And a Smile, Achingly Familiar

When Adalbert dreams, he dreams of white silk and blue sky. When he closes his eyes, he sees a smile, achingly familiar. When all is quiet around him, in the dead of night, when he can no longer stand the dreaming, silver laughter echoes in his head and he knows that when he makes that one mistake, that awkward twist of a blade, all that’s waiting for him is a hole in the ground, and rot, and more dark and quiet.

“You know I loved you, don’t you?” she whispers, and her voice is light and clear in his ear. When he turns he swears he can smell her perfume on his pillow, until he remembers she never wore any. He lies there in the dark and remembers her weight on his shoulder the time she fell asleep in the carriage. A leaf drifted in through the open window, into her hair. He left it there. Conrad had chuckled softly when he saw it and plucked it out. She’d scolded them both.

He throws back the sheets and wanders alone in the dark, focusing on the sound of his bare feet hitting stone, straining his eyes at the moonlight slanting through narrow windows. He’s at the castle. He made Gisela cry, he remembers, but he’s forgotten how. It doesn’t matter. He remembers Conrad sitting under a tree, the one he used to find them under together when he went looking for her. They were always out of doors, it had seemed to him. It never rained when they were together. He remembers blue sky. He remembers white silk. He remembers a smile, too, achingly familiar, although he cannot place it.

She’s standing at the window, made out of moonlight and stardust, or so he supposes. “You were a good man,” she lies to him, like she always did. He walks past her, into the courtyard. He is barefoot and shirtless, the night air is cold on his skin. He does not shiver. Conrad is there, like he always is, everywhere, and she’s beside him, laughing. The sky is blue.

Adalbert nudges Conrad with his foot. “Wake up,” he says, and Conrad sits up with a start. His clothes are drenched with dew. There are goose bumps on the back of his neck, but he doesn’t shiver. “I was dreaming about her, too,” Adalbert says, and he doesn’t know why. Conrad nods, takes the hand he can’t remember offering, and he smiles, achingly familiar.

When Adalbert dreams, he dreams of white silk and blue sky. “You’re still a good man,” she tells him, her voice clear and light in his ear. Her body is cold and heavy. A silvery laugh drifts by on the wind, and she collapses into blue flowers in his arms.

Adalbert smiles, and sleeps through the rest of the night.

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