“You are her!” My hands tighten around her arms so harshly that I know I must be hurting her. “You. Are. Cassia!” I want to make her understand. I just want her to be normal, to be…she can never be normal.
“Don’t do this to me again,” I say through an anguished voice, though I don’t know what I’m saying—it’s my heart talking, not my rational mind.
She breaks away from me and runs toward the bedroom door, but I grab her around the waist before she gets too far away and I wrench her back into my arms.
“Let go of me!” she screams.
“No. Not until you tell me who you are.” I hold her close with her back pressed into my chest, my arms tight around her warm, naked form, my lips near her ear.
I want to cry.
“You know who I am! Now let me go!”
“Tell me your name.” I can’t open my eyes. I just want to savor this moment with her.
I just want to savor it.
My hands are shaking. My heart is alive again, but I know not for long. It’s afraid. Afraid of what’s going to happen to it when it knows she’s gone forever, when every part of her is gone forever.
I squeeze her tighter, clutching her naked body against mine as if it’s the last time I’m ever going to see her again. The tears are burning. Fucking burning!
“I’m Seraphina! You know me, Fredrik! I’m your wife! The only woman who has ever loved you!” Tears roll through her body and her struggling begins to subside. “Please….”
Suddenly she melts into me, surrendering not only to me but to the pain my words have caused. The weight of her body begins to drop as she slides down.
“Why would you love her,” she says through uncontrollable tears, “of all the people in this world, why Cassia?”
I hold her tight and we’re both sitting against the floor, her still wrapped in my arms, but now wanting to be here. I stroke her hair and kiss her temple and still the f**king tears are burning.
“Because she is you,” I say softly into the side of her face. “And because you are her. I can help you if you’ll let me, but you have to let her go. You have to let Cassia go.”
Please let her go…
“I killed that woman in the basement,” she says about Greta and even though I had a feeling she did, it’s still difficult to hear her admit it. “I killed her because she wouldn’t set me free.” She sniffles back her tears. “I strangled her with the chain around my ankle. And then I took the key from her pocket to unlock myself.”
“You didn’t have to kill her,” I say calmly, but I am anything but calm inside.
I continue to stroke her hair.
“Yes I did.”
“Why? Why did you have to kill her?”
She turns around, her fingers clutching the sleeves of my shirt.
“Because she kept calling me Cassia.” Her voice is calm and distant as though she’s remembering it. “And because she wouldn’t set me free.”
She looks up into my eyes and it takes everything in me not to break down in front of her.
“I love you, Fredrik. I always have. You’re the only person in this world that I’ve ever loved.”
I choke back my tears and crush her against me. She cries into the side of my neck. I picture the two years that we were together, two short years that felt like forever. How she helped me and molded me and made me a better man and loved me. I picture how she loved me.
“Tell me your name,” I say once more, hoping that this will be it, that she’ll understand. “Just tell me your name and everything will be OK.”
The silence between us seems like an eternity as I wait for her answer. My heart has stopped beating. My breath is caught in my lungs.
Please let her go…
“My name is Seraphina,” she says and my heart fades to black and my breath releases in a long, drawn-out breath of anguish and sorrow.
Reaching for the knife just inches away underneath my bed, and with a heavy black heart, I move it between us and bury the blade in her chest. The burning tears finally burst through to the surface, and I let out a cry I never knew I could make. The warmth of her blood flowing onto my hand and onto my chest, I can feel it but I’m afraid to look at it. For the first time in my adult life as an interrogator and torturer, I don’t want to see the blood because it hurts too much.
Her head falls back, bobbing unsteadily on her neck as she looks at me. A tiny trickle of blood seeps from one corner of her mouth. I lean in and kiss it away as sobs roll through my chest.
I haven’t cried like this since I was a boy.
“I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry it had to be this way,” I say through troubled breaths and a burning throat. “You’re the only death I’ll truly regret until the day I join you.”
She reaches up her hand weakly and touches the side of my face. I do the same, letting my hand leave the knife and touching her cheek instead. Blood smears across her face from my fingertips.
She chokes and coughs up more blood.
“Don’t regret,” she says, but I don’t know which one she is. “You saved me.”
“Cassia?” I can’t see through the tears in my eyes.
She smiles faintly and strokes my bottom lip with her fingers and I know that it’s her. Cassia.
I kiss her bloody lips and embrace her tighter, feeling the handle of the knife pressing against me. Her eyes are getting heavier, her body weaker, her arms limper. I push her wet hair over her forehead where more blood stains her face, but I can’t stop touching her, caressing her, being here with her in her last moment. Our last moment.
“I always loved you,” I whisper onto her lips. “Everything about you, Cassia. And I always will.”
Her hand falls away from my face and her head falls back limply on her neck. And when I see her dead eyes staring up at the ceiling I choke on my burning tears and crush her body against me, wailing until my chest hurts.
Fredrik’s front door is unlocked when I arrive with the cleaners. I got a call from Fredrik two hours ago.
He wasn’t himself:
“Fredrik, what’s going on?” I asked, surprised to hear from him again so soon.
“I need you to come here,” he said in such a quiet, distant voice that I wondered if he was calling me in his sleep.
“Is everything OK?” I said into the phone.
“What’s going on?” Victor asked, rolling over in our bed and draping his arm over my waist.