Thursday, June 6, 2013
ANNE EYRE (Sounds In The Silence: chapter Thirteen) #Jane Eyre Retelling
Sounds In The Silence
Rochester behaved as if nothing was amiss the next day.
After lessons, Sophie and I heard the house party arrive back from the stables. We were padding upstairs, our hair wet from swimming. Sophie was so good now; she didn’t need her floaties but I still watched her like a hawk. We were both laughing and dripping water on the floor. Meanwhile Leah was, tut tutting us as the group entered the hallway.
I pulled my long robe around me and Sophie stood close; I needn’t have bothered. Neither the house guests nor Rochester appeared to notice us at all as we walked upstairs. When I turned around as we reached the top, all of the visitors were deep in conversation. I could hear their upper class accents spinning off the walls. As I glanced downward, Rochester was in the middle of the group – the centre of everyone’s attention.
Nicola Ingram was tall and graceful. She’d had her tumble of blonde hair styled fashionably around her shoulders. Nicola, who wore long riding boots and jeans with a designer label, was busy laughing at everything Rochester said. I saw her flick something off his scarlet riding jacket and link her arm through his. She clasped his firm hand to hers behind their backs.
Sophie was playing quietly that afternoon and I could hear animated conversation coming from the drawing room. The men were getting ready to go swimming after finishing a game of pool. When their voices became softer, I walked downstairs with the car keys, preparing to go the village.
The drawing room, which I was required to walk past, was filled with stale smoke and recent conversation.
‘I… I thought you’d left.’
Rochester walked out from the connecting library.
‘Are you hiding from us?’
‘No. I was with Sophie.’
‘Never mind. I want to introduce you to someone properly. Anne, this is Nicola Ingram.’
I smiled at the woman who was maybe a few years older than me and very self-possessed.
‘Nicola and her brother are close friends of mine from London,’ Rochester stated.
I noticed her frown when he said the word friend. The haughty woman looked me up and down from her secure position next to Rochester.
‘Hello. And who are you?’
‘I’m Anne Eyre, Sophie’s governess.’
‘Oh, so you’re the nanny; I grew up with loads of nannies; we used to play tricks on them. They were all just awful,’ she said disdainfully, looking straight at me.
I ignored her insulting remarks.
‘I also tutor Sophie in English. I’m preparing her for school.’
‘Yes, and doing a brilliant job,’ Rochester said, backs turned to us as he went to make drinks.
‘I must go,’ I added. ‘I don’t want to miss the post office.’
‘Perhaps she’s off to meet her boyfriend in town,’ I heard another girl snipe. Nicola’s friend giggled.
I heard fading whispers from the females as I attempted to leave the room.
‘Why doesn’t she just use email? Oh but of course, Rochester, it doesn’t work all the way out here in the wilderness,’ Nicola scoffed. ‘I really don’t know why you left London. We must do something about that next summer, darling.’
This woman, Nicola, was clearly making plans for their life together. If he was using her to make me jealous, it was working.
I felt superfluous. I didn’t want to listen to any more of their idle conversation and was glad to be out of the house as I navigated the not overly familiar terrain, stumbling along Hay Lane and towards the pathway that lead to the village.
I needed a walk to clear my head, and the longer the better.
The summer days were becoming brisker, with autumn approaching. I couldn’t really understand why my eyes were smarting with tears as I walked. I knew I could drive but I wanted to take as long as possible to get to the village, and then to return would take up the entire afternoon. I wanted to stay out of the house that had previously been so welcoming to me now that it had been invaded by an unfriendly adversary. I’d met girls like Nicola at school. When they set their sights on their male prey, they marked any other female, even one who didn’t rate by their standards, as competition.
That night was just as bad.
I was compelled to go to the dining room with Sophie and we were asked by Mrs Fairfax to dress for dinner again, something I’d been previously annoyed about.
‘I’ve nothing to wear,’ I said. ‘Perhaps I’ll just take tea in the play room and read.’
‘No, you are invited, Anne. Nathanial especially asked for you though I daresay he wouldn’t miss either me or Sophie,’ she joked. ‘And never mind about your outfit, dear, just wear a different top and make sure Sophie looks her prettiest. Mr Rochester doesn’t like her not to be well presented around his friends. We’re expecting an engagement announcement very soon. He’s ordered some jewellery to be brought down from London next week. They do make a lovely couple, don’t you think?’
‘Yes,’ I said. There was no point in showing my hesitation. I was used to being overlooked, underestimated and ignored. It was normal for me from my past, but not now, not here and never in my future.
‘Oh, and Anne? It wouldn’t hurt you to put on a little lipstick and blush tonight. It’s a party – there is no need for a teenage girl to look so unhappy and severe.’
She touched my cheek in what I could only describe as a motherly gesture. It was what I occasionally did to Sophie when she’d said or done something particularly sweet. I smiled tepidly.
Mrs Fairfax left the room.
After Sophie was dressed in a beautiful sapphire blue outfit (a newly bought design from one of Rochester’s recent trips to France), I looked properly at myself in the mirror. I washed my face and did my best to hide the damage of recent tears staining my cheeks.