Roxy Rhodes Miskin was a broken woman.
Once the bold firecracker, her spark had completely fizzled out. Two months after the death of her husband, she still hadn't left the house. In fact, it was rare that she even left the bedroom - except to fetch a few morsels of food that she struggled to keep down. Most of the time, she spent long days and sleepless nights laying upon her bed, weeping tears into Mac's pillow, shrouded by a cloak of gloom and grief.
Her family tried to speak to her... but she never let them in. They were permitted to pop their heads around the door, say a few words - but nothing more. Roxy longed for their company and missed them terribly... but she knew she was doing the right thing by cutting them off. They would forget her eventually and move on with their lives. They would be free, safe from her curse...and wouldn't mourn her too much when she died.
That day couldn't come soon enough.
Even Marcel, who had felt the bitter sting of his mother's rejection once before, left her to her own devices. It was a battle he knew was pointless to fight. He spoke to her, reached out to her, as a loving son should... but wasn't too taken aback by her stark refusal to co-operate. His children needed him - and he focused on them.
Soon enough, however, even Roxy realised that moping around in the dark all day wasn't the wisest course of action for someone to take. She still lacked the energy and will to really do anything, but at the very least, she could get up and go for a shower.
Lurching to her feet, she sloped across the carpet slowly, and reached into her drawer for a clean towel. Upon opening it, she was stopped in her tracks by the sight of an envelope in the corner. There was a name handwritten upon it.
Roxy hadn't seen or heard her full name in years. Intrigued, she picked up the envelope tenderly, and gently opened it up - revealing a letter, again handwritten, folded away inside.
Nervously, with a trembling hand, she removed the letter, and opened it up - moving back towards the bed in order to sit down and read it. Before she reached the main body of text, her eyes fell upon the date written in the top-right corner.
Her and Mac's wedding day.
More confused then ever, she read on.
My dearest Roxy,
Today, you have made me the happiest man in the world by allowing me to become your husband. It was one dream of mine that I never thought would come true... and yet, you have made it happen. You will never know just how grateful I am to you, and how blessed I feel. All I can do is try to show you my love everyday, and hope you get at least a taste of the joy you have brought me.
However, the day is bittersweet. You know I am ill, my darling - that my heart is slowly failing. What I have deliberately neglected to tell you, my love, is that this malady will kill me sooner rather than later. My days on this earth are limited. Despite the doctors' best efforts, and whatever tablets they give me to choke down, the truth is, within a few short years, I will no longer be here.
If you are reading this, then it means I have been granted my final wish. I have died before you. If this were not the case, this letter would have long since been destroyed, as I couldn't bear laying eyes on it again. Indeed, I truly believe that I would not be able to live one day on this Earth without you. For now, I will hide it somewhere, until I sense that my time is drawing near. When that happens, I will leave it in a place you are bound to find it, and await the inevitable.
I would die without you, my love, because I am weak. But you, dear Roxy, are strong. You are the raging tiger, the eternal fire. Alas, I know full well how you deal with grief and worry. You blame yourself. You become convinced you are being punished for some great sin you have not committed. You will lock yourself away and reject the love of those who cherish you most. Well, lady, I'm telling you right now - pull yourself together and pack it in. You're better than that.
(Roxy blinked, shocked.)
Yes, I know my death will hurt you. If you love me as much as I hope you do, then it is bound to. After all, we have known each other for almost our entire lives. But our love has borne fruit, my sweet. We have a wonderful son, whom I'm sure will father some beautiful grandchildren one day.
("Oh, Mac," Roxy giggled, stunned by the sound of her own laughter. "If only you'd known then!")
I, sadly, must now be a part of your past. They, however, are your future. Look to them.
But, even if they are/were not there, the memories we have made together should be enough to comfort you. My life has been far from wasted, as has yours. Remember with fondness the golden days of the not-so-dynamic duo. The age of Miskin and Rhodes. Following my diagnosis, I find myself doing that more and more often... and it never fails to comfort me. Look at the all the things you have done, my love, and be proud. You are far from cursed. You are blessed. And I was blessed to have you.
Along with this letter, I leave behind one small token of my love. Consider it a late repayment of an old debt. I am sure you will understand its meaning.
Live your life to the full, my dearest Roxanne Sakura, and take your time. I will be waiting for you, until we meet again.
With love, I remain, your eternally loyal and grateful husband,
Mackenzie Isaac Miskin
As Roxy smiled gently, she noticed a small object tucked away in the corner of the envelope. As she reached in and took it out to examine it, she found herself choking back her emotions as she realised what it was.
A little square of Happy Bubble gum.
Shaking, she dropped the letter, and closed her hands around the gum tightly. She drew them to her lips for a kiss, and broke down in a flood of tears that were filled with both joy and sadness.
Whilst his mother was being comforted by a love from the past, Marcel was rapidly becoming more interested in pursuing a new one. His first date with Maven had gone very well, and the pair were now meeting regularly for art-related chats. Aside from the odd bit of flirting - which, if anything, his acquaintance had started doing first - Marcel behaved like a perfect gentleman. He was determined not to rush things, and devoted himself to learning more about his new paramour, rather than focusing on the physical as he had before.
During one of their dates at a cocktail bar, Maven turned to the conversation back to Marcel's latest exhibition, Requiem.
"It is wonderful to meet a fellow artist who isn't afraid to explore the theme of death," she said. "I know it is somewhat taboo, but it is a reality of life, and should be examined in the arts as with other things."
"Absolutely," Marcel replied... before chuckling darkly.
"Well, you say it is a reality of life," he added. "To be frank with you, I've always been fascinated by the idea of immortality... being able to live forever. I must confess, my father's recent passing has only deepened my interest."
He paused to take a sip of his drink.
"After we die, it is only a matter of time until we are forgotten forever. How wonderful it would be to always be there, to never be forgotten. I know it is a goal I can never really achieve... but still, I've tried."
"How so?" Maven asked.
"My first idea was to... well... sow my oats widely, as it were. Create a long, expanded bloodline, to ensure my descendants are there to honour me for the longest possible time. In the end, I fathered eight children."
"Eight?!" Maven cried, her eyes widening.
"Yes," Marcel told her. "But since then, I've had a change of heart. I thought I was doing a great thing, but all I was really doing was leaving a trail of broken hearts and broken homes behind me on my life's journey. These days, I do my best to care for all of my children - three of them live with me full-time - and I've had the snip. I've grown more responsible... and hopefully, I'm a better father and a better man for it."
Maven smiled weakly.
"Eight children..." she whispered. "They must be a handful. I myself can't have any children. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for you."
"I get by."
Marcel took another drink.
"So, now, I've moved on to Plan B," he continued. "To become immortal through my work."
"What? Like Dorian Gray?"
"Oh no, no... although I do love that book, do you?"
"Yes. One of my favourites."
"I mean to say that the great artists are remembered forever. Their pieces are displayed and praised for generations. That is what I want for my work. To devote my time on Earth to creating beautiful things, and for the results to last as long as time itself... to keep my name on people's lips throughout the centuries."
He turned away, embarrassed.
"I'm rambling," he muttered. "Forgive me. I must be boring you."
"Oh no, not at all!" Maven answered. "Believe me... immortality is a topic that fascinates me, too. I've spent a lot of time trying to understand it. It's nice to meet a kindred spirit."
After paying for their drinks, Maven walked with Marcel to his home in Willow Creek - he had to get back to check on his mother and pay the babysitter. As Marcel approached his front door, Maven pulled him back gently, turning him towards her. Once again, the artist was spellbound by the lady's eyes - wholly enveloped in her charming allure.
"Your time on this Earth may be limited, Mr. Miskin," Maven said softly, "but I do hope you will spend some more of it with me."
Quick as lightning, she pressed her soft lips against Marcel's, pulling him in for a passionate kiss.
As she broke away, giggling, and headed off down the garden path, Marcel knew there was no point in denying it any longer.
Maven Mortan-Murdac now owned him: heart, body, and soul.
In a large, ancient townhouse in Forgotten Hollow, a grey-haired man stood stooped over an antique tome, waving his hands around wildly and muttering Latin phrases. Candles around the room flickered, and winds whipped around his slim frame as sparks flew from his fingertips.
Just as these magical fireworks were reaching their crescendo, the sorcerer - whose name was Audric - was interrupted by the sound of the bookcase behind him sliding to one side. As he turned angrily to confront the intruder, his snarl weakened into a smile when he saw that the person before him was his beloved daughter.
"Ah, Maven," he said warmly. "How goes the hunt?"
"Excellent news, Father," the redhead replied. "I have found him."
"You have chosen a bridegroom?"
"Indeed. My love spells worked... well, like a charm. He utterly adores me."
"Ah, but what think you of him, my dearest?"
"Fear not. He will be a wonderful mate. He has a love of art and culture, and is fascinated by the notion of immortality."
She grinned... revealing a flash of sharp fangs.
"There was never a mortal more suited for transformation than him."
As those of you who've read my "Tales of the Uncompleted" entries may have noticed, the Mortan-Murdacs have risen from the dead in more ways than one! You can read about their history here, but be warned - potential spoilers ahead!