A killer walked the streets of Marseille, but all Adeline cared about was having a smoke.
She lit a cigarette and took a long draw, resting her elbows on the window frame. Air channeled down the allée, pushing strands of cropped brown hair into her smudged eyes. Below, in the lifting darkness, women laughed as they strung laundry, their banter easy against the slap of wet fabric. La Major rang the Angelus. Early dawn was the only time an open window didn’t bring the stench of fish, petrol, and sewage.
Adeline arched her back and pushed her narrow hips from side to side, looking over her shoulder at her lover. Serge lay prone on the mattress, his arms stretched over the pillows. They’d met the night before in a cafe off La Canebière. He was shy at first, glancing in her direction once or twice before growing bold enough to meet her eyes. She’d beckoned him to her table with a smile. “Would you like a Pernod?”
Two hours later, they were walking hand-in-hand along the waterfront, past the moored trawlers bobbing in the old port. The waning moon cut the darkness like a scythe, allowing the stars their beauty. Adeline pulled Serge to her and kissed him, tasting anise on his tongue. “Take me to your bed,” she whispered.
His garret was claustrophobic, strewn about with clothes. The only spot of neatness was his desk, which held a typewriter and a hopeful sheaf of paper. His rumpled bed smelled of sweat, but his enthusiasm for her was disarming. She’d almost regretted what followed, but regret wasn’t in her nature.
Adeline stubbed out her cigarette and turned back to the bed. She leaned over Serge, pushing his blond curls back from his forehead. Grey eyes stared back at her, unblinking. She kissed his purpling cheek, her breath quickening as she pulled a pearl-handled scalpel from the pocket of her robe. Between Serge’s brows, she carved a crescent to match the moon they’d walked beneath. Blood welled, thick and darkly scarlet, but did not run.
“Lune de Sang” -- that’s what they were calling her in the papers -- for the mark she gave her victims. She’d chosen a new lover for each phase of the moon and Serge was the seventh. The police kept looking for a man. No one suspected a delicate sylph of a woman in her late thirties.
Adeline washed her hands and dressed, tidied her hair in the glass, and swept rouge across her mouth. She cast a lingering gaze to Serge and gently closed the door.
She’d gotten halfway down the block when a scream came from the open garret window. A girlfriend? The landlady? Adeline smiled. Neither her heart nor her pace quickened. She’d take one more lover before allowing the men of Marseilles rest beneath a moonless sky. Perhaps she’d let her next lover live. Perhaps.
Unfortunately, my second draft didn’t change much. I decided on a title, moved some words around, made a few sentences less awkward, and added more world-building details. I didn’t track changes like some of the WiM crew, but I will for my next draft.
Honestly, I’m kind of stuck on where to go next. This story has an open-ended finish, and I’ll probably keep it that way. I like that. But this character? I want to do more with her. I want to get into her why. As my fellow WiM writers have pointed out, she has humanity — it’s there in that twinge of slight remorse for Serge she pushes aside before she kills him and leaves her mark. There’s something there, and with the help of my CPs, I hope to enhance her characterization. This is an area I need to work on with my writing in general to help deepen POV, and I’m excited to get to know Adeline’s backstory, even if it doesn’t all come out on the page.
Could there be a redemption arc for Adeline? Probably not in 1,000 words or less, but there’s talk of this becoming a novel. I’ve got too much on my plate right now to entertain that thought for awhile, but it’s something I’d consider eventually. It would probably have to be self-published, but I want to be a hybrid author anyway.
One of the most fascinating things about this project is how differently we all approach our creative process and how we envision our stories. Some of us are satisfied with our pieces remaining short stories, while for others, this project is birthing new concepts for longer works of fiction and even series. Either way, it’s been wonderful to follow along.
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