If there is one good thing about being awake before most of the rest of the household (let alone the city), it is that there are few better times for quiet contemplation. There have been no other distractions to rob me of my focus yet, no other voices to divert and diffuse. There is only me, and a cup of fragrant tea, and a sunrise that, in this place, will never come.
I’ve been considering the fragmentary nature of my life, my friendships, my pursuits in light of… well, several things really, but mainly regarding what transpired with he who shall only be named an “Acclaimed Beauty” (or AB) here. Now that all has come to an end I can begin to see patterns in the repetitions that have occurred in this relationship that so
strongly mirror greatly resemble others in the past. Choices I have made are now more clearly illuminated. It is an intriguing, if somewhat dismal study.
Even as AB & I sat on one of the many the roofops of the Shuttered Palace I found myself struggling to retain clarity of purpose. I’d come there to put an end to things, as gently as I could, for I did feel great pity for the man. I do not know why he’s chosen to stay at court as long as he has, for he (and his former lover, known here only as BW) is the target of nearly every courtier who arrives. He is constantly surrounded by hopeful lovers of both sexes, even hounded by them at times, in displays so unseemly that I became greatly sickened. I’ve seen urchins in the Flit behave more decorously and respectfully towards a haunch of ham! I’d determined to offer him simple friendship, if he would accept it; I was not greatly surprised when he did accept it as I was likely the only person at court who neither demanded nor expected anything from him. I did not fully realize that these were the very things that would cause him to love me — to fall in love with me.
I had already fallen most desperately in love with someone else. Bouncing back and forth between the needs of the court and the needs of my heart was taking its toll upon me. Determined to take a long hiaitus from the court, I wrote AB a letter explaining that I was needed elsewhere in the city for a time and would return when my engagements permitted. He did not write back and the import of this did not occur to me until, after the semi-disastrous end of my other relationship (and after the fatal duel with Vendrick, when I felt as if I wore a brand upon my forehead, declaiming what I’d done) I returned to court.
He… “made himself available” to me almost right away – which, when one knows his situation, is as close as he’ll ever come to an open display of affection. He’d missed me, he said. I suppose he did… it was an odd sort of thing. We had often talked about court, or about him, his past, &c. He never inquired about me, my history, my dreams, my desires. To be fair, I never volunteered them — there never really is time there at court, is there? It was as easy a friendship to maintain for him as ever there was, for I never asked anything of him — in light of the life he led there, how could I? But, in turn, this behaviour on my part led to some very unrealistic expectations on his. In his eyes, I should always be there for him in exactly that way, never asking, never requiring, never (God forbid) demanding aught. He could love me without effort, without consequence.
And I could ask nothing, nor ever did.
Last night we sat upon the rooftop, the least odious of the choices that were left to me when I finally realized I could not go on in that way. I told him at last that my affairs in town were such that I must leave court again, and this time likely for good. He was… stricken, I can think of no other word to describe him at that moment. I tried to tell him that my decision had nothing to do with him — he could not hear me — but rather everything to do with what had brought me to Fallen London in the first place. He did not even ask me what that might be.
He wept. He asked me to stay. He made madly passionate love to me right there on the roof in an attempt to sway me. Though I did assent to his attentions, I… did not relent in my purpose. I could not. I finally had begun to see what I had done to him with my choices, and what I had done to myself. Again.
I pray that he and BW reconcile for good, one day soon. She might be enough to draw him from his self-absorbed cocoon. Perhaps they’ll protect each other from further predations at court — or perhaps they’ll learn to enjoy them together, I cannot say. I do wish him all possible joy. As for me…
… as for me, I should perhaps be grateful that all I have to focus upon now is my preparations for the Marvellous. I have sweet Scarlet as the best friend and confidante one could wish, and dear Narciso to bring me joy and make me laugh. I have Harry, as charming a young scoundrel as ever drew breath. I have the friendship of so many here, and the filial affection of my adopted brother, Theodor.
And yes, I have Henrik’s friendship. Given all that happened, I am grateful we somehow salvaged that much.
I have a life and a future under the sun in the world above. I must somehow have faith (a word and concept I have never much understood) that when I am ready at last to be a true helpmeet in an intimate relationship, the right man for it will be there waiting for me.
If he is not… I’ll find a way to live with that, too.