Devin’s fingers twitched briefly over the piano keys. At least Marco was closer to Devin than Prometheus, but regardless, he should have known better.
Should have known that she didn’t care what his actual name was.
It wouldn’t matter in a few moments, anyway.
Devin glanced over his shoulder. “Yes, Miss Andre?”
His mistress riffled through the latest issue of Spring Ring Magazine. No jewelry seemed of interest to her this month. “What piece is this again?”
“Chopin’s Nocturne No. 2 in E Flat Major. From Opus 9.”
“Hm.” Her teacup clanked against its saucer. “It’s nice, I suppose.”
Devin returned his gaze to the sheet music, his fingers light and airy per the piece’s mood. That’s right. Keep drinking. Keep talking. “Should I play something else, Miss Andre?”
“No, no.” She waved her hand. “Keep playing. Just… Just keep playing, Marcus, or… whatever your name is. I can’t keep any of the men in my life straight these days. Filthy creatures.”
Devin swallowed. He pretended he didn’t hear that. He kept his fingertips tinkling across the ebony and ivory. Heard Miss Andre send the magazine flying and smacking on the carpet, but kept playing. Heard her snap her fingers, trying to remember something, but kept playing.
Heard her gasp. “Oh! It’s Devin! You’re name is Devin, isn’t it?”
Cleared his throat. Replied, “Yes, Miss Andre.”
“Ugh! I knew it. I kept calling you Mark, or Martin, didn’t I? He was my last one — the last gigo — ahem, escort — I had before you. You might have seen him around actually, given how incestuous the business is these days.”
“No, Miss Andre. I’m afraid he does not sound familiar to me.”
“Good. Because he was terrible. You’re the one that does what they’re told and finally understand how much better I am than you. How much all women are better than you.”
Devin pretended her didn’t hear that. Again. The room swelled with more of the nocturne’s chords. Just a little longer. In a few more minutes, this era of his life would be over.
“So violent,” she said. “So careless. So… sloppy.”
She wrapped her hands around his shoulders with the ease and grace of Burmese python. Devin’s shoulders went rigid. His fingers, with a mind of their own, kept playing. For his safety. For his piece of mind.
Then her arms slipped from him, and she collapsed to the floor. Eyes closed. Apparently lifeless.
Devin finished the nocturne. He stood from the piano bench and knelt at her side, his heart fluttering against his chest. Did he dare? Did he dare confirm his new reality, his new life without shackles? Did he dare confirm that the poison worked?
He swallowed and placed two fingers at the side of her neck, checking her pulse.
Miss Andre burst out laughing.
Devin jumped to his feet. His trembling kept him rooted to the floor.
“Really, sweetheart? Did you really think I’d go down that easily?”
“But… But the poison — ”
“Was tasteless, colorless, and odorless?” She stood, adjusting her necklace with a grin. “Yes, that’s what the doctor said to you. That’s what one of my little birds told me when they came back last night after following you. Had to take the autocar quite the ways way from here, didn’t he? All the way outside of town, almost.”
Fear froze Devin’s rib cage. He couldn’t breathe. She had birds.
She had birds. She had birds, birds, birds, birds, birds —
But to Miss Andre, his struggle to breath seem to widen her grin. “Oh, you poor thing. You’re so new to this whole thing that I almost don’t want to punish you, but… an act of defiance is an act of defiance, and I have to respond accordingly. Cruel and unusual punishment aren’t against the law anymore. So…” She patted his cheek. “I hope you don’t need the toilet too desperately at the moment, Devin. The letter from your doctor when I first hired you said you had a relatively smaller bladder than most men.”
Devin gulped. Even as she spoke the words, his sphincter tightened uncomfortably. “Wh-Why, Miss Andre?”
With a flick of her wrist, several of the rooms in the mansion all shut at once with loud bands and booms.
“Because from now on,” she said, “you’re not using one without my permission.”
“Miss Andre, I — ”
“Oh, no. Don’t try to apologize now. I’m surprised you even have the gall to do that. But I suppose that just reaffirms the kind of man you are. When you’re not in power, you try to appease to my better judgment. Well, Devin… where was your better judgment last night, trying to tempt a witch like me?”
“Miss Andre, please — ”
“It’s the year 3000, Devin, and we’re not going to sit back and take it from you humans anymore.” She chuckled and bit her lower lip. “Now it’s time for us to have some fun.”
I’ve wanted to write this story for a long time, but never really knew how to go about it properly. So I thought I’d sort of test it out here and leave the story open but also closed.