Lamprey set the cane down across the desk, folding his arms. Below him, Deidre trembled, hands flat on the ground. She rocked back and forth, sobbing.
“I have finished,” he told her. Immediately, she removed her hands from the wood floor, clutching them to her chest as if they had been burned. Apparently his lessons had not yet seeped through.
“Go on,” he said. “Get out!” She started to stumble to her feet, doing all she could to not touch the ground, moving slowly under her bruises. “But I’ll be seeing you tomorrow,” he added as she went out the door.
She stopped under the door frame, quavering. She turned back and lifted her head to look at him, her face red and stained with tears. Lamprey reached for the cane again.
“We’re an abomination, aren’t we?” she whispered hoarsely.
Lamprey stopped and looked back at her. He didn’t answer, only nodded. Deidre looked down, shrinking down into herself. With a shuddering sigh, she straightened up and left the room. Lamprey couldn’t help but smile.
Deidre let the last note hang in the air, fading softly before lifting her fingers from the ivory keys. She let the calm wash over her, pulling her thin, white gloves back on.
The piano was a safe place. It was in no way connected to her Wickedness and the previous users rarely felt any really strong emotions. The past was easy to resist. Plus, she was good at it. It felt nice, sometimes, to just be human, in a way.
There was a rap and the door opened. Deidre turned to look behind her. "Oh, Headmaster Lamprey," she said, standing. "Am I-"
He raised a hand and she immediately silenced herself, bowing her head. "I just came to let you know that we'll have to reschedule today's lesson," he told her after a moment. "I have some business to take care of, but I will summon you when I have time."
Deidre nodded, squashing the flicker of relief that ran through her. How dare she worry selfishly over her own pain? Delaying her just punishment should be cause for shame and guilt. She waited until his footsteps had retreated before looking up and straightening. Her fingers returned to piano, lingering. She supposed that since she had extra time, a bit more reflection as she worked on one more song would do no harm.
Deidre stared a challenge to her reflection, light flickering from a single lit candle. She wore a thick, woolen nightdress stained from previous use. Her hair hung down past her shoulders, damp and dull. A trickle of black liquid tricked down her face, marking a trail from her forehead to her chin. She tried to wipe it away, leaving a black smear across her cheek. She plunged her hands once more into the bowl set in front of her, coating her hands. She grabbed a fistful of hair, yanking it out and plastering it with sludge, using the muck to hide her own filth.
A strand shone an odd, purple color, twinkling with the light of the candle. The sludge quickly blotted it out.
She attacked her hair fiercely, staining it to the scalp with her mixture of water, mud, soot and ash. It smelled like smoke and burnt flesh. It seemed appropriate. Even those who didn't know her should be able to smell her hideousness.
She looked back to her reflection in the single mirror. With a sudden rush of anguish, she reached forward taking the mirror off the hook. She raised it above her head, ready to throw, but hesitated. She stood there a moment, dripping black dots onto the floor around her, adding new stains to her nightgown. As suddenly as the energy had come, it vanished, and she toppled gracelessly to the ground, cracking the mirror.
Deidre lay there, staring at the ceiling. Why did she exist? If all she could do was cause pain and destruction, why didn't she direct any back at herself? She put her hands to her face, rubbing her eyes with the palms and leaving traces of black all over her face, mixing with the tears that were suddenly rolling down her face. She rolled onto her side, curling around the mirror, tracing the crack with her finger. She hoped she would cut it open. She was too cowardly to inflict any pain on purpose.
Eventually, she slid up the wall. Her face stung, but her finger was intact. She kicked the mirror with one foot. It went sliding across the bathroom, but not far. She was tired. She was done.
Pulling on the sink, she got to her feet and blew out the candle.