In Search of the Lady in Red
Elena frowned. "What do you mean when you say you never heard from her again?"
Stefan shrugged. "Exactly what you think I mean. See, by 1864, Selina had been living with us on and off for the last four years. Just before she came down with her fever, Katherine's father sent Selina a letter saying that Katherine was coming to visit, and that it was Selina's job to show her a good time."
"How did she feel about that?"
Stefan looked at the picture again. "Not well at all. The very thought of Katherine coming anywhere near her made her paranoid. Selina told me that I'd have to watch myself during her visit because she was tricky, manipulative, and completely lacking human emotion. Or if I didn't, she'd watch me for my own good."
Elena sat back on the couch and motioned for Stefan to give her the picture. She took it and ran her hands over it, staring at the girl's face. "Why'd she feel that way?"
"Well," Stefan said after a moment, "like I told you before, Selina and Katherine were half-sisters. Their mother Amelia had Selina first, then her husband Matthew went off to fight in the Mexican-American war a few months after Selina was born."
"And was he killed in action?" Elena's eyes were still on the picture.
Stefan nodded. "He was. And after the proper period of mourning, Amelia married Mr. Pierce despite the fact that he was much older than she was and her relatives disapproved of the match, saying that he was only after her money. And the next year, they had Katherine, and that's when all the trouble started. Mr. Pierce doted on Katherine, but he didn't pay any attention to Selina. He made her sleep in the attic and attend to Katherine's every whim."
Elena looked up. "He turned his stepdaughter into Cinderella? That's original."
Stefan smiled wanly. "I think it was because Selina's father was a war hero and that made Mr. Pierce feel incredibly insecure. Finally, one morning he came to Selina's room incredibly drunk and babbling nonsense, and hit her, then left the room. When her mother found out, she sent Selina to live with her family, and then after that, a finishing school that was near her house. That's how she came to live with us."
Elena put the picture on the coffee table. "No wonder she attacked me if she thought I was Katherine. I'd be mad too if I had to live the way she did."
"Don't get me wrong, Elena. She wasn't unhappy all the time. In fact, after she moved in with us, she got better. And four years later, she was eighteen, and Damon had enlisted to fight for the confederacy. But before he shipped out, he proposed to her. But he told me first and swore me to secrecy. He wanted it to be a surprise…"
"All right, I did it Stefan. I've enlisted to defend the Confederacy." Damon swaggered into the kitchen with the air of a knight coming home after slaying a dragon.
"Really?" I smiled. "That's wonderful. And so selfless of you." I looked out the window to where Selina sat in the rose garden. "Have you told Selina yet?"
Damon sat down and shook his head. "No. But I'm going to have to of course, and gently after what happened with her father. But I have a feeling that after I show her the present I got her, she won't be so upset."
My eyes widened. "What present?"
Damon grinned and pulled a small box out of his jacket pocket, opening it and showing me the contents: a silver locket with the initials S.W.S. engraved on the front.
Damon nodded. "Pure silver. Cost me a fortune, but I figure that when a man proposes to the woman he loves more than life itself, it better be with something good."
Stefan's eyes widened further. "You're going to propose to her?" My voice rose significantly in pitch and no doubt carried through the screen door to the garden, which happened to be slightly ajar. Thankfully though, Selina made no indication that she'd heard anything.
"Shhhh! Will you be quiet! I want it to be a surprise. I'm going to ask her after dinner tonight."
I stood up as Damon put the locket back in his jacket pocket. "I think I'll go upstairs and read a book."
Damon nodded. "All right, but remember: Don't tell Selina anything!"
"Awwww! That's so sweet!" Elena knew that she shouldn't butt in at this point in the story but she couldn't help herself. It was just so romantic. "Hard to believe Damon was ever like that."
Stefan nodded. "Sometimes I think that if he just saw Selina again, everything would get back to normal. Anyway, that night, things went as planned. After dinner, Damon told Selina he wanted to meet with her in the garden:
"Selina, I have something very serious I need to discuss with you," Damon's voice was grave as he led her back to the bench near the rose bed.
"What is it?" Selina asked nervously.
He sat her down on the bench and sighed. "I have some good news and some bad news. Which one would you like to hear first?"
Breathing deeply, the girl thought a moment. "The bad news," she said finally. "It's always good to get that out of the way." She had red roses in her hair that matched the color of her dress. When Damon put his hand out, she took it.
"I signed up at the recruitment office today, Selina. I'm going to defend the Confederacy."
Selina smiled and took his other hand. "I thought you said you had bad news to tell me. This is good news. I'm so proud of you."
"Really?" Damon was surprised. This wasn't the reaction he'd expected.
Selina nodded. "You'll be just like my father, fighting for a noble cause."
Damon nodded. "Well, I was expecting you to be more upset so I could give you something to make the separation easier."
Selina laughed. "Even though I'm not upset, can I have it anyway?"
Damon smiled. "Oh, all right. I suppose you can." He took the box out of his jacket pocket and handed it to her. She opened it and gasped at the sight of the locket.
"Oh, God. That's beautiful." She read the front. "S.W.S.?" she looked at him. "Does this mean what I think it means?"
Damon nodded and got down on one knee. "Selina Warren, will you marry me and become Selina Warren Salvatore?"
Selina nodded. "Of course I will!" she smiled and threw herself into his arms.
"Stefan," Damon called, "she said yes! Come out and hug your future sister-in-law!"
As soon as I appeared, she turned away from him to hug me too. "Did you know about this, Stefan?" she asked.
I nodded. "That's why I've been upstairs all day. I was ordered not to give away the surprise."
She laughed. "Well, you did a wonderful job." Then, she stepped away and looked at both of us. "I don't think I'll ever be happier than I am at this moment."
"But something went wrong. She got sick, didn't she?"
Stefan nodded. "She did. A few days before Katherine was to arrive at the house, she got a fever. Her mother convinced Mr. Pierce to let her come back to their house and recover. Before Katherine left, she gave her a note to give to Damon telling him that Selina was sick. She must have disposed of it though, because when she arrived, she didn't have anything to give him, except the news that Selina had gotten sick, been cured, and then eloped with the doctor who'd overseen her care."
"And Damon believed her? He believed just her word that Selina, the girl he supposedly loved more than life itself, had cheated on him?"
"Well," Stefan thought a moment. "I think she used her powers on him to make him believe that. And then once that happened, the thought of Selina betraying him hurt so much, he got comfort from the first person who would give it to him."
Elena got up and sat in the chair next to his. "Did you believe her?"
Stefan shook his head. "No, I didn't. Not for a second. Anyone who'd ever seen him and Selina together wouldn't believe it either. But, for better or worse, Damon believed her, and still believes her to this day."
Elena looked at the locket again. "And now Selina is the Lady in Red. Katherine made her look like a villain, but who came up with the other story?"
Stefan shrugged. "I don't know. When Selina attacked you, she was solid, right?"
Elena nodded. "Oh, yes."
"And people say that they see her in Dr. Stensrund's old house, right?"
Elena nodded. "Yes…Stefan what are you getting at?"
Stefan stood up. "I think we should go see her."
"What? Stefan, are you insane?! She attacked me! She hates my guts!"
"Only because she thinks you're Katherine. Once she finds out you aren't and gets the locket back, she will return to being her fundamentally decent, friendly self." Stefan was already at the back door. When he realized she wasn't following him, he turned around. "Are you coming?"
Elena grabbed the locket. "All right, but I still think that this is insane and one of us is going to come out of it very, very sorry."
Stefan took her hand. "Just trust me, all right?"
Ten minutes later, Elena was once again pulling up to the front of Dr. Stensrund's old house. Stefan parked the car in the driveway and led her inside.
"Where do the stories say the Lady in Red usually haunts?" he asked.
Elena thought a moment. "The attic. Or the parlor on the second floor."
They tried the attic and found nothing, but as they got closer and closer to the parlor, they began to hear music. "Is that 'I will Always Love You'?" Elena whispered.
Stefan nodded. "Yes, and she was playing 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' a few minutes ago."
Elena couldn't help but smile. "She's not exactly up on the latest music, is she?"
Stefan shushed her as they reached the parlor entryway. Sure enough, they saw the figure of a girl looking out the open window. She was still wearing the same outfit Elena had seen her in earlier.
Stefan knocked lightly on the wall.
"Who's there?" the girl turned and suddenly the room filled with light. She looked at the pair of them, stepped forward, blinked.
"Stefan," she said finally, "is that you?"