She pretends she’s walking to the garden where they met in secret. Where he touched her throat, ran two fingers down it and paused on the tiny curve at its base. How unmarred and smooth your skin is, he murmured. How it feels like velvet.
She touches her throat now. A curl has fallen down and fights against the wind. Oh the wind. That’s the only thing her skin feels now. She closes her eyes and stumbles. Strong arms yank her back up, move her forward.
Yes, there were still maids to pin up her hair, button her black dress. In the end, he allowed her that. She listens to the swish of her dress as she moves. Such a rich and lovely sound that she’s never noticed before. And also the tapping of her heels and the clacking of their boots that meet in a heartbeat rhythm, making time move forward.
She looks for him now, scans the faces. They are gray and grim. Dirty most of them. Of course he isn’t there, but it’s a habit. She always scanned the room for him to make sure his eyes were on her, on no one else. Until his eyes slid from hers, then wouldn’t even meet hers until finally he wasn’t ever in the same room.
She looks up at the black windows. Even now she’s looking for him. She never stopped.
9. 8. 7.
A whisper moves through the crowd like a hiss.
4. 3. 2.
Whispers have always followed her. She trembles in hope that they always will.
She is pushed into a kneel. She lays her head down.
The blade is raised. She doesn’t hear the command shouted, the whoosh of its silver fall.
She is in the garden with his fingers on her neck as he promises forever.