Chapter 7: William the Damned by Lynette Ferreira

FRANCOIS TAKES SUSANNA and her mother to Paris. He showers her with generous gifts, gifts she does not want. Every time he buys her jewellery or gifts, it reminds her of her betrayal to William and to her own heart. Francois confesses his love to her in actions as well as words. He is attentive, the ugly jealousy is gone and he is caring and thoughtful. Why then does she still feel as if she had made the wrong choice? Her heart yearns for William without end.

SUSANNA AND FRANCOIS sit in the library and the sunlight brightens the room, falling through the windows. She smiles absent-minded as she watches the sunbeams dance through the room, it reminds her of the last time she saw William. She looks up and she stares out of the window sightless. When she started her voyage all those many months ago, she was determined to marry Francois, although she never met him. Never did she think he would fall in love with her. She convinces herself she should consider herself lucky because at least she is not going into a loveless marriage and with time, she will forget about William completely.

Francois watches her inconspicuously and he feels her melancholy as if it is his own. He feels the strongest hatred for William. If William did not come after her, she would have been happy now and he would not feel as if she misses William with every breath she takes. The night William brought Susanna back to the château, Francois stood on the steps nervously. He wondered when she turned back to face William if she would walk back to him, where he waited in the shadows. He was relieved when he saw her turn back to him again and she came walking up the stairs. She did not walk into his arms, but into the arms of her mother standing behind him.

Softly Francois says, “Susanna?”

She smiles at him, but sadly, he notices her eyes do not light up when she looks at him as they used to and he feels as if there is no air in the room. Pride stops him from asking her if she is unhappy, so he just smiles at Susanna in return and then he continues reading.

Susanna thinks about the lavish ball they will hold, after the wedding ceremony in which she will marry Francois. She has tried repeatedly to get excited, but she is unable to. Her wedding dress is hanging in her room, ready for her to slip it over her head. The heavy embroidered lace falls beautifully around her body and the material compliments her skin perfectly. The dressmakers have worked weeks of endless days and it is beyond any doubt perfect.

Francois reads his book, but the words jumble all over the page and he finds it difficult to concentrate. He wants to speak to Susanna, convince her of his love, but although he speaks the words to her constantly, it is as if they make no impact on her. No matter which words he uses, he cannot convince her he loves her with everything in him. Their wedding ceremony is the next day, and he will smile. He will look into her eyes and pray one day she will learn to love him. As with Evelyn, William left after Susanna chose. When Francois courted Evelyn, he did adore her, but if she had chosen William, he would not have been devastated. Back then, he was younger and it was only a competition, a rivalry between two friends. Francois remembers the night he discovered William was a vampire. He would never forget it. Evelyn chose transparently, without a second thought, a smug look on her face. For reasons, Francois will never know, Evelyn wanted to hurt William. Francois remembers the look of complete shock on William’s face when Evelyn chose, laughing mockingly. William’s face twisted into a grotesque mask. Two long incisors protruded from between his lips and William snarled viciously at Francois before he disappeared from the château. Francois remembers his shock and immediate repulsion. He never saw William again until Susanna arrived.

WHEN SUSANNA WALKS into her room after dinner, she tells Carla impatiently she will undress and brush out her own hair. She wanted to be alone on this night before her wedding. Her servant girl can now speak a few broken English words, just enough so Susanna and she can have the most necessary conversations.

She has stopped hoping William will appear in her room. The last time she saw him was when she chose Francois above him. For the longest time, she had the expectation he would come to her, but that anticipation is gone.

She changes into her nightgown and then she painstakingly takes the clips from her hair. She brushes out her long dark hair until it hangs shiny over her shoulders, staring at her own reflection in the mirror.

Getting up wearily, she climbs into bed, after dimming the gaslight.

She has the recurring dream again. A dream where she is nestled closely in the cold, strong arms of William and she sighs contented as she snuggles deeper into him.

He gently turns to face her and then he traces his fingers across her face. Once again, he is amazed at how soft and vulnerable she is. He could make her his right now; he could choose for her. However, what if he really was not her choice and she ended up having no choice. Could he then live with himself? Would she even remain with him? He curses his irrational empathy. He should just make her his and not worry about the consequences. Why can he not walk away from her? She made it obvious the last time she saw him, she loved Francois more, when she chose Francois instead of him. The pain was overwhelming when she walked away from him toward Francois, but the choice she made was hers.

Yet, here he is again, wishing she would love him. When she is in his arms, his loneliness disappears. She came along and broke the lonesomeness which accompanied the curse of his long repetitive existence.

She mutters his name softly and he smiles when he leans down to her. He softly whispers her name and she murmurs. He feels her breath against his lips. Repeating her name, she slowly opens her eyes.

When recognition flares in her eyes, she moves away from him scared, and once again, he must put his hand over her lips so she does not scream. He sees the instant amusement in her eyes before he feels her lips smile under his palm.

He moves his hand away and she plunges into his arms, holding onto him so tightly, if he ever needed to breathe, this would be the moment he would be struggling for air.

She reaches her face up to him and then when her lips touch to his, he has no control over the emotions which rush through him. He pulls her tightly into him and he can feel every soft indentation of her body against him. He is afraid to hold her any tighter against his unyielding body, for fear of hurting her, but she moves even closer to him.

Softly, caressingly his hands move up against her body under her nightgown. His hand moves over her hips and up toward her middle. His hand moves slowly over the side of her breast and he moans deeply. He cups her breast in his hand and then his lips leave hers as he trails them along her jaw and onto her neck. The thought crosses his mind, to bite her, but he pushes it aside. He trails his lips further down her neck and then he lets them rest upon her chest. He hears her heartbeat so close to his ear, he hears it race and the blood rush through her veins, hearing her softest moan.

Susanna trails her fingers along his firm body. She feels the burned flesh which has not healed. A permanent scar proclaiming his love for her, his unrelenting will to keep her safe, even if it meant he would surely die. If he left her, if she chose Francois tomorrow, this is what her heart would look like for the rest of her life. Could she bear it?

When he lets his lips trail over her stomach, she feels a warm feeling spreading throughout her body.

He looks up at her expectantly; his voice insistent, he asks softly, “Will you leave with me?” He could not let pride stand in his way of convincing her to be with him, even if he had to beg and plead, he had to convince her now, before it is too late.

She arches her body closer to him, but he gently moves away from her. He lifts himself and then he leans over her. He looks down at her face searchingly and he finds the answers he needed in her eyes. Although he saw yearning for him, she would never leave with him.

Trying desperately to hide his sorrow, smiling down at her affectionately, he softly kisses her on the tip of her nose. He whispers softly, “I came to say good-bye. My ship leaves tomorrow night and then we will be gone for a long time. It is difficult to convince the men to come to France. They do not enjoy it here and they complain the French are too conceited, you can taste it in their blood.”

Susanna laughs softly and then she says, “I wish I could go with you.”

He reels back in surprise, a frown between his eyes, but then he sees the doubt in her eyes again. Quickly he says, smiling tenderly, “I should go, but I do love you even though you seem to be going in the wrong direction, away from me.” He softly brushes his lips over hers longingly and then he gets up from the bed. He walks to the window.

She looks at his silhouette in the moonlight and she whispers, “Come find me, I will be waiting for you every night.”

He turns to face her and then with a bitter laugh he says brusquely, “Yes, while sleeping in the arms of your husband.”

Before he leaps out the window, he turns to her one final time. “Tomorrow when you marry Francois, it will be over. I will know without any doubt you have chosen him, you did not choose me, above all else, after all.”

He leaps out of the window and he hopes beyond reason she would come to the window and call out to him. They could be together forever. He often lays awake thinking of all they could be. He keeps walking away from her, only to find himself next to her again and the love he has for her, he knows will remain with him forever.

Sitting on the lawn, staring up at her window, he waits for her until the moment before daybreak. She never comes to the window and it is as if she just does not care.

After William leaves, she cannot sleep. She pushes her face into the indent he left in the cushion and she cries helplessly. She feels as if she is drowning in her own misery, as a million tears run from her eyes, and dries on her pillow.

THE DAWN BREAKS miserably for Susanna. There is a possibility she might be making the biggest mistake. She gets out of bed listlessly and with the help of Carla, she gets dressed.

She can hear the excitement in the château. It rises the stairs and into her room.

Anne comes into the room and then tells Carla to leave. As soon as the door closes behind Carla, Anne turns to Susanna, frowning she asks urgently, “What is the matter, Susanna?”

Susanna looks from her reflection in the mirror to her mother, her eyes too large for her pale face.

“I hope it is not about that William. He was most indecent carrying you off in the middle of the night. Thank goodness, nothing happened which could have tainted you in the eyes of Francois and you can be extremely grateful Francois was so understanding when it happened.”

Francois and Susanna obviously did not tell Anne the full story and Anne filled in the blanks for herself, as she always did. After the night William brought her back to Francois they carried on as if nothing ever happened. Francois was satisfied Susanna chose him and he did not want to discuss any aspect of it.

“No, Mamma. I think it is just a little nervousness.”

Anne smiles sympathetically and sits down next to Susanna on the stool.

Taking Susanna’s hands in hers, she looks at her reflection in the mirror and says softly, “At least he loves you, my child. It could have been so different.”

If she is supposed to be so lucky because Francois loves her, why then is it as if her heart feels as if something is missing. She smiles at her mother reassuringly and then taking the deepest breath her lungs would allow, she says, “Please could you ask Carla to come back inside. I do not want to be late.”

“Of course, my dear. I will see you later.” Anne gets up from the chair and then she walks to the door.

Carla comes back in, smiling happy and then silently she continues setting Susanna’s hair.

Admittedly, Susanna looks strikingly beautiful when she walks down the stairs slowly and then out through the front door into the bright sunshine.

She sees the rays of the sun play over the multi-coloured flowers and she sees it glimmer on the ripples in the pond, the reflection bouncing off the golden fish. The blue of the sky stretches up ceaselessly and the birds twitter in the trees. The grass is intensely green and the leaves on the trees shine as if freshly sprayed with a light scatter of raindrops.

She walks to the carriage and then a footman helps her into it. She settles back into the plush chair and then she watches the many colours of the day pass by.

In the Chapel, when she walks down the long aisle, past many strange faces, she sees Francois waiting for her at the pulpit. Susanna feels guilty when she sees the love in Francois’ eyes for her. Insanely, she hopes William will storm into the church and stop her, but she knows he would not because it is still day.

Susanna swallows and swallows, but the lump in her throat does not move.

That evening, Francois and Susanna opens the dance floor and then the rest of the evening she dances with strangers, while he talks to his friends and acquaintances.

Francois watches Susanna discreetly as she dances the night away. He has built a wall around his heart as protection against the constant ache he felt and his prideful nature makes him seem aloof. Susanna hopes against all probability William will come in and dance one dance with her, but she let him slip away.

WHEN DAYBREAK INEVITABLY arrives, William stands up from under Susanna’s window and he walks into the kitchen bustling with servants. He walks past them to the cellar without any one of them noticing him.

In the dark cellar, he walks to a corner and then there he curls up for the day. Sleep does not come.

When he senses night, a different vibration in the air than that of the day, he walks out of the château, the same way he entered. The kitchen is bustling, extra people has been brought in. When he gets outside under the star-studded sky, he looks back at the château.

They had lit all the lights in the château and it looks warm and inviting. Music drifts toward him from the windows and he realises Susanna has finally made her choice or was her mind always made up and he just refused to believe it.

He wants to go into the château, to steal Susanna away, but he starts to walk across the manicured lawn. He starts jogging slowly and then faster and faster he runs away. The world whirls past him in a giant miasmic cloud.

He reaches the northern coast of France and then when he gets to the town of Calais, he dives into the ocean and he swims to the ship anchored just beyond the breaking waves.

He scrambles up the side of the ship and when his crew sees him, there are shouts of joy and welcome.

Edward walks closer to William, smiling brightly. “William, at last. We thought you were not going to be coming back.”

William laughs and he hopes they do not realise he is forcing the laugh. “I am back. We can hoist the anchor if everyone is ready.”

Shouts of elation reverberate into the night sky. At last, they will continue, they will leave France and carry on with pirating.

Edward jokingly says, “We were going to leave without you and Charlotte if you did not return by the end of this week.”

“I just had some unfinished business. We can leave now.”

“Where is Charlotte? Did she not come with you?”

William avoids his gaze. “Is she not here yet?”

Edward frowns because everyone on the rigger knows William and Charlotte have been inseparable over the decades.

William walks away from Edward, and Edward stares after him.

No one else asks him where Charlotte is and he does not offer any explanation. Soon Edward also lets it go, because often one of them will disappear tired of the pirating life or, sometimes killed by mad villagers when caught in the act of feeding. Driven into a corner, snarling they would be set on fire and then watched with shiny, brilliant eyes as the villagers stand around them jeering and whooping. Sometimes in a rage of fury, they would kill each other.

The crew raises the sails and then the light breeze pushes them away into open waters. William stands on the deck, looking back at the receding land mass long after it has disappeared from the horizon.

Fortune is on their side. Two nights later, they come across the brightly lighted shape of a ship and then with lightning speed their darkened boat slide in next to the other ship.

They throw ropes over the sides onto the deck of the unsuspecting ship and then tie them securely, to keep the two ships together. They jump across onto the deck of the adjacent ship.

After they had their playful diversion of sword fighting, it is a frenzied feeding spree. Screams of terror fade away and then there is only silence.

When every living being on the ship has been drunk dry, the crew jump satisfied back onto their own ship’s deck. Once on the deck, they untie the ropes which bind them to the other and then they throw torches of fire onto the deck of the ship slowly drifting away from them.

There were not many riches to loot this time, it was a passenger ship, so their hunger well sated they drink the wine until late in the evening. Attacking innocent ships in the dead of night is not about the riches they might find, it is essentially about feeding their always-unsatisfied hunger.

The nights pass one after the other.

They are always the same.

SUSANNA HAS TOO much wine and when all their guests have left, she goes up to her room tiredly. She pretended all day she was happy. She accepted best wishes with a smile on her face. Visibly she seemed to enjoy herself, but now she felt exhausted and she longed to fall into a deep, oblivious sleep.

Carla helps her change and then brushes out her hair silently. Susanna knows Francois will be coming to her room tonight, she is his wife now and she is not looking forward to it. She feels ice in her blood and a painful spasm pulls tightly on her stomach. Since the night Charlotte ran away with her, Francois has not kissed her. He has not tried to convince her to invite him into her room, even if he assured her constantly of his undying love for her.

Francois feels hesitant to go to Susanna’s room. He does not want to see the empty look in her eyes when she looks at him, but he has wanted her from the first moment he laid his eyes on her. He will force her to love him if it is the last thing he does.

Too soon, Carla leaves her room and Susanna sees her curtsy as she enters the hallway. Carla steps aside and then Francois walks through the doorway into Susanna’s room. He has been waiting outside the door for Carla to be dismissed, debating with himself if he should leave.

Susanna sees Carla pull the door closed behind her.

Francois walks straight to Susanna where she is standing in the middle of the room and with determination he takes Susanna in his arms roughly.

He kisses her too hard, he holds her too tightly. He pushes her toward the bed and he is too eager when he lies down on top of her.

With tears running down the side of Susanna’s face, she is relieved it is over quickly.

He leaves her room silently and Susanna curls up in a ball, looking out of her window up at the crescent moon. The rest of the moon is shadowed, but the outline still visible. A cool wind blows through the window, bringing with it the night sounds.

The profound scents of the flowers in the greenhouse stronger at night than during the day drift through her window. Susanna hears an owl hoot a distance way, she hears the crickets singing as one, all on a different note.

Exhausted she falls asleep and sadly, she does not dream of William.

The days pass one after the other.

They are always the same.

Continue reading Chapter 8/10

Copyright © Lynette Ferreira. All Rights Reserved. 
All work created and posted on this blog is the intellectual property of Lynette Ferreira.


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