Caroline was in a fog that seemed to make the days pass. She had found a method for finding alcohol that was cheaper but it had been vile and too much of it made her feel ill. Far from the luxurious warmth of the drinks that had been shared around the hearth at Christmas time when she was on the estate, here in this filthy, desperate little town, she sat in a cold, barren room with a bottle hidden the covers of the makeshift bed that she had and the small gas lamp that she used as sparingly as possible. She had always hated these things. There were always such horrific tales of how the flame would sputter out and the deadly gas would simply fill the air, filling a sleeping victim to the brim before the life was squeezed out. Such horrid tales the papers had told. She had once feared being one of those who might fall into a dream and never return. Now, she found that she had little to dream about. She had even less to concern herself with in regards to the flame or the gas. Nothing had mattered but her precious Victor and he had gone. What use was the light to her now? Ah the warmth was soothing for a moment but she could feel nothing inside with all her dreams dashed. There would never be another Christmas again. There would be no sound of children running through the halls of their estate, anticipating a feast. There would be no children at all. As soon as she happened upon this thought, she would find her bottle again and drown the offensive idea until it was silent. These thoughts were too painful. This truth was too much to take and it was better to be in a daze of silence, darkness and drowsy intoxication.
Even in this lowly state, she could not wipe from her mind the image that had reduced her to a shell of a woman in an instant. This hollow form felt the cold, bitter wind travel through her empty form as a constant and painful reminder of where her heart once was. She couldn’t bare to think of it and yet there it was always at the ready to be plucked from her drunken mind and into the light. The small, undignified stake in the ground that bore the name that she had come here for. The name that had been the survival of all her dreams. Her precious hopes and the very reason she had abandoned that crumbling estate back home was spelled out in that slapdash piece of wood with a handwritten notice on it. No ceremony or any kind of treatment for the death of her only driving force in this nightmare. And the small stake beside it! No name. No birthdate to tell her how and when she had failed. Was it the wretched thing that she’d robbed Vivian of when she’d failed to end this toxic relationship of theirs? She would never know. Caroline existed only in agony now. She could only bare to continue on in the arms of this wretched liquor for any sober thoughts were misery incarnate. With her joy gone, Caroline believed she must be dying. She must be. Without her beloved, there was nothing more to think of. He was dead. To even think of such a thing brought a sweeping sickness through her and she was convinced that she would be ill if she dared try to think of how it had happened. Oh she knew. She knew without trying to figure it out. That wanton vixen had done it. No matter how. The fatal result was all that mattered and now her beautiful brother was colder than the ground that lay frozen outside. He was gone. Even in her sickened drunken mess that she’d become, she could not erase this thought. How could she go on without that love to spur her on?
Caroline had felt the burn of shame swell in her so often since she’d come here but it had given way to the ashes of defeat and the smoldering ache in her heart at all that had been lost. She had failed, this was true. It was among the least of her worries anymore. The family was in ruins before she left. Papa on his death bed had been the one appeal that she had to offer and it had still failed. She thought for certain that his illness and impending death would stir in her brother’s heart a flicker of affection for something there. She had been banking on such things all the way here. The promise of a home and a mending of their hearts had been something she thought for certain he would have seen to. She had tried so hard to fix everything when he was still living there. All the violent anger and the rotten influences around him. She’d done everything she could and yet he’d gone. She thought for certain that if he could see that the house and the family were in tatters, he would return. He would make them complete again. One happy family to live on the estate freely and just as things were intended. Just as things were before. She had never anticipated that his heart would have grown so cold. That one woman might conspire to take him in such a way that would break them all before she robbed them of him once and for all.
It had been her! Caroline knew it. She felt the sour rising of anger and sickness in her. The vile alcohol in her felt like poison swimming inside of her body and it seemed to give her a kind of malicious passion. It was as if the rancid liquid was twisting in her gut and transforming into a kind of simmering animosity. She could barely move but she wanted nothing more than to find that harlot and bring her to her knees, begging for mercy. Even that was too good. She had done this once before and it had done nothing, evidently. That tramp had found a way to Victor anyway. She’d charmed her with her limited resources and found a way to tempt him. Made him run from his family and come here to this awful, frozen wasteland. Yes, it was her all along.
A part of Caroline’s brain, drowning in potent, horrible alcohol, let loose something of a memory and for one terrifying second, she thought that it was not Vivian. There had been a woman before. A girl, rather. Someone she could not stand the thought of. Her face. Her lovely, rotten face haunted her all of the sudden but just as it threatened to come into focus, the image was dashed.
Vivian. No need to become distracted. She needed to focus on how to bring this harpy to meet her fate. She knew that it was always her. She’d desired Victor when he was just a boy. Not even close to her age and she would have taken him away when he was just young. Too young to be without his family. Without her. Oh she’d failed then but clearly it had driven her mad. She had to possess him. Had to have him to herself. And she knew what it would do to the family to break him. She’d planned it all along the wanton Jezebel! She knew it would be the fall of their family name. She knew that it would shatter them all. It would shatter Caroline the most. Oh how she knew these things. Tricked them all into thinking that she’d come here with that wretched excuse for a husband but she had planned it all, somehow. She had been the one to plant the seed of discord in his head. She had been the vixen to tempt him away. Had been the one all along to create that tension where there should have been none and brought into their lives this chaos and misery. She had found him when he was weak. She had tempted him like the bloody serpent she was. She had brought him so far that he could not see reason. She had isolated him so far and sickened him. Vivian. She had killed him. She’d done it on purpose.