vignettes from the door between worlds. ah, Reader! Life is beyond chaotic, and this is (not going to lie) a pre recorded and written message. If your October has been anything like mine so far, it’s been chaotically eventful, filled with new ideas, and swimming in God’s lessons and love. I’m excited as we get down to the wire here and we near the end of Ophelia’s story. If you’re reading, thank you, from writer to reader, it means so very much that you are taking a few moments to read my measly words.
Part Four: She is Found
She had screamed. One long, vicious and inhuman howl had ripped from her, power flying upwards like a dark bird of death. Instantly, she’d flown herself out of the pit she’d dug and longed for a broom. The grief illuminated the power, for it had fed it for years, and she didn’t have to think a second thought as the dirt flew back into the grave, grass growing up as if she’d never been there.
She’d stalked back to the city in a jealous rage. Who had taken her husband from the grave? Who had moved him before she could use the magic dagger she’d taken so terribly long to figure out how to make? Who was keeping her from her very soul?
The only two that made any sort of sense were the ones she’d spent all of her time with since that awful day. The witch and the faerie. She shivered with rage. She’d kill them both if she had to. She’d slaughter them just to get them to tell her where they’d moved him.
But why? Didn’t they both know what it meant to her? Didn’t they realize he alone was the reason she’d taken the path down to the hellish darkness of witchery?
Dawn was slipping into the sky, illuminating the darkness, and Ophelia longed to be a powerful faerie queen who could darken the skies forever.
Her feet barely touched the steps she was so flighty. Rather than bathe, she resorted to a simple spell to remove the nastiness from her skin and change her dirtied nightgown and coat into a more appropriate turtleneck sweater and jeans. She couldn’t walk back to the city dressed in rags, after all.
The dagger still glinted on her person, and she spun it in her hands, feeling the weight of it.
She decided to enter Lukas’s flat again instead of her own, fearful to find his naked body in her bed and wanting something she shouldn’t give. Ophelia turned the key in the lock, and was surprised to see the little witch standing at the countertop, startled at her entrance.
Ophelia’s rage glimmered inside.
“Ophelia-” Andromeda’s face said she knew something was already amiss. The smell of blood in the air, but the cinnamon smell of success said her friend had done something without her. She tucked a long strand of steel gray hair behind an ear before offering a timid smile. “You look… frazzled. Is everything alright?”
The darkness inside Ophelia would stop at nothing. She felt her feet lift from the floor, and she ran in mid-air, landing right in front of the little woman and towering above her. She could feel her features intensify with that magical aura of anger she’d seen before on Lukas’s face. Andromeda’s eyebrows knitted together.
“Phie.” Andromeda whispered, throat instantly dry from fear. She swallowed dryly. “You’ve done it?”
Ophelia laughed humorlessly. In her magic glow, Andromeda’s skin shined back sallow. “Have I done it…” She lifted the knife in her hands and pressed it to Andromeda’s neck. She’d never seen the little woman tremble, but she did, and it made Ophelia oh so delighted to inflict such fear.
“Ophie, please!” Andromeda whispered. Ophelia pressed the knife tighter, and when Andromeda swallowed, blood welled at her neck, seeping into the hollow between her two collarbones, trickling down behind her collar and in between her breasts. She scanned Ophelia’s face for something- anything she could say or do to slow her down. Her eyes caught Ophelia’s hands holding the knife.
Sometimes spells miss things. One little detail will be incorrect or impromptu. Such was the nature of creation of man rather than Creator. Andromeda, for example, noticed the little dark crescents of dirt under Ophelia’s fingernails. Now, they were city dwellers, so Andromeda put the tethers together. After Ophelia had finally made the knife to change all things, where would she have headed? See, Reader, one is more astute than he realizes.
And at this realization, Andromeda somehow paled farther than she had before.
“You went to the cemetery.” Andromeda shook so fiercely.
Ophelia breathed shakily, letting up just a bit to finally remove the dagger from the witch’s throat. “Yes.” She breathed.
“You found an empty box.” Andromeda stared off at nothing in particular, fingers clutched to the injury at her neck, still drip dropping blood. “You dug it up, and he wasn’t inside.”
She grabbed Andromeda by the shoulders, shaking the little girl with all her might. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you-”
A blast of light sent Ophelia careening backwards and she struggled to remain composure from where Andromeda’s power had sent her a few feet backwards. The little girl remained trembling where she stood. She’d never seen Andromeda with a look of fear and panic on her face, but sure enough the woman was petrified. Ophelia almost felt bad before she realized it wasn’t she that Andromeda feared. It was Lukas.
“Phie you know I couldn’t say no.” Andromeda was still shaking, lips pale instead of their usual glamoured rose red. “I’m his charge. Just as you are.”
Ophelia stood, furious. “And he’s just as monstrous as I!” She bellowed, stalking right back to the place she’d been before the girl had had the gall to blast her away. She summoned her darkness and it surrounded her like a dark tulle gown. “You both lied to me.”
“I didn’t have a choice!” Andromeda’s eyes had widened so large, she was afraid they’d pop out of their sockets. “I had to listen. You don’t understand-”
Ophelia laughed. “No, you did.” She shook her head. “You could have told me the truth. You could have stopped me from becoming- becoming-” She gestured, horrified, at herself, teeming with power underneath her skin, veins illuminated black and glowing down her arms and her neck and up to her cheeks. The dark magic was no longer within her. It was her. “Becoming this.” She hissed.
Tears spilled over the girl’s glamour-lost cheeks. “I was alone. I had nobody. I was nobody.”
Ophelia looked at her incredulously. “You were alone? I lost the other half of my soul and all you can say is you were alone? You lied to me and moved his body.”
“But we didn’t lie- we, we just made you believe something else.” Andromeda looked anywhere but Ophelia’s face. Ophelia fumed.
“Where is he, Andromeda?” Ophelia was spitting into the girl’s face, and it was only succeeding in making her more terrified. “Where is Frank, Andromeda?”
Andromeda was sobbing big crocodile tears down her reddened cheeks. She was hiccuping like a child, and Ophelia wanted to slap some sense into her deluded brain. Ophelia wasn’t afraid of Lukas. Oh no. She was a woman who’d lost everything, and with nothing more to lose, she wanted him to fear her as a very powerful enemy. Andromeda, however, had perhaps too much to lose, and that was exactly what Lukas used to hold her captive.
“Tell me.” Never once had Ophelia enchanted her voice. Not once had she used the power Lukas had given her to compel another to do her bidding. She hadn’t even enhanced her voice to hail a cab when she needed one desperately. No, that wasn’t fair, but what wasn’t fair was how the one who’d said he’d saved her had lied about her one true love. What wasn’t fair was how he’d given her a chance to start over and work to bring Frank back, but he hadn’t left her the damn body she needed to do her work.
So she enchanted her voice, and though Andromeda fought, face reddening from all her attempts not to get the words out, through her bloodied nose she gargled-
“He’s in the park on the square. If you hurry he’ll still be there when you get there.”
Ophelia let her drop from where she’d grasped her by the collar, and didn’t remain to check and see if the girl was still breathing from the painful exchange.
As Ophelia spun around in the park, lifting up her sunglasses to get a better look at her surroundings, she figured either Andromeda was a bloody idiot or Lukas really had the gall to bury her husband in the middle of a public park. Sure, it was possible. He was highborn fae (or at least he claimed he was) and he could make the shovel move itself and could have snapped his fingers and the grass regrown like nothing had ever happened. If that was the case, it was over. She’d never uncover Frank.
She supposed also from Andromeda’s words that if she were too late, she’d also never find him. Perhaps Lukas intuitively knew she’d made the knife, and he was going to move the body before she could find it. Leave it to Lukas to ruin her plans.
She gnawed on her bottom lip, teeth pinching her skin in effort to distract her from the pain of grief creeping into her chest. She turned around, walking along the sidewalk with her hands stuffed in her pockets. It made absolutely no sense. She paused to think, resting her sunglasses back onto the bridge of her nose before she heard a voice behind her.
At the sound of the nickname she immediately turned. The voice was male, and for a moment she was afraid it would be Lukas, proving that it was too late, but what she beheld nearly stopped her bandaged heart dead in its tracks.
Reader, it was quite literally like looking into the eyes of a ghost. She’d believed for so long he was dead, it was uncanny seeing him actually alive.
He was older. Unlike Ophelia, he had no magic to help him prevent the signs of aging. Wrinkles had made their way into his forehead from worry, but smile lines cupped his mouth. His hair had dulled to a brassy gold, and gray hairs had recently sprouted at his temples, but despite the changes ten years had made, Frank was still-
Frank. Her Frank. He was right before her. The other piece of her heart was right before her. Her lips parted, and she dropped her sunglasses from her eyes, unable to say or do much more.
“Ophie?” Frank’s lips formed her name, and her knees threatened to buckle, sending her careening to the ground.
“F- Frank?” Her voice wavered. “I thought you were- dead.”
His salt and peppered eyebrows knitted together in the middle, deepening his wrinkles. Before he could say anything more, a child ran right into the back of his legs, wrapping his short arms around Frank’s calves in a fit of laughter.
It took one glance to realize who he was. It was the golden curls and pointed nose that gave it away.
Frank ruffled the little boy’s curls with a hand, telling him something in German that Ophelia couldn’t understand. The little boy giggled at his father’s voice and took off in the other direction, looking for a fallen abandoned frisbee Ophelia realized.
Frank’s attention turned back to her, but wary this time. “Where did you go? That day of the wedding. Where did you go?”
“What are you talking about?” Ophelia shivered. Here was all that nonsense suddenly moving to the front of her mind again. For so long she’d suppressed it because Lukas and Andromeda had told her in her grief she’d been too terribly confused, but they had both turned out to be liars, hadn’t they. What had really happened at that wedding ceremony?
“You never walked down the aisle. You left me waiting.” His face was hurt, and her stomach heaved at the sight.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She bit back tears.
Frank’s lips parted in surprise at the darkness in her tone (perhaps also surprised that here at last was his missing wife of ten years, standing before him as if nothing had changed save for her dark hair and eyes, which only reminded him how much he missed the fair hair and eyes of the past). She saw something flicker in his eyes and knew instantly he was thinking about the stories.
Before he could get out another word, a woman came running near. Ophelia’s eyes flashed from Frank to the woman and back again. Her brain couldn’t keep up with all the maddening realizations that had come in just the past few hours. Frank was not buried at the cemetery, which Andromeda and Lukas had lied about because here, before her very eyes, was her beloved Frank, alive, speaking and breathing.
The woman reached them and bared her teeth in a cautious smile. “Everything okay, Frank?” The woman asked. She had auburn hair that was streaked with gray. She hugged the little boy with one arm, pressing him to her hip. She was clad in violet hues that contrasted her bright hair, and Ophelia had the urge to hiss. In front of the humans, though, she suppressed her urge.
“Brittany, this is…” Frank’s voice trailed off, unsure of what to call her. “This is my sister-in-law, Beatrice Ophelia Richter.”
She trembled at the title. He made it sound like she was married to Lukas. Bile hugged the sides of her throat for a few moments, and she was afraid he knew. But there was a playful sparkle in his eyes she hadn’t seen in oh so long that informed her that he didn’t believe it but meant it rather to introduce her to-
“Oh! I’m Brittany- Frank’s wife.” The woman smiled.
Ophelia tried her hardest not to scowl at the woman before her. She made her smile as convincing as possible.
“We went to college together- it’s been so long…” Frank’s voice trailed off and he locked eyes with his wife (Oh, Reader, Ophelia was screaming inside her head at the mere sound of that one soft syllable). They looked at each other and seemed to have a private conversation between the two of them.
“Well, I suppose you’d like to catch up then.” The woman’s tone turned snippy. Frank wanted to spend time with Ophelia, and Brittany did not like it one bit. “We were supposed to have dinner and stay at my parent’s tonight-”
“Which I’ll make up to them somehow. Ophelia’s not to be in town for too long, are you, Ophie?” He turned those brilliant eyes on hers, and she nearly jumped because they hadn’t changed not one bit save for the crinkles around them.
She was lost in them for a moment before she remembered to shake her head in another lie.
The woman sighed, picking up the little boy and giving Frank one of those wifely stares that said she’d get him somehow for this. She told her son to tell his papa goodbye, to which the boy warbled a novice “Tchüss!” and once they were off the two watched until they were far out of sight before they began running their mouths.
“She’s going to slaughter you-”
Frank grabbed her by the arms, and she peered into his eyes, frantic with something she’d never recognized on his face. “I don’t believe you’d just up and leave me. Tell me everything.”
Ophelia, in all her newness, let out a muffled cackle, pulling herself from his grasp. “Got time for coffee?”
To her surprise, Frank had understood and believed every word she’d said. They’d retreated to the apartment he and his wife shared, a little three room flat littered with children’s books and toys. As suggested, Frank brewed a pot of black coffee before Ophelia had uttered a word of her story. He was surprised that the little woman wanted it black since she’d used to doctor hers with more than half a cup of milk before. It seemed she’d at last grown up.
She began with the wedding, explaining how it had turned to his funeral, and she’d fainted. She spoke of the death certificate and program Lukas had given her, which were clearly fakes. Frank said something about a divorce document he got in the mail with her name signed on it, which Ophelia had no recollection of. It must have been falsified, too, indeed.
Frank had explained how he hadn’t seen or heard from her since and as a result had married another woman regretfully. Ophelia omitted the details about her and Lukas, but she had told him about her magic.
“I always knew there was something off about him.” Frank muttered, stroking his mug with a finger.
Ophelia didn’t know how to feel or what to say to that. She simply explained she was a witch now. It was why she hadn’t changed and wouldn’t for some time unless she willed it so. Frank marveled as she demonstrated her power, forcing the coffee in her mug to swirl and hover in the air. She made shapes with it by flicking her wrist, and Frank shook his head, eyes wide.
“Should have known the stories were all true.” He said. “I doubted it just a bit, and Brittany thought it was foolish. One glance at you in the park, and I knew it all had something to do with the stories.”
Ophelia returned the coffee to her mug, taking a sip of the now cooled liquid. “I wish…”
“I know.” He said softly.
They held eyes for what seemed like a millenia. The time they’d spent separated seemed like a blink of an eye now that they were together again. She inched closer to him, offering at any moment to stop, but he never kept her from coming close.
“He told me you were dead.” She whispered, hand hovering so delicately and tremulous before resting to his aged skin. It felt rough under her touch. “He lied to me, and I did what I thought I had to so I could get you back.”
He covered her hand with his, peering down into her darkened eyes. His pure little Frau had changed so much. She’d done it all for him, but she’d broken herself for something that she could now no longer have. It nearly broke his heart.
Tears welled in his eyes, and she had to look away, so unhappy with how this meeting had turned out nothing like she’d thought. She’d imagined the moment so many times. They’d run to each other, kiss, and like a magical transformation it would be like they were dancing together on clouds. This felt like nothing of the sort. This felt like death itself. This felt like goodbye.
“I’m so sorry.” She gave a sad little smile.
“You’ve nothing to be sorry for.” He tilted up her chin to him, and she remembered that morning so long ago. “I just wish we’d hurried up and found each other sooner.”
It was true, Reader. Frank was nearly forty years old, and Ophelia? Why, she hadn’t changed one year since they’d parted. He was married now, and had a child. Ophelia was still the same woman just more broken and darker looking than before. She sucked in a tear-strained gasp, trying not to dwell on it but always returning to it after she saw his beautiful dreamer’s eyes so like hers before they’d been stamped out by Lukas’s lying false promises.
She swept her fingers across his brows, his eyelashes, the gray hair sparkling at his temples. Oh, Reader, she ached. Here was her Frank, alive and breathing at last, what she’d dreamed of for so long, but she was oh so mistaken and too late.
Despite the craziness, despite the fact so much of her life was wrong. Sinful, dirty, and wrong, she broke the pause the only way she knew how. She pressed her lips to his and they remembered quickly how they both liked things done.
They ignored the new ring on his left hand’s finger.
They’d spared nothing that night, each moment adulterous passion, and every moment of it had felt filthy. It was unusual. It wasn’t those moments they’d waited so patiently for and shared after their elopement. It was frighteningly dark.
It was just like everything else.
They’d roused naked in the bed, Ophelia so remorseful at what they’d done, she’d immediately shot up from his chest where she’d slept and wrapped the sheet around her body, ashamed of her nudity. They’d both covered themselves up and remained sitting in silence. She covered her face with her hand, unable to look at him.
“What happened to you?” He finally asked.
She looked up, biting her lip. At his voice, tears formed, clouding her vision.
“You used to be so carefree. Hopeful and smiling and true. I could see the whole world, and infinitely more, in your eyes.” He sighed, shaking his head. “You’ve hardened yourself. You’ve darkened yourself. You’re swimming with grief.”
She’d forever wondered the same thing. Just because Lukas had bestowed a dark power upon her didn’t mean it had to change the personality of the girl inside. It was simply a wicked tool, but Ophelia had made that her identity. Her sins she wore on her face openly for the world to see. She’d let the creeping, crawling dark magic within her invade her soul, too, corrupting all inside. Now she couldn’t even enjoy the one person who knew nearly everything about her.
Reader, was there hope for the lost soul? She’d figured that the moment she laid eyes on Frank again her soul would be mended, but sitting beside him, tears frighteningly ready to fall, she realized nothing had happened. Instead her bartered and traded and ancient ruined heart and soul remained bandaged and bruised, a slave to he who owned it.
“Frank, I’ve sold my soul.” Tears tumbled down her face and he caught them on weathered palms. “the stories turned out to be true and I became the monster I feared. All this time I thought myself good. I’m just as black of heart as any of the scary things.”
She clawed at her eyes, salty tears stinging the whites. He seized her wrists, pulling her toward him. Had it been a moment sooner, she’d have flinched away, red and hot with shame, but he aimed not to arouse her with his touch. No, this was no such thing. Reader, it seems sometimes the touches of two people can be more lovely and romantic and pure when they aim not to awaken the fiery pits of desire, but rather to calm, to assuage, to urge all right. Love, friends, is a choice, and it’s not always that feeling of wicked fire from the depths within.
“I lost you,” she whispered, tears stealing her voice’s volume away. “I lost you because of them, and they stole away the very last piece of my soul. I’m no longer me.”
His silence ate up the residual remaining calm she had left, sure she’d die of her crazed mind, pulsing at her temples with clawed hands, but it ceased when his beautiful voice sounded again, a light in the dark. One bright beam of truth.
“You don’t need me to be you.” He looked at her like she was positively insane. “Our souls may be made of the same stuff, but I never completed you, Ophelia.”
Her eyebrows knitted together at the thought. Was he right? How often had she thought to herself that she wasn’t but an empty shell of a person without Frank there beside her? Why, the realization flooded her with an embarrassed shade of crimson. She’d lived every moment since Frank’s death believing she wasn’t but half a soul without him, but that didn’t seem quite right, did it? The world kept moving and her life had persisted even after the wretched creatures had reassured her he was dead.
She gasped as her mind reeled. How often had she clinged to Lukas because of what he could offer her- this false completion of her soul? The false love he could give her from a few single, evil moments in the dark?
Now that she realized it, everything seemed so blatantly foolish. No one earthly could fill up her soul for her. It was up to her to figure that out on her own. The very idea that some other person had to finish her soul-
“I’ve been a fool.” She released.
Frank shook his head. “Not a fool, just a confused woman forced ceaselessly into a world of her own creation.”
“I’ve relied on everyone else’s love. I’ve relied on forcing my love upon them-”
“If we can’t come to terms with us, how much we are loved, Ophelia, how can we ever love someone else?” In that moment, Frank appeared well beyond his years. She could almost see that man before her, a gray beard dotting his cheeks, hair gone completely snow white, wrinkles of a million smiles and laughs and cries well worn into his face.
“I slept with Lukas.” She blurted. It was a mistake, really, but in hearing his wisdom, it’d been all that could fill her mind, and that same shame had eaten up her stomach, esophagus, and trachea, too.
“I know, Ophelia.” He smiled sadly. “We were both too late for each other.”
She bit back a sob, hands shaking as she turned that gold band about her finger. It really didn’t mean much anymore, did it?
“Ophie, he’s in love with you.”
She looked at him through the tears, confused as could be. “In love with me?”
“Lukas, despite his power, wants just the same thing as you did.” The past tense eased the emotional swell within her. “He thinks himself broken without the love of a woman in his heart. You’ve offered him a bit of that which he so foolishly craves as what really matters in life.”
“I’m so sorry.” Her face crinkled.
He held her closer, but it felt different than all those years before. Friendlier. “And I forgive you as I hope my wife can forgive me, but Lukas is at fault, too. Don’t hate a repentful sinner. Learn and move on. He never does, but Ophie, you always can.”
“But how?” She moaned in anguish. She thought about Andromeda, the fear in that little woman’s eyes because of the man who held her like some beast on a leash. Was that what would become of Ophelia? Though her heart could change, his dark magic, the stuff he’d shared and injected into her very soul, would it keep her tethered to him forever- never to be free of the people she’d let have too much hold over her heart?
“Break off the chains that bind you.” He smiled lopsidedly. “You know from the past freedom is found in goodness and light. It was what kept you dreaming. Ophie, not everything’s bad so long as we’re joyful doing it. Find a way to get freedom from his grasp.”
She tracked a finger down his cheek, once again in love with his words. He’d always known just what to say, and this moment was no different. It was the last significant thing that the man ever said to Ophelia. After their conversation, the two had timidly headed to opposite rooms of the flat to change back into their clothes from the day prior. What had used to be comfortable between them had blossomed into a reminder of what they’d done, but they conversed it no longer.
He’d helped her get her coat on, and she’d helped him straighten his tie. She wondered if this is what it would have felt like before everything had changed. Before she could think about it much longer, he led her down the back stairwell that opened to the street.
When they reached the street, they stood together with hands in their pockets, the awkwardness looming like a universal sign that this would be their last goodbye. Finally, he reached out a hand and twirled a strand of her dark hair around his finger.
“Liked it better blond.” He smiled halfway.
“Maybe I’ll change it.” She whispered.
His eyebrows shot up as if in wonder she could do that and not just with a little box of bleach from the drugstore. He leaned in close to her, and she could feel his warm breath at her forehead. He stooped a bit lower until his mouth was close to her ear, and when he spoke, his words tickled the little hairs all around.
“Fly free, my dove. You don’t have to be his raven anymore.”
She shivered, and inadvertently glamoured the tears from her eyes. Frank saw through it, but he wouldn’t tell a single soul. He backed away from her briefly before coming just a bit closer to press a brotherly kiss to her forehead.
Reader, it was perhaps the sweetest kiss she’d ever had.
“Bye, Frank.” She offered him a smile.
“Auf Wiedersehen, Professorin. Ich liebe unsere Geschichte.” And he turned.
She watched her lover retreat, and she felt the falsified piece of her leave with him. She’d spent all this time relying on him to survive. Had she never turned her eyes inward on herself? What about the things larger than herself?
He turned around and gave her a soft smile, and she could almost see him in his old army uniform, waving to her from the train or walking to her on the street after returning from deployment.
She lifted a graceful hand and waved.
This chapter of her long life had finally ended.