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Authors: V. C. Andrews

Tags: #Horror

Casteel 03 Fallen Hearts (12 page)

BOOK: Casteel 03 Fallen Hearts
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He wasn't moving; I couldn't even hear him breathing. I stopped and listened, but he seemed to be just another shadow melding with the darkness, almost indistinguishable. My eyes, which had grown used to the absence of light, however, clearly made out his dark silhouette ahead of me. He looked like he was pressing himself against the wall, hoping I would simply go by him. There was something familiar about the shape. It made me think immediately about the dark figure who had entered my bedroom the night before.
"Who is it?" I asked in a whisper. "Who are you? Do you live in Troy's cottage?"
There was a long moment of silence and then I heard him respond in a whisper, too.
"Yes," he said.
There was something so familiar about the sound that my heart began thumping. I fumbled with the matches in my left hand, my fingers shaking so much I couldn't get one lit to touch the candle wick.
"Go away," he whispered in a raspy, obviously disguised voice now. "Don't light that candle. Just go away."
I saw him lift his arms before him as though to block me from his view. Then he turned and entered the tunnel that I knew went nowhere. I hesitated. Some part of me was telling me to do just what he had said, to turn around and go back. Sometimes we shouldn't challenge fate and destiny, this voice within me said. Sometimes we're too proud and too determined for our own good. This wouldn't be the first time that I had come to a fork in the road, only to take the more dangerous route.
But it was more than simple stubbornness that now drove me forward. And it was more than anger at Tony. No, there was another part of myself now at odds with caution. This part had been asleep, dormant, kept in storage on some back shelf in my heart. I felt this alter ego open her eyes and stir. I felt her heart beat once again with mine. I felt her emerge and then merge with me, and without any further delay I struck the match and lit the candle that would light my way through the darkness of my own mind and lead me to the answer.
I went forward into the dark end tunnel. The candle lifted the curtain of darkness around me to let me pass under, but I knew the curtain dropped like an iron door behind me as I went. I couldn't help but think about Rye Whiskey's tales of ghosts and disturbed ancestors. What better way for them to travel up from their restless graves than through the secret tunnels? All my childhood fears were sounded. Could Tom's troubled spirit have found its way to these dark veins in the earth? Would I walk into that pocket of darkness that housed my mother's young spirit as well? I looked back into the wall of black. Was it too late to change my mind? Had I already crossed the boundary?
I turned the first bend. The tunnel went a little ways farther and then the wall that Tony had built to shut it off from outside intruders loomed before me. Where was the dark silhouetted figure I had accosted only moments ago? Could I have walked right past him? I slowed my pace and lifted the candle higher, holding it almost at arm's length before me.
Suddenly I felt a breeze to my right and turned just as he stepped out of the darkest shadows. I brought the candle down and he closed his fist around the tiny flame to extinguish the light.
But he was too late. The glow had flashed over his face. The heat in my own must have made it just as bright. His eyes lingered in the darkness even after the candle had been snuffed and they were eyes I would know instantly and forever.
"Troy!" I cried.
"Heaven," he whispered.
And for a moment I was not sure whether or not I had come upon a ghost or an illusion of my own frightened and troubled mind.
I lit the candle again to discover the truth.

SEVEN Troy

.
"YOU ARE NOT ONE OF RYE WHISKEY'S GHOSTS," I whispered. I reached out slowly and touched his arm. A small, thin breeze traveled through the tunnels, making the small flame dance on a stage of darkness. The candlelight flickered over his face. His dark eyes which normally had the depth of forest pools looked even darker and deeper.
"No," he replied, "although there are times when I truly feel like one." A small smile played about his beautifully shaped lips. He was wearing a white silk blouse and tight black trousers, but in the darkness, with the tiny flame flickering, the white blouse took on a yellowish tint.
"I don't understand. What happened? What is happening?" I heard the hint of hysteria in my voice. He heard it, too, for he slipped his hand into mine and gently took hold of my palm.
"Let's return to the cottage," he said softly, "and I will tell you all."
I followed him through the dark passageways, feeling as though I had descended into some land of the dead and rescued him from the grips of eternal sleep.
Together we were ascending, returning to the world of light and life. As we walked in silence our footsteps echoed behind us and fell back into the spongy blackness that absorbed all sound and quickly stifled it. My heart thumped so hard I was sure he felt the reverberations through my fingers. To me it was as if I were pumping life back into him, resurrecting him with every passing moment. Soon we were in the cottage cellar. He stepped back to permit me to walk up the stairway first. I looked back, hesitating, afraid I would lose him, afraid that the powers of darkness, once I released his hand from mine, would suck him back into the tunnels and into the past. But he remained right behind me, closing the door after we entered the cottage.
"Just before you arrived I was about to have a cup of tea," he said in a casual tone of voice. It was as if all the past two years had evaporated and this was just another one of my amorous visits. "Would you care for one?"
"Yes, please," I said. I sat down at the table quickly, my legs feeling wobbly. He went to the stove and started the flame under the kettle again. I watched him take out the cups and saucers and then get the teabags, not looking at me until he brought it all to the table. I shivered and my expression of pain and confusion must have troubled him.
"Poor Heaven," he said, shaking his head, "how I hoped to avoid this moment and how I longed for it at the same time."
"Oh, Troy," I said, "why?"
"You know why, Heaven," he said hoarsely, "in your heart you've always known. But I shall tell you anyway."
He sighed and sat at the table just across from me.
The collar of his white silk shirt was open so that I could see the faint sprinkling of dark hair on his chest. For a long moment he simply stared down at the tabletop, his head lowered. Then he sighed deeply, raked his long fingers through his mass of waving hair, and lifted his heavy, troubled eyes to me. Although he didn't look sickly, he was thinner and paler than I remembered him. His hair was somewhat longer, the ends in the back still curling up. He looked as though he had been shut away from sunlight and life for ages. My heart cried out for him and I had the urge to reach out to comfort and embrace him.
"It was right here, right on this tabletop that I wrote that last letter to you," he began, "telling you how Jillian had come to me and told me that you were Tony's daughter and my niece, telling you how I realized then our love could never be. I told you I was going away to learn to live without you. I thought I could do that and eventually return to Farthinggale to go on with my life as it was before you arrived, as dreary as that life was."
The kettle whistled as if to punctuate his opening statement. We both remained silent as he took the kettle from the stove and poured the hot water. I dipped my teabag quickly, eager to get the liquid warmth into my system to battle away the icicles that had formed within. After a moment Troy sat down and continued.
"As it was probably told to you, I did return to Farthinggale while you were away on that trip to Maine right after your college graduation. I thought I had reached the point where I could return to Farthy and bury myself in the work once again, waiting patiently for my twenty-ninth birthday and what I believed would be my inevitable death before I reached thirty, a death," he said, raising his tired, tormented eyes to me, "I must confess, I now wanted. For to me, Death had become a doorway to a new world, an escape from the misery of living without you. For when I lost you so much of me died. I no longer lived in fear of death, just in quiet expectation."
He paused to sip his tea and looked off for a moment, a quaint, quiet smile coming to his face.
"As usual, Tony thought he could buy away my depression. I don't blame him for that. In fact, I feel sorry for him, knowing the frustration he must have always felt. He made this great party, just to cheer me up and keep me from thinking about my upcoming birthday. He promised he would see to it that I wasn't left alone for a moment." He laughed. "I must say, he had found this girl . . . she must have been part leech. I had to sneak away to go to the bathroom.
"Anyway," he continued, "she couldn't stand my indifference. Apparently, she had always been successful with men and I was proving to be a very annoying frustration. She became rather insulting. It doesn't matter what she said. I wasn't really listening to her anymore and I just wanted to get away from everything and everyone. I had realized that returning to Farthy was a mistake; I couldn't live here being close to you and never having you. I was already being hounded by the memories of your voice. I saw you everywhere around me. It was as if every girl at the party were nothing because she wasn't you. It was maddening, and Jillian knew it. Every time I looked at her she wore a sadistic smile of satisfaction.
"I had no plan; I never intended to do what I did. I think I went for the horses because I was driven by the happy memory of our horseback rides, but when I got to the stables, there was Jillian's horse, looking as defiant and as tormenting to me as Jillian. Impulsively, I decided to ride Abdulla Bar and show that horse it could be handled by someone other than Jillian.
"I know it was a silly, immature thing to do, but I was angry, infuriated at my destiny, enraged at a world that would permit such things to happen. Why was I singled out for such misery? I thought. Why, when I had finally found love and hope, was it ripped away from me and why had fate and destiny put it into Jillian's power to do it? The unfairness of it all was too overwhelming. I didn't care about anything anymore, least of all my own well-being.
"I saddled the horse and we burst out of the stables toward the beach. My fury found its way into the horse. He galloped as though he, too, were running from life, as if he were chosen to be the vehicle to carry me from this existence into the next. Don't you see," he said, some excitement in his eyes as he leaned toward me, "a& I was riding that horse, feeling the wind through my hair, sensing the terror in its wide, wild eyes, I became convinced that the horse was meant to carry me out of this world, out of my miserable life. So I deliberately turned him toward the sea, and the horse defiantly charged forward as if it, too, were suicidal.
"We rode into the ocean until the waves lifted us and tossed both horse and man into the deep. I saw the horse struggling behind me, its eyes still angry, defiant, now accusing me of bringing it to this horrible death, and for a moment I did feel pity for it and hated myself. I could touch nothing without destroying or harming it, I thought. I was meant to be swept out to sea.
"I closed my eyes," he said, sitting back in his chair and closing his eyes as he spoke, "willing and ready to accept my inevitable death."
He opened his eyes, now cloudy with foreboding.
"But the ocean cannot be controlled or made to serve any man's desires. It is a slave to no one, even one as desperate and as determined as I was to use it as an instrument of death. Every time I went under, the waves lifted me up and out. I bobbed and floated. I was tossed and carried. I lost my boots. I saw Abdulla Bar lifted and washed back toward shore until he could touch the bottom and bring himself out and onto the beach.
"I closed my eyes and waited for the mighty ocean, the great waves I had often listened to and stared at alone at night, fascinated with their beauty and their strength, to take me down into their cold darkness.
"But instead I was cast about until I lost consciousness. When I awoke, I was some distance down shore, sprawled on the beach, alive, my appeal for a quick, painless death rejected. As I lay there feeling sorry for myself, I suddenly realized that the ocean had at least provided some relief--it had given me the opportunity to be considered dead. I could truly leave my identity and my life at Farthy behind. In a real sense I had effected an escape from some of my misery.
"So I gathered myself up and without permitting anyone to know what had happened to me, not even Tony, especially Tony, I returned
surreptitiously to my cottage for what I thought would be the last time, and I took some of the things I wanted and needed and then went off to disappear into the night."
He sat back again, as if that had explained it all. My feelings of shock and amazement were quickly replaced with feelings of anger. Oh, oh, oh! All the pain he had caused--letting me think he was dead. And now it was too late. Too late for us to be together! How could he let me suffer so when he was alive? Alive all this time!
"But what about the pain you caused in permitting us all to think you had died? Don't you know what it did to me?"
"I believed it was nothing compared to the pain you would have had to endure living your life knowing I was nearby, knowing we could never be lovers; nothing compared to the pain you would have knowing the torment I was going to endure as well. I realized it was selfish in a way, but I thought it was better.
"It was better," he added, nodding. "Don't you see, Heaven, you've pulled your life together and done significant things. Perhaps if you thought I was still alive, if I had continued to live here in the cottage, you would never have left Farthy. Perhaps you would be like Jillian. I don't know. I thought I was doing what was best for both of us. I hope you will come to believe that. It would be too painful for me to have you hate me now," he said. His dark eyes were filled with the fear of just this happening.
"I don't hate you, Troy," I said. "I can't hate you. I hate only what has happened. What did you do after you left that beach?"
"I traveled about." He sat back and tucked his hands behind his head as he spoke, remembering and reciting his secret existence. "I went to Italy and studied the great masters of art and architecture. I went to Spain and France. I sought relief in travel and in distractions. For a while that worked. I tired myself out moving about from one place to the next, and then"--he paused and straightened up in his chair again, again leaning toward me--"suddenly, I woke up one night in England. I was staying in an inn near Dover Beach. I had gone there because I couldn't stop thinking about that poem by Matthew Arnold. Remember it? I once read it to you. Some of the lines haunted me.
.
"Ah, love, let us be true
To one another!
for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain . . . .
"It seemed so true, especially for us. I lay there in my down-quilted bed listening to the sound of the sea and I thought I heard your voice; I thought I heard you calling to me from the ocean and I thought there was no longer any point in running away. I couldn't run away. Not from you, not from the memory of your face and your voice and your touch.
"I made up my mind that night to return to defy nature and the gods if need be. I was coming back to you, to beg you to come back to me. I was willing to live as an outcast, to give up anything and everything if we could only be together, even if it was just to hold you in my arms while the winds of winter blew around the cottage. That would be enough, I thought, for if I were to die before my thirtieth birthday, as I had always feared, I would die in your arms. That was where I belonged."
"Oh, Troy, dear, dear Troy. Why didn't you write? Why didn't you try to contact me?" I cried.
"It didn't matter. By the time I had made up my mind to do this, you had already become engaged to Logan."
"But how did you know?" I asked. He smiled and finished the tea in his cup.
"I was in Winnerow just before your wedding. I came in disguise and actually was in Logan's parents' drugstore. I heard the conversations and learned of your engagement. So I turned around and left, but instead of returning to a life spent incognito, traveling abroad, I decided to return to the cottage to end my days and I've been here ever since.
"I saw your wedding reception at Farthy, watched it from behind one of the hedges in the maze You looked so beautiful and Tony looked so happy. I even followed you and Logan about the grounds during your honeymoon, spied on you from afar, dreaming it was I who held you in his arms; it was I whom you kissed. For a while there, my imagination worked so well, I actually felt you beside me.
"It was wrong to do that; I know," he said quickly. "But forgive me. I couldn't help myself."
"Of course I forgive you. I understand how hard it must have been for you to watch without my seeing you." Oh, my own Troy, having to watch me marrying Logan! I couldn't bear to imagine it. Why hadn't he stepped forward, why?
"It was haid, painfully hard." His dark eyes flashed with life and light for the first time. "I wanted you to see me; I was working up the courage for that," he said. "Last night, knowing Logan wasn't here, I went to your room after you returned from wherever you had gone with Tony."
"I sensed something last night, although I didn't know it was you. I awoke and called out because I saw a body silhouetted in the darkness."
He stared at me for a moment.
"Why did you come here today?" he asked softly. "Because you thought it might be me?"
"No. I felt like someone under hypnosis, but I didn't know I would find you. When I realized someone was here, I thought it was someone Tony hired to work here. I thought he had lied to me and I wanted to confront this person, and then I suddenly had the feeling I was in the presence of something spiritual, maybe in the presence of a ghost."

BOOK: Casteel 03 Fallen Hearts
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