Part Two: The Descent
Our marriage was every bit as dreadful as I had feared it would be. The night before our wedding, I had dared to hope that perhaps Edward and I could continue to free each other through our passion once we had distanced ourselves from our parents, that perhaps we could forget that we were married and live just as we always had, but it was not so.
The wedding was conducted precisely according to society’s dictates. I wore a white dress and veil and stood at the altar in the church that my parents and brother had attended faithfully for as long as I could remember. I had always caused a scene when they forced me to go and had given up trying very early on in my childhood. Only my family and Edward’s were in attendance, and I had my suspicions that that was because my mother did not want to risk public embarrassment again. The last time I had participated in a socially proper event at her orchestration was the fateful night of the coming out ball. It was much to her relief, I am sure, that I caused no such upheaval this time.
We lived on an estate not far from his parents’ own (but a day’s journey away from my childhood home, mercifully), and we were very unhappy. For a month, I continued to hope that we could have the same passion in marriage as we’d had before, and so I forced myself to abide by the laws of marriage, rarely going out at all, much less to sing for whiskey at a tavern. Edward, however, seemed to avoid me at all costs, for reasons I could not understand. His detachment only added to the aggravation that simmered within me, and occasionally I boiled over, lashing out at our servants. I tried to avoid doing so, but what other release did I have?
When a month of this had passed, I became desperate. The nearest tavern was in the town, from which we were a good five miles removed. I took our carriage one night while Edward slept, and as soon as I arrived at the tavern, I was bathed in relief. I reveled in a night of escape exactly the way I had done before.
At last, freedom once again.
I returned just before dawn, expecting that Edward would not yet have arisen and that he would suspect nothing. Unfortunately, though, not only had he risen, but he was furious. He had needed the carriage an hour ago to begin a long journey for business. His tirade was all too similar to the one I had received from my parents after my first escapade, and I could not remain silent this time. We shouted dreadful things at each other, and I threw one of our finest china serving platters at him, and he departed in a fury.
I was more desperate now than ever, and I knew I could not remain trapped in the manor for the three weeks that Edward would be gone. That night, I walked the five miles into town, knowing that if I employed my wiles, I would not be without a bed for the night. I did not return to the manor until the night before I expected Edward back.
He arrived more furious than when he had left. Apparently while he had been away, he had received two letters regarding his wife. One was from a servant, telling Edward that I had disappeared. The second was from one of Edward’s acquaintances alerting Edward that he had seen me stumbling drunkenly through town clinging to another man’s waist and clothed in an improprietous manner. Edward berated me vehemently, telling me that he would have me locked inside the manor if he ever heard a report of my behaving in such a way again.
I called him a bastard. He retaliated with a slap across my face. We stared at each other for a moment, aghast.
“You bastard,” I said again, this time in a whisper. He looked as though he might say something, but then abruptly turned on his heel and left the room.
I was in too great a state of shock for several hours to do much more than sit in my room nursing the welt on my face, but then came the fury. Edward was nowhere to be found, so I sought out the servant who had told Edward of my absence and shrieked at him in a way that made Edward’s earlier diatribe seem like a royal address in comparison. After that incident, all of the servants avoided me as though I were leprous, but I knew I would not have to worry about them disclosing my doings to Edward again.
A short time later, Edward once again had business to attend to in another town. He left me with a warning, which my need for freedom and for a release of my passion would not allow me to heed. Once again, I went to the tavern on foot and spent several blissful nights escaping.
One night I was met with misfortune. I had imbibed more than usual that night, and was therefore more unsteady than usual, and turned my ankle as I tried to climb down from a table. One of the men insisted on escorting me back to my home in his hack, and when we returned, I insisted on showing him my appreciation. In the morning, knowing I would be unable to go into town again with my ankle doing so poorly, I requested that he return. He agreed, then slipped out unnoticed by the servants.
That day was one of agony. I could not walk at all and was therefore confined to my bed with no means of distraction. My thoughts ran rampant. I remembered the days of the not so distant past when I could be as free as I wanted, when escape was always within my reach. I thought of my parents, and I burned with hatred towards them for imprisoning me, and I hated Edward for giving me the greatest freedom I had ever experienced, only to join my parents in imprisoning me.
I reached my wit’s end. With no way to physically release my all-consuming despair, I had no choice but to scream, or I would go mad. I screamed long and loudly, my whole being propelling forth the sound. I cared little if the servants heard or what they thought. I was assured that they were still to frightened of my wrath to dare disclose anything to Edward.
I screamed until I could scream no more, and then sunk into a fitful sleep.
My rescuer did indeed return that night, providing me with the distraction that body and soul craved. For a few sweet hours, I had glorious relief. When he left again the following morning, I implored him to bring me back something strong enough to drown the anxiety in which my isolation enveloped me, and he obliged, providing something that was strong enough not only to drown my anxiety, but my memory of the rest of that night that we spent together. I was aware of nothing from my first swig of the liquid until the next morning, when my paramour suddenly sat bolt upright. My mind was in a haze, so for a moment, I did not know what had caused such a reaction. And then I looked to the door, where Edward stood stony-faced.
He said nothing.
The man who occupied his wife’s bed quickly collected himself and left.
Edward looked at me, though not with the wrath that I expected. Instead, his face was softer somehow. He seemed more… hurt, perhaps? Bewildered? I waited for him to say something, to fly into another rage, but he did not. He simply left, closing the door behind him.
From outside, a key turned in the lock.