The Keeper (Part 16)

The days that followed weren’t exactly easy for Mona, nor were the nights. During the day, she suffered, watching her father wither inch by inch into his skeleton. His cough worsening. 

‘Why don’t you let me take you to the doctors, Dad?’ Mona had begun to lose patience. ‘Your coughs sound terrible!’

‘I’m fine, Belle. You go back to your work!’ And equally, her father was getting stubborn.
And between looking after him and the other children of the house, Mona was beginning to wish for some comforts her stay at Beast’s had provided. 
It wasn’t the daylight that worried her as much, it were the nights. The terrible nightmares that left her trembling awake. Night after night, she’d been dreaming of Lucifer. And night after night, the dreams got darker and darker and he grew less and less like a beast, but a man. A man suffering. Till one night she woke in such fright, yelling his name into the cold air. 
‘Lucifer?!’ She murmured in the dark. For days, she had tried speaking to him, or the voice of him in her head, but for days he’d remained quiet. This night, it was different. This night, she’d seen him die, or the man he’d become die. The dark corridors of his palace unlit. The rooms once filled with unexplained life now soulless. The voices she’d hear in the corridor gone. Nothing remained but a beast who grew weaker and weaker dream by dream till he stopped roaming the hallways. Till all that remained between her and him was the wall of thorns, the door she’d once seen. This night she’d heard his agony from beyond the door like so many nights. This night, she’d gone in. The next night, his moans and groans had fallen silent like never before. That night, the man lay dead. 
‘Lucifer.’ She called gently into the night, her eyes barely making out the shadows in her room. ‘Are you there? Can you hear me?’

Moments stretched as eons and finally his voice broke through, feeble. ‘Yes, beauty. For now…’

Mona squinted her eyes. Was that a flicker of his shadow along the wall. ‘Are you okay?

For the briefest moment, his eyes glowed red. ‘Never better. You? Enjoying your stay?’
Mona rose from her bed slowly. ‘I don’t think you are okay.’ She could hear his laboured breathing as she stepped closer. ‘Won’t you tell me what’s wrong?’

‘Sleep, dear Mona. Sleep.’ His voice floated and echoed around her head. And then he was gone. 

‘Beast? Are you still there?’
Mona couldn’t sleep all the rest of the night. Something untoward was happening and she could feel it. She flew around in a trance all day, from getting breakfast in bed for her father, to getting ready for work. She couldn’t make sense of her worry. Beast was fine. She was sure of it. 

She found a seat on the train and soon, let the restless night catch up with her.

‘Have you come?’ Lucifer asked quietly from beyond the glaring white light. 

Mona blinked till her eyes adjusted. The room was dusky, the curtains still drawn. The massive four poster bed loomed ahead of her and she recalled the ghastly thing she’d once seen on it. This time, there was no sign of anyone, bar the slept in bed.

‘Come closer.’ Mona stepped closer to the head of the bed but remained at arms length. It wasn’t till she saw a striking young man drowned by the folds. His honeyed eyes locked on her with a sly smile. ‘Don’t tell me I still terrify you?’ He laughed, a rough, raspy laugh.
‘Who are you?’ Mona gasped. ‘You sound just like him…’ She dared step closer. ‘Just like him.’

The man smiled. ‘Name’s Lucifer, according to you and many others, but I once used to be called Lucian.’
Mona knew she was staring but she couldn’t help it. Where was beast? She knew she didn’t much like him, but she’d somehow grown fond of him in a way. He was a friend. ‘Where is Beast? What have you done with him?’

Lucian heaved a heavy breath. ‘I cannot tell you.’
Mona narrowed her eyes in a flash of anger. ‘Then what can you tell me?’

‘That, should you marry me within this fortnight, I shall be the luckiest man alive.’

‘Marry you? Why should I? I don’t even love you.’ She couldn’t help herself.

‘I only have a fortnight…’
The dream screeched to a halt. Mona’s eyes flew open as she glared around the carriage bewildered. People stared at her, and she felt the questions rise. She stood up and walked to the door, her stop was next. 

‘What happens in a fortnight?’ She muttered, looking out into the dark tunnel whizzing past, hoping for a voice to answer. 

None came.

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