Le Misérable Pécheur

Submitted into Contest #95 in response to: Start your story with someone being presented with a dilemma.... view prompt



The pearls draped across her neck with all the elegance of a frozen waterfall, captured in that moment of stillness in a way that could set the heart aflutter and turn anything that touched his lips to ash… For no! Nothing could compete with this utter perfection of beauty, and had he chosen to swallow that bit of hors d’oeuvre at that moment, it should have caught in his throat so he might choke on his hubris.

But no, he merely sat there on the low couch in her boudoir with the morsel untasted and unchewed, caught by the flytrap of her sunlight-through-honey eyes and curve of her painted lips and the soft shift of pearls across her smooth neck. She wasn’t looking at him, and the thought struck him with horror at his own futility in imagining he could ever be worthy of those eyes; that he could ever be something more than the dirt beneath her feet.

But those pearls.

Unbidden, he lowered his eyes to that shimmering necklace, feeling the lump in his chest ache all the way up into his throat. By god and man, there was no piece of jewellery better suited to the woman who wore it, and there was no better woman suited to that necklace. And he had come here… to what end? To strip it from her? To remove such a thing, to his eyes, was no better than shooting a babe in its crib or flaying the skin from a kitten.

They existed in silence as she plucked pin after pin from her hair and wiped needless makeup from her cheeks. When he dared to look up and gaze upon her reflection in the mirror, he could hardly breathe all over again. Such paints and powders only served to hide her beauty from the world, for this intimate expression of truth in every facet of her features was not for the common rabble; it was not even for him, yet here he was and here he was gifted with this moment.

He tore his eyes away from the suffocating beauty and choked the remnant of his hors d’oeuvre down his throat. Here was Eve, here was Aphrodite, here was Freja, here was Helen, and like the names of myth and legend, here was he as their lowly admirer, brought low in her presence only to ultimately betray her.

The gun at his side burned into his heart. This was wrong! How could he ever harm the regard she held for him, the blessing she gave in allowing him to see her laid bare in privacy like so? How could he rip away part of her very soul, for he could see the reflection of her immortality in those pearls as clearly as if he saw a reflection in the mirror. Alone she was beautiful, but with that necklace around her neck, there was a fire burning within her that saw droves fall to their knees in her presence…

Oh, he was the wretchedest sort.

He could confess the truth to her and hope she could offer him refuge or even strike him down so he would not have to face his boss with this failure; how could anyone hope to understand what he saw in the flesh? He could remain silent and take whatever punishment they had for him, oh, he knew he would scream for many days and many nights before they were through.

And yet, he could follow his orders to the letter and strike that string of pearls from her neck and feel hollow inside for as long as he did live. His nights would be spent walking alone down the street with the wind whipping through his coat and rain stinging at his face. The curl of smoke in his nostrils and settling in his throat would do nothing to comfort him when it had so many times before and so many jobs before. Just another woman, he had been told, and indeed, were he more a fool of a man, he would have believed them even after setting eyes on this goddess in the flesh. Like Icarus flying too high, he now had the choice of seeking the sun and dominating the heights of where only immortal being may step, or retreating and falling back down to earth, never to soar again.

But yet, if he were less of a fool and simultaneously more of a fool, the decision would have been made already. He would have acted, to touch her with his peasant's hands and rip the pearls away, or to kneel before her on his peasant's knees and beg forgiveness or a swift and merciless end. Instead, he sat there frozen, sullying her couch and her goodwill with his thoughts of betrayal and inability to act in any way that would matter.

God, if only it were that easy.

Did she have any inkling of the thoughts in his mind? She must, for she was to him as a goddess is to an ant, and yet would a goddess care what an ant thought? She had the power to pluck forth his very being, and thus because she had the power, she would never use it. It was that immense will and dedication to her role that made her such a mystery of aloof intimacy all in one.

If she struck him across the face, he would weep with joy that she deigned to even touch him, that he was important enough to exist to her. And if she tenderly cradled him to her, he would pledge himself wholly and utterly to protecting her and her being and bow to follow no other, worship no other, for how could he think of any worship when the meaning of life stood before him and turned to him and smiled at him like he knew she must smile for many others and yet in the moment it was only for him and him alone.

His heart broke.

May 26, 2021 10:35

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