00 - Red Dress

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Ten years before...

Hernan swallowed when the music started to play. The tones of the piano caused goose bumps on his arms. Step by step she came closer. Her ivory dress shone in the light of the sun, even though it looked dull compared to her shining smile and sparkling eyes. 

Still he found it hard to believe he was the source of her joy. Before this happiness had filled her, he'd caused her a ton of pain that still made his cheeks burn in shame. Nevertheless she walked up to him now, colorful flowers in her hand. She'd forgiven all the horrible things he'd done to her. Even her father had done so, who held her arm now and was about to give his most valuable treasure to him. 

Hernan held out his hand to help her on the small stairs when she was only a few steps away. He'd thought it was impossible, but she looked more beautiful than ever. Her eyes were surrounded by dark make-up, and she'd put up her hair and decorated it with flowers. She looked so innocent, like she'd always done. 

Such a sharp contrast to him. 

But she brought out the best in him. She'd always done that and he believed she always would. He needed her to keep him from slipping into that dark hole again, into that place where'd roamed for so many years. Looking for a place where he fitted in, looking for someone who cared about him. 

She had given him a home. Day after day, for three years now. 

He loved her like he'd never loved anyone and he would do everything in his might to make her happy. 

Their eyes met. A warm feeling filled his chest and he stretched his fingers even further. Finally she touched him. He wanted to pull her close, to touch her silky skin, to kiss her full lips. 

But none of that happened. 

There wasn't a protocol that prohibited him from doing so, but suddenly there was a dark purple fog surrounding them. People clapped their hands and cheered, probably thinking this was some kind of special effect. 

It wasn't, unless Norah had wanted to surprise him. The somewhat confused look in her eyes however proved the opposite. 

Three shapes loomed in the fog. Before Hernan understood what was happening, Norah stumbled forward. With enormous eyes she stared at him, lost, her quivering lips mumbling his name. With shaking hands she touched for her belly. Something sharp and bloody stuck out of it, on three spots her wedding dress was destroyed. 

It felt like Hernan's brain froze. For a  moment he couldn't move. In shock he stared at the man who stood behind her. A sinister grin was drawn on his young face, a face that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Then he tore himself out of his dismay and caught Norah. Her white dress was coloring red around her stomach. With fingers that felt sticky with blood, she caressed his face. Fear was reflecting in her eyes. 

"Please Hernan," she whispered, crying. "Don't let me go, my love. Never let me go."

Hernan got the feeling the air he breathed was poisoned. He couldn't breathe. Dark spots crept into his field of vision. Somewhere far away he heard people scream hysterically, but it felt like Norah and he were inside a bubble, separated from the others. 

Where nobody could help him, and where nobody could take her away from him. 

Still Death came, quickly and inexorable. 

The warmth of her hand disappeared from his cheek when she lowered her arm. The tears that clouded his eyes took away the sight on her face. Frantically he rubbed them away. 

"Norah!" he yelled, hovering over his bride. "Norah!"

She stared past him, her eyes stripped off the joy that had made them shimmer a while ago. Hernan took her in his arms, rocked her softly. All of this made no sense... no fucking sense. All he could do was cry and scream and holding her close, hoping he would awake from this nightmare. Whispering sweet words he kissed her lips, wishing his love for her would magically bring her back to life. 

But her body kept feeling heavy, and her skin became cold. Even though it was high summer, thick snow flakes swirled down, giving him hope that all of this was a hallucination, an illusion. 

"She's gone," Darius' raspy voice sounded behind him. He felt the hand of his best man on his shoulder. "I'm so sorry, man."

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