At the top of the stairs, Caroline paused at the loudness of the voice. She had come to another door and though it was closed, she could hear with perfect clarity, the sound of that wretched sound. Her heart thundered in her chest as though it might give her away at any second. The voice was relentless, however, chiding someone so harshly that if her prey might have figured out she was there, she would scarcely be able to hear it above the din of her own howling. Even though everything in her being feared what might befall her, Caroline felt as though she was not able to keep her body from moving. Her gloved hand quietly slid around the doorknob, cradling it with the utmost care as she easily turned it and very slowly unlatched it from its place. Very slowly and cautiously, she opened the door a crack and looked through it at the dim light that seemed so bright by contrast to the darkness that she stood in now.
As the light cleared the gloom from her vision, she slowly was able to make out the form of the woman who spoke. She was not alone, of course. There was a small girl in the distance, her tiny shivering frame seeming to tremble with each syllable directed at her. And her tormentor? Decked out in garish red like the harlot she was. Still tall like she always was but that gangly girl had been replaced by a woman whose silhouette was obscenely accentuated with the curves that had since become passe. Her long brown hair was still in those barely contained thick waves and pulled back in a manner that made them cascade down her back. A long dress that nearly reached her feet, the ankles visible and swollen. Caroline took a childish delight in seeing their growth, the flesh clearly bulging in the straps of her ridiculous heels.
“Your incompetence infuriates me, you wretched tick!” her voice boomed at the child at her feet. “Quit your irritating sniveling! The teapot that you broke is worth more than your miserable hide and if you think your blubbering is going to spare you the trouble of paying it back, you’re sorely mistaken!”
Vivian. The name of vile cruelty. Here she was, within her element as she chided that girl. Did she threaten her? Was that what she heard? Caroline could hear every single stinging word and yet she couldn’t help thinking that she heard wrong. Did she hear that woman tell that child she would beat her? Whip her like a worthless horse? The loathsome things that came from her wanton mouth made Caroline sick with rage. Her teeth gnashed with fury as she thought of the woman who had tried to steal her brother from his family. From her. Her own brother and she thought she might take him. And this is the kind of woman she had always been but how dare she do this to her beloved Victor. For one terrible second, she no longer saw the girl cowering before Vivian. She instead saw her brother, still the child she remembered him to be. A young boy promised to this monster in his youth. Caroline’s hands clenched in her barely contained malice. She might have come forward and attacked her outright had her prey not turned to face the door. The sight of this woman had stunned her into position and drained the color from her face.
The curves that she had mistaken for growth into womanhood were signalling something Caroline had been too afraid to think of. No, it could not be! Her breathe shivered as she her lips trembled as she looked over Vivian with renewed horror. The bounty of her breasts were full to nourish the growth of the baby. There was no mistake to be made of this. That cruel, sharp face to match the voice had not become larger at all. No, she bore no sign of growing in girth. She was heavy with a child to come. Victor’s child!
No! This could not be! This would not be! She could not allow this to happen again!
“Remove yourself from my sight now,” Vivian sneered bitterly. “I should not wish to see you again for the remainder of the day, perhaps the month. You remember well what happened to that little ant that last broke one of my possessions, do you not? What was her name? Victoria? If you think that she ended up hideous in the end, I should very much think you will end up envious of her should I find myself irritated by you again.”
Caroline quickly moved aside as the girl scampered away from her tormentor, trying desperately to hide her tears. She had just enough time to hide behind the door as it swung open and the stairwell was flooded with light. Caroline struggled to breathe as she stayed hidden behind in the space behind the door. A part of her had become obsessed with not getting caught so close to her goal but the rest of her mind was possessed with the need to remedy this terrible happening. She could not allow this woman to own Victor through her hateful brood. Caroline could not allow that to be. She held her breath as she heard steps approaching the door. Through her panic and her rage, she realized that her prey was still speaking to herself. No. Speaking to that abomination she was set to bore.
“This world will be yours,” she laughed. “You will see it yet, my little darling. He believes you to be just like all the others but you and I both know that you will be so much more. The tie that binds him and I together is unfortunate but I assure you, my little darling, you are all mine.”
Caroline was livid now. The vixen had all but confessed that she meant to take him. Victor could not be taken away from her. She would not let this whore do this to her family. The tie must be broken. She would not allow her brother’s short-sightedness being his undoing. Not this time. Not again. She clutched to the knob of the door to force herself to calm enough to listen as the footsteps became louder. Vivian was nearly upon the threshold. Caroline struggled to control the sound of her breath and the aching pulse of her heart as she stiffened in place. She heard her prey put one foot upon the step and the groan of the old step seemed to call out to her. The time had come. She must act soon. Waiting as Vivian took another careful step, Caroline glared into the back of her head. The hateful woman that was the author of all their misery. A woman who should never have laid a finger upon her beloved brother. Teeth clenched and her hands curled into trembling fists she watched Vivian move down yet another step. The groan from the wood beneath her foot seemed to scold her. What was she waiting for? The wood screamed at her to move and as though she were watching from afar, she saw herself obey the command.
In one vicious swipe, she pulled at that cascade of waved brown hair. Vivian gasped in shocked but had no time to react as Caroline angrily shoved her into the wall. Her prey, too dazed to catch up to what was happening, was all too accommodating as Caroline’s gloved hand clutched to the back of that garish red dress while her other stayed holding fast to her hair and wrenched her back off the wall. With one quick whimper, Vivian was suddenly aware again and her hands flung back at her assailant but it was too late. With all her enraged strength, Caroline sent her body pitching forward with violent force. Vivian was helpless as she fell, her body hitting the wall and then the steps before coming to a sharp stop at the bottom. Splayed out in the light cast from the open door at the bottom, the blood began quickly forming beneath her crumpled form but she did not move. Caroline felt frozen as she twisted her gloved hands together hard enough to make her pierced finger throb madly. She slowly descended the steps that she’d just sent her nemesis down only to find that her prey was still alive. Twitching and shivering, the woman could not even see her through her agony. Caroline stepped over her trembling body as Vivian struggled to find the strength to grasp at her stomach. The blood continued to pool and trail around her legs.
“My little darling! Oh not my little darling!” she whimpered desperately in a hollow, trembling voice. A voice that haunted Caroline with each, numbing step.