by El Weaver
His candles grew blunt as the night dragged on, and Striker, exhausted, took a long drag from his pipe. It kept him awake, at least, and, though he found no pleasure in it, studying spells made him money. All alone in his spire, rain being the only noise heard save for the occasional sigh from Striker.
This… is getting me nowhere.
Exhaling the smoke through his nose, he closed his grimoire and got up from his desk, instead moving over to the wall-to-wall windows of the spire. He took another puff from his pipe, the smoke accompanying a sigh as he looked down at the kingdom before him. Lights going out. Parents put their children to bed, drunkards take their leaves, and stores close before clocks strike midnight. He never understood how people ignored the night – anything could happen at night, and no one would know.
As he watched everyone go about their business, beginning their nightly routines, he leaned against the glass of the window, humming a tune that only he knew, the sky still crying with rain.
* * *
“You shouldn’t be here, doll,” Striker mumbled, glancing around the ballroom for prying eyes. Bioluminescent flora covered the room, soft music was playing from the band, and people of all kinds were on the dance floor, slow dancing with their partners. All of them donned expensive outfits and masks, the kind that Striker normally wouldn’t even dream of wearing.
Yet here he was.
“Aw, Julius, but where’s the fun in that?” She said with a sly tone and a smirk, her eyes glittering with mischief.
“I told you to call me Striker when we’re in public. And I’m serious, you know your father would flip if he saw you here, nonetheless with me.”
“Is my father here right now?” She looked around the room, then leaned in and whispered “I don’t think so.”
Striker sighed. “You’re incorrigible, Cass.”
“And yet you still love me.”
“Of course I do,” he mumbled. His gaze drifted over the top of her head so he didn’t have to look at the smirk he knew persisted on her face.
They were both silent for moments after that, both at a loss for words, but none were needed. They let the music carry them as they danced alongside the other couples, bodies close, hearts racing, and eyes longing.
Cass had always known that Striker didn’t exactly… love talking to people, but he did his best. And he always knew that she was a social butterfly; even tonight he’d seen her talk to almost everyone in the room.
He supposed that was why they clicked.
“…Could we go somewhere else? Somewhere more… private?” Cass whispered and tilted her head up so that she and Striker were just inches from connecting their lips.
When they found ‘somewhere else’ – which happened to be one of the castle’s blind-spots – she pulled him down by his collar and kissed him. His hands fell against her waist. She threw her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. Their chests pressed together, and their hearts beat in sync. When they parted, they gasped and gazed at each other with a look that said “we shouldn’t do this right now”.
“It always amazes me how you’re such a good kisser. I love it.” Cass whispered, making Striker give a small smile in response.
“You’re good too, doll.”
“Oh, am I now? Says who?”
“I do.” And he kissed her again, his grip tightening on her waist and her hands moving to his broad shoulders to squeeze.
They stayed like that for a long while, simply in each other’s embrace and taking in the other as much as they could. They did this too many times before returning to the ballroom and acting as if nothing happened unnaturally. But this time they just sat outside, sharing puffs from Striker’s pipe and talking about whatever dumb topics came to their minds.
“You know, they say there’s not much difference between a good man and a long drag from a cigarette,” Cass starts, breathing in a puff of the tobacco. “Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you need it, sometimes you don’t.”
Striker looked at her in confusion.
“But no one can love someone who doesn’t exist, right?”
* * *
HERE LIES CASSIOPEIA GODFELLOW
“No one can love someone who doesn’t exist, right?”
And yet here I stand over your grave.
“Father, please, I promise he’s not as bad as you think.”
Ha. Seems someone was wrong.
“I’m sorry, Striker, I swear my friends are good people.”
They may be. What does that make me?
Why am I even here?
Daughter, lover. Daughter, lover. Daughter, lover.
He sighs. Good thing it was raining – his tears mixed with the droplets and both worked to soak his face and clothes.
With a heavy soul and shaking voice, he kneels down and places a hand over his heart.
“Follow me till morning rays, I’ll follow you till daylight fades.”
And for a moment, he swears he can hear her voice ring in his ears. It whispers the sweetest lie he’s ever known.
I love you.