Elyse (502 Words)
“Dear heart, why do you hide yourself?”
He cradled her gloved hand in both his own, his sharp face earnest. The wrappings beside him stirred in sudden discomfort, and the hand he held strained momentarily to free itself.
“I don’t know,” said Elyse.
“Sweet one, tell me. Or better still, let me see and understand.”
His insistence coupled with his choice of words alerted her to the possibility that he was not quite so ignorant after all. The bundle jerked emphatically from him.
“No one can help me.”
“Oh, stop!” She raised herself clumsily from the bench. Her voice was thick with tears. “Just stop. I can’t bear it.”
“Yes. Yes, I’ll stop, if you ask it of me.” For a moment Len stood in silence, watching her huddled form tremble as she wept. His features were pale, tense and drawn. Suddenly he could bear it no more, and went to her, turning her in a desperate motion.
“Elyse,” he said, “believe me when I tell you that you are beautiful—more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen, ever known. Whatever your appearance, no matter what ravages the world has worked on you beneath these bindings, I beg you to believe that I don’t think less of you. It is your mind—your heart—your soul–that I love. You doubt me, I know, or you wouldn’t be afraid to reveal yourself. I can bear everything, anything for you—but trust me—believe me!”
“I cannot,” she wept. “I cannot until you’ve seen me.”
“Then, dear God, let me see you now!”
Len reached trembling hands to the bandages on her face. Her own left hand flew up, the fingers twisting on his nearest wrist but not restricting his movement as he began to unwind the stiff bindings from her head. It seemed almost as if she guided his motion. With great care Len undid the fabric. His jaw was set. As Elyse’s face was made known, his raw feelings could no longer be checked.
Her skin hung in grotesque folds at her cheeks, stretching sharply along her jaw, giving her facial structure a brittle appearance. There was no nose—there were no lips, save a glistening membrane drawn over rows of teeth. Seeing him motionless, she freed her heavy covering with a savage gesture—a twisted, ruined shape.
“You see,” she said. “And now I have lost you, too.”
“Elyse.” Len’s words were scarce audible.
“Do not pity me!”
“But I must. Forgive me, I must!”
He took her in his arms and drew her to him, lifting his lips to hers. Len kissed her tenderly, mindless of the strangeness, her hesitance, his gaze meeting and capturing her own.
“Marry me, Elyse,” he said. “Marry me, my own.”
“I—I can’t—not as I am.” She pushed at him feebly, but he clung to her. “I don’t deserve this.”
“You deserve better.”
Written in response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt. Check it out!