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Golden Bindings

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Selene’s husband and child- her second husband, her only child- had gone to visit a grandmother in the next town over.  Selene had stayed home, claiming illness.  When they returned, they would find her gone.  Not having run away- she would not rob the house of its valuables, nor plant suggestions that there had been a lover- but gone.  If they did examine the house, they would find odd charms and hexes, suggestions that a roving gang of spirits or witches or some such thing had carried her off.  They would be heartbroken, but they would not blame her, and would remember her as a loving wife and mother.  If they ever looked to rescue her, they would look in the wrong place.

Selene turned over the golden necklace she had been given in her hand.  It was formed from twists of golden coils woven and braided together to form an intricate, lustrous rope.  There had been golden rope in the house of her first husband, hanging down from the rafters in the abandoned theater.  When Selene had stepped on stage, they had swung down and swarmed around her arms and legs, imprisoning her in the position of one of the girls from the faded opera poster hanging on the wall- Abduction from the Seraglio .  She still dreamed about that stage and those ropes, and the knowledge that her first husband could do such things to her from wherever he chose.  They were not entirely bad dreams.

“You know my taste,” she said to Bluebeard.  He had changed since she had last seen him, but age was not among those changes.  His hair was still that same mysterious shade, untouched by white or silver, a deep midnight sky cradling the luminescent moon that was his face.  There were no new wrinkles as far as she could tell.  Then again, she liked to think she’d also taken good care of her own looks.

“How could I forget?” he asked, his voice rumbling through her very bones.  “You were the girl who stepped into my golden net.  I think you are still that girl, whatever man thinks he can call you his wife.”

It had been a sort of primal instinct which had urged Selene to explore her first husband’s home, a mature and almost motherly sense of self which had told her she had the right to look inside a locked door in her own house, and a trembling and innocent rush of fear which had sent her running from it as fast as she could, far from the town and the family she had known for so long.  Now, sitting before Bluebeard for the first time in many years, she did not find herself curious or righteous or frightened.  She was calm and cool, seated beside the occult scrawlings she had carved into the table.

“I have come to forgive you,” he said, and the worst thing about it all was that she believed him.

“I’m sure you have,” said Selene, “but I don’t imagine my new family has earned your forgiveness.  Have they?”  She ran a finger along the scratches in the table.  “I am going to insist that they remain unharmed.”  Selene did her best to control her breathing when Bluebeard wrapped the golden rope around her neck and closed the clasp.  She was his once more.  She wore his bindings, and if there was no visible leash, she could feel its pull nonetheless.

Bluebeard leaned down and kissed her cheek rather than answering her.  The bristles of his beard against her skin almost made her weep at the memories of their courtship, but she held firm and shed no tears.

“You may do with me what you will,” she said, “I have no illusions about that.  If you wish to kill my husband and child, I cannot stop you.  I would only be able to die alongside them.  But then my ghost wouldn’t haunt your halls, would it?”  She gave a toothy smile to match his own.  “And I think that is what you really want.  I don’t believe you’ve ever let one of your brides free, and I doubt you intend to start now.”

She stirred when he kissed her neck, but still she would not cry.  He put his hand on the back of her neck next, clutching at the necklace, and when he rose back up she rose with him.

“There is a room prepared for you,” he said in a voice filled with love.  “It has been waiting for you for so long.”

Selene allowed him to lead her, clutching the necklace which felt as gentle as the velvet rope from the rafters.  She cast one final look at the household and all the markings that would show her carried off by marauding fiends.  Her child would grow up to remember that.  Perhaps it would teach him to always be on his guard against ghosts and ghouls and men with unnatural hair.  And the walls of Bluebeard’s home were wooden as well- she might carve whatever she liked into them.

“I do hope that room is the theater,” said Selene as Bluebeard led her out the door.