A few truths revealed though if they are truths then someone needs to have their facts checked…
Acceptance – Part VII
As Sheryl led Joseph out of the sitting room and towards to their place in the mansion, she felt Tera’s eyes upon her and, for the briefest of moments, believed that she heard Tera recite one of her proverbs …
You are responsible for making dreams … reality.
Sheryl did not look behind herself. She already knew what Tera was likely thinking; that she had disappointed her Queen in many ways: telling Joseph what she truly was; using her powers in front of Celeste; teaching those souls around her some of the ways of the Succubi. All these things were supposed to be held close to her and not told to those who might speak of them.
Knowing all of the things that she had done … she accepted that Tera would demand that she return to the Realm. She thought, in truth (as they turned a corner out of Tera’s view) that it would be for the best. In spite of all of the things she had done wrong, and there were many, she had kept her promise, and now, with Joseph safe, she was … free to leave.
Why didn’t that make her feel any better? Sheryl held Joseph closely, moving through the halls, not caring that she was bare to any who saw her, only that she had Joseph home now. As they walked, Sheryl didn’t quite notice the scene around her, and she should have … Joseph most certainly did. As they passed each room on their way, the door was open and, just inside of the threshold, there was someone there to see them pass by.
Downstairs, Tera remained in the sitting room, tapping a finger against the arm of her chair, considering something. Celeste stood nearby waiting to fulfill what she had been asked to do. She had accepted that responsibility because Sheryl asked her to.
“Cheryl, might you answer a question?”
“Of course Tera … Anything.”
“Tell me exactly how it was that Sheryl became your Mistress. Leave nothing out, please; it is important that you don’t.”
After Celeste had explained what she knew—she hadn’t been there herself—Tera nodded slightly and tapped a finger against her lips in thought. “So she accepted. Interesting.”
Tera then stood and turned to leave the room, Celeste close behind her: “Would you like to be shown your room?”
Tera looked over her shoulder: “No, thank you. I believe that I won’t be sleeping much tonight. You need not tell Sheryl that I departed … In fact, I would rather you didn’t.”
As Tera approached the front door, Celeste asked one last thing: “Can I help in some way?”
Tera offered Celeste her hand: “Actually, yes, you could.”
When their hands touched they both disappeared in a puff of cherry-scented smoke that dissipated moments later into nothingness.
In the meantime, Sheryl had guided Joseph to her bed and then closed the door. As she turned back to him, her horns and tail reappeared, revealing her true self to Joseph once more. She didn’t say anything as she approached him, there was no need to, the hurt in her eyes was so plain to see, even as was that in Joseph’s own.
“Turn over Joseph … please?”
He didn’t want to. He wanted to talk to her, to try to understand why she was leaving in the morning, to take away the ache within him over the fact that she regarded her promise to him fulfilled. Again he tried to speak, but Sheryl had come close and placed a finger on his lips.
“Please, no. We’ll talk. Just … just let me help, first … please?”
He did as she asked and then felt the bed shift, as by Sheryl knelt on either side of his legs, straddling him. She paused for a moment; he heard her intake of breath when she saw the marks. He made to shift around to look at her, but was stopped by the touch of her hands on his back. There was a tingle, a feeling, and Sheryl spoke as she moved her hands slowly: “This is all my fault. I accept that.”
As those words came out, Joseph could not be quiet any longer: “No.”
“Yes. I have to. And, as such, I will be leaving in the morning, because I couldn’t keep my promise to you, to everyone here, but especially to Ashe. I let you all down because I was … unwise.”
“You are, if anything, stubborn, and …”
Sheryl slapped her hand against his back once, leaving a sting that she quickly soothed: “I am still your Mistress for one more night, and I will have my say, Joseph. Tomorrow, you can say or do anything you want, but, for right now … just let me talk.”
He fell silent again, but the tension in his right hand, closed and shaking, was obvious.
“I love you Joseph. I love you like no one else I have ever known. You gave me a gift, the gift of being your Mistress, that I never deserved. I know, believe me, that you did so because of what I said, how I acted towards you. I know … I wish that it had been only you, Joseph. That’s all that I ever wanted.”
Sheryl wouldn’t see, but Joseph’s eyes were tightly closed now, biting on his cheek to keep from crying out in anguish for all that was being said.
“I accepted all of this … because there was no other choice. I didn’t know at the time who Ashe was talking about … it was him. He wanted all of what Ashe had and she did not see a way to keep him away … until me. Until us.”
Joseph felt the pain that he had suffered starting to fade and with it the tension within also started to ebb. He tried to hold onto it, to keep it, if only to be able to speak when Sheryl was done.
“When it was me that he had to deal with, he couldn’t find something to exploit, to hold over me. But he saw your devotion and that was the weapon he used. Bit by bit, he took from me all of the good I had when you were gone. He had no idea what he was dealing with and I … I couldn’t just lash out. But I wanted to. Every day I looked into the mirror trying to convince myself to accept that you were still here, that I would see you again.”
She paused, and Joseph tried to say the words he needed to, but instead found he couldn’t as Sheryl pressed her lips against his shoulders, her body now draped over his own. She said nothing, just touching, exploring … silently. He began to lose focus, his thoughts becoming slow and thick, the strength he wanted leaving him.
“You will be fine, Joseph. Tomorrow, I will declare you and Celeste my replacements and I’ll fade away … You both looked after most things here regardless of my ineptitude, and so nothing will really change. I will go and face Tera, take what is coming to me, and … you will be better off, Joseph.”
As she spoke the last words, he finally faded from consciousness, and she was left to her own thoughts as she focused on healing him, her final gift as Mistress. In the middle of the night, her task completed, she lay beside him and watched not his physical form, but his soul. To remember him always, to have that moment in her memories when she had nothing else to hold onto … that she longed to keep. Sheryl was still doing gazing, intently, when she finally closed her eyes and drifted away …
Morning announced itself with the sun warm through the window … and the smell of tea in the room. Sheryl draped an arm possessively over Joseph as he stirred as well. There was something different; something wasn’t right, and, when Sheryl opened her eyes, it was quite plain to see what that was.
On the other side of the room were two high back chairs, a low table between them. That in itself wasn’t unusual; it was who was present in the room that was … and Sheryl was amazed that she didn’t sense what was happening when she slept …
Sitting in one chair was Tera, in the other was Ashe, and, between the two, Celeste was pouring tea for them both. When she finished pouring, Celeste walked over to the bed and knelt beside it, looking towards Sheryl.
“Mistress … would you like some tea?”