The knock at the door startles them and they mill about, running up and down her torso, scratch scratch scratch. The line of them runs down her leg to answer the opening door, and she turns away. A beetle's carapace is so pretty, liquid colors rolling around in the light like a song from the tongue, but there are so many of them in here that she has ceased to notice how gorgeous they are. Now she treasures them solely for the privacy their presence allows. They move en masse out of her visitor's way, sloshing like puddles of iridescent oil on either side of his built-up bootheels as he stamps his way toward her chair in front of the window.
"Vincent," she says, enunciating wearily. "Not now. No--scratch that, not ever. Go away, I don't want to talk to you." She shifts to one side to allow the resulting pool of insects access to the black lace draperies shrouding her chair and carefully avoids looking at him. She knows what she will see: a man taller than he thinks, with unruly dust-colored hair and longing in his slate-blue eyes. The elevated bootheels are silly on someone of his perfectly normal height, but he insists upon them. She has never seen him barefoot. Although, on further reflection, she can't think of anyone who would enter her rooms less than completely clothed.
She pulls at the green velvet ribbon holding back her messy pile of ash-brown hair, until it gives way under her fingers and the heavy curtain falls to obscure her face. She watches his reflection in the window while the jewel-beetles seethe around them, watches his face twist into its regular dissatisfied lines while he thinks she cannot see. The cool stone walls radiate a comforting chill against the moist, warm air he pulled in as he entered. The beetles treat her as part of the furniture, running in and out of her hair and clothes, constantly seeking. She has never understood what the object of their searches must be.
"Charis, you have to listen to me," he insists. "They found her. Your sister. She--"
She shakes her head, bends it back down toward the window, and sits as immobile as the stones in the wall. He never listens. Why should she care about her frog-mouthed sister, the greedy-guts? It's her sister's fault they are all in this mess. Cerise wouldn't know self-restraint if it jumped up and bit her on the nose.
"I know you're thinking about Cerise. I should have been more specific. They found Cristabel," he says, pulling one reckless hand through his already corkscrewed and cowlicked hair. "She's not doing all that great, I guess? Even if she got the pearls and diamonds treatment. And, Charis, I think she knows where to find the woman who did all this!"
Her hands clench involuntarily on the arms of her chair, relaxing only as she feels the crunch of a beetle's shell between her fingers. His face is lurid and exultant in the gloom. It could be a trick. Cristabel was always playing tricks on the rest of them. She can't quite believe Vincent would play along, though. He has loved her since they were very young, loves her still, even though shining beetles drop from her lips now, instead of kisses or loving words. She stands abruptly, moving cautiously to the sideboard and the decanter of Madeira. The countless beetles move restlessly through her layers of clothing as she carefully pours two deep glasses of the dark caramel-red wine.
She steps down to stand facing him and holds out a goblet, one eyebrow cocked quizzically. An emerald-coated beetle rattles out of her sleeve and ricochets from her hand to the floor, but he steps forward and takes the glass nonetheless. She smiles widely for the first time in a year and sips from her glass. He looks into the depths, pausing before he takes a long draught, just to be safe. No wriggling, shiny insect presents itself, and he tilts the glass almost ceiling-ward, inhaling the honey-sweet wine like rich air.
She waits, patiently, until he looks at her again, his eyes fixed unwillingly on her still-lovely mouth, and says, "I can't remember the last time I heard such delicious news," each multisyllabic word marred by a flood of skittering insects, rushing out of her mouth and down her neck, terrible in their beauty and perfect in their implacable march.
This week's Indie Ink Challenge comes to me from seeking Elevation, who left me a sentence fragment: "I can't remember the last time I". I challenged illogical being with a definition from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and look forward to reading the results! This is a fragment of what will eventually be a very long, very upsetting fairytale. I hope you aren't entomophobic.