Moonlight (Improvisation #1)

The stairs were dark as he climbed higher. His fingers trailed along the stone walls to help him find his way. Surely they had already curved too many times; he had to be nearing the top. Finally, the wall changed from rough stone to smooth wood. Straining, he wrapped his hands around the large metal ring and pulled. After a chilling creak, the door swung open, and he found himself in the open air.

There she was, her delicate hands placed on the stone ledge, her face bathed in the pale touch of the moon. He longed to tell her what he was thinking- how she filled his mind without relief. That’s why he had come to the terrace this night. He knew it was the place she felt most safe and at peace, and he wanted to share that with her.

“Peter,” she smiled gently as the slight breeze stirred the midnight silk of her gown.

He fumbled nervously with his pockets. “Good evening, Elizabeth.”

“It really is a good evening, isn’t it?” she turned to look over the ledge again, a small smile lifting the corners of her lips. He dared not take a step closer to her for fear he would wake up from a dream. “It’s lovely for watching the stars.” Tentatively, he moved to the wall and looked over it himself. The castle grounds stretched out hundreds of feet below them. Across the fields, several windows went black as the servants turned in for the night.

They were silent for a few moments sharing in the slight chill of the night air. “You’re leaving tomorrow, aren’t you?” Her voice wavered slightly.

“As soon as the sun rises.”

She moved closer to him, and the air felt tight between their bodies. Not unpleasantly, but in a way that made him long to close the space.

“I’m glad to be here with you one more time.” His was being bold; perhaps only because he knew these would be their last words.

“As am I. I’m going to miss you, Peter.” She reached out to cover his hand with hers. The stone of the ledge was cold and rough against his skin.

“The world will feel empty without you, Elizabeth.” He couldn’t bring himself to meet her eyes.

“There are plenty of other women in the world.”

“There will never be another woman like you.”

A blush interrupted the alabaster curve of her cheek. “Must you say that? I’d like to at least hope you’ll never find happiness without me.”

He stroked her cheek gently, and pulled her close for a few lingering moments. Feebly, like the beat of fledgling’s wings, he felt her heart beating against her chest. He felt the comforting warmth of her skin and the velvet strands of her hair.

“I love you, Peter,” she whispered.

He fumbled with his pocket again, but she did not pull away.

“Goodbye, Elizabeth.”

The moonlight glinted coldly on the metal of the knife as he pulled it from his pocket. She kissed his cheek tenderly, and he looked in her bright eyes before plunging the knife through her back, into her heart. Her crimson lips parted in a silent gasp.

“Shh. Don’t cry.” He laid her down on the ledge, placing her hands clasped over her chest as if in a prayer. The silk of her gown had never looked richer as it cascaded over the stone wall. He wiped the knife daintily on the hem of the dress, and kissed her pale cheek before pushing open the thick wooden door of the tower. Once more, he traveled down the dark stairs. In the morning he would be gone, and forever in his mind he would hold the image of her: a perfect angel in the moonlight.

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