She was there. The manor loomed in front of me and she beckoned from the center window of the second floor. As dreams go, I found myself beside my bed. The moon shining so bright that my room did not lack for light.
“Come, find me.” I saw her, again, disappearing down the stairs outside my door. I followed. The staircase filled with her scent, a mixture of rose or lilac and love. I thought of my Nona, the only grandmother that had been there through my childhood. “Adelaine,” her voice pulled me back, “come, find me.”
My feet touched the stone floor of the foyer, a sharp contrast from the warmth of the wood stairs. I pressed on the library door. It moved, unhurried. I wanted her. Her arms to erase the discomfort of being an adult. Her chest where I could be free of all the emotions that weighed heavier as each year passed. Her embrace to free me of the chains forged by the world around. The door swung into the wall, the sound a dull thud, unnoted except for the heavy reaction in my heart beat.
She had been bathed in light which faded into the pile of books on the floor. My hands sought the desired volume in the detritus. I pulled it to my chest, the hard corners a poor substitute to the warm flesh of a mother.
The cold broke through. My toes wiggled to assess the damage. The flesh heavy, numbing, but I had the life preserver clutched to my chest, my heart. I stepped out of the shadows, the door closing behind me.
“Dr. Schenk,” a voice called to me. I blinked, my head inching toward the sound. A battle waged between his attention and my desire to remain in the dream. Sound came crashing into my brain – the muted background suddenly sharp and overwhelming. My hands clenched the book tighter, giving me the strength to endure.
“Thomas?” He came out of the shadows. His pale skin alight in the glow coming from the large front windows was made all the more distinct by the dark shorts he wore.
“Are you okay,” he asked as he came closer.
I nodded. Realizing it was still dark, I cleared my throat and replied, “um, fine. I, ah, couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d take a look at a book or two.” My voice steadied.
“In the dark?”
I smiled, “well, I found the book I wanted. You must have just got here after I turned the lights off.” My heart pounded in my chest, ringing in my ears. “Well, good night,” I said as I retreated up the southern stairs. I leaned against my closed bedroom door, listening for Thomas’s footsteps.
I set the book down on the dresser. I couldn’t believe I touched that book with my bare hands. With a deep breath, I went into the bathroom to wash. My toes curled into the shaggy bathroom rug. My feet! I picked one up – the bottom was filthy. I washed one after the other in the sink. Next time I go sleepwalking, I need to remember to wear my slippers.
I turned on the small bedside lamp before grabbing a pair of gloves and the makeup brushes. Using the top of the dresser as a work surface, I cleaned the book. Being under the others had protected it from the majority of the dust. I looked down at my shirt, a rectangle of grey marred the red surface. I returned to the bathroom and used a washcloth to clean my shirt.
Gloves on, I took the book to bed with me.
My father says it is time. I am expected to document our life here on the island. This diary is to be where I leave my thoughts for future generations. I find it ironic that he educated his daughters for just this purpose. At thirteen, I do not feel like a woman. I find no joy in my upcoming nuptials. My body betrays me. My widening hips do not mean I am ready for the care of children.
The date draws nearer. My husband-to-be is kind when he is well. He is like the others, constantly suppressing the beast inside. They take the servant girls who were brought for such a purpose. I look at this man, five years my senior, and wonder why I am expected to lay with him. Why it falls to me to quell the beast that resides in him? I think of my mother, her spirit broken. Life on the island has worsened her condition. She sits and stares out into the woods as if waiting. If we were home, I fear she would give herself over to the wolf. Now I worry the water will swallow her up. Father is busy, he does not notice. Sister Emile sits with her. This is no life for us. I would rather spend eternity in servitude back home than be imprisoned here.
I am no longer a child, I am a wife. Our marriage consummated with blood and tears. Robert was as gentle as he could be. I expected the act to be more violent. I have him to thank for his restraint. He waited until I pretended to be asleep before crawling away to the rooms upstairs. Will I ever be enough to keep him sane and whole? I think of Emile, locked in one of the rooms above. She is barely seven. She will be expected to follow in my footsteps. The men cannot be satisfied with servant girls only. They need the anchor of a wife. I wonder if that would be more true if we had been in love. They do not see love as a factor and I am merely a girl whose head is filled with nonsense. How can it not? I am educated to read and write then locked away with the words and thoughts. Father says we can learn the plants and animals on this land. There are few animals, most come from the sea. I hate the sea.