James sits in his chair in their — his house. He is alone, save for the silvery-blue gaze of the moon streaming in from the window behind him. James holds a bell in his hands. It’s a small silver bell with an ornate handle, a service bell from a time past. James holds it gently, half-expecting it to shatter in his trembling hands, though the idea is impossible.
His thumb brushes over an engraved name, over and over again. He wonders if he does it enough times, he can burn that name into his skin. In sweeping cursive, against the otherwise unmarred surface reads: Selena.
Slowly, James lifts the bell in one hand, and gives it a shake. The bell rings, a sharp sound James feels in his teeth. He lowers the bell and stares out into the darkness of the rest of their — his home. A mist rises from the floor, silver and blue, glowing softly. It rises, twisting and coalescing into a familiar feminine form. Slender limbs, a soft curved torso, a pale neck, dark waves of hair, a plump mouth. Selena blinks, and even spectral, her eyes are still that lovely golden brown.
“Hello, love.” She says, her voice soft, reverberating in his chest. James’ breath catches, his eyes burn. Selena smiles. James’ heart clenches and aches.
“Darling.” James breathes. She glides closer, reaching out to lay one cool phantasmal hand against his cheek. James shudders, laying his wrinkled hand against hers. It feels like almost nothing. Like it has for the last twenty-years. James’ eyes burn as he swallows thickly.
“It’s so nice to see you again.” Selena says. “It’s been a while since you last called me, hasn’t it?” Almost three months by her count, but then again, time could be finicky when one was trapped in a twisted limbo.
“I… I had some things to think about.” James says, fingers clenched tightly around the bell. Selena’s eyes drift towards the bell. With her free hand, she rests it against his white knuckles.
“Anything I can help with?” She asks. James’ heart gives a lurch. He swallows dryly, and nods his head. Selena’s smile changes, her blue lips pressed thin. She strokes James’ cheek with her thumb. Catching against the wrinkles and one pale scar. Time had not been kind to her James, downright cruel even. There were worse fates than having your soul tied to a bell, she supposes. “Tell me what troubles you, love.”
“If… if you could be unbound from the bell,” James pauses hand pressed firmly against hers. Selena smiles wetly as James finally raises his eyes to hers. “If you could truly rest, would you?” He asks. “If I set you free….?” James dips his head, damp gaze locked on the silver bell.
“I would never leave you on your own James.” Selena says, leaning down to press her forehead against his. “I promised, didn’t I?” She smiles, thinking back to that wonderous day so many years ago. They day they were married, he’d been crying then too. Eyes bright and wet, cheeks damp as he kissed her. She missed that warmth. Selena shudders as James laughs. It’s not a kind or warm laugh. It’s not his.
“You already did.” He chokes out. Selena watches as tears drip down James’ weathered cheeks. They slip past her fingers, unfelt. Her own eyes burn, but she’d lost the ability to cry after her soul had been bound to the bell. She doesn’t blame James for her prison, not that she’d ever call it that when he could hear, but in way she was grateful. Her life had been cut so short, only a decade had she been allowed to call him her husband before her untimely death. An accident. One scared young man with a knife, he’d been so sorry, even as he’d fled from her bleeding form.
But, since she was bound to the bell, James could call on her, keep her on earth till the day he too departed. Together forever, wasn’t that what all couples in love wanted? Wasn’t this enough? To be here with him, even as he grew and changed, while she remained, frozen and young forever?
“Aren’t you tired, my dear?” James whispers.
“Yes.” Selena breathes. “I’m so tired James. So tired of existing like this.” She sobs. “I’m ready to let go.” Her hand tightens on the cursed bell, so cold it burned her hand. “I think I’ve been ready for a long time, not that i haven’t enjoyed our time together, but –“
“You were waiting for me to be ready?” James finishes. Selena nods against her forehead. Shivering as he kisses her spectral palm. Selena barely feels it, the echo of her heart pulses in her chest anyway.
“What about you?” Selena asks, as they lean back form one another, curling their hands together around the bell.
“What’s another decade or two compared to eternity?” James laughs. He smiles, eyes damp and shining. “I won’t live forever. I promise.” Selena releases the bell and James’ hands, gliding back. She watches as magic crackles between James’ fingers, a glorious blue she’d grown to love and hate in equal measure over the decades.
“I love you.” Selena swears.
“I love you too, Selena.” James sobs back. “I always will.” A crack resounds, and Selena feels warmth in her chest for the firs time in a very long time. She shudders and gasps, tears finally dripping down her face. She smiles, gaze never breaking from James’, even as the dark rises like the tide around her.
It swallows her, and James? James drops the broken shards of the bell, and cries.