Characters: Adelheid, Stella, Strauss
Summary: I can't compare to her.
Pairings: Strauss x Stella, onesided Strauss x Adelheid
Disclaimer: I don't own Record of a Fallen Vampire.
I look in the mirror more often these nights, to the point of obsession, trying to find some sort of defect in my features, trying desperately to discern some flaw in my form that makes me ugly and undesirable but is capable of being fixed. Now I am just the same; there is no glaring imperfection that I can find. Long, glossy pale gold curls, pink eyes with pristine sclera and smooth, pale, unmarked skin. So many tell me that I am beautiful beyond compare, but I know better.
I can not compare to her, and Strauss does not see me.
Who is this human girl, this child who has taken my beloved's heart? That is what the whole palace asks when it is first discovered that the girl Strauss has brought back with him after a campaign is serving in more of a capacity than just a serving maid. When I see them together, her long hair grown silken and sleek after many baths and his arm curled comfortably around her slight shoulders, I curse my own naïveté, my ignorance. Of course she was more to Strauss than a new chambermaid; why would he bring a human girl back from the lines simply to be a chambermaid?
This is not the first time there has been such usurpation. Save for an accident of fate (my birth), my half-sister Bridget would still be heiress to the Kingdom of Night, and it does not take a close observer to know that Bridget is far more suited to be Queen than I. Even my father (may he live forever) acknowledges this, and I can not escape it.
I often wonder. If I had not been born, would Bridget have been engaged to Strauss by now? Or even married? Strauss will be King after my father (may he live forever) is no more, and if I had not been born, Bridget would have been the one he married to gain access to the royal family; besides, I know Bridget had wished for this. Or would a princess's place still have been usurped by the slim, nubile, budding body of a human girl? Bridget could have held him better than I; Bridget…
His Majesty (may he live forever) counsels that I have no fear. This girl, this Stella is only mortal he says, and even if she does not die in childbirth (a common end for human women, I am told) or catch fever, she will die eventually. But I know better. She will never die in Strauss's heart, and I will never be the primary affection of it.
What on Earth could be the attraction? Stella is a simple peasant girl—pleasant and kindly to all those who show her even the slightest hint of kindness (and even to those who do not), but still simple beyond compare. She can not speak to Strauss of politics. She can not even send him letters when he is out on campaign, for she can not read or write. What can possibly endear her to him?
She is not simply Stella anymore. There is a noble human family living nearby, the Hazelburkes, who have at Strauss's behest taken on Stella as a legal ward in order to give a veneer of respectability to her, and to Strauss's feelings towards her. However, even becoming Stella Hazelburke can not disguise her wide, rustic inflection, can not take the calluses from her hands or the slight slant from her teeth. It can not hide the fact that she is an illiterate peasant girl, unsophisticated and callow. An innocent.
What is it about her? Strauss will lose her someday, for no human's lifetime has ever come close to matching that of a full-blooded vampire. Stella will die, and if she grows old, she will become wizened and unattractive, her rose-colored hair dry and white, her face furrowed. She will die, become cold, and be buried in the ground. After that, Strauss will live on after her for centuries, eons even. He will always remember her, always be in pain. Strauss must know that. What is it about her that keeps Strauss so enthralled to the whim of a naïve child?
I think I know.
Bridget is right when she says that I am incapable of violent opposition. I can not even give voice to my thoughts to any audience but her (my older sister, always stern but always understanding), and lately Bridget has grown less able to absorb my resentment in the wake of her responsibilities, so I do not seek to burden her (I also suspect that she is growing less and less tolerant of my confidence). All my resentment is bottled away, all my envy restrained. It bubbled and burns within me, but I do not give it a voice. I can not give it a voice, for I refuse to be controlled by these base emotions.
I watch them instead, from shadows and places where I know I can not be seen, cloaked and hidden.
What I see cleaves my heart in two and sounds a death knell in my mind.
Stella… Stella is light. Light and breezy, sweet as a spring flower.
She makes Strauss smile.
She makes him laugh.
She makes him forget all his troubles, all his burdens and cared-for worries.
Have I ever been able to do that? No. The most I have ever been able to elicit from Strauss is a gentle smile, half-hearted and polite. I have never been able to make his heart sing. I could not even make it look up and see me. Not once.
But she can do this. Simple little Stella Hazelburke, the peasant girl who wears a noble name clumsily, neither beautiful nor intelligent but utterly unfathomable, can do this with ease. And that, I think, is the difference between her and I. I have been raised in cold, high castles, fed on etiquette and decorum and the machinations and petty schemes of the couth. I am not truly alive. She, on the other hand, she has been raised in the poor, low places, in the mud and the mire, where she can smell the earth and the grass and the rain (All I can smell is pungent perfume). Stella has been fed on love. She is bursting with life.
Those who are dead but walking can only envy her glow.
I can not compare to her.