by Stephanie Robyn
notre-dame de paris
Late summer 1975
Another dress. They had been in Paris almost a week thus far, and for every night, there had been a new
dress. Every night, shortly after sunset, the woman Emilie had come to her room at the Georges V, and always there were the two porters at her heels, sweeping along with some concoction or other from one of the city’s great fashion houses. She had no complaints, for that. She had grown to become highly appreciative of clothing after years of wearing every pair of bluejeans and every t-shirt she could get her hands on through to the threads they were woven of. Each night Emilie would bathe her cool flesh in the steaming, bubble-filled water that scented of a different flower every time, and dress her
in the attire he had chosen for her to wear that particular evening.
This night it had been Chanel. A charming design in shimmering white satin, flaring out in gossamer wings about the slender thighs, gathered to a sharp Empire waist with a curvaceous and dipping neckline. The thick ebon tresses had been immaculately worked into round, loopy curls, gathered at the back of her head with a long, silvery clip basted in mother of pearl. The curls dripped along the sides of the angelic visage, brushing the high, sloping cheekbones, their shine competing fiercely with the soft glitter of the obsidian eyes that gleamed so pupilless in their almond-shaped setting. The pearls glowed subtly at her wrists and ears; the delicate silver chain trailed over the sculpted collarbones to allow a teardrop of pearl to rest just between the smooth swells of the pale cappuccino-colored breasts. A translucent ivory wrap was pulled about her shoulders, and the strappy, almost sandal-like heels clicked upon the pavement in double time to the long strides of the man upon whose arm she walked.
He was perfectly groomed, as always, resplendent in a dark, double-breasted suit, the matte shine of his
polished shoes shaming the midnight reflections of the streetlamps on the Seine. They walked most of the night, occasionally pausing at a sidewalk cafe or in the bar of some restaurant he favored, mingling with the people there, who all seemed to know him, in some way or another. They tasted the vintages of the world and its centuries, he allowing her just the smallest sips of the wines sampled. She was too young, he informed her in those smooth, mellow tones that somehow would brook no argument in spite of their easy sound. The alcohol would make her ill if she tried to consume it in the quantity she was accustomed to when she was living. Cigarettes were less of a problem. The reflex that drew the smoke into her lungs continued to function even in this altered state, although it had demanded some concentration the first few times she attempted it.
They approached Notre Dame from the riverside, and the diminutive creature in white satin slowed upon the manicured grasses as her eyes widened at the close-up sight of the massive cathedral. She squatted like some gargantuan stone spider upon the Ile de la Cite, the flying buttresses somehow lending the impression of a multilegged beast ready to rise up and pounce as the garish lights of the passing bateau-mouches flickered over her stone, teasing as if to give animation to the great structure. Strange sensations muddled her consciousness as he took her arm and drew her along to the facade of the cathedral, and she stared up at the black holes of the twin towers, their maws gaping, frozen
in some sort of silently macabre architectural cry.
Scattered groups of tourists still meandered over the square, and she could feel as much as see the cloak of shadows he pulled about them as they crossed before the portals to the tower entrance on the far side of the structure. His steps rung confidently upon the worn stairs as they moved up the twisting, narrow way of the tower toward the top of the cathedral. The tepid summer breeze darted in through the tiny rectangular windows along the passage, bringing with it a kiss of the misting rain that had begun in these wee hours of the morning. Their ascent in the tower seemed interminable, but it was still remarkable to her that her vision seared the darkness so easily, that she could pick out every scar and pock in the roughened stone as she brushed her fingers along the wall. So enraptured had she become by the time they reached the summit of the staircase that it was almost startling when he opened the door in front of him, pushing it back to reveal the main roof of the cathedral.
The wind tangled in the deftly-wrought arrangement of her hair as she followed him out from the tower, her shoes scuffing lightly upon the stone that was just beginning to darken and dampen with the wind-slanted onslaught of the fine rain. She was at a loss to explain why he had chosen this solitary place beneath the stars to pass the time in the misty drizzle, and she could only stare at the broad planes of his back, shoulder-blades outlined within the tailored confines of the suitjacket. His hands were clasped behind as he strolled along the wall, the neatly-combed dark hair showing tiny beads of raindrops in the glow of the half-moon overhead, its celestial shine murkied by the night clouds heralding this summer storm. It was something of the impression of a man pacing the railroad platform, patiently awaiting the midnight train in complete solitude. His shoes clicked in rain-muted whispers upon the stone as he paused beside one of the gargoyles, the strong chin turning just a bit as he cast a brief glance over his shoulder at her. The darkly forested gaze glimmered expressionlessly before she caught the ghost of a quiet smile turning his lips, and he resumed his seemingly directionless wandering.
Moving to the wall, she touched her fingers to the cool surface of the roughened stone, her eyes washing
over the city of Paris, picking out familiar landmarks by habit. The Conciergerie was just around the corner, practically, looking down upon the river at its side with iron windows that housed the tortured souls of an unknown number of prisoners. In the distance she could see the pale radiance of the Sacre Coeur, hazy and indistinct in the blurred atmosphere of the brewing rainshower. A sheen of moisture glossed the creamy coffee skin as she stood there for a long moment, merely listening to the heartbeat of the city on the wind, standing atop this house of God as its tiniest fallen angel, her eyes swimming darker than the gloomy bottom of the river that was the main artery of Paris.
When next she looked about, he no longer browsed the wall in her line of vision. A light frown cracked the ebony mirrors of her gaze as she moved back from the edge and drifted into the embrace of the tower’s shadow. She could not see him, but he was somewhere about, not far…what was he doing? Her wondering was cut short by the bang of a wooden door against a stone surface, snatched from hands by the wind that was picking up to whistle coolly between the overhead spires. Footsteps echoed uncertainly in the rain, and she lifted her chin, the delicate nostrils flaring subtly to the unmistakable perfume of the living body that had moved to the rooftop.
It was only a moment before she was without her shoes, fingers trailing over the slick outer wall of the tower as she stepped soundlessly through gathering puddles. The dampened white satin of the abbreviated dress molded to the gentle curves of her hips as she crept along, the gossamer folds beneath the main body of the little gown soaked through with rainwater and veiling the slender, sculpted thighs as a second skin. Plastered now to the sharply hollowed cheeks were the tassels that dangled from the upswept ebon tresses, the almondine gaze narrowed almost calculatingly as she came to linger just at the rear edge of the belltower. She could see him, frowning at the bottoms of his pantlegs as they sopped over his shoes to trail in the puddles, the beam of the flashlight in his hand dancing uselessly over the rooftop as he squinted through the brume of rainwater.
There were no thoughts in her head to speak of as she fell upon him. A blur of rain-streaked white satin, the flash of bare arms and legs working in flawless concert as she closed the space between them in just a few well-placed strides and a single leap. Within her blood, an ugly strain of tawdry voices chorused in harrowing glee as she tackled him back into the slant of the interior roofline behind him; the ivory fangs bared themselves ferally as she jerked his head back, tearing his throat out with a tussling jerk of her chin and a low, bestial growl. Flesh tangled in her lips and teeth as the tendons and vessels beneath his skin were demolished, freeing the fount of hot blood that erupted from the torn jugular. He struggled as the crimson bathed her face, and her hand tightened upon his scalp, smashing the rear of his skull repeatedly into the age-greened, spikily styled surface of the interior roof’s slant. She drank from him greedily, the blood blossoming in long stains over the damp white dress, the translucent wrap lying forgotten upon the ground behind her. The neatly-manicured nails of her free hand scrabbled and clawed at the wreckage of his neck as if she could coax more of the vitae from the veins and arteries after the lifeblood was drained, and when it became apparent he had expired, she hissed softly and stepped back from the body with an almost sullen shove.
As suddenly as the heated madness of the hunt and feeding had descended upon her, it was gone, and she was alone. The dark eyes cleared slowly as she blinked through the rain, shivering diamonds of the sky’s tears clinging to the thick veil of lashes, that fringe dotted also with the rubies of blood. Crimson streaked her face, cloyingly heavy upon her lips and matting in the styled curls of her hair, blooming in reddened streaks to soak the front of the white satin dress. Closing her fingers against her palm, she glanced around, the almondine gaze flying wide as it touched upon the devastation she had apparently wrought upon what was now a corpse on the rooftop.
A start rippled through the diminutive form as she was awakened to the sensation of tiny scraps of flesh beneath her nails, and she jumped back, wiping the hand almost frantically upon the abbreviated hem of the bloodstained dress as a shiver ripped down her spine. The dark eyes gleamed luminously with slowly-comprehending horror as she took a tentative step toward the man’s body and then turned away, her gaze flickering over the soiled ruins of her attire even as her fingers leapt to her mouth, roaming shakily over the distended fangs that still were stained as accusing a shade of crimson as the rest of her face. What had she done?
The wind picked up with a howl through the now driving rain as his laughter resounded off the walls of the towers, and she swung her gaze to him, staring wild-eyed at the impressive figure sauntering through the puddles toward her, the broad grin gracing his darkly handsome features as flawlessly beautiful as it was cruel. As he approached she could feel the tug in her blood, the madness cackling mockingly at her before it sniggered back into the corner of her mind. Her words were but a whisper to the wind as she clapped both hands to the bloodied visage, rain cutting tracks through the crimson liquid that clung to her skin. “…what have you done to me…”
He paused just a few steps short of where she stood, her shoulders slumped a bit with the posture of horrified realization, and he stooped briefly to snatch up the gossamer wrap and ring the rainwater from it, chuckling as he did so. “Ah, my Lydia. I knew you had it in you. I had feared for a short time there I had made the wrong choice, watching you skitter about the issue of sustenance, watching you lap like a shy cat to the dish of cream…but the blood runs truly, little one. I am proud of you.” He glanced up at her as he shook out the damp wrap, the dark, satisfied laughter riding on the surface of the dusky emerald gaze.
Shivers continued to lance their icy fingers along her nerves as she stared back at him, the whispered words repeated, the tide of madness rising even as her vocal cords strained at the shout. “…what have you done to me…WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME!” An inarticulate shriek of rage and pain ripped from her throat as she stepped back, the puddles splashing over her bare feet as she glanced once again at the wreckage of the man she had killed. She was at a loss to explain the gruesome euphoria that had taken hold of her just minutes before, driving her to the act with a blind, mindless fury never before experienced.
Blinking through the rain, she snarled at her creator, dropping back like a hackled feline as the angry sound faded to a hiss.
“You bastard!” she screamed, the bloodied fingers raking uselessly at her cheeks as she began to
retreat in time to his steps forward.
“You bastard! You did this to me! You’ve made me into a maddened animal! Into a ghastly bloody beast, you son of a bitch! I shall go mad in this! What have you done-”
It was the last time she would ever raise her voice to him.
Her shrieks were cut off abruptly with the force of the backhanded strike delivered to her face, his hand
catching her again on the return swing to smash the diminutive form back into the slant of the interior roof. The rain drummed on the rooftop around them as he forced her struggling form still, growling softly beneath his breath as he delivered another stunning smack. The stifled shriek in her throat escaped in a series of choked sobs as her cheek was turned to him, fresh tracks of crimson coursing over her skin as the tears escaped. The tang of new blood upon her lips seemed to bring her trembling form to a newly-inspired rush of raw horror and fury as the almondine eyes slid open to meet his stony
gaze and the screams began again.
“I’m bloody…oh, god…it’s everywhere…the blood…it’s coming from my eyes!”
“Silence!” His teeth were gritted furiously as he clapped a hand over her mouth, staring hard into
the wide eyes of the young woman he had gifted with immortal unlife just seven nights before. “You be
silent,” he murmured, the sharp bark of his tones slipping with practiced ease to honeyed syllables.
“It is the way of things, my Lydia. You will come to understand, childe.” Releasing her trembling lips,
he smoothed the rain-soaked gossamer wrap over the wet arm of his suitjacket, leaning in to drape it delicately over the slick ebony tresses that fanned to the slanted roof surface behind her. “Hush, now,” he continued softly, his fingers plucking deftly at the dainty, translucent fabric, drawing it down to the
flattened bridge of her nose in the rainy, bloody mockery of a bride’s veil. “You are wed to your destiny this night, little one. You were mine from the moment I decided I would have you…-” he flicked his gaze to the brilliant obsidian eyes fixed so wide and horrified upon him “-…but, tell me again, what have I given you, my Lydia?”
The rainwater splashed down painfully into her open eyes as the answer that was by now a matter of rote was whispered from her lips. “…everything…”
* * *
The dark eyes are but two chips of reflective stone in the rain-streaked picture window of the sitting room at Thorne Isle as she gazes to the mild evening shower peppering the Gulf with its tepid kisses. The delicate features of the china doll are still, her petite, slender form cast to the daring impression of Caravaggio’s fondest dream in light and shadow. Upon one arm is draped the soft white fabric of the low-necked poet’s blouse she had intended to wear this evening, and she glances down to it slowly before turning her eyes back to the open closet.
Let them make what mockery they would of the personal bushido she clung to. The bestial alternative was something far more loathsome. The madness continued to reach, but damned if she would allow it a hold.
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