A short story of two young women, one less sane than the other.
The stars were out. They were much too beautiful. Each one, an individual light of its own. How nice that must be. To be an individual.
She could not see them though. The girl who was surrounded by walls of wood, imprisoned in the narrowing rectangle beneath the surface of the earth. It is only at these times that a person notices something so particular as the singularity of stars. These moments of time create wonders.
The soil was still damp and unsettled. Being moved from its place to be thrown back in the wrong position, how cruel. Angry at being trampled and moved around, it created mud. Mud that was determined to spoil the colourful rugs that a wealthy person would have in their hallway.
The earth was cruel. To take a life so unnecessarily. To punish people so viciously.
Some would say she is at rest now. Buried beneath the dirt. Though nobody questioned why anyone could be said to be at rest when they were being crushed in their narrow boxes, under six feet of gravel and soil. It didn’t sound so very peaceful when it was mentioned by this dead girls intimate friend. Devastation, they said. Makes people do strange things, they whispered.
Perhaps. That was possibly one in a thousand reasons why she was so terribly curious at the funeral of her own friend. She never mentioned that it was exactly because of this curiosity that her friend was now sleeping for the eternity.
It had begun on the Sunday, each girl side by side. Dressed in their best, pale blue for Eliza and lavender for Rebecca. Each dress identical apart from in colour. The corset stitched up and pulled tight by their maids that very morning. The girls both gasping for air as they did so. However that was hours before they met outside the church. Walking in together as they had done since they were at the age of 8. This Sunday, however, was just two days before Rebecca’s 18thbirthday. Eliza had turned 18 just a month before and now it seemed that they were both in need of a husband. Though the subject of men meant little to Eliza. It was purely a need, not a want. Although Church was something similar. It was not a need and for most it was certainly not a want. Church was a must, at least for the more elegant of society.
Standing beside each other in their ankle touching Sunday dresses, they let their voices carry to the rafters while the organ was played by a little old man with an arched back, a little something that commemorated his long and work filled life. Each word, sang to God, or that was the belief.
Rebecca, with her beautiful voice. Even when she was simply speaking it sounded like music. She had curling golden hair. Her face held small but enchanting features. Not a freckle or a crease to be seen.
Of the two girls, who were almost joined at the hip, she was always announced as the prettier one. Though it could not be said that Eliza was not beautiful either. Her flaws were only those dark locks of hair, never growing to be quite as long as her friends. A slight hint of freckling from the sun that settled on her cheeks. In church, they were seen as examples. Maintained well by their maids and their maids chosen well by their parents. Followed by their families, each girl was seen as perfection and it was thought there was no competition between them. They both almost equal and surely loved equally well by one another and those around them.
Church was the only place that the community gathered and spoke regularly. Of course, everybody pretended to be someone they were not. As the priest thanked those who came and spoke politely, asking about those who could not be there. He hid well the fact that he was a heavy drinker. Eliza was amused as she stood beside the gravestones that were lined side by side along the wall in front of the gate. Her eyes watching those men and women who walked the path. There was nothing secret in a village as small as theirs.
“Eliza, Eliza.” She called, her arm raised in the air, waving elegantly. “Mr. Price was just wishing me well for my birthday. Oh I do hope he and his family attend the ball.” She explained in apparent excitement as she approached her friend, happily linking her arm with the other young woman.
“You mean to say, you hope Master Price attends your ball.” Eliza corrected with gentle laughter. Her eyes looking over Rebecca’s fragile pale features, watching as the colour in her delicate cheeks turned until they began to glow a soft pink.
“Oh I don’t know what you mean Miss Eliza!” She exclaimed before joining the brunette in a quiet fit of laughter. Their footsteps moved the gravel beneath their feet as they walked on ahead of the rest of their families. Wealth was everything, it formed the very bond that had sewn their families together. Rebecca’s father having hired her friends father, many years before they were born, to form a company together that was to be the foundation of their riches. As clients rolled in, work was much to hard for just one man. However, as this business would never reach the hands of Miss Rebecca nor Miss Eliza, it was, and is, unimportant to them. Entertaining themselves, however, was.
Strolling out of the church courtyard, they found their path opening out on to the quiet lane. There were the few carriages awaiting their owners. The village was small and within walking distance to many of the families was the church.
“Eliza, you are going to dance at the ball aren’t you? Men don’t just want somebody who can continue polite conversation you know.” The golden haired girl said, leaning her head towards the other a little, holding her arm like a child as she teased gently. “They want to see beauty and grace. Oh you must dance! You’re so very beautiful when you dance.” Rebecca cried, pleading gently with her friend until Eliza was forced to nod her head and sigh in a sign of agreement.
“Just make sure that you save me a dance with Master Price.” Eliza replied in a soft laugh.
Curiosity is a curse and patience is a gift. To sit among the shadows and be witness to these events it would be tormenting. Watching but not helping as one’s curiosity took over.
“I wonder if Mother is watching over me.” Rebecca said light heartedly as she turned on her stool to look at her friend. Eliza had joined her early so that they might have a few moments of privacy before the ball.
“She would be very proud of you.” Eliza replied politely.
“Do you believe there is a heaven?” Whispered Rebecca, the innocent blonde with her fairytale features and watery blue eyes, as she leaned closer to her dear friend Eliza. Asking such questions were common between the two, though when among the rest of society they kept their quizzical thoughts to themselves. She asked in such a serious tone, giving Eliza but a moment to consider before repeating her question with urgency.
“If there is a God, I believe there is a heaven.” The young woman answered quietly, her fingers playing with the lace of her elegant golden dress. “But I do believe in the day of judgement. Heaven is sacred and we will only be allowed into it when that day has come.” To this statement, Rebecca smiled.
“So Mother will be waiting for me and we can all walk through the gates of heaven together, right?” The blonde asked with a girlish laugh. “Dearest Eliza, would you wait for me? If you were to die before I, would you wait until I came to meet you at the gate?” She asked, her blue eyes gazing into the brunettes emerald green hues. The question surprised Eliza and without giving it much thought, she nodded her head in agreement. Once Rebecca had seen her friends silent reply, she was content and conversation returned to the events of the evening ahead. It was sure to be a night to remember as all the balls were, when presented by someone with such enormous wealth.
Nothing was silver, not in that great manor. Everything had to be gold by instruction of Rebecca’s Father. The man had grieved terribly after the death of her Mother and now -18 years on- he still spoilt her. Eliza’s family were surely capable of such graceful displays, but she was just a girl, a burden to her own father who favoured his four sons before her.
Every chair was painted, every none or least interesting historical drape, taken down and exchanged for something that resembled their links to royalty. The floor was polished until reflections could be seen. Every dusty ornament was cleaned. The large rooms of the country manor were rarely used accept on occasions such as these. The house was obviously too big for the two people that resided there. There were twice the amount of servants needed for the both of them. Many people often wondered but never dared to ask, why the angelic Rebecca’s Father had never remarried and had more children. Though something told Eliza that Rebecca would not have been too pleased with siblings.
The great ball room was bright and beautiful. Busy too when guests began arriving. The music had already begun and the ball was in motion. Looking over them, fakery was key to this masquerade.
The piano was played by different young women, each in turn trying their best to better the last. Everyone danced. It was insulting to the host and his daughter if they did not.
Eliza looked out over these people from the stairs, her eyes moving over the crowd in search of a dance partner. Although, it was not hard for someone to spot her first as she gracefully glided down those marbles steps and onto the floor. However, everybody paused on the appearance of the birthday girl herself. Every man and woman raised their glasses, wishing her a happy birthday as she smiled and made her way slowly down those stairs to meet with her friend at the bottom.
“If there were not so many partners to choose from, I should have no problem dancing.” She joked as they met. Linking each others arms, they happily waded through the crowd of dancing townsfolk. However, both girls looked to one another, they eyes both finding that certain young man they had wished to entertain them. Master Price.
He danced magnificently with a younger girl of 16, Miss Marie Sherry. There was no hiding jealously, only masking it with a polite smile and a bow as his eyes found theirs.
It didn’t take long for the dance to end and he discarded his partner to approach both young women.
“Good Evening, ladies.” He greeted politely with his boyish smile. “It’s a pleasure to see you both so well. May I say, Miss Rebecca, you look beautiful and congratulations on your birthday” He added so very handsomely in speech. It was all formality. Everything was when in company of so many people. The blonde was the first to speech, she smiled and thanked him, about to speak again when she saw his eyes linger on her friend who merely looked away with flushed cheeks.
“It is my birthday and it would be the greatest gift of all if you would dance with me.” She said loudly, breaking that moment of silence. Rebecca unlinked her arm from her friends and pushed forward to take his and lead the young man away. Eliza was left standing only for a moment before another gentleman took her hand to dance. Was it so plainly obvious?
The young man with wealth and riches beyond a girls wildest dreams. The looks of a god. It would tear them apart for one to marry and not the other. It would shred their hearts if one was to marry that man without the others consent. Two of the most intimate friends could not survive the punishment of seeing one have children with the very man when she herself could not. The jealousy.
Love was destructive.
The stone was cold to touch. Yet despite how cold it was, it was wondrous to look at. The fountain was moulded into the shape of a cherub. So happily it reached for the stars with a childish grin, water pouring from its palm and falling down into the bowl in which the cherub stood above. The night sky was kind to them. It was clear and the bright stars were in view. Looking up at them, the young girls leaned upon the stone, dipping their pale slender fingers into the water.
“Such a night. I am lucky, surely.“ Rebecca stated happily. Looking to Eliza, she smiled. “And you too. For both of us danced with Master Price. What good fortune.” She added quietly.
“I’m sure he liked you better, you danced far better than I.” Eliza replied, her gaze on the fountain. They had both stepped out from the ball for air, those tight corseted dresses disallowing them to get any as they continued to dance to every song.
“If it were me he would look at so longingly, I’m sure I would be so very happy. But alas, it is not.” Rebecca sighed, watching Eliza so nervously look away. “You should have told me.” She added.
“Oh but I didn’t want to break your heart over nothing.” Eliza replied frantically. “You really wanted him, I never once led him to believe I liked him too.”
She smiled so sympathetically at the brunette before sliding her palm onto her cheek. “You will keep my mother company, won’t you? While you’re waiting for heavens gates to open. I’ll meet you there.” Rebecca whispered so calmly as she leaned close to her ear.
Looking at that devilish smile, the young woman’s eyes widened in fear.
Angels were not meant to fight. It was unheard of. They were creatures who loved one another. However, this young woman was no angel. More like a siren who had escaped the water. She had sang so beautifully every week in church. She was so beautiful and curious.
Even as she thrust her intimate friends head deep into the fountain water, holding her there as she struggled, Rebecca was beautiful.
Out of jealousy and want, this Siren lived to watch as her friend was drowned by her very own hands. Those pale hands releasing the neck of her dearly departed friend. Letting go as the lifeless body fell limp, she smiled once more before taking a few steps back and shrieking. Tears rolled from her eyes, though she would not tell that they were tears of joy. As men and women ran from the great manor to find her and themselves, looking at the floor beneath the fountain where the body had fallen into the dirt. Looking back at those people, she sobbed, playing her roll so perfectly. The faces of those people were shocked. Her eyes were caught by Master Price’s face. His skin now deathly pale as he looked on. In that moment, she saw his heart break and could only be more pleased. She was now the only one who could reach out and piece him back together, but her plan had merely been put into motion.
This is how it came to be. One friend looking down at the others grave stone. The marble had been made quickly and engraved with her name. Beneath, read the words.
‘Merely Lain in Waiting for the Lord to Collect Her Beautiful Soul.’