The Memory of Patchouli

Reads: 166  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Clarissa is the beautiful daughter of a selfish Father and a dead Mother. She is forced to marry against her will, for money, power and a title. But someone else has occupied her mind and heart for years, unbeknownst to her family and friends - or so she thinks. A hasty decision leads her onto a path of blinded love and ultimately the most tragic outcome of all.

Submitted: August 27, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 27, 2012

A A A

A A A


 

 

South East England, April 1912

Summer had set in early in England.  The mornings came earlier and the afternoons took longer to change into night.  The trees gave birth to a bright, new verdure.  The sky was clear and the air felt clean.  Twenty three year old Clarissa Longbourne lay peacefully in a sun drenched corner of her wrap around veranda.  The uninterrupted view from her elegant Victorian chaise allowed her to admire how the evergreen, perfectly manicured lawns gently hugged the grand fountain that stood in the centre. Newly planted orange trees grew alongside the gravel road, paving the way to the tall black gates that engulfed her in the ever-encompassing unfamiliarity of her new life. 

As she stretched out in the late afternoon sun, she found contentment in that she was finally alone.Her eyelids became heavy and her eyes flickered as the warm rays perforated her fair skin and turned her cheeks a rosy pink.  Her dainty lace tunic was unbuttoned just enough to reveal the even paler skin of her breastbone below. The burgundy skirt attached to it was secured with a tight belt in her waist which made her very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she could not escape the satisfaction of the moment. 

In the gentle quiet of the gardens, a rustle of wind stirred the large oak trees. After an hour or two, she retired to prepare some food for herself. She sighed cheerfully, relieved to be without the constant assistance of maids and servants.  Having the independent spirit of her mother, she did not welcome the force with which she was delivered into dependence on a husband and his servants.

Her marriage to Ethan Longbourne was arranged from birth and it was something she could not escape.  Her Mother had died the year before and her Father saw it fit that she be out the house as soon as possible.Ethan was after all a wealthy man in need of a wife and the inevitability of the marriage gave Clarissa’s father no reason to wait any longer. They married in the winter, before the snow set in and by the New Year Clarissa was settled into her new home, much to her Father’s delight. He could finally do as he pleased without the incessant nagging of a woman. 

After dinner, she made her way to her favorite room in the house.  The library housed it’s all too familiar smell of brandy and stale cigar smoke, reminding Clarissa of her parent’s home.She drew on the comfort of the atmosphere and removed her shoes before curling up on the large leather sofa.  A chill crept into the room and she reached for a fur throw to cover herself.  She escaped into her novel with ease and before she realized it was nearly midnight.  Tiredness encompassed her along with a familiar sadness that crept into her mind on most nights at the same time.  She began to drift off to sleep when she thought of him, not her husband, nor anyone like her husband.  The familiar face she had not seen for 2 years hung over her thoughts like a dark cloud.  As she fluttered between sleep and awake, she asked herself the same questions she always did.  Why had he not contacted her? What had happened? A tear ran down her cheek and in the chilled silence of the dark library, she heard it drop on the leather fabric under her.  She was too tired to shed another. She had shed so many already.

 

Benjamin Redgrave stared out the window of his bedroom on the top floor of his large Victorian home in Somerset.  He had 12 bedrooms in his house but he had chosen to occupy the smallest, on the top floor, in the furthest corner of the passage.In the summer it received the most sunlight and it was warmest.  Its windows were larger than any of the other rooms and displayed excellent views of the gardens below and you could clearly see the sunset over the lawns in the evenings. 

He stared out the window onto the gardens below, his chest tightened and his heart raced. Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead.  He swept his long dark hair away from his face with his hand and closed his eyes.  He shouldn’t have written to her.  She was married now and it did not seem proper to contact her again.  He had known this time would eventually come. He knew the marriage was inevitable and that he had no chance of altering the decisions of Clarissa’s family.  She was in him, he could not escape her and he sighed at the realization. 

She must have received his letter as he had written it 3 weeks before.  He began to estimate how long it would be before he might receive a reply and prepared himself for the inevitability that he may not receive one at all.  His heart saddened at the thought and he felt the tears well up behind his eyes.  No one was in the room besides him and yet he felt embarrassed at the sudden outburst.  He had never understood it but she was the only person in the world who had this effect on him.  He didn’t see himself as a typical man when he was with her, despite his subjection to the masculine expectations society had engrained within him.  He felt he was Clarissa’s equal, as if they were one, both as important as the other. 

Benjamin lived alone and preferred it that way.  He knew he would someday have to take a wife because his parents would expect it.  He was fast approaching thirty five and time was running out.  He also knew that no matter whom he chose, it could not be Clarissa and she would be secondary.

He watched as a gentle mist of rain began to stroke the window pane and knew he should go into Bath before lunch to meet with the owner of the Landsdown property. It was a grand apartment in the town centre that he and Clarissa had spent many summers in during their time together. He had decided to make an offer to buy the property.  Clarissa had given him the idea years before and he when he discovered it was for sale, he didn’t think twice about it. 

He gathered his suit jacket from the closet and quickly checked his appearance in the mirror of the entrance hall before leaving.  His broad shoulders took up most of the mirror and his dark skin and hair reminded him of the contrast there was with Clarissa's pale skin and fair hair.He sighed as he remembered the letter.

On the drive into town, he thought about the generous offer he was about to make and was eager at the thought of seeing the property again.  He had last seen it two years before, when he and Clarissa had spent the summer there.  That was the last time he had seen her.  Brief flashes of their time together ran through his mind and after all this time, he felt the all too familiar longing well up inside him.

 He knew he loved her the moment he had first seen her on that warm August evening in Bath. She was just seventeen and he 12 years older. 

Clarissa’s parents were attending the annual Ball in the Guildhall and a friend of her parents with whom he was well acquainted had introduced them.  On their introduction, he had lifted her hand to kiss it and could feel her palms were sweaty as he did so.  It could have been the heat, but as he looked her in the eye, he knew that she sensed his wondering. They stared at each other for a seemingly long while before quickly resuming their composure, fearing someone had noticed.  He asked her for the first waltz and as they danced, they found each other as familiar as if they had met in a life before.  They were lucky enough to be seated next to each other on the large round table and spoke to no one but each other for most of the night. A heat wave was sweeping over England and the Guildhall in its hustle and bustle was sweltering.  He was uncomfortable in his suit but knew it improper should he remove his jacket.  Clarissa sat fanning herself gently.  He watched the graceful movement of her wrist waiving the fan to and fro and he could see fine strands of her hair sticking to the sweat on the back of her neck. 

Her cheeks flushed as she noticed him staring at her and fanned herself faster; he was close enough to smell her scent.  It was of patchouli, a sweet yet sharp fragrance that stayed with him all through the night.  He wasn’t sure if it was perfume or just her natural scent, he had never smelled anything quite like it.  At the end of the evening, despite the impropriety he felt, he secretly handed her a piece of paper on which he had written one line: ‘Meet me tomorrow outside the Abbey at noon.’  She smiled at him knowingly and departed.

They saw each other every day in secret while Clarissa and her family were in Bath.  She never went to his home; that was a boundary she did not want to cross.  They met in the gardens near the town centre and talked and walked for hours.When her day of departure came, he promised to write.  He wrote to her just about every other day with pages and pages of words passing between them before they were united again five months after.  Her parents knew nothing of him and Benjamin knew that they never could because they would not approve. Clarissa did not have to remind him of this fact.  Benjamin knew of Ethan and his rank in society and he had also heard of their proposed marriage through the friend that introduced him to Clarissa at the ball.  His friend had whispered to him that she was to be wed to the wealthy Ethan Longbourne and apparently every man in the county knew this too.  Clarissa was seen as the forbidden fruit, so it seemed, to all the men that surrounded her.  Benjamin had observed how graceful, outstandingly beautiful and well spoken she was.  He noticed that this trait was what drew all the men to her and she agreeably basked in their attention, even though she knew she could not have any of them.  In that, her composition remained solid, mysterious and poised, not letting anything or anyone in.  But Benjamin knew that she saw him differently and somehow could not remain in this state when he was with her.  Something changed in her when they were together.  She relaxed and spoke her heart and in this he was even more drawn to her and her to him. 

When they saw each other months later, he discovered the Landsdown apartment and rented it out in the hope that she would stay with him there.  She had no problem escaping to Bath for a few days and had told her parents it was to visit the bookshops and attend the annual art market which they knew she loved to do.  But she did nothing of the sort. Clarissa had deemed it improper to stay at his apartment although it is not what she really thought but rather what society expected of her.  After staying in a hotel for the first two nights, Clarissa abandoned her fear and decided to stay at the apartment.  When they were finally alone, they stood staring at each other in the grand entrance hall.  They said nothing as he led her up the winding staircase to the first bedroom. 

As they lay together in the ruffled white sheets, a warm breeze came in through the open window, putting out the single candle on the bedside.The night settled around them and they lay together in a dark, peaceful solitude.  Every summer they would be together like this. She would seek out opportunities to be in Bath and he would seek out opportunities to find her.  Days turned into months, months into years.  They knew each other deeply and their love developed into a solid, trusting light source to which they turned in times of darkness. It was not perfect or proper and they knew it could never be anything that was observed by society.  Benjamin had bought his home a few miles away and his occupation ensured him more than enough income to have a life there when he was not with Clarrissa.  They had accepted that it could not be any other way.

 Benjamin continued to drive slowly through the gravel roads toward Bath as the memories continued to flood him.  It was dismal outside yet in his mind it was sunny and warm as he pondered on the memories.  Memories.  It was all he had left.  At this thought, he entered the town and began to regain his composure.  He drove towards Landsdown crescent and as he approached the apartment his heart raced as he gazed upon the tall cement pillars that formed the beautifully shaped entrance. He got out his car and walked to the door, leaving muddy footprints on the clean black and white tiles.  He cursed under his breath, frustrated at the mud on his shoes but more frustrated at his return to reality.  He rang the brass bell and waited, still somehow in entranced in the world of memories that were now at the back of his mind yet still plaguing him.  Mr. Albert Keale, a short stout man with thick grey hair and a mustache opened the door.  At his enthusiastic greeting, Benjamin was jerked out of his world of memories.  He took a breath and smiled enthusiastically in return as Mr. Keale shook his hand and led him inside.

Clarrissa woke late the next day and felt drained as though she had been plagued by vicious dreams but could not remember their subject.Her head felt fuzzy and she remembered crying herself to sleep.  She thought of Benjamin and felt as though she was slipping into a huge hole that was going to swallow her up if she let it.  Adamant to stop the tears, she went to wash and dress.  Her mind drifted toward the duties of the day and she began to feel better.  She combed her hair and slipped on her full length peach summer dress with its cream lace bodice.She wore it whenever she needed cheering up. It made her feel beautiful.

She went about her morning duties and was enjoying the peace and quiet so much that she wished it would not end.  To her surprise, there was a knock at the door.  A letter had come addressed to her and she gasped at recognition of the handwriting. Her heart jumped and her mouth suddenly became dry and salty. She went into the kitchen and sat at the far end of the large oak table.  Her hands were shaking as she opened it and began to read:

 

My Dearest Clarrissa,

It has been two years since we have made contact. I feel that this is my fault. I know a lot has happened in the past year and I have been a coward and a fool in my jealous state to not have written a word.  I am not going to pretend that I am not angry at the circumstances – I know you are too. We were both afraid to face the inevitable.  Now it has come and gone and I feel helpless. I know nothing can be done about it but I wanted to say that I am sorry. I am sorry for the death of your mother and I am sorry that I was not able to be of more comfort during that difficult time.  I am mostly apologetic however, for my arrogance and refusal to make contact with you.  It was my way of dealing with our circumstances but I was wrong because nothing has changed. I live every waking moment with the thought of you and I cannot escape it.

I am going to make an offer to buy the Landsdown apartment because I could not bear it to be sold to a stranger who has no clue of the memories that were shared in it. I am going to make a generous offer and should secure the place toward the end of April.  I will be staying there for the first few months.

You are welcome to stay there at any time, with or without me. I see it just as much yours as it is mine.  I realize that these words may barely deserve a second thought. I shall prepare myself in the event that I may not receive a response. I understand that your feelings toward me might now be different but please know that I will still love you.

Yours,

Benjamin

 

Clarissa sat the letter down on the table and stared at it. Tears welled up in her eyes as she realized that she could no longer carry on living this lie. She did not love her husband and he did not love her.  She had never done anything to cause her parents to disapprove of her and marrying Ethan ensured their constant approval.  But her mother was dead and her Father barely made contact. She was in what felt like a strange, unknown, pointless reality.  She began to think of ways to disappear and never come back but then realized that the truth would be the only escape she had.  She had to leave Ethan, to the disgrace of her Father and probably the whole of society.  But she could not bear waking up one more day in this life if Benjamin were not in it.

She looked at the date on the letter.  Ethan would have probably secured the property by now and would be moving in very shortly. She quickly calculated how soon she could get to Bath and if she could do it before Ethan arrived home from business. He would not be home for another 2 weeks. She gave herself three days to pack and ensure everything was left as it should be.  She told the servants she was leaving to join her husband and that they should carry on attending the property until their return. 

Three days later, Clarissa had packed no more than one small suitcase and a hand bag.  She did not feel the need for extravagant attire as she would not be living an extravagant lifestyle.  This suited her perfectly.  She wrote a letter to Ethan, telling him everything and left it on his desk in the drawing room.

It was a full day’s train journey to Bath but she had brought a few books with her, the ones that were her favorites.  On the train she imagined the outcast she may become and how she will never again be able to stand in society as the same Clarrissa everyone knew.  She would be a traitor to her family and friends.  She thought over it for a minute and decided she was prepared to deal with the consequences.

She arrived in the late evening at the Landsdown apartment.  Through the glass panels alongside the grand entrance she could see a light was on toward the back of the passage inside.  She took a deep breath and rang the brass bell. 

After what seemed like an hour, the door opened and Benjamin stood on the other side.  His face was pale with surprise and confusion. 

‘I received your letter,’ she said.  ‘When I realized you still loved me, I decided to leave Ethan.  I cannot bear the unhappiness of the life I have had these past two years.  I know there are going to be consequences but I am prepared for it.  Do you think me a fool?’ she asked, beginning to cry. 

‘Not in the slightest,’ Benjamin replied.  ‘What have I done to deserve this? I cannot offer you as much as Ethan can, is that something you are prepared to accept?’

 ‘Yes,’ cried Clarissa, as the tears flowed, now uncontrollable.  She knew at that moment she had made the right decision.

They ate a dinner of fruit, cheese, bread and wine.  They slept long and soundly that night and woke in the late morning. It was beautifully warm and the sunlight leaped off the polished wood floor panels, shedding a yellow glow onto the room.  The air smelled of patchouli and honey and they could hear the people chattering on the streets outside.  Everything seemed normal, still and in place, as if destined by some divine order.

Benjamin went out to buy some coffee and the morning newspaper.  On his return, they drank the coffee and ate boiled eggs together as Benjamin read the latest headlines.  Clarissa got up to prepare herself a bath.  As she rose cheerfully from the breakfast table, she noticed his eyes widen as he read the front page. She could see concern in his expression from where she was standing to leave the room. 

‘What is it?’ she shouted, as she walked down the passage to the dressing room.  Benjamin didn’t respond. 

She walked back into the breakfast room and found Benjamin’s hand over his mouth in disbelief. 

‘Benjamin, what is it?’

He handed her the newspaper and she too read the headline.  The RMS Titanic had sunk.  They both sat for a few minutes, not saying a word.

Benjamin looked at Clarissa who was suddenly white and looked faint. 

‘Is there something wrong, darling?’

Clarissa dropped to the floor on her knees like a heavy stone.  She stared up at Benjamin, trying to form the right words in her mind.

‘Ethan was onboard’ she said slowly, as if she didn’t believe the words herself.

‘Oh my God,’ Ethan whispered.

‘I must know if he has survived, how can I find out?’ She felt neither sadness nor grief.

‘It only happened this very morning my love. No doubt it will be a few days before we have any idea of the survivors, but I will go and send a telegram immediately. I have a few contacts that may be able to help.’

After Benjamin left, Clarissa sat at the breakfast table and stared blankly into her cup of cold coffee. She wondered why no tears came, why she did not feel anything besides sheer astonishment. A wave of guilt washed over her as she secretly came to a new realization. If Ethan was dead, she would be free.

Ethan was one of the many that had perished.  His name was there, in black and white.  As Clarissa read over his name, she stroked the crisp paper.  It was her closure. 

Benjamin and Clarissa married in secret a week after Ethan’s death.  Clarissa wrote to her Father and told him everything, not particularly concerned about his retort. Benjamin had let the Landsdown apartment and they were leaving for another part of England. As they gathered their suitcases at the front door, they took a last look at the place where there love was formed.

They were half way to the station when Benjamin realized he had forgotten his briefcase.  He ordered the driver to take them back.  He ran inside but could not find it. He was sure that he had left it on the landing and felt irritated at the idea of looking for it. He didn’t want to miss the train.  He ran upstairs, wondering if he might have left it in the breakfast room. 

“Looking for this?’ a voice echoed behind him.

Benjamin turned to look at the man who held the briefcase in one hand and a gun in the other.His face turned white with shock at the realization of the man’s identity.

‘Ethan?’

Ethan Longbourne stood seething in ager, his arm outstretched, aimed at Benjamin.

“But they said you were dead!’

“It appears, I’m not,” Ethan replied sarcastically.

“Ethan, please, you don’t know what you are doing.”

“I know very well what I am doing Benjamin Redgrave.”

“But how do you know my...?” His words trailed off as the understanding of the impending moment struck him.  There was no time to recoil.

The silence seemed to come before the noise. Bright sparks in Benjamin’s vision expanded into large holes of blackness.  He felt himself fall to the floor as blood poured from his mouth, a black cold overtaking him. He lay helpless on the sunny wooden floor as a picture of her came to him.  The scent of Patchouli surrounded him and he shut his eyes, reaching for her face with his mind.

“Clarissa,” he whispered, as the imminent darkness swallowed up the last of her that remained within him.

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Fleur85. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Romance Short Stories

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by Fleur85

The Memory of Patchouli

Short Story / Romance

Popular Tags