There was once a girl who lived alone in a large house in a town that was, by the standards of the day, relatively large. She lived in the older, Edwardian area of the town – once, instead of the house she lived in, there had been grass. Everything nearby had all been greenery, the lawns and grounds of the bigger houses. She didn’t know when the grounds had been turned into housing areas, and half-wished they had not been – for what better setting for a stately home than miles and miles of green? She could imagine, on a sunny day, the lake, the ponds, the follies that could all have been there, once upon a time. Yet she was aware that were these stately accoutrements still present, she would have no house of her own.
She was dark haired and light eyed, this girl, and still quite young for her age. It had been said that she was considerably more naïve than others in her peer group – but she would have denied that charge furiously, with all the indignant zeal of untried youth. She believed herself to be remarkably self aware, and she thought that the ways of this wicked world we live in held no surprises for her. She would not have known that this belief was only further proof of her unformed spirit – for all the knowledge she had, all the understanding, all learning – all these were drawn in their entirety from books. So she had examined a wide range of emotion, of feeling, but the sensations and desires aroused in her had all been stimulated by words. Poetry, not people, provoked passion in her.
She had spent a summer in Fuchsia’s attic dreaming of flood water and dried roses, she had trembled like the petals of a strange flower brushed by spring winds at the thought of Romeo’s touch, she had allowed Edward to drive her mad. But when she closed the covers of her books, reverently and awed at the strength of this artificially created feeling – she was almost completely cold.
She’d fallen in love, undeniably, but her love was not for any mere mortal. She loved tragedy, beauty, art, and she’d condemned herself to it. Willingly. Without any real knowledge of what this entailed. Another example of naïveté perhaps, this desire to live richly, extravagantly, passionately, to love intensely. To die nobly. What was special about moderation? What was true about restraint? She longed for some cause, some great love to drown in.
She had yet to learn that all the words in the world - however elegantly phrased, however bewitching, seductive, inspiring – could not prepare one for the terrifying, exhilarating and often messy nature of earthly breathing passion. Inky black words on uncompromising white paper are no guide to the dangerous reality of love, desire, loss.
That was her flaw. She knew, intellectually, what to expect from people, from life, but her head and heart were two very separate entities within her soul. She’d fed the hunger of one for years – reading by torchlight, revelling in the charm of a finely worded declaration of love – yet, in doing so, she had neglected the other. Oh, she’d read her way through the length and breadth of all human experience, from the sordid to the sublime. But it was all secondhand. How could she know what it felt like to be kissed, loved, worshipped, used, fucked, left? She only noticed people when they were immortalized on paper.