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The sun rose weakly, casting pale light across the grey, melting snow. A lone ray of sun snuck across the ground, illuminating a small house. The white paint was worn, chipped from the storms it had weathered. The shutters were a faded rose color, as if once they could have been a cheery red. The steps to the porch were worn with use, sagging in the middle. If one were to open the washed out oak door, it would creak in protest and open to a seemingly vacant home. But, it was not. Within the confines of this rickety, poorly insulated house lived Mary, a frail looking twenty-two year old. She had waist length mousy brown hair, which often covered most of her face. She had the appearance of someone who had once been beautiful. But the harsh cold had taken the blush out of her cheeks. Tragedy had replaced her radiant smile with a constant frown. Her once clean and fresh appearance had been exchanged for one of utter dishevelment; a layer of grime covered her skin. Her eyes, which once were a sparkling emerald green, were now faded like the limp grass that managed to peek through the snow. One could simply feel the onset of sadness by peering into her eyes, the tragedy behind them unknown.
On this morning, Mary lay asleep. Her hair was splayed across her face, a thick woolen blanket wrapped around her body, although not warm enough to dissuade the morning chill. Clutched in one soot-covered hand was a letter from her beloved, lost years ago.
Mary’s story began when she was sixteen, a foolish bright-eyed cheery girl. It was summer, in the year 1830. Tucked between two rolling green hills was a small, lively looking house. Painted eggshell white with bright ruby red shutters, the house exuded warmth. The heavy, polished oak door was wide open, as if to coax in a phantom breeze. Sitting on the porch, a smile painted across her face, was Mary. Tendrils of brown hair escaped from beneath her bonnet and surrounded her teardrop shaped face. In her arms, babbling in some childish revelry, sat a bubbly blonde boy, Joshua. The two were almost identical, with their wide, emerald eyes cloaked with thick lashes and full lips. But, where Mary took after her father with her brown hair, little Josh inherited his mothers bouncing blonde curls. At the age of two, Joshua knew nothing but the love of his big sister and his wonderful parents.
“Mary, darling! Will you do me a favor and walk to town? We need a loaf of bread.” Mary’s mother, Hope, swooped in like breeze plucking Joshua out of Mary’s arms and balancing him on one dainty hip.
“Of course, mama.” Mary obliged, taking the few coins her mother handed her. She set off on foot, the earth hot beneath her bare feet. Mary was walking for nearly a mile and a half when a handsome midnight steed came thundering down the hard packed dirt road, spraying dust in its wake. Mary quickly stepped to the side of the path, avoiding the horse’s path. To Mary’s surprise, the rider slowed his steed and the horse clip-clopped to Mary’s side.
“Whoa, Eros, whoa.” The stranger commanded, his horse coming to a stop. Mary peered up at her new companion, only to have the sun blind her instantaneously.
“Good day, sir.” Mary called, a hint of caution peppering her tone of voice. With one graceful motion, the stranger dismounted, and came into focus.
“I just happened to notice, you were headed into town, I presume. I wanted to offer you the saddle. With the heat, you must be near to death in your dress and petticoats.” The stranger held his hand out courteously, offering to help her mount his steed. Mary glanced at the stranger. Dark curls surrounded a face that had not yet reached adulthood. His skin was tanned from obvious hours in the sun. His ocean blue eyes gleamed with childlike mischief and kindness. The stranger had a strong jaw, and he stood proudly. “My name, by the way, is Blake.” Mary was considering politely denying his offer, but the overwhelming heat paired with his kindness convinced her otherwise.
After that first encounter with Blake, they fell madly in love. Both barely sixteen, they spoke of marriage and their everlasting love for each other. They spent hours together, sneaking away from their homes to fall into each other’s arms, completely content.
It was a year after they met, their souls and minds fused with the strong belief they were meant to be together forever, they decided to marry. On a night not irregular from any other, Mary and Blake were walking down the very path they had met on when a posse of bandits came stampeding down the dirt path. Debris and dirt flew through the air; the violent cat calls of a successful robbery echoing down the empty road. One bandit fired his gun carelessly, and the bullet careened towards Blake and Mary. The bullet tore through Blake’s starch white shirt and embedded itself in his heart. The bandits were oblivious to the young girl screaming in horror, as her beloved crumpled to the ground, like an empty sack of flour. His blood quickly saturated his crisp white shirt; the both of them knew there was no way for Blake’s survival. In his last breath, Blake pulled a parchment from his pocket and sighed,
“These… These are my wedding vows to you… I will cherish them always… No matter where I am.” And with those words, Blake slipped away, his hands still clutched around the paper. With the utmost care, sobs wracking her body, Mary pulled the letter from his hand. The only reminder of him was a single bloody fingerprint. Mary stood, and stumbled away from the body, the moonlight casting milky light upon his body as she escaped.
In a daze, she walked and read. She walked and read until she could not feel her feet and Blake’s words were committed to her memory. When she became aware of her surroundings, she was deep in a dark forest. The trees were dense here, it was impossible to see further than a few yards ahead. Moss blanketed the ground, muffling her footsteps. Tendrils of mist lapped at Mary’s feet, sending a chill up her spine.
“Child, what ails you?” A voice suddenly murmured, as if coming from all around. Mary, fear striking her heart, replied
“Who is that?”
“My name is Damon. I am a friend. Child, tell me, what ails you?” The voice repeated.
“The love of my life is gone, and yet, I am here.” Her voice crackled with desperation, a lone tear streaking down her face.
As if conjured from the mist, a figure appeared. He was tall, with porcelain smooth white skin, and a mess of jet-black hair. His eyes were an unearthly golden color, and he was cloaked in what looked like a fabric made from the stars.
“You want him back?” Questioned Damon, gliding towards Mary, as if not even walking. Mary nodded, unable to speak. “I can do that for you,” Whispered the stranger. “But, what is it you are willing to give up… In exchange.”
“W-what is it that you want?” Croaked Mary, as she stared up into his endless golden eyes. Desperation clouded her judgment and Mary felt nothing but trust for this man.
“I need a soul in return. But, it must be someone you love. For I cannot conjure a love, without losing one.” With that, Damon placed one pale finger beneath her chin. “Who shall it be, dearest Mary? Perhaps your father… Maybe your mother… Or maybe that sweet bundle of joy that is your brother…who are you willing to lose?” He jerked her eyes to his, green to gold. A small smile painted his face as he saw determination set in her eyes.
“My father, Paul. Y-you can have my father’s soul.” Mary replied, her voice trembling.
“Return to your home. Your beloved will be waiting there.” Purred Damon, and with that he disappeared into the mist. Mary ran faster than she ever had in her life. Branches tore at her dress, ripping the fabric away. Mary ran blindly until she escaped the wood, her heart pounding in her chest. Adrenaline motivated her until she reached her front door and burst through it. Standing in the middle of the one-roomed house stood Damon, his face contorted with rage. Beneath him lay three large sacks, a tiny ghostly pale arm and hand sticking out of one of them.
“YOU WERE WILLING TO GIVE UP YOUR FAMILY FOR A BOY? YOU WOULD KILL YOUR OWN FLESH AND BLOOD? YOU ARE A FOOLISH GIRL. YOU WANTED TO LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER? HOW ABOUT YOU LIVE ALONE!” Damon shrieked, and with those words he picked up the three sacks and disappeared into the night.
Grief consumed Mary. She was never able to look at herself again. The death of her parents and her little brother wove in and out of her dreams for years. Just like the exterior of the once quaint and pretty house, Mary crumbled and deteriorated. With a mere sentence, Mary had lost everything. In just six years, what felt like millennia, Mary aged. She had lost everything and had nothing to live for. With one last sigh, as if letting out a last breath, Mary slipped away to join Damon, consequence for the desperation to feel love again.