Potential entry for a short-story contest. Critique much appreciated.
The Deirdre I'd known had been a woman of passion.
I suppose, then, that what came to pass should have made more sense to me.
We met through her husband. We had studied in the same school some time ago.
It's possible he considered me a friend, but I saw him as more of a nuisance, one of those acquaintances that you only truly treat kindly to make up for what you truly think of them.
Gunter was not a man of passion. He was a man of appearances, of money, drinking, gambling and women.
At first sight his choice of Deirdre was self-explanatory.
She had long, thick ashen hair and two clear blue lagoons for eyes.
Put simply, she was beautiful.
At their wedding I made no real notice of Deirdre, only that she appeared remarkably timid and would serve Gunter well.
It was a year later that I had to do business in the town they resided in, and my old colleague readily accepted my request to lodge with them for a short while.
Naturally, Gunter forgot that he himself had to leave town but assured me I would be welcome regardless.
When I arrived at their estate I found it to be an expansive, but empty property.
For all its grandeur the only true crowning piece of the mansion was the quiet, aloof Mrs. Viere. She walked about the halls and paths like a phantom, her ghostly eyes never straying from her path.
She didn’t walk but almost...glide. The very picture of effortless grace.
One afternoon I was rushing back towards the house after sorting out certain contracts in the city when I saw the elusive Deirdre sitting on a swing outside in the rain.
She was swinging back and forth slowly, drenched from head to toe in the white dress she was wearing.
Her wedding dress.
"Mrs. Viere," I yelled through the pelting rain, "You should get inside."
"I'm tired." she said without looking up.
I intentionally misunderstood her in my guest’s state of mind.
"I'm sure you will have lots of time to rest. Let's get out of the rain."
Deirdre met my gaze and her endless eyes pulled me into their depths.
"Five. Five that I've managed to count."
"Five what?" I asked, sitting on the swing beside her.
I apologized. I didn't know what else to do.
She stared blankly into the rain and I carefully tried to convince her to go inside.
Instead Deirdre buried her head in my shoulder and I held her still form to me, getting up soon afterwards and carrying her into the house.
The next day she joined me for breakfast. Considering her earlier state she spoke to me lightheartedly and I found out myself what Gunter had seen when he chose to pursue her hand.
She was charming and coquettish and hypnotically brazen, with the grace of a nymph.
Deirdre spoke excitedly of a grand party she was planning a week from that day, and demanded I attend. I personally didn't like such affairs but she easily convinced me to oblige her.
As most of my business had already been completed, Mrs. Viere started spending considerable amounts of time with me.
She showed me her paintings, swirls of wild colour that seemed to shift of their own accord.
Deirdre also classified all of the plants in the gardens and took me out riding to see the forest. We laughed and joked about like children.
She looked most at home in the midst of the dark, tall trees, smiling and running barefoot on the mossy floor.
When night fell Deirdre took me to a clearing and pointed out various constellations, taking my hand and pointing with it to stars when I failed to notice them.
Minutes, perhaps hours later I commented half-heartedly that we should return to the manor, and she nodded.
We both realized with a start that her cool hand was still around my wrist and Mrs. Viere, looking unabashedly into my soul, intertwined our fingers.
I would very much like to say that at this point I reminded her that she was a married woman and escorted her home, but I could only stand there, a gaping fool.
I would also like to say that when she kissed me I stepped away authoritatively and demanded she think clearly.
But I didn't. If before Deirdre had been like a hazy drug, then she was a lethal dose of poison - nothing in that moment existed besides her, besides the enchanting wife of a despicable fiend I shamed to know.
There was no thought, no conscious deliberation or hesitation. It was all like a dream that you cannot distinguish from being bad or good.
I knew she was married. I knew she was not mine. I also knew that I, like the fool I was, had fallen madly in love with her.
The next morning I had decided, with a heavy heart, that I would leave promptly after the party. It was best, I thought.
The day of the party was brilliant with sunlight, not a cloud in the sky. The servants had already set up a lavish table outside, and I watched silently as guests appeared, one by one, like the vultures to a carcass.
Deirdre greeted them all with the prowess of a practiced hostess.
Moving like a swan, her white dress fluttering in the wind like wings, she turned to smile shyly at me.
That was when I was decided. As soon as the party was over, I would profess myself to her. We could run away to America, where her past would be of no consequence. I would take all of the shame, all of the scorn the world could cast upon me if it meant I could be with Deirdre.
The party had been midway through the meal when she stood, tapping her glass with a fork.
"My dearest guests!" she started, smiling from ear to ear, "I have an announcement to make!"
I looked up, curious as the rest of the guests.
"You see," she started, "Many of you have expressed your sadness at Gunter’s absence, but he has been with us all along!"
An uncertain murmur rose up at the table, many looking about to try and spot their host.
"May I redirect your attention?" she asked, tapping her glass again, "Please, look down at your plates."
A louder murmur rose up, and some old woman muttered at the indiscretion of 'such a strange joke'.
"You, Mrs. Lemieux," Deirdre said, "Have been sampling my late husband's stomach. Both you and he were gluttonous pigs."
The woman jerked back, disgusted.
"What is the meaning of this?"
Deirdre spoke over her, too impassioned to be silenced.
"Your husband was given a rare cut of Gunter’s brain, seeing as they both had dire need of a substantial mind."
She continued naming guests and attributing parts to their dishes, keeping them all suspended to their seats in some kind of horror, without addressing me.
"You may be wondering how I convinced Gunter to join us for lunch." she said, "I assure you it was no easy feat. Poisoning the fool was simple enough, butchering him, however, took some degree of exertion.”
Quite a few ladies had fainted already, and others were fanning themselves desperately.
"Oh," she added, "And if you still fail to believe me, here is your proof."
She tossed a severed finger onto the table and elicited multiple screams.
"Why?" Mrs. Lemieux shrieked, "Why did you do something so...shamefully horrid? Your husband brought you out of poverty-"
"-No!" Deirdre roared, cutting her off, "I-" she choked a moment before continuing, "I lost my firstborn because of his savagery! You all knew, knew his ways and his torments, and you said nothing. As if I was simply an animal being lead to slaughter."
"Somebody call a doctor!" a man yelled, "The woman's mad!"
Deirdre laughed a rich, intoxicated laugh.
"It's too late for doctors, for all of us. I’ve poisoned your glasses, I’m afraid.”
I realized then that the fainted in the party were, in fact, dead. The table gave way to chaos, to screams and cries of pathetic self-pity.
When Deirdre swayed, unsteady on her feet, I ran to her side and caught her as she fell.
"You took the poison too."
It was a statement, not a question, and she did nothing to deny it.
"May I ask something of you?" she asked, her face contorting with pain.
When I failed to respond she continued herself.
"You will be the only living witness to my triumph. Let it be told that I did not choose a coward's death.”
Deirdre shuddered as the poison took hold and reached up to touch my cheek. Her hand faltered just before she managed to touch my skin and dropped, her head falling to the side.
I heard one final, wheezing breath, before the dove that had killed the hawk was gone.