The Promise

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

No one can dispute that I love Marcus more than any other woman. Although he goes out to drink and meet women who simply throw their bodies at him, he always returns home without them. No, they are merely playthings, unworthy of more than fleeting attention.

I, on the other hand, have been there for many years listening to his troubles. Only I have the patience and capacity for love that can let him truly unburden himself. While the others think that his life is filled with many women who think they love him, I am the only one to which he confides his innermost thoughts.

These thoughts have grown darker over the years, and so I chose to do something about it. Poor, dear, sweet Marcus could not help that his curly brown hair and sparkling blue eyes would attract predatory women into his orbit. Truly, his tall stature and broad shoulders should not have been a bane to his existence. Naturally, I could appreciate him for who he was inside, and not for what others simply devoured with their eyes. The worst misery is to be alone while surrounded by sycophants.

I vowed to alleviate his condition, and tonight I made good on that promise. Already I had a place prepared, and with the bolstering of my heart and my passion, I waited patiently to return from his night’s carousing. Singing a song and swaying from drink, I saw sweet Marcus return to his home at midnight. Quietly escaping my perch, I crossed the street and intercepted him before he could enter his abode.

So quiet was my approach that I seemed to have startled him. “My word!” he exclaimed, dropping his keys onto his porch, his glassy eyes barely suited to the dark. “Who might you be?”

To answer him, I planted a gentle kiss from my lips upon his. He tasted like sweet sherry and tobacco. Pulling away, I saw a familiar smile creep upon his face. “Marcus,” I said, “I could not help but see you returning home alone again. Is your evening at an end, or do you have enough time to spare for me? I promise I shall make it worth your while.”

Marcus’s smile grew broader, and his precious eyes sparkled in mirth. “Well, I cannot refuse such an offer from someone as sweet as you,” he said.

“Splendid,” I replied. Putting my arm in his, I said, “There is a place I know where we shall not be disturbed. Come with me; I can lead the way.”

Marcus blinked, looking at his door and then at me in partial confusion. The poor thing had been so wounded that he did not know love when he saw it. To help show him I was true, I unlaced only the very top of my bodice. Putting his hand over my heart, he could feel how much I burned for him. Nodding his assent, we removed ourselves from his porch and back over to my family’s estate.

My family is an old one in the town, and the estate I lived upon had been in my family’s possession for centuries. Many people had offered to purchase it, on account of its proximity to the beach and a quiet cove which existed on the southeast corner of the parcel. A sandy path worked from the side of my house across a half mile stretch of field, and then it winded its way through some gravel on its way into the cove.

We gently walked along this path for a short while in silence until Marcus abruptly halted. “I must say that the breeze from the sea is nice, but my throat is rather dry. If you don’t mind waiting, I could return to my house and fetch some wine.”

“That is quite unnecessary,” I said, having prepared for this very contingency. From a pocket in my surcoat, I produced a small flask of Marcus’s favorite sherry. Unscrewing the lid, I gave it to him.

He took a long pull from it, and coughed from its potency. “My dear,” he said, “I do not know how you thought to bring my favorite brand of sherry, but I am eternally grateful. Is there something else you have mulled it with?”

I smiled demurely, bottling up the flask and returning it to its pocket. “I have added something extra, to help you further appreciate the evening.”

“Why,” Marcus said, his speech slowing and slurring more heavily, “I do believe whatever you added is working quite nicely. Lead on, my sweet damsel.”

My heart leaped at the familiarity. Our arms again intertwined, we made our way further through the rocks until we finally saw the pool within the cove, its serene waters dark at this time of night. Currently at low tide, the pool’s presence could only be witnessed by how it reflected the stars. I had seen it many times, and Marcus seemed to enjoy its calming influence.

The both of us skirted the pool’s edge until we had arrived at a small cave leading directly into the porous rock of the cove’s northern wall. Picking up a torch I’d left earlier, I lit it with some matches I kept on me. Seeing the torch light up, Marcus clapped happily.

Then his countenance turned into a worried expression. “I…forgot my keys,” he slurred. “We should go back t’ the house an’ get’m.”

Pulling out a ring of keys I’d placed with the torch, I said, “No need to worry. I have the keys you need right here.”

Marcus visibly relaxed, and I took his arm again and led him into the rocks. Within the wall, the sea had eroded many different caves. At high tide, the place was impassable, but low tide gave us access to the small path my family had carved out many years ago with the help of their slaves. Down here, voices carried, but the sounds would never go past the rock itself. Only the ocean mattered here.

For his part, Marcus looked delighted at seeing all the different life forms that lived along the rock walls. Algae and barnacles and certain molds all formed a colorful display that seemed to dance in the torchlight. Swaying to and fro, I had to keep him balanced lest he slip and hurt himself.

“This’s a long walk,” he said after a while. “Where did you say we’re going?”

I smiled and pulled him along. “It’s just around this turn,” I said. “Just a little further to go.”

True to my word, we rounded our journey to the right, and we arrived at our destination. Here, so close to the ocean, there was a series of small pools that practically shimmered from algae caught inside. I left my torch behind, and I brought him to marvel at the cave’s beauty. He needed to see this, so he could know my true feelings for him.

The sight stupefied him, to my eternal delight. Taking him forward, I brought him to within the largest central pool. “Here is where I wanted to take you,” I confessed. “This is a beautiful place for a beautiful thing. Only we will know about it.”

Marcus licked his lips and nodded. He opened his mouth to speak, but I put a hand to his lips. Kneeling down, I felt below the water and found two stout chains. They were heavy, and I could only bring up one at a time. At the ends, they had manacles with a lock. Using the keys I brought, I unfastened the first, put it around my beloved’s wrist, and locked it in place. Then, I accomplished the same with his other hand.

“What’s going on?” he asked, his voice barely getting the words out coherently.

“I brought you here to make you a promise,” I said, collecting my skirts and getting out of the pool. Already the tide was coming back in, and it took an extra moment to find the right step to climb upon.

“Don’t leave me here,” he begged, and I could hear the sherry wearing off in his voice. “For the love of God, take off these chains!”

Although I tried to brace his resolve, I understood his weakness. Fortunately, it did not matter. “I cannot bear the thought of you being in pain any longer. Our love is meant to be eternal, like these caves and the waters of the ocean. I will always remember you, and these caves will be a monument to that love. Farewell, my dear Marcus, until we meet again in the next life.”

Having thus unburdened myself to my one true love, I exited the chamber and the cove itself, leaving Marcus to the mercy of the tide.

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