Shreds of paper fluttered down lilting and dancing on the wind as if in spite. It was like some demented artificial snowfall. Golden brown eyes traced tentively back to the spot on the concrete before jerking the gaze away. He couldn’t look at her like that. Stained. The deep dark red that looked almost black against her made his skin crawl. How long has been lying there? The sun was just beginning to tinge the sky with the violet of dawn. It must have been a few hours. He should have been there sooner, should have known. She was afraid of the dark, and she’d been out here alone. He suddenly realized that he was thinking of her as she was yesterday—alive.
He crumpled to his knees burring his face in his hands. He knew what he should be doing, calling the police, or someone to take care of this. But he couldn’t, no matter how pathetic it was all he could do was sit there and cry. He cried because he didn’t want them to take her away, cried because she was stained, cried because she was gone, but most of all cried because in his mind, he could have stopped her. He should have known. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, moments, hours, but he found himself, as we so often do to avoid pain, drifting into an emotionally exhausted sleep.
It was a dream of the time that past. He was younger, walking down the black marble hallway. It was his first night in the manor and he felt very small against all the large dark draperies. Everything was dark. There was no difference between day and night in that place. He couldn’t sleep, so he wandered out of his room to explore the place on his own without the bustle of the housekeepers and men in suits. Up ahead in the hallway, one of the mahogany doors stood ajar, as soft dim light spilled out into the corridor before him. He crept closer, and heard a soft melody. It was high, and sad, but beautiful in a strange haunting way. He peered into the room and saw the silhouette of a person against the window. A girl, only a year or two younger than him, sat in a plain wooden chair in front of the one window and stared out at the stars. She ran her hands slowly through her hair and sang the wordless song to herself. She wore only a simple linen shift dress, and from where she was sitting her hair almost touched the floor. There was something striking about her. Everything in the house was large, dark and heavy, but she was delicate and white, almost appearing to glow against the oppressive backdrop. He only meant to lean in for a closer look, but he found him self slipping into the room.
The girl turned slowly, deliberately, to look at him. Her eyes were like ice, cold, desolate, and silvery blue. He realized he had used the perfect word to describe her—white. Everything about her was white, as if she was made from a cast of pure porcelain. She rose from her chair, every motion slow and graceful. Her white hair rippled like a silken sheet down to her knees. “Who are you?” she asked attentively, voice thin and whispery. Hallow.
He ran a hand through his dark brown hair, self consciously. “Vincent.”
“Vin…cen..t” She repeated, soft accent lilting on the ‘t’. “It’s sounds strong, but warm. It suits you.”
He blinked several times trying to figure out how she could decided that about a complete stranger. She smiled, “You’re colors are warm. Dark, but not cold like his.”
Vincent wasn’t sure who ‘he’ was, but he was suddenly aware of his golden tan and chocolate hair. This girl was his total opposite in every way.
Vincent cleared his throat, it felt like he was just standing there staring at her for an eternity, but she didn’t seem to feel awkward at all. “So…who’re you?”
The girl sighed deeply. “I’m not sure anymore…I used to be Aurora. He calls me Veaura though….but I don’t believe I know her….” Her voice trailed away, eyes tracing a vein on the black marble tile.
He was even more confused, but decided to ask, “Aurora then?”
She smiled and nodded. Then walked back to her chair and sat down. “I wish I had a place for you to sit…but no one ever comes in here. He doesn’t like it when they do.”
Vincent sat on the floor, following her gaze out the window. “Who is this ‘he’?”
Aurora stared forward as she answered. “The same one that brought you here. The one that built this place. You’re lucky though. You’re a warm one. You’ll be allowed to come and go. You’re just here to clean, or cook, or some other task you parents sold you off to….” There was no emotion in her voice. She spoke evenly and flatly.
Vincent looked at his hands at the mention of his parents, but pushed those thoughts aside. “Then…why’re you here?”
Finally, her expression seemed to reviel her true emotions, but her eyes were like a mirror. Only reflecting and nothing showing through. “He’s a collector. I’m rare. I used to have wings….” She spoke slowly, a smile spreading across her face as if remembering something pleasant from long ago. “Now I just look at the sky. No matter where you are the sky is the same at night.”
Vincent looked at her quizzically not sure what to believe. Then again he was in a strange house with a practically albino girl, why not believe her?
“Wings? Like an angel?”
She shook her head. “If only….then I wouldn’t be here now. I our tongue ‘anhala’deyla’faye’”.
Vincent tried to wrap his tongue around the strange words, “faye…like a fairy?” Aurora smiled.
A sound drifted into the room, like the soft click of heels on the marble. Aurora’s eyes widened. “Out.”
“Wh-what?” Vincent struggled to ask, but she was already dragging him out of the room with surprising strength.
“Don’t let him see you,” she whispered in his ear as she shoved him out. Her skin was cold against his. Vincent thought he saw the shadow of a person cast against the turn in the hall way. He flattened himself against the wall on the opposite side of the door and hardly dared to breath. A tall man with silky black hair almost to his shoulders wearing a long black cloak passed into the room without even glancing in his direction. He was so pale that his skin reflected the light, but his eyes were dark. As soon as he was inside, Vincent took off down the hallway back to his own room. He slipped into his bed and tried to push the thoughts of Aurora out of his mind for the night.
Vincent was roused by a knock at his door. He rolled over and glanced at the old fashioned clock on the table near his bed. 10 a.m. He stood up and glanced around the floor for his ratty old jeans, until he noticed he was still wearing them, having fallen asleep in his clothes. He swung his legs over the ledge of the high four poster and stumbled to the door. He pulled it open, expecting a house keeper or the man from the afternoon before that had taken him to the manor in the first place, but the man that stood before him was the same one that had gone into Aurora’s room. He smiled kindly and walked inside, sitting on the burgundy velvet sofa across from the coffee table in one corner of the room. He motioned to an arm chair opposite of him. Vincent followed the gesture and sat.
The man spoke, his voice silky smooth as it slid over the words. “I apologize for not meeting you yesterday evening, but I had some business to attend to, and by the time I got back I assumed you had already retired for the night. I trust you’ve found the house to your liking?”
Vincent nodded, not sure what else to do. Of course, he’d rather be back at home, no matter how small it was, but he really didn’t have anything to complain about in the manor either. For the first time, he really looked at the man, he was probably in his early thirties, mature but there wasn’t a wrinkle on him yet. He wore a tailored Italian suit, and black from head to toe. Black oxford undershirt, black tie, expensive looking black boots. He stretched and fell into a more lounge like position on the couch.
“Where are my manners? I’m sure you know my name by now since I’m the proprietor of the estate and the one that paid for you, but we’re still civilized. I’m Armon. But you will refer to me as ‘Sir’.”
Vincent nodded again, still unsure of what to say. If this were the ‘he’ Aurora was talking about as he had assumed last night, he didn’t seem like such a bad guy.
Armon rose to his feet and walked back to the door. “You’re going to help work the grounds. I was told you know how to read, write, and basic mathematics, so I won’t have to send you to school. I’ll send up a senior worker with food and instructions for you soon. I was told you were already given a tour. There are new clothes for you in the closet, for heave sakes change.” With that he slipped out of the room, but cast a glance over his shoulder, and added “And please stay out of the east corridor on the third floor” almost as an afterthought.
Vincent blinked. He had seen him. He cursed himself under his breath for not being more careful, although he wasn’t exactly sure what he’d done. He slipped into the new clothes, nice dark washed jeans durable but expensive, and a black polo shirt and sat on the bed lost in thought.
It wasn’t long before a boy a few years older than him, Eric, knocked on the door and came in with some papers and food. The next few days Vincent was kept busy with learning the ways of the house. He woke up around 9am and stumbled back to his room at close to midnight each night. All thoughts of the mysterious girl on the third floor were temporarily put aside.
Once Vincent had learned to navigate well enough that he didn’t get lost, Eric sent him on errands to other parts of the house. One particular day, he was sent the office on the third floor to get a plan for a landscape. As Vincent rummaged through the file cabinet next to the foyer that led to the east corridor he thought he heard the sound of someone sobbing. A girl sobbing. An image of Aurora was instantly conjured in his mind. He quickly found the plan and set it on top of the file cabinet to pick up on the way out, then slipped down the hallway toward the sound.
The door to Aurora’s room was open. She was huddled over something under the window, her hair pooled around her so that he couldn’t see her face. “Aurora?” he asked softly as he stepped into the room. She looked up, her face even paler than he remembered, tears streaked her cheeks.
“I couldn’t save it,” she muttered. She’d been crying but her voice was oddly even. Vincent walked further into the room, “What is it?” The girl sat up revealing a tiny white dove.
“I had the window up,” she said in her cool tone, “he landed on the sill. It’s my fault…I don’t have my magiks anymore…I couldn’t save it.”
Vincent looked over the open window to the outside sill. Tiny wires ran across the surface. Shock wires. “To keep me in.” Aurora said emotionlessly as she leaned forward again. Her hair fell into separate parts as she did so, and Vincent saw her upper back. Twin scars ran on the inside of her shoulder blades.
“How did—” Vincent began to ask, but she cut him off. “I told you I once had wings.”
Vincent felt sick. The mars on the white skin looked ghastly. Aurora quickly stood up letting her hair cover them again as she moved to the window and dropped the bird outside. “I wish it could fly away,” she whispered almost to herself.
Vincent put a hand to his mouth and slid down the wall to the floor. “I didn’t mean to kill it”, she said looking past him out the window. “I was lonely and saw it flying by….” A tear slipped down her cheek. Vincent was amazed by how innocent she was. So upset over a bird…she was like a child really. He began to wonder how long she’d been in that room. Before he could contain the words he said, “Don’t cry. I’ll visit you. Every day.”
She turned to him, and for the first time looked hopeful. She smiled brightly, “You promise.” And he couldn’t say no.
The weeks turned to months, and somehow Vincent had managed to keep his promise. Every day, if only for a few moments he slipped up to Aurora’s room and they talked. When he was able to come at night they watched the stars, during the day they found pictures in the clouds. He told her of his life before, school, friends, and she told him of the land she came from where the sky was always the color of twilight and everyone had wings.
The more Vincent knew about her the more he wanted to know why and how she was trapped in that room. One day he gathered up his courage, and as he was working outside with Eric asked, “Have you ever seen something…like a figure through the east window on the third story.” Eric shook his head. “Nothing…ever?” Vincent pressed. “I could have sworn the other day—“
“I said I didn’t see anything! And you didn’t ether! You got that!” He snapped jerking his head around to glare at Vincent before he stalked away to another part of the lawn they were working on.
That night, as Vincent was creeping down the stairs from the third floor, a hand closed around his wrist. He looked up to see Armon glaring at him. “Come with me,” the man said curtly. He jerked Vincent, none to gently, to his grand office on the second floor. “I know that you’ve been talking to Veaura on occasion. I have to ask you to stop this immediately.”
“What?!” Vincent exclaimed. “She’s up there all alone and no one seems to know anything about it. What’s going on?”
Armon slapped him across the face. “I said stop it. She’s mentally unstable. She has a condition, that’s why her hair and skin are that color. It effects her mind too. It’s not safe to be up there, she’s unpredictable. She lives in a fantasy world, and I can’t have anyone indulging her in that. Understood?”
Vincent started to object, but Armon glared at him fiercely, “Of course you do. You’re a smart boy that knows better than to make me upset. Now, with me to accompany you, you’re going to go upstairs and tell her you hate the sight of her and was only there out of pity. I want you to make it clear that you aren’t going back again.”
“I can’t, I won—”
“You will.” Armon picked up the pen knife from the edge of his desk. “Now.” Vincent turned reluctantly toward the stairs. “Good boy,” Armon said smoothly, “Who knows what could happen to the both of you if you didn’t.”
Vincent went rigid with the implied threat and quickened his pace up the stairs. When he entered the room Aurora looked up positively gleeful, “You came back!” But her eyes immediately fell to the floor when she saw Armon.
Armon positioned the knife behind Vincent so the girl couldn’t see it. “There’s something your little friend here wants to tell you Veaura.” Vincent stood silent. “Now boy. Tell her.”
Vincent took a deep breath, “I hate you.” It was harder to say than he thought, and he fought back tears. “You’re weird. I can’t stand to look at you.” His voice broke, but he continued, “I’m not coming back here anymore. I never wanted to anyway. I just felt sorry for you.”
Aurora looked positively devastated. “Then there’s no reason for me to hope to stay here.” Her voice was as cold and even as ever. As she spoke she regained her expression and smiled. “Goodbye Vincent.”
Hearing her say that so coldly stung. Vincent hurried out of the room without even looking back. He told himself she obviously didn’t care so neither should he. Armon followed a few paces behind, but Vincent swore he heard her crying as he rushed down the stairs.
Hours later, Vincent tossed and turned in his bed. He couldn’t escape the look in her eyes when he spoke to her. The simple words she’d said afterward. The sounds of her song and her tears intertwined in his head making sleep impossible. He had to see her. To say goodbye his own way. He crept extra carefully up to the room and pushed the door open. Aurora was sitting on the floor with her back to the door. He walked inside, “Aura?”
She turned and looked up at him. A large piece of paper was in her hands, another lie on the floor beside her. She smiled as if the conversation earlier had never taken place, “I forgive you.” Once again he thought how innocent she was, how pure. Pure white.
“I can’t risk coming back though. I’m really, really sorry.” He took a deep breath to keep from breaking into tears.
“It’s ok.” She smiled at him again.
“What’re you doing?” He asked looking at the paper, trying to lighten the mood.
“Making wings,” she said simply. “I want to fly again.” He smiled at the simplicity of it all. He’d miss her more then either of them knew.
“I should go,” he said and turned to leave the room. “Take care.” Aurora waved and went back to work. That was the last time he’d seen her.
People were talking over him. He opened his eyes to see Eric and some other people mopping the bloodstain from the concrete. She was gone. He started sobbing again. Eric had someone take him back to his second story room.
Vincent sat on his bed and stared out the window. He wasn’t aware that time was passing, but at some point be began rummaging through the desk in his room, then—finding what he was looking for—returned to his bed.
The next morning Eric opened the door. Vincent hadn’t slept. “What’re you doing?” Eric asked, puzzled as he looked at what Vincent had been working on all night.
The boy never even seemed to see him, “Paper wings.”