Like all the other children I thought the woman in white was beautiful, or “bloofer,” as the youngest called her. The nickname caught on. Our bloofer lady would appear each evening on Hampstead Heath and choose one of us to lift into those milky arms and take on some unknown adventure.
This night, like those before, I waited, half hopeful, half terrified she would choose me. The sun had been gone for some time when she appeared, hair and shift flowing as if she was an angel. Pick me, I silently begged. Take me with you.
Some of the children pointed, shrieked and ran away at her approach. I didn’t.
Take me. Please. Not that I expected my prayers to be answered. They hadn’t saved Mama.
The bloofer lady studied the remaining children, her gaze at last coming to rest upon me. I was transfixed, held in place by such a sudden rush of love and desire that I could not have moved had a horse been about to run me down. She floated toward me and a moment later I was caught up in her arms, my head against her breast. She pressed her lips to my neck. So warm was she, so tender, that I didn’t mind the sting which followed. I thought it strange how she suckled my skin but I didn’t care. I’d discovered in her the maternal warmth so recently stripped from me and I would do nothing to risk losing it again.
The rhythm of her mouth against my neck lulled me into a stupor. I was lost in her softness and sweetness, utterly uncaring of where we went as long as I was safe within her arms.
I was aware of little else until we arrived in the churchyard high up on East Cliff above the bay. The light breeze carried the salty scent of the sea. As we passed amongst the lane of yews, four men stepped out to greet us.
All illusion of motherhood vanished as soon as the bloofer lady laid eyes upon them. She thrust me from her breast and against the unforgiving stone of a tomb. Agony shot through my back and legs. I cried out, more for the loss of the attention I’d cherished than physical pain, but she snarled, as vicious and territorial as a wild dog.
One of the men groaned. This one she advanced upon, arms wide and bearing the same smile which had charmed me and so many others. Her words fell like chimes upon my ears. “Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry for you. Come, and we can rest together. Come, my husband, come!”
Though we were separated our connection hadn’t broken. I felt her. Her passion for Arthur became mine, lustful and all-consuming though I was far too young to understand the implications. My gaze, like hers, focused on him. Arthur. I wanted him too, but small as I was, trapped in a body broken after she’d callously tossed me to the ground, I could do no more than twitch and moan.
Arthur moved as if spellbound. She had nearly reached his arms when one of the other men, an old man with reddish hair swept about his face, sprang between them wielding a little gold crucifix. Her face twisted with a rage and an answering fury erupted within me. She sprang toward a tomb but stopped as if some invisible barrier prevented her from entering.
The beautiful lady’s face twisted and warped into so horrible a visage I wondered that we were not all struck dead from the sight. Unholy wrath flooded my body and I moaned anew.
The old man held her thus for some time. He made a demand of Arthur, who dropped to his knees and gave his consent. With alacrity the old man set aside his lantern, dabbled with something on the tomb’s door, and the beautiful woman vanished through an impossibly tiny slit.
As she disappeared so did the fierce emotion which had gripped me. I was left in pain and confusion, as if the body I inhabited was not my own. Only when I gazed upon Arthur did I find any sense of consolation and safety.
The man with the crucifix lifted me, said I was no harm and should be left for the police to find. Arthur objected. It was his fiancée who had left me in such a state and I wore such tattered rags he wondered if anyone cared for me at all. Surely no detriment would be caused by seeing to my warmth and comfort for the night. The first man objected, citing his wish to keep these incidents between the four of them, but he must have decided that Arthur had already endured enough torment for the night and gave in to his pleading.
And so we went to Hillingham, the estate where, unbeknownst to me at the time, my beautiful lady had once called home. Likewise, I didn’t know what an extraordinary man Professor Abraham Van Helsing was or how talented a physician until many years later. All I registered then was how his dark blue eyes gazed kindly upon me as he carried me inside. He dosed me with laudanum and I lay in a dreamy haze while he assessed my injuries. “He, too, is suffering from the same blood loss as the other children. He needs a transfusion at once.”
Thus Arthur gave me what his fiancée had taken. The part of me belonging to her rejoiced at being filled with something of his. Then Van Helsing set my broken arm, all the while admonishing my caretakers to keep me as motionless as possible lest the terrible bruise on my spine grow worse and leave me paralyzed.
I slept, though not well. My dreams were filled with visions of her face, eyes sparking with hell-fire, mouth wide and glistening with blood.
During that first day in bed, the awful dreams would not leave even with the warmth of sunlight spilling across my coverlet. The only comfort was when Arthur, wearing the deep black of mourning, came to greet me and rest his hand upon my forehead for a few precious moments.
Van Helsing entered, declared me to have a fever, and since no one as yet had reported a child missing seemed in no great rush to hurry me home. He gave me a gentle pat. “In a few hours you will be back to your old self, dear child. Your tribulations will have ended.”
I did not understand what he meant but was too ill to demand an explanation. He took Arthur and the two other men from the night before—Dr. John Seward and Quincey Morris—and left on some errand.
Just after three in the afternoon I was overcome by the sensation of something thick and sharp was being driven deeply between my ribs one terrible blow at a time. I let out a wail that brought two maids, the steward and my nurse running. Hands held me down as I flailed and shrieked. From inside my head I heard Van Helsing’s accented voice chanting a prayer in a language I could not understand. The words tore at me as if I were being devoured by a wild animal.
And then, abruptly, it was over. The hallucination faded and I was tired, so tired. My throat burned from screaming. When the men returned Van Helsing was rushed inside where he examined me once more. “He was her last victim and torn from her amidst wrath and agony. The wound from her wicked mouth is gone,” he said, removing the bandage on my neck to show his companions, “yet some part of her lingers within him.” Worse, my thrashing had worsened the injury to my back. I could neither feel nor move my legs. Van Helsing prescribed rest with a cheerfulness I did not quite believe.
Arthur, Dr. Seward and Mr. Morris went outside and spoke with Van Helsing in a low voice then returned to sit at my bedside. At first glance he seemed only a normal man, an adult like any other save for his gentle manner and fine clothes, but I saw in his eyes the same horror that visited me in my dreams. We were bound, he and I, both of us bespelled by the beautiful woman and falling afoul of the beast which had overtaken her soul. He grasped my hand which appeared so small and powerless in his. “Poor child to have been so ruined by the dreadful creature my Lucy had become. Rest, now. I shall look after you.”
The moment his tender lips rested upon my brow love and longing burst within me. My craving for the bloofer lady had gone.
Now I wanted Arthur. Her husband.
Being the good man that Arthur was and despite the great grief and distress weighing on his mind he took me round the neighborhood in search of someone to claim me. “Someone must be looking for you,” he insisted, “beautiful child that you are.”
Cleaned up as I was, freshly scrubbed and in brand-new knickers and my first pair of shoes, no one recognized me. He had to carry me since I could not walk but he didn’t seem to mind. I wrapped my arms around his neck and breathed in his verdant cologne. The scent triggered memories and feelings I couldn’t possibly have. Until a few days before we had never met and yet I knew this man liked his eggs poached, not fried. He was fond of the dark blue akin to the evening sky. His favorite mount was a sorrel gelding who was always sure-footed during a hunt.
In truth, Arthur was as reluctant to let me go as I was him. Because it was his fiancée who had crippled me he considered himself responsible for my welfare. No one in my poor, decrepit neighborhood in Whitby had the means of looking after a child unable to walk and he could not bear the thought of seeing me turn into a beggar on the street. After several fruitless days of trying to discover if I had any family left, he gave up his search and told me of his intention to see to my care and education himself. I was ecstatic at the thought of having him always nearby, but within a fortnight he came to me with unhappy news. “I must leave for a time. We’re going after the beast which befouled my Lucy.”
I embraced him and cried, but other than causing him more sorrow my tears had no effect on his plans. For nearly five weeks he was gone, traveling with Doctor Van Helsing and their companions into the godforsaken lands in search of the beast which had stolen the beautiful lady’s soul. I missed him unbearably, and despite my nurse’s devotion I begged and cried for him and would give the nurse no peace. My strength and health returned, but my legs remained limp and useless. I cried all the more, certain Arthur would find a way to forget about me once he knew for certain I would not walk again.
My worries were in vain. The night he returned he swept me into his arms and clasped me with the strength I’d longed for. “It’s over,” he whispered in my ear. “The beast is dead. We’re free.”
I kissed him and slid my cheek against his unshaven face until our tears mingled in shared relief.
Some time earlier, Arthur’s father had passed on and left him the title of Lord Godalming along with the estate in Ring. We moved there together and he spared no expense, paying first for a fine wheeled chair to give me some measure of freedom and then, when I’d gained some strength and height, sending for Van Helsing to fashion me a set of braces for my legs. Some feeling eventually returned and we were both determined that one day I should be able to walk on my own. I had a tutor, a young, Oxford-educated man who drilled me in mathematics, science and geography and berated me when my handwriting was not as polished as he believed it should be. Words were difficult and though I hated the exercises I persisted, wanting only to please Arthur and make him proud of me.
While we often shared a congenial tea and supper, our nights were not always so peaceful. For months I awoke screaming at the sudden, unearthly rage filling my chest to bursting. In the darkness I saw those hell-fire eyes, disembodied orbs hovering in the air. In a panic I fell to the floor. With neither chair nor braces, all I could do was drag myself in a futile attempt to escape.
Arthur never failed to rush to my rescue. “It’s all right.” He held me to his breast, rocking me and wiping my tears with his thumb. “Hush, child. She’s gone. Her soul was freed. The creature cannot harm you.” Then he carried me back to bed and lay with me, his body warm and protective against mine until I was at last able to sleep unhindered.
His dreams were little better. On the nights I didn’t awaken him he would appear at breakfast red-eyed despite his otherwise cheery appearance. Our gazes met and silent understanding passed between us. Miss Lucy’s soul might be at peace and the foul beast vanquished, but the memory of their torment remained something only a precious few could comprehend.
The days, largely, were happy ones. Arthur taught me the running of an estate. He bought me a handsome pony, a mottled gray gelding, and had a saddle specially fitted for my crippled legs. We rode together often, greeting my lord’s tenants and neighbors and sometimes making the long trek to visit his dearest friends. Both of us enjoyed visiting Dr. Seward at his asylum especially when he found a forthright young woman to become his fiancée and soon his wife.
My favorite afternoons were those when, lying on a blanket in the woods while we devoured whatever luncheon the cook had packed for us, Arthur would wind a finger around one of my dark locks and gaze at me. “You remind me of my Lucy. Such a delicate face and your hair falling like so…”
I smiled at his happiness. My arms hungered for him though I was too young and uncertain of what, exactly, my longing meant or why I craved him so. Despite Arthur’s attempts to shield me, I knew something of the ways between men and women and had the strangest image of myself clad in a dress with Arthur paying me the attentions he might give to a lover. I said nothing, knowing not what my strange notions meant and afraid to broach such a delicate subject.
I gained some inkling when, seven years after Arthur and his companions had slain the beast, I accompanied them to Transylvania to the very location where they’d accomplished the deed. With two physicians, Van Helsing and Seward, we were able to accommodate my physical limitations with little issue and no one complained of the occasional slowness. Besides, I was not the youngest on the journey. Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Harker had brought along their young son, Quincey, to show him the place where his namesake had died.
In the shadow of a castle crumbling high atop a cliff, I watched the child play with boyish energy and innocence. A chord of regret struck within me. At such a tender age it was already apparent he would be a rough-and-tumble boy like his American namesake, but I felt none of the same masculine impulses and wasn’t sure if I ever had. I took great care over my appearance, fussing over my hands, complexion and hair with the same obsession as—yes—a woman.
That night we made a bonfire to honor the dead and lay the last of our memories to rest. In a quiet moment alone, Van Helsing sat beside me both to adjust the damnable braces and to inquire after my health. When I mentioned my jealously of young Quincey, who even now forged a mock battle with toy cowboys and Indians, Van Helsing nodded.
“You received a terrible shock when, as just a child, you were the victim of a great and insidious evil. You have undergone a sore trial, entered bitter waters and survived them. The time for mourning is ended. Your path, your future lies ahead of you.”
My attention turned to Arthur who sat, head bowed, before the flames. Van Helsing followed my gaze.
“The sweet Miss Lucy made a great impression on you, I think. You felt both her love and the unnatural hatred of the creature in possession of her.” He grasped my chin and turned my face toward his. “I see her passion in your eyes. I believe a piece of her soul touched yours and stayed there that night she tasted of your blood.”
“But…” My heart hammered within my chest. If that was true, my adoration of Arthur was a morbid, deviant thing not of my own making.
Van Helsing seemed to read my mind. Sympathy and compassion creased his face. “I am a doctor. I have seen a great many things, some of which many of my fellow man would deem unnatural or a sin. Nothing is unnatural if love is a part of it. The greater disgrace is to keep that love to yourself out of fear.”
“But this longing—is it mine or hers?”
He squeezed my hand. “Dear child, that is something you will have to discover for yourself.”
We returned home, all of us light-hearted and much improved for our travels. As the seasons turned I was able to leave my wheeled chair for good, relying solely on the braces. Difficult and sometimes painful as they were to maneuver, I nonetheless made circuits of the house, traveling farther and farther in an effort to regain strength and coordination. Lord Arthur encouraged me in my efforts and often rewarded me with a kiss on my cheek or forehead. Every time he did, the heat and hunger within me flared until I thought I would go mad with unquenched desire.
One summer we traveled to Whitby and stayed at Hillingham, which Arthur had inherited from Miss Lucy’s mother and which had been thoroughly redecorated at his request. We had not stayed there yet as Arthur’s poor heart remained tormented by his memories, but between the need to see to business in the area and my unashamed begging we went. I was delighted to have a new area to explore, though, wise to Arthur’s mood, I waited until he went out on an errand to nose around the house in earnest. Most of the rooms were richly furnished and lacking a personal touch, so it was the storeroom which held the greatest interest for me. Inside was a wooden chest carved with a pastoral scene, the most feminine item I’d seen in the house so far. With great curiosity I flipped the latch and lifted the heavy lid. Inside were layers of carefully folded dresses and a box full of jewelry and a small bottle of perfume. I froze, shocked at the cache of items long hidden away from sight.
So Arthur had not been able to part with everything belonging to Miss Lucy. The faintest hint of perfume clinging to the fabric assailed my senses with memories of that night when I’d clung to her and she’d so cruelly flung me away—the same night my yearning for Arthur had enveloped my entire being.
With trembling hands I withdrew the topmost garment, a white lawn dress that would have complemented her complexion. A sudden, mad desire overcame me and I stripped off my boy’s jacket, shirt and trousers. Slender and slight as I was, the dress slipped easily over my head and waist. Some deep part of me recognized the feel of the fabric and the soft swishing as I walked. Though I had never touched a dress before, my fingers knew exactly how to do up the multitude of buttons and laces. I had not cut my dark hair. Usually I kept it tied back but now I loosened it so it lay in a most unmasculine fashion.
A scratching at the door caused me to turn. Arthur sagged there, his face taken by a ghastly paleness. The sight of him concerned me. If he collapsed I had not the strength to move him.
“Lucy?” The name was strangled as it emerged. Before I could speak he was upon me, shaking me with violent force. “How could you? These are her things. Hers. How dare you…” Tears slid down his face. “Is this why you begged to come? To shame her memory?” He raised a hand, his face so twisted with grief and pain that I flinched, certain he would strike me as I deserved.
Yet the blow did not fall. Instead he took my face betwixt his palms and placed his tear-dampened lips upon mine not with the usual chasteness of a peck to brow or cheek but with a deep overpowering lust. I closed my eyes, the better to absorb the ecstasy growing within me.
Then Arthur drew back and stopped just short of propelling me away. His features were a mixture of yearning and pain, grief and desire. “See what you have become.”
He pulled the dust cloth from a mirror leaning against the far wall and stood me before it. The resulting image robbed me of my breath.
It was as if Miss Lucy had been recalled to life, for it was her luscious lips and passionate eyes that appeared in the glass, the same sunny locks flowing about my shoulders.
Arthur trailed his hands down my cheeks and shoulders. He encircled my waist, pausing just under the place my bosom would be if I had one. How many times he must have done this with Miss Lucy, and how natural it felt to have him hold me so.
I shuddered, suddenly uncertain. The image was undeniably myself—yet it was also her, and I was frightened by the uncanny likeness as well as my intense attraction to Arthur.
“Take these things off and don’t ever come here again.” His fingers fumbled at the buttons and he stared in wonderment as I nudged him aside and easily stripped the garment. Clad in naught but my underclothes and braces I shivered before him, frightened, confused, and wanting the reassurance he could not give.
Abruptly he turned and left without saying anything more. I sank down onto the edge of the trunk. By rights I should do as he said and re-pack the dress and leave everything be but I could not. Some devil took my hand and I sifted through the rest of Miss Lucy’s belongings. Most tantalizing was the silk nightdress which caressed my bare skin with the same gentleness I wished Arthur would use. My member hardened and grew which both shamed and filled me with a need I did not know how to sate.
The most wicked idea entered into my mind. With haste I reclaimed my masculine apparel, which now seemed ill-fitting despite having been made by the finest tailors, and replaced all but a few choice items in the trunk.
I could not bathe myself, as it was difficult to lift myself from the confines of the tub, but once finished I sent my manservant away and told him he would not be needed the rest of the night. Barely able to contain my impatience I waited until the hall clock struck midnight then swapped my shift for the silk nightgown that had belonged to Miss Lucy.
I wore nothing beneath. Mindful of gossip I’d overheard regarding how a young lord on a neighboring estate had been caught en flagrante with the footman, I reached for the jar of ointment meant to treat the sores left by the leather straps on my braces but which I now put it to a different use. My last preparation was to dab the tiniest amount of Miss Lucy’s perfume on my wrists and neck.
With the servants all asleep I made my slow, laborious way down the hall to Lord Arthur’s bedchamber, using walls and railings to keep my balance. I’d left the braces in my room, unwilling to let the clunky devices ruin the illusion.
It was far easier to blame this madness on whatever essence Miss Lucy had left behind than to face the remotest possibility that I could want such a thing.
At Arthur’s door I twisted the knob and entered silently except for the scrape of my bare feet against the carpet. I stood at the foot of his bed, naked save for the silk sweetly torturing my heated flesh. Either he heard or sensed my presence because his eyes opened and he stared fixedly at me.
I held my arms wide. “Come to me, Arthur.”
“Lucy…” Before I could draw another breath he had me on the bed and crushed to his chest as he sobbed. “Lucy.” His hand tangled in my hair and pulled my head back. He kissed my throat, right over the spot where two scars from Miss Lucy’s teeth remained.
A shudder ran through me. The brush of his lips in that same place brought back memories both terrible and wonderful. I groped at him, eager to feel the flesh I’d longed to touch. I peeled off his nightshirt and breathed in the scent of his skin. My body was at last mature enough to respond to him and accept his attentions, but I had no idea if this plan would be followed through to the end.
“Lucy.” His voice was raspy and hoarse, so unlike the man I was used to—and so endearing. Starved of intimate companionship for so many years he lost no time in laying me down and raising my nightdress above my waist. I froze, knowing that there rested the organ which could bring the illusion to an abrupt demise—but Arthur paid it no mind. He climbed atop me, his breath coming in gasps as his lips once again sought my flesh.
Whether I clutched him because of my desire or Miss Lucy’s I didn’t know and it no longer mattered. Our bodies met, tangled, joined. Within each other’s embrace we found a way to quench the fire and torment which had plagued us for so long.
I hadn’t known such bliss—such release—was possible. I’d scarcely caught my breath after the first wave of pleasure crested and broke before he began the whole process anew, driving us both to greater, more frenzied heights.
When exhaustion claimed the last of our energy he lay with his head on my chest. I stroked the silken strands of his hair, entirely at peace for the first time I could remember. The moment was perfect. “I love you, Arthur.”
He rose up on his arms and shook his head as if disoriented. The fevered passion his eyes vanished. Panic distorted his face as he gazed upon my scarcely-clad body. He shoved me away and spoke with a harshness which had never before brushed my ears. “Out. Get out, you foul thing! You have tricked me, besmirched her name and ruined every sweet memory I have of my Lucy. I have damned us both…”
Hurt and horrified I fled, tripping and stumbling because of my weakened legs. I cared not that I wore only a thin layer of cloth or that the heavens had chosen to release a downpour. Crawling and slipping I made my way to the stable and the pony who, usually so patient, was not inclined to venture out into the wet. I managed saddle and bridle but mounting the poor creature took some doing since I could not mount in a proper manner but had to drape myself across his back and haul myself upright.
There was only one sanctuary I could think of where I would be accepted without question. A strange apparition I must have made pounding on the wooden doors at the asylum, but Dr. Seward was used to oddness of all kinds. He opened the portal himself, wearing a thick dressing-gown to brace against the weather.
Seeing my condition, he immediately draped the dressing-gown about my trembling shoulders. He sent a man to tend the pony and helped me into his study whereupon his pretty young wife found me a dry nightshirt and thrust a cup of hot tea into my hands. When she returned to bed and the doctor and I were quite alone he asked, “What has happened to send you all but naked into the night?”
My teeth did not cease chattering for some time. When at last I was able to relate my woeful tale he listened in companionable silence. He nodded as I finished. “There is much to think about but this is a matter we will discuss at a more forgiving hour. Sleep,” he said, and fashioned me a warm nest upon his sofa.
He turned out the lamp and left. Exhausted as I was I could not rest. Now that my body had tasted of Arthur’s it would not rest. My arms—and other, more delicate parts—remained hungry.
In the morning the good doctor sent a telegram to Arthur informing him of my whereabouts should he be worried. I listened, mute, while Dr. Seward made a few suggestions, but during the night there occurred to me only one possibility which I expressed at the first opportunity. “Lock me up. I am certain I am quite mad.”
To my surprise, he laughed and gestured toward the hallways filled with his patients. “Those out there, they are the truly mad. They turn away from truths they cannot bear to face. Madness is far easier a thing to live with. They end up here when there is no place left on earth to them.”
So had I come to the same madhouse, alone and desperate. My bodily impulses had caused me to disregard everything polite and proper and had sent Arthur into a paroxysm of anger. Worse, I had enjoyed the sin.
The doctor must have seen my consternation. “One night when we were quite in our cups I regaled poor Arthur with tales of so-called sinful things. After witnessing two of my patients sodomize each other and noting their apparent enjoyment, I was quite curious about the endeavor.” His smile was wry.
I stared, unable to fathom how an esteemed man like the doctor could have fantasized about such things. “And did you?” I asked, knowing how rude the question was.
He stared off into the distance and took his time in replying. “No. I feared the pain. I feared the loss of self.” His gaze returned to me. “But you, my young friend, seem to have experienced neither despite your claims regarding gender.”
A flush took me from my crown to my toes. “It is a terrible thing, then, to desire to be something I am not?”
Dr. Seward pondered this. “I myself did not find anything clinically wrong with the deeds of either Ernest Boulton or Frederick Park years ago. I was not far from your own age when the pair was arrested for wearing women’s clothing. I believe our society is too fearful of vice without thinking of possible virtue in expressing identity.”
The good doctor’s words made sense excepting for the fact I could not alter certain physical aspects. Social convention, of course, made donning feminine attire a terrible risk. Arthur was a lord and I had no wish to ruin his name with scandal.
Yet Dr. Seward’s question caused a dozen brazen ideas to spring forth. I could not return to who and what I was, a creature hovering in Miss Lucy’s shadow, subsuming my desires for the will of others. The night’s pleasures had opened within me a door I could not shut even if I’d had the will to do so.
I no longer needed Miss Lucy, or the guise of her, either. I now knew what she had given me on that dark night so long ago—not the hatred and vileness of the demon within her but love, courage and strength. These she had laid upon me as a parting gift, perhaps knowing her demise was at hand.
It only remained to see what Arthur would do with my choice. If he thrust me away…well, I would find a means of survival.
Just after lunchtime Dr. Seward received a telegram from Arthur. “He is on his way here. Evidently he is quite concerned and wishes to apologize.”
Of all the locations to speak with him, a madhouse seemed an unlikely place despite the presence of our good friend. “I will greet him on the road.”
Dr. Seward smiled with great impishness. “Wearing what?”
I met Arthur halfway between the asylum and Hillingham. He drew his gelding to a halt and waited to see what I might do. The animal snorted and pawed the ground with impatience but I bade my pony to take his time as we approached.
Arthur gazed at the jacket and riding skirt Dr. Seward’s good wife had managed to find for me, but it was not unhappiness which creased his face. “Are you well?”
In silence I turned my pony round and headed toward Tate Hill Pier and the bridge leading to the East Cliff. Once across I dismounted and tethered the pony which would not be able to manage the steep steps. I wasn’t sure I could, but I meant to try.
Arthur followed my example. He said nothing as I struggled to lift my legs and balance, but when he offered his arm for support I did not rebuff him. Together we climbed up to the churchyard and strolled down the lane of yews to Miss Lucy’s resting place. Here we had met years before and now would decide our future. With the dead to witness I said, “My arms are hungry for you, Arthur. Mine. Not hers.”
I dared not look at him despite the increasing amount of silence. Far below in the bay, ships bobbed on the sea’s gentle waves. A slight breeze wafted locks of my hair which I had left loose. Eventually Arthur cleared his throat. “Last night…”
I waited with patience, aware of how overwhelmed he became under great stress.
“Last night it was a grave shock to learn I could lust after another so easily. I lost control and in doing so entered a state of bliss I have not felt for some time. Afterward I was afraid and angry with myself. I spoke harshly, and for this I am sorry. “On bended knee, he grasped my hand. I gazed at him, feeling the sincerity of his words. “I love you. You, not the shadow of my Lucy. I care not what form you choose, only that you are at my side, always.”
My arms curled around his neck, hungry no more.
(Author's note: This story was originally published under my other name.)
This story originally appeared in Suffered from the Night.