Eric was a stable, dependable man, a good man, but he was entirely transparent. To him, Anne was nothing less than an enigma. Whatever had become of their relationship of their marriage?

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The windows were closed tight, as though in defiance of the lazy summer weather. The thick mauve curtains were drawn, so that only wan, purplish shafts of light permeated into the parlour. Dust motes spiralled gently in the little light that there was. Heat soaked the air, pouring into the walls, melting into the carpet underneath her slippers, tingling her skin. Despite this, a candle lamp had been lit, and the embers of a dying fire still simmered in the fireplace.

It was a silent, hermetic, sterile inferno.

She sat immobile in her high-back winged chair, her legs splayed out in front of her, her ankles bent at an odd angle, one hand placed delicately at her temple, the other laying in her lap. The plain gold wedding band upon her finger looked bleak and forbidding. Her cheeks were faintly flushed: the only trace of colour in her face. Wiry strands of dull brown hair clung to her pale, sweat-drenched forehead. Her drab floral housedress did nothing to disguise her stern and bony frame.

Her eyes were a watery blue, but within the pupils was an aching sharpness, like a nail longing to be hammered, like a knife longing to be unsheathed. At this moment, the piercing liquid in her eyes had no focus: wandering from the pink carpet to the intricate floral designs on the wallpaper, to the porcelain figurines behind the glass casing, to the antique piano in the corner. From the ceiling hung a chandelier, long left untouched and crusted with dust.

The unbearable heat and silence of the room was bound to awaken lethargy in any woman. But she knew that her sheer lack of energy had nothing to do with the temperature or the absence of sound.

If a stranger had walked into a parlour--upon hearing the silence, breathing the dust, and sensing the death and memory pulsating in the air--he would have suspected Anne to be nothing more than a pristinely preserved corpse. Yet a glimpse into her eyes would not be cohesive with this assumption; they were unnervingly deep, sharp as razors, and utterly alive.

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She could see the little fingerprints in the dust, she could feel the curtains rustling in his frantic wake…


…the tiny patter of his footsteps, echoing in his bedroom upstairs…


She startled from her reverie, and her eyes rolled into focus. Her husband Eric stood staring at her, his soulful green eyes poured with naked concern and masked fear. He could not meet her gaze, so he stared at the taut muscles of her neck.

"Are you alright, Anne?"

Slowly, she licked her lips and blinked at him--a tremendous effort. "Yes," she said at last. Her voice was ...

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