The Wilderness

Separation and reunion over years.

Dear Isabella,
I imagine your brother misses you. He hasn't been the same since that night, of course, we all have changed, but none so the way he has. As you never were close I can only assume this is significant. It is almost as though he is mad- maddened, it seems, by the incident. He will not speak of it- he will barely speak at all. I do not intend on distressing you, but it is within your rights to know.
I am aware this is letter will rest unread- of course you could not read it. We have all been conflicted between our hearts and the truth- all due to you, or, more accurately, an absence of you. An absence of entirety, that is, as you do not seem to exist. There is no grave for you among the grounds- so you are not dead. Yet, gone is your voice, and your footsteps and your soul- you are not alive. Isabella, only you would be so cruel to not leave a trace remaining! Only in my memory do you exist- but the lifetime we had (I expect I was born the same year as you) seems a blink compared to your ten months’ disappearance. I don't know how I haven't gone as mad as your brother- the difference being he saw you last, which sparks my suspicions.
I suppose in a way we have a divine link. As my beginnings in this Earth are clad in mystery, so was your end. I was always told I was found a child of two or three years, wandering in the wilderness, starved and shivering, dressed strangely. An orphan, most likely, and never did anyone ever come searching for their child. Your mother couldn't bear anything other than to bring me to the manor to be raised among the servants. Not as an equal to her own son and daughter, but even so, I owe everything to her generous soul.
You were all kind people, I thank the Lord, but none so more than you, Isabella. Do you remember yourself in childhood? You could been the summertime sky and none would have known the difference. All of us ask, what happened? It seems all of us change as we grow older, but you lost that light. You became a beautiful, just, brave woman, of course, but all was overcome by melancholy. I've had a thought- not so different as the state your brother is in now. You seldom spoke, smiled even. Isabella, it caused me agony.
One winter evening, during that terrible storm, this sadness became some horrendous fear and you fled into the wilderness. Your father forbade me to follow after, but could not stop your brother in time. Isabella, that was the worst night of my life. I wept more than this skies did. Your brother returned with the morning. Eyes wide, shaken, like he'd seen a ghost. When his voice returned he still said nothing of your fate. The three of them- your mother, father, brother came to the conclusion you perished in the lake, but I cannot. In every prayer I ask for your return.
It has been almost a year with no sign of you, and I thought this pain would fade away, but it grows stronger. I realise now I cannot live in the world without you, and I must follow after you.
And so this is the last I write to you. The other letters are trivial- I just wanted you to know what you missed should you come back, though there was little, truthfully. The storms rage once again over our roof, and it is time to find you. I'll make my way to the lake and find you again in Heaven.
Tessa

Dearest Tessa,
I'll still be here when you wake, but if I cannot speak I will keep this with me. You found me. I'm not sure how, but you did. I'm so happy I could cry. It's been a horrifying few months, and I'm not sure how to explain it to you. It seems you found your way straight to me, while I creeped here gradually.
I'll begin where I woke. It was, strangely, exactly where I had thought I drowned. I made my way home, much made peace with myself- Tessa, the situation was so bizarre I could not use words for it- and found a gravestone with my beloved fathers name placed in our garden, though the date was three years earlier.
Of course this is distressing to the both of us, and I returned home, out of sight of my family as I didn't feel as though I could face them again. Sure enough, both my mother and brother looked much older when I was able to catch glimpses of them. It was that they wore no mourning clothing that I realised- I had been gone years. I still can't understand it, and neither will you.
I waited a week or month or some between time when I tried to return to the lake again. You must understand that I did this by choice. I had to run away that night, Tessa. I cannot explain, but I did not belong then, I can't say for certain where I do, but it's as far away as I can. And so I kept on going forward, for, what I assumed was a decade at a time, but now I will never return to drown myself there again, and it's all for you.
I saw my mother’s grave, and then my brother’s, and saw no heir for our estate. It belonged to nobody- derelict for a few years, and then I emerged once to find all the lights lit and the house filled with strangers. I researched a little- now they speak of the ghost of Isabella George, the Lord’s daughter who vanished one winter, and I had to laugh. I'm not a ghost, that I’m sure of. It was not long before I found something far worse- the following year, how a servant girl followed after her and was never seen again. I thought I should have found you by then, so concluded you were dead. How funny that we both had the same worry, I suppose.
So you must understand my distress, at how I saw the George family fall to ruins- oh God, all my fault! Sometimes I wonder if the sacrifices are too great. One time I awoke to another body under the water, of course, this is you. But you remained unconscious, but the doctors all say you'll wake soon. You'll be in a hospital- they've changed a lot since your drowning, and don't panic. I won't look the same either- I had to fit in with the rest of the world. I'm not expert on how it's all changed, but I'll teach you what I can. Because I'm staying for you, Tessa. And I can only say so on paper, forgive me. I love you, Tessa.
Your Isabella

The End

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