The beautiful rose unfurled it's pedals. The moonlight illuminated the droplets of water on the glass, glistening like stars after the rainfall. She ran naked into the greenhouse and all the flowers opened at her presence, painting colour into the verdant paradise and the view caused her to slow her pace and take a breath. Above, through the glass ceiling, the full moon shone brightly, illuminating her world in a soft clear light. The moon flowers opened for her that night, and as she walked into the eerie light, where her whitish hair glowed faintly with colours of the flowers.
She looked towards her own shadow, fragile and petite and when she saw another: broad-shouldered and long shadow overlap hers, her heart began it's frantic beating again and she darted off the path into the green, amongst the security of the gnarled trunks, vines and foliage.
“Stop!” The man called out to her.
He was tall, with a face that became more distinguished and attractive with age. Wrinkles drew across small white scars that defined the sharp angles of his cheekbones. His white bristles only accentuated his maturity to his physical presence and his eyes were hard and flecked with curious greens and browns.
She didn't comply, but kept her silence and he walked slowly into unwelcoming territory, looking slowly side to side, scanning to see her, as the plants shifted ever so slightly to hide her from view. His hand strayed towards, but did not touch the sword by his side and despite his military uniform, he looked cowed by the great trees with their branches and dwarfed by the twenty metre tall glass dome filled the nature's presence.
He look slow steps, careful not to stray from the stone path, the moonlight illuminating the way.
“You need to come out, Winter.”
There was a long pause before she replied, but it was filled with confidence. “No.”
“What's the matter?”
“I don't want you touching me again.”
“I thought you liked it?”
Again, a long pause, but softer and more hesitant. “No, I don't.”
He listened for her voice. His hearing wasn't like it used to be, since he had been struck on the side of the head; a blow that might have been fatal, save his helmet. A loss he had accepted grudgingly for in his youth, he was the best scout in the army, and had relied on his sharp hearing to survive where many had fallen.
Again, as he stalked the path, he looked around and felt as if he were in hostile territory. Although the war had ended and he was forced to retire, he never gave up that feeling of alertness, of the ready adrenaline.
From between the tight verdant wall, he thought he caught a glimpse of flesh and reached out, but as soon as he were about to grasp an old vine-strangled branch to pull it away, it stirred. Ever so slightly, but enough to cause him alarm. Something was unnatural and he drew away immediately.
The once-general stepped back and gave a softer voice: “Alright, but you can't stay in here forever, just come out.”
“I don't want to live here any more.”
“I can send you away, if that's what you want.”
There was no reply, but then he spotted her, seeing her wide ice blue eyes starring straight at him. He moved towards her shadow, suddenly, reaching out and as soon as he did, two great green pods suddenly moved in the way and parted, like the maws of a dragon, to reveal sticky yellow spines. His hand wavered, shivered even, and touched the pommel of his rapier, but he did no more than that. He stepped back twice and took a defensive stance, calmed his breathing in a moment, although his heart still skipped.
“Winter. I'll make arrangements for you to live somewhere else, straight away, once we together. Just one week, that's all you'll have to put up with. You don't want to be in here without food or your favourite dress for a week. Put something on please.” He took off his jacket slowly, military, of a comfortable soft and warm material, weighed down by all his awards, and offered it towards her.
She gave in, she was only thirteen, reaching out her slender small hand, stepping away from the safety of the bushes. He moved forward only slightly to put it within reach and when she stepped out and the jacket was within her grasp, she took hold, but he grabbed her wrist with his powerful hand, pulled her in and had her in a grip. He stepped away, holding her firmly and she didn't even fight him, but immediately began to sob softly.
He hoisted her off the ground effortlessly and he took her away back to her room and strode the halls with her wrapped in his powerful arms, in the dead of the night. His strong muscles choked and crushed her small frame. There were no servants to be seen, although they were awake and alert, for no one could sleep that night, listening to the cries from behind closed doors. Winter knew that they were awake, and felt that no one cared.
The long carpeted hall to her room filled her with dread and the ordeal that would follow was still too fresh in her mind.
He whispered to her, pleasant and calming words, words she did not make sense of, or refused to listen to. He pushed open her door, which was ajar and as soon as she was back into her room, he lay her down on her bed, the candles still burning and with the heavy shadows on his face, he looked as a demon.
Not moving, Winter closed her eyes and he spread her legs and raped her until he was spent.
She played dead and would have silenced her own breathing if she could; but he stroked her soft beautiful face, a strange act and then tucked her into bed carefully. Stepping away, he briefly took time to adjust his clothing, put on his jacket and then he left, closing the door behind him with the tell-tale click of locking the door.
Outside, he pulled a pipe from his pocket, lit it and began to smoke. The wooden door behind him would likely stay closed for the rest of the week, food could be delivered, but the former general had his last intimate moment and was settled. He would be true to his word, for he had already considered the rest for her hand. A foreign power, once an enemy, what did it matter; by the end of the week, his stepdaughter would be gone and she would be someone else's problem.
So Winter hid in her room, time passed, ever so slowly, but the days blurred together as she hid under the covers, longing for the warm sun in her father's greenhouse. The servants called to her, telling her that she would be ready for a marriage by the end of the week, but she never replied.
Finally, the day came and it was all chaos as the servants rushed in, giving her attention like they never had before; they dressed her, prettied her, all in an attempt to hide the dead look in her eyes. Winter allowed them, stayed limp like a puppet and soon she was dressed as an ice-blue flower, ready to be plucked.