A/N: Here's the last part. I thought for a moment it would go on to five, but no. Thankfully.

The Girl in the Red Dress

Part 4

His mobile was burning a hole into his pocket…metaphorically speaking of course. The small electronic device was in fact sitting on his bed-side table, its innocent brown cover blinking at him with feigned ignorance. It looked the same as it always did – or rather, the same as it had for the last month. Before that, the only difference a practiced eye would have seen was colour of the case; it used to be a deep vivacious red.

It was a disturbing thought, looking back to how much the colour had resembled blood. Even now it did so, even as it faded away into the earth brown that had taken its place; it was drying into the crusty flakes that would one day drift away upon the wind and disappear. The image was easier to picture as Edward lay on his side, grey eyes taking in the space with what he sorely wished was indifference. It wasn't though. The flat screen pretended to be _, but it was mocking him. Just as those little scraps poking out of the paper-bin by his desk. When was the last time he had emptied it? More than a month ago, he realised slowly…not that it really mattered. He only emptied it when it was full; it saved a lot of trouble for everyone…particularly when Abby threw the scraps of her unfinished drawings in with his trash before deciding at a later date she wished to complete her work.

But Abby wouldn't be doing that anymore. He had no reason to continue the trend. And he knew exactly what was at the bottom of that wastebasket – exactly what was mocking him along with the cell-phone and its brown casing. It had been the day he had emptied his paper waste, that day Tania's short letter had come. He'd immediately torn up the empty words and thrown them into the bin before casting them both aside. Abby had been right not to like her; he'd just been an idiot boy, letting his hormones gain control over his heart and mind. And he'd been so mad at her for trying to help, He should have known; it was the way she always tried to cheer him up…and it normally worked. And yet he had raised his arm as if to hit her. He had shocked her into stepping back, and in consequence tripping over the curb and falling upon the busy road where a car, painted in red, skidded too late.

Herolled over, so he could stare at his opened window instead. The air was stale, even as it flittered in and out, constantly rejuvenating. Perhaps it was the weather. Perhaps it was simply the mood that persisted within the house.

In seconds, he was turning away again. A moment later, he was emptying his waste basket upon the carpet, digging up the scraps of paper. It was the only thing left do in his room.

Why had Abby protested? Why had she claimed she didn't hate Tania? Why did he even care…after everything that had happened. His baby sister was dead – and a nightmarish likeliness had simply been following him. Now, it was outside his window, pointing into the room. Further decayed, with maggots and fleas hanging off the half-eaten skin. A scene of a horror film. A reality film.

His cell was almost dead; only a single bar winked at him and it too would soon fade. The only thing he could do with the scraps clinging to the bottom of the barrel was put them together. There was a number that had been scrawled out by a familiar name, and a short sentence that took up exactly two lines. The sentence had been torn through the middle, but despite the attempt to erase it from existence, the number was still perfectly readable.

The curtains rustled slightly. He should have drawn them. Closed the window.

He chanced another look outside, before turning back with a bit of a sigh, failing to hear the tires skidding on the side road as the neighbour arrived home. There was no-one there. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. He should know, after having spent so long in the recent past staring out at it.

The phone beeped at him. The battery was low. It would last only a single call. The number glared: the only thing on the page that was readable. The red eyes beseeched him; Abby's green ones brimming with something he still couldn't understand, Tania's brown shimmering with tears the last time he had seen her, the long brown braid whipping around a corner as she fled from their last meeting.

Before he quite knew what he had done, the number had been dialled.


Her voice was the same as it always was.


There was a quick intake of breath, and then her tone wavered before she spoke again. /Edward…/

She had used to call him "Ed". In fact, a great deal of people called him "Ed". Only Abby ever called him "Teddy."

"You used to call me Ed," he commented.

/It doesn't mean anything,/ was the response, somewhat sadly. /It never did. Everyone called you 'Ed.'/

There was silence after that as Edward scrambled for a meaning behind those words.

"Abby didn't," he said eventually.

Another pause.

/You're not crying./ She sounded a little nearer to tears.

"Excuse me?"

/You're not crying,/ Tania repeated. /It hasn't been that long at all, but…/ She broke off for a moment, before returning. /I saw you at the funeral. You didn't cry then either./

He hadn't? In any case, he hadn't called to talk about Abby.


/Let me finish,/ the other interrupted. /You called because you wanted to know why I left without saying goodbye, didn't you?/ Her tone wavered towards the end.

The quiet voice on the other end of the line was answer enough for her. She remained silent for only a moment longer before answering the question. /It's because…/ There was a deep breath which echoed through the wire. /You're a cold person Edward./ Another breath, but this time sharper, more apprehensive. /Your sister's dead and still you don't cry for her. And…and you never scream!/ Her own voice had risen uncontrollably. She'd planned this conversation, but not so late…nor so soon. /You're not even yelling at me now!/

Nor did the ear come away from the phone as the sharp voice pierced a transparent haze.

"Why would I yell at you?" he simply asked, somewhat monotonously.

/Don't you care?/ was the heartfelt response.

Of course he cared. Why else would he have stormed out of the house upon seeing the biting letter. But everything that had happened after it had sucked the emotion out like a vacuum cleaner.

"I did," he replied eventually, tone as empty as ever. "Before I killed Abby."

There was a stifled gasp on the other end before Tania spoke again. /I'm sorry,/ she whispered. /I'm sure it was an accident…but I meant what I said earlier./ She didn't believe him either; it was apparent by the way she spoke, the way she quickly diverted the stream of conversation, as if he would break apart at any moment. /One day – soon apparently – that frost is going to melt. I don't want to be there when it does. I can't. I'm not strong enough./


/Edward-/ Upon the silence, she amended: /Nothing. It's nothing. But I knew you would hurt me one day, or I you. Your sister knew it too. That's why she didn't like us together. She was right all along; I didn't know how to love you, and you didn't know how to love me either./

A pause. "That's it then."

/I'm sorry./

And so he hung up, heart a little heavier for wear and no more relieved. Less in fact; he always knew he was somewhat apathetic. It was a little voice in the back of his mind. But no-one liked being told as such. He knew he hadn't cried for his little sister; he didn't want to be reprimanded for that.

But what did he want? Ultimately? Because Tania was right. Even if he was the type of person who would yell and rage and scream, he couldn't have. Because her words were the cold and bitter truth. Apparently she had grown a little stronger…and a little colder too.

And she was, worst of all, right about the frost melting. Because he had lied – or rather, he hadn't corrected her misperception. He was crying. His eyes were moist with salted water. Tears weren't pouring down his cheeks, but the slightest drop fell apart upon the spread of lashes before evaporating into the air or smearing itself as he slowly blinked. A pale hand absentmindedly came up to wipe the obstructions away, shimmering slightly before the summer heat sucked even that comfort away.

Why didn't anyone understand? He had killed Abby? He had been about to push her? Everyone waved it off as grief: his parents, Tania…none of them realised his words for the truth. He had. It was his fault her corpse now lay six feet beneath the earth, slowly decomposing, slowly dissolving, digesting as beasts of the soil fed upon the remains of their flesh to satisfy their hunger. Little eggs being laid, little babies being born…all while the skin blackened and crusted with hundreds of gruesome things he could easily picture as if the corpse herself stood before him.

But she didn't. Not that time. Still, the air was unbreathable by then: a slow transition. His head spun as he attempted another; he was still shivering, and the tears were still walking along their slow and spiralling path. It would kill him.

It wouldn't. It would just make him suffer.

He left his room, the lock failing to catch as he slipped past more doors and barriers. His mother was in the living room; his soft footholds failed to alert her as he passed, and he slipped out the front door with no obstruction. And turning the corner, he found himself in front of the main road again.

The cars sped past in the daytime traffic, far less than it had been mere hours before. Not that it made a difference. The crossing line blinked red, the silhouette of a waiting person outlined with black. The gauze upon his elbow felt heavy as the humid air assaulted it; his entire body felt denser than the mass it carried.

Less occupied as the road was, it was harder to lock onto any single vehicle. Not that he wished too; indeed, he immediately turned away –

– and just as immediately, regretted it.

The red dress was about the only thing recognisable. The remaining sleeve of skin hung beneath it, grasping the bony framework with the remains of muscle fibres and tendons and parietal membranous material. It was like a well worn doll dug up after years of misuse and neglect, holding on to a collaborated form by the very skin of its teeth…or perhaps skin was the wrong word to use in the context within which such a word was required. The eyes were black now – no longer red. Somehow though, the cloth had retained its colour, even as it was stiffened with black-crusted blood and other fluid expulsions of the body. It was the only thing that was recognisable.

His own grey eyes were starting to tinge with red – not that he was in a position to notice. A different sort of red though: tiredness, strain…loss. Death too, in a way. A different sort of death. A living death.

The resemble of a hand reached for him and he took a step back. A pressure suddenly clasped his arm, as if someone or something had taken it in a vice-grip. It pulled, towards his nightmare, towards her –

He shook violently, worthless words falling from his lips. Words were of little use after all. Nothing could take action back.

And then the grip was torn with a hammer-stroke.

Murderers had to live with their crimes, their pain. That was their punishment. He couldn't count on the car killing him. Not as it had his sister. Despite all else, she had died painlessly. Even as her brain bled within her skull, she felt no pain. The impact was hard and fast. The transition was swift, cutting the last ties of her life and carrying her off to heaven.

His lips parted slightly. Something burned at his eyes.

Tania was right. The frost was melting – it had melted away. The rock inside would so easily crumble now, surrounded by the dense water. The life-jacket had been lost. There was no escaping anything. No escaping that heavy, suffocating air (for his gasps were audible to all save himself) nor the image of his sister's corpse following him (for it was his fault, no matter how others failed to believe him) nor the weak threads of his heart, especially now that the ice fortress reinforcing them had melted.

But the snow hadn't brought spring.

The familiar face swam above him again. The pressure returned on his arms, behind his back, attempting to pull him up.

Abby had gone to heaven. He was going to continue on in living hell. And yet she reached down for him, offering her hand; he declined it. Why? he didn't know. He didn't know much of anything anymore. He could run to his mother's lap and sob his body's liquid stream away. He could take the carving knife his father used on the meat and remove the cursed hands from his treacherous form; his legs had followed in betrayal, as had his skin.

He laughed. He cried. He screamed. And when the image was finally gone, he closed his eyes, blind to the paramedics exchanging glances over his head as one tossed a needle into the disposal.

The icecap had melted over. Perhaps it had brought the Titanic down with it.

Perhaps not. The sedative smoothed out the crease lines in the mask falling away in sleep. After the dam doors opened, there was always a flood to contend with, but what came after that?

The female paramedic leaned down to brush a loose strand of hair from the warm face before supporting the frail form onto a stretcher.

What came next was anyone's guess. Life…or death? Acceptance: a forward front…or a descent into nightmares fashioned from guilt and eventual madness? One thing was for sure though: the water had seeped away, the building blocks for the icy stronghold. It would be quite a job repairing that.

Apathy: it was a fortress that was conquered in eventuality after all. Always.

Post Author's Notes

Edward is derived from an Anglo-Saxon name, meaning "guardian of prosperity". Ed and Teddy are both short forms of Edward.

Abby is short for Abigail, meaning "father of rejoicing". Note rejoice and prosper are synonymous. It is also a name given to people who are good at expressing themselves and have a tendency to be rather reckless. In that sense, Abby is her namesake.

The surname Segale means "grower or seller of rye". If you've read The Catcher in the Rye by J., you'll know why I picked it.

The name Tania means "worthy of praise" or "Fairy Queen." Both have obscure relations to her role.

The parietal membrane is an anatomical term. It's the membrane enclosing the viscera, aka. the internal organs such as the heart, liver, spleen, etc.

Did anyone realise that the main point of the fic wasn't Abby's death and that was just a tool? There's a reason I picked red: it's a vivacious colour.