Dark Ch. 03

byValentineSatterlee©

It is dark outside the high barred windows before I venture in with the others. Dinner had been served not long before and is still sitting out on the wide oak serving table. I grab a roll and pick, uninterested in it yet knowing I should eat. Many of the girls have retreated back to their rooms already, so the common room is mostly deserted. Louis sits in one of the corners, leaning back in a chair, feet propped up on the table in front of him, reading the St Louis Dispatch. The second attendant, most likely to be Samuel, is nowhere to be seen. I wonder briefly if Gypsi has him locked in her room. Van Buren had no doubt left long before, so the good behavior they exercised during the day was no longer applicable. I'd heard Mr. Lawson was taking over the night ward, but I had not yet seen him to confirm the rumor.

Someone had donated a piano to the hospital, and it is there that I find Stacie, rocking back and forth in time to the melody she is playing. Her fair blond hair falls only to her shoulders, barely brushing them as she moves. A small oil lamp sputters atop the piano's lid, casting her tiny features in an ever-changing glow.

"What are you playing?" I ask, sitting on the worn bench beside her.

"Chopin's Nocturne's. This one is Opus 27 number two, D major," she says it as though it should be obvious, but then looks towards me and smiles, her lithe fingers never faltering on the ivory keys. "It helps me sleep. Soothing I guess. My mom used to play."

It is indeed calming, the notes filling my head, and I find myself wishing I knew how to make something so beautiful. I thought she might elaborate upon her mother, but she doesn't, and I don't ask. Instead I sit in fascinated silence as she ends the piece and begins another.

The footsteps fall in time with Stacie's, which tap out the rhythm she plays by, so well that at first I do not notice them until they are quite close. A hand on my shoulder gives me a start, and I turned to see Tammany looking down upon my face. He smiles, slow and deliberate. It gives me a chill.

"Lights out in twenty minutes, girls."

Stacie's fingers, so light just moments before, come down hard in an abrupt stop. She gives a short, frustrated sigh, shoots Tammany a buggered look, and stands to leave. I sit there only a moment longer, then follow Stacie to the double doors, our slippered feet barely making a noise on the cold marble floor. As I reach the doors I hesitate, though I can't say why, and look back.

Tammany and Louis are in conversation, and I turn away quickly when Tammany's gaze lifts to mine, my cheeks already beginning to burn.

{}

I didn't know what time it was when I was woken, or how long I had been sleep, but the moon is high in the cold winter sky. I lay there, somewhere between wakefulness and sleep, staring blankly out the window, the frost accumulating at its edges looking like far-off stars all bunched together.

I thought I caught a small movement out of the corner of my eye in the deepest shadow of the room, but when I turn my head to see there is nothing. Just the inky blackness and the chill. I am tired but restless, so I lay staring at the ceiling, where my eyes and the moon can't play any more tricks on me.

"Joleine."

Despite how quietly he said it, I was startled so badly I about fall out of the bed, arms flailing wildly out above me as I thrust myself into a sitting position. My heart is beating erratically and my breath is coming in short little pants, yet when I calm myself enough to scan the room there is nothing there.

Until there is.

My eyes widen like saucers as the shadow I've been staring at moves. It seems to shift and morph, then step into the halo of moonlight. I catch my breath as Tammany repeats my name.

"Joleine, it's alright," he puts his hands up in what I'm sure is meant to be a calming gesture, but is in fact the opposite as the muted light glints off the scalpel in his left hand.

I back hard into the wall and suck in a breath to scream, but he is on me before I can blink, one hand clamped tightly across my mouth, the other behind my head. The scalpel lays abandoned on the floor.

"Shh," he whispers into my ear, "I'm not here to hurt you." He sounds almost as frantic as I feel, but his grip does not loosen. Hot tears begin to stream down my face and collect on the top of his hand. "Don't scream. It's OK. I'll let go, but don't scream."

I nod, slowly, and he moves his hand away from my mouth tentatively.

"OK?" he asks, leveling his head with mine and raising an eyebrow. I swallow audibly; tasting my own tears, and release the breath I didn't realize I'd been holding. I nod again, a complete lie. I am far from OK; I am terrified.

Still holding my head in his hands he leans in and kisses me, his lips barely brushing mine. My first kiss, and under such circumstances! He pulls just an inch away, as if to see if I am going to react or not. When I don't, he kisses me again. He means it this time.

Again and again his lips touch mine, and I start to become lightheaded, but from happiness or fear I cannot tell. My breath is coming in short, shallow pants, and my vision clouds.

Tammany stands, right hand still cupped along my jaw line, letting his fingers trail lightly across my cheek as he steps away. I sit still and follow him with my eyes, too dizzy and confused to do much else.

He comes slowly around behind me and sits on the bed, lifting me up and pulling me to him so that my back rests against his chest. I feel so small compared to him, lost within his embrace. Stroking my hair gently back from my face, he asks quietly in my ear, "Are you alright now?"

"Why are you doing this?" I ask my own questions instead of answering his, my voice shaking and giving away my nervousness.

"I want you." he says simply. As if he'd never been rejected in his advances before. He pulls my hair from between us and twists it, laying it over my left shoulder so that he can kiss my neck on the right. I want to fight, to run, but he would so easily overpower me, and I admit I am curious to where this is going; I've never been touched by a man before. He is achingly handsome, and seems genuinely concerned as to how I am feeling, new as this all is.

Tammany's hands begin to explore my body, his finger tracing up the length of my arm, across my collarbone, down my flat stomach and to my thigh. He pulls gently at the hem of my simple linen nightgown, and it slides away easily exposing my long upper legs.

"You're so beautiful," he murmurs between kisses, hot on my cheek and neck. "I promise I won't hurt you, I won't let anyone hurt you. Don't you worry about Louis." I wonder if Louis was the one who was originally going to pay me a visit tonight, and silently count my blessings. He is not known for his patience.

Tammany buries his head into the curve of my shoulder, peeking over it and onto my body, and I finally begin to relax into him. If I give myself to Tammany, he would be absolutely right, not a one of the attendants would touch me. I would be free of any roaming eyes or harassment, and Gypsi could keep her snide looks to herself. I know without a doubt that Louis will soon lose patience after being told 'no' more than a few times, and simply take what he is after. And Gypsi too, would fight to keep what she felt was hers.

I just begin to turn my head into his, accepting his kiss, when he gently lifts my right arm up, bringing my hand to his lips. As he straightens it slowly back out, he runs his left hand gently along my inner arm just below the elbow.

And then I see the blood.

The scalpel had been in his left hand. I start to panic again, gasping in horror and trying to move away from him, but an arm around my waist held me close.

"Shh, shhhh," he sooths into my ear, bringing my hand up to his lips. The blood has run down my arm and is beginning to pool in my palm, dripping sickly onto my bed sheet as he moves it. He inhales deeply into my palm, shuddering as he exhales. He lifts his eyes to my face to meet mine, and his pupils are so large his eyes look black. The irises were tiny slivers against the infinite black, glittering along its rim in the moonlight. My mouth is open to scream but nothing comes out but choking, wracking sobs.

He gives my palm a deep kiss, burying his face within the bloody thing, before running his tongue along the seeping red line.

"Oh my God...Oh my God..." I chant, watching him in fascinated horror.

My vision starts to cloud as I begin to hyperventilate, and despite how hard I try, I cannot slow my breath. Tammany holds me tight as the room, and then everything else, fades to black.

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