✧The Collapsed Altar✧
Odette paused in her knitting of the lace doilies. She looked over at the dog bed beside the fireplace, littered with pine cones and a ragdoll, all of the traces of Margrethe. The auditory hallucination faded.
Odette put down the knitting and and took the glass of water from the table. Two reports had come in that morning of a white dog that had been spotted down by the beach, but turned up nothing. Odette had gone to investigate herself. In the end, a servant found the stray dog at the shopping district entrance and it looked nothing like Margrethe.
Later that afternoon, before the evening meal, a stranger came knocking on the door, claiming to have seen Margrethe. He even carried a lace ribbon he claimed came off the dog.
Despite the servants’ protests, Odette went to meet the man. It certainly looked like the ribbon Margrethe wore, but on closer inspection, the pattern was completely different. Odette would have recognised it immediately as she had knitted the pattern herself. The man insisted it was the right ribbon and was demanding a reward. In the end, the servants had to drag him away.
Odette sighed and took a sip of water, in the hopes that it would wash away her thoughts, but no luck. The clock chimed midnight. It looked like Bastian would not be home until late, but she decided against getting ready for bed. She picked up her knitting needles and carried on her work.
Before she made the first stitch, she thought she could hear a dog padding around outside again. Vexed, Odette threw down her knitting needles and ran to the balcony. She could just about make out the dark line of the beach in the moonlight and she could have sworn she saw Margrethe bounding along the sands, barking for her to come.
This couldn’t be real, she knew, she tried desperately to convince herself it was an illusion brought on by tiredness. It didn’t make any sense. People had been scouring the beach for nearly a month to find no sign of her dog.
Even as Odette tried to convince herself she was seeing things, Margrethe seemed ever more real. She could clearly hear the barks, the padding of feet, everything.
It was Margrethe.
With the certainty that she was not imagining things, Odette raced out of her room, passing through the silent corridor and stairs and reached the moonlit terrace. All the while she cried, “Meg!”
The white dog, running along the beach, barked excitedly. It was definitely Margrethe.
She had returned.
“Oh my god, Meg.”
With a hearty smile, Odette rushed down the stairs towards the sea where Margrethe was waiting for her.
Once the headlights were turned off, the mansion fell back into darkness. Bastian had left orders that no one was to greet him when he got home, but despite that, as he climbed the steps to the front door, Lovis was already waiting for him.
“You should not be pushing yourself, sir, I worry that you will hurt yourself,” Lovis said. As a matter of course, Bastian smiled at Lovis without saying anything.
There wasn’t much left to do and once his father was fully ruined, he would leave with Odette and would spend the rest of his life taking it easy as Lovis suggested every day for the last couple weeks.
He had left instructions to seize his fathers assets the second he declared bankruptcy. The top priority, the lynch pin, was the railway. As soon as that fell, all his fathers other businesses would come toppling right after and his fathers empire and estate would be his. All the preparations were in place, soon, his father’s jewel-Ardenne estate would be his.
He had no idea where he was going to go with Odette, the destination had not been set, but that didn’t matter. If they couldn’t decide anywhere, then they could just travel around for a bit, until they found somewhere they both liked.
“Sir, about the search for Margrethe, do you wish to continue with the current level?” Lovis said flatly.
“Yes,” Bastian said.
As the search for Margrethe went on, the number of search parties increased at Bastian’s own expense, but he didn’t care, the only thing he cared about was finding that dog.
“But sir, it has been too long now,” Lovis said.
“Thank you for your work today, Lovis, you may go and get some rest now.” Bastion curtly dismissed Lovis. Lovis sighed, offering no more comment and left.
As Bastian was about to close the door, he thought he saw something in the gloom of the night. A woman in a white nightgown walked towards the crashing night sea. Her black hair fluttered in the wind, and her slender figure from behind seemed familiar.
Bastian froze and went out into the night, believing he had seen a ghost. He raced after the wispy thin figure, chasing it down to the beach where it plunged into the sea without thought for the oncoming waves.
“ODETTE!!” Bastian shouted as he ran like a hunting beast that had been unleashed toward her.
He sprinted down the beach, tossing aside his jacket, his tie, his shirt and his shoes. He jumped into the sea and called to her constantly, but Odette never acknowledged that she could hear him, she pressed on into the waves, the water coming up to her waist.
It wasn’t Margrethe. Odette realised this only when the sea water reached her shoulders and splashed her face with salty brine. It was a deflated little ball, it almost seemed to glow white as it was surrounded by the dark waters.
A rueful smile played across her lips as she watched the ball drift away on the currents. She had done something entirely stupid and the reality of it reached her grieving mind as the sea water lapped against her chin.
“ODETTE!” someone called out from the darkness.
Odette turned back to the shore and could just about make out a tall, thin figure fighting against the tide to reach her. Bastian. Just as she was about to call back to him, a wave smashed into her and the current swept her away. She could no longer feel the bottom and sea water rushed into her mouth.
Flailing frantically to keep herself above the surface, everything became dark and a terrible pressure about her person prevented her from being able to breath. Just as she was going to reside herself to being drowned at sea, a firm hand grabbed her arm and dragged her away.
Odette was brought up to float on her back, the moon, bright in the sky, looked as if it was laughing at her. She drifted with the waves toward the shore, being dragged along by Bastian.
Odette clung to her only beacon of salvation with all her strength. Even though Bastian was panting from the effort, he did not stop and they quickly found themselves back at shore.
She felt her body become weightless as he carried her out of the water and laid her to rest on the soft sand. The breath that flowed from her lips returned the warmth the sea had stolen. Coughing, she opened her eyes to find a pair of blue eyes, like flickering cold flames, staring at her.
“Bastian…” Uttering his name in a faint whisper, Odette tried to get to sit up. Only then did Bastian let out a groan, like the cry of a wounded beast, and sat in the sand next to her.
“It’s not like that,” Odette urgently explained, gazing at Bastian’s pained and angry expression. “I didn’t mean it that way…I-I thought I saw Meg,” she said, feeling like a little girl that was about to face punishment for doing something very naughty.
Bastian wiped his wet face with a bitter laugh, struggling to catch his breath. She wasn’t lying. The moment their eyes met, he realized it.
She jumped into the sea to find Margrethe. Maybe was using Margrethe as an excuse to escape the pain. Her pathological obsession wasn’t just about the dog, but the pain he always caused her. She was trying to escape one pain, only to replace it with another, using self-harm as a means to escape.
That pain was the last thread that tied her to him and he knew that fact very well. He never realised it before, but that pain was going to kill her someday.
He lifted his reddened eyes, bestowing it upon the ethereal spectacle of the sea as it basked under the luminescent quilt of moonlight. His gaze sailed on silver waves to the shore, reached the breaking foam, and returned to Odette once more.
“It’s true, Bastian,” Odette repeated her innocence, her turquoise eyes were like a paradise sea he wanted to dwell in forever. He beheld her terrifying beauty, his grasp filled with a silvery fistful of sand.
“She was right there.”
“Meg is dead, Odette,” Bastian finally said in a whisper so soft, Odette wasn’t sure she had heard him.
“Don’t do this,” Odette said, tears coming to her eyes. “You clearly said it wasn’t Meg. You saw… … .”
““I lied. I thought this way you wouldn’t be able to leave me without Meg,” Bastian said, looking at Odette.
“…No…” Odette snapped. She jumped to her feet and looked as if she was about to run, Bastian stood and grabbed her arm before she could. “Let me go! No, no, no!”
Odette thrashed wildly, like prey cornered. Bastian grabbed her chin firmly and forced her to look at him.
“Get a hold of yourself and listen, Odette,” Bastian said, his voice devoid of emotion, cold as the night sea that had swallowed her.
“The child is gone! Margrethe is gone too.” He unceremoniously destroyed her last remaining altar, everything Odette ever clung onto.
The hollow eyes of the sacrificial lamb, with no place for the blood to spill, soon blazed with furious rage. Bastian stood boldly before her, waiting for the storm to break.
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