to steal Vincent back, first, and then kill her, as a parting gift of their failed marriage.

But now, that would not be feasible. If Vincent were surrounded by adults, it would be impossible to get him away without a brawl, and Pascal was a strong one, thanks to years spent working with metal.

John doubted if he could poison all of them (not all were as trusting as Anna), and the now-empty ring would do no more damage, this night. The poison he used took time to refine, and knew he had only so much time, now.

He had no idea how soon Jacob or one of the others might come looking for Anna, and he wanted to be well gone, before they did.

John crossed the wide room, and retrieved a battered carpetbag. Opening his wardrobe, he removed his high-collared shirts, carefully, not wanting them to wrinkle. He settled them in the bottom of the bag as meticulously as anything else he'd ever done.

For all his uncaring demeanor, he might be a man about to depart on a business trip. In a way, he was.

Brush, comb, walking stick. A journal he used for notes. All were methodically, almost calmly assembled, as his wife's corpse began to cool, just a few feet away from him.

He didn't speak to her dead body, didn’t explain his actions, or vilify her, and he didn't gloat. What would have been the point, now?

She'd been barren, or they had been, together. But for bringing Vincent to him, he'd had only so much use for her, though she'd been good for keeping the chamber clean, and his clothing pressed. The immaculate tunics he chose to take with him had been ironed by her very hands.

Oh, well. Gold will buy me a laundress, he thought, certain he'd find a way to acquire the element. Some way that was profitable. And hopefully, silent.

He considered prying the gold band off her finger, but just let it be. Marrying him had killed her, or at least, disappointing him had. It was fair enough she got to keep the token. There wasn't that much gold in it, anyway.

A small frisson of discomfort touched his long frame. He’d not been an unmarried man in quite some time. He wasn’t entirely sure he cared for the sensation. Ah, well. Like so much else, there was nothing to be done for that, now.

He wiped any residue from his ring on the dishtowel she'd been using, as he re-crossed the room to collect the few books he wanted. He let Milton and Shakespeare remain. He took the books about chemistry, his very favorite subject.

He'd need to refill the ring, soon, and possibly acquire a few other weapons, besides. Killing could be as varied a business as living was, he mused.

The thought comforted him, for no reason he could name.

He lowered the books carefully inside the filling bag. The knowledge they contained would be useful. There were other poisons to be had, aside from the kind he'd put in the wine. He'd have to refine some certain ingredients. Perhaps even grow some.

That thought, too, pleased him. After all, gardening was a delightfully... quiet business.

He closed the latches on the bag, as he prepared to leave his chamber, for the last time.

He paused at the dresser, hands on the bag, soaking in the very still atmosphere.

Aaahhh. He found the eerie stillness of the room almost infinitely pleasing. Vincent's box of mute stuffed animals drew his gaze.

Let someone else raise the brat. Some day, when he's grown, he'll be mine, again.

It was not a boast, or a brag. It was an unholy vow.

I’ve made no mistake, he concluded.

Anna might have had the ability to prompt him to become a murderer, but she did not have the ability to cause him to err, after all.

That, too, was a comforting thought.

John Pater put on his coat, donned his hat, collected his walking stick (just in case he needed to beat someone to death after all, this evening), and glanced around the room where he'd lived for the past few years, making sure he’d left nothing important behind. He didn’t think he had.

The chamber was larger than anyone else’s (because John had insisted). This was the room where he'd developed tunnel code, designed a false wall, drew some maps, toyed with building a world he could rule, swaddled his infant son, and, ultimately, executed his wife.

Their wine glasses still sat on the dining table. Anna still lay on the rug behind it, her white, stocking-clad legs clearly visible, from this angle, the rest of her form at least somewhat obscured by the chairs.

He didn’t mind that she was at least partly hidden from the malice of his gaze, though if she’d fallen totally clear of the table, and been utterly exposed, he wouldn’t have minded that view, either.

He’d seen a dead body before, and to some extent, to see one was to see them all, he reasoned. The dead were of no use, or at least they were of damn little. Expiration had no particular interest for him, therefore.

Inspiration did.

He wondered what his next inspiration would be.

What shall I make next? he mused. He hefted the cane, and realized that as fine a cudgel as it might be, it might be even better, as a spear, or lance. Something spring loaded, something… hidden.  Something deadly, and most of all, quiet.

Like poison.

The ringing in John's ears stopped. He was utterly calm, at last. The upset of finding his son gone was now a thing of the past. And there was no sense dwelling on that.

There was a future to plan. And eventually, a son to claim.

Silence still reigned, in the small room.

Ah... Peace.

Anna Pater was indeed dead. But then, so John reasoned, was John Pater. So in a way, he’d (or she'd) killed them both.

That’s quite all right. I am free, now. Free of her. Free of all of them. Free to truly be… Paracelsus, now.

The idea locked itself in his razor-sharp mind, as the psuedonym he’d adopted became his true identity.

Paracelsus would be a far more... effective man than John Pater had ever been. He had much to do. Many chores demanded his attention, after all.

Perhaps a blade strapped to my arm, as well, beneath my sleeve. Something with a quick release. Swift. Silent.

He smiled at the thought. It was the first time he’d done that, this evening.

See what a little quiet can accomplish?

Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I were but little happy, if I could say how much.

He looked back toward Anna, and recalled the line from Much Ado had been a betrothal scene.

Lady, as you are mine, I am yours…

His mind fumbled, a little, searching for the quote he couldn’t quite recall. He detested the sensation.

What was the last line? The last line, of that ridiculous scene? His mind searched, and struggled, for a moment. It had been years.

Then, he remembered.

Aaah, again.

The sensation of remembering. The sensation of your own intelligence, bringing you its fruit.

How well the line fits. ‘I give away myself for you…’

After all, he’d given away being part of a community to become an outcast. Given away Anna, to become an unmarried man, again. And he’d given away John Pater to become, truly become, The Alchemist.

“I give away myself for you… and dote upon the exchange." Paracelsus delivered the closing line aloud, breaking the silence in the bleak room, with the end of the quote.

A trace of dark humor remained in his deep eyes, as he turned from the sepulcher of his home, and made his way down the dark passageway.

He knew the line was meant as a betrothal declaration, and something in him loved the irony of that, and held it to his dark, shriveled heart as a warming thing.

He was both an outcast, a widower, and a yet a bridegroom, considering he’d just offered a proposal, to his dead wife.

And again, the irony of that pleased him. John Pater might have made himself a widower, but Paracelsus knew he had just taken a wife, spiritually speaking.

She was the ghost of Anna Pater.

And tonight was their wedding night. He knew he’d never marry again. What need was there?

He now had the wife he wanted.

And the son he wanted.

The only son he wanted.

John knew he would claim that son, one day. Knew that he’d claim the thing they all raised, and help it to understand what it truly was. Help it to change, and be free. Like him.

John knew he would dote upon that exchange, as well.

 

 

**

No matter where you are in your own fairy tale,
I wish you love. ~ Cindy

 

 

 

Illustration supplied by the author


 

 

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