Caroline slowly turned, her heartbeat making her body tremble for how loud it felt in her ears. She knew that she should be angry but any of the rage that she’d felt coming up the steps was lost to her now as she slowly came through the doorway to the room with the large bay window. There was a lone figure sitting in the dim and fading light cast by the filthy window. It rocked back and forth in that same soft rhythm that she knew from childhood. The gentle sound of a woman cradling a baby, soothing it into slumber. As Caroline drew closer to the figure, she saw that it was a young woman. A girl with white blonde hair and crystal blue eyes. She did not cease to move even as Caroline approached and she seemed to take no notice as she stood before her. The woman, barely more than a girl, kept her eyes fixed on the tiny bundle in her arms, the child’s face hidden in the shadows cast by the blankets. A part of Caroline wanted desperately to look at the babe as it slept. It was so silent, she feared how quiet it was. The woman before her seemed to have no concern as she continued rocking, her concentration only fixed on the blankets and the shadowy child within. Caroline was helpless to do anything but watch, her eyes taking in every detail. Her mind seemed to pause as she settled on the image and saw the woman wore a white caplet.
“Who are you?” Caroline said, her voice shaking. “Why have you come here?”
“I have always been here,” the woman said, her voice soft and barely above a whisper. “We will always be here. We wait for the father.”
“My father was here when I left,” Caroline snapped. “What have you done?”
“He was no father,” the woman said, tonelessly. Her eyes never left the infant in her arms. “He was a jackal. His prey was too large for him and he failed. Now, he is no more but he was never a father. We wait for the father that will never come again. A father that was robbed of his heart before it was born.”
“You lie!” Caroline stammered, unconsciously stepping back from the image before her. Still the woman rocked back and forth, her eyes fixed down. “There was only ever one father here.”
“Ah but Caroline, you already know,” the woman said, coming to a pause now. She did not look up but her young, pretty face changed into a vicious snarl. “For a time, there were two.”
“Liar,” Caroline choked on the word. She stumbled back, the ledge of the window nearly pressing into her calves now. “There were no children here. Only my siblings. He was the last and he’s still a child.”
“You may lie to yourself but you will never lie to us again,” the woman said, standing. The rocking chair continued to move in the same soothing motion but the woman with the white caplet stepped away from it. “You had your chance to tell the truth. Now you will face the truth that is to come. One you will never be a part of.”
“Leave me alone!” Caroline demanded, fumbling back and forced to sit on the ledge. Still the woman approached slowly but surely. Her crystal eyes were fixed on Caroline with an unwavering, cruel stare. “Leave this place. This is my home and you have no right to be here.”
“Oh but I do,” the woman said, coming closer still. “You saw to it that we could never leave. Now look and see what you will never know.”
The woman before her pointed forward, her gaze shifting from Caroline to the window behind. With every inch of her trembling body, Caroline wished fervently to stop her muscles from moving. She tried desperately to close her eyes. To still her body as she felt herself shift and turn. Anything to keep this wicked revelation at bay. Shaking to her core, Caroline felt powerless as her body refused to obey her and her eyes simply would not close. When she looked down at what should have been the front courtyard of the estate, it was, in fact, that wretched house that Victor had built. It was the height of summer there before her and she saw the now cultivated courtyard of that house. The front drive had been finished with glistening white stones and the edges where the rocks met the grass was lined with beautiful rose bushes, the color of each as deep crimson as she had ever seen. In the centre of the circle drive, there were benches that lined a great fountain, around which two children were chasing each other. The dark color of their hair told her immediately who had fathered the two. They were identical twin boys, laughing as they taunted each other and raced around, one with a brilliant red rose in his hand and the other trying desperately to snatch it from him. Suddenly one paused and halted his brother as a dark figure emerged from the archway with its wisteria choked columns. The figure moved slowly with a slight gait but steadily forward towards the children. They came towards the figure and in turn nodded to him to signal respect. The child with the rose sheepishly offered it to the figure who knelt down to face the boy and took the flower with a gloved hand. Caroline thought for certain that the boy would receive a lashing for defacing the garden but the figure only stood and tucked the rose in his lapel before patting the child on the head and adding an affectionate pat on the cheek of the other twin. The figure turned as the children set to follow and when he raised his eyes, Caroline saw him in full.
Her blood ran with ice as she looked directly at the eyes of such intense darkness. No longer a boy, the man before her still held all the same dark, brooding intensity in those haunted black eyes. His dark hair was still the color of midnight but the touch of silver had come to his temples. As he stood, he seemed calm but there was a fierce look upon his face. In those eyes, he stared her down, though she was certain he could not see her. He paused, one hand on a cane and the other signalling the children come. He seemed to watch the windows with a defiant stare, guarding the boys by his sides fiercely before allowing himself to be drawn away. Instead, he turned his attention to his beautiful children. They walked on either side of him, one holding his free hand and the other keeping his hand in his father’s pocket. He walked slow that the boys might keep up with him as he guided them into the shadow of the archway into a house that was beyond her reach. It was not the one she was in and in that moment, Caroline knew that she would never see those doors open to her again.
“Whose children are those?” she asked, her voice quivering with each syllable. The sound of these words broke her heart more than she could stand.
“The father who could have been,” the woman said, returning to the rocker. “The father that shall be.”
“He’s gone,” Caroline cried, walking to the woman. “He’s dead! Him and his child.”
“One child gone but the others will live. His heart will glow again,” the woman said, almost affectionately to the blankets in her arms. “There will come a time when he will know love. When you cannot take it from him or make it serve your purpose any longer. There will be a time, very soon, when his happiness will be beyond your cold touch and you will be powerless to steal it from him ever again.”
“I will not stand for this!” Caroline shouted with a rage so hot it made her shake. “You will not lie to me in my own house, you harlot! Begone! You will not lie to me like this!”
“I do not lie,” the woman said calmly but the tone of her voice very cold. The baby in her arms began to cry. She ignored it now as she rose from the seat and set the bundle down on the still rocking chair. In the background the baby wailed as the woman in the white caplet approached. Her face was a mask of hatred.
“Stand down, devil!” Caroline said, her voice quivering as she backed away. Her back hit the vines that had followed her up here. She gasped as the woman stepped into the shadows. The tendrils of the vines had grabbed her arms and she was powerless to stop them. “Leave me be!”
“Oh that can never be,” the woman said, her voice colder still, the edges of what she said making Caroline wince. “The day comes when he will be lost to you, Caroline. The day comes when you will never take from him again. On that day, you will return. On that day, Caroline, we will be waiting for you to come home!”
Just as the woman’s hand reached for her, Caroline opened her eyes and felt her breath catch in her throat. She coughed and gagged as she struggled to breathe properly. The details were fading but she knew that this had been no ordinary dream. Nothing like it had ever happened before and she knew that she never wanted to see such images again. She was filled with dread though it was quickly becoming difficult to remember why. All the while, she only knew that very suddenly, she never wanted to see the estate again. She never wanted to enter that house again for fear that she would recall with vivid horror the state that she’d been privy to in the dream. She knew that the house had been destroyed but she was content to let the images fade and rot in her memory.
One image remained, however. One truth that she knew she had to stop. She was certain that she had triumphed in destroying Vivian’s pregnancy and it had been the only salve to the failure that had resulted in Victor’s death. She would not fail now. Those children could not be! It had been a valiant attempt to end that harlot’s life but she had clearly recovered. Enough to trap Victor and create this mess. Her recovery had meant that she was capable of doing the devil’s work, seducing him and creating this unholy union. Those children, those glorious beautiful children, would join the other soon enough. She would not allow herself to fail this time. Even if it meant that she had to follow that wicked woman to her grave, she would see to it that this was a future that would never come.