Adriano Cecioni, “Interior with a Figure,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“I’ve put you in the blue room,” the landlady of the respectable seaside boarding house had said. “I’m sure it will suit you.”
Lillie was at the boardinghouse to regain her health. She suffered from a nervous condition, according to her aunt’s physician. In his view, it was brought on by all the reading she did. She needed fresh air and exercise to cure her of her fancies.
They all said—her aunt and cousins—that she was too sensitive. Even more so since the young man she had hoped to marry was killed in the Crimean War. She always seemed more comfortable reading her books. Immersed in fictional worlds, she escaped the constant chatter and gossip of her cousins. Thus, while her aunt wasn’t looking, and despite the doctor’s orders, Lillie had slipped a book into her small travel bag.
On the first night in the blue room, tucked in bed under the warm quilt, she read her book, before blowing out the candle and drifting off to sleep. Somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, she sensed she was not alone. A luminous presence hovered nearby. “Lillie,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
The next night, he came again just as she fell asleep. This time he kissed her. She began to long for the nights and his caresses. She barely spoke to the other women staying in the boardinghouse, although they muttered about strange noises coming from her room at night. For three weeks, she sleepwalked through the days, but at night, in her dreams, she was alive with passion.
One morning, she did not come down for breakfast. They found her body in the blue room under the crisp, white sheets. A book was by her side, The Demon Lover.
This is in response to Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. –although I went over 200 words with this one. Oops. The prompt was the painting above by Adriano Cecioni.
I had been thinking about Victorian views of women, medicine, and hysteria. I discovered after I wrote the story that there is well-known story called “The Demon Lover,” by Elizabeth Bowen. Written in 1945, it is about a woman affected by the Blitz in London, and who upon returning to her home there, find she may or may not have been contacted by her fiancé killed in WWI.