“All you do is just stand there and then stand there some more. What do you know about the perils of this world? A woman, especially a single woman, with no one to look out for her has to watch out day in and day out for hundred different things and evils. Not that I need anyone… Just saying… But how would you know all that? Huh…!” Scarlett lashed out at Tristan, still wielding the knife like a sword.
Tristan’s heart fell once again. She was just talking in general. She is probably scared after the episode with Mathew. Damn that man.
Suddenly the house fell eerily silent. Scarlett blinked wondering why she was feeling so odd, just as if a conversation between two people had reached an awkward pause and neither of them knew how to break it.
“I need to sleep. It’s been too long day.” Scarlett didn’t understand why she felt the need to announce her decisions. As if there was anyone to hear. Exactly why did she scream at the painting? Why did she feel that the man in that frame was laughing at her? She was being stupid. Really really stupid.
Scarlett locked the doors and turned off the lights, once again searched for anything unusual, kept the knife near her bed and crawled into the bed. It was really an exceptionally long day with too many things happening. And she fell asleep almost immediately.
For Tristan, it was yet another lonely night to live through after another lonely day. And tomorrow again it was going to be another lonely day. If he pushed his luck, maybe he’ll get to live a few minutes with Scarlett and then it was another lonely night. How much longer? How many more such lonely nights and days…
Tristan was beginning to despair. He didn’t know whether to hope or give up. Every time a flame of hope flared in his heart, which was, again, always because of the conversations with Scarlett, something happened and it was put out immediately; as if somebody sprinkled just enough water so that it fumed and its embers were left to die a painfully slow death.
“Too tough to endure, is it?” The voice of a woman pierced the still night and reached Tristan on the other side of the world. Did Scarlett wake up? No. It didn’t sound like her at all.
“Is it possible that you forgot me Tristan? I didn’t think you were that comfortable with the life inside the frame. Silly me… Maybe I was wrong about you… Maybe you don’t want to….”
Tristan interrupted her, with a terrified scream, “NOOOOOOOOOOO…”
It was her. Sophia; Allan’s mother. The very same woman who had cursed him and sealed his fate, confined him to a world created by himself, with nothing but himself.
“No… No… No… Don’t leave… I am sorry. I was not expecting to hear from you… I am sorry…”
“Such humility… Oh dear…”
Tristan could not turn and see from where the voice was coming. It was all around him. He was afraid Scarlett would wake up.
“Oh! Now you care for her? You worry that she’ll wake up? How sweet… I am touched.”
“You can hear me? My thoughts?”
“What do you think? I told you, I’ll know…”
“Yes. You did.”
“So I did. Now tell me, Tristan, how is life? Enjoying?”
“I would never have believed such sarcasm was possible for someone like you.”
“Hmmm… What can I say; life has taught me to never let this particular charm rust. Comes in very handy with brutes like you.”
“Yes… I guess so… ”
“What Tristan?! Now I am really surprised. No smart comments? No sarcasm back at me?”
“Are you trying to provoke me? If you say you hear my thoughts, you know what’s in my mind. Do I need to tell you in hundred different words?”
She chuckled, “Ah, provoke… is that what I am doing? I am just recollecting the Tristan I knew and talking to him the way I knew he talked with others. Isn’t it the law of the universe that ‘as you sow, so you reap’… ”
Tristan did not have a response to that. A million memories flashed through his mind, so many faces, both known and unknown and he had not said a kind word, not a sorry nor a thank you. He had oozed contempt and disdain. His heart ached with all the pain and hurt he might have afflicted on others. No wonder he was a still life painting now. There was no life inside him before he was cursed either. He had never thought about his life in this dimension before.
“I see that you have indeed changed. I see cracks in that black heart of yours. It would be a miracle if this woman can shine light into your soul.”
Tristan wanted to tell more and how he had changed. But then thought better of it. He was a man of actions and he will prove it to her with his new life. If and when he came out of this frame… If and when…Words and justifications were just not enough anymore.
“There are people searching for you. For some, your missing case is work, while for some an obligation and some a routine. Maybe even a mystery. Except maybe for your parents. They miss you.”
Tristan felt an overwhelming desire cry. It hurt. He missed his parents. He had separated far too many people from their family. He stole their time with the loved ones. Only now did he know how precious those moments were… He didn’t even have any memories to hold on to. There was nobody to blame but himself.
“Tristan, what I came to tell you is -there is a chance for this curse to be lifted. However, contrary to what you believe, it is not exactly Scarlett who will set you free. ”