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Groups of Two MAG
He watches the door carefully. They always come in groups of two. A widowed mother as a bee, and her pretty daughter as a flower. An older couple as owls. A young, lovesick couple as peacocks.
It is the peacocks who catch his eye.
The woman is as lovely as he remembered her. Her ebony hair is pinned back, adorned with dozens of large feathers. A mask, elegantly designed with feathers of all shades of blue and green, frames her aqua eyes and follows the gentle curve of her face. Her painted red lips are smiling, and her long, slender fingers are intertwined with those of another man.
This is something he will not stand for.
The band is playing; couples are dancing and introducing themselves. Talk is being made – of the weather, of the costumes, of the wealthy hosts.
He engages in none of this. He keeps his eye on the peacocks as they dance. As her hand interlocks with his and their bodies move together. It is not a perfect harmony. He would be a better partner than the man she is accompanying.
He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come to the ball in a group of two.
He makes his way toward the dancing couple, declining an invitation to dance from the flower, the bee's daughter. He has eyes for only one woman.
The drinking and dancing continues, music and the sound of chatter filling the air. The room is thick with the scents of sweat and alcohol. Heat from the hundreds of bodies rises to the ceiling like smoke. Feathers litter the ground, trampled and forgotten in the festivities. He silently continues through the madness. He will have the girl. She will be his before the night is over; he will make sure of it.
His own mask obscures his face, black and red beads glittering in the candlelight. The woman does not recognize him as they brush past each other in the crowd of moving bodies. The couple heads for a pair of doors leading to a courtyard and precious escape from the crowd.
He follows them.
They always go in groups of two.
He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come in a group of two, although he intends to leave that way.
The moon is high in the sky. It is waning, just a thin sliver. Tomorrow night there may be no moon at all. There are no stars, although the sky is clear. The well-tended garden is lit only by flickering candlelight, and the wind threatens to snuff even that.
It is not difficult for the peacocks to find a corner to themselves. Hedges and rose bushes tower, casting shadows that dance in time with the music.
He follows them. Even in the dim light, he can see every detail of her face: her pale skin, thin lips, and wide eyes. Her hair is coming out of its exquisite style, her feathers are drooping, but her mouth is pulled back tight in a smile.
I shall have you, he thinks. You shall be mine at last, as it was always intended to be.
The wind picks up. One of her feathers frees itself from her hair and soars across the courtyard, landing in the drink of one of the owls. She giggles at the sight, a sound that makes him delirious with desire. He remembers that, and it angers him that these sounds are not his to enjoy; they are intended for someone else, someone less worthy.
That problem will be fixed shortly.
A bush provides his cover, but it is not needed. He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come in a group of two.
Another couple walks outside, a pair of identical sisters wearing identical masks. They always come in groups of two. The wind whips their hair.
The candles flicker out, one by one. Except for the icy light of the moon sliver, the courtyard is completely dark.
There is a knife concealed in his coat. It is an old knife, passed down from family to family, with worn engravings and lost sentiment.
He leaves his shelter, heading for the man.
The peacock does not struggle much. His death is quick and merciful and a certain kind of wonderful.
The woman is screaming now, but he covers her mouth with his hand.
“Be quiet,” he whispers to her. “It is over now.”
“W-what do you want?” she whimpers. “If he owes you money, I will pay it, I swear. Don't hurt him, don't hurt me, please, don't hurt us.”
He interrupts her pathetic, hysterical murmuring. “It's all right now,” he says. “We are together now.”
“W-who are you?”
He removes his mask. Still seeing fear on her face, he reaches to remove her mask, so she may see him better. He moves slowly, so she knows he doesn't intend to hurt her, and gently takes the peacock mask off.
Her aqua eyes are wide with fear, and he knows one thing and one thing only.
They are not her eyes. This is not the woman he was searching for.
In a mix of anger, despair, hatred, and fear, his knife moves swiftly and embeds itself in her breast. He does not meet her eyes.
Her death is quick and merciful.
He looks down at the corpses.
They always leave in groups of two.
Some other groups look over at them, but the darkness prevents them from seeing the peacocks.
All they see is a man on his knees, weeping.
He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come in a group of two.