My name is Thomas. This was my life, this is my story.
It was 1879, as far as I remember, things are a little hazy now, it’s been so long. Or has it been? It feels like no time has passed and yet everything around me appears to have changed, there are things I see that I cannot explain. Regardless, it had been the best year of my twenties, the last year of them in fact, and I was not planning on wasting a single moment. My job was perfect; I was making a good way in the world doing exactly what I loved most while chasing a woman with more elegance and character than any other. My mother was nagging at me to settle down, find a woman to marry and live like a man, but I thought I had all the time in the world to live as I wanted to live. It turned out that my future life was cruelly decided for me, rather without my permission or my foreknowledge. All those opportunities, the path that had been laid out before me...gone. I assume it was meant as a lesson to me, though that doesn’t explain the reasons why I was left in this condition for such a time. It all seems a little unjust.
Her name was Elizabeth, and she would never be called by anything else, ‘Lizzie’ would not be fitting for a young lady, though I would have liked to call her that. She was a sight to behold, tall and willowy with flowing, fiery red hair, fair skin, a hint of pale freckles beneath her flawless makeup and unfathomable green eyes. She was never tanned like the common ladies maids or gardeners; she remained a vision, pale and interesting. There were many men who showed interest in her, but they were brushed from her presence with a graceful disinterest. When my turn to court her came I was almost disregarded in the same manner. I was fortunate to catch her attention with the presentation to her of a single white rose, and nothing more. No romantic utterances or false claims, I simply presented her with my gift then walked away. She could not help but be puzzled by me, I believe it was this that drew her to me, allowing me to learn of her ways and bring our friendship to a place where it could flourish into greater things. I do not believe that I ever truly loved her, nor did she claim to love me, but at the time it was not a great matter of importance to either one of us. All that mattered was our time together, away from the rest of the world, away from her parents and their traditions. We were each part of the others life. I never met her family, she was quite insistent on this and so the subject rarely came up. I knew that she had two older brothers, and was the youngest of three sisters, but I never gained any further knowledge of them. I did not much mind the lack of information, I knew her, I had her, what did her family matter to me?
We met many times during our few short months of courting. Never anywhere too public, as radiant a beauty as she was she did not enjoy large amounts of attention. Elizabeth was a kind of subtle beauty, one who despite turning heads with her elegant form would rarely accept complements from any kind of suitor, young or old even children. She enjoyed smaller things, walking through the parks in autumn, admiring the turning of the leaves. Dancing under the moon on a clear night, where nobody else could see us. We would talk and laugh, and while I saw that she was quite possibly the fairest woman in England I did not disclose to her my thoughts on her beauty. I asked her once why she chose to spend her time with me, while the rose got her attention I cannot imagine that it was still causing interest. Her response did not altogether surprise me, though it was the first time she had spoken so openly to me about the way she felt.
“Why are you here with me tonight, what makes you want to be with me Elizabeth?” I asked her, hoping that she would answer me plainly and honestly.
“I like to spend time with you, Thomas, because you see more of me than others do.”
“What on earth do you mean by that? I see as much of you as anyone. You have never disrobed before me.”
“No, not like that! I see how many men look at me, they see me as some kind of trophy woman. I would be a prize to them, something that they can win and display to their friends.”
“And you believe that I am not that way inclined?”
“I know that you’re not Thomas. It’s in your eyes, the way you look at me. You see more. When I am with you I do not feel like a woman who has only her appearance, I don’t know what it is about you that brings these feelings, and I do not care to know. I am happy in the knowledge that you are not so superficial as some men. ”
She was of course correct, I saw her intelligence as well as her grace, and was rewarded for it. Rewarded with her smile, her laughter and just once a swift kiss on my cheek.
In relation to her parentage, I merely knew was that her father was a man of considerable standing, that higher than my own or that of my parents. It is widely known that a man should not be able to wed a woman of higher standing than his own, it is improper. Perhaps if time had gone on, if our relationship had moved to a point where she could have declared some love for me, I could have befriended her family and even married her. Her father was revered in our community; he was spoke of only highly. I could have come to be in league with that man had Elizabeth and I continued to see one another. She was a fine woman and humans have a talent for learning to love, it is possible that she would have learned to love me. Alas, we were thwarted, during the midwinter festivities. She had joined me for a celebration of sorts, the kind with blithesome music, fine food and even finer company. The whole town turned out each year to enjoy what was always the best or parties. It was a fine clear, if somewhat cold evening; we were dancing away from most of the guests to the rather capricious music of a local fiddle player. She wore a striking olive gown, which perfectly highlighted her eyes, accompanied by the finest mink shawl in all of London. She had snuck away from her parents to be with me that evening, to be able to dance and laugh without fretting about discovery or judgement. It was the happiest I ever saw her. Our happiness was short lived, after only one dance her father found her, found us.
To say that he was angry would not be entirely correct. He did not show any emotion towards dear Elizabeth at all as he took her by the arm, handed her to a man who I must assume was her brother, and told him to escort her back home. I made an attempt to call to her as she walked away but her father cut me short. He was rather a large man, with quite the admirable moustache, and some sensible part of me thought it best to comply with his instruction to stop talking. His message came through quite clearly; it was a simple one after all. The man did not seem very complex. “You, boy, are to stop all contact with my youngest daughter. You are not the correct company for her to be keeping, you are iniquitous and she does not need any unholy temptations in the light of her recent betrothal.”
“But sir, I have no wrongful intentions towards Elizabeth, I am merely a friend to her and as such we were dancing as friends tonight, as part of the festivities.”
“If it was a simple friendship that you keep she would not have lied to us in relation to her whereabouts tonight. No, I see through your deceptions even if she does not. The devil is in you and I will not have it near my daughter.”
“Well, if that is what you think is best, she can act on your words and not see me again if it is her will. Good evening to you sir.” I disliked being spoken to in that manner, as much as I am of relatively low standards it is not in my nature to accept being told what to do, though it would have been unwise to bring this point to her father. He did not seem in the mood for discussing courtesy, especially with a man who he believed to be in league with the devil. Elizabeth hadn’t told me that she was to be married, and I had little intention of letting it stop me from seeing her. I do not believe in arranged marriages now any more than I did then, if she wanted to see me that would be her decision, not her fathers. I saw what he did not in her, that she always was her own person. She rarely took instruction on anything. Again I was wise enough to not tell her father this. I bid him a final good evening and walked back to the festivities.