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 #14

18.09.1994

Falling in love is like descending into madness. The first few days are euphoric. Everything they do or say is special and fabulous, melting your heart into mush and making your knees tremble with the sheer power of their words, their voice. Then the twisting knife of jealousy and fear begins to pry at the very top layer of your skin, shaving off small translucent curls. Barely noticeable in the beginning, obscured by the encompassing passion of hormones and intoxication. Hormones, I think, can be like drugs, if administered in large enough doses.

Soon the knife digs in deeper and the Alices and Katies and Corals of the world rear their pretty heads and tinkly voices, wreaking havoc in the oh so perfect system.

It’s not supposed to be like this. It’s not, it’s not. Every time I think about him my whole body shifts, as though it is leaving this realm of reality and floating a little higher. Everything is a little brighter. Old crushes are now pale and unappealing, mere fragments of memory on the edge of this brilliant sphere in which I now hang.

Falling in love is painful.

I am not too young to understand it. This is love. This all encompassing passion. This drive to do things I have never done before. This mad hunger pushing me outside my comfort zone. The whole world is small and insignificant. Nothing matters.

Until it feels like your whole world is shaken and pulled from under your feet like a rug, and you are displaced and the fall when it comes is hard and harsh and sudden, aftershock reverberating around your skull like a metal stinging wasp.

Who is Alice? WHO IS SHE? I thought you loved me. I thought this was love. I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME.

Lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling, too numb to cry. Wanting to scream and scream but knowing it won’t solve anything, won’t take the pain away.

‘You’ll get hurt,’ they tell me, ‘you don’t know what you are doing. Stay away from him, you don’t understand love.’

I fell in love. You don’t understand, you adults with experience, that I need to experience this for myself. I am young and naive and too trusting, but this feeling is too powerful for me to ignore. You should know this. I can’t stay away. It is physically impossible. My intuition doesn’t know any better.

And when all your prophecies come true why do you say ‘I told you so.’?

Just hold me and tell me this is a lesson to learn from, like you learned yours. I know you want to keep me away from the pain that you know, but how will I learn until I have experienced the same pain? How will I know, like you know, if I haven’t been heartbroken.

‘Ah, young love.’

That is what they say. Because they know.

Now I am like you. I want to protect my baby from being hurt, from falling in love and chasing that which is bad for her heart and soul. I want to prevent her from feeling like she has been seared open from inside. Like I was. My little baby with the torn hole in her chest.

Now I look back I wish they had dragged me away from him. I wish they had chained me to my room, rather than let me be foolish and have my happiness and sanity snatched away from me so.

They did, though. Didn’t they. I escaped and did it all in secret anyway. All I have now are thorny memories and bitter regret.

Falling in love is like descending into madness, because when you escape its frenzied clutches, you see everything clearly again. You see situations for what they were. You see people for the selfish manipulators they always were to you. Stark reality pierces you from every direction like poisoned arrows, and you wonder, where was I all those months? Why didn’t I see this from the very beginning.

‘Ah, young love,’ they should say, ‘the drug that clouds your judgement and steals your sanity.’

Signed,

L.P.

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