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Contemporary Drama Suspense

Fascination and curiosity. 

Her thumb pressed gently into the blade of the scissors, rewarding her with the terrible sensation of pain, an echo she had forgotten. Red burst up at the opening, and she watched as if from another body as the blood slid thickly down her outer palm opposite her thumb. Sap from a tree. 

She had never seen blood before. She was stunned at how fragile she was, at how her skin was so similar to paper that a tool intended to make snowflakes could also snip at her skin. Paper did not bleed, but did it feel pain?

She made a light fist, as if holding the handle of an empty mug, and the liquid fell to the floor, stark crimson against the ivory tile. She had known pain before, but not blood. Bruises and trauma, turmoil and discomfort, but never a blade, scratch or cut. It was most certainly improper for a lady to bleed, most especially in the company of the other sex. So in conclusion, blood of any kind was simply not tolerated. Due to the nature of this law, nothing in any breed of sharp was allowed within seven meters radius of the blonde Llywelyn heir.

For Ivy Grace, this was a day of many firsts. She had never been alone before, not for one minute of her young life. Four years of age had been cocooned by nannies and tutors and swaddled by her mother, who, for reasons unknown, was pronounced to never be able to have another child. This made her determined above all else to ensure the perfection of her only biological contribution to future society, and Ivy would never display anything but her middle name. She would never stumble or shout, break or bleed. Ivy Grace Llywelyn was loved dearly and had want for nothing, and this sort of comfort is attractive to tragedy.

The Welsh Springer Spaniel was also curious about the new development of something falling to the floor, so he sniffed the droplet and licked it tentatively, and decided he had no taste for it. Ivy deduced the same. The only thrill was having learned something, discovered something, all by herself, instead of out of a book or relying on the assurances of adults.

The scissors tapped the deep bottom of her father’s desk droor. Ivy's arm couldn’t reach the bottom, so the oak wood dug into her armpit as her hand dangled, like feet that had yet to reach the bottom of a swimming pool. She pulled it back up, not noticing the small speckling of red she had left on the documents under the scissors which had leaked from her wound. 

Because routine was so cherished and so prideful it never thought it dared to be tampered with in the Llywelyn household, nothing out of the ordinary was expected, which is exactly when unordinary prefers to announce itself. One must then ask oneself, what was little Ivy doing unaccompanied, when for all her life she had never, not once, known solitude?

The answer is short but not simple: her nanny was murdered. 

The aforementioned tragedy came in the form of an assassin, whose backstory is one for another time. Abigael Ardgery, hand-in-hand with Ivy, stepped outside to water a hydrangea, and came face to face with a genderless figure swathed in black and in possession of an arsenal of Shiny Sharp Silver Things. Her voice was cut before it could fly away, which is another tragedy in itself, as she had a beautiful voice, Ivy could recall: soft and melodic and gentle, like a snowflake. Why do blades so love slicing fragile, beautiful things?

Abigael’s hand was not yet as cold as her voice’s synonym, so when her grip gave slack, Ivy took her chance, and did not look back. She would later only hear the voice of a snowflake in her dreams, drifting through the snowstorm of memories surrounding that day, unique yet connected, each birthed from the same cloud of cataclysm. 

Ivy left the office, bored by blood, the curiosity satisfied momentarily, and the fascination replaced by a faint urgency to get the sharp pain to stop. Her mind came to a conclusion: Abigael! Abi would know what to do, and would not tell her mother. Abi was always near flowers, trying to paint her thumb green through experience and song, so Ivy would go to the greenhouse, the only place where plants could survive when everything was muffled under a bulky quilt of niveous powder. Why Abi would want to try to water a hydrangea suppressed by snow was beyond even the most incompetent gardener. 

Ivy ran through the halls, preoccupied enough not to find it odd that her footsteps were the only ones to be heard. The usual hushed commotion was now silenced, and the pitter-patter of Ivy’s little feet matched that of the hearts of all the unslaughtered staff who had fled. 

Her ‘moon coat’ (white as the goat’s cheese of the moon, Abi had said) wrapped around her pale shoulders, Ivy slowed to a walk. She had never ran before, at least not as fast, and she had definitely never felt so warm and happy from it, or felt the dryness of her throat in spite of the new, salty wetness on certain parts of her skin. Today was a day of firsts, and she was living for it. She noticed three sets of prints in the alabaster snowfall on her way to the conservatory, and mistook them for Abi, the gardener, and his apprentice. She did not realize the dog had stopped following her. 

She walked quickly but with a straight back, in case her mother was regarding her from one of the windows. Every wall of the glass greenhouse was enveloped from the inside by several rows of tropical trees, as her parents would occasionally take guests there for tea and did not wish to be disturbed by the gazes of the groundskeepers. And one could never have enough mangoes. 

There was no snow inside the building. Ivy was hit by heat and humidity, and her nose was assaulted with aromas fighting for names in her brain. Over 1000 square metres of enclosed tropical space, with a small area for her father’s menagerie. One would have to be quite wealthy indeed, you would think, for a paradise such as this, or for a quality assassin to be hired to take out the entire family. 

After ten minutes of searching for Abigael, Ivy was mildly bewildered.

After fifteen minutes, she began to be alarmed, her high of freedom waning as she felt ever so alone. 

“Perhaps Abi is not in the greenhouse.”, Ivy is pronounced to a butterfly. It was white and delicate, like paper. “But then where else would she go? She likes flowers, like you. She cannot stray from them for long. She needs plants, and I am her Ivy. She needs me.” An idea struck the back of her skull. “Ah. I will head to the ga-zebra.” 

She turned to head to the ‘ga-zebra’ (gazebo), and failed to notice something else: as she did, the butterfly fled it’s perch on the rose, and on it’s way to a shorter red flower, it’s wing tore on the thorns.

Ivy walked more comfortably now, back relaxed. Her guard was down, not that a four-year-old necessarily has a guard, and the hum of life in the greenhouse had a lulling quality. She reached the lovely glass gazebo and was disoriented to see her parents there. 

Then she was struck by something at the back of her skull, and it was not an idea.

Five years later.

Talia Salvaggio was of the type to believe in nature, and understood things much better when they could be put into the context of Things That Grow. The environment believes in cause-and-effect, consequently, so did Talia. 

She wished to be a scientist. 

She had the brains, and the work ethic, and the potential. 

She didn’t have the gender, or the social skills, or the funds. 

Her problem was that she could not always explain how her mind reached certain conclusions. For example, when conversing with an older man about her career, she once remarked, expressionless, and while looking at his hands: “Ah, like leaves in the eleventh month.” The man dubbed her insane and turned her out, and Talia was disoriented, as she had given him a compliment. To her, the only thing as wonderful as bright green, young leaves are the state of leaves around November, when their skeletons lay pressed to the ground to make new life. His hands were thin, papery, and old, and she thought them beautiful and clever. Why had he turned her away, when she had only meant to say he had splendid hands?

She had once been kicked out of a classroom for staring at a teacher, and when the teacher asked her what she was thinking of, she replied, in all seriousness, “Why, how much you resemble a snail. How fascinating.” Again, a compliment! The professor, a rare woman in the scientific community, was only comfortable in certain atmospheres, and otherwise hid on her shell. She emerged, however, determined and curious, when she taught on specific subjects, and became impassioned. Talia had only meant the professor was an intelligent, passionate creature, who valued her work! But the professor did not know this, and assumed the worst, as they always did: that this was some sort of joke, or a twisted insult. 

There were those who liked Talia, but did not wish to associate with her, and those who did not understand her, but appreciated her true genius after reading an essay in which she was able to explain her thought process, and then, of course, her conclusion made perfect sense. Everyone else avoided her. 

Talia’s mother then fell ill, and as they were not wealthy sort of folk, Taliarecognized the need to collect some capital, and quickly. 

In a café one day, with a lavender tea balanced perfectly on one leg, an article on plantology laying the other, a biology book in one hand and a newspaper in the other, Talia spotted, through her monocle, a job offer in the paper. To be a full-time nanny for a freshly decade-old orphan girl of rich heritage. The pay was good. Suspiciously good. This girl was either as expensive as Iranian beluga caviar, or as disagreeable as a mayweed. 

Or perhaps they were desperate, as she was. 

Talia left the café and headed to a telephone, deciding to call the number in the paper on a whim to get more information. According to the woman on the phone, the ten-year-old girl was rather disagreeable, even more so than mayweed (but at least she was unlikely to smell as foul): she was a spoiled, plenipotent brat who’d pushed five nannies to quit.

But her name was Ivy.

And Talia loved nature, and she loved the word ivy. It was the shortest name that still held elegance. 

So that very day, Talia Salvaggio decided to become a nanny, to support her mother and feed her own curiosity. It was the first decision she’d made that she thought would be inconsequential, but as life shows us, cause-and-effect overlooks nothing.

Day 2:

So yes, the girl was a handful, but luckily, Talia had large hands, and was used to holding more than one thing. Ivy Grace was the rudest ten-year-old as was ever known, mostly due to her insistence that she owned everything. Everything about her was red, from her flaming hair, to her vision and temper. However, when she learned that Talia loved plants, she showed, for whatever reason, a small pocket of warmth that more resembled a dent, and allowed Talia more authority than she had with other nannies.

Week 2: 

Ivy consistently displayed the characteristics of someone who thought they deserved all the world. Shopping was an event, to put it lightly, because she declared everything, “Mine.” Talia had unlocked a new achievement: favourite word. Everything was ‘Ivy’s’. Everything was, “Mine!”, “It belongs to me!”, “No, don’t touch!”. Many exclamations, many belongings. However, a mysterious, young hydrangea plant was in front of Talia’s door one morning, and Talia thought that, possibly, it wouldn’t be too bad to belong to that girl. In fact, Ivy was the only one who didn't mind her strange conclusions. 

Month 2: 

Officially the nanny to have stayed the longest, Talia felt a sense of achievement, and Ivy ‘authorised’ her to teach her about science, particularly plantology and physics. Never biology. Talia was informed that Ivy was frightfully terrified of blood. 

In the third month, it was the birthday of Talia’s mother. Talia decided to wake up early and make a cake, because baking is chemistry, so how hard could it be? As she cut strawberries, the knife slipped, and cut deep into her knuckle. Ivy had approached the kitchen silently, but now sucked in a breath. Talia's head whipped toward her. Ivy’s eyes were wide, and she stared at the blood. 

“Red.” she breathed. “It’s . . . mine.” Her eyes filled, and her voice softened. “It should have been me.”

She gasped, then began to hyperventilate. She sprinted to her room, and Talia dropped the knife to follow her. 

“Ivy!” She called. “Ivy, wait, I’m quite alright! All things bleed, even some leaves do! Even trees! Ah- Ivy, wait!”

Ivy had locked her door from the inside. Talia sighed, and fixed up her finger with the simple first aid she recalled from a book. She resolved to show Ivy how easy it had been to clean up, how little a wound, and she ended up falling asleep next to the door. 

Ivy came out very late at night, mind blank, to use the toilet. She did not relock her door.

That night, Ivy’s dreams came, and dark mares of the night brought a snowstorm on their backs, great dark billowing clouds, with distorted memories, all alike but unique, all connected but the same, hurdling out in her mind. 

She was struck by something at the back of her skull, and it was not an idea.

She woke up with her head pounding, vision swimming and fading, the world a broken record. She was sticky.

Sticky? And warm. The greenhouse? Yes, the greenhouse was warm, but not like this. She was laying in liquid. Had she been swimming? She couldn’t think. She could barely look, but barely was enough. Ivy brought her hand to her face, but possibly she didn’t have control of her hand, because the regular pale skin did not appear in front of her. She only saw red. Were her eyes still closed?

Vision: cleared.

Realization: struck.

It was blood. 

Ivy felt no pain but her head and the cut on her hand, so it was not hers. The blood bubbled rivers out of two figures, corpses, laying in the gazebo. Her parents. They’d been having tea, or a meeting, or some such frivolous thing, alone in the greenhouse, and they’d been slit by sharp things and they had torn like paper. 

Both of their bodies were horrible, ugly snowflakes, torn in all the wrong places and cut and folded as human bodies never should be.

The world was suddenly too red, and she cried.

The air was suddenly too thick, and she choked. 

The scent was suddenly too sweet, and she gagged.

Her mind was suddenly too full, and she screamed.

Talia heard the cry, and lept to her feet. She scrambled into the room, where she found Ivy sitting up on the floor, hair a mess, eyes wide, vibrating uncontrollably. 

Talia knelt beside her, distraught. “Ivy,” she implored, voice strong. “Ivy, speak to me.”

The girl had woken up from a dream, and, crying, looked at her hands, and divulged, “It’s not mine. The red, it doesn’t belong to me. My hands are red, and it should be mine.”

Realization struck Talia. This girl had gone through something terrible, and it had reflected into her personality.

Ivy was a spoiled girl, claiming she wants everything to be hers.

Her parents were killed years ago and she woke up covered in their blood, and wished it were hers instead of theirs.

Talia then understood that the girl wanted everything to be hers, because she thought that if things weren’t hers, then they would hurt other people.

“Oh, Ivy.” Talia tentatively grabbed the girl’s shoulder, then wrapped her arms around her. “What do you need from me, rosebud?”

Ivy’s breathing had slowed, and she melted, her muscles slack, leaves in October too tired after a summer of hanging on.

“Sing.” Ivy responded after a while, hair covering her face. 

Looking at her red hair, only one song came to mind, and it may have even been a poem, originally. But the words may have upset her more, so Talia sang what she could remember of it in Italian. 

"Farfalle sopra una rosa, 

Rosso così brillante mentre cresce.

Le sue spine sono coltelli, sono affilate e poco invitanti

Le sue foglie possono nascondersi,

Offrono una sicurezza che è allettante.

I suoi petali sono fragili e satinati, 

Increspati come la seta.

Il suo nettare è dolce come l'Alma thea, 

Il latte delle farfalle.

Un bocciolo nel mio petto desidera il sole,

Innaffiato dalle lacrime ha iniziato a crescere.

Questa rosa nel mio cuore piange mentre i petali vengono tirati,

I suoi rossi cadono via da dove si trovavano una volta."

Ivy’s heartbeat slowed, and her eyes closed, the weight of deep sleep pulling down her lids. Her last thought before lethargy claimed it’s next victim was how glad she was to have one last piece of paper, one which knives had not yet cut, and she swore with all her being she would not let another snowflake be made, or a drop of Talia’s precious blood ever be spilled.

May 23, 2021 14:25

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1 comment

Diana Quill
14:28 May 23, 2021

Author's Note: Hello! Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you liked it. Please comment to let me know what you think! I'm open to constructive criticism. Unfortunately, due to the word limit, I had to cut some parts of the story short, so my apologies for any 'plot holes': I did try to only cut what could be. I also did wish to include a trigger warning for self-harm, violence, gore, and PTSD. Here is the song Talia sang in English: "Butterflies above a rose, Red so brightly as it grows. Its thorns are knives, sharp and uninviting ...

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