Two weeks passed after Cyril’s failed attempt to buy Hope back from Lars. During that time, he had put some distance between himself and Faye despite the news of her pregnancy and had drawn nearer to Sabina, who established her boundaries, which Cyril respected. After much thought and meditation, he got the courage to try again; only this time, he changed his tactic from the commanding businesslike approach to a more humble one. Although he hated being inferior let alone, acting like it, he was more than willing to do so in order to get what he wanted.
After his exchange, Cyril sat at his desk in silence as he replayed the conversation over the phone in his mind. A smile came to his face as he remembered placing the phone back on its receiver. He’d done well. Or so he thought; he had put on a good show, kept his composure, and fed into his opponent’s ego. Phase one complete, he thought. He got up and walked to the cupboard, which held his drink of choice to pour himself a celebratory glass.
His hand was but an inch from the door when he stopped. It was too early in the day and although he had completed the first part of his plan, he had yet to complete the second. So, he decided that he wouldn’t drink until the second phase was complete. In the mean time, he decided that a trip into town wouldn’t hurt. But, he wanted someone to accompany him. Who better than Alfred? he thought. So, he went to find his good friend. He’d searched everywhere he could possibly be, but found no sign of him. So, Cyril went to the only other person who would know where Alfred was: Mariam.
Cyril knocked on the door and received no answer. He knocked once more and again there was no answer. Then he turned the doorknob and the door opened. He poked his head in the door and said, “Mariam? Are you here?”
“Yes!” she sang from another room. “I’ll be out in a minute!”
Cyril entered the room and closed the door behind him before sitting at the small table and taking in his surroundings as he waited. He had only been in Mariam’s room a few times before; usually for when he needed to escape or hide from certain individuals. He found this space to be quite peaceful with the cool blues, earthy greens, and the calming scent of lavender in the air.
Suddenly, Mariam emerged from the bathroom wearing a black satin chemise with a matching floor length robe. “What took you so long, Alfr—Cyril!” She cried upon seeing Cyril instead of Alfred and closing her robe. “M-Master Van Tassel…What are you doing here?”
“Mariam,” Cyril said with a nod. “I assume that you were expecting someone else?”
“Why, yes,” she admitted, looking down.
“There’s no need to be ashamed,” Cyril said as he rose to his feet and walked toward her. “I understand how you feel.”
Mariam’s head snapped up. “Y-You do?”
“Of course. I understand that women have needs, desires, and fantasies, much like we men do. And it looks like Alfred is yours to fulfill those needs. Am I right?”
“Yes, sir,” she said looking down again.
“Speaking of Alfred, would you happen to know where he is?”
“He was supposed to be coming to see me around this time. He might be running late. May I ask why you’re looking for him?”
“Because I’m thinking about taking a trip into town and I’d like some company.”
“Why not take Sabina? I’m sure she’d love to go-,”
“Sabina and I aren’t exactly on good terms, Mariam. Thank you, though.”
There came a knock on the door.
“Who is it?” asked Mariam.
“It is I, my love! May I come in?”
Alfred entered the room and froze upon seeing Mariam standing in her robe beside Cyril. He wasn’t sure what to make of this picture.
“It’s alright, Alfred,” said Cyril. “I only came here to look for you and this is what I found.”
“It’s true, Alfred, darling. I came out thinking it was you and it was Master Van Tassel instead.”
“A-Alright,” Alfred said with a sigh of relief. “H-How can I help you, sir?”
“I was wondering if you’d like to join me on a trip into town, but it appears that you had other plans,” Cyril said, looking at Mariam out of the corner of his eye.
Alfred looked from Cyril to Mariam and back. He wasn’t sure whether he could decline Cyril’s offer or if this was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“You should go, Alfred,” Mariam suggested. Both Cyril and Alfred looked at her in surprise.
“But, Mar-,” Alfred managed.
“Go have some fun. Besides, when was the last time you’ve been to town?”
“I-It’s been a while.”
“Then, it’s decided!” Cyril exclaimed, clapping Alfred on the back. “We won’t be leaving until sunset, my friend. So, whatever you were going to do, do it quickly. Meet me in the foyer at six o’clock!” With that, Cyril was gone.
Both Alfred and Mariam stared at the door in silence. Then he turned to her and said, “Mariam, why’d you do that? I didn’t want to go to town! I wanted to spend the rest of my day with you!”
“I’m sorry, love. It—It just slipped out. But, you haven’t been to town in a long time and you’re overdue. You need some time to relax; put your feet up and indulge in a few glasses of scotch, brandy, or some other strong drink,” she said as she played with the buttons on his shirt.
“Just go and have a good time with Master Van Tassel.”
“Fine,” Alfred said begrudgingly. “I’ll go, but I doubt that I’ll enjoy it.”
“Just see where the night takes you, love.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Alfred feared where the night would take him and his master. He didn’t look forward to babysitting Cyril who had a tendency to drink too much and get into all kinds of trouble. Whether it was fighting, molesting women, or even passing out, Cyril had done just about everything. Fortunately for him, Alfred was there to either smooth things over before they got out of hand or pick up the pieces once the damage was done. Either way, he hated it.
“And why are you so eager to get rid of me, hm?” Alfred asked, seizing her wrists and pulling her closer to him.
“I-I’m not,” Mariam stammered.
Alfred raised a knowing eyebrow.
“Honest!” she insisted. He didn’t look convinced. “For god’s sake, Alfred. When have I ever been one to push you out of the window or door?”
He gave her a once-over, looking for any telltale signs that she could be lying. He found none. “Okay, I believe you.” He loosened his grip on her wrists and came to hold her hands instead. “Master Van Tassel said we weren’t leaving until six, correct?”
“Yes, that’s right. Why?”
“It’s only a little past two,” he said bringing her hands to his lips and kissing her knuckles. “…What do you suggest we do between now and then?” He gave her a mischievous look that sent shivers down her spine.
She knew exactly what he wanted to do. “We might as well since that is what you came for.”
Alfred let his hands slither down to her hips and he pulled her closer to him.“I’m glad you see things my way,” he said with a smile.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Mariam replied in a sultry tone of voice. “Now, kiss me before I change my mind.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Alfred leaned down and kissed Mariam softly. He could tell she wanted more, but he wanted to make her wait. Unfortunately, Mariam wasn’t going to wait. She began to bite his lower lip, knowing that it was one of Alfred’s weaknesses. But, Alfred refused to give in. When Mariam figured out that her plan wasn’t working, she grabbed the back of his head, thrust her tongue into his mouth, and began to fence his tongue in a battle for dominance.
Alfred loved a woman who took the lead, but he also liked to have some level of control in which he could keep her on edge; make her wait and have her begging for more once he hit his mark. Mariam wasn’t having it. Although it hadn’t been long since their last meeting, Mariam seemed more desperate than ever before. She usually liked to take her time and savor the moment, but now she seemed to be in a rush; nearly tearing off his clothes. Alfred backed her up against the wall and pinned her hands on either side of her head before breaking the kiss and meeting her questioning gaze with an intense stare.
“Why’d you stop?” Mariam whined.
“You seem…like you’re rushing.”
Mariam rolled her eyes and said, “Of course I’m rushing! We don’t have much time as it is!”
“Darling, I’m leaving at six. That gives me roughly three and a half hours to do whatever I want with you and to you…That’s more than enough time. So, let’s take our time and enjoy this.”
“…Okay,” Mariam breathed as she looked him up and down. “Give me a reason to want you the very moment you return.”
“I’ll do one better,” he said with a smirk as he leaned in and began to kiss her neck ever so softly.
“Oh? And what’s that?” she asked, tilting her head to the side to give him more access, but he made a path downwards as he slowly sank to his knees before her.
“I’ll make you want me…every second…every minute…and every hour…of each day…for as long…as we both shall live,” he said between kisses until he finally got to his knees.
Once his knees hit the ground, he slid his hands up Mariam’s legs until they reached her hips where he felt the lace of her panties. Then he hooked his fingers in the hem and pulled them down. Once Mariam had stepped out of them, Alfred spread her legs and planted a sloppy wet kiss on her sex, eliciting a gasp from Mariam. She had never experienced anything like it before. Although it was odd, somehow, she found herself wanting more. She placed a hand on his head and he took it as permission to continue, which he did.
A minute passed and Alfred already had her mewling and babbling incoherently as she tangled her fingers in his hair. Mariam did her best to stifle her moans out of fear that Cyril or someone was listening, but the thought of having someone listen aroused her even more. Suddenly, Alfred started to suck on her love button and Mariam threw back her head and voiced her pleasure as she reached her first climax; not caring who heard.
Alfred didn’t give her time to recover, he continued to lick, kiss, and suck all while Mariam continued to scream, moan, and sigh his praises. To her, this felt amazing. She had never felt so alive. Alfred had brought her to life again; he’d awakened a desire inside of her that she never thought possible and he was able to give her pleasure unlike any other. About two climaxes later, she decided to stop him.
“A-Alfred,” she moaned, gripping his shoulders.
“Hm?” he hummed.
“S-S-Stop,” she choked as she fought the urge to find her release.
“What?” he said coyly as he deliberately failed to cease the delicious torture.
“I-I need you to stop, now. I-I don’t want to…spend all our time doing…this! I want you…inside. P-Please?” she asked, looking down at him with pleading eyes.
Alfred contemplated her request without stopping. He looked up at Mariam and saw the conflict in her eyes. He couldn’t tell whether she was telling him to stop or proceed with her gaze even though her lips had just asked him to stop. He didn’t want to be mean, so he stopped, but only after flicking his tongue three more times; making Mariam’s knees buckle and her hips buck with every stroke. Then he stood up and Mariam let her hands fall to his chest as she trembled violently.
“Don’t ever…do that…again,” she said between pants. Once she was able to catch her breath, she grabbed Alfred by the hand and led him to the bedroom saying, “Come. We haven’t much time.”
“We have plenty of time, love,” Alfred insisted as they entered the room.
“Shut up and please me.” She pushed him onto the bed and slammed the door shut.
Two hours later…
Alfred came out of the bathroom, surrounded by a cloud of steam. He’d just taken a long, hot shower after his marathon with Mariam. He had no idea that she could last for so long, but he wasn’t complaining. He ventured into the bedroom to get dressed while Mariam lay asleep.
When he entered the room, she woke up. “Alfred, come back to bed,” she said sleepily as she propped herself up on her elbow.
“I’d love to, darling, but I have to go meet Master Van Tassel,” he replied, putting on a fresh pair of pants that Mariam had tailored for him not too long before.
“Do you have to? Because technically, you did not agree to accompany him…”
“…No, I don’t have to, but I want to. Besides, it’s been a while since I’ve been to town for leisure. You said so yourself.”
“Yes, but I don’t want you to go.”
“Oh? And why is that?” he asked despite the fact that he already knew the answer to his rhetorical question.
Mariam looked away as she traced the embroidery on her sheet with her finger.
Alfred came and sat next to her on the bed and said, “Why don’t you want me to go, love?”
“Because I—You—Because I don’t want to lose you to some…younger girl,” she finished, her voice no louder than a mumble.
Alfred was taken aback by this. I didn’t see that coming, he thought. “Mariam, we’ve been over this,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “Every younger girl I’ve ever encountered has been nothing but trouble. Besides, I’ll be too busy looking after the Master to even care if a young lady takes notice of me.” Mariam didn’t look convinced. “I’ll come to you upon my return.”
“Promise?” Mariam asked as she looked up at him with big doe eyes.
“You have my word.” Alfred sealed it with a kiss and said, “Then, we can pick up where we left off.”
“I’ll be waiting,” she purred.
“Goodbye, my love.”
Alfred grabbed his coat and left the room, making his way to the foyer. There, he found Cyril waiting; dressed in an all black fitted three piece suit with a black cape that was held about his neck by a golden clasp.
Cyril fished his pocket watch from his pocket and looked at it. Then he closed it and put it back in place. “Alfred, you made it with a minute to spare,” he said with a smile.
“I’ve never been one to be late, sir.”
“True…I trust that Mariam is taken care of, yes?”
“I-I…Um…Yes, sir,” Alfred stammered as he began to blush. He was not one to discuss any intimate details of his romantic relationships publicly.
Cyril realized his error and quickly apologized saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, Alfred. How rude of me. Please forgive me. I didn’t mean to be so forward.”
“I-It’s alright, sir. I don’t like to talk about my relationships in public.”
“Understood. Shall we, my good friend?” Cyril said as he turned toward the double doors.
“Lead the way, sir,” Alfred said with a smile.
“Come. A night full of debauchery awaits!” Cyril draped his cape across his chest and the two left the mansion, hopped into the waiting car, and were driven into the night.
They soon arrived at the Black Swan, an exclusive tavern that Cyril often frequented. Upon entry, the doorman took their coats and the two found themselves a table not too far from the stage so they’d have a decent view come time for the show. However, Alfred made sure to sit facing both the stage and the exit just in case he and Cyril had to make a quick exit.
As they waited for the show to begin, they both took a moment to assess their surroundings. At the time, they were the only two customers inside the tavern besides the doorman and bartender, who made themselves busy making last minute preparations for the night. Since that was the case, Cyril decided to order himself and Alfred a drink. So, he made his way over to the bar.
The bartender saw him coming, placed his hands on his hips, and said, “Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!”
“It’s been a long time, my friend. How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you. How about yourself?”
“I’m doing well; can’t complain,” John replied with a smile. He was a short, stout man with brown hair, brown eyes, and a winning smile. He was a genuinely sweet soul who could talk to anyone and become their friend within minutes. Although most people would assume an owner of a tavern to be snobbish and proud, John wasn’t like that at all. He was down-to-earth and showed kindness to everyone regardless of age, race, gender, or status.
That is one quality that Cyril was working to perfect. “Glad to hear that you’re doing well, my friend,” he replied. “How’s the wife?”
“She’s fine and very, very pregnant.”
“Oh, yes. She’s due any day now, I’d say.”
“C-Congratulations,” Cyril said as he made a weak attempt to smile as his thoughts wandered to Hope.
“Thank you, thank you.”
“Now, will this be your…second?”
“Oh…Then, you’ll be fine.”
“I hope so. Enough talk about me, now. Let me get you a drink. What’ll you have?”
“The usual for me and a pint of spiced rum for my friend over there,” Cyril said as he jerked his head in Alfred’s direction.
“Coming right up.” John immediately whipped up their drinks. When he saw Cyril reach for his wallet, he said, “Don’t worry about paying, Cyril. Tonight, your drinks are on the house.”
“Are you sure, John? I mean, it’s the least I can do since I haven’t been here in so long…”
John sighed and shook his head. “Cyril, you of all people should know better. When a friend offers to pay for your drink, you are not to question him. Neither are you to refuse his offer.”
“Very well then, John,” Cyril said as he took the drinks. “Thank you.”
“Any time, friend. Any time.” Cyril nodded then returned to his seat.
A few minutes after he sat down, more patrons started to enter the tavern and find some seats. Alfred and Cyril watched the men as they entered. Neither saw any familiar faces amongst the gentlemen who filed into the tavern. So, they just continued to nurse their drinks and chat until the show began.
At the stroke of eight, John got on stage and a hush fell over the crowd. “Good evening, gentlemen. I hope you all are having a good evening thus far, but I must inform you that your night is about to get even better. Tonight, you are in for a very special treat. Our very own Black Swans have prepared a little…swan song for you, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy. So please sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.”
As John got off stage, the band began to play a slow, soothing tune. Then the curtains rose and there stood four young ladies in their early to mid-twenties singing a sweet melody in unison. There were two brunettes, one blonde, and a redhead. They all wore matching black form-fitting gowns, white opera gloves, and single diamond pendants with matching earrings.
They crooned a song about tragic love. It told the story of a poor suitor who promised his young naïve lover the sun, moon, and stars; swore that he would love her until the end of time, but he left her for another woman. The lyrics, melody, and harmonies of the song were so rich and powerful that the song could melt the ice encasing a heart that had waxed cold.
Cyril couldn’t help but smile when the one brunette sang her solo in the piece. She had a beautiful alto voice and her appearance surpassed the beauty of her voice. She looked much like Sabina, save her hair color and slightly darker complexion. Halfway through her solo, she looked over at Cyril and their eyes locked. His icy blue met her sultry brown.
He saw her eyes grow large, but she continued to sing without faltering. Then she quickly looked away and made eyes at the redhead who then made a questioning face as she continued to ‘oh’ and ‘ah’. The brunette didn’t look over at Cyril again for the rest of the song.
When the song ended, the tavern erupted with applause; many of the patrons stood to their feet as they cheered and whistled. The Black Swans smiled and curtsied then the curtain fell. Some of the men didn’t take this so well. They wanted to hear more from the beautiful songstresses. John quickly got back on stage and explained that the ladies would be back in a little while. They needed time to rest their voices. Luckily, that was enough to calm the crowd.
Unbeknownst to Cyril, Alfred had been watching him rather closely during the performance. He had seen everything: Cyril’s smile when the brunette began to sing, the moment they made eye contact, and her reaction after that. Being the brilliant man he was, Alfred put two and two together. So, he decided to be direct and said, “Sir?”
“Yes, Alfred?” Cyril replied after taking a sip of his brandy.
“Do you know that young woman?”
Cyril looked confused. “What?”
“The young woman who sang the solo…Do you know her?”
Before he could reply, Cyril was hugged tightly from behind by an unknown individual. Alfred looked at this person and confirmed his assumption. I knew it, he thought.
“Cyril!” said person exclaimed excitedly. She leaned down and rested her chin on Cyril’s shoulder. “I can’t believe it’s you!”
“It’s good to see you, too, Ana,” Cyril replied with a smile. Ana then released him and came to sit in his lap. “You sang beautifully.”
“Thank you, thank you.” She turned her attention to Alfred and said, “Now, who’s this handsome gentleman?”
“This would be my friend, Alfred. Alfred, this is Ana.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Alfred said as he extended his hand.
“Likewise,” Ana replied, shaking his hand. “My goodness, Cyril. It’s been so long! Where have you been? I’ve missed you!”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the time for leisure,” Cyril replied, tickling her chin.
Ana wasn’t impressed, but she nestled closer to him regardless. “Well, I’m glad that you’re here now.”
Alfred sat back and watched the two and couldn’t help but wonder how they knew each other. He had an idea, but he wasn’t sure. “I hope you don’t mind me asking…but, how do you know each other? Better yet, how did you meet?”
“Well,” Ana began, “we-,”
“It’s a long, long story Alfred. Perhaps I can tell you some other time.”
“You can always condense it,” Ana said.
“Not now, sweetheart.” In all honesty, Cyril had no real intention of telling Alfred how they met. It was too scandalous; even for Cyril, a man who had done almost every sordid deed a man of his caliber could possibly do.
“Fine,” she pouted. Just then, she saw her friend and called, “Jiselle, come over here! I have someone I’d like you to meet!”
Then came the redhead of the Black Swans. She had bright green eyes and plenty of barely visible freckles that dotted her cheeks. She was just as beautiful as Ana, but unlike her, she was more reserved and had an air of mystery about her despite her exotic appearance.
“To whom do I owe the pleasure of being called over here?” Jiselle asked in a sweet soft voice once she reached the table.
“The pleasure is all mine,” said Cyril as he took her hand and kissed it, his eyes never leaving hers.
“A-A-And you are?” she stuttered as she tried her best not to swoon.
“This is Lord Cyril Van Tassel and this is his friend, Alfred,” Ana said smiling at Cyril fondly before politely gesturing to Alfred who sat in silence.
“I’m pleased to meet you,” said Alfred as he extended his hand to Jiselle.
“Likewise,” she replied, taking his hand and shaking it. Although she was still swooning over Cyril, Jiselle found herself to be quite taken with this…Alfred. She wanted to know more about him. “Do you come here often?” she asked as she came to stand behind Alfred and massage his shoulders.
“I-I don’t, but the Master has been here many a times,” Alfred stammered. Clearly, he was uncomfortable by this strange woman’s touch, but she couldn’t take a hint.
“Maybe you should change that,” said Ana who threw a knowing glance at Jiselle who smiled back at her.
Jiselle felt Alfred stiffen up. “What’s the matter? You seem a little…tense.”
Alfred gave Cyril a look that said: “Help me.”
As much as he wanted his friend to loosen up a little, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to happen any time soon, so he helped poor Alfred. He cleared his throat and said, “I’m sorry Jiselle, but my friend is happily taken. He has a lovely lady waiting for him back at home.”
“Is that so?” she asked, ceasing her massage.
“Yes, it is,” said Alfred, relieved to be free of her touch.
“Pity…” Jiselle took a seat in the chair beside Alfred. “Oh, well…Whoever she is, she is one lucky woman.” She happened to look up and see another Black Swan gesturing for her to come on. “Come on, Ana. We have to get ready for the next number.”
“Already? Fine,” she huffed as she reluctantly tore herself away from Cyril. “Cyril, darling, you have to come by more often.”
“I can’t make any promises, sweetheart,” he said with a shrug.
“Why not? Are you ‘happily taken’, too?” He didn’t answer her. “…Oh, n-,”
“Come on, Ana!” Jiselle exclaimed as she grabbed Ana by the hand pulled her in the direction of the backstage door.
“This conversation isn’t over, Cyril!” Ana screamed at Cyril who simply waved at her with a smug smile.
Once the women were gone from sight, Alfred leaned over and said, “Thank you for saving me, sir.”
“You’re welcome, Alfred.”
“Now, would you mind if I saved you? Shall we leave while we can?”
Cyril chuckled at Alfred’s offer. Honestly, he wouldn’t mind a taste of the wrath of Ana. He hadn’t had a healthy dose in a very long time and he missed it. “No. Let’s stay for a little while.”
Alfred looked at Cyril like he was crazy. “Are you sure, sir? What about-,”
“Don’t worry, Alfred. I’ll be perfectly fine when she comes to execute her wrath. I’ll let her rant…Besides, it’s rather cute.”
“Very well, sir. Very well.” I hope Mariam doesn’t wait up for me, he thought.
The two stayed and had a few drinks, enjoyed the many swan songs , told a few jokes, and played some cards with some gentlemen who came to sit at their table. They enjoyed every moment of it. At the end of the night, Alfred was both happy and surprised at the fact that Cyril hadn’t gotten into a single fight the entire evening and he was still sober. Alfred was impressed. Mariam would be proud, he thought as he smiled at Cyril who was too busy socializing to notice.
When he finally had Cyril’s attention, he was snatched away by Ana who led him off to some unknown location. All before Alfred could ask if he was ready to go.
“Alright, then,” Alfred said with a sigh as he rose to his feet. “I’ll just wait in the car.” Then he got his coat from the doorman and went to the car where their chauffeur, Peter, struck up a conversation with him and Alfred gladly relayed all the night’s events to him.
Meanwhile, Ana and Cyril stole away to the storage room in the back of the tavern. Once the door closed behind them, she pushed Cyril against the door and kissed him violently. He was surprised, but he wasn’t complaining. This was the Ana he was missing for however many painful months. He relished her fury and jealousy that drove her to dominate him or at least come close to dominating him.
However, Cyril did need to show her who was the dominant in this relationship. So, he grabbed the comb that held Ana’s bun in place and pulled, letting her hair fall into a wavy cascade that ran halfway down her back. Then he wrapped her hair around his hand and once he had a decent amount, he tugged, breaking the kiss and eliciting a yelp from Ana who glared at him.
“I take it that you missed me,” Cyril said in a deliciously low voice that sent shivers up Ana’s spine.
“Yes, Cyril…I can’t stand it when you’re away too long.”
Cyril chuckled and planted a kiss on Ana’s throat. “Neither can I…Tell me, Ana, why did you bring me here?” he asked before continuing to cover her neck with kisses.
“To ask you what you meant earlier.”
Ana stifled a moan. She hated having to talk while Cyril tortured her. “When you said you couldn’t promise me that you’d be by to visit as often as you used to.” He didn’t answer her. “Cyril!”
“What?” he said, ceasing his torture to look her in the eyes.
“You miss me when you’re away…right?” Ana asked softly as she placed gentle hands on Cyril’s chest.
“Of course, I do, Ana.”
“Then, why don’t you ever come see me?”
“I told you. I’m too busy for leisure, right now. I was lucky to get away this evening.”
“Well, who says you have to get away every time? You could just take me home with you and do us both a favor,” she said as she fumbled with his tie before looking up at him, donning her biggest doe eyes.
It was hard for Cyril to resist the effect those eyes had on him. He sighed and cupped Ana’s face in his hands saying, “I’m sorry, love…but, I can’t.”
“Why not?” Ana asked, confused by Cyril’s decision not to take her home. Is something wrong with me? she thought. A-Am I not good enough? Am I not what he wants?
Cyril seemed to read her mind. “It’s not you, Ana. You’re perfect just the way you are.”
“Then, why won’t you take me away from here?” Tears were forming in her eyes. All she wanted was to get away from the Black Swan. She was tired of winking and flirting. She wanted to love someone who loved her for her. Not for what she could do.
Cyril was biting his lip, trying not to cry himself. It pained him to see any woman he cared about cry. He was also trying to delay the blow that he had to deliver to Ana.
Then she said, “Tell me.”
So, he acquiesced and reluctantly said, “…I’m seeing someone.”
Silence filled the room. Ana stared in disbelief and said, “W-What?”
“I’m seeing someone.” Ana looked at him knowingly. “…And she’s bearing my child.”
Ana bit the inside of her cheek and nodded without saying a word. Then she began to pace. Cyril watched helplessly as he waited for her to say something…Anything.
“…Say something, Ana,” Cyril said after six minutes of unbearable silence.
Ana stopped pacing, turned to face Cyril, and said, “What? What do you want me to say, Cyril? Congratulations?” Then she went back to pacing as she mumbled to herself about how wretched of a man Cyril was. Cyril reached out his hand to her as he began to apologize, but Ana slapped his hand away and hissed, “Don’t touch me!”
“Come now, Ana…Don’t be like that. You know I love you.”
Ana glared at him through squinted eyes. “Do you, now?” she asked in a rather cynical tone of voice.
“If that is so, then would you be so kind as to explain why another woman is carrying your child?” He couldn’t give her an answer. “I can’t believe I wasted my life waiting on you.” She saw Cyril’s expression change from one of shock to one of remorse. “Yes, Cyril. I waited for you all this time only to find out that you don’t love me at all…I was just a mistress – No – I was just a toy.”
“Yeah,” she sniffled. “…A toy; a little plaything that you can cast aside and gather up again as many times as you want.”
“No, Ana. That’s not what you are to me. I lo-,”
“No?” Ana yelled. “Then, what am I, Cyril? Am I just another one of the many women you have a claim on? Or am I one of the many hopeful women who aspire to bear your bastard children?!”
“No, Ana, no,” Cyril said as he took her in his arms despite how much she fought. He caressed her cheeks and kissed her face to soothe her, but there was nothing he could do to suppress the rage she had coursing through her veins.
“I wanted children, Cyril,” she choked. “I wanted to be Lady Van Tassel…I always have. If you weren’t so busy sleeping around with everything that moves, that could have been a possibility.” She pushed him away from her and looked at him with disgust. “Just like your father,” she scoffed.
“That’s not true,” Cyril hissed. “I’m nothing like him and you know it!”
“Keep telling yourself that. Now, get out of my tavern and don’t ever bother coming back because I never want to see your ruddy face around here again,” she spat.
“…Goodbye, then. I wish you the best of luck.” Ana didn’t reply. So, Cyril turned on his heel and left without looking back.
Alfred and Peter were sharing a laugh when Cyril entered the car. The two fell silent once he was seated and had closed the door. The butler sensed a change in his master’s demeanor. Ironically Cyril had gone from jovial to dismal all in a matter fifteen minutes or less and this troubled Alfred. Neither had he said a word or made eye contact since he entered the car. So, Alfred gestured for Peter to roll up the partition and drive. He did so and the journey home began.
Cyril noticed that he was being isolated and as much as it bothered him, he refused to let Alfred know that. He did not feel like opening up at that moment, no matter how much Alfred seemed to care. He just continued to stare out the window, hoping that Alfred wouldn’t say anything.
“Is everything all right, sir?” asked Alfred. Cyril cringed at the sound of his voice, but did not answer him. “You seem…troubled.”
Cyril rested his head on the headrest and let out a sigh. I guess I have no choice, but to talk, he thought. “Your powers of perception are amazing,” he said, not bothering to hide the sarcasm in his voice.
Alfred smiled to himself and said, “Thank you, sir. I have had time to master the art of perception. But, please. Tell me what troubles you. Perhaps, I could be of assistance.”
Cyril looked Alfred over in silence. The young man had served him for seventeen long years in which he’d seen Cyril at his best and worst. Alfred was wise beyond his years and he had saved Cyril from himself many a times, so it seemed that Cyril owed Alfred his life. If I can trust him with my life, surely I can trust him with my troubles, he thought.
“Well,” Cyril said before clearing his throat, “Ana no longer wishes to see me.”
“Oh…I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”
“It’s alright. It was bound to happen anyway.”
“…What do you mean by that?” Alfred asked, raising his eyebrow.
“You wanted to know the nature of our relationship, correct?”
“Actually, I wanted to know how you met.”
“Close enough,” Cyril said with a shrug. “I’ll tell you, but it must stay between us. No one else needs to know about this. Do I have your word?”
“Very well, then…Ana and I met five years ago at a party.”
“Oh, lovely,” Alfred said with a smile.
“But, not just any party, my friend. It was a pleasure party with many festivities.” The look on Alfred’s face seemed to convey that the man was unimpressed by this, but somewhat disgusted as well. Nonetheless, he made an honest effort not to judge. “Amongst these festivities, there was a silent auction. I, not knowing what I was getting into, placed a bid. Later that evening, it was announced that I had won one night with a woman designated by the host. And he chose Ana.”
“Well, did she fill your night with pleasure?”
“Yes, she did,” Cyril replied, smiling at the memory. “I didn’t learn her name until the next day…We fell asleep and didn’t wake up until noon.”
“I assume your relationship persisted?”
“Yes. I thought I had made it clear that I didn’t want a romantic relationship, but she fell for me despite the terms I made. She wanted us to be more than what we were and…I—I wasn’t ready.”
Alfred shifted in his seat and his brow furrowed as he contemplated everything Cyril had said in the past few minutes. “So, after all this time, you can honestly say that you never had feelings for her?”
Cyril was silent for a while. That was all Alfred needed, but Cyril didn’t want to admit it outright. “I thought I loved her once, but…” His voice trailed off.
“…I-I was young and foolish. I didn’t want to settle down. All I was looking for was a good time. That’s the reason I went to the party in the first place. I never had any intention of becoming someone’s lover.”
Alfred threw Cyril a knowing look. “Might it also be fair to say that you were…afraid?”
“I fear nothing,” Cyril growled through gritted teeth.
“Maybe not now, but back then it seemed that you were afraid of your own feelings, sir.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, you made terms from the very beginning as to what you expected from said relationship, if you would call it that. In shutting Ana out, you thought you were protecting yourself from becoming attached and in time vulnerable.” Cyril fell silent and failed to retort, so Alfred thought he had struck a nerve. “It’s alright to be vulnerable, Cyril. Besides, that’s what our lovers want; they want – They need to feel that we trust them with our whole being if we want the relationship to prosper.”
“…Do you trust Mariam?”
“With my life. Why? You ask in such a way that makes me think that I can’t trust her.”
“You can trust her. I suppose I’m a little…jealous of what you have with her.”
“Have you ever opened up to anyone, sir? Shown them the real you and have them not run away?”
“…I-,” A face flashed across his mind. “Once,” he said flatly.
Cyril looked out the window. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular. He just didn’t want to look Alfred in the eye when he answered him. “…I happened.”
Alfred was tempted to ask what Cyril meant by that, but he decided against it. Based on Cyril’s body language, it was clear that Alfred would get no more out of him. Although that was a disappointing fact, he was pleased that he was able to find out how Cyril met Ana and the extent of their relationship. He was happy that he had gone out that evening despite the fact that it ended on a more sour note than when it began. Alfred just decided to pass the time in silence and look out the window up at the starry sky while Cyril sat across from him in silence.
When they reached the mansion, Alfred and Cyril bid Peter a good night, got out of the car, and walked through the front doors together. Before taking his leave, Alfred asked Cyril, “Do you need anything before I retire, sir?”
“No, Alfred. You’re dismissed.”
“Are you sure?” Alfred didn’t mean to sound so pushy, but he sensed that something was wrong. His gut was telling him that something was off about Cyril. He didn’t know what, but he didn’t like the feeling he was getting.
“Yes, Alfred. I’m sure,” Cyril replied with a reassuring smile. “Go. Mariam’s probably waiting for you.” Alfred took a hesitant step backward. He opened his mouth to ask again, but Cyril cut him off saying, “I’ll be fine…Go make your woman’s night.”
Alfred didn’t want to leave Cyril, but the man had said his peace and dismissed him. So, he had no choice but to take his leave. But, he could leave a word with his master. “W-Well, if you need me, send for me.”
“Don’t worry, Alfred. I’ll keep that in mind…Have a good night.”
“Good night, sir.” Then Alfred left him in the foyer.
When Alfred had gone, the smile Cyril wore slowly turned into a frown. He removed his cape and draped it over his arm before going up the stairs and making his way to his room. He had to admit that his outing with Alfred had done him some good. But his fallout with Ana had caused him some pain as well. Stop blaming yourself! he thought. It was inevitable. It was going to happen regardless how many times you told her you loved her or made love to her like she was the only woman in the world. He couldn’t help but wonder why he was so worked up about this. He didn’t love her; at least not genuinely. But the rejection still hurt despite his tendency to cope by being indifferent.
When he finally reached his room, he went inside and was glad to find that he was alone; his bed was empty and the bathroom was vacant. There was no one, but he and himself. He draped his cape over the back of one of his living chairs. Then he began to undress, leaving an unceremonious trail of clothing all the way to his dresser. He opened the third drawer and pulled out a pair of night pants.
After slipping them on, Cyril ventured to the bathroom where he splashed some water on his face. He reached for a towel and dried his face then his eyes locked with those of his reflection. He set the towel aside and studied his features in silence. He had to admit that he liked what he saw and could understand why women loved him and why other men hated him. He had sharp features; a well-defined jaw line, piercing eyes, a muscular build, and a mysterious air about him.
Cyril sighed as he recalled the past few weeks. Never before had he seen or experienced so much heartbreak. Sabina no longer loved him, Faye had rejected him, and Ana had just said that she never wanted to see him again. He had broken a lot of hearts and for once, it seemed like he was getting paid back for all the pain he’d caused. He turned off the light in the bathroom and went to sit on his bed.
In his mind, Cyril was in a dark place…A very dark place. He opened the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out a small polished mahogany box with his initials engraved on a golden plate. He opened it and in the red velvet lining of the box sat a silver pistol with a black grip. He took the pistol from its cradle and set the box on the nightstand. Hello, old friend, he thought as he held the pistol in both hands. It was a gift from his father that he received on his thirteenth birthday. It had some weight to it, since he hadn’t removed the bullets he had replaced only once in years. He sat staring at the pistol in silence, thinking of the bitter end.
Yes, he was well-known and he had amassed a fortune over the years, but that meant nothing to him; his life was fruitless. All he had done was squander his time and money on wine, women, and whatever else he thought could make him happy and fill the void in his heart. He had broken plenty of hearts along the way and now that his own heart was on the verge of breaking, he didn’t know how to handle it let alone, find the strength bear it.
Although others would have said that he was still young and had so much to live for, Cyril believed that he had done more harm than good and was worthy of death. Tears were forming in the corners of his eyes as he thought of Sabina, Faye, and all of the women he’d taken advantage of in order to please himself. Sabina was right, he thought. I am incapable of loving anyone other than myself.
He placed the pistol to his temple, cocked it, and closed his eyes.
Suddenly, he pulled the pistol away from his head and thought, I can’t do this…At least not yet. I still have one more thing to do. This can wait until then. He then released the hammer on the pistol and replaced it in the box, which he left on the nightstand. He wiped his tears, pulled back the covers, got into bed, and turned out the light. Before he fell asleep, he whispered a prayer saying, “If there’s a God, please…Please let all go well on tomorrow. I want – I need to make things right. So, please make a way and I’ll make it so I never hurt anyone ever again.”
Then he drifted off to the land of dreams.