Ice chilled folds of creamy satin clung to his salt stained and grief haggard complexion. How a grown man could weep like a child, and mourn like a veteran. He wailed alone, until his bones ached and the deep dull hammering of his heart had been quietened under the weight of his grief and the turbulent tempest of his emotions. His cries shook the occupants of Lorraine castle as they silently scurried back and forth, past his barred door. Their hearts silently bled for their late mistress and the gaping void that she had left in their masters arms and in his bed.
It had been three days since the funeral of Eleanor Smith, beloved daughter, cherished wife, dutiful catholic. Their master had collapsed into that bed the moment they had arrived back, that very which bed in which his wife had passed and he had not stirred since. There had been whispers, and the cruel gossip of standoffish, aristocratic women, that he was a man already down the path to the mad house.
Albert Smith lay numb, and chilled to the bone, coiled round himself into a small tight organ of misery. The heavy velvet bed sheets sprawled and bunched around his limp form. There, across from him was where she had lain only days before, in a space he could simply reach over with the back of his hand and touch. Where she had died. Perpetual was his stare, as he drank in every aspect of the room around him, the fire now nothing more than white hot coals. The few embers that still retained their ferocious glow, undulated, wafted up as if carried by the surge of the tide, and yet he saw nothing and registered nothing, nothingness was all that his life had become now.
She lies, the perfect dutiful wife she has always been, swathed in stiff collars of white lace, and hair as glossy as a raven wing and constrained by a thicket of ivory hairpins. Everything was so starkly out of character, for she who had always valued the greatest virtues of comfort and simplicity, now lies before him like a doll, a monstrous taxidermy to fill her place. She looks so delicate, he fancies, so small, so tired. Porcelain skin as placid and transparent as sodden rice paper, bones so thin, are finely carved and contoured by the sunlight, the small bundle of white and pink flowers she grasps in her dead tight clutch are not her favourite orchids, he notes.
The congregation appears as nothing more than a smudged, unidentifiable swarm of black, as if they where summer flies and they buzz and twitch as they bare her off to the cemetery.
The shadows lay thickly in the room, the room that Albert had long since abandoned as their bedroom. It was their domain now. They pressed up against him, left his skin prickled and in a cold sweat, as they enveloped him, as they claimed him as their own. Crushing the air from his lungs and stealing his breath, they taunted him, like a play thing.
They mocked his grief and sent him into wild rages, that left him slamming his fists into the wall as he would cry in anguish. As they sent her form dancing across the walls, they would quickly retreat each time, but he fancied he could still hear their sneers.
As it was commonly known and widely recognised, inspiration and desperation were one and the same to the madman. All it had taken was a momentary spark in his mind, and he had thrown himself out of his bed, where before he had seemed bound to it as if it were a ball and chain, binding him to the spot. The shadows swept in closer this time, standing shoulder to shoulder, as they craned their necks to observes this new and unprecedented activity. He had laughed, or at least he fancied he had, for it tore from his throat painfully and resonated in the empty, hollow void and empty room around him in the form of a deafening howl.
He tore through the stacks of papers and documents on his desk, clawing at the handles of the draws in mad ambition.
They were such an unorthodox paring at first, and that was how the entire world still viewed them to this day. mismatched. As she sits smiling serenely back at herself and her reflection in her armoire mirror as she forces an array of different pins into her boisterous tresses and settled comfortably in the overstuffed fat, of her favourite armchair.
Patiently as ever, she sits through another one of her husbands uncensored rants, about whatever was particularly outrageous or practically weighing on his mind this day. How he bellows and hollers at his unseen demons, his face flushed red and angry from his exasperation, perspiration beading and glistening upon his worry creased brow, like crown jewels.
As he waves his arms about him madly, in emphasis of his current point, his shaking hands, claw at his clothing and rake through his untamed and un kept mane of hair. He soon collapses, out of pure exhaustion into her arms and she cradles him, his head is fitted tightly into the crook of her neck as she attempts to muffle his cries, as best she can; the world will forever be oblivious to know how the barons son, head now of one of the leading banks in the country, has buckled under the pressure of upholding his family name.
In her arms, he seeks a haven for himself.