Thursday, June 6, 2013

ANNE EYRE (Mrs Rochester: chapter Twenty-two) #Jane Eyre Retelling

Chapter Twenty-two
Mrs Rochester
    Berenice Antoinetta Rochester, lost in her confined, silent world, was beautiful.
    More beautiful than either Nicola or me, or any of the local girls, she had long dark hair that hung to her waist in a messy, knotted braid and wore no make-up. She stared at me accusingly… and then at her husband. Her cheeks were flushed as though she had been crying. Her eyes were wild as she stared frozen into space. The woman wore faded pink pyjama pants and an old jumper – it looked like it must have been Nathanial’s since it had the words of his former school stencilled on the front of it. She looked to be about the same age as Nathanial.
      Mrs Poole, the person I’d been told was a lodger, was really Berenice Rochester’s “keeper”. This mystery had been hidden behind a bolted door. The lodger was hiding, locked up all day long, seen only at night, in shadows. From the day I’d arrived, I had been told Mrs Poole came and went as she pleased and did not like to be disturbed. I’d been fooled. The frail, unstable woman in the locked room had been able to look down on me in the garden, on all of us, from her barred, rooftop window. This woman was Nathanial’s wife. What living hell it must have been for her, in her lucid moments, to witness her husband’s happiness and his child’s laughter.
    When she looked up, she saw Nathanial and greedily flung herself upon him, kissing him passionately, or trying to… she hung off his chest and whimpered like a kitten as he attempted to cradle her sobs; then in the blink of an eye she turned and merged from a docile lamb into a wild, caged animal.
    There was chafing on her wrists from where she had obviously been restrained.
   ‘It’s one of her good days,’ Emma Poole yelled above the commotion, as Berenice’s brother, the lawyer and I looked on in stunned silence.
    When Berenice had been constrained, Nathanial spoke.
    ‘Emma Poole is my wife’s psychiatric nurse; she has worked here for as long as Berenice has lived with me.’
    I stared at Nathanial Rochester whilst Berenice’s eyes bored into me. I realized I was still wearing what remained of the wreckage of my wedding gown. The lace hem was torn and stained from the long walk through the muddy gardens. It was a degradation the dress had never been intended to endure. I’d already ripped off the veil.
    This image of me caused the ensuing commotion, I think.
    Berenice, his wife, had managed to free her wrist from the strap which bound her to the wall and she lunged at me and screamed like a mad woman… because she was a mad woman.
     Nathanial caught her by her fragile, scarred wrists; she scratched and screamed into her husband’s face until she drew blood with her blunt nails. Berenice then licked her fingertips, her hunger for his blood seemingly insatiable. She was… a woman, a beauty and also a monster. Nathanial’s wife kicked out as she was constrained; she spat and screamed as she reached over to me, clutching at the hem of my dress. When she did this, she bared her teeth, which seemed more like fangs in that moment.
     His wife could not speak any audible words but kissed Nate’s fingertips, the same hands that were holding her down. She licked and bit his fingers. I looked away, and then looked back. Like lightening, she shot from him to me, seemingly flying through the air. The woman (if that’s what she was) lunged at me until a guard held her down and she cried and screeched and kicked again as they subdued her with some sort of deep sleep medication shot straight into her arm with a syringe.
    I fled from the room feeling muddied, beaten and almost completely broken. I was feeling blessed to have escaped that room with my life but betrayed to the core, and so tired from this deceit that I locked myself in the bathroom and turned on the taps.
     I stood in front of the full length mirror in the wreckage of my wedding finery. Slowly, and then quickly, I began to rip off every layer, hardly waiting to unbutton those wretched ties. I stripped off the layers of my wedding gown until I stood naked and crying, a pathetic shadow of my former self. Less than an hour ago, the dress had captured the promise of my future life but now, as I collapsed into the bath and poured in half a bottle of bubbles, the dress had become meaningless to me. It carried the weight of betrayal in every designer fold.  
    Finally, the tears began to flow. These were tears I hadn’t shown for many years and with them my entire life, my messed up existence. The water soothed the cuts and bruises and cleaned off the mud from my body but my mind was in turmoil.
    Eventually, there was a knock at the door, a soft knock. I heard a woman’s voice, Mrs Fairfax’s.
     ‘Anne, dear? Anne? Are you alright?’
     ‘Anne, I swear, I didn’t know, I suspected something was amiss, but I didn’t know the truth. Please answer me, Anne, are you alright?’
    I could hardly speak but she kept asking.
    Finally I croaked out the words even I was unsure of, ‘… Yes.’
    I heard her footsteps walking away from the door.     
    I leant into my knees as the bubbles piled around me, covering my body, hiding my skin as I hunched over my hands.  
     Another knock.
    ‘Anne… Anne?’ he whispered. It was Rochester. Suddenly he’d become a surname to me again, a man I couldn’t trust.
     ‘Let me in,’ Rochester said.
     ‘Anne, please…. Let me in. I need to tell you something.’
     I got out of the bath and wrapped a towel around me. I dried myself, partially, then dragged on the pyjamas I’d discarded in a drawer, the old ones, not fit for my wedding night. I didn’t care. After I wrapped my robe around me, my hair still dripping with bathwater, I opened the door.
     He started to talk but as his mouth moved, I walked past him then collapsed.
     When I woke, I was lying on my bed. My forehead was bruised, slightly and Rochester lay slumped on the couch on the other side of the room. His shirt was ripped and stained, his suit jacket discarded. It was early morning, but still ink black outside.
    I opened my eyes wide, wishing I’d opened my eyes wider, earlier. How could I have let myself fall in love with a lie?
    He stirred as I pulled off my blanket.
    ‘Anne? Are you awake?’
    ‘Yes.’ I said.
    ‘You must hate me.’
    I remained silent.
    ‘I am so sorry… I couldn’t tell you, I couldn’t risk losing you. I love you.’
    I sat in silence on the end of my bed.     
   ‘She is the secret. Hers is the story that haunts my life…’