My dearest Catherine,
It's been an unsightly three months and twelve days since you've left Bletchingly and already the season has changed; cold and lifeless, conversation beside the fire resulting in a good book in bed. Everything is meek without you. The flowers do not smell so sweet, the colour of the sky grey, dulled of life!
I dread to think what might've happened to you. My love I do hope it is not a faded heart that has clogged the quill and left mine so restless with doubt. How I have longed and still long to hear from you, please cure my fears of never seeing your face again, hearing your sweet voice or feeling your soft hand against my cheek, for I can not bare the very thought of it.
Till then, yours always, Emily
I ended my last with a kiss of perfume and the seal of red wax artfully shaped like a heart. The lessons of Lady Esther Gillingham, on how to be a lady were not wasted on me as my mother had presumed. There, she wonders why I do not court when just yesterday she spat "Emily you're blind and foolish to such capital hansom young men, a lady is one of marriage. What are you waiting for?"
"Well," I responded "good wealth mother does not speak for their lower regions and besides, the local gentlemen wear their waistbands far too high, do I need say more?" My mother, stunned much like the last gentleman I turned down, let me leave the room without stuttering another word.She never cared for Catherine much, though she never really was one to mix with the lower class which only persuaded me to do just that. I have never consider her actions justified and therefore do not follow suit easily, I will stand corrected is she ever finds me the perfect gentleman or indeed finds one for herself!
Mother has been particular hasty with me these past few days. For example, at dinner last night she ordered me to lend a hand to the maids, clearing the table and such. At first I was speechless and caught my tongue in my throat, until she casually blurted "Well If you wish to be below the rest of us then so bit it!" And all because I told of maid Anna's twisted wrist that she'd done earlier that day! Well, gladly I obliged.
One of the maids, Josephine, or Josie as she wishes is quite a dear friend of mine and has been my only ally in the past six months in regards to Catherine. Josie and I giggled our way into the kitchen, plates balancing like some circus act that had not yet been mastered, for our a state of excitement got the better of us. My mother wore a face like a slapped trout, lips tort and arms flapping! I do believe my mother is concerned of my growing friendship with the maids.
Catherine was sacked for this reason. Friendship! Or better yet, love. I haven't mentioned Catherine to mother since that day but then who do I speak to while she is out on her many visits to Bletchingly market? Taking pride in social encounters and making dinner plans with the well suited gentleman on my behalf, no doubt. I dread to think who she'll have me dine with next!
Mr Foster was a fine sight but extremely arrogant and ill mannered. I remember Catherine's dislike toward him. She would have me watch her bend over the fireplace while he continued with his audition to entertain, not noticing my eyes and their direction. I'm not sure mother noticed either come to think of it.
I sit here now masking my amusement behind a book while mother pretends to be important in front of Lord Jenkins, the local baker who she invites in for a brew when he delivers every Wednesday morning. She buys everything but bread! But the cook doesn't mind much. Well I am sure she is glad of the rest and mother likes Jenkins pies 'crammed with meat!' she say's.
When Jenkins parts with us he smiles at me weakly and I wonder if he is next on my dinning list. He is a good man, I muse as I watch him fade into a tiny dot into mist outside.
"Child, do come away from the door he will think you desperate!" my mother calls out bluntly. I move away and smile without a word. I am only desperate for one person, but I shall wait. It has only been two days. She will write I am sure of it!
"Emily?" a voice creeps over me like a cold breeze against my shoulder which lay uncovered while I sleep. I frown as my dream of her begins to fade. I am quick to decide that I do not like this chilling season!
But only seconds pass when harsher it grows though I do not open my eyes, for I am sure I am still sleeping! That is until I feel a sharp poke at my uncovered shoulder and flinch, opening my eyes only to find myself surrounded in darkness! The colour is as bland as the trees outside!
"Who's there? Come out at once" I plead with the shadows and long for my eyes to focus but there was no one there.
'Mysterious that' I tell myself as Josie hands me my tea cup with a smile. I thank her. I haven't spoken of the voice I heard to Josie yet. Probably laugh mind, sure to think me crazy! Then again Josie is very welcoming to my troubles of late.
"Miss?" Josie asks with a breath in concern. Of course she would notice my face, my week hand griping the saucer.
I meet her eyes "I'm fine Josephine" I nod convincingly. I daren't call her Josie and she daren't say Emily, not with my mother in the same room. We both realise it not proper in these circumstances. Never the less, this does not count when it's just her and I. With that thought I swiftly stand placing my cup aside.
"What's the bother child?" mother's voice propels toward me like an air born disease clutching at my heart which makes it beat faster.
"Fresh air!" I say indirectly and pass Josie a look before pulling my shawl from the back of my chair and in one move place it around my shoulders.
Then, as quickly as that I am outside balancing on the raised stones by the garden gate, just as I remember doing when I was a little girl. The air is cold in my throat and stings my lungs. I breathe against my hand, my breath coming like a steam train before me.
Josie is watching from the window, now that mother has moved away. I'm sure I am no picture in mothers winter garden. It wouldn't be so dreary with me in it that's for sure. I ruined her view of the this unkind frosty morning no doubt.
Both know why I am here and both watch in turn, like love lost puppies looking for a glimpse of something that is lost. But today is going to be the day to change all of that as it is Monday, and every Monday morning the post is delivered down our street. So here I am waiting, as today is the day I am to hear word from Catherine!
This evening I felt sick and excused myself from dinner, only feeling worse when I took to the stair, remembering how Catherine and I had run up them together, holding hands and giggling into my room.
Together… and now alone the stair creaked with each step. I'd not noticed the house to be as old with Catherine, as it is now. But I am to do by myself for she has not replied to my last letter.
Mother didn't seem to mind me leaving the table 'waste not, want not' she'd said reaching over for my plate. Though I am sure she is at rest knowing I am safely tucked in bed and not chasing the maids into the kitchen. I am not fooled I have seen the looks she passes to the maids when I am with them. Yes, she'll be pleased, I am almost certain of it.
I light a candle to keep me warm as I lay here, I do not want the shadows to haunt me as they did before. The night is as slow as the day, which I'd spent waiting at the front of the house for Catherine's letter. There was no letter. I sigh, I shan't sleep tonight, or if ever again I'll be surprised!
Josie has been kind enough to bring me tea. She has been doing so for the past week, I can only imagine my mothers face as she passes her in the lounge with a cup and saucer. I place the empty cup aside and I tuck myself into my bed, and hugging the pillow beside me I call out her name. But the air does not turn, nor the shadows reply.
I say it softly though it hurts to breathe her name. Then louder and louder "Catherine, Catherine!" in the hope my pain may escape as I say it and then relentlessly I begin to weep and smother my face into the linen of the pillow. It's then that I hear something and hushes me.
"She is heart broken, I have tried but she does not hear me Doctor" my mother says.
"Now, now! Not so loud" a gentleman warns her.
Josie with caution asks "What will you do?"
"You tell her the truth! All this writing letters has to stop doctor, it's not healthy! Not to mention having to remove her letters from the mail box without her seeing!" my mother exclaims under her breath and before the gentleman can reply she adds "And our maid Josephine here, she has been dosing Emily's tea and that has not seemed to settle her!"
I don't understand. Josie has been dosing my tea, with what? I am taken by what I am hearing and can not help but hold my breath and press my ear harder.
"Well, if you have told her this many times that Catherine is deceased then I can only assume she is choosing to ignore it" the gentleman replies.