A pair of heavy, darkly-polished oak doors swing open, throwing moonlight across a wide expanse of pale marble hallway, veins in the stone winding like sinews into the shadows beyond.
Gilded in silver light, I enter. The steel tips of my heels click out a dreamy staccato, treading in the footsteps of princes, duchesses, rogues and queens. Their faces gaze down upon me from the high walls. Immortalised in oils, their traditional, inscrutable countenances reveal little of their passions, furies and secret obsessions.
I turn towards a chair in one corner, letting the heavy coat damp from the night air, slide from my shoulders. I lay it carefully over the velvet upholstery, shivering slightly in the chill, unmoving atmosphere inside the house.
I move toward the centre of the hall. Click… click… click…. click. My heels tap out an intent. Upon a small table, a crystal vase holds a single red rose. In rude bloom, the rose has let go of three petals, they lie as perfumed tears upon the table.
An envelope is propped against the vase. Unsealed. Unnamed. It doesn't need to be addressed for me to know its content. Virtually every goodbye I've experienced has been unaddressed: I can't bear them any other way. A personalised parting ladens the heart, eventually rotting away to leave a brand in the exact shape of its pain.
I reach out a crimson-nailed finger and lightly stroke the envelope. The action pulls at the cuff of my silk shirt, exposing four rows of pearls circling my wrist. They gleam mellowly in the moonlight, exactly the same colour as the skin on his back.
I hadn't wanted him to leave, but I was compelled not to have him feel indebted to me. His love was weighty, dense like hard-packed snow and he wore his sadness like an overcoat. A good overcoat, and one which suited him, with deep pockets of melancholia and often-visited regret.
A cloud sails over the moon, veiling a fleeting wish for his return. The moon knows when to place a finger to the lips, lest foolishness begin drumming insistent fingers against our better judgement.
I turn and walk back toward the doors, pushing against their resistance, closing myself off to such thoughts.
In almost total darkness, the sound of my heels echoes again. A determined, resolute tattoo upon the path of my own better judgement.
Unseen, the rose drops another petal.