2022 Issue > Prose > Last Christmas
Photo by Mikayla Faivre
The click of my stilettos on the pavement could barely be heard over the ringing of bells. A graying, middle-aged man with a bulging beer belly stood next to a red kettle, begging. How pathetic.
“Ma’am! Please donate and help someone out this holiday season!” the man called out to me.
I eyed him in disdain out of the corner of my eye and kept my pace.
“C’mon. Have a heart!” he desperately shouted after me.
“I don’t,” I called over my shoulder.
“You don’t what?” he yelled after me in confusion.
I whirled away, letting the corners of my mouth rise into a smirk, and continued toward my destination. There was no time to let anything get in the way tonight. I’d waited a year for this, and nobody was going to take this opportunity away from me.
I turned and veered down an alley. Homeless people were huddled together no doubt trying to fend off the chill of December. I never understood why there was so much trash littering our streets when there were perfectly decent garbage cans lining the alleyway.
A few homeless people glanced up at me as I strode past them. Unfortunately, none of them were dumb enough to plead with me to give them anything. I suppose they knew better now.
I stepped up to the purple door at the end of the alley. The maiden, mother, crone symbol with the pentagram in the middle glowed in the pale moonlight. I brought my fist up to the door and performed the proper series of knocks required for entrance.
The door slowly creaked open revealing a towering man with umber skin and a stern disposition.
He cocked his head to the side and slid his eyes up and down my figure, taking in my crimson gown and waves of midnight-colored hair. Which, by the way, was absolutely perfect for the occasion. I looked stunning.
“Adeline?” he inquired, his brows crinkling.
“Wow... It’s been a long time.”
I inclined my head. “I’ve never been one to miss a party.”
“Right. Well, come on in.” Jax shuffled to the side and gave me enough space to walk through the door.
My eyes flickered about the room. It was small, and the only objects inhabiting it were a recliner chair and a chest. It was the same as it had always been, with the exception of a chair upgrade for Jax. A La-Z-Boy. Good for him.
“I’ll take your phone, coat, and any weapons you’re carrying.”
I slid my coat off, exposing my bare shoulders, and handed it over to Jax.
He glanced toward my hands and gestured.
“These aren’t weapons. They’re jewelry. It’s part of my aesthetic.”
“Adeline, they’re metal claws,” he argued, gesturing again.
“I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Swear on my heart,” I asserted, placing my jewelry endowed hand over my chest.
After a moment's hesitation, Jax heaved a sigh and nodded.
“One more thing,” Jax stated holding a single finger up, “show me proof.”
Rolling my eyes, I extended my right hand and let silver flames dance along my fingers to show him that I, indeed, was of the magical variety. The metal of my finger jewelry heated until it was blooming red. With a snap, I snuffed out the flame.
Jax nodded toward the wall opposite the door I had entered and, with a wave of his hand, it became transparent. Beyond the wall, several people were milling about.
I straightened my shoulders, held my head high, and plunged through the wall, but not before I heard Jax warn me about drinking too much eggnog. He didn’t need to worry about that. I needed to stay focused tonight.
The hall was as elegant as I remembered. Large stone pillars. Marble flooring. Candelabras scattered throughout the massive room to provide muted light. The ceiling, or apparent lack thereof, showed twinkling starlight and the luminous moon whose light shined upon the altar. The altar was presently being used as an hors d'oeuvres and beverage table.
I started to weave myself among the people but remained on the outskirts of the room where multiple small tables were scattered about. I continuously, and seemingly casually, scanned the room.
Searching. Searching. Ah...there he was.
I was woman enough to admit that he looked good. His blond hair was meticulously placed, ambled as usual, and he was wearing a fitted pure black three-piece suit that accentuated his muscular build in the most exquisite way. Damn.
I broke my perusal long enough to confiscate a martini from a passing waiter. I know I said I needed to stay focused...but it was only one drink. Besides, it would help me blend in.
The metal claws on my fingers clinked against the martini glass in succession as I observed Declan Fenharrow.
Men and women surrounded him laughing, eager to gain his attention. He always was quite the charmer and the focal point of everything, no matter the setting.
How could I have been so stupid? I had actually believed that he loved me. Last Christmas I gave him my heart and the very next day he gave it away.
My fingers stilled their tapping and tightened on the martini glass.
After tonight the Declan Fenharrow chapter of my life would be closed forever, and I would finally be able to be myself again.
I allowed myself to be swept into the throng of partygoers as the grand piano started in on another holiday song, one that caused those in attendance to glide into a dance. I placed my now empty martini glass onto the tray of an eager waiter who had the dazed expression that all the human servants who had been glamoured always wore.
I made eye contact with a dark-haired man and smiled slightly while angling my head towards the others who were already beginning to get into their dancing positions. His eyes widened and he quickly strode toward me. His meaty hands eagerly took residence on my hips, and we dove into the dance.
Two partners later and I was finally going to be paired with Declan.
My previous partner twirled me, and I was sure to put a beaming smile on my face as I let out a melodious laugh. I was spun right into Declan’s arms. The charming smile that graced his face slowly fell into disbelief and his whole body went rigid. The other dancers maneuvered around us as we were frozen in time among the chaos.
“Adeline...” Declan managed to breathe out. He blinked a few times and allowed his eyes to quickly rove over me.
I inhaled sharply, my eyes darting over his perfectly sculptured countenance.
Letting a hypnotizing smile overtake his features, he cleared his throat and relaxed his posture. Declan slid his arm around my waist and jolted us back into reality, and the dance. He pulled me close, closer than what was appropriate for the dance.
I peered up at him through my dark lashes and wondered how he could act like nothing had happened last Christmas.
Declan dipped his head to the crook of my neck and began to trace the soft skin there with his lips. I angled my head to give him better access and tightened my grip on his shoulder, though I was careful to keep my metal claws from ripping anything.
“We should get out of here,” I suggested in a sultry tone.
Declan lifted his head, and a smirk carved its way across his face while one of his dark blond eyebrows arched.
“I know just the place,” Declan stated, taking one of my hands in his in order to lead me.
It was perfect timing. Things were just starting to get wild. Manifestations of magic were carelessly being thrown about the room and there were clearly many who didn’t heed Jax’s warning about the eggnog. This wasn’t a surprise. Anytime warlocks, witches, and their familiars gathered, everything eventually descended into complete chaos.
Declan paved a path through the crowd toward the grand marble staircase at the far end of the room, pulling me along behind him. I caught a few jealous glances as we passed by several witches and warlocks. I met each stare with a piercing look of my own until they cast their scrutiny elsewhere.
Eventually, we made it to the base of the staircase and away from the tightly packed crowd. Declan wheeled me around so that we were side by side, but he still didn’t let go of my hand. We ascended the stairs with our heads angled upwards. Just like old times, we were unstoppable.
After we made it to the top of the stairs, Declan led me down several hallways in silence, though he kept casting me glances out of the corner of his eye. We had made it far enough away from the altar room where the party was being held that I could no longer hear the music, which meant that nobody would be able to hear us here either.
Declan turned us down one final hallway that led to a distinguishable large set of double doors at the end of it.
I slowed my pace slightly and peered up at Declan.
“The Head Magus’ study?” I questioned in disbelief.
Declan glanced down at me and let a mischievous smile flicker across his face.
“It’s the only room that’s charmed to be soundproof.”
I scoffed and stopped in my tracks to stare at him. Declan also paused and turned toward me.
“I have no intention of allowing you to be quiet. Not with what I’m about to do to you,” Declan declared, while running an appreciative eye up and down my body.
We’d see who would be the one that ended up screaming tonight. I grabbed his hand roughly, careful not to hurt him with my metal claws, and continued walking towards the entrance of the Head Magus’ study.
With a flourish of his hand, Declan opened the massive doors to the study. I had always been envious of the power that witches and warlocks possessed, which went beyond the simple elemental magic of their familiars.
The study was lined with towering bookshelves and contained a large, ornate desk towards the back of the room. A couple of maroon vintage high-backed chairs sat angling the desk. Just like the altar room, the night sky cast its glow upon the floor and supplied soft lighting perfect for the occasion.
Once we were in the room, Declan waved his hand and the doors shut with a resounding crack. We turned toward each other listlessly.
“I—” Declan started to speak, but I cut him off by crashing my mouth against his and backing him up against the doors that we had just entered through. I didn’t want to know what he had to say. That’s not why I was here.
Declan, never one to give up control, quickly switched our positions and pinned me against the doors. He ran his hands down my body until they reached my legs, then he hoisted me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist. It was a good thing I had decided to wear a dress that flared out and had a slit up the side.
I pushed Declan’s suit jacket off of him while he walked us over to the carpet in front of the desk and sat down with me straddling him.
I pushed on his shoulders until he was lying flat on his back. I continued kissing him the whole way down.
I reached behind me and extracted a pair of handcuffs that were safely tucked into the back of my dress.
My ministrations kept Declan distracted while I held each of his hands in my own and pushed them to the carpet on either side of the desk leg. I quickly cuffed both of his wrists around the mahogany desk leg and sat up breaking our kiss.
Declan tilted his head back and looked up at his wrists that were tugging at his newfound tether. He looked back at me and raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize you had gotten kinky in the last year.”
“You have no idea what I’ve been through this last year.”
Declan assessed my face for a moment and quickly sobered up.
I wasn’t playing games anymore.
“Where is my heart?” I asked, letting one of my hands cup his face. My metal claws pressed into his skin, but not enough to break it. Yet.
His eyes widened slightly, and he quickly took in a breath. He waved his hand, clearly trying to use magic.
I tsked a few times and looked at the cuffs. “Sorry, but you won’t be able to access your magic. Those cuffs have anti-magic warding carved into them.”
“Adeline, let me explain. I—”
“No. The opportunity for explanations has long since passed. I gave you my heart. I was willing to be your familiar and bind myself to you forever. And what did you do?”
“Adeline, please,” Declan desperately pleaded, tugging at the handcuffs.
“I felt our connection break. I felt when you gave my heart to someone else,” I intoned while stroking his face with the claws.
“No. It wasn’t like that,” Declan asserted.
I let a disbelieving laugh bubble out of me. “Where is my heart?”
“The Head Magus took it. I didn’t give it away. He wanted to control—”
I tightened my hold on his face and tiny beads of blood slowly rose to the surface and began trickling down the side of his face.
“Where. Is. My. Heart.”
“Adeline, I love you. Please—”
“If you loved me, you would have come to me a year ago,” I seethed, barely able to contain the anger bubbling in my veins.
“He threatened to destroy your heart. I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t go to you.”
“You’re such a liar. So pathetic. Trying to save your own skin.” I tsked.
“Adeline, I brought you here to get your heart back to you!” Declan adamantly exclaimed, tugging again at his restraints.
“No. You brought me here to fuck me.” My eyes flickered over him in distaste. “Where is my heart?”
Declan shook his head, but when he took in the look on my face, he finally relented.
“It’s on the bookshelf behind the desk. It's...it's still in the box you gave it to me in. But please, you need to listen to me—”
I tightened my grip even more, silencing him before getting off of him and standing up. I straightened out my dress and combed through my jet-black hair with the hand–and claws–that didn’t have blood on them.
I ambled my way around the desk and approached the bookshelf. There it was. The metal box I had placed my heart in and left for Declan to show him that I accepted him and bound myself to him.
He was supposed to be my warlock, and I was to be his familiar. He threw that all away when he let someone else take possession of my heart.
I carefully pulled the box off of the shelf and placed it on the desk. I let my hands run over the surface of it and felt the carefully engraved markings and symbols, each of which told a part of our story together. I slowly opened it, revealing my beating heart. It reminded me of the last time I saw it like this. When I had gently placed it in the box and left it for Declan with a note expressing my eternal love.
I had been a fool.
“You have your heart now. Let me go. Let me explain,” Declan begged from the floor.
I started to laugh.
“Did you really think I would let you live after what you did to me?”
I circled around the desk until I was looking down at Declan. I shook my head in disappointment.
Declan shifted, trying to get out of his bonds.
I sat down on him again, once more straddling him. I stroked his face with my metal claws before trailing them lower. I slowly began to rip through his shirt until his chest was fully exposed to me. I quickly flicked my eyes to his before settling them back on his chest. I positioned my hand just under where his ribcage ended.
“Adeline, please. You don’t want to do this. You love me. You just don’t remember because your heart was corrupted. Just put your heart back where it belongs and you’ll see,” Declan hopelessly pleaded.
“No. I’ve had enough of your lies. I’m going to show you what it feels like.”
I plunged the metal claws into his chest. He let out a cry of anguish and his eyes widened to an impossible size.
I was right. He was the one that ended up screaming tonight.
I reached further into his chest cavity, searching for his heart. My hand wrapped itself around the beating organ and I yanked it from his body. Declan gasped and threw his head back.
I studied the organ in contempt and threw it over my shoulder. His heart hit the floor with a wet and heavy sound. I shrugged.
Fortunately, Declan wouldn't die immediately. Witches and warlocks had a magical safeguard in place where they wouldn’t die right away after suffering a fatal wound, which allowed them to use magic to restore themselves to full health. The problem was, magic needed to be used within moments of the fatal wound; otherwise, they would die and stay that way.
I wanted Declan to be awake. I wanted him to watch me reclaim what I had once given him in complete love and trust.
“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, so that I could become your familiar and bind myself to you, but the next day, you gave it away. This year, I’m going to give it to someone special. Someone deserving of it. Myself. I’m the only one who will ever deserve my heart,” I whispered into Declan’s ear.
He looked up at me with eyes that were starting to lose their luster and skin that was already beginning to pale.
Declan’s blood had poured out of him enough that it was beginning to pool on the carpet. I stood up and reached for my heart on the desk.
I gently grasped my heart in one hand. My other hand went to the bottom of my ribcage. I grit my teeth together in preparation for the pain to come. Using the metal claws, I pushed under my ribs until I broke through my dress and my skin. Painstakingly, I created a hole large enough that I was able to fit my hand and heart through. I placed my heart in its rightful place and extracted my hand from my chest.
The magic was quick to act, and my skin began stitching itself back together.
The reintroduction of my heart was a shock to my system, and I stumbled backwards and landed on one of the chairs that was opposite of where Declan lay dying.
Memories of the last year flooded my mind.
The betrayal I felt when I knew that someone other than Declan had possession of my heart.
How I was still myself at the beginning and how my heart gradually became more and more corrupt because someone other than Declan had it.
All the cruel things I had done from the tiniest offenses to all the murders I had committed for no reason, other than it was fun.
I had hated Declan. I had hated him for what he had done to me, what he had turned me into. But I had accepted it and I decided I would leave him alone. I was going to live my life without my love and my heart.
That was true. Until two weeks ago, when my heart had gone to a new level of corruption, as a result of it being in the wrong hands for too long, and I decided I was going to get my revenge. I was going to kill him and reclaim my heart.
I took in a deep breath and let out a sob all at the same time as reality set in. I had a heart again. I could feel again.
I looked down at my hands and tried to process who I was and what happened in the last year.
My hands. They were covered in blood and there were metal claws peppered with chunks of skin attached to the ends of my fingers.
I looked up. Declan. He was lying there with a hole in his chest and blood surrounding him.
“No. No. No,” I exhaled while shaking my head back and forth.
I ran over to him and slid down onto my knees, not caring that my dress was getting soaked in his blood. I quickly unlocked the handcuffs. I placed my hands over the hole in his chest in a futile attempt to stop the blood from leaving his weakening body.
Another sob escaped me, and my shoulders began to shake slightly.
Declan managed to lift one of his hands, which he placed on top of mine.
“Ade...Adeline...I...” Declan struggled to say.
“Declan! Oh my gods! Oh my gods! I’m so sorry,” I sputtered out. “I can fix this. We can fix this. You're going to be fine. Everything’s going to be okay.”
I started to turn away from him to search for his heart, but I stilled when I felt Declan’s hand tighten on mine. I focused on his face as best I could, considering the large amount of water that obscured my vision.
“It’s too...late. Adeline, I’m...sorry,” Declan managed to quietly breathe out.
“No. No. You can’t die. I love you. This wasn’t supposed to happen!” Tears were streaming down my face in full force.
Declan gathered enough strength to lift his hand and wipe the tears from my face.
“It’s okay. I love you, Adeli—” Declan said, getting cut off at the end as his eyes glazed over and his hand fell from my face.
I shifted backwards and sat down hard. I tore each metal claw off of my fingers and threw them to the ground forcefully. I pulled my knees to my chest and let every emotion from the last year that led up to this moment overtake me.
He was gone. Declan was dead. I had killed him.
I sat like that for what felt like ages before I collected myself and had no more tears left to cry. I leaned down, kissed Declan on the forehead, and ran my hand through his blond hair before standing up.
My eyes swept over the room, taking in the mess I had made of it. With a simple thought, I used the elemental magic granted to familiars to summon a silver flame. Tendrils of fire danced throughout the study methodically destroying any evidence that Declan and I had been in the room.
I smoothed out my dress and let the fire clean the blood off of me before I straightened my hair and made sure I didn’t have any mascara leaking down my face.
I gave one last look at Declan’s burning body before throwing the doors to the study open and striding out.
Having a heart was fucking painful. I would remember that next time.
Mikayla Faivre is from North Freedom, Wisconsin, and is majoring in Animal Science. She has always been enamored by storytelling and spends her spare time reading or writing. Mikayla is a recipient of the David Cole Award in Creative Writing. This is her second year as an editor for the Spirit Lake Review. Find her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mikfaivre/