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a duet of shade and darkness

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Bella blocks out the doorbell’s ring until she can’t, the incessant bzzzing, bzzzing slicing into her peace. Jack, maybe. Home early.

The door opens to reveal a slight blonde woman. A red blouse peeps out from beneath her coat.

—every night she dreams of a goddess, with a face of marble and hair of gold, scarlet peplos hanging from sculpted shoulders—

“Who are you?”

—my name does not matter—

“My name is Bedelia Du Maurier.”

Bella recognizes her then. Jack has mentioned her, and her inscrutable demeanor. “You’re Hannibal Lecter’s therapist.”

“Among other things. May I?”

—in her outstretched hands she cradles a pomegranate, the flesh already split open to reveal glistening ruby seeds—

Bella steps back, inviting her in. She’s dying. What does she have to fear? “Why are you here?”

—I offer you a place at my side—

“A beginning.” Bedelia examines her in a way that leaves no uncertainty to her intentions. How very bold of her. Refreshing, almost, compared to the way Jack is so careful now.

Bella scoffs. A beginning? “I’m waiting for the grave.” The side effects of chemo are driving her there faster.

“We’re all dying. Some of us faster than others. What better time than now to truly live?”

“I … I don’t know.” She has Jack, why is she even—?

Bedelia comes closer, heels putting her mouth close to Bella’s ear. She speaks over her objections, as if she’s done this before. “Morals are for the living. Live the rest of your life, Bella.”

—the goddess walks closer, offering the pomegranate again. join me.—

“You aren’t dying. Why do you care?” Bella clutches her curiosity close, like a weapon.

Warm breath ghosts over her cheek. “The rest of your experiences will be sharper. More memorable for the short time you have them.” Bedelia cups her jaw, thumbs her bottom lip. “Savor the edge of death.”

—Bella knows the seeds are poison. she eats them anyway.

all of them.

she knows the legend of Demeter’s daughter.

she’s ready for the Underworld, to leave behind fear and pain before she loses her bravery—