Thursday, June 6, 2013
ANNE EYRE (Preparations: chapter Twenty) #Jane Eyre Retelling
What was I thinking? Lost in love, I did not question the scruples of a man who had already organised the honeymoon.
The wedding was organised so quickly the servants openly gossiped about my supposed pregnancy; I was not pregnant, obviously. But as neither of us had any family to organise and I had few friends I wished to invite, there seemed no reason to wait. We both wanted to move forward with our future. I longed to go to Europe; it had always been my dream to see other places. To see them first with my husband and new step-daughter would make them even more special.
There were to be only a few guests back at the finest country hotel for the reception. Sophie insisted on ordering and helping to choose our wedding and bridesmaid dresses which arrived in huge boxes shipped from Paris, again at exorbitant cost; Nathanial assured us that money was no object. Nate and I chose our wedding rings; I selected a large ruby and diamond ring. Mrs Fairfax and Leah, and especially Sophie, gasped when they saw it. Perhaps I would not have chosen such a large ruby or so many diamonds if the other options I had to choose from had been any smaller! I loved the fact that Nathanial did not want to place any limits on either beauty or excesses, although I was mindful material wealth was not the basis of my love for Nathanial Rochester. He was a man unlike any other; I loved him so much it scared me.
I chose a plain but simple gown to offset the ring and my elaborate, upswept braided hair. A village hairdresser had practised various designs on me and we came up with one that was both fashionable and traditional.
Sophie’s hair and dress was a more elaborate version of my own. Her gown was also tied with pale blue ribbons and cream lace. Sophie looked a dream and told me I did too. At least, I looked as much like one of those women in the photographs of bridal magazines as I ever would.
Mrs Fairfax put her hand over her mouth when she saw me during my final fitting as I stood on a chair in the middle of my sitting room.
‘Oh Anne, I am speechless. You look a picture. You look… beautiful.’
It was nice to hear, although I knew I’d take a lot of convincing.
I wound the veil over my head and Sophie trailed around the edges on the floor as Leah took many photographs for us to keep, some with our jeans sticking out from under the edges of our dresses. I proposed to frame these informal photographs and give them to Nathanial as a wedding present – after we were married. I did not want him to see my wedding dress in advance; no future bride plans to let her fiancée see the dress before the wedding.
‘You are my something blue,’ I told Sophie as I touched her nose and straightened her sky coloured ribbons as she giggled. But I wasn’t taking any chances. Merida gave me a cobalt garter, to tie above my knee and Mrs Fairfax gave me a silk handkerchief (“something old”, passed down through the generations) which was also “something borrowed”. The “new” was my dress.
I compared my gown with the many outfits I’d been given to wear in foster care; clothes, passed down from so many others. I felt re-assembled, whole and made new again, from my toes upwards as I tried on all of the fashionable designs I’d bought to wear on my honeymoon. Sophie chose some of them. Six-year-olds have pretty good taste, or at least, this six year old did.
‘I want you to buy everything new for our honeymoon, darling,’ Nate said over breakfast. The room was quiet except for our eating and speaking.
All of the houseguests, including the band, had left to go on tour. Nicola had been the first to go. She’d exited, draped over a new boyfriend and seemingly without a backward glance, just as Nate said she would.
An unfamiliar hush had swept over Thornton Hall. ‘You needn’t ever want for anything again,’ Nate assured me as we finished our breakfast.
In the days leading up to the wedding, Mrs Fairfax seemed extra cautious in her communications with me.
‘Anne, just be careful. I’m only warning you because I’ve never seen him act quite so suddenly in matters of the heart. He’s been single, as far as I know, since he got back to London from America, the first time, a while ago now.’ We were seated outside picking some berries as Edwina continued, ‘I mean, look at him, Anne. ‘It must have been by choice. I suppose it was true that he and Nicola meant nothing to one another… that he just flirted with her to make you jealous but a man who is quick to discard a woman… well, you don’t seem very streetwise in that way. I urge you to be careful Anne.’
I tried to hide my distaste for her words. After all, it could not be easy for her to believe a man like him would love a girl like me. It would take some getting used to the fact that I would now help to make decisions in the house.
‘You’re not pregnant are you, Anne?’
‘No,’ I said, frustrated at everyone’s insinuating glances, from the grocer in the village to Leah’s in the kitchen. ‘Honestly, it is impossible! For the umpteenth time, we’ve never even slept together. Is it so hard to believe that he would choose me, that he would want to marry… me?’
‘No, Anne, of course not. You are a sweet but very young girl with remarkable intelligence and you have been an exceptional governess to Sophie, but you should consider keeping it the way it has been, Anne, until you are married. Then you can be sure of him. I’ve known him since he was small and now I think… he’s the sort of man who prefers the chase to the actual domesticity of wedded bliss, if you know what I mean.’
I didn’t, not really.
She looked at me like she knew something about Rochester I did not but was afraid to tell me. And of course, I was afraid to ask, wary of anything that could ruin my happiness.
I wandered through the downstairs sitting room that afternoon after I’d taken Sophie riding. I ran my hands over his old photograph albums. I knew little about his time in the United States but I’d seen some pictures of a road trip he and Christopher had taken along Route 66 and also some snaps of the streets and sidewalks of New Orleans where I knew he’d spent many months working on a film that never got released. I did think it was weird that he wanted to wait for us to be together but the marriage was only a few days away and I agreed with him that we should use this time to get to know each other in ways that some people didn’t. We would be friends as well as lovers, a perfect match.