|The Red Rose
Author: Writer Without Inspiration PM
She was a poor girl in love with him. They meet again when she becomes a courtesan, but he doesn't remember her. A story of love about how the man of arts falls in love with the girl of roses and their mortal love that never dies. 2ND EDIT. Reviews are most welcome.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 21 - Words: 112,759 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 01-08-13 - Published: 12-16-11 - id: 2979851
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"THE WHITE ROSE"
-as narrated by Rose-
Sometimes, even though I knew William loved me very much, I had this feeling that he cannot, or would not grasp a thing I meant. There were shadows of his past, as well as of mine, which were acting as a barrier against our true nature. This I told him, but he could not see, under the circumstances given — that were our misunderstanding — beyond my words and through their meaning. By asking him to write to his father, I only cared for him and him alone. I knew very well what was like to live without a family. I hoped that he would not have to go through the same pain that I once had to endure, and of which I still heard the echoes. As for me, perhaps I, too, was in part blind to what lay behind his irrevocable refusal. Maybe there were things, matters which were unresolved, and that William himself could not ignore, or deny. From that day on — the day of our argument, that is — I was decided to give up the subject and just let it be.
The following morning, though, he brought up the subject one last time, but I refused to insist anymore. William went out in the town, to meet his friend, from what I have understood, and I was left all by myself. I stretched out on the sofa, and put my head on a pillow, in hope that I could fall asleep and rest for a while. I needed to ease the tension for a while, and do away with the negative thoughts that have been roaming my mind.
I was surprised and, truth be said, quite disturbed to hear somebody knocking at the door right after his leave, and right in the middle of a well-deserved rest, but I was happy at the thought that might be Scarlet behind the door. I have not seen her in a long while lately, and so eager was I to tell her the news that I ran, headlong and without hesitation, to open the door. But so much bothered was I when I found William's friend — Mr. Lowsley, behind it. He certainly was not a friend of mine, or of us, thus I could hardly comprehend how he could be a friend of William's. To me, Mr. Lowsley was a man who could not see beyond anything practical. He was a great business man, a good partner, but this is what these kind of people should be — nothing more, and if it could be avoided, anything less.
"Miss Evans!? Since when do you answer the doorbell? Have you no servants?"
"Not when it is not needed. People ought to be free, as much as it can be done without them."
"Good afternoon," he then emphasized, reminding me, or rather himself of his lack of manners.
"Good afternoon to you too," retorted I, dully. I was thinking right then that I never liked this man very much, but even more did I dislike him now, when he looked at me with such scorn. I have been aware of his aversion towards me from the moment he had seen me hand in hand with William in his apartment. Since we have moved, William invited him a few times over for dinner. Afterwards, they would discuss business and I'd leave them alone. When we were alone — and thankfully, this didn't happen often —, or when William wasn't paying attention to us, he would look at me with the same contempt as now, as if I were the most worthy of disrespect woman in the world. It hurt me to see that there were people against our love, people who thought so low of me, because I knew it would hurt William as well.
Of what help could I be to this man right now? Why was he still standing at the door of my house?
"Is William not home, Madame?"
"No, I am afraid not. I find it curious that you ask me such question. I thought he was to meet you. In fact," I said after thinking again, "he did not give me any information on where he has gone."
"We were, indeed, supposed to meet later, but I thought I would pay him a visit instead. In this case, I should leave. I would not like to keep you occupied."
"Oh, but there is no bother," I said, out of courtesy, and only courtesy could make me invite this man into my house. "Do come in, and wait for him in the living room."
"I do not believe I could, Madame." I let out a sigh, bothered by the way he continued to address to me, using the appellative 'Madame', as if out of irony. I was grateful for his refusal, not sure of how many more minutes I could've borne with his presence. "I heard that you are going to get married. My sincere congratulations, and permit me to wish you a happy marriage, since I will not be present at the ceremony."
"William… did he not invite you?"
"No, and I am truthfully glad that he did not. I cannot assist at a wedding of which I do not approve."
"And why is that, Mister, if I may be permitted to ask?"
"We all know, Madame, what you have been occupying your free time with in your past. I think this is reason enough to give me the right of expressing my disapproval. I pity my friend for the choice he has taken, but I still wish to congratulate you. William does not get fooled easily. You must possess great skill."
"Mr. Lowsley, you are in no position to pretend you know me better, and if you do not put an end to your insults, I am afraid I will have to politely ask you to leave. Were you not William's friend, I would've shut the door straight in your face by now. However, I ask you to act as if this conversation has never taken place and please never expect me to engage in another conversation with you again."
"Of course," he said, uneasily. "If you excuse me, Madame, I have no wish to bother you anymore. Please tell William that I shall be waiting for him this evening at my office. Good day!"
Upset by these things I have been unfortunate to hear, I returned to my sofa and placed my aching head on the pillow. Slowly, the day turned into evening and my waiting for William came to an end since the state of languish was replaced by that of slumber. William returned a few hours later, with quite a happy smile upon his face and very proud of himself for I knew not what reason.
"I woke you up… didn't I? I didn't mean to…"
"I was not very much tired, just... bored." William took off his hat and coat, and I, rising up, hurried to take them for him and put them on a hanger. He did not look upset on me anymore. It seemed that this was the end of our fight.
"I will tell Martha to bring the dinner, you must be hungry."
"I am not."
"Then tired. Yes, you must be tired at least… and soaked," I said, upon noticing the dampness of the material that I have just held in my hands. "I had no idea it rained. But then again, I have been asleep for some time. Let me make you some tea and bring you something warmer."
"I am not cold either."
"Then what are you?"
"In need of your attention, of which I am the most deprived, it seems. You haven't even asked me where I've been! Take a guess! Well… if you won't…! I went to the post office to send the letter that I wrote to my father."
"Did you? You mean you wrote him? But — but I thought you were to meet Mr. Lowsley!"
"Henry be cursed! I am growing tired of him — his character... Yes, my dear, you heard well! I wrote to my family — just the very last evening. I want all of them to know, the whole world — if possible! Though... I could not tell him straight away about us, in the letter... This can only be discussed face to face. I am leaving tomorrow morning. I've announced my visit to him; by the time I reach Derbyshire he will have already read my letter and know what to expect. So, what have you to say, eh…?"
"I do believe this was a wise choice, William... discussing the matter face to face, at least."
"You don't sound too optimistic. I should've never told you about my fears. They've become yours, I am afraid. It is I who has made the mistake, and I who will mend it."
"Not you... the mistake, I mean, but your friend..."
"Henry? Why, what has he done? Was he here while I was away?" I nodded. "That wicked man, he cannot keep his mouth shut. When he does not agree with something, everyone must know it! He's told you anything that bothered you...?"
"No... not really. He only wanted to meet you, but I could tell by the way he looked at me that my presence was not desired. Oh, William, there just seems to be too many who don't agree with our attachment! Is it such a condemnable thing?"
"Too many? How many? Henry and who else? My family hasn't given their disapproval yet. You worry too much."
"It is my only consolation, after all... that your family will approve. I only hope they will. I don't know what I'd do if they didn't."
"Supposing they didn't... what would that matter? They still aren't that many. One would need an army of men to break us."
"Alas, that army of men is the ton, society itself. Ours does not agree with our marriage."
"And since when do we belong to society? We can leave the country whenever we choose, and sail to France, or Italy and other less conservative countries... I told you I've travelled a lot in my younger years... There are different kinds of men there... The world is not our country only."
"Yes... we could do that, but your family... you could not escape them, their shadow would always follow you, and you'd always know that you did something without their approval..."
"Nonsense, my dear Rose, nonsense! If we conceive that they will agree, so will it happen. Enough with the pessimism! As I said, I am leaving tomorrow. And now we just have to wait for my return. Meanwhile, I'll leave Martha clear orders that your wedding dress should be finished in less than a week! You will accompany her tomorrow in search of a tailor. I left her some money and told the name of the shop exactly. They've the highest quality materials and most skilled tailors!"
"How nice of you, William! But... do you mind my going to Mrs. Miller's? Oh, how strange! I have just realised you haven't met her! You must meet her! Did you know that she knows you already? She's quite the only one who cares for our happiness... except for Scarlet, of course..."
"Does she?! How can it be possible? I haven't heard of any 'Miller' in my entire life!"
"It is such a long story... a story of my younger years... How very odd! I haven't talked to her in such a long time... I almost forgot... She does not even know about our engagement! What must she think about me now! You must allow me to make my dress at her shop! She would be so upset to find that I have not called on her!"
"Alright, alright! Whoever she is... I take it that she knows more about me than I of her... but I do trust both you and her! Only do not buy any jewellery. That will be for me to give you."
"You know it so well I don't need any!"
"And you — that I need to spend my money on some loved one! And since there is nobody else to love..."
"Do me a favour and come to sleep. I want the time to pass faster. I miss you already and you haven't even left! How slowly time will go by for me!"
And I was wrong. Those two days did not pass slowly at all. It was two weeks before the first of April, and I was already immersed in chores, planning what was to be the greatest event in my life. Right after William's departure, Martha and I made a visit to Mrs. Miller's shop and bought some white silk, tulle and lace. My dear friend was so thrilled to see me.
"I was beginning to fear that you've forgotten me, child."
"You always say this, but you know how untrue it is! How could I have forgotten you, when you've been so kind, and so right? Dear Mrs. Miller, your intuition never fails! You were so confident that me and William… and now, we are to be married!"
"Married! What a blessing! How happy I am for you, my dear girl! You must let me make your dress! But of course, this is the reason why you came, isn't it?"
"Yes, I mean… oh, no! I… I didn't mean to —"
"Hush, hush, dear, I know you have a life, and when one has a life, one must live it. I bet you must've had so many things to think about. I have lived to see this happen! I was right… wasn't I? Do you still think it too early to have children now?"
Unpremeditatedly, I blushed at Mrs. Miller's question. It was a question to which I haven't given any thought — not the first time it was brought up, nor now. But the result was different. When I thought of having Ralph's children, I was disgusted by the idea. Now, on the contrary... Without knowing it, Mrs. Miller has awakened a certain desire in me, a feeling new to me, but powerful nonetheless.
"So you don't. Well, well, my girl, you must introduce this young man to me! Bring him to my shop some time after your honeymoon..."
"He is away for the moment... but when he returns!"
"No, you will be too busy with the wedding, trust me!"
"But I would feel so at ease if you met him before, and gave us your blessings."
"My blessings you have, no matter how he looks or speaks. You love him and that gives me reasons enough to trust him. Now, when should you come next for measurements?"
"My lady must have her dress finished by the end of the week; Mr. Hale asked me to make sure —" interfered Martha.
"Hush, Martha, you're being impolite."
"No impoliteness at all! Master's orders are my orders too! Then, see you tomorrow?"
Tomorrow indeed was the day, the day when William was expected to return as well. I made my visit to Mrs. Miller's in the morning. She submitted so willingly to my requests, saying that nothing would make her more pleased than helping me and for the whole day, she has been busy taking measurements and adjusting the gown for me.
In the evening, when I returned home, I saw William's coat on the sofa and I knew he must've come home. I climbed the stairs in a hurry, and found him in the bedroom, resting in an armchair. Then, on a sudden impulse, I knelt down at his feet and rested my head in his lap. He joined me, kneeling as well, and held tight to me, not saying a word. I was too mirthful, too excited to keep quiet. "William, you have come back! The dress is almost halfway done! Can you believe it? In only two days… Mrs. Miller hasn't been working on anything else. She gives us her blessing! And your family…? How did it go?"
"They… they are not against it." He said this while we were still clasped in each other's arms, so I could not see his face, but I knew there was nothing to be afraid of. His tight hold of me cast away all my fears.
"You mean they support us? They like me…?"
"As much as they can. They haven't met you yet, therefore…"
"Yes, silly me! But they will — soon!" William tightened his hold of me again, as if he meant to convince me that everything would be alright. I wondered why should he feel this need of reassuring me when I was perfectly fine and positive.
"Of course. Now, shall we stop thinking about anything else than our future — the near future?"
"Our future... yes! Let's do that. They are coming at our wedding, aren't they?"
No answer came. "My lady, Miss Jones has come," I heard Martha shout from the hall, and we broke apart. My question was given no certain answer, but I was sure it had to be a positive one, just like the state I was in.
"Oh, yes, Scarlett! Come, William, we must greet my friend!"
"Do you mind if I stay here, my dear Rose? I feel I should have some time by myself..."
"... And reflect upon those things which you lose when you will be a married man? Have you already the married man's blues?"
"There is no such thing! No, my dear, but I have some business to mend, letters to write. I shall see you at dinner."
"Oh, Rose dear, I've lived to see this happening!" Scarlet shouted from the opposite corner. Martha was behind me, stitching lace over the neckline and adjusting the last details of my dress. Upon my insistence, Mrs. Miller agreed to let Martha do the finishing part of my dress. She has already been kind enough to do most of the cutting and sewing. It has become a habit: Scarlet would assist the process, and William, much to his excitement and disappointment, had to resist the temptation of entering the bedroom (for it was the bedroom that we kept occupied), since I could not let him see the dress before the wedding. "Remember how many times you told me that I look dashing when you were arranging my hair at the opera? Finally, now's my turn to say it: you look beautiful… but in a different, new way."
"Thank you, Scarlet, but what do you mean by 'different' and 'new'? I am the same, am I not?"
"Of course, but… You've always been beautiful." I looked at my friend, not sure of what she meant. "Well, for starters, there's something in your eyes. I can't tell exactly what, but you look radiant, full of vitality — changed. I guess that's why they say that those who love are so pretty. You must be loved... and happy — I can see it in your eyes, anyone can."
"I am. Lord knows how much… after what I've been through, it feels like a dream, Scarlet, and if it is, I hope I will never have to wake up to reality."
"And when's the big day? You haven't yet told me."
"Oh, silly me, I almost forgot! On the first day of the coming month — that's a week from now on!" I said to myself, wondering at how fast time flies. "The day has a symbol. March hasn't been a warm month, so April will be a new beginning for us, as the spring is an end to winter. I never wish to go through another winter ever again."
"The dress is finished, my lady," Martha said as Scarlet stood up. "Does it please you, should I adjust anything else? Is it too tight, too loose?"
"No, it is perfect. Thank you. You may go now; and please see Scarlet out. She's already spent too much of her time on me."
"I will come tomorrow, too, you know it!"
"Yes, I know it, and I expect you!"
The two of them left the room, and I turned to the mirror, examining the gown. My dress was simple, with a Juliet sleeve, and a full skirt. I took the veil and put it on my head. The headband that pinned the veil to my hair was made of small white roses, like the bouquet that I would carry in my hands.
As I stepped out of the wedding attire, I threw away the memories that had been haunting me up till that day. Last week was the last time I had seen Mr. Lowsley's figure and the last time I would worry about William's family.
The wedding day followed soon. The last hours before it passed like minutes, the minutes — like seconds. The weather was warm, as we had anticipated, the sun shone brightly from up above, as if acknowledging our love. Despite its gothic, sumptuous architecture, St. Cross Church has never made such a peaceful landscape as in that day when we walked to its aisle, surrounded by the divine sound of 'Ave Maria', sang by the chorus of children in perfect harmony.
The ceremony has been simple; the guests were few — no more than ten. It has been, for that matter, our wish to keep it as intimate and modest as we could. It turned out in the end that William's father could not come; neither could his brother, much less his stepmother. I was a trifle disappointed, but could not be for much time. William could not allow it, nor the nature of that day. After having recited our vows, we exchanged the rings and the minister pronounced us as husband and wife. Afterwards, we signed the register. Scarlet and the other guests wished us best of luck and then we parted our ways.
The vows I had made still echoed in my head as William carried me in his arms over the threshold — at least parts of it, for I was too dizzy to remember everything. 'I, Rose Eleanor Evans, take you, William Hale'… to have and to hold …, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward…'
It has been a dream, a sudden dream, like a storm… but a quiet one... and now I only held parts of it to my memory. When did time fly all of a sudden? A few hours ago, I was still an Evans, and this seemed like a wonderful dream, one that was impossible and too beautiful to become true, and now I was already bearing the name of my husband, the one that our children would too. I believe my parents would've been proud of me that day… because, for once in my lifetime, I have followed my heart.
Since I had lost my parents, I have secretly wished that I would once have a huge family, so that I would never feel alone. It has been a secret, a plan for the future that I had kept to myself, but now I was ready to share it with somebody. Those were the thoughts that occupied my mind then, as I watched the moon come out of the darkness, from our small balcony.
"Are you not tired? Come to sleep," William's voice came from behind me. A gentle breeze blew against my face, making the light drapery dance against the wind.
"And miss our wedding night?" was my response, as I walked inside, closing the door behind me. The wind blew against me one last time, reminding me of the speed with which the day has turned to night.
"We'll have plenty of time tomorrow… and the days after… particularly the days after," he added in a low voice, and gestured me to sit on his lap. I pondered for a while, nestled as I was in his arms. William spoke the truth. What could a single night out of so many others mean right then? It was in times like these that I wished I had never had any other man lay a single finger on me. But then again, it would still not mean a thing, but everything, for we transcended into eternity. That night would be part of the never-ending nights and days that we will be offered to us by fate, and I prayed they would be as many as possible.
"Is there anything you wish to say to me?" he asked me, seeing me lost into my thoughts. I knew William could probably not understand me right then, drunk of happiness as he was, thus I told him that it was nothing important. "Then let me tell you, my dearest Rose, that tomorrow is another special day. Do you know what day is that?"
"Not at all. What do you have in mind?"
"That is a silly question. What else could come next? We are married, now we must leave for our honeymoon, of course."
"No, but it would be most preferred, and expected of us... Do you… not want to?" he asked, surprised by my reluctance.
"I do… But, since you didn't mention it… I thought that you'd rather not leave. If you, by any chance, have to stay, then let's not go. Don't plan our honeymoon only because you know it'd make me happy. Even if we stay home, I'll still be happy with you. Either way, I'm fine with it. I don't want to keep you away from anything."
Apparently, I was wrong in my judgment, for my reason was followed by William's soft laugh. "What is it with this absurdity? You're not keeping me away from anything. We are married now, you should not doubt my honest desires of making you happy."
"Forgive me, but… But then… you must at least tell me where we are going."
"This… my love, is a secret that I will not disclose until tomorrow." Having said that, he took out a beautiful gold necklace from my jewelry box.
"How did that end up there?"
"I put it while you were not looking. It was the least I could do, since you did not let me buy you anything else. I thought I'd make you a surprise tomorrow, but it turns out that I lack patience. I couldn't wait to see if it fits you."
"It does!" I said as he helped me put it around my neck, and then indicated me to open the pendant. Inside, I could see two letters carved in gold.
"'R' and 'W'… our initials! Just like on the inside of our rings! My, you really took care of any detail; you are a true perfectionist. Unfortunately, you married someone who could never meet your standards."
"You are perfect for me, and that is all that matters. Do you like it?"
"I do! It's beautiful, but… you are such a waster, William. You should save your money and not spend them all on me. Soon, we might have another one to look after." At this, William startled and I had to wonder if it was out of joy or apprehension.
"What do you mean? Are you, by chance… with child?"
"No, but I would love to. Would you not, William?"
"I… I can't say. I haven't thought about it. I suppose I would." I watched his expression switching from confusion to slight delightfulness. I did not have to worry any more. William would enjoy being a father as much as I would — a mother. I simply took him by surprise; it was only natural that he didn't embrace this idea all of a sudden. I didn't either, when Mrs. Miller asked me… but after some thinking time… "Well now that I think of it, it would be a miracle to have a little girl resembling her mother perfectly. Imagine how beautiful she would be if she looked like you, with golden curls and white skin."
"A girl? But I want a boy to look like his father."
"He would not be as beautiful if he looked like me."
"What are you saying? You are the most handsome man I know!" I said, pouting at his underestimation. "Well, in the end, we will have many children anyway, and it doesn't matter what comes first. I want a big family, William, the one that I never had. Can you understand this?"
"My love, your wish has a simple answer, if you still think me handsome."
"Handsomely tired," said I, engaging myself in the unconscious activity of playing with his tousled hair.
"It's been a tiring day. Memorable, nevertheless." I smiled at William's sleepy voice. Noticing his weary eyes, I remained on top of him, taking it upon myself to love him that night. I wished to give him as much attention and love as he has offered me many times before.
"Indeed. And I happen to know the perfect ending to it." Showing no opposition at all, he complied with me taking the initiative. Knees bent along the side of his thighs, hands pulling him closer, I settled in a tight embrace and remained in that position, showering him with affection and kisses until our limbs went numb and I had to remove my weight from him.
"We are… aren't we? Made for each other, I mean…" I traced the outline of his features with my hands idly, measuring them and comparing them to mine. The idea of how thoroughly we fitted together struck me once again, bringing a shy smile upon my lips.
"What are you thinking?"
"That if your nose was longer, or wider, I would have an awfully hard time kissing you. Not to mention our bodies! Do you not think them perfectly fitted for one another? Oh, do not mind me! I am just musing over the thought of us matching perfectly. Rather silly, what do you say?"
"I'd say that it is rather lovely than silly."
Right then, while we were spread out on the sheets, lying on one side, face to face, the moonlight drenched our bodies with its glow, and it made it seem that we were more than man and woman that night; we were two worlds colliding, that could not exist one without the other.
"William, my William... Blessed be this day. Do you know how dearly I love you? How I want to have your children?" We drifted off to sleep, this being the last thing I said. William, however, did not hear me when I whispered these last words. He was already asleep and soon, so was I. I have never had such a sound sleep before. I was content, and somehow purified. This desire of giving birth to a child was somehow ennobling me, washing away all the sins of my past life. I was no longer a tainted rose. I was a fresh white bud which has just bloomed. I turned to Mrs. Miller's words once again… 'Do you ever catch glimpse of a future with him by your side? Do you see his unborn children in his eyes? Did you ever wish to be the mother of his children?' Indeed I did. 'You are just a young flower that has not yet bloomed.' 'Bloomed?' 'Yes, that's what happens when you find love, when you open up to somebody who adores you to madness.' I was now a bloomed rose, opening its petals to the light that was love, the true love, not the illusion of it.