Les Femmes Noires One-Shot Contest
Title: The Matches
Your pen name: Squibstitcher
Characters: Elizabeth Masen, Edward Masen Sr., Edward Masen Jr.
Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyers owns Twilight and all of its characters.
To see other entries in Les Femmes Noires Contest, please visit the C2 page:
Sometimes the threat of devastation is scarier than the deed. As humans, we have the remarkable ability to adapt, to persevere and rise from ruin. But the potential for evil, for betrayal and affliction, is often more harmful and the key to our undoing. So what happens when that threat comes from the least expected source, shattering our securities and reality?
There was nothing extraordinary about Elizabeth Masen.
She lived in an ordinary house, on an ordinary street, and lived an ordinary existence like every other housewife in the vicinity. And it was driving her mad. Her ordinary world was a gilded cage and one way or the other; she was determined to break free.
Elizabeth clutched the side of the bathroom sink. Her whole body was trembling in anticipation. She eyed the soap dish with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Could she do it? Would she do it?
Edward's razor sparkled mockingly with the early morning sunlight. Cold shiny metal nestled in a hand carved wooden handle. It was magnificent in its potential. She barely breathed. Every nerve ending was wound to a fever pitch, she was practically buzzing in that moment as she stood on the precipice of indecision.
A hand reached out and gently stroked her shoulder. She bit off a scream and turned. Edward stood before her. Edward, who was anything but ordinary. Her husband was tall and dashing—thick auburn hair that reflected fiery gold embers in the sun, eyes like the leaves of spring. Edward had charm and charisma. Edward was successful and content. Edward was proud of his life and his accomplishments and Edward was oblivious to how precariously at risk all of it was.
"Elizabeth, darling, are you all right? You seem jumpy this morning." He pulled her into his arms and cradled her close. He smelled of shaving cream and cologne.
Elizabeth donned a cheerful smile and gazed up into his troubled face. She had mastered this charade and it was delivered with ease and believability, successfully assuaging his concern.
He returned her smile and kissed her lightly on the forehead. "That's better. My girl has the prettiest smile." He winked at her and let her go.
The smile remained dutifully in place until the sound of his footsteps faded as he descended the stairs. Slowly the corners of her mouth began to fall, melting down her face like wax on a spent candle.
The façade was killing her. She could feel pieces of her soul chipping away every time she went through the motions. She didn't know how much longer she could keep this up. The fire inside of her was dying, flickering out to a mere smoldering of ash. How much more would it take before she was extinguished?
But something volatile simmered just below the surface. It lay in wait for the perfect opportunity to reignite her life, a catalyst with formidable consequences. There was a war in the Masen household, a war with no bullets and no blades. And the casualties were dreams deferred, their innumerous bodies bleeding blackness into her heart.
Elizabeth stood back from the sink and regarded her reflection once more in the mirror. Her eyes stared back at her, two dead grey orbs.
Tightening her robe around her waist, she ghosted lightly out of the bathroom and down the stairs to her immaculate kitchen. Bony fingers grasped the banister, her knuckles white with the restraint to quell the tremors in her hand.
Edward sat complacently at the table, his morning paper spread before him. He absently nursed a mug of coffee that she had brewed for him earlier. He waited patiently for the breakfast he knew she would make for him. Security was found in routine, in normalcy, and Edward had no reason to suspect that today would be any different.
As she entered her kitchen, Elizabeth studied the way the sunlight cast a golden halo across his broad shoulders and warmed the red highlights of his hair. He was the essence of peace and contentment.
Everything that she was not.
Silently, she made her way to the icebox. She let her thoughts wander; her body knew what to do. Hands collected eggs and bacon. Feet carried them to the counter. Arms stretched above her head to the cabinet to retrieve a skillet and a plate. Fingers searched for the box of matches to light the pilot light on the range.
Her fingers lit upon the box of matches and hesitated there. The smooth cardboard was cool to her touch and the box was so small. It nestled in her hand. She gripped the little box for several moments, idly tracing its features with her grey eyes.
So much potential in something so very small.
Edward was none the wiser in the pause of the routine.
Elizabeth slid it open and pulled out one tiny stick. A flick of her wrist sparked the flame, and the scent of sulfur whispered the words "what if" into the dark places of her mind.
She lit the pilot and pocketed the box in her robe. Her left hand hovered over her hidden secret.
The soft pattering of feet echoed off the linoleum floor and carried their owner to the table. Little Eddie was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes with one balled fist while the other chubby hand gripped his stuffed bear.
His father glanced down and his face reflected his pride and love. He tousled the child's already unruly hair before scooping him up onto his lap. The little boy nuzzled into the safe warmth of his father's chest while his eyes sought out the form of his mother.
But Elizabeth had not noticed her son enter the kitchen. For all intents and purposes she was a million miles away. It was not until she turned to place the breakfast items on the table that she saw him there. Some small part of her acknowledged his presence. Some last remnant of maternal extinct made note that he had entered, but the pull and the sway of the little box in her pocket occupied the forefront of her thoughts.
Little Eddie eyed his mother warily. He knew something was not right, for you see; children are always so perceptive, so intuitive. His small red lips puckered into a pout, his brow furrowed, pensive. There was a dark feeling that clouded his little heart, a menace that he was too young to identify. Little Eddie did not know it, but that feeling was called foreboding.
His father plopped the child into the chair to his right and proceeded to fold his paper to put it away. His mother set a bowl of warm oatmeal in front of the boy and sat down gently in the last chair. Her hands wrapped around the edges of her mug, the heat pinking her flesh and the steam rising to her face.
When her husband finished his meal, he rose from the table, draping his jacket over his arm. He leaned down and placed a perfunctory kiss atop his wife's head. Her smile was saccharine, her eyes filled with false adoration. Edward ruffled his son' s hair once more before leaving for work.
Little Eddie glared down into his bowl of oatmeal. It was not appealing and his stomach felt funny. His mother was scaring him and he did not want his father to go. They both sat in silence for quite some time.
After a while, Elizabeth stood and began to collect the dishes from the table. Little Eddie did not miss the trembling in her hands and his young eyes followed their movements. She placed everything in the sink, not bothering to wash any of it.
Her footsteps were hollow, lacking purpose, as they ascended once again to the second floor, her small son a shadow in her wake.
It was time for his bath.
Elizabeth plugged the drain and filled the footed tub with water that was neither too hot, nor too cold. Her actions were effortless and needed little thought, she'd done this so many times before, it was all part of the routine.
Little Eddie was stripped bare and climbed into the tub with his mother's help. He sat quietly in the water that lapped around his waist, a toy boat in his hands. The child watched as the boat floated and rocked on the water. He imagined it was a large ship sailing the ocean, and his worries and feelings of foreboding were temporary forgotten.
Elizabeth perched herself on the floor allowing her son a few moments to play. Her eyes wandered over to the sink once again, and the razor that rested there. Light refracted from its blade scattering prisms of color on the wall. The colors were cheerful and malignant all at the same time. The combination sent chills down her spine.
She noted the way the water glistened on the boy's porcelain skin, innocent and unmarred. She noted the way his soft curls were the exact shade of his father's, and it made the child feel less hers.
Back and forth, she considered the pristine blade and Little Eddie's pristine skin, her breath becoming shallow all the while.
When Elizabeth had finished bathing him, she brought her son downstairs to play while she continued to carry out the motions of her mundane routine. Little Eddie played with his wooden blocks, building towers of whimsy, while his mother built a fortress of solitude and despair.
After lunch, she laid him down for his nap. The child clung to the stuffed bear in his arms. His grip was desperate. Perhaps if he held on tight enough, the inanimate object could restore his sense of safety and right his world. It was with these thoughts that he drifted into a restless sleep.
Elizabeth sat on the sofa under the large bay window in the drawing room. The sun had made its way behind the clouds and the white light of morning had faded to the warm glow of afternoon. The shadows had lengthened while she watched them grow. There was no way to know how long she had sat there silently in the shadows, the small matchbox clutched tight in her grasp.
Her routine had been forsaken. All had been forsaken. All that remained was the tiny cardboard box with all of its sinister promise and hidden potential.
And in that ordinary house, on that ordinary street, sat an ordinary woman. A woman whose fortress was crumbling to her feet. A fortress of routine that waited to be set ablaze. And in that ordinary woman's hand was clutched a single box that was anything but ordinary. Because the sinister temptations that tugged at her black heart were nothing if not extraordinary.