I am pained, my dear brother, to say that I feel a strain has come between us and I fear that you are under a great deal of pressure with my presence in the house. I can no longer bare to see you so unlike the man I know you to be. It is with a great sorrow that I take my leave from you though I am confident that we can mend this distance between us. Please do forgive me for taking my leave before your return. Do know that I love you with all my very heart and I should not wish to make myself a ward of yours. You have been so very kind as to accept me into your home and I am grateful for your grace and hospitality. I ask your pardon that I have chosen this time to leave but as you will see, I feel as though it was for the best. Under more forgiving circumstances, we might have been permitted a more formal meeting rather than a letter but I am afraid that this is not to be for now. I do so wish that we could have shared a more pleasing farewell but I look forward to something more appropriate in the future, my dear Victor.
I suppose that I should be grateful, however, for some small fortune that allows me to write to you and have you know the true tenderness with which I mean my words. You have always been the light of our family and as you have grown, I have found you so endearing to see your great strength but I lament that we can no longer speak as we once could. I fear that sometimes you are still so very stubborn my dearest brother and it is my greatest fear that this streak within you will be the death of you. Will be the the final note to slice you from what is rightfully yours. You are here and this place is a testimony to your brilliance but it is not where you truly belong. Please hear me as you read these words and know that you are still the Victor that I love so dearly and we all adore you so. What separates you from our love could not last so long as to be good and you must feel that longing for us as well somewhere. For all that is good within us is within you and you were always the light in this family, my darling brother. This grand house of yours is a sight to behold but it is not your true home. I fear the man it will create in you to be alone in such a place as this. Lofty and beautiful as it may be, you are a man of many frustrations here. The light that is within you is burning too brightly and I fear the aftermath of such a light.
I am not a fool and I do not suppose that you should read these words and be convinced of such things. It weighs upon me deeply that I cannot make you believe me because such words are so flimsy in the face of what we truly feel. I wish to show you these feelings and have you understand the depth of them. We are those who love you more than anything but it seems as though confessions of so fragile a word are paltry and unyielding to us. I dearly regret that I could not make it known to you how very truly your family loves and misses you. My failure speaks to a greater darkness that surrounds you and it frightens me, Victor. Something truly disturbing about this house speaks to me and I fear for you. I fear what it brings to you and how it manipulates you. Please know that my love speaks truly, my brother. You are not a cruel man and I know this but there is something cruel here. Something that grows without us seeing it. Something that grows within you, I fear.
Please consider my words and when the time is right, I shall be waiting. I will not so soon lose one I love so dearly to his darkness. I will write to you again when I am properly able and you are within better spirits after your journey.
With tenderest love and all my dear affection,
Victor toyed with shredding the letter as he read it again. The nerve of this woman that he had welcomed once brought him to near sickness but that may also have been the cloying sentimentality that she wrote with. He could practically hear his father’s coaching in her when she spoke but the written form seemed that much more appalling. The worst of it was that his sister was no more convinced by this insipid letter than he was. Her lies might as well be admitted to in bold, it was so obvious that she was hiding something of importance. It bothered him immensely that he could not spot within her words the trick that she was withholding. It was an insult. The lie and the conspiracy was plain before him and yet he could not tease it out of the sugary prose that she had left him.
Feeling rank with the newfound discovery, Victor had refused to dine in any company and what little he ate tasted bitter. He retired to his own room to be left alone and he was only slightly relieved when the staff retreated for the evening. It had been with great effort that he had held his tongue while in the presence of anyone and though he was well aware that his anger showed in his mannerisms, he had managed to keep it to himself until he was in his room. He had no desire to be his father’s equal when it came to contempt of the housing staff. If his past lover had been able to show him anything of the realities of her station, it was the dangers of those his ignorant buffoon of a father had trampled upon. More than once, he had fallen ill or been placed in harm’s way because of his temper and though Victor knew his weakness when it came to those flashes of anger, he was also well aware that those under his employ were far from foolish. He had hired them with such a purpose and it was unwise to undo what he had begun. No, he knew better than to follow in the fool’s footsteps. It was how his awful heritage had come to pass and he would not allow such things in his life. He had come away from that estate and the legacy that it would surely spawn. He would not allow this thorn to send him along the same path that he was determined to escape.
And yet he’d allowed her to come with little pretense at all. She had written to him many times over the years and though he often found himself thinking of entertaining the idea of having his elder sister here, Victor had never succumb to the urge until he came here. Perhaps it was the distance that had allowed him to drop his guard. After his initial bouts of success in London had allowed him to move here, he had adopted his new home here and felt invincible. There was nothing here that might be able to harm him. And yet he let his past find her way to his very doorstep, complete with an invitation. It was all so maddening. What might she have brought with her? Forgiveness that he had no interest in or desire for? A title for land that would be hardly worth the weight of his spit when the old man finally did expire? No, he had been looking for the past to find him and yet all he wanted was never to come home ever. The home he built for her would never stand well enough to entice even the dead to come to see him. Oh, his beloved Annabelle. Would she never cease to haunt him? And for the love of her and the want for her memory, he’d allowed this snake to come into his own shelter. His tribute to his success was a monument to all the trials that he had come through and he’d allowed her to set foot here. It was a disgrace to her memory.
Victor stopped when he realized he was pacing. In his hand was not the letter that had caused his ire but the trinket that had held it to the desk. The globe with the young woman sitting among the flowers. Against his better judgement, Victor looked at the woman and within the globe, he saw the amber light of the dying sun seem to tint her hair gold. Her soft, vague features seemed to distort within the liquid and he swore that the black eyes of the figure changed before him. He felt his breath catch in his throat when the eyes were not the blue crystals he anticipated but a vivid, wild green.