I wrote this a very long time ago, and when I read it, I can tell that my writing has improved. But I truly love the message of this story, and I love going back and reading it whenever I feel like giving up.

I hope you enjoy it.

Vivian Locke

She sits quietly in her bedroom, observing the shadows on the wall morphing and shifting as cars drive by. Her tears falling quietly, warm and salty, rolling down the sides of her face till they reach her pillow. Her long brown hair spread out, tangled and matted, not having been brushed in a few days. She didn't want to think of Philander anymore. She couldn't believe that he was gone; he was her life and her salvation. She thought she would never need a man to live before she met him, and now that he was gone, she didn't know how she could live without him.

Carys had never even dreamed of meeting a man like Philander, nor had she ever expected it. She was always lanky and tall, with large ears and big feet. Her dark brown hair was always kept in a braid and the only unique thing about her was her dark amethyst eyes. Her Grandmother, a traditional English woman, had raised her. Her Mother never knew whom her Father was and had left soon after Carys was born. Carys had made some attempts to find her mother when she turned sixteen, but never had any luck. Resources were not in her favour granted she only had a few dollars in her pockets.

The town of Mizell, in which Carys grew up, never offered anyone much opportunity. Impoverished and uneducated, Mizell was pushed to outskirts and ignored by the government, in hopes that it would simply disappear. There were no parks, or children or employment. There were only two pastimes; drinking and sex. Sometimes both were done at the same time. Many city people like to view small towns as quaint, old fashioned, sweet places where everyone knows each other and respects one another, but this was truly a myth for Mizell. Carys often assumed the large towns would be more decent than the grime filled town she knew.

Carys traveled an hour and a half by bus every morning to the township of Lucretia to attend school. Although her Grandmother never liked the idea of her Granddaughter attending school, Carys knew if she even wanted a life for herself out of Mizell, she needed to be educated.

Carys met Philander on the first day of spring. Large pink apple blossoms littered the sidewalks in front of the Louvre as bikes and pets were taken outside for the first time after an unusually long winter. The smell of fresh baguettes and coffee filled the air as Carys sat outside a small Bistro sipping a freshly brewed espresso. Excited chatter filled the air as the first warm gusts of air whipped the city into a frenzy. Carys had moved to Paris from England when she was eighteen to study at the Louvre under one of the greatest artists of the twenty first century, Severin Aceline. Her Grandmother had objected of course, but Carys new this was her first chance to fulfill her dreams of having a showing in the Louvre.

Philander was stunned when he first saw the beautiful Carys sitting quietly on the patio of the bistro early Monday morning. Her long, slender figure was draped elegantly over the bistro chair while she sipped a small espresso. Her thick brown hair glistened in the bright spring sunlight only masked by her soft eyes and thick lips. Her small figure was accentuated by her bright red turtleneck and dark blue jeans. Philander rode his bicycle closer to Carys, hoping to smell her beautiful scent. He began to lock up his bike in front of her table, breathing in her light elegant smell.

"Bonjour mademoiselle," Philander said, his normally deep voice sounding high pitched and nervous. Carys' beautiful eyes looked shyly into Philanders,

"Bonjour."

"Beautiful morning isnt it?" Philanders slight Greek accent always showed when he spoke English.

"Yes," she smiled gently at Philander, calming his quavering stomach. "Very beautiful."

"May I join you?" Carys was taken aback by the strangers speedy request. She sat quietly, observing the gentleman. He was tall and thin with a strong jaw line and an unshaven face. His black eyes were strong yet kind and his dark black curls sat gently against his ears.

"Alright," Carys said hesitantly.

"It's not everyday I ask to sit at a strangers table," Philander sat down in the chair across from Carys. "I assure you." Carys smiled, looking down at her hands, unsure of what to say to the man sitting at her table. "I'm Philander by the way." he explained, holding out his hand.

"Carys." She held out her paint-covered hand to Philander, a bit embarrassed by the state of her nails. Philanders soft lips touched the top of her hand lightly, his eyes never leaving hers. Carys blushed slightly and adverted her eyes from Philanders gaze.

"Do you paint?" He asked gently.

"Yes, I'm a student at the Louvre." Carys could feel Philanders eyes watching her, but she was hesitant to look at him.

"Really? Thats truly incredible. Have you ever had anything on display?"

"No, but there is a senior student showing on Friday where many of my pieces will be on."

"I will come, what time?" Carys was shocked at Philander's interest in her work, but she doubted he would ever actually come. 'Probably just interested in a one night stand afterwards,' she thought.

"It starts at five." Carys didn't mean to tell Philander, but his gentle eyes and his kind voice had convinced her heart to tell him. She didn't want Philander any closer to her but she found his charm irresistible.

"I'll be there, Carys". He leaned forward, putting his face closer to hers. His gaze captivated Carys and she found herself unable to look away. She giggled quietly, unsure of how to react to the strangers enthusiasm. Carys didn't know how long she stared into Philanders eyes, and she would have stared longer if her watch alarm had not begun to ring.

"I'm sorry, but I have to go." Philander smiled gently and leaned back into his chair.

"Au revoir Carys."

"Bye Philander."

"I'll see you on Friday." His voice was calm and eloquent. Carys turned around quickly and began to walk to the Louvre.

Philander could not take his mind off Carys for the rest of the week. He had been with many beautiful women before, rich and powerful; but there was something fascinating and unique about Carys. Her shy yet confident speech, her deep amethyst eyes, her smooth gestures. He quickly dressed in his best clothes and caught a cab to the Louvre.

He had never felt nervous to see a woman before. He had always been able to charm women, and was always confident and cocky, but to Philander, those other women were simply someone to ease the lonely nights. The amount of bedmates Philander had increased greatly after Andreas was killed. The diamond trade was always a risky business, especially when the Greek Mafia was involved. His death had taken a huge part of Philanders soul; he had felt dead for months until he saw Carys. She had woken something up deep inside of him and he could finally see the world in colour again. Something no other beautiful or powerful woman had been able to do.

Philander stepped slowly inside the Louvre observing the beautiful artwork. He could hear the excited chatter of the art students coming from down the hall. He took in a deep breath to ease his nervous stomach and walked gently down the large corridors. He spotted Carys in the corner, speaking softly to a young girl. Her gentle demeanor was obvious and her smile lit up Philanders soul. Carys spotted Philander and smiled gently. She gave him a small wave and began to walk towards him.

A dark blue dress fell over her beautiful figure and swayed side to side as she gracefully walked towards Philander.

"You came, Philander." Carys sounded genuinely surprised. She never expected him to come and she could feel his nervousness, she guessed he hadn't been to many art shows before.

"Of course I came, Carys." He took her hand and kissed it gently. "Will you show me your artwork?" Carys slowly led Philander around the room, showing him her beautiful sculptures and paintings. Her artwork was filled with dark, sad images except one. The bright yellow painting caught Philanders eye. "Why is this one so different?" He whispered into Carys' ear, cherishing the chance to get closer to her. Carys blushed and turned her head away from Philander. She was frightened to tell Philander she painted that right after she met him; she was afraid of being vulnerable, especially with a man she had only met once before.

"I guess I painted it so brightly because spring just began after a long winter. I wanted to express the brightness and happiness it can bring to your heart." Carys hoped Philander could hear the real message hidden within her words.

"Why does spring make you happy?" His words were gentle and kind. Carys looked into Philander's eyes and gave him a sheepish smile.

"Because it means new beginnings and taking chances. Spring is the start to summer romances." Philander took in all of Carys melodic words, not wanting to miss one syllable she said.

The air was cool on the lovers faces as they strolled quietly around downtown Paris. The streetlights twinkled in the moonlight while the murmur of late night coffee lovers and bistro music systems played in the background. Philander took Carys' hand gently into his, cherishing the warmth of her palms, lacing his fingers within hers. Philander watched Carys face as she smiled slightly and blushed. They walked slowly along the paths, their bodies swaying side to side in unison, the silence between them feeling comfortable and calm.

"Thank you for coming," Carys said quietly, breaking the silence. Philander smiled, not wanting to interrupt the beautiful music of Carys voice. "I was worried you wouldn't come."

"Why?" Philander asked, his voice raspy.

"Well, I had only met you for a few moments." Philander stopped walking and turned towards Carys. He looked her in the eyes, his black eyes trying to penetrate her thoughts. He wanted to know everything about her right at that moment; he wanted to know everything she had ever experienced, ever thought, ever felt. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her and at the same time he wanted the world to stop so he could stand there looking into her eyes for all of eternity.

"Carys," he said quietly. "You're beautiful." Carys continued to stare into Philanders eyes, completely captivated by him. There was an immense attraction and tension between them that was undeniable. Philander slipped his arms around Carys waist and pulled her closer to him their eyes never leaving each others gaze.

The music of the bistros became louder to the lovers ears and they began to sway back and forth together. Carys laid her head gently on Philanders chest, her dark brown hair draping over his abdomen as Philander pulled her further into his body. Their lips then met slowly and gently, blending together like a beautiful symphony.

A loud rapping on the door awoke Philander early in the morning.

"Philander!" The man's voice bellowed. Philander slowly rolled off his bed and stumbled to his apartment door, his mind not processing whom the visitor might be. "Open the god damn door!" Philander slowly unlocked his door and opened it. A husky man with a thick beard and beady eyes burst inside. He reeked of cologne and leather. Philander jumped back, his eyes widening with the man's outburst.

"What are you doing here Dorjan?" Philander scowled.

"You know why I'm fucking here Philander, don't play games. Andreas left you with a debt to pay."

"I paid your crew Dorjan! Andreas is dead!"

"I know his dead Philander," Dorjan chuckled. "I was the one who shot him." Philander growled and began reaching inside his kitchen drawers for his gun. "Put those toys away. You're much to young to play with those things." Philander pulled the gun out of the drawer and aimed it directly at Dorjans head. Dorjan didn't flinch, his grey and black hair standing as stiffly as he was.

"Get out before I kill you Dorjan!" Dorjan took another drag of his cigar.

"Don't kid yourself,f Philander. Just have the money for me in a month."

"I already paid you!" Philanders voice rumbled.

"Thirty thousand by next month or you'll see your brother a lot sooner than you thought."

Dorjan put his cigarette out on Philanders couch and left the apartment, leaving the door open. Philander squeezed his gun in his hands turning his fingers white. He let out an angry scream and tossed his gun back into the drawer.

"Philander?" A soft voice called from the front door. Philander turned his eyes quickly to the door seeing Carys standing in the doorway holding breakfast. "What's going on?" She asked gently.

"Carys," Philander rushed to his love and pulled her inside, slamming the door behind her.

"Is something wrong?" She placed their freshly purchased breakfast on the counter. Philander didn't want to lie to Carys but he didn't want her involved. Dorjan and his crew would kill Carys if she ever knew what was happening.

Philanders father was a respectable man but never earned very much money for his family. When Andreas, Philander's older brother, was very young he began delivering packages for the mob to pay for groceries and rent. Once Andreas was asked to rape a woman and kill her husband, he wanted out. The mob began accusing him of hording a package of diamonds that he was supposed to deliver. They threatened to kill him and his family if he didn't give them the money for the diamonds. Andreas had no choice but to leave Lutsa and moved to Thesprotiko to escape the mob, but they followed him. The police discovered his body right before Christmas after being reported missing nine months earlier. He had been sodomized and tortured then eventually shot in the head. Philander was glad that by the time the police found Andreas' body, his parents had died.

"Nothing, Carys." Philander said harshly, not meaning to hurt her. He could see the pain his lies were inflicting on her but Philander knew it was for her own good. She was young, beautiful, talented, and had too much to live for. She was finally gaining recognition and money for her paintings and most of all, she loved him. Philander took Carys into his arms and hugged her gently. "I love you Carys." He whispered.

"I know," she whispered sadly.

"So, what did you get for breakfast?" Philander said cheerfully.

"Philander," she sighed. "I wish you wouldn't lie to me. We've been together for almost a year, I'm your fiance! You can trust me."

"I do trust you, I just don't want you to get hurt."

"Then at least tell me who that man in the hallway was."

"Did he touch you? Did he say anything to you?" the panic in Philanders voice was undeniable.

"No, no," Carys said soothingly, taking Philanders hand into hers. "I just saw him come out of our apartment."

"Please drop this whole topic Carys. I'll tell you soon enough." Carys looked at Philander seriously, her eyes pleading him to be honest.

"All right." She said quietly.

Carys sat quietly in front of a blank canvas in her studio, blocking out all the voices of the tourists. She knew Philander was lying to her, she just didn't know about what. It had to be serious he had never been rude to her before. She wished the man she loved could just be honest with her. They were supposed to be making vows soon to spend the rest of their lives together.

She thought back to the time when Philander would never have lied to her. The night he proposed to her was the happiest night of her life. They had been dating for six months and were going out on one of their evening walks. They stopped in front of the bistro where they had first met. Carys looked inside the bistro, cherishing the memory of their first meeting. When she looked back, Philander was down on one knee, "Carys," he said quietly, taking her hand in his. "I love you. Will you marry me?" She was surprised, but ecstatic. He didn't have a ring prepared or a speech to tell her, but he loved her with all his heart and she knew that. She got down onto her knees and began kissing Philander passionately and weeping.

But those times were gone now. Their relationship was now filled with Philander's secrecy. She would forgive him for whatever he did if only he would tell her what was going on. It had been a month since she had seen that man in their apartment and Philander had been on edge ever since. She heard a quiet knock on her studio door.

"Carys," came a familiar voice. Philander opened the studio door and stepped inside.

"Hello." Carys' voice was cold towards her fianc. Philander kissed her softly on the back of her neck and presented a dozen roses to her. Carys' heart began to warm up to Philanders loving touches. She turned around and hugged him tightly never wanting him to leave the studio.

"I came to ask you a favour," he said with an impish smile. Carys knew he was up to something; he only ever smiled like that when he had a surprise for her. Carys began to giggle, happy to see Philander smiling again.

"Anything," she said enthusiastically.

"Go buy a white dress and marry me tomorrow." Carys' eyes widened, she was always amazed by Philanders spontaneity. She kissed him gently, and for the first time in a month, felt his warmth and love for her.

Carys arrived home that night with her dress and a renewed happiness in her relationship with Philander. She knew that everything would work out, and she was excited to begin their new life together as husband and wife.

"Can I see your dress?" He asked eagerly.

"No, you have to wait till tomorrow." Carys smiled gleefully. Philander wrap her up in his arms.

"Show me."

"No I won't show you." Philander kissed Carys gently on her lips and held her tightly. He slid his hands down her back and pulled her into his body.

Carys looked more beautiful to Philander than she ever had before. They had shared the most magical night, more than he could have ever dreamed. Her beautiful body and soul mingled with his and they became one person. Now as she stood quietly in front of him, in her white wedding dress, tears of happiness rolling down her face, Philander was sure they could now finally be happy. He no longer had to lie to her and he no longer had to protect her. Dorjan and his crew would never again bother them. They recited their vows in front of an empty church, with God and a priest as their only witnesses.

Philander and Carys walked down the aisle and out of the Church, hand in hand, looking only at each other. Carys watched Philander happily lead her down the stairs, laughing and smiling together. Then she heard the most deafening bang. Philander began to fall as his face cringed in pain and shock. Carys threw herself on top of his body, "Philander!" she shrieked in pain and horror. She held his head in her hands. She wailed in pained, "Help! Someone help!" Philander's blood began pour out of his wounds, covering Carys' dress. Philander looked deeply into her eyes. He placed his hand on her cheek.

"Philander, please! Please! I need you, don't go, please!" Carys voice was filled with desperation and pain. He couldn't leave her, not now! She needed him, more than ever.

"I love you! Please Philander, don't leave me!"

"Promise me you'll go on Carys. Promise me you'll be happy again."

"No, don't say that, you'll be fine."

"I love you Carys." Philander's eyes closed gently and his body went limp. Carys fell over his body and wept, "I love you Philander."

Carys sat quietly in her studio, looking at a blank canvas. She hadn't been able to paint in months. She had been the one who arranged Philander's funeral, but not many people had attended. Carys didn't mind, she didn't want to talk to anyone. She simply sat beside Philanders body, praying that he would open his eyes and smile at her. Sometimes she was angry and wanted to slap him across the face for leaving her and make him feel the pain she felt; other times, she wanted to kiss his cold stiff lips, lie in his coffin and be buried with him.

Carys picked up a can of black paint, a colour she hadn't touched since she met Philander. She thought she couldn't cry anymore but the tears refused to cease. She felt empty, desperate and alone. She opened the bottle of paint and held it in her hands for a few moments. She let out a scream of anger and pain and threw the paint at the blank canvas. It splattered over the room and over Carys. She laid down in the splattered paint and cried so hard she could barely take in any air. She curled up into a ball, squeezed her eyes tightly and gasped for air, her body wanting oxygen and her heart never wanting to breath again.

Carys opened her eyes, not knowing how long she had been laying on the floor in grief. The black paint on her hands had dried and she was breathing normally now. She stood up slowly, her muscles aching and writhing, and quietly left the studio. The halls of the Louvre were dark and empty and every step Carys took echoed loudly in the corridors. As she stepped outside, the first warm gust of spring air gently caressed Carys' hair and face. She glanced across the street to look at the Bistro where she and Philander first met. She hadn't been able to look at it with fond memories in her heart for months. She slowly made her way across the street and sat down at the same table, where she and Philander had first sat together. She pictured him, sitting across from her, his piercing black eyes staring fondly into hers; his dark curls resting lightly on the sides of his face.

She felt Philander's soft kiss on the back of her neck and his strong arms around her, and for the first time in months, she felt as though she could exist again. She smiled slightly, ordering an espresso, and remembering all the times they had shared together.

The next morning, Carys cleaned the black paint from her studio and placed a fresh canvas on her stand. She brought out the brightest colours she could find and began to paint.