Sunday, April 28, 2013
ANNE EYRE (modern Jane Eyre) Chapter Eight: In Dreams
That night, I dreamt I was a small girl again, walking through my life before the hurt took over. I was sitting on the doorstep of a huge house, waiting for someone, not my mean aunt, not my actual parents. There was a large garden and a fence and behind it, I felt safe, for the first time. Then I was an adult standing on the shore in a towelling beach robe. When the person I waited for arrived, the sun blocked his identity but he placed my hand in his and together we ran into the ocean. Heat blazed down on us; there were no cares, no worries - just bliss. When I woke, I remembered being told by my aunt that both my parents were drug users who’d abandoned me at birth. There, in the ocean, with this nameless person, I was free again; happy.
The dream was more comforting than the one I usually had about the handsome young husband of my equally perfect-looking new foster mother. I had lived in Notting Hill back then with a selfish public relations executive who wanted a trial run at looking after a child. Her husband (and his wandering hands and too-close hugs), worked in advertising. He came up with the revolutionary idea of trying to turn me into a child model. I was only eleven but I could pick a dodgy character when I met one and I got out of that house as soon as was humanly possible, before any serious damage was done. His dubious intentions, when he tried to make me pose for photographs for my modelling portfolio, made me wary.
I tossed and turned in the early hours.
When I woke at around three in the morning, I had a feeling that someone was watching me. I got up to make a hot chocolate; the house was still and silent. I padded up the stairs in my socks and read for a bit, an old but beautifully written novel: Persuasion. I reached the part where Frederick Wentworth returns, and then I fell back into a deep sleep.
I woke again, at around three in the morning.
One of Rochester’s dogs, Pilot, was lapping my hand which I thought was quite strange since I’d shut my door and was yet to meet a dog capable of opening one with his paw. I’d been having such a nice dream that if it was possible I would have closed my eyes and willed myself back into it; this was never going to happen. I’d arrived without a proper dressing gown so I pulled on my coat as it was still quite cold. Pilot followed me protectively as I got up and headed downstairs again to make some toast.
The floorboards creaked and the ancestral portraits haunted me as I crept downstairs.
Silence greeted me when I reached the kitchen, no noises but the opening and closing of a cupboard as I prepared my food. I switched on the stove light and boiled more water, feeling comforted by the familiar taste of English Breakfast Tea. As I sipped, I heard it again, unmistakable, a soft scream. I mentally counted all of the people I knew to be sleeping in Thornton Hall: Mrs Fairfax, Sophie, the maids, the cook, two grooms, Mrs Poole and Rochester. It must be one of the maids, I thought. Then I heard them again - two words as clear as the daylight that would soon arrive - animal and hate.
I wondered what those shrill words meant out of context and who they were directed towards.
From nowhere, Edwina Fairfax raced down the stairs in her dressing gown.
‘Oh… Anne, I had no idea you were awake. We put you in a room, far away from the rest of the bedrooms so you wouldn’t be disturbed if people woke early.’
‘What is the noise?’
‘It’s just a maid; she’s been in the village. She brought someone home and there was a fight. It’s nothing for you to worry about. Nathanial has called for help, he’s getting her out. There should be quiet in the house now.’
‘I’ll go and check on Sophie,’ I said.
‘There is no need. I’m sure she will be asleep. Sophie is used to all kinds of noises. Things quite literally go bump in the night in these ancient houses. Her life in Paris was quite abnormal as well. In fact, from what I gather she is much better off with her father. He told me you know… Anyway, Merida has done this before; she’s on medication for anxiety and then, off she goes to the pub and starts to drink with her friends,’ Mrs Fairfax continued.
I thought about Merida and Leah, the kitchen maids. I’d met them the day I’d arrived. They looked at me strangely and said very little; not even hello.
As I wrapped my coat tightly around my waist, I felt the card that Connor had given me and pulled it out of my pocket. He was a minister’s son, aiming to be a clergyman himself. His sisters were warm and welcoming and I recalled them telling me about their desire to build a school in India; something I might help with, if I retained an interest in teaching. I wanted to forge my own destiny. I stuffed the cardboard back into my purse after I’d checked on Sophie. She was sleeping soundly as Mrs Fairfax predicted.
Before I got back into bed with the morning paper and my tea, I thought about what Connor had meant when he said, ‘call me, if you need to.’ His sisters, Rainbow and Daisy, had looked solemnly at me and nodded.
I was fairly sure Thornton, like Rochester, was full of secrets, a mystery wrapped inside a riddle.
I closed my eyes and eventually fell into a deep sleep.
After the incident that morning, my days continued in an easy way.
Nathanial only stayed for a week. I called him by his surname, Rochester, in my own mind and occasionally Nate as I grew to know him better. He had stayed long enough to choose some livestock and horses to raise, check with the grooms and sort out the expenditure of the property with his various staff. He then said goodbye to everyone and prepared to pack up and leave for a holiday in the South of France. He said he’d return to Thornton soon and bring his friends, the Ingram’s, to visit for the rest of the summer.
‘He never stays here long,’ Mrs Fairfax explained. ‘Each time he comes back I get very little notice, so I have to keep the house in a constant state of readiness. Sometimes he brings his American friends from university. Other times, it’s his European ones. He has so many friends; I’ve lost track of them all over the years. Nathanial lives in a social whirl of money and miscreants. He has managed the money so well; his father would be proud of him. We never lack for anything around here. He is very well-educated, studied Mathematics and Finance at university. He worked in the City while his father was still alive but he doesn’t need a real job. I think he’s too young, really, to be so wealthy. It might have helped had he become interested in a profession but I’m hoping he’ll settle down soon. I’d like the house to be filled with some more children.’ Mrs Fairfax was staring at a photograph of Nathanial with a woman called Nicola Ingram on the social pages of a magazine. The woman was everything I’m not; tall, blonde, glamorous.
I nodded. I wasn’t sure what to say, since my pay, although generous, was hardly a pathway to riches; but I knew Rochester was ridiculously wealthy. Just the estate alone would take some serious upkeep. The view from my window was expansive and breathtaking.
In the mornings, I often woke to the sound of Pilot, Rochester’s dog, barking and the two of them would go out walking along the path that led from Thornton. I could see them below my window but they never looked up. It was so early almost the entire household slept in except me and Sophie. Rochester normally returned almost as breathless as the dog after running along the cliffs. I could see them from the window after I dressed. Sometimes, Sophie would run in and yell out to her father. Then, he looked up and waved at us. He seemed so happy and free with the dog, and much younger than his twenty-eight years on those mornings.
During the day, while he was away or working with the horses, Sophie and I would commence lessons. By lunchtime our academic work and English classes were finished.
‘Your English has improved so much, Sophie,’ I told her. ‘By September you will be fluent and able to speak easily with all your new school friends.’
Sophie looked quite alarmed.
‘I am not going to school. I have always been home schooled.’
‘Well, perhaps that will change after summer,’ I said hesitantly, fearing I had mentioned something I probably shouldn’t have.