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Mari did not wake up screaming anymore, but the nightmare still came every night she slept. It was always the same images of an accident she was never in and never saw, but felt the effects of everyday. The feelings that drowned her everyday, whether she got out of bed or not. She had not felt any better then this in three years, not since he had left.

Nothing helped her cope with her feelings. She surrounded herself with emptiness; empty canvases, only a bed, vanity, and one chair for furniture; hoping that the empty objects would finally allow her to feel empty inside because it hurt too much to feel all that she felt. And no matter how much she wrote or painted, it did not relieve her of her inner pain.

But each night she would go through the same ritual. She would wake up with a scream frozen on her lips, her arms outstretched to embrace someone that no longer reaches back. Sweaty and cold she takes a shower trying to warm up more then just her body, trying desperately to warm up her very soul. But the ritual brings her no comfort tonight. Lighting the two hundred candles in screen holders, candelabras, and candlesticks, even made her feel uneasy for the first time in her twenty-five years of life. She always worked by candlelight and could not understand why lighting these candles would make her feel uncomfortable tonight.

As she dressed she began to look around the loft trying to place her uneasiness. The apartment looked as it always did. Black velvet curtains blocked the rest of the world out of her little world; seven empty canvases stared back at her from their easels as if to say, "I am empty, fill me and maybe you will be too." Her bed was an antique canopy of velvet and satin ribbons with a deep blue navy lace curtain; her sheets were black satin and jumbled from a night of uneasy sleep. The matching vanity sat on the far wall, the mirror covered in happier memories forever frozen by the camera lens, the table was covered with make-up and old jewelry rarely touched or used.

In the farthest corner of her room was a wedding dress, a constant reminder why her bed has been so empty for three years. Seeing the dress she stopped staring around the room and began paying close attention as she was getting dressed. The dress she had chosen to wear that day was deep blue velvet that had ribbons instead of zippers. She tied up the front of the dress, careful not to look at the necklace with the set of rings attached that that she always wore. When she was done tying up the front of the dress she looked at her arms, the scars weren't fresh but they still had the brownish pink tint of newly healed flesh. Three years had passed since she had sliced up her arms in the hopes of joining her beloved fiance Seth, but she had failed, and deep down inside her soul she felt as if she had failed him as well.

As the memories began to flood into her mind she walked over to the first of the seven canvases, barely glancing at the poem that was written under it, but knowing what it said. During these moments of rushing memory it was best just to let her emotions guild her, letting the memories create the painting rather then her concentration of the material.

Seth and her had met ten years earlier. He was a sophomore in college and had come into the art studio in order to discuss taking a class with the professor. He had watched her paint for almost an hour, caught up in how free flowing her painting seemed to be. She had not sketched the picture first and rarely sat back and stared at the work trying to figure out what next. It was as if some other force possessed her. By the time she noticed he was there, the painting was finished. It was a remarkably sad and beautiful painting of a man in heaven reaching for his soul mate on earth, covering her in the wings of his devotion. The woman on earth was the most tragic looking figure he had ever seen in his whole life he would later tell her. He had wanted to cry right then. When Mari finally turned around, Seth was awestruck at how such a beautiful soul as her, could look so lost. He was six foot three inches tall, leaning against the doorframe, the suns rays falling upon his face and hair. He was the most romantic sight she had ever seen. They had begun dating a few weeks later.

On their three-year anniversary they moved into the loft together. Seth had bought her the bed and vanity as a birthday present, and she had bought all the linens the day they decided to move in together. Seth's twin sister Celeste moved into the apartment across the hall from them, and began managing Mari's art shows and poetry readings. She had become a well-known artist for the dark reality in her pieces. She was loved by the public and well received by the critics. She owed that to Seth, as he was the one who pushed her to try her paintings on the public.

Five and a half years after they met, Mari found out she was pregnant. She was going to have a baby boy, and they had chosen to name him Angelus, after the painting Seth had seen her paint that first day. On September 19th, 1995 Angelus was born and died. The baby had come too early and his lungs were not properly formed. Mari was in a psychiatric hospital for six months after the funeral because she had gone basically catatonic, sleepwalking barefoot in the snow, walking for hours and not knowing where she was or how she had gotten there. Seth stayed with her each step of the way.

When she was released from the hospital, Seth and her decided to go on a trip. They went to Ireland, Scotland, and France. It was the most romantic year she had ever spent in her whole life. The ache inside her body slowly went away, and she began to feel human again. Seth made her feel alive and complete, the greatest feelings she had ever felt in her whole life.

On their seven year anniversary Seth asked her to marry him. They planned to have the wedding on her birthday three months later. They chose the rings in Paris, and she had the dress specially made for her from her favorite designer, Seth's sister. It was perfect, they had chosen to spend the rest of their lives together, and her life was finally back into place. The night before the wedding, Seth had gone over to his best friends house, so that he wouldn't see the wedding dress when it was delivered. On his way to Drez's house a storm started and he was in a car accident. The other person had been drinking heavily and walked away from the wreck, Seth on the other hand, did not. The airbag in his car did not go off and the force of hitting the steering wheel shattered his skull.

When the policeman came to the door, Mari was in her wedding dress trying it on for the last time before she was going to go to bed. She could not remember most of the night after that. It blurred by and she remembers fainting when she identified the body. The next thing she can remember is waking up in the hospital two weeks later with her arms covered in bandages and the feeling of wanting to be empty. Celeste took care of all of the funeral arrangements, and held it off until Mari could go to the funeral as well.

When the funeral was over and she was released from the hospital, she spent weeks in bed, staring at the wedding rings Celeste had placed on a necklace for her, and the torn arms of her wedding dress. They were never able to get the bloodstains out of the dress, but it did not bother her. She wanted to be forever reminded of the pain she felt and the fact that she had not been able to join Seth in eternity as she had wanted.

These memories processed in her mind as she completed the painting. The last one in a series to go on display in a few weeks. Celeste would be around later to pick up the other thirty-two paintings in the Sacrifice set. This last painting was titled "Outside the Box", and depicted a girl in a tattered white gown, arms bleeding holding up her heart while ghosts stared on in wonder. It was a dark painting of her heart at the remembrance of these memories of happiness and pain. A new sacrifice at the alter of her love for Seth.

As the painting began to dry, she decided that she was tired and began to gather the other paintings in the set together to place outside her apartment door for Celeste. It was six-thirty at night and she should be getting home soon, so it was safe to leave them out for her. Celeste would be worried about her, but Mari was too tired to deal with her right now.

By seven o'clock the painting was dry and placed outside with the rest of the series. Mari cleaned up her hands from the paint and ate a small snack seeing as how she had not eaten all day. She lay down on the bed, closed her eyes, and gently held on the Seth's old sleep shirt willing it to smell like him again. As she fell asleep she thought about the wedding they were supposed to have, completely forgetting about the candles burning through out the apartment.

By eight o'clock Celeste came home and saw the paintings and poetry outside of Mari's door. It was not an abnormal thing for Mari to do, but it made Celeste worry a lot more tonight. It never did any good to say anything to her about it, because Mari always denied that anything was wrong. Celeste knew Mari was not sleeping well at night, and that her paintings and her poems were how she really felt all the time. She just didn't know what to do, but keep Mari busy with her work for as many shows as possible. So she set up these huge shows in the hopes that her work would be the therapy that would bring Mari back to life. Celeste gathered all of the paintings together and left the building, taking them to the gallery for inventory, she would set the show up tomorrow.

Mari's dreams were not the same on this night. She did not see the crash that had killed Seth, but instead she saw the first day they told each other they loved each other. She had never felt as complete as she did at that time. And in this happy dream, nothing could separate them, not even death. They were bound heart and soul, forever. But the dream began to turn sour as they got into the car and began driving home. It began to rain and the road became slick. The car crash was different in this dream, it was firey instead of just loud. The heat was horrendous against her skin and as she looked over at Seth she could she that he was already gone. As the car exploded she felt his hand take hers as the breathe left her body.

By midnight the apartment building was in a full fledged blaze. Celeste had come home a half-hour ago to find smoke billowing out of the windows of Mari's apartment. She had called the fire department in a daze and had stood out in the rain outside of the apartment waiting for them to tell her that Mari was dead and gone. She had finally made it to be in Seth's arms. Soulmates always end up together, even if it takes awhile.


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Soulmates © 2001 by Umbra

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