Thursday, June 6, 2013
ANNE EYRE (Home: chapter Twenty-six) #Jane Eyre Retelling
Once again, my belongings were in my back pack. I had no car so I walked to the nearest bus stop in the night, driven by my own desire for the truth. It was as if he was calling me, ‘Anne, Anne!’ Just his voice mixed with a light breeze. Hours later, I heard the crash of the ocean, ever nearer to the inland home I had once inhabited.
‘How much further to Thornton Hall?’
The bus driver looked at my sweaty face and messed hair, my dark jeans and smudged fingernails and merely raised an eyebrow when I told him I would be staying on the bus until it reached Cornwall. I knew the way from the bus stop on the main road that led to Hay Lane; I knew my way in the dark.
I saw the cottage in the distance at the far end of the road. It was situated nearer the cliffs. To my right lay Thornton Hall.
Even the gate that led to the property was blackened as I approached. From the front, the house still had its immense façade, but as I walked slowly down the driveway towards the main building, I had such a feeling of apprehension, that I started to jog, and then run towards it.
I felt intense panic inside. I wondered if those I’d loved had survived. The edges of my jeans were filthy by the time I arrived, not to mention my joggers. Light rain started to fall from the sky. It was nearly dark by the time I reached the main entrance. I hadn’t anticipated all the mud as I walked to the side of the house and noticed it was a shell of the building it had previously been.
All that was left of the ballroom I’d once stood in was ash. There were still the remnants of the fire all over what was left of the burnt walls, and most of the roof was missing. There were a few police dotted around the estate. The kitchen and far rooms were barely intact and when I rapped on the scullery door, I was surprised that Merida opened it. Mrs Fairfax, who was dressed for winter, then came out to greet me.
‘You have returned,’ she said.
‘Yes,’ I replied.
‘Oh, Anne, we were so worried about you.’
‘I saw what happened on the internet… did he, is he?’
‘Nathanial is still alive. Sophie was not here.’
I breathed a sigh of relief.
‘There was no one else in the house at the time except me and Leah, Mrs Poole, Hector and… Berenice Rochester.’
I winced at the name.
‘She is dead Anne. Berenice and Hector both died in the blaze.’
I looked at her.
‘It’s not what you think. Mrs Rochester started the fire; she was obsessed with burning flames. She once told Mrs Poole, it was the only way she could ever die; but the poor beautiful wretch was a complete lunatic, so who knows if it was true? Anne, I don’t know if, in the end, it was her own doing or if the smoke overtook her. Nathanial, actually tried to save her, he tried to save all of us. With her, he was overcome by the fumes, the firemen rescued him but not in time; he is, much altered Anne.’
‘Where is he?’
‘He’s on the bench, overlooking the ocean. He went there to listen to the sea.’
I turned from her….
‘But I must warn you, Anne…’
I started running, fed up with warnings.
Nathanial was seated with his dog, Pilot, beside him. Apart from being slightly more hairy than I’d ever seen him (he’d grown a beard) he was the same person, but when I called his name, he turned, and his eyes looked glazed over.
‘Is that… can it really be you, Anne?’
‘Yes, it is me.’ I walked towards him; crouched beside him, put my head on his knee.
‘I have come back to you.’
‘Anne? I can barely see you. The smoke caused an injury.’
‘I am here, to stay with you, if you will have me.’
I reached up and put my arms around him and hugged him, never wishing to let him go.
As you may have gathered, dear reader, I married him.
Months passed. The Hall was rebuilt.
By the time our baby son was placed in his arms, his vision had cleared and Thornton Hall had been reconstructed and refurbished.
We made plans to travel, to go abroad, to see the world as we’d always dreamt and planned to do.
I felt a contentment that had previously eluded me and when we returned from Europe, I began to study again. I wanted to complete the courses I’d enrolled in, not throw away the opportunity of a further education.
Sophie attended the local village school but we still studied together at home, if studying is what you would call the laughter and learning we enjoyed. My family teach me daily about all the things that were missing before I found these loves and helped to create this life.
I looked at Nathanial Rochester and our baby as he played on the blanket beneath us. In the distance, Sophie was walking her horse through the veil of trees that shaded the far corner of our home. Thornton Hall had been restored in all its springtime glory. The restoration of the house went some way to revitalising Nathanial; or perhaps it was the family we continued to raise, restoring us both.
Every person deserves to know this contentment and daily I count my blessings. Before I fall into sleep at night with the sound of my husband’s breathing beside me, I wonder at the extreme good fortune that led me to Thornton Hall and try to accept but not take for granted the joys that have been given to me in this life, joys that go far beyond any of my wildest imaginings.