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Nocturnal Romance— Gardenia
Nocturnal Romance
1. Gardenia

“Drink.” She said, her voice, a soft velvet whisper in his ear. “You’re running a fever. This’ll make it better.” A hot, burning liquid poured down his lips, and into his throat as he swallowed. A shiver passed through him, as he struggled not to cough out the medicine. Such a warm, pleasant sensation. It felt like poison to him. It made him drowsy. “I-..I beg your pardon, mademoiselle. It was never my intention to have the lady of the house assist me.” Thick scarlet liquid trickled down his pale lips— a trail of blood flowing down a path melting of snow.

“Oh, nonsense, young maverick.” She scolded. “You gave all of us a fright out in the garden. And we were having such an enjoyable time too. Your cousin Mina tells me you’re quite gifted when it comes to playing the pianoforte. We have one in the drawing room. Surely you could play a piece to entertain your beloved mother and I— a duet maybe? Once you recover, of course.”

“ Mademoiselle Baudelaire—“ He coughed.

“Chandelle. Please call me Chandelle, monsieur. There is no need for all those formalities in my household.” She placed the cork back in the small vial of medicine, and set it back in the beautifully ornate wooden box containing at least a dozen more vials of red liquid. “Please, monsieur Jan, there is no need for you to sit up. You’re sick. You should be resting. You really frightened little Mina, and the rest of us, losing consciousness just like that. This medicine should make you feel better in no time. Hopefully by supper time? I hear the Chef will be cooking duck a’lorange this evening. Your brother’s catch, I believe.”

A coughing fit overcame the young man as he sunk further into the covers, and set his head against the vividly embroidered pillows, a hand trying to cover up the cough, or at least make it sound less horrid. Lady Chandelle looked at him in slight horror, and attempted to assist him. “I beg of you, Lady Baudelaire, please leave me to my sickness, and delight the others with your presence. You’ve been here long enough, and they must be wondering if they should start getting concerned. It’s nothing more than a minor chest cold, I assure you. There’s no need for a medic. We already have enough with Mother being ill, and my sisters being unable to assist her. It’ll pass. Please don’t make a big fuzz about this little cough of mine. I dread the family will add another worry to their already endless list of—…Gardenias?” He blinked. His eyes had caught a glimpse of the bouquet of white flowers set in a glass vase beside him on the wooden night table.

“Your favorites, are they not?” Lady Baudelaire asked, looking at the flowers herself, and noticing the fallen petals for an instant. He began to cough once again, only allowing a couple of nods to serve as his poor reply to her inquiry. Yes, Gardenias. So beautiful. So delicate. So pure. Wait. How did you know? “You have very beautiful eyes, if you don’t mind my saying so, young maverick. Your mother agrees in spite of her poor eyesight. Such a cold, icy blue. Yet, they differ from your twin’s. Not in color, or shape, of course. You two are identical in that sense, no doubt about that. There’s a…a certain innocence in your eyes, which Joseph lacks. Warmth— something untainted, and naive. Much like these flowers.” A soft giggle escaped those red-tinged lips, hints of a smirk almost visible on either corner of her delicate mouth. There's something almost angelic about them...

“Oh, but I digress, monsieur, and you must be sick of me already. The others must be tired of waiting too. Please forgive my idle prattle, but I do so much enjoy having someone to talk to. It’s been years since I’ve had company in this lonesome estate.” It’s a pleasure caring for your mother. I love her dearly. Mina as well, that precious little darling.” She continued to speak as she walked about the room. She seemed to be heading towards the door, now; the lower layers of her pompous silken dress dragging behind. “Don’t hesitate to call if you need anything. The servants will come lend a hand in whatever it is you require. They’ve been instructed to do so. As long as you remain in my estate, you’ll be treated not as a guest, but as an actual member of the Baudelaire family. The same goes for your beloved mother, Joseph, and Mina.”

Lady Baudelaire shut the door quietly, leaving the young man to rest, yet he could not rest. The medicine had taken effect. So hastily? And he had become agitated, restless. Everything in the room began to seem so alien to him. The walls seemed to be… alive, to breathe, and everything seemed so painfully vivid. He was seeing everything in colors to which he found no words for, so rich, so… and the sounds! Oh, The sounds! He could hear everything! Every whisper, every— but… weren’t the others outside still? He felt disoriented, and a sudden wave of distress began to overwhelm him. There was something wrong. Something very wrong… but what…was it? Was it all somehow related to the dreams he’d been having? Those dreadful, haunting nightmares? No. It had to be the medication. It had to be.

Hurriedly, he forced himself up, and grabbed the neglected black leather journal that lay beside him, his most trusted, most intimate friend, and sat on the writing table adjacent to the bed. Someone must’ve placed the journal on the nightstand, for he did not recall leaving it there. And now that the thought about it, he could not recall a variety of things, only that dream. That dream he’d been continuously having ever since he set foot in Blackfield, and the overwhelming desire to visit Mother.

Forget Liezbeth.
Forget your engagement.
Mother needs you.

Arranging himself comfortably on the chair, he flipped through his worn out journal, and, compelled by a strong desire to write to his beloved, he looked in the left drawer for a sheet of stationary.


How are you, my love, my darling? Mona sends you her dearest regards. I know I said I would write to you daily, but many strange things have been happening ever since I set foot back in England, things I have already revealed to you in prior letters.
Of course I’m delighted to be back home, but oh, how I miss you, how I wish you could have come, how I wish…—

He sighed, placing the pen he clutched in his right hand on the desk, brushing the sweat off his forehead, and tucking those loose, curling strands of chestnut hair behind his ear. I need to… lay down, I need to— w-what am I doing…? “What on earth are you doing Jan?” He asked himself out loud, feeling foolish, feverish. A sudden shiver cruised down his spine due to the cold, though he knew the fire was still a blaze, the windows were closed, and that he was suffering from a strong fever.

No, better not write to her now. She’ll understand…

Frustrated, he crumbled up the sheet of paper, and tossed it aimlessly to his side. “And what did you expect, you blatant fool? You know how terribly vulnerable you are to climate changes, nevermind your susceptibility to sickness.” He coughed, shutting his eyes tightly, and blinking continuously for a few seconds. What in God’s name is going on!? He pounded a clenched fist on the wooden writing table, as he began to feel a series of helpless sobs mingling with the coughing fit.

So helpless, the poor darling, so tormented. He could’ve sworn he was going mad, the insanity eating away at his understanding. It had to be the medication, it had to be! These visions of darkness, of creatures fleshed out of the shadows in the room singing to him, caressing him, soothing his lovesick mind with intoxicating lullabies, then hurting him. Yes, hurting him! Like being pricked by a storm of merciless needles on the chest, and forearms, and wrists, and stabbed by twin daggers on the neck, the throat, and then feeling the life being drawn out from him.

“This is madness!” He called out, still in the middle of coughing, and weeping. He was sick to death of the melancholy that so suddenly enveloped him not even with a moment’s notice. Only moments ago he was perfectly fine! And this wasn’t the first time it had ever happened to him. All his life he had had to deal with overwhelming feelings, with feeling things too deeply.

“Crying spells, only fit for nostalgic women” His brother would say to him. Was it really his fault that he was so different from his brother? They were twins, yes, but while Joseph was a paragon of strength and masculinity, Jan was the epitome of emotion, of sensitivity—melancholia. A passionate soul brought up by his sister’s romance novels, the novels that caused Genvieve’s death, as well as Ida’s brain fever, and surely,now the cause of Jan’s insanity.

It was the family’s curse to feel things so deeply. Long before Jan, others had been overcome by this excess of emotion, and died because of it. Joseph had been immune to it, as had his mother, but what good had it done to her, if she’d been afflicted by one calamity after another? Seventeen pregnancies, in five marriages, and her latest husband had only recently died, leaving her with the remains of his consumption, and only two children to care for her— Joseph, the head of the family, and Jan, the runt.

Yet he had always been her favorite, hadn’t he? Always lavishing Jan with the utmost attention, spoiling the poor, misunderstood darling. Her only two boys…. They had been a blessing, surely! Never mind the four miscarriages, never mind the three still-born babies. Out of the ten that survived, only seven reached adulthood, and after so many years, and five weddings, only Jan and Joseph were left to tend to her in her time of need, now that her daughters were long gone, and married.

She was going to die soon. She knew it. She knew it because Jan knew it, and Jan had always had a keen sense of perception when it came to these things. He knew things other people didn’t know merely by looking at them, or touching them. Sometimes his dreams were the source of his premonitions, but seldom did they linger long enough in his memory, for him to remember them.

Strong manifestations of emotion. Impressions. That’s what he had called them. Yet no one believed him. Ever since he was a child he had been able to hear the things other people said without making a sound. And he wasn’t reading their thoughts, no. What he heard, and felt was more of sudden wave of emotion that hit him, a wave of words and phrases that no one else heard.

He saw things other people couldn’t see, and ultimately, that lead others to assume he was going crazy, that is, if he wasn’t already crazy. Even his own brother thought he was mad, and should be put in an insane asylum, but his mother loved him too much to let it happen. She believed in this preternatural power of his, which was why she had decided to spend the remainder of her days in the company of her two beloved sons, and not in isolation, not wasting herself away in her bedroom, mourning over fate.

“O! That this too, too sullen flesh would melt!” Jan wept miserably, inconsolably, it was like being possessed by the anguish and despair of a malicious spirit. He summoned the very words of Hamlet, in search of solace, but it was no use, and even now as Lady Baudelaire rushed into the room, to help him, he cried helplessly.
“No, don’t touch me! You’ll only make it worse!” He pushed the chair back, stumbling over his feet. “Get away from me! I’ll be done with it in a moment, just let me be!” He pushed Chandelle back, and gaining back his balance, he opened the doors to the balcony, and walked outside. Yes, he was used to all this. He had not grown resistant to these sudden attacks, these sudden episodes, but he had learned how to get past them. Fresh air. That was all he needed.

“In heaven’s name, what is going on?” Joseph barged in. A spitting image of his brother. Tall, approximately six feet, with light chestnut brown hair, though his was nape length, while his brother’s reached down to his shoulders, and was tied in a low ponytail. Delicate, feminine features, reminiscent of their mother. Almost androgynous, though Joseph sported a Van Dyke, which made him look older, and far more mature, if not more masculine than his twin brother. Polar opposites. That’s what they were. And they couldn’t’ve been more than twenty years of age. Beautiful men, both of them, in their own way. What had Lady Baudelaire said about their eyes?

The moment Joseph entered the room, it was clear his overbearing presence only worsened the situation. Grabbing him by the collar of his shirt, he dragged his half-deranged twin brother out of the comfort he’d found in the midnight breeze, in the intoxicating perfume of the newly bloomed gardenias, and shoved him into the bed.

Anger. Resentment. Fear.

“Pull yourself together, you blubbering idiot, and behave like a man!” Joseph smacked him across the face, but he wasn’t listening. All he saw, were his lips moving, pronouncing words he couldn’t hear, words he couldn’t read. He was too overwhelmed by the conflicting emotions of rage, pity and bile, emanating from his own brother, and though he tried to speak, though he tried to move, he couldn’t. He’d lost all control over his limbs, and now lay limp in his brothers arms, head bent to the side, resting on his shoulder. A vulnerable puppet.

You’re doing it again. Stop it.
Why can’t you be normal?
I should have put you in that asylum when I had the chance.

“Joseph Francis! For God’s sake, leave him alone! Can’t you see what you’re doing to him?! He’s convulsing!” Chandelle took the limp body from his arms, and pushed Joseph to the side. A violent waft of air made the door slam shut abruptly.

To Be Continued
I hope you don't mind my comments. I only wish to offer suggestions. The above sounds like we just jumped into the middle of your story, so naturally, it is a little confusing. You mentioned elsewhere that sometimes you don't pay attention to the details as you're writing the story. The details are fine, but I think that in some descriptive passages, I got lost as to who you were describing. Perhaps replacing some pronouns with names might be helpful.
tamtam Wrote:The above sounds like we just jumped into the middle of your some descriptive passages, I got lost as to who you were describing.

I really appreciate your critique. I have a horrid habit of starting up in medias res, so I'll certainly pay attention to your suggestions!

Thankyou very much.
My comments are pretty much the same as tamtam's. I also felt like I'd jumped into the middle of the story. There seemed a lot of character names introduced very quickly.

On the other hand, the atmosphere and dialogue worked well. I would love to read more as you do your rewrites.
I am a newbie, so I am commenting now... I liked beautiful elegance and atmosphere of your story. Smile

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