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The Duchess This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I checked my reflection in the mirror. Even though my suit was perfectly tailored, my shirt was crisp and creaseless, and my tie was fashionable for its time, I still looked a wreck – haggard, blotchy, unkempt. I smiled, remembering how you hated it when I was anything less than immaculate.

My thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the chamber’s imposing doors. My butler came in and quietly told me it was time to leave; the ceremony was about to commence. I nodded curtly, left the room, and descended the marble stairs. My step was uneasy and the stairs seem to vanish under my feet. I felt your hand on mine as I clutched the banister, intensifying my grip. You smiled, but when I looked again you were not there.

Soon enough, I was surrounded by my guests, clamouring to see their host – how did I look, how did I seem? The men shook my hand fervently and made polite, superficial conversation, while the women were less discreet and said what was on their minds. They whispered condolences and feigned sympathy for my grief, a grief they were so sure I felt. They held me in their arms as if hugging the misery out of me, a misery I did not have.

Black ties, black uniforms, black lace, black top hats. It was all a show, a slow-motion black-and-white spectacle played out like a terrible dream and conducted by your invisible hand. I pictured you sauntering down the stairs, all eyes upon you. You would gracefully stand, waiting for the press of lips on your outstretched hand. You would smile angelically, laughing inside as the women’s eyes gleamed with jealousy.

Tears of young men, whose names were unknown to me, ran down their plump cheeks, their eyes sore and red from sleep deprivation, grieving your absence and their sense of abandonment. White and red roses stood in vases on the mantelpiece. I chuckled to myself. Oh how you’d planned this event to perfection. The only thing missing was you, although, as always, you were there in presence if not in person.
A voice echoed through the hall, saving me from conversation. I looked around in time too see, a priest ushering us into the chapel. A tiny man seated himself on a wooden bench next to me. I attempted to slide away, but his clawed hand grasped my shoulder. A moment later I was escorted to the front, where I was to take my seat. You’d known I would hate the attention, the stares of the crowd that had gathered to say farewell. Yet you tortured me in making me play a last part in the dance of your life.

Devout words were said and sung, but only sacrilegious ones clouded my thoughts. My body rose and I knew, by sheer instinct, that I was meant to approach the front of the chapel. My head was racked with a searing pain, a vision of your pale white face shining in my eyes.
White roses lay peacefully on the mantel piece, the coffin lay still on a bronze table, and the lighting was dimmed. As I concentrated on the priest, he began to recite lines from his little red book with a golden cross, wishing his condolences to everyone in the room and praying that the dead body that lay in the coffin would be sent to Heaven. I was struck once more that the priest knew nothing and, like everyone else in the room, thought you were an angel. Oh how well you had played your part.

The heavy coffin was placed on my shoulders, and I staggered under its weight. I felt vacant, oblivious to the tears and false remorse. Through my watery eyes, a vision of your beautiful face appeared. Once again I was beguiled by your cunning and callous ways. I was rooted to the spot where we exchanged our vows, with a new-born passion twinkling in our eyes, as you promised forever to be my loyal and abiding wife. How ironic it all seems now. A white gown hugged your slender figure. As you walked, whispers followed. As you spoke, voices were silenced. As you smiled, hearts paused. As you laughed, men fell like drops of rain from the clouds.

I brushed away my tears, with an ever-growing irritation of what you had done. The coffin was being lifted, and the release of weight gave me chance to slip away. Again I was frustrated in my escape and found myself trapped in my mother’s embrace. She apologised graciously, reminding me to remember my duties as Duke of Cambridge. Not for the first time, I felt she had guessed your true nature, and had not been fooled by your seductive charm.

As I said my last goodbyes, whispered words of thanks, shook hands, ushered out those who were reluctant to leave, I took myself upstairs and fell onto my bed, tracing my hands through the bed sheets and letting the torment of my thoughts submerge me.

Then for the first time in weeks, I locked eyes with you. Oh how beautiful you are. You left yourself hanging above my chamber to remind me, to never forget, to never stop feeling remorse and compassion. You’d seen it coming all along. Oh how you’ guessed my every move, making me seem dreary and predictable.

You’d hung the painting of yourself, so I wouldn’t forget you, to drive me to insanity. I loved you. I followed your every move, I knew about your affairs and not once did I mention my pain. One would like to believe that I was being my normal kind self, though the evident truth was my fear of losing you. You played and toyed with that fear to your very last day, the day I knew I could no longer live as we had done before.
You beguiled me with that pearly skin, those hazel eyes, that beautiful face. You’d beguiled me into believing your love was as sincere as that between a father and son. A love devoted to passion and intrigue, a love that chills one’s insides with excitement. What a sightless fool I’d been, as I’d walked into your trap, like a fly in a spider’s web.

I looked at myself with the same level of disgust that I now look at you. You knew that I could not resist you and you played my weaknesses to your advantage. So the day came when I decided to end my torment. The power of a single drop of poison was remarkable, and untraceable. I gave out a deep laugh. I’d conquered you and now all I had left was to drink the goblet you’d left me. A sly smile formed on my face as I sipped the drink. We would now be united forever, free from others and with only our shared past to hold us together.



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This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

de Brauwere said...
Oct. 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm:
Congratulations on this beautiful text. I can see the places and feel what the narrator feels!
 
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aladine_98 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 20, 2013 at 9:19 pm:
At first I thought this was going to be a typical, if well-written and interesting, story. But by the third paragraph, I knew something was different. The way you hinted at and slowly revealed the truth drew me in.  And then the surprise twist at the end was what made me decide: this deserves five stars. Amazing job! 
 
Josephinecatherine1 replied...
Jun. 23, 2013 at 4:52 am :
Thank you so much! It means a lot.
 
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DarfieldDudette said...
Jun. 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm:
Ack! I am literally speechless right now. Very chilling, I loved it!
 
half.noteThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jun. 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm :
Woah! Did not see that ending coming! A fantastic piece. You have a great writing style and unravel the plot perfectly. Great job! :D
 
Josephinecatherine1 replied...
Jun. 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm :
Thank you so much!
 
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