Esme: Death Of The Phoenix.
Like a phoenix, she will rise majestically from the ashes of her old, tattered life.
"I leave my fears behind,
'Cause tonight I'll be right at your side;
Lie down right next to me,
Lie down right next to me,
And I will never let go, never let go."
- Broken Sonnet by Hale
I had failed.
That was the only thought that permeated my shaken, exhausted mind. I had promised myself I would never let my beautiful, perfect child be subjected to any kind of pain and suffering; that he would not lead the same kind of life I had. With this baby, I felt like a had a fresh start, a chance to start over again. I felt like I had finally fulfilled my purpose in this broken, cruel life - to give life to this tiny cherubic angel I had held in my arms. Maybe it was selfish, but I felt like he was mine, and mine alone.
Maybe it was my selfish thoughts that had killed him.
For he was not mine.
He belonged to God now.
Large, hot tears ran down my weary cheeks, dripping onto my hands. I did not try to wipe them away. They were a lingering, damning symbol of my utter failure. I deserved to cry ceaselessly, and cry I would, until my soul was completely broken, smashed to a thousand irreparable pieces. The punishment was fitting.
I walked... just walked, not caring where I was going, as long as it was far away. My steps were small, but so was I. Small and insignificant and completely useless. That was what he always used to yell at me. I was useless... pathetic. I deserved what I got. A swift punch to the gut, a slap across the face. That was my husband. No, husband implied some kind of equality. There was no equality. He was my lord and master, and I would obey every order and drunken shout directed my way, or I would be punished. I suffered his lecherous advances with as much dignity as I could, but eventually it was futile. I had no dignity... no pride. That was taken from me. My last defence was crushed under his harsh touches and cruel words.
Then my worst fears were realised.
His drunken fumblings had borne a child.
That was the first time I had truly experienced fear. I had been scared for my life before, but that was nothing compared to this overwhelming terror that wracked my body from head to toe. What if he hurt my baby? I cared nothing now for my own life, which quite frankly surprised me. All humans must have a sense of survival, no? But my only thought was for the tiny child growing inside me. Headaches, nausea, all exacerbated by the nightly torture I was forced to bear. But always, I did whatever I could to protect my stomach. I even offered up my face willingly as a target, which I never had before. I did not want anyone else to know; I was ashamed. I was helpless. And further shamed by my own crippling helplessness. The vicious cycle that went on and on, until it seemed that it would never end.
Eventually, even Charles himself could not miss the growing bump that was getting steadily larger each week. He seemed happy; as happy as a man of his quite alarming disposition could be, anyway. But that didn't matter, not once the ale started flowing.
He stumbled home, as he did every single night. But this night, he made even more noise coming up the stairs than he usually did. More pots crashed to the floor, and I flinched at the harsh sound of them cracking against the stone floor of the kitchen. I pulled my knees as close to my chest as I could, though the large bump obstructed my movements and I could only just wrap my arms around my knees. I sat in the corner, eyes unwaveringly trained on the bedroom door, and I waited, trying to make myself as small as possible.
Eventually, he made his way to the heavy, oak door. It creaked open ominously, and Charles stumbled inside, his eyes bloodshot and angry. They flew around the room before his gaze finally came to rest on me.
"You," he growled, making his way towards me, dropping a small tanker of ale onto the floor, where the crimson liquid spilled across the floor. "You lazy whore!"
He pulled me roughly to my feet, with extreme ease, despite the extra weight I was now carrying.
I couldn't help the whimper that escaped my lips as he thrust me, hard, against the wall. His eyes were evil, I had never seen such rage imbued in thembefore. Even in the midst of the tempestuous situation, my mind couldn't help wondering; why? I mentally scoffed. Did there have to be a reason? He probably just lost a bet or fell over in the street on his way home.
Or, a little mind in the back of my mind hissed, maybe you really are useless. Maybe that is why he hates you so much. Maybe you should just do what he wants; go away and die.
He eyed me over, looking at me like I was the most disgusting thing he had ever seen. His eyes fell over my stomach, which, in my fall, had been exposed. He let out a roar, it was inhumane in its ferocity, and lunged for me. I cried out as his fist connected with my stomach, shrieking in pain as I doubled over. My hands were shaking uncontrollably, and my vision was blurred. My baby...
My yells usually attracted no attention from the staff. I had begged them not to intervene, lest Charles turn his rage onto them and cast them out onto the streets to fend for themselves, but there must have been something in the tone of my voice that alerted them that something was seriously wrong, because I heard frantic scrambling on the staircase, and suddenly the door was thrust open. Martha, my lady's maid, came running in. I was alarmed, but saw that she was flanked, thankfully, by the burly stablemaster.
"Mistress Esme," Martha whimpered, running over to me and throwing her arms around me as if to shield me from any more blows that might be forthcoming. Charles seemed incensed by this show of 'disobedience', as he would think of it, and raised his fists. My nightmares were playing out in front of me; I had thought of Martha as I would a daughter. I was helpless to stop him striking her, but suddenly, the stablemaster's arms closed around Charles, sharply pulling him backwards. Charles may have been able to match him in brute strength, but he was swayed by alcohol, and quickly lost his balance. The stablemaster looked at him disdainfully, before punching the side of Charles's head, rendering him unconscious.
He flopped to the ground like a ragdoll.
I just stared at his unconscious form. In that state, he just looked so... weak and pitiful. I could hardly believe that only a moment ago he had been tearing around the room like a wild animal ripping apart its prey. Martha's arms were trembling, and she looked with fright and worry into my eyes.
"Mistress," she whispered, her voice wavering. "Are you well?"
I looked down at my stomach. Martha gently pressed two fingers to the bump, but withdrew them swiftly when I let out a small hiss. A line of tears began to leak from my eyes.
My baby was still.
Martha softly drew me into her arms, and just sat, rocking me. I vaguely registered her exchanging a tearful glance with the stablemaster, but my attentions were focused on my stomach as I cradled it in my arms.
Please... I thought, whimpering. Please, baby. Please move. Just... something. Please...
My thoughts begged God to let my baby move. Please...
It was as if my mind was stuck on this one word.
My pleading did not come to fruition. My baby remained silent and unmoving.
That was the moment my heart was rent in two.
Martha was the first to notice the water that was rapidly spreading across the floor. "Mistress..." she trailed off, shocked. I looked at it with horror. My water had broken.
"No..." I whispered with horror, then frantically as I looked up at Martha. "No! It is not time! I... no!"
"The baby is coming, Mistress..."
I held my beautiful baby boy carefully in my arms. His pale face looked to be made of the most fragile porcelain, but instead of being hard, it was soft. But just as cold. His eyes did not open, but had they, I was certain I would have seen my mother's wide, crystalline blue orbs looking up at me. His thin, tiny lips were a pale pink. I touched my finger to them, but they did not stir beneath my touch. His cheek was suddenly marred by a translucent drop of water. I quickly scorned myself for tarnishing such perfection with my dirty tears.
He was harrowingly still.
Another tear soon followed its predecessor. Martha looked at me with sorrow in her gaze. She held out her arms. "Mistress Esme..." She seemed to be asking permission, but I turned away from her. No one would touch my darling boy.
"He is... stillborn, my lady."
I stiffened at the words. The tone was gentle enough, but the words felt like I had been stabbed in the heart. Gently, I laid my baby boy out on the four-poster bed in the middle of the bedroom. I wiped the thin sheen of sweat from my brow and turned to the stablemaster and lady's maid. My face was lifeless, my eyes drained and tired.
"I will... go. And walk, now." The words sounded stiff and uneven to my ears. Out of order. Abrasive, even. "Do not..." My voice became quiet and husky. "Do not touch my boy."
Martha gave a little nod, her eyes welling up. "Martha," I looked into her eyes. "Do not let that..." With that I glanced at the unconscious creature on the floor, "That filth touch my baby?"
It came out more like a question at the end. Martha swiftly gave a determined nod. "We will not... most precious and dear mistress."
I looked at her, surprised at the endearment. She looked genuinely upset, and I could not help myself. I walked forward, and my hand rose - it was almost detached from my body - to touch her cheek. I pondered her for a moment, before whispering, "Thank you."
Then, with as elegant a demeanour as I could manage, I walked out of that house forever. The second my foot stepped onto the street, I was no longer Esme Evenson, wife of Charles Evenson. I was once again: Esme Platt.
As I drifted along the street, I briefly wondered how I had managed to stay composed for so long. Then I realised I was not at all composed. Just broken beyond repair. So broken, that nothing else mattered. I was a pallid ghost, wandering without purpose.
That was when I headed for the cliffs.
The rain was falling, harsh on my skin. No soft, malleable drops were these. They descended, pelting against me like hailstones, until my hair was sodden, and I could barely see five feet in front of me. My white nightdress was flattened, sticking awkwardly against my skin, where my stomach was no longer rounded. This caused more wetness to mingle with the rain, originating from my eyes, blurring my vision more. My slippers were also drenched, making it harder to walk. The soles were becoming softer and I could feel the stones beneath sticking horribly into my feet.
But still I walked on, determined in my purpose.
A sense of failure flooded my very being. I drifted on, until eventually, through the trees, I came to my destination.
The edge of the rock jutted out over the sea, and the grey sky looked down scornfully at me. The waves were stormy, riled up and furious. They seemed to clamber up the rock face, as if seeking to climb all the way to the top and devour me hungrily. I cast my gaze mournfully down. They would soon have their wish, and I mine. We were united in our desires.
I stepped forward. The rain seemed to abate to only a light shower. The wind had come, pushing the rain away to the forest. I was able to more clearly make out the sea now, the myriad of colours; predominantly grey. The wind freed my hair, unsticking it from my shoulders and lifting it skywards. I studied the tangled locks above me. Instead of drifting with the wind, lively and vivacious with energy, dancing flirtatiously with the wind... they were dull. Lifeless. Being battered about by the cruel gusts that threw them carelessly back and forth.
I looked back down, towards the edge of the cliff face. I took another step.
Just a few more, and it would all be over.
I felt immensely relieved with this knowledge.
I would soon join my beautiful darling baby. This awareness comforted me, and I took a moment to breath in the deep sea air. Tears pierced the corners of my eyes as I realised that instead of refreshing me as it once would have, it felt like knives inside me. The world was dulled, and I found that I took no pleasure it being a part of it any longer. The rocks were calling, and they tempted me much more than life did. My boy was calling me...
His silent cries were as potent as a siren, singing to me... and calling... always calling...
I took one more step.
I was right at the edge now. My toes were over the rocks, sending a few loose stones tumbling down the cliff, disturbed and loosened by my presence. Hearing them fall so far down to the sea should have given me a sharp jolt back to reality. The reality of what I was doing.
Condemning myself to purgatory.
No matter. I would see him again. My little boy would be there alongside me. That was Heaven enough for me, just to hold him again in my arms.
I stretched out my arms, my fingers already tingling with the anticipation of holding his tiny body close to me...
Could I really do this? Could I thrust myself off this cliff and mangle my body on the rocks below? End my life?
I nearly snorted, but stopped myself. What life? I had no life to begin with. Only endless beatings and repetitive hatred. Until my baby came along... but even he had seen the cruel reality of this harsh world and decided it was better off not being a part of it. How could I blame him?
I bent down, peeling the sodden slippers off my feet. The cold air swirled around my newly-bared skin, sending a chill running up my legs. I rose myself up onto the balls of my feet, closing my eyes. I may have been eager for my death, but I did not want to witness the unpleasant way I would journey towards it.
I leaned forwards. My eyes fluttered open of their own accord, and I stared down the cliff. The rocks seemed so far away...
I wanted them closer.
Once again, the rain began to fall. I was soon to chase it.
I turned around, when I saw that if I merely fell off the edge, I would just fall into the shallow water near the bottom, but I would mangle my body against the sharp rock face before reaching it, and bleed horribly to death. I ran back towards the woods, and turned again.
The rain blurred the sky once more, the mercurial clouds closing in on the pallid rays of sun, choking them until they gave up trying to shine altogether.
My bare feet felt numb against the icy chill of the earth and stone beneath my feet. I inhaled sharply, and began to run, determined and set on my path now. As I ran, I expected adrenaline... some sort of thrill from the oncoming danger. Even fear would have been a normal reaction.
There was none.
Just a sense of release, and a vague hope.
I launched myself out over the cliffs. My feet left the ground and I felt like I was flying... for a split second. I was utterly euphoric. My nightgown billowed out around me, and my eyes were closed... arms outstretched. The wind whipped around my body, making me feel light-headed.
And I began to chase the rain.
A smile touched my lips, and I began my final descent into the wonderful ambiguity of the unknown.