Love Letters #35

When they arrived there was a downpour. An opening of the heavens, cracking like the earth’s skull, and the rain gushed down like a broken tap. The footman would not hear of her stepping out unaided, he took his own coat off to shield her from the torrents as he guided her out of the carriage and up the steps, which became a waterfall, sloshing around her perfectly gleaming shoes and ruining them.

They entered the building and he bowed, folding his coat to himself before dashing out again. She watched as he clambered aboard the back of the coach, sodden, and said something to the driver before they clattered away down the cobbled street, the sound of the wheels vanishing amid the clamour of thunder and pattering rain.

If it were not for her dress she would have chased him down the street, letting her carefully pinned hair fall and soak up the rain. She clutched her skirts now in her hands, and let her dainty, sodden shoes take her across the perfectly polished floors and through the main doors of the cathedral. One last glance back, but the street was empty, vendors packed away and doorways tightly shuttered against the grim atmosphere. She couldn’t see to the end of the road, a cloudy haze formed of soot and torrential rain formed a wall, blocking her from the world she could not touch, and which could not touch her.

Dear Louie,

It’s better that you know now – the child is yours. There is no way you could claim him, he will have to be the next heir to the throne. 

Yours,

Dorothea

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Love Letters #25

 

A note slipped out of Emilia’s book while she was tidying out her dorm room.

My dear, 

Nothing is sweeter than your bright smile those cold mornings when I miss your arms around me. I can’t wait to see you again tonight.

M.L

Emilia’s fingers ran along the words. A romantic affair. She remembered it as though it were yesterday. Why is love so much more sweet when it is forbidden? Sweet. Painful.

Kisses under the underground arches when the rest of the students had moved on ahead. His hand on her knee under the table, while he played merry to the adults.

Sweet little notes slipped between the pages of borrowed books.

Glances above the heads of the laughing crowds, knowing smiles when introduced to each other by mutual friends. Her heart would surge with joy and excitement and a giddy pleasure. At the back of her mind she knew it was wrong, oh, so wrong.

But love was good, was it not? Love was sound. Love was beautiful. How could something so beautiful be wrong, then?

Her mind had been racing much too fast to focus on any words. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, where they rested on the other side of the wide window ledge she reclined on. Her eyes wandered the green outside the college windows. She couldn’t eat those days, she couldn’t sleep. That was, she told herself countless times, what it was like to be in love.

She saw him walking across the courtyard and her heart quickened. She felt her pulse pounding through her veins as she watched him stop and speak to some students. They laughed, and she smiled. Ever the charmer. Then he glanced up at the windows, and, not seeing her, hurried indoors.

She hadn’t stopped to think about why she was so special, when there were countless other young girls in her classes, some prettier than herself, smarter, funnier. She knew they were all after him, and it gave her a sense of huge satisfaction to know she had been singled out from amongst the masses. She was above them all, even though she couldn’t say anything about it.

Nobody knew, but they didn’t have to. Her confidence grew daily. And nightly. She would tiptoe back to her dorm room, wrapping herself tightly in her night gown. Slip under her covers and lie there looking at the ceiling, smiling to herself. She would be exhausted the next day, and when he handed her her assignments in class he would murmer,

‘Late night, Miss Clarkson?’

She would cast her eyes down and hide her smile, but joy would surge within her. And under her papers a small yellow note in his thick, straight handwriting.

Later that day she was going to Lord Warrington’s ball. Her whole family had been invited, it was to be a grand affair. She had prepared her red evening dress weeks earlier. Diane had gone with her and they had chosen matching shoes as well.

‘You will look positively ravishing, darling. Pity Tommy Sand couldn’t take you.’

‘Oh,’ Emilia said airily, ‘Oh it doesn’t matter. I am perfectly fine going with Mother and Father.’

Diane had glanced away, eyebrows raised. She couldn’t for the life of her imagine how anybody could go alone, or with their parents. The humiliation!

Out on the dance floor, Emilia was never short of partners. She spotted him across the room, speaking to a woman with thick black hair. Surprised, she started forward. Nobody from college was here. They could talk, maybe even dance!

She excused herself from her dance partner to squeeze past people to get to him, in her hurry slipping a little on the dance floor. His back was to her when she reached out and touched his shoulder with her gloved hand. He turned around, and she smiled wide, about to say how good it was to see him and how they could be free, here, and would he like to dance?

Before a single word fell from her lips she saw his eyes widen, and dart sideways. She wanted to laugh out loud. He had nothing to be afraid of now! Oh, she was so excited!

‘Ah, Miss Clarkson.’ he said, before she could say a word, and smiled politely at her.

‘Martin! I..’, she began breathlessly.

‘Meet Laura,’ he interrupted firmly, as the lady next to him looked questioningly at her,

‘Uh, yes, hello, I’m Emilia,’ Emilia said, bewildered, holding her hand out. Laura took it warmly, smiling wide.

‘Emilia, pleased to meet you.’

She was beautiful.

‘This is my wife. Laura, Miss Clarkson is a student of mine. I was not aware your family knew Lord Warrington.’

His voice faded into the background, as her stomach fell to her feet. She murmured something faintly before staggering away, aware Laura was staring her her with a frown.

‘Is she alright?’ she heard her ask him. Him. 

‘I’m sure she is. Come dance, darling.’

She staggered outside to the wide balcony where she fell painfully onto the banister overlooking the dark orchard down below. She was heaving, and her ears were ringing. And it hurt. Oh it hurt like a hundred knives slicing through her body. She was numb, and the tears refused to seep from her eyelids.

She would have to pull herself together, of course. She would have to get up and stand tall and smile and dance and charm people, then go home with her parents and make merry.

She would have to get on.

Emilia looked at the note again, and crumpled it in her fist, throwing it into the fireplace.

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Love Letters #12

Dear Cecil,

To be civil is to be wise.

Sincerely, 

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

To understand why one is angry, is to stop and listen to one speak, rather than speaking over one.

Annoyed,

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

I complain about your foot only because it moves so much when I am trying to concentrate. You know the boss likes to point fingers. It always seems to be us, doesn’t it?

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

As always, be quiet.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

I had afternoon tea with him. What’s it to you anyway.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

Well, Andrew is kind to me. Unlike you.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

Now, I have written two pages on experimental feminism. If this does not enter the paper, I shall blame it on you.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

Nice cactus on your desk. 

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

I think boss has clocked on about our notes. Destroy destroy destroy.

Julia

P.S. No, I don’t like writing you notes. It’s just handy.

P.P.S. No, I do not.

P.P.P.S. That is hardly appropriate. I shan’t send you any more, then. Good day.

 

Cecil,

Leave me alone.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Mouse in my desk. Care to have a look?

Julia

 

Cecil,

Thank you for getting rid of my mouse. Boss called me out for screaming. Says I am a woman, and what else did he expect. I explained I was startled. He reckons I wasted valuable work time by what he calls my ‘female disability’.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Of course I am upset. Will I show it? Certainly not. Wouldn’t give him that satisfaction.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Thank you. That is very kind of you.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Have you seen Thomas? He is supposed to be editing my piece.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Fired? Whatever for?

Julia

 

Cecil,

I am shocked, frankly. Shocked. And horrified. I am going to give that man a piece of my mind.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Yes I am. Don’t you dare say anything, and put your own job at risk. I won’t have it. 

Julia

 

Cecil,

Wish me luck.

Julia

 

****

 

Dear Cecil,

Well, I suppose you are aware by now. I was told to leave. I didn’t go back to my desk to collect my things because it was a matter of pride, really. I walked out of those doors with my nose in the air like any self respecting lady who refuses to be trampled upon by the patriarchy. You might snigger at my word choice there but it is very true and something everybody who is sane and sensible should stand up for. Thomas should not have spoken up for me, and I feel inherently guilty that he lost his place here because of me. I wish to thank you for your input, Cecil, but please keep your head down. I don’t want you to lose your financial stability over this, you are already on probation. They are hiring at that newly opened shop and apparently they are looking for ladies, so I shall go and see how my chances fare there. Hopefully that will tide me over until I can find something better. Mama and Papa await me in the countryside. They say it is not right for a lady of my age to be living and working in the city. Settle down and marry, they say. They don’t understand my passion for what I do.

Thank you, Cecil. For everything.

Julia

****

Dear Cecil,

I understand you left me a note. This is me returning it. I went to call on Thomas. He appears to be avoiding me. I am absolutely racked with guilt.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

Apparently he wasn’t avoiding me. He was at the theatre with his wife! He is working now with another editor, who had heard of his ordeal, and his newspaper is very progressive. He has asked tp speak with me, funnily enough. Well, they are both happy enough. They both reckon I am a stubborn thing but commend me on it given the situation. I should very well think so. Thank you for the flowers, sorry to have missed you again. I was at dinner with Thomas and his wife, a most charming woman. They have the sweetest, chubby little child you ever set your eyes on. 

Julia

 

Dear Cecil, 

I would very much like to go for a walk with you this evening.

Julia

 

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