Out of the Darkness

The sky was boiling, bubbling with strange clouds as the train gained speed. Marianne sat with her pearly hands folded delicately on the lap of her white dress, her lace umbrella resting at her side. Ernest sat on the velvet booth across from her, a black silk suit enhancing his sharp frame.

“I do wish the sun would come out,” Marianne exhaled, her fingers shifting slightly as with her breath. “Perhaps then we could see the countryside.”

“I much prefer the darkness.”

“Really?”

“Of course.”

“What kind of man, especially one as tan as you, prefers the dark?”

“Well, much more interesting things happen in the dark.”

“Don’t be like that with me. You know I hate how I look when I blush,” Marianne said, turning her head back towards the window, leaving Ernest with a full view of the red that was steadily blossoming on her cheek.

“All right, if you want me to be serious, I find the daylight dull.”

“Dull?”

“Yes. You can see everything precisely as it is, and where is the fun in that? The sunlight numbs the imagination, for a painter in the light will paint what he sees. The dark, however, that is where an artist can paint what he thinks,” he commented, motioning to the server who was rushing down the train. “I’ll have a glass of your boldest red, please.” Marianne scowled disapprovingly.

“But a painter can’t paint unless he has light to see the canvas by.”

“That in itself shows how you feel an artist must see to paint. The sunlight has corrupted you, my dear, made your mind complacent.”

“I believe the mind which is complacent is yours, for you take in nothing and make in your mind only what you desire. The darkness has corrupted you, knowledgeable fellow, and made you negligent. You think you’re terribly profound don’t you?”

“Ah, I see you have been listening too much to your brother. He was always the only one who had the faintest idea of what I was attempting to convey. And while I find your logic impressive, darkness will always be the realm of freedom.”

“But all the most pleasant and exciting things happen in the sun. That is why my brother asked you to escort me on this ghastly trip, isn’t it? A wedding near the shore, all for the sake of some sun, rather than the dull New England clouds,” she quipped.

“Waste of the poor fellow’s money. I always told him that getting married was a terrible idea. Especially to a well-to-do,” Ernest said, brushing a speck of red velvet fuzz from his pant leg.

“You’re a well-to-do. We all are.”

“Precisely,” he said sharply. The door to their cabin abruptly flew open as the waiter, perspiring slightly and obviously out of breath, handed a glass of blood-red wine to Ernest, who took it so coolly that even the waiter seemed to calm himself at the sight. Ernest gave a brief nod of approval after taking a sip and the waiter slipped away, letting the door slide quietly shut.

“I do wish you wouldn’t drink so much.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“You better be careful at the wedding, or we’ll end up losing you in the middle of some swamp.”

“On the contrary, the wine only makes me sharper,” he grinned slyly. He was so debonair, which only added to Marianne’s distrust. Most honest men were incapable of acting that slick, in her experience. Those that smooth had no qualms.

“That would be the wine talking,” she said, raising her eyebrows doubtfully.

“I’m sure you’d know all about wine talking,” Ernest said, looking at her over the top of his glass as he sipped.

“I beg your pardon?” Marianne said indignantly, her head snapping back to him in the sharpest movement the whole train ride for them had yet experienced. Some kind of line had been crossed.

“Oh, don’t be coy with me, darling.”

“I’m certain I have no idea what you are talking about, and don’t call me darling,” she said. A steady red was beginning to build by her jawline traveling slowly up to her ear.

“Perhaps you don’t. After all, nothing seduces or persuades quite like the Devil’s drink,” he chuckled. “I do believe Mr. Franklin Reynolds remembers perfectly, however.” Marianne’s cheeks looked as if they had been sloshed with Ernest’s wine.

“How did you hear about that?”

“Oh, calm yourself, before you pass out from over-exerting your fragile white frame.” And then he began laughing wildly, almost maniacally to himself.

“And what is so amusing to you?” Marianne seethed through blood-red lips.

“White. The irony!” he cackled, before letting his laughter vanish into the velvet of the cabin. “Perhaps I ought to tell your brother to order your wedding dress in a more fitting color when you eventually find a weak and gullible man—perhaps a lovely scarlet. Scarlet for the harlot.” He swallowed the last of his wine and set the glass on the table.

“How dare you! I’m no slut!”

“Only sluts use the word ‘slut’,” Ernest said.

“You’re horrid! And while we are talking about more appropriate colors, perhaps you ought to be wearing green. You know, for all the money you’ve been stealing from my brother!” There was an imperceptible change in the room then. You couldn’t see it, but you could feel everything change, as though the icy outside had been dumped into their cabin.

“You are more clever than I gave you credit for,” he said.

“Oh, please. My brother may have a wonderful brain, but he has atrocious luck and an unfortunate attraction to cards, horse racing, and all the rest. You don’t actually think he handles the money, do you? Well, you’re certainly more idiotic than I gave you credit for.”

“But you haven’t done anything about it.”

“Why would I?” Marianne said, the blush fading with a new and blinding sense of control.

“Well, by law, I’m a thief,” Ernest said.

“Yes, but your father is connected with powerful people and you wouldn’t spend so much as two hours in jail. And even if you did, what good would you be to me then,” Marianne said, brushing wrinkles out of her ivory skirt with dainty hands.

“I’m astonished. I never knew you were so sly.”

“And I would never have guessed you liked the dark.”

“What?

“The dark. We are both sly and we do live in darkness, but that is why I love the light. Without it, we wouldn’t be very sly at all, would we? We’d be stupid, like everyone else. And life would be…how did you put it? Oh yes, dull. Life would be perfectly dull.”

“Yes. Yes, I do suppose it would.”
The next day, Marianne and Ernest descended from the train, the sun shining on the two immaculate figures. They left only two marks of their darkness: a tip for the water that had come from a brother’s bank account and a handkerchief embroidered with a flourishing “e” that had been used to rub red lipstick from a debonair man’s cheek. Then, the train took off and the two figures faded into the light.





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