I looked longingly at a window display: a beautiful evening gown in sapphire moiré bengaline with a deep bertha neckline. I lifted its hem and examined the stitching, wishing I had use for such a piece. Not only was the price out of my reach, but I had no opportunity for dining out or attending the theatre. I sighed wistfully and returned to the carriage with my small package of ribbon, stockings, and so on.
“I saw you admire the gown in the window,” Erik’s voice came from the darkened carriage; he had drawn the curtains lest he be seen. When I closed the door after entering, there was no light at all.
“It is beautiful,” I admitted. “But I’ve no need for a dress of that nature; I haven’t the opportunities to wear such a gown.”
“You like beautiful things,” he whispered.
“Of course,” I responded in surprise. “Most people do.”
“Then how can you bear to look on me,” he responded, still whispering. As the carriage moved away, he opened the drape to let the light in and reveal his unmasked face to me.
The left side of his face, his entire mouth, and jaw … all were so handsome that they would take the breath away from an angel. The right side, though, was discolored and twisted. A port wine birthmark discolored skin so thin and fragile that lumps of misshapen bone and delicate blue veins could be seen through it. His left eye was fringed with thick black lashes; the right was barely lidded and sunken in the socket, but was the same soul-filled green-gold as its twin. The right side of his nose was also damaged, the soft nare non-existent.
“Look on this monster, and tell me again how you care more for the soul than the face,” he said in a ragged voice.