Tomorrow would mark two years since he killed her.
On some days she felt like no time had passed; other days stretched out like decades until she couldn’t look in a mirror without expecting to see age catch up with her.
She looked on tomorrow as a cause for celebration, embracing the hope that the third year would be easier, more endurable. But as much as she clung to wishes, she couldn’t deny the truth – that every day the poison in her heart spread further, consuming more soft tissue in its solidifying power. She could feel the weight in her chest growing heavier, little by little.
Had she known what would happen when he stabbed her with that blade, she would have begged him to make it fast, to end her life outright instead of this slow wither, an existence hardly called living. After the initial shock passed and the bone-deep agony subsided, she had escaped to the Chateau Solitaire – a single tower in the midst of a barren wasteland – to await her future. Only there, miles away from the nearest human being, did she feel connected to the world.
Not that she was alone in her isolation. She had the birds. They flocked to her as if sensing that the healthy flesh on her bones actually concealed something rotting and delicious. Night-black feathers coated the window sills and the stone floors. Their cries, those foreboding quarks and caws, became the sweetest music in her loneliness, driving her closer to madness and holding her back from the brink.
Her empty days consisted of small routines. A morning and evening walk across the cracked and hardened grounds outside the castle, a period of time picking at food she never wanted to eat, and the rest of the time losing herself in the sparkle and flash of the rubies.
Red gems encrusted everything in Chateau Solitaire. Engraved into the furniture, framed in her jewelery, embroidered into her clothes. She had come here with a single stone, one pendant that hugged her neck and served as a constant reminder of everything she had and lost. The birds brought her the rest. As if they understood the comforting heat of the ruby’s inner fire, the flap of raven wings always meant more stones – tribute to her status as their future meal. Carried in beak and talon, they piled their gifts for her inspection and approval, taking away those she discarded for their own nests, as drawn to the glitter as she. The ones she accepted, the ones with the right hue and depth, she scattered about the castle, the confetti of her black and dreary life.
He had promised a world of colour – emeralds and diamonds and sapphires. He spoke of countries where flowers blossomed no matter the season, of years spent together exploring the secret places of the world. She didn’t believe he lied. And maybe that was worse. He meant every single word. Meant them right up until the day he stole his promises back, slid the blade up between her ribs, and cursed her to this living death.
She remembered the pain, remembered thinking her life was over. Then the wise women had told her the horrible truth: her body would heal. And as it did, her heart would gradually turn to stone. She would lose the warmth of blood in her veins, lose her ability to feel.
“You’ll be nothing more than a walking statue, the stone flaking away over time until nothing is left,” they said.
To this Fate he had abandoned her.
Yet she found the pain becoming less intolerable. As she lost the ability to cry, the teardrop gems became her tears; as she lost the ability to feel emotion, their fiery glow became her passion. He had turned her heart to stone. She would replace it with a ruby – something stronger than what she had before, something not so easily destroyed. She would find a way to move on without him.