Raving through snowy woods, Annabelle and Seline had nothing on their childish minds, except the destination ahead, the destination ahead that wasn't even a destination at all, though in their case anything could be called a destination. They got lost, clumsy enough in the middle of the woods, on an incredibly cold, icy and snowy day and additionally it was getting very dark now. Seline was the owner of an Inn, not far from these woods that could at least give them a place to stay and hopefully a phone to call their friends whom they also lost throughout the excitement of the day. But for now the goal forth was solely the light they could see from afar, a light that wasn't even radiant, and a faith in their minds that did not carry belief at all. They just ran, as fast as their fragile feet could carry them and their breath could take them. The typical burning spectacle of their lungs being shaky and weary and the cramping irritation that began crawling up their limbs and torsos, near hamstringing them, yet they didn't cease to proceed with running. They would not stop and they could never stop. Not now, not later, not in this moment, in these grimy woods, not with the fact that Annabelle was terrified of the dark and Seline hadn't had lunch which felt very bad in her stomach as she had made extremely clear already an hour ago.
So, they ran, jumping over roots and stones, staggering not even once, sprinting as if someone was after them, witnessing their ice-cold breaths in the air before them, feeling the coldness brush over their skin bitterly, and feeling tears from the wind that whisked into their faces. And when they finally saw the place, the building, at the end of the woods, they tried running even faster. They could see it was big. It was very big. The Inn of her lover Selina MacQuoid, a fellow mountaineer was nothing Annabelle had ever seen before. It was gigantic, despite being so lone and isolated and far away from civilization, replenished with small groups of people, yearning to eat, to drink, to gossip, to chirp and eat. She saw life in such a secluded place...like they had never expected to see. It was as if this one building held more life than the boredom they endured of the village of their birth. This was actual life. There were friends and families. And this Inn was far more than an Inn. It was like a whole small village on its one, just in a big mansion that looked tiny from the outside. Annabelle asked Seline to kick her, so she could make sure this place was actually real and it turned out it was. This was all very real. There was authentic life, prosperity and affection, enthusiasm and hatred, moral bonds, friendship and family.
A black jacket was covering Annabelle's body and a red one laid in Seline's hand. They slowly began walking through the compact Inn until Annabelle waa nudged back by a soft force, when another individual sauntered into her. She said no word about it at all. She was calm and mute, trudging aside, eyes flickering towards the woman of dark curly hair.
Seline heaved back Annabelle a little but that's when the woman's head already whipped around, revealing a delightful pair of oceanic blue eyes, a smile, brighter than the one of Seline's sister, or so she thought. The woman scented of cherry and her lips were as dark red as ripe cherries. Everything about her appeared perfect. She had tanned and flawless skin and Seline imagined it to be as delicate as silk would be. The two girl's glanced at the woman, whose smile appeared to grow brighter and brighter.
"Oh!!! Hey! Miss MacQuoid, you’re back!" She said. "That's wonderful! We have so many new guests! And…oh my god, you must be Annabelle. I’ve heard so much about you!! Welcome to Cherry Tale! The only place where you can truly rest!" She called out in an unduly boisterous and committed tone, almost shrieking the words into Annabelle’s face, only that the yelling was not hostile in any way.
It was very cheerful. "My name is Anna! I co-run this place…whenever Miss MacQuoid is occupied! It's so wonderful to have you here! Go settle down in the lounge and I'm sure, Leroy will be with Annabelle any sec!" She said, now to Seline, who gave an approving nod.
It was strange being back at this place. Seline hadn’t been able to be a very good owner, considering she scarcely did any work here these days. Anna spun around once, before jumping up and sending a well placed wink towards them as her hand motioned towards the idyllic area of the Inn. Selina loved Anna’s cheerfulness. It certainly attracted customers. The lounge was comfy.
It had many armchairs and a massive pink sofa. Obviously, the place had gained some sort of a cherry theme going on, which explained the sweet smell and the choice of art, color and layout of furniture. It looked remarkably eerie but not in a wrong way. It was reasonably outrageous and amazing to look at. Seline loved the change. She loved Anna’s style. Always did.
"You said…it’s big…but not THAT big…" Annabelle murmured as she watched Anna saunter of merrily, in what looked like a minor step dance.
"Well…I may own this place…but for now I really need a break…my legs are killing me, I’ll ask Leroy to join us soon, so we can get a room…" Seline whispered before pulling her girlfriend over to the lounge, letting herself plunge into the softness of an armchair, and watching Annabelle sit herself down in one next to her.
"This is a very strange place..." she muttered but clearly Seline didn't listen, being very much fascinated with scanning through a very new designed menu card someone had handed to her.
To Annabelle, despite knowing it was Seline who built this place…it came across like a very mysterious place, similar to one people faced in their fantasies but Annabelle had realized this wasn't a dream. Surfaces felt real and every other sense too. It almost even felt too substantial. There were other hikers and mountaineers all around them. If eavesdropping closely, they were already talking about where to hike next, which started soothing Annabelle down.
No one else thought something was awry, so likely nothing was wrong with this place. It was an elegant place. It was calm in a way. It was undoubtedly idyllic. It was gorgeous.
It was an Inn that Seline always had dreamed about building and she did and now she was here with her. Truly, the only person in her life that she felt livable with. Their mothers always said that Annabelle and Seline were like two people and one soul and it was true in a way. They had a bond and it felt outstanding.
....but for now, their durabilities had to come to some rest. Seline would do some office work, the following day but she too needed a break, after the lengthy and exasperating hike and the running through the snowy woods.
It was rather tiring and they could both feel fatigue washing over them in very rough waves. For the first ten minutes, they stayed seated at the lounge. At the 11th minute, a man who did acquaint himself as Leroy, just like Anna and Seline had said, directed them away from the lounge and into a dining room, offering them a variation of soft drinks and delicious looking and freshly baked goods. For the next 20 minutes, they drank and they ate before being led into a room.
It's immensity almost overwhelmed Annabelle.
She was amazed by it. It was brilliant. And after an hour, both had begun to fully settle in, prior concerns and suspicions had receded fully as they too, spoke about new hiking spots, having texted their friends about their location, told their mothers to not worry and even got into some veryenjoyable chats with some other guests at the Inn. Everything seemed pure and calm. Their cramped muscles felt flexible and relaxed again and their aching heads from the day's exhaustion had decreased.
Seline held Anbnabelle's hand. And Annabelle held Seline's hand, drawing small circles on the outside of her palm with her thumb, making Seline giggle. They were back at the lounge, a packet of cookies and biscuits on a plate in front of them and a warm cup of tea placed next to them.
Every once in a while people recognized Seline and sent over a smile or two.
The voices of others made the unbroken moment entire. They were solitary but not entirely. They had each other and that's what made everything right. Seline's lips placed a kiss to Annabelle's cheek and they both laughed before swiveling to look at each other, leaning forward. Their foreheads touching........
...but then, everything went dark. Quite literally. The lights went out. Everyone hushed.
“It’s okay…it happens….” Seline said quietly, nudging Annabelle’s side. Then a few murmurs were heard.
Annabelle thought she saw something shiny and heard some slashing through a soft fabric of some sort but then when the lights turned on again, just a second later. The return of the light was instantly followed by a loud and shrilling scream. It was so loud that it appalled everyone for a moment. Eyes flickered towards where the scream had come from.
Seline jerked up, followed by Annabelle too. On the ground, laid a woman. It was Anna, lovely cheerful Anna.
And Annabelle felt depleted. She understood the sound she had heard was nothing fabric at all. It was the eerie and horrendous sound of a blade gashing through fragile skin, causing a fleshy wound, drawing blood, thick as syrup to pool from the woman’s body.
Now, panic arose. Dismay. Apprehension. Then the lights went out again. There the sound was again. The screaming started. The shock only grew wider. Seline felt Annabelle clutching onto her tightly and she grabbed her hand, so strong... she was scared that she'd break the fragile bone.
Seline felt sick. Seline felt fatigued. Anna. It was Anna. Her best worker, her best colleague. Her best friend. Dead.
The lights went on again and in last second, they saw another woman's body dropping from the highest staircase, killing her in an instant. Crying and whimpering and screaming filled the couple's ears when the lights turned off again.
An even louder and more shrilling scream silenced everyone again and the lights went on, a third time now.
Another person's body, slashed up...once furthermore. Seline cried out and Annabelle couldn't even refine the horrors she saw but then when the lights went out again, Annabelle felt a violent and dominant force pulling her away.
It was Seline, who started running, likely in dread, likely in utter and complete terror....until she stopped, both crashed against a wall more or less.
Seline knew this place, inside and out. She knew a back entrance to the corridors…from the lounge. The anxious screaming and sound of mayhem and alarm had faded. They had left the lounge, that much Annabelle knew but it was too dark to tell where exactly they were.
"Sel. Sel...oh god...what's- what's happening..,this can't- this can't be happening..." Annabelle finally governed to say.
The lights went back on.
Seline saw the affliction and tears on Annabelle's face and Annabelle saw the terror on Seline.
Then darkness again.
Seline reached for Annabelle’s face in the darkness. And a moment later….
…the light was back on….
….and her thumb wiped away her tears.
"Tell me. Tell me. Sel. Tell me." Her voice was wild and it was frantic. Steps echoed in the corridor.
A door opened and they heard it loud and clear. There was a secret pathway. Seline knew it because she had it built for workers to walk in and out without disturbing the guests and someone was running through it right now.
"What? What? What do you want?" Seline asked, her voice shaky and shivering.
"Say, what you never said. Say what you never could say...say what you refuse to say. Please. We'll die. It'll be over...so just...say it...please...please, Sel..." she pleaded and she begged to hear it and Seline knew what she meant.
The adrenaline was pumping and the fear was only surging. Her heart suffering and her thoughts accelerating. In the three years of loving each other.
Annabelle had said it.
She said it.
Loud and clear.
» Seline. I love you. «
But Seline never did. She never spoke the words. She never could. She rejected it...in a literal sense.
What had mattered was this place. What she worked on was Cherry Tale.
What she ran from was her family and past. The words couldn't leave her mouth.
Tears flooded down her cheek.
Lights kept turning on
and turning off.
Seline wanted to get to the control room but knew they’d never reach it. The crying got louder and louder around them.
"I love you." The whisper left Seline's mouth suddenly.
"What?" Annabelle asked..
"I love you. I love you. You're the love of my life and I want to marry you. I love you....Belle." The words now left her mouth like water left a faucet. In a flow, with sentiment, with compassion, with dismay and with more tears falling down her cheeks.
She had said it. And it was true and it was the first time. And then they kissed.
...And in this curios twist of fate, in the most disastrous of situations, the most terrifying of deadly situations, the most uncertain of situations there was, the woman had it....said what she could never say before.
What she refused to say before, despite the truth. They'd die. They’d die at this place, this place…that Seline MacQuoid had built and loved and put so much work into. But now something was happening here. Something terrible, something deadly and bloody and violent. Something had attracted…not only good minded mountaineers and Seline remembered Anna’s words about placing the Inn in such secluded area…and Seline hated not listening to her now.
But, all that mattered in this very last second was that she had told Annabelle. She had told her the truth and Annabelle had heard it. She heard it and she cherished it. Now it was their fate. In this curios twist of fate, after a terrible choice to built this Inn here….Annabelle heard what she always yearned for to hear and Seline said what she always desired to say but never could. They both had what they needed.
…. now… they’d also to perish with it.