Mercedes's thoughts

I stared at the reflection of myself in the moonlit water. At least that's what it was supposed to be. The women I gazed upon had the same long brown hair as I did, though hers was dull and lifeless. Her skin was pale and eyes that once were filled with life now seemed dead to the world.

She was the familiar stranger.

Edmond had been gone for a whole year now. I felt as if my life was slipping away. Each day without him brought pain equivalent to that of hot red knives piercing my skin. I didn't even know if he was alive. The possibility alone was the only thing keeping me from hurling myself into the body of water I so often stood near.

And then of course there was Fernand.

He had become my backbone, my shoulder to cry on, the one I went to for advice. On more than one occasion his mere presence had caused me to rethink taking my own life. Without him, I don't think I would have been able to survive this entire traumatizing ordeal.

I was well aware of his being in love with me. At this point, however, the thought rarely fazed me. God was surely on my side for I had never heard of a man, after being denied as many times as he had, remaining so loyal to the one he loves.

"Mercedes, the temperature out here rivals that of a cube of ice. You must come in before you catch a cold." A cautious voice said from behind me. I didn't respond.

"Mercedes?" His voice now full of concern.

"Exactly one year ago, he was arrested." I hoarsely said without turning around. Fernand softly gasped.

"Are you okay?" Again I didn't respond, knowing he already knew the answer. Suddenly, I felt his strong arms encompass me. The tears began to fall not a second later. I turned around and laid my head on his chest.

"Oh, Fernand…" I sobbed.

He ran his hand through my hair. "Sshh… He'll be back, I promise."

After what felt like hours, I finally lifted my head. "Do you feel better?" He asked me. I nodded. I looked into his gray eyes. Suddenly, another feeling overcame me. One I had not been felt in a long time.

Safety.

I felt the urge to kiss him. And so I did. It was obvious that Fernand was taken aback. So many emotions and feelings coursed through me. Regret. Happiness. Guilt. Happiness. Fear. Happiness. The kiss itself was purely instinct, though it felt out of place. It was like kissing a brother. But my desire to feel something… anything kept my lips to his. I groaned inwardly when we were forced to break apart by our need for oxygen.

I again gazed into those gray eyes. They were filled with confusion. I gulped, realizing what I had done. 'Oh, Edmond, please forgive me.' I pleaded in my thoughts. Guilt now only gripped my conscious. The kiss was not only a selfish act towards Edmond but also one toward Fernand. He now probably believed I requited his love.

"Fernand I-" I started. He must have sensed my distraught for the sentence remained incomplete.

"It never happened." It was now my turn to be confused.

"What?" He simply walked away without saying another word.

We were married a year later.