Author's Note: A while ago (almost two years, actually) I wrote a short story called A Subtle Web. It was a sort of plot outline for a longer story. This is that longer story. I tried and failed to write it for July Camp NaNo 2019. It's still in very slow progress. Hopefully posting it here will give me the motivation to finish it.
Update schedule: a new chapter every Monday until I reach the end of the finished chapters. After that… who knows?
Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
The window-pane was cold against Elizabeth's forehead. For an hour or more she'd sat on the window-seat, sitting at an awkward angle because there wasn't room to sit sideways on it. The servants gave her worried looks as they passed. They whispered to each other when they thought she couldn't hear. Elizabeth ignored them. She kept her eyes fixed on the road outside. Any minute now, her uncle's carriage would come trundling over the stones and fallen leaves. Any minute now, she'd see him pull Victor out of the carriage.
"Boys! Justine! Elizabeth!" Alphonse would yell, as he had done so many times before. "I've found the young ragamuffin! Get him inside before he runs away again!"
Victor's mysterious disappearances had started shortly after his mother died. Caroline Frankenstein's death had hit the entire family hard, but her oldest son had reacted the worst. His university professors wrote long complaints to his father, grumbling that he missed entire weeks of lectures. He might as well never come home on holidays, for all anyone saw of him. Alphonse, angry at his son's behaviour and how it disrupted his plans, went in search of him every time it happened. Usually he returned with a sullen, silent Victor in tow. But sometimes he returned baffled and empty-handed, and everyone had to wait until Victor returned of his own accord.
Yesterday had been one of the few days when Victor was at home and relatively cheerful. He and Elizabeth had walked along the shore of Lake Geneva with William in tow. He had almost completely ignored both of them, Elizabeth remembered now; too busy talking about his research into alchemy of all things. She was used to Victor rarely listening to what she said. But it wasn't like him to ignore his youngest brother. And now he was gone again. Where? And why?
She waited and waited. The carriage didn't return, with or without Victor.
Another hour passed. Stabbing pain shot through Elizabeth's neck and legs after so long sitting in one position. She stumbled to her feet and walked around the room until the pain faded. Not a single carriage passed along the road outside.
Evening fell before Alphonse returned. He returned alone. Victor was nowhere in sight.
"Devil take that boy," was all he said on the subject. "He can come back on his own. I won't waste my time hunting for him."
Victor never came back.
The day Elizabeth finally accepted that, after a month of no one hearing or seeing anything of him, was the day Elizabeth Lavenza died.