And there was a word, a word repeated and whispered when grownups thought she could not hear. It was heavy and terrible, that word, and something inside of Faye deemed it familiar. But it evoked ghastly things, like people turned to ash and ceaseless weeping and lives leached of color. It resonated inside her mind like a death knell. Mourning.
Faye did not know the meaning of such dark things. Or why her father had told her with unnatural solemnity that her mother was gone on an everlasting voyage, to a forbidding, unknown place. That she was gone. She did not understand why his shoulders had shaken as he confessed that sinister truth to her, burdened by the unyielding weight of death. Or why silent tears had snaked down his hollow cheeks like translucent serpents. All her untainted heart could grasp was that an ominous silence had fallen upon her home. The night-dark cloak of loss loomed over her splintered family, and Faye, shielded by the obliviousness of childhood, felt it still. It was void of all laughter and brightness. Somehow, it seemed as though the storybook life of this innocent child had been drained of all color. The kind maids no longer told Faye stories that made her eyes glow with the wildness of dreams. The cooks did not give her sweets or make her laugh brightly with their gentle teasing. And her father -- he had become withdrawn and strange.
Faye walked aimlessly through the endless corridors, admiring the tapestries bordered with fine golden thread, without interest. Her footsteps echoed through the wondrous manor that her family had occupied for centuries. But she did not gaze at the beauty that encompassed her. She was uncertain of where her heart was leading her until she stumbled into a dark room. Its air was heavy with death and rot.
It was the room of her mother.
Faye’s eyes glazed over, and she floated into that strange place, her feet barely skimming the ground. She stared at the empty bed coated in a fine layer of dust that her mother had once slept in. She did not comprehend the sorrow that gripped her in its claws. And with a vulnerability that could bring the world to its knees, she crumpled before the large place where her mother had once dreamt and wondered and slept, and drowned it in her tears.
At the recommendation of her handmaid, Faye donned her velvet cloak of deepest burgundy and wandered about the gardens of the estate, eyeing the withered flowers, their lustrous colors turned dark. She lightly touched their lifeless stems, the various shades of death standing stark against the ivory pallor of her skin. The thin, raven-dark hairs on the nape of her neck bristled, for she could feel the disquieting absence in these ever-still blooms. The wilted things seemed to reach toward the earth, scratching, clawing blindly towards their immortal incarceration. She wondered at the loveliness of decaying things. Faye thought of how these fallen flowers would soon lay in the earth, and be left to rot with other forgotten souls. This profoundly disturbed her, and she felt uneasy. Like an ensnared doe, she eyed her surroundings, wide-eyed and trembling. Terrified. An image of a rectangular mahogany box flashed through her mind. Of a body shrouded in silken cloth, fractured sobs and people begging her to speak about things she did not know and could never understand. But like a mirage, evanescent and indistinct, she felt it slither from her grasp. Memories are such fickle things.
Faye could not fathom the obscure workings of the mind. She felt utterly lost, like an orphan child alone in a desolate wood, struck by the knowledge that her calls will be engulfed by the night. That no one will deign to listen to the maelstrom of her mournful cries, and with painstaking slowness, her voice will turn hoarse and fade into the gloom, taking her soul with it. It suddenly felt like she was drowning once more in cerulean waters and infinite seas but it was so dark and she was dying and she missed her mother. Faye felt her eyes sting, and a salty wetness stained her rosy cheeks. Like crystalline pearls, senseless tears blurred her vision. As the talons of grief wrapped themselves around her throat, she felt her life ebb and fade. She sensed her strength leaving her, and crumpled to the virescent, mossy ground. She lay helplessly upon the pine needle carpet, fragile as a porcelain doll. She wished for the truth, for love and tenderness and consolation. But the world was cruel and unforgiving.
There was no place for innocence.