She Lives Again - Part 6

She let the feeble push propel her to the window, even as she heard a hand on the doorknob. Still, with one foot on the ledge, she could not resist a last look at her lover’s face, and she turned toward the bed once more.

For only a fraction of a heartbeat, their eyes locked, and in that infinitesimal moment a sudden, wild joy blazed within her. Then the door opened, and two men burst into the room. They halted when they saw her, escaping through the window like a thief, the red blood still shining on her lips. Her lover raised herself on her pillows with a choking cry and an outstretched arm, but they rushed toward the window as she leaped away into the cold dawn.

Thus, long after those who would have forbidden her presence had gone away to mourn in the private comfort of their homes and commiserate together on the loss of their friend and beloved, she stole through the quiet dark of the cemetery, passing by each headstone with scarcely a glance at the records of those whose mortal remains rested beneath them. As she crossed beneath the eaves of the tall family mausolea, with their self-satisfied imitations of classical grandeur, the moon cast faint shadows over her, and each time she quickened her steps to escape them, despising herself for her dread.

As she neared the tomb where her lover lay, the pale marble of its walls seemed to glow of its own accord in the reflected moonlight, a ghastly, haunted facade that scarcely masked the decay within. Almost longing now for the dark embrace of its interior, she laid her fingers on the handle of the door. The sextons had locked it, but, now determined at least not to be deprived of one last look upon the face of the one she had loved, she put forth her full strength upon the barrier. The marble groaned, then cracked, then burst around the latch as she forced it inward. Stepping over the splinters of stone as she entered, she descended the stairs into the crypt.

Her lover’s coffin stood upon a pedestal in the center of the wide floor, surrounded on every side by the banks of individual tombs within. As she approached, she saw that the sextons had covered it. Pushing the great stone slab of the lid to one side until she could grip the edges with her hands, she lifted it away and propped it up against the wall at her back, then looked down upon her lover’s face.