An unfamiliar woman entered the room. Isabella smiled politely at her.

“This is my sister Esther” she explained. Esther was older and slightly dumpy with broad shoulders, the complete contrast to fairy-like Isabella. The dress she was wearing enhanced her every contour and did nothing for her heavy frame.

“They’re all waiting for you downstairs! Are you nearly prepared? You wouldn’t want to keep your guests waiting.” Her tone was cold and slightly rude. Isabella pressed her lips into a straight, thin line trying to conceal her agitation.

“Yes Esther, we’re nearly ready. Can you leave us for a few moments please?”

Esther sighed and pouted. “Well Richard isn’t impressed. He sent me to hurry you.”

So this was Richard’s doing. Isabella shook her head. “Richard will have to wait.”

With that Esther exited the room to bear the bad news that the bridal party were going to be late. Richard and his family left reluctantly for the church. 10 minutes passed, finally they were ready to follow. The building was stunning with grand architecture dating back to the 16th century. It’s vast stained-glass windows caught the glistening sunlight. Katrina noticed that Isabella was scratching her neck.

“My dear, is everything alright?”

Isabella nodded “Yes, it’s just a trifle itchy because it’s new” Katrina’s concerns grew, but she said nothing.

Richard stared vacantly at the front of the church, he seemed angry. A string quartet played to try to uplift the already dampened mood. Isabelle and he met eye to eye.

“This is not the dress we agreed on”

“Richard, please! Not now, not here!” she hissed.

“The dresses you liked in London were far more appropriate!”

“Richard hush! Don’t humiliate us!”

Katrina felt like she’d had the rug pulled from underneath her feet. How dare he! Cracks in their relationship were already beginning to show, he was a bully. Isabella once more began to scratch under her cuffs. Katrina saw an inch of flesh as the dress was pulled back. It was covered in a red rash like sandpaper, showing a strong resemblance to a scarlet fever. Her eyes widened. The couple stood at the altar ready to recite their vows.

“What’s happening to me?” Isabella’s voice was so tiny that no-one heard.

Oh god what’s happening?!” she repeated. Her voice echoed through the ancient church.

“What in god’s name are you doing woman? Have you finally gone insane?!” Richard hissed through strongly gritted teeth. The vicars eyes gazed up from the long scroll from which he was reading.

“Oh my god! My skin is burning! Get this thing off me!”

She darted up the red carpeted isle of the church. Blood was seeping through the arms of her carefully crafted wedding gown. The guests gasped in horror. She did not venture far and collapsed in the church grounds. Her family ventured outside as did Katrina. Isabella was immediately taken back to the house and the best physician was called. Katrina hesitated and stood alone in the church, dumbstruck.

What  just happened?!” A male voice boomed, vibrating through the high rafters. He turned to Katrina.

“This is your doing. What did you do to her?!”

Katrina couldn’t physically speak for a moment, she did not directly answer Richard’s question.

“I don’t know what’s happening.”

“I’m asking you a QUESTION!” His eyes were wild and raging like a wild beast. “What did you do to the dress ?! There will be hell to pay! Mark my words there will be a reckoning!”

He knocked Katrina out-of-the-way, she fell to the cold stone floor with an almighty thud. She did not stir and seemed to sit there in complete shock.

The physician was uncertain to what had caused the collapse and affected Isabella’s skin so violently. Her condition seemed to ever worsen. She did not stir. There was only one woman who would know the answer to the question; Zsofkia. Katrina ran through the town to the place where she had been stationed. She was there. Katrina had too little time to be polite.

“What did you put in the fabric! The bride is close to death!”

Zsofkia smiled cynically. “The couple was not suitably matched, you pay!”

“You think they were not suited?”

“No and the material senses it!”

“What kind of witchcraft is this?!”

“And what? What happens now?”

“She dies”

“No! Oh god no! Not Isabella, she’s innocent! There must be a way out of this! Please help her I can’t let you do this” Katrina knelt down at her feet and begged. She continued to shake her head.

The woman smiled smugly “You could be hanged you know”

Katrina hadn’t thought of that. The horrid woman was smirking at her.

“There must be something I can do! I’ll do anything!”

Zofkia’s ‘s lips curled like a sly fox “The unsuited match must be disposed of”

“Kill Richard?!!” Katrina shrieked.

“Yes . Then the curse will be broken, the poison is already in her skin. We are working against an hourglass.”

Either way Katrina could not win.

To be continued….


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