They pushed through the golden doors, proceeding to humbly shuffle to the outskirts of the ballroom. It wasn’t in their nature to steal the spotlight, oh no, something quieter was much better.
In the shadows, you could observe and scrutinise, but needed none of that fake revelry which so enraptured all the other guests.
But then again, this was a masquerade ball. The twins, who were ever so afraid of the world which had thwarted them since day one, they could now don their masks and become someone completely different.
And yet, they were still afraid. Stood in the corner, in matching velvet gowns, smeared with the same scarlet blush and ivory powder, they both felt their faces burn under the harsh gazes of their fellow guests.
They held hands, tenderly, in an expression of comfort and devotion, sometimes shifting to finger their hemmed ribbons and submersible lacework.
As the orchestra continued to play, they jealously observed the women in the centre of the ball, showing them up in the ultimate expression of feminine rivalry; dancing with all the eligible bachelors of the town, like dirty whores to be trodden on and torn apart when the sun rose.
We could so easily be like them, they thought in their shared minds, if only we were not so frail and virtuous.
As they caressed one other’s arms attentively, they thought of their mother, so cumbersome, so disease-ridden. No, these girls were so busy caring for such a sickly invalid, that their entire childhoods and been full of nothing but self-sacrifice, which was reciprocated only by monstrous reproaches and even crueller beatings.
They were immaculate fawns, who were now in the eye line of every hunter in the forest. But no huntsman would ever dare touch them, for the fear of startling the timid creatures, and causing them to recklessly flee, with inevitably no return.
But then a trapper, with one single lily clutched to his breast, dared to approach the gentle creatures.
Donned in teal and aegean, with an ivory mask in the shape of a magpie, he bowed to the two startled fawns, before extending his hand to one of the girls.
But they looked at one another, a frightened glare in their garnet eyes, before the chosen one took his hand, and was delicately led to the centre of the hall.
And they were glorious. Underneath the gold leaf chandelier and cathedral ceiling, they took to the spotlight, and she was blinded. A simple waltz was all it took, and a brazen smirk, then the younger sister was completely besotted. She smiled for the first time in eighteen years, her cheeks aching with laughter. She spun round, seeing the blurred faces of those who had so harshly mocked her before. And she felt beautiful. Nothing could destroy this feeling.
Her older sister did not feel the same. Her wrists were cold, yearning for her other half’s plump skin against her own. She did not care for this man, she needed only her dear sibling, and her sister needed only her. These men were all horrifying creatures, who cared only for one thing; that succulent cherry betwixt your legs, then once they had gleaned their reward, they would leave, satisfied with what they had reaped, and continue in search for a different meal to cater to their exotic tastes.
And yet, despite all her warnings, there was her infant sister, prancing and poncing with this strange man with the sculpted lips and prominent, porcelain brow. She couldn’t see her sisters face under her violet mask, but she knew she would be smiling. This is what she had been yearning for since the beginning.
But she would not let herself be alone, this must be stopped.
And so? A single letter, written in a delicate hand, delivered to the mysterious figure in teal, when the dancing was ceased in favour of speeches and declarations of similar insignificance.
I cannot wait any longer, I wish to see you.
Care to meet me in the library, and take our acquaintance to a more intimate degree?
And so she waited for the game to begin.
With angry tears forming in her eyes, she led her still beaming sibling to a table to collect her breath.
I must go to the ladies, the eldest cooed, please, sit and relax. You’ve had quite the exerting evening.
Oh yes, her younger half giggled, it has been simply marvellous. You know sister, this really has been the best day of my life. I feel… I feel as if my life is finally beginning!
In response, she was gifted with a long, lingering kiss on her brow.
It was all the firstborn could do to prevent her clawing her partners face off.
In the library, she fondled the spines of various books, fingering the gossamer pillows and vicuna chaise-lounge. But no, nothing could compare to that salty sensation of her sisters brow upon her thirsty lips.
And then he arrived, to see a girl identical in almost every way to the one he had danced with before. He tenderly reached for her hand, bringing it up to his heart.
I must let you know, my lady, he began, you have quite taken me, I must ask you your name.
The youthful, innocent girl, sat at the table, felt a fearful sensation knawing at her breast as the waltz came to a smothering crescendo. She felt a sudden throbbing of her temple, right where her senior had marked her.
She had felt this sensation before.
But alas, it was too late.
As she ran in search of her sister, she found that beautiful, velvet dress of hers smeared the same red as her ripened cherry. And there she sat, perched atop of the lifeless corpse.
The lily in his pocket sank under the weight of the blood.
Although I didn’t think of it at the time of writing, this story is very Jekyll and Hyde-esque!
Want to read the rest of my Gothic collection? Then you can check out For I am No Lover of Lilies here!
Copyright © 2016 Rebecca Sherratt