Estimated reading time: 3 – 5 minutes
Exactly twelve miles passed before he turned off the road. Shrouded with overgrown shrubs and knee-high grass, the pitted drive was easy to miss unless one knew to look for it. There wasn’t even a mailbox to give nod to societal integration. Nor would there be one any time soon.
Ashley, his current fiancée, had no idea this 10.33 acre spread existed. He had purchased it, in cash, shortly after she moved all of her feminine belongings into his townhome. Every piece of fabric, furniture, and accessories matched thread for thread in a harmonious palette of ice-blues, antique lace ivory, and goldenrod yellow.
The décor choice seemed to be an interior decorator’s homage to her beautiful coloring. It seemed impossible to see the heavy silk drapes, exquisitely embroidered throw pillows, or delicate side tables adorned with photos of his smiling face shoved against hers, and not think of Ashley LaVigne. Sometimes he wondered if the design decisions had been calculated.
Ashley, the epitome of a southern belle, came from a warm and educated family, graduated from Emory University as befitted from two brilliant minds, worshipped at her grandmother’s church every Sunday, and apparently loved him more than life. She was also currently employed in the same law firm as himself so the calendar check was a daily event.
But she does it so sweetly. Just to see if I’m open for lunch. Yeah. Right.
Possessive beneath the dripping smiles, Ashley was wildly jealous of any woman, but especially the one in his trunk. Never mind the fact that they both had betrayed her trust and faith three years before by having an affair. Never mind that it seemed Ashley had won the battle over his dubious regard. Ashley never forgot they had both been whores. Their breech of conduct, rarely spoken aloud, plagued his fiancée.
The unacknowledged demons riding her hissed poison tinged with truth. “You cheated on a woman you lived with for eight years. How do I know you won’t do the same to me?”
The demons seemed content to possess Ashley. Now, they needed another conscience to ply their venom. Ashley, usually in perfect control of her bountiful emotions, had been a thorn in his side ever since Halloween.
Since the night they both watched her take stage in a just another one of a million costume contests.
Ashley had glared at the crimson vision accepting her tiny trophy and cash prize with a wide smile and graceful curtsey. Her manicured nails had dug into his bicep while her pasted smile shredded with insincerity. “Well, isn’t she just lovely? Modesty aside, that costume is very pretty. Alice in Wonderland, right? I prefer Shakespeare but Carroll is quite popular for the juvenile at heart…”
Titania had not been happy all night. No one had recognized the origins of her clever costume. Women remarked on its prettiness and men had taken the opportunity to stare at her discreetly augmented breasts. No, Titania had been in a snit and now and she wanted Oberon to rectify the situation immediately with a scathing insult towards the other queen.
Oberon had chosen to do otherwise. It was often said that the best revenge is living well. The Queen of Hearts had been living very well. She radiated happiness and beauty. Where Ashley was fair, she was dark. Where Ashley was tall, she carried a diminutive stature. Crystalline blue gave way to deepest emerald. Ashley, beautiful as she was, quivered with insecurity and fear. The other one didn’t.
And never had.
He had refused to let Ashley lead him to her. He wouldn’t allow her to use the pretense of hello to inflict damage on the other. He hadn’t wanted to see that perhaps there was no wound to reopen. That maybe he had gone way of useless memory, cut off and banished.
Instead, they left the Queen to her court, withholding their brittle silence and murky awakenings.
He used haste when driving over the gravel. Defiant to pings and dents, reckless impatience urged him to hurry. He needed to get to the house. The cold night made him worry about her comfort. As he drew to a stop, he wondered if she would welcome him the same as she had the first time.
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