Chapter 8: William the Damned by Lynette Ferreira

IT HAS BEEN two years since they left France and still, William lays awake when the sun beats down on the waters of the ocean, feeling the rocking motion of the ever-moving sea under him.

The voice of Susanna interrupts his dreams and he hears her whisper on the cold breeze when he stands under the dark night sky. She is in his thoughts without end and there she will remain for all his life. He wonders what she is doing. Could she be pregnant? Reluctantly he realises that for Susanna this would be a blessing because do all women not fundamentally want children of their own. If she chose him and he turned her, together they could never have had children. In addition, if they had made love before she made her choice, and she fell pregnant, he would have essentially sentenced her to death. Considering the facts, there are so many reasons why they could never have been together. Ultimately, Susanna made the right decision for her and unselfishly William was willing to make the sacrifice for her happiness. Still, he imagines life with her, spending the night with her, every night. Sometimes he wonders if her mind fills with thoughts of him as well or, has she forgotten all about him?

Each night, he dives into the vast expanse of cool, dark waters splashing against the hull of the ship. He leaps into the black water and then he dives as deep down as he can, swimming with the sharks, hoping they would kill him, but they never come near him, always swimming away when he approaches them.

He drifts on his back in the water on nights when the moon is full and you can see every crevice on the surface of the pale round ball hanging in the sky, imagining the moon reflecting off his pale skin, sends messages back into the universe, messages of longing and hope to Susanna.

For some time now, Edward has been vying for the position of captain. He would come and stand with William at the bow and together they would look over the ocean, silently.

One night Edward turns to William. “Since Charlotte left, you have not captained this ship well. I fear mutiny is in the air. We hardly come across other ships lately and the men are hungry and disgruntled. They are angry and yesterday Paul and Stephen killed each other in a rage of fury, while you were swimming.”

William looks pensively across the water. “I know. I have been distracted. We should sail to the island and I will take my share of the gold, silver and jewels.”

“Who is going to captain the ship when you leave?”

William sneers scornfully, “You, of course, Edward. I have seen the men listen to you. You have already started captaining the ship. I am really just in the way; besides, I think the pirate life is over for me.”

Edward smiles pleased. “Once you leave, you will miss it.”

“If I do, I know where to find you.”

“You will have to scavenge for blood. Are you sure this is what you want?”

William turns to Edward. “Since Charlotte left, it is just not the same for me.”

“We have noticed that.”

William does not want to seem weak, so he turns back to face the sea and he says pensively, “I thought I had everything.”

Edward looks at William, a frown across his face and then he replies, “We will sail for the island. We should be there in two days.”

William does not reply and Edward walks away to give the orders for them to change their course.

Each time they sail toward the island where they hide their treasures, vivid memories flash back to William. The sight of the island reminds him every time that Susanna had already chosen then she wanted Francois, although she had not even met him. William never had a chance.

When they get to the island, William takes his share of the riches they have accumulated and then after goodbyes and promises of meeting up again, he rows in a boat away toward England.

Weeks later, he arrives at the north-east coast of England and then in the town of Edinburgh he buys himself a house, surrounding himself with every luxury and servants.

He orders his servants to keep the heavy curtains drawn closed during the day, so he can walk around in his house. He informs the servants he has a rare disease, which makes him sensitive to the sun, assuming there might be some reservations, but when he needs to feed, he runs into the further reaches of Scotland, into the rural villages and then he steals an innocent victim from their bed. William does not kill people on the streets of Edinburgh where they might look at him suspiciously. They might connect the disappearance of people to his sudden arrival in the town.

TO SUSANNA IT seems as if Francois has lost interest in her. The love he professed, noticeably lacking. No longer do they go for walks. When they are together for dinner, they hardly talk. Susanna wonders if his interest in her was only to spite William and he knew for her mother’s sake she would choose him. Once she married him, she confirmed her choice undeniably.

Just after they got married, he came to her room every night. At times, her body betrayed her and when he held her close, and he kissed her tenderly, his hands exploring her body, she did want him. She felt the burning desire in the pit of her stomach and she gave herself to him willingly.

Sometimes he stayed the night, although Susanna wished he would leave. She did not want to listen to the sounds of his breathing. Seeing Francois in her bed reminded her of William’s last words when he said she would be in her husband’s arms, while he was out there in the night.

On nights like these, she wondered where he was and if he ever thought of her. Could he feel the longing in her heart for him in the vibrations of the surrounding air?

For the last year, she has locked her bedroom door at night. Francois has openly taken a mistress. Every woman in the upper social circles whispered Susanna’s name behind their feathered fans when she walked past.

Susanna knows she does not belong here, but as always, she had no choice. She tried, she honestly did try, to forget William but then every night when she felt the evening shadows creeping closer, she could not keep her mind from him.

Francois could not stand the look in Susanna’s eyes any longer and when the young Mary batted her eyelids at him, he could not resist. He took Mary the same night he met her and he bestowed every desire he ever had for Susanna onto Mary. Mary looked at him the way he wished Susanna would, and he felt loved, although he did not love Mary. His heart remained with Susanna, but when he was with Mary, he could pretend, close his eyes and make-believe. He could imagine it was Susanna holding him close, it was Susanna who kissed him passionately, it was Susanna who gave herself willingly to him.

Susanna has become like a ghost in the château and at times, he wished he could grab her and shake her to make her realise he was there for her, that he loved her. His hatred for William ate at his soul.

In the beginning, Susanna pretended and he supposes mostly to his own doing, when she found out he had a mistress, she completely shut him out of her life. She still has not given him an heir, but then he has not touched her, kissed her or felt the whisper of her breath on his chest in the longest time, since Mary.

Susanna spends hours walking through the manicured gardens with Carla. They have grown close and Susanna enjoys her company. Carla is also twenty years old like Susanna and they had the same way of thinking.

Susanna would spend her afternoons with her mother and they would talk softly, laughing when they talked about their happier memories and about their lives in England. Susanna assumed her mother missed her home country, but she was too frail to travel now. Anne has fallen ill and she spent most of her time in her rooms. When Anne was married to Susanna’s father, she did not have the easiest life. Susanna suspects her mother did love her father and he broke her heart by never loving her in return.

When Francois turned forty years old, he decided to celebrate it in London. The war was over and once again, there was a tentative peace between England and France. The King of England invited all French Noblemen to his court, in a gesture of goodwill.

Great enthusiasm was in the air at every social gathering and one evening, in passing, Francois informs Susanna they would embark on a voyage to England. Susanna could not help being excited. Her days all melted into one another and this would change her daily existence dramatically.

When she met with her dressmaker, it was with an exhilarating difference. She felt young again and a new exuberance filled her days. She chose fabrics to match her new mood and styles in the latest fashions.

Sometimes she found Francois looking at her differently, the same way he did when he just met her, but she ignored him. She knows she is at fault because she mourned William for far too long. However, she has grown used to being without William and the pain of her loss has faded. Admittedly, on star-studded evenings, she still could not help thinking about him, but the memories are becoming more and more fleeting. She used to send her soul out into the night to look for him, but she is older now and she cannot continue her life pining over William forever.

She loathes Francois because he told her repeatedly how much he loved her before they got married as if it was a huge ploy to get her to marry him, even though he knew she honestly had no choice. Soon after their first year together, he started an affair with another woman—so much for love.

Anne is very excited when she hears Susanna and Francois will be going to England and deep down in her heart, she hopes the long journey will rekindle the love they felt for each other shortly after they met. Sadly, Anne is too ill to take on the trip and she remains at the château in France.

WHEN SUSANNA WALKS up the gangplank to the deck of the galleon, she remembers the day she arrived and the promise of a happy future she had in her heart.

The crew shows her to a large cabin, unlike the little cabin she had to stay in on her voyage from England to France. She sees the large bed and dread fills her with the prospect of having to share it with Francois.

Susanna turns to Carla. “Where will Lord Francois be sleeping,” she whispers.

“He is sleeping in the cabin next door, Madame.”

Relief washes through Susanna and she smiles thankfully.

After Susanna and Francois have dinner with the captain in his large cabin, Susanna excuses herself politely and then she walks up to the deck. She breathes the salty, sea air deep into her and she stands there long after everything has gone silent.

On her way back to her cabin, walking along the dimly lighted passageway, she has to walk past Francois’ room. She hesitates briefly in front of his door, but it is silent in his cabin. She doubts he will bring his mistress with him to England, but then again, she would never know to which depths he has sunken.

Walking into her clammy, humid cabin, she sees Francois sprawled out on her bed. Frowning, she asks, “Is there anything I can help you with, my lord?”

He gets up from the bed and walking closer to her, he replies, “Actually you can.”

Susanna clenches her jaws. She must be submissive, especially now her mother has been ill and frail. How she hates him.

Without touching her, he leans closer to her. “Susanna, have I not always loved you?”

“Of course, Francois.”

Susanna keeps her eyes averted, looking at the floor. She sees the way his legs fill his drawers and she remembers how once, long ago, it used to excite her, while now it only repulsed her.

He softly puts his arms around her waist and then she looks up at him defiantly. He looks at her and the love he felt for her, which he shoved deeply away, when she battered and bruised his heart, resurfaces. Her eyes never look at him lovingly and never did he feel he was the one. He wanted so much more, but she never changed the look in her eyes.

His pride once again overpowers his emotions and he stands away from her, letting his arms drop from her sides. He turns to the door and he walks out of the cabin. Susanna has a feeling of release wash through her.

Francois and Susanna greet each other politely whenever they meet on the deck, but they do not speak. They have nothing to say to each other.

When they arrive in England, a carriage waits for them on the docks to take them from the harbour into London and to the castle. They are not the only people on their way to London and the procession of carriages is long and the trip arduous.

Francois and Susanna sit across from each other in the carriage. Susanna revels in the scenery. She never realised how much she missed her country of birth, the country where she grew up.

Francois sits and he looks at Susanna, while she stares out of the carriage window. Feeling her elated spirit, he sees the joy in her eyes and his heart burns with hurt. He took a mistress, but Susanna was never far from his mind. Every moment he spent away from her, tore his soul apart, but there is no way he would be able to make it up to her, not now, not anymore. Where he sits brooding, while he stares at her, he also knows he will never let her go. He will never let William have her.

The carriage drives through the castle gates and Susanna is awestruck. She has never been inside the inner circle of the castle. Although her dad was noble and frequented castle balls and affairs, he never invited her or her mother to court with him.

All the women are dressed stylishly, their hair piled onto their heads extravagantly. Excited Susanna looks at Francois and then she looks away uncomfortably.

A footman helps her from the carriage and then smiling, her arm hooked into the crook of Francois’ arm, they walk together into the great entrance hall. Susanna looks around her in awe, while Francois squeezes her arm to his side.

He whispers down to her, “Behave yourself, or did you leave your manners in France?”

Susanna feels instantly humiliated and then she walks next to Francois, as she should, with the grace and charm, befitting the Lady Susanna.

The one feast flows into the next. Francois amuses himself with the many ladies in waiting, while Susanna spends most of her time in her rooms. At night, she goes down to the banquet hall, but she never stays late.

On the night of the King’s Ball, Carla helps her get dressed and Susanna sets her mind on the sapphire blue dress which reflects the exact colour of her eyes. Susanna decides not to pile her hair on top of her head, as the latest fashion dictates. It makes her look older than she is, she wants it hanging low with locks down her back and on the side of her face. Carla puts rouge on her cheeks, making her already rosy cheeks more pronounced.

When Susanna walks into the banquet hall, she can feel the room gasp and it boosts her confidence. She never realised she needed the acknowledgement now and again that she was pretty and desirable.

Across the room, past the crowd of men and women, she looks into his eyes. William does not acknowledge her, but he keeps her eyes locked with his.

When Francois comes to stand next to Susanna, William turns away from her and she follows him with her eyes as he walks out of the massive doors and away.

All over again, her feelings for him come rushing back. She remembers his touch, his taste, his smile. She feels immensely sad and her eyes involuntarily fill with tears.

Francois smiles down at her amused. “I wondered how long it would take you to notice he is here.”

Susanna turns away from him and she starts to walk to the door.

Francois holds her by her arm. “If you think I am going to let you out of my sight, you are greatly mistaken, Madame.” He emphasises the word, Madame as if she had not realised she was married to him already.

“I want to go to my room if you do not mind. You may escort me.”

“You just got here.”

“I am tired.”

He raises his voice, “For god’s sake, you are always tired.”

Susanna frowns. “Please do not make a scene. Either you let me go to my room, or you escort me. Please.”

He takes her roughly by her arm and then he walks her through the long, draughty passageways to her room. When they reach her room, he turns her to face him. She refuses to look up at him and he talks softly near her ear, “Susanna, I know every time we made love and every moment of every day, you were thinking about William. There are so many things in my heart, which I have left unspoken, but know this, I have always loved you.” He stares down at her for a moment and then he leaves.

Without a word, Susanna turns to the door behind her. She opens it and walks into her room.

Carla frowns when she sees her and comes rushing to her worried. “Madame?”

Susanna breaks down, while she stumbles into Carla’s arms. Never has she shown any saddened emotions in front of Carla, always pretending to be happy, but tonight she cannot help herself. If she knew then, what she knows now, she would have made different choices.

Carla holds her reassuringly, shushing and patting her back softly.

When Susanna calms down and her tears dry, Carla helps her to get undressed. Carla does not say anything and goes about her duties silently. After she made sure Susanna is all right, Carla leaves the room.

Francois stations a guard outside Susanna’s door to make sure William does not enter and Susanna does not exit the room, without his knowledge.

Susanna is escorted everywhere with Carla and a guard. Susanna feels despondent because even if she saw William again, she would not be able to speak to him, for fear of Francois’ rage. She feels William so close, she feels his eyes on her yet he remains unattainable.

William feels damned. He is damned to live by night only. He is damned never to be loved by Susanna. He is damned to love Susanna as much as he does. Unable to help himself, William watches her in the halls, and he watches her at dinner. He follows her every step discreetly, waiting for a moment when he might get to speak to her alone. He would give everything for just the smallest contact.

Word comes from the château that Anne had passed away peacefully in her sleep. Susanna receives the news and she is shocked and deeply saddened her mother passed away without Susanna by her bedside. She wants to leave immediately, but Francois is raging, because he is not willing to return just yet, he wants to stay in London much longer than he initially intended. He is enjoying the social gatherings and the different attitudes of the women in England from those in France.

William hears of their imminent departure and that evening in the dining hall, he walks to her. Determinedly he walks past the guard forever posted by her side and then he slides past Carla, who only looks at him apprehensively.

Susanna does not see William approaching her, her back is turned to him. The gaslights filling the room with light make her hair shine and it radiates off the paleness of her skin. He leans closer to her, without touching her, although he has to fight the urge to hold her. He whispers, “Susanna.”

Susanna catches her breath when she recognises his voice. She turns to face him and immediately her eyes dart across the room to establish Francois’ whereabouts. She says hurriedly, “I cannot talk to you. I am so sorry.” She looks up at him, and he can see the look in her eyes. Love hurts.

William says urgently, “I have to talk to you. Can I come to your room?”

“No, of course not,” her mouth says, while her heart yells, Yes, fool.

“Then meet me somewhere, before you leave to go back to France.”

Susanna looks desperately at Carla, who nods conspiratorially.

“Okay. My room, later while the banquet is on,” Susanna says hurriedly.

William bows and then he walks away.

Francois, who was watching the whole scene from across the room, pushes past the throng of people between him and William.

When Francois reaches William, he hisses, “This has gone on long enough. I will help you get rid of your miserable existence. If not for you, Susanna would have loved me.”

William looks at Francois amused, a sinister smile on his face.

Francois raises his voice, “What? You insult me. I challenge you to a dual.”

Everyone around them stops talking and turn to them, watching them with interest.

William asks demanding, “Now?”

“Yes, now.”

Continue reading Chapter 9/10

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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