The Road to Exile – Part IX

Ξ From the Journals of Edward Rochester – 1809-1810 Ξ

I struggled to maintain some composure, while attempting to sound resolute. “I am sorry to disappoint you, Miss Fairfax, but I have not decided I shall go.”

She smiled, then drew a gloved, slender finger down the sleeve of my coat. “I am not at all disappointed, Edward. Why would you think so?”

I shivered. I told myself she was only showing kindness and sisterly affection for a grieving brother. I should tell her to release me. But I said nothing. Her touch was warm, and welcome.

“You should change out of this wet coat, Edward. It is quite damp from the weather…you will catch a chill.”

It had rained off and on all morning, and the fresh scent of the spring shower clung to every garment, her veil, her hair. I stared into the hearth, trying to ignore the increasing awkwardness of our situation.

“Yes, yes, you are right…I should go upstairs directly, for I am sure I am unfit to appear before our guests. Father has no mind to attend to any such duty, I can assure you.”

“Please…do not go, Edward.”

“Why not? You have just admonished me that I may become ill from standing here in these wet clothes, and now you prevent me?”

“I was speaking of your departure from England,” she whispered. “Do not go. I do not wish it. Surely, from all you have said, you would rather remain at Thornfield.”

“What are you saying, Catherine? Why should you wish me to stay? You are betrothed to my brother. You will be his wife in two years.”

“Yes, I will,” she replied, with the bearing and air of self-importance befitting a baronet’s daughter. “Your brother was my choice for a husband, but tell me.” She suddenly seized my hands. “Can you say the same for yourself? This journey which has been arranged for you? Is it truly what you want? To marry a woman whom you have never seen? Have you nothing to say about it? I don’t believe you want to leave England.” She lifted her chin. “Tell your father you have no wish to go.”

“And why would I do that? It’s all arranged.”

She nodded. “Yes. But must you go so far to find a wife? Is there not one in England who will suffice?”

“You do not understand. I have a duty to my family, to my father…my mother. It is what she wanted. I cannot sully her memory by acting against her wishes.”

I looked at Miss Fairfax again, suddenly mistrustful of her questions. The softness in her voice had vanished. Her tone had become sharp, and penetrating. I felt like a witness before a judge. “But why should you care whither I am bound? As Rowland’s wife, you will one day be mistress of Thornfield Hall.”

She smiled again. “Yes, I shall be. But Edward, have you not ever wished that circumstances had been different?”

“What do you mean?”

“Had you been the eldest son, all this would be yours!” She let go my hands and held her arms wide, pirouetting before me, almost giddy. “Then it all would be perfect, in every way.”

“But I am not the eldest son. Rowland will inherit. And you shall marry him. Is that not enough?”

She turned and threw back her head, and laughed. Clear and ringing, it was full of mockery and triumph. She came towards me and again took my hand then held it to her face. When she spoke, her voice was hard and full of impatience.

“Oh, Edward, why can you not admit you still have feelings for me? I know that you do.”

I lurched backwards, suddenly desperate to put some distance between us. “Do not speak so! You are to marry another man…my brother, for God’s sake!”

“Then it is true!” Her laughter rang in my ears. “You still love me, Edward. Why will you not say it?”

~ Exile ~ End Part 9 ~

© 2016 by R.Q. Bell and Imaginality Press; All rights reserved.

Series Navigation<< <i>The Road to Exile – Part VIII</i><i>The Road to Exile – Part X</i> >>

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