‘The Kissing Game’ Chapter 9, Short Story Serialisation, by Milly Reynolds

silhouettes of couple kissing against sunset
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Elena had taken herself off to the spare room, the very room where Michael had said she had sleep walked in to the previous night. One thirty and she still wasn’t asleep, she was simply too apprehensive, too much going on in her head. Once more she lay back and opened another book she’d borrowed from Mary. She came across a reference to the fact that most children were baptised within two or three days of birth, at least until more recent times. This was because of the much higher rates of child mortality. It made her think. With that thought in her mind, she lay the book down and closed her eyes. 

The room was dark, quite small. Long curtains were closed, just a peep of light came through a gap. Outside there were distant voices, so she opened the curtain a touch to see. It was the canal or river she had seen before, though there was less activity this time, as if it might be evening. As she turned away, she noticed a mirror with an ornate frame on the right wall. Keeping the curtains open, she looked at it. Elena had the clearest blue eyes, a smooth, ivory complexion. She brought a hand to her face, touching the soft flesh.

“I am… quite beautiful,” she whispered.

She recognised the room, the bed in the corner where someone was lying. Walking up to the bed, she recognised him, though he made no move, as if he was asleep. She peered more closely; then he opened his eyes, slightly.

“Elena,” he croaked, weakly, “you have destroyed me.”

She stepped back as he reached out, trying to touch her. “What’s the matter with you? Is it something I’ve done?”

“Elena, you have destroyed me.”

She felt a sudden unease. “What have I done?”

He tried to smile, though it seemed to be difficult. There was pain written all over his face, emotional as well as physical discomfort.

“Just… tell me who you are.”

His hand fell limply by his side, a weak gaze remaining fixed on her where she stood. 

“Don’t go!”

Kneeling down she put a hand in front of his face. There was no breath. She checked the pulse on his wrist: nothing. His candle had burned out. Elena closed his eyes, reached forward and kissed his cheek. Then she sat on the chair next to the bed. Tears began to well up in her eyes, though she wasn’t sure why. Did she know this man? And if so, how?

“I want to come out of this dream now,” she said out loud, wiping her eyes. Yet she remained in the room, apparently present in some time which may have been four hundred years ago. She began to feel queasy, quite strange in fact. So she stood, but had to sit down again, feeling quite faint. She bent down on all fours and was sick into the empty chamber pot by the bed. There was no cloth or tissue to use, so she wiped her mouth on the bed sheet. Suddenly without the strength to get up, she lay on the floor, closing her eyes.

Elena felt the gentle stroking of her hair. Opening her eyes, Michael’s concerned face was examining her own.

“It was quite a shock to find you lying here.”

“Where am I?”

“The toilet, I see you’ve been sick. Something you ate last night, was it?”

“No,” she said, faintly, “I don’t think so. What time is it?”

“Six o’clock. Have you been like this before, recently?”

Elena thought for a few seconds. “A little yes. I thought it was the lack of sleep.”

Their eyes met, instinctively, though neither dare ask that most pertinent question. Michael helped her to her feet and led her back to bed.

“Get some sleep, I’ll take the day off, it won’t matter.”

“I’m not sure I want any sleep.”

“Hm, because of him? This strange kisser fellow?”

“Maybe,” she said, laying down her head, “though I get the feeling that I won’t be seeing much more of him in my dreams.” 

“I like the sound of that. I’ll get you some water.”

copyright Milly Reynolds 2020

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