The Kiss

He stroked her cheek softly with smooth fingertips and leaned over her as her eyelids fluttered closed. Her breath slowed. She felt like sleeping. She felt like giving way to the world of dreams. His fingers found their way into her hair, ignited her scalp, chilled her. She was cold. She shivered. She wanted him nearer, but she did not dare speak a word. Her throat was dry, her mind was weak, she felt like she needed just a little sleep.

"You are bleeding," he said, and so she was. Her lips parted slightly and she gasped for air as the trickle of blood found its way into her mouth. It was coming fast and she already felt lightheaded.

"Sit," he entreated, and taking her so gently by the elbows, he set her down on the divan then knelt before her. He lifted both of her hands as if he would kiss them, but his lips were imprisoned by the mask as always.

She wanted to remove it, but she was beginning to choke on the blood that dripped down the back of her throat as she tilted her head back. She would have lifted a hand to stop it, but he held them so fast, she did not dare, she could not bear to pull away. It dripped onto her chest, it dripped into her lap, it dripped over their hands, be he did nothing.

"It will stop on its own," he promised and he squeezed her fingers in his fervent grip.

"Don't," she gasped again, a bubble of it sticking and then popping as she opened her lips and it coated her tongue. "Don't you still want a kiss?"

"Yes," he said, "A kiss." And then he kissed her somehow.

She choked once and then breathed no more.