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Love's Little Requirements
The room was warmly lit, with the glittering chandeliers swaying slowly, almost imperceptibly, but in time to the gentle, rhythmic music. Malcolm waited anxiously beside the grand, bronze doors, worried she wouldn't show up. Nervously smoothing out the wrinkles in his rented, navy blue suit, the university lecturer hoped that the first girl he'd ever gotten wouldn't blow him off. Around him were a handful of couples and one or two people alone, like him, waiting for their partners. "I should have just asked her to let me pick her up," he muttered under his breath, his deepset, violet eyes studying the glossy floors.
It wasn't entirely surprising that people were sneaking looks at him. With his china-white skin, lustrous, gold hair, and his queer eyes, Malcolm Scott was not an ordinary-looking man. Coupled with his natural shyness and preference for solitude, he had earned many stares, even as a child.
Just then, the door quietly opened, and a slender, beautiful girl slipped in. For a moment, her deep, green eyes searched the room, but when they landed on Malcolm, a lovely smile graced her face. She glided over, almost seeming to float in her simple but nice blue and white dress. For the first time since he'd met her, she'd worn her silky black curls down, instead of pinned up. "Daphne," he greeted her in relief. "You look . . . gorgeous."
She smiled prettily. "Thanks," she replied softly. "You don't look half-bad yourself." Her lips met his in a brief, gentle kiss, and then they parted. For a moment, their eyes lingered, and then Daphne pulled out of his arms. "Shall I get some champagne for the both of us?" she offered.
"No, that's all right. I'll get it. Wait here a moment, okay?" Without waiting for her response, Malcolm walked toward the long table, cloaked in a silk tablecloth. He awkwardly greeted some people along the way, but mostly avoided their gazes. Malcolm was not a social person.
When he reached the refreshments table, he saw another woman, almost as tall as him, with luxurious, straight white hair. "Miss Carr," he said cautiously. "How have you been?"
"Skip the formalities," she replied impatiently. "You always did dawdle, Malcolm."
He shrugged helplessly. "I wish I didn't have to do this," he sighed. "It's just such a shame, Clara."
Her chocolate-colored eyes focused on his own grim ones. "You're not backing out, are you?"
"No, no, of course not," Malcolm answered quickly as he poured the champagne. His hand trembled slightly, and he fervently hoped he wouldn't spill it on her blood-red and ebony-black dress.
She narrowed her eyes. "Good. Because such things as backing out have bad consequences. You know that, though, don't you?"
He bit his lip but didn't reply as he carefully carried the two glasses over to Daphne. "Here you are," he said, a faint smile on his lips. "To the power of love and all it requires."
Malcolm touched the glass to his lips but made sure the bubbly liquid didn't go down his throat. Seeing his hesitation to drink, she paused, with the champagne halfway to her mouth. "Is something wrong?" Daphne asked.
His eyes darted back and forth, and then he sighed. "Well, yes. Can we . . . can we talk in private?"
Uncertain, she followed him into a darkened, empty room, and he closed the door audibly. "Malcolm?" Her voice was frightened.
Swallowing, he reached out with his broad hand and gripped her neck tightly. "Don't make a sound," he warned, voice heavy. "It's easier that way."
"What are you doing?" she asked hoarsely. "Mal, what is this? A joke?"
He didn't respond, but instead placed his glass on a piece of furniture and forced her lips open. Then, in one swift movement, he poured the contents of her own glass down her throat, ignoring Daphne's gasps and chokes. Her body shuddered in his arms for a moment, and she crumpled to the ground, hair strewn about her face.
He stood silently and impassively for a moment, before he burst out the window, landing in the garden. Tears trickled down his face, but Malcolm ran on, as fast as his long legs could carry him. When he reached the split oak, he stopped and slumped on the wet grass, panting.
A few minutes later, Clara joined him. "You did well," she drawled. "Better than I expected, though you could have been more subtle."
And the night fell.