Shadow Lover (Part 2)

Chapter 4- Remembering Tomorrow

When the door opened at midnight and Death walked in, resplendent in his silken black robes, Marle jumped up and ran to him, throwing her arms around him in a hug. He smiled down at her and hugged her back, truly glad to see that she had not grown angry with him for his time away.

"I missed you. Its lonely bein' all alone here." Marle said, for they had been long hours, and the fire had dwindled. She had thought about playing with her dolls, but they were just not as fun anymore. All she wanted was for Death to be home with her so she wouldn't be alone.

Death pulled away gently from her embrace and pulled a small black velvet box from his robes with a tiny silver ribbon wrapped around it.

"I brought you a gift little one." He said softly, and smiled. She smiled and hugged him again, then slowly took the box from his hand, already dreaming of what could be inside.

"Thank you." She said politely, and held the box in her little hand, wondering if she should open it now or not. Death smiled at her, and then waved her to open it.

"Go on and open it Marle." He said, anxious for her to see what he had brought. She slowly untied the ribbon and lifted the lid, and immediately her face lit up and her smile widened. Inside was the most beautiful pearl bracelet, opaque and luminous. As he helped her put it on, she beamed, feeling as if she were an adult to be wearing such pretty jewelry.

"Oh thank you, thank you so much!" She hugged him again, and Death smiled as she rested her head on his shoulder. He had his little one, and this time he would never let her go. He heard her snoring softly and realized that she had fallen asleep on his shoulder and brought her to bed, where he tucked her in. She looked so angelic in sleep, a little smile curving her lips even as she slept, with her golden curly hair spread out on the pillow. His little Angel.

"Goodnight Little One. May you have pleasant dreams." he whispered softly in the darkness.

The next day she woke early and went to the living room where Death had slept on a chair the night. His hand was tucked under his chin and his robes were spread about. Marle covered her giggle with a hand and picked up a pillow from the couch and started to tuck it behind his head when she saw him open one eye and smile.

"Oh you're supposed to be asleep!" She said, smiling. She jumped into his lap and giggled as he made an exaggerated groan at her landing.

"Well Little One, we are going out today." He told her, lifting his eyebrows and smiling gently. Immediately her face sunk and her lip quivered a little.

"Into... into the dark stuff?" She asked, her voice quavering slightly. Death was surprised, for by now she should have forgotten about that and many aspects of her former life on the mortal plane. He shook his head.

"No no dear child. We will be traveling by a... different means today. It wont be dark at all." he explained. She brightened, and soon they were off.

Death was right, for it was as if they were traveling through a tunnel of light, and when it ended it opened into an open field of flowers. Marle looked about in surprise, a smile widening on her tiny face, as she looked at all the beautiful flowers growing. She didnít wait for Death but instead charged ahead, laughing in her childís joy. Death smiled, for she knew that she would love the Aleysian Fields. He was sure that their little house would be full of flowers for weeks after this little excursion, but as long as his Little Angel was happy he would go along with it.

"May I have some?" She asked, a frown hinting at her face at a bad answer.

"Of course. Pick as many as you like. Although I do think that you are the brightest flower of them all." He said. She giggled and knelt down and began picking flowers and putting them in a basket that Death had brought along exactly for this purpose. He made a mental note that most of the flowers she picked were red lilies so he would remember to bring some home every day.

Finally she seemed satisfied, and bounced over with the basket tucked under one arm.

"Where to?" She asked, and Death smiled.

"Well I thought we could go home and decorate the house..."

By the end of the night every nook and cranny was stuffed full with red Lilly's and roses and the smell was almost overwhelming, though she seemed to be lavished in it all. She sat on the chair in front of the fire and need not move more than two inches to smell a lily, which she did frequently. Death took a book from one of the shelves on general education and brought it over.

"Do you know how to read Marle?" He asked. She shook her head no, and so he began to teach her. She was an apt and quick learner, and soon was beginning to understand some of the concepts in the book.

Over the next few weeks, she would spend the time when she was alone studying from the book and writing in the leather-bound diary Death had brought her and learning the different subjects of history and math. Day by day her vocabulary increased and she became less like a five year old and more like a young woman, though her physical body had not aged a day, just as Death had predicted. He too carried the same physical body he had possessed as a mortal man, though he could remember little of his life when he still lived, other than his daughter Kita.

Every day Death brought a new gift, which was usually a doll or another trinket of jewelry, and soon Marle's bedroom was full to overflowing with expensive Chinese dolls and ivory bracelets. It would have been boring if not for the increasingly large collection of books and the visits to the Aleysian Fields. The house was always full of lilies, and it had become custom for her to wait for her Dark Angel in front of the fire with her knees scrunched up under her chin, reading a book.

As for Death, he continually left at dusk and returned at midnight, never explaining why he had to leave every day for those hours, but always bringing back flowers and gifts. Marle didnít mind however, for they spent their days exploring the most beautiful places, visiting waterfalls of unimaginable beauty and seeing animals with such fur and butterflies of such design.

She still wondered however when her parents would ever get here. No matter how much she loved Death, she still missed her parents very much. But that worry was for another day. It was morning and Death had promised to take her to a new world today, and she was more than anxious to get out of the house.

Tomorrow was another day, and perhaps it would be the day her parents would come. For now, her Dark Angel was her only true friend and she loved him dearly, as he did her. But always in the back of her mind were the question of her parents, and the question of where they had gone.

Chapter 5- The Death of Innocence

Marle sighed as she sat by the fire, tired of this daily routine that had gone on for so long. Death had gone at dusk, and now the suns first rays were touching the windowpanes once again. In the three years that Marle had lived here, she could never remember Death staying away for so long.

Death would leave at dusk every night, and return around midnight the same night. It had become a habit for Marle to sit near the fire and read during those lonely times that Death was away.

Always she would daydream of times years ago when she was with her parents, held in their warm embrace in the carriage on the way to school and sitting by them at the fire being read a fairy tale as her father acted out the scenes. Death searched for them each day, he said, but always told her that he could not find them, that heaven was a big place and people were hard to find. And each night Death gave her a gift, a rare piece of jewelry or a beautiful dress, and stuffed animals and dolls. Her room was full of these lavish gifts, almost kicking her out of her bed, though she hardly ever gave any of it a second glance.

Yes they were beautiful, but she wanted to be with her parents, not some stupid pieces of jewelry.

Where are you? Why do you leave me here to wonder? Please come home soon...
Marle returned her attention to her book, a tale of a knight who awakens a sleeping princess with a kiss on the cheek and soon get eloped in a magical Kingdome. Even these stories had become increasingly boring; each one was the same. The same happily ever after ending that made her full of envy for that fair princess who had it all. She had waited for a happy ending for three years, and still had none. No parents, no friends. Just an old house and lavish gifts, and a guardian who could stay only during the daylight hours.

Why must I stay here? Why do you forbid me from ever leaving the house without you?

These thoughts were becoming monotonous, for she thought of them daily, though she was not brave enough to leave the house without Death. The void beyond the door was a powerful one, and it was very easy to get lost within the darkness, a future Marle dearly wanted to avoid. She had opened the door once when Death was not home, and had almost been sucked into the void. That had been the last time she had even gone into the parlor room with its big white doors on their heavy hinges. Now she kept the windows tightly shut and the curtains drawn at all times.

The door creaked open, emitting a rushing sound like wind, and Death stepped through, inky black robes flowing as he quickly walked into the living room and angrily threw his top hat onto the couch. He paced the length of the room for a moment, anger, as Marle had never seen about him evident on his handsome face. Marle sat quietly near the fire, afraid to make a noise.

Finally Death seemed to notice her and stopped pacing, then eased himself into a sitting position on the floor next to her. He sat quietly for a moment before speaking to her.

"I have some news for you Little One." He said softly. Marle's brows knitted together in confusion while her heart leapt nearly to her throat. My parents?! She did not voice her thought, but instead clearly masked her face to look as if she was clueless.

"What is it monsieur?" She asked. Death was quiet for another moment, as if contemplating what to say to her. When he finally spoke, he whispered it so quietly she almost didnít hear him.

"You are going back tomorrow." He said. Marle watched his face, but it showed no emotions. Now she was confused, for this news was nothing like she had expected.

Going back? Going back where? What about my parents? Marle thought to herself.

"What do you mean?" She asked him. He glanced at her for a second before returning to staring at the fire in front of them.

"You are going back to the real world. To be with your parents." He spoke simply.

Her leapt with joy again, and her face was transformed into a wide smile as she leaned over and hugged Death as tightly as she had when they first met. She was laughing with joy, filled with a happiness she had not felt in years.

"Iím going back! Oh thank you! You finally found them. Thank you so much!" She hugged him harder, rocking him from side to side in her excitement. Death carefully unwrapped his arms from her and stood up from the floor.

"Yes. You will be happy there. Thank you for being good to me Little One. You have taught me much about human kindness." He hugged her, the first time he had ever initiated such a motion.

Marle felt tears drip out of her eyes as she hugged him, feeling a kind of regret that she would have to leave her Guardian after so many years. But to be with her parents was a promise she had long waited to be fulfilled.

"Now come. I will take you there immediately." Death said quietly, and walked her to the front door. Marle swallowed uneasily as he opened the door to the void and the darkness, and closed her eyes as she stepped out into it, Death by her side.

The world was spinning around her again, a remembered sensation that she had felt before. Blue skies were approaching, and clouds, and now there was a peculiar landscape, slightly out of focus and discolored. It seemed as if she was looking at it from another place.

"What is wrong with it Monsieur?" She asked, looking at him in confusion as they descended even lower towards the Earth. Death's looked of a man who has lost everything and is still in denial.

"If I am not allowed to keep you anymore, than no one shall ever enjoy your company again."

Marle screamed as felt her body dissipating, and the world faded a little more before she reached the ground, with Death no longer beside her. When she opened her eyes, she realized that she could see, though the land was still slightly wrong, and realized that she could feel her legs and arms as well. But something was wrong, though she could not pinpoint it.

Epilogue- Beware the Shadow Lover

Marle slowly opened her eyes, aware that she could feel her body and everything seemed to be in working order, and that it was quite dark out at what seemed to be an ungodly hour of the morning. The moon was low and silvery in the dark blue sky, and the leaves around her on the road were scuttling in the slight November wind.

What has he done to me? Why am I here, back in the mortal world? Marle looked around, wondering if her parents had been allowed to return here, to continue their mortal lives.

She was, she realized, on the same street where Death had taken her so many years ago. How many years had it been? The buildings that lined the street were not quite the same, they seemed older, but with new bricks and signs, and the few people who were walking down the street did not seem to notice the young girl with curly golden hair, looking so lost in the place that was now so new to her.

She walked over to a young couple that were sitting on a bench, and nervously cleared her throat, trying to catch their attention. The young man was smiling at the woman and smoothed back an errant strand of hair, either totally ignoring her or not aware that she was there.

"Excuse me..." She began softly, but there was still no reaction. In a huff, she walked over to an old man who was leaning against the wall of an old building clutching a bundle of something to his chest.

"Excuse me..." She said loudly, but the old man did not look at her. She was beginning to get angry, for she did not understand why everyone was ignoring her.

"Does anyone hear me?" She practically yelled. Not one soul stirred at her loud shout, and now her anger was turning into fear.

Something is drastically wrong here. They cannot hear me, and it seems as if they cannot see me either. What is going on here...? Where are my parents?

Coming close to a panic, she sprinted up the street, trying to remember the way back to her house. Finally, she turned a corner, and there it was, the soft white wooden siding shining slightly in the moonlight. She could see the candles burning in the windows, and she smiled, her face brightening with joy. Finally she would get her answers... finally she would go home.

She ran merrily up to the gate, her feet with their satin slippers making no sound on the pavement, and she stopped their, smiling upon her home. This was where she had spent so many hours with her mother, where she had waited eager nights for her fathers return.

She went to undo the lock, and her hand seemed to pass right through it. Fear struck her heart as surely as a dagger, and she tried again to touch the lock, more carefully this time, with the same result.

What? What is happening? What is wrong..? She tried again, with the same result.

Now she remembered what Death had told her, some time ago, about the ghosts of spirits coming back to the real Earth, haunting those who had left them long ago. He had explained that if spirits in Limbo did not reach their destination after three years, they would be forever banished to haunt the realm of the world, to watch their loved ones grow old and die.

And this was it. Her personal Hell. All this time, she had not known. And now it all fell into place. Her parents had been taken by Death, the very same man who had protected her for the last three years. Who had really only kidnapped her as a child, to keep as his own. He had left every night to kill, to destroy lives and love, to do the same as he had done to her parents. He kept her until her time was up, and instead of letting her go on to heaven, became greedy and cast his grief upon her, leaving her to live on Earth only as a shadow. She thought of it now, his emotional need to replace his fallen daughter, and how she must have attracted him to her as a mosquito to fresh blood with her naivety and childís innocence. Oh how she wished for revenge, but she would not befall upon another person what had happened to her.

I must not let this happen again... not to another innocent child, she thought fiercely.

Instead of haunting the inhabitants of her old home to release her anger, she instead spent the rest of eternity warning those of whom Death would love of the danger, of the dark Guardian who would kill you for his love of you. She returned to the old cobblestone street, where she can be heard today, whispering warnings about the Shadow Lover.

From far above, her parents watched in sadness, wishing that their child could join them. Death had stolen their chance at happiness twice now, and they would never see their daughter again.

The Dark One called Death continues to roam the streets to this day, and sometimes people walking on that old cobblestone road claim to hear the voice of that little girl who was viciously killed the same day as her parents died.

"Beware... the Shadow Lover's Embrace."