Stroll by the Sea

The tale in which I am about to acquaint you with is a sad truth. Of course, it is not complete sorrow, but “happy” is an adjective that cannot be used in describing its events. However, by the bonds of sisterhood, I must tell of it.

If you were looking for Emma Norwood on April 5, you would have found her walking through the woods in the light, misty rain. She was dressed in her best white dress and was content in sacrificing it to the elements of the forest. She danced through the forest city and found her way to the stentorian sea. The air smelled of salt water and the slowly moving waves made her calm.


When in distress, she resorted to this lonely, inhabited sea. The way the water would sashay back and forth put her at ease. At a young age she spent many hours on the bank of the sea sitting on the rocks when her brother left for university. Her brother was the closest friend she had and could not imagine daily life without him. In paradox, to forget about her loneliness and the absence of her brother she spent a great deal of time here alone.


This particular day she wondered to the sea because of her mother’s omnipresent, and blunt, mind you, disapproval of her engagement to her now fiancé Mr. Clayton Tumnus. Emma, being the lovely heart that she is, would have obeyed her mother’s wishes had it not been for her mum’s fickle prejudices against Mr. Tumnus. She disapproved of the engagement for the sole fact that he was not entitled to any wealth. In fact, he was just as poor as Emma’s family. But her mother did not hide her discouragement. She spoke of the matter at any possible moment. Tired of being emotionally worn down, Emma went for a stroll. And this is where we begin…


Lying on the bank of the sea, blithely unaware of the condition of her (ahem) “white” dress, she began to cry. The tears began to pour like the rain and she grew tired. She lay on the rocks, oddly comfortable, and drifted into a cozy sleep. It was not long after that she woke. Feeling much better, she sat up and noticed rays of the sun weaving through her body, making her warm. The sun had come out to play and the rain had subsided. She observed everything around her. As if the earth were having an epiphany, the scenery had changed almost suddenly since she closed her eyes. White, fluffy clouds had replaced the grungy, grey ones. She also took noticed of two birds swooping and soaring through the air.



She felt a wave of happiness and began to laugh aloud. For once she felt alive, free and careless. In this moment, she did not think of her overbearing mom or any problems she had had. She was only aware of her surroundings; the birds, the waving trees, the beautiful sea and -- …a woman? In shock, she stared at her, perplexed. In all her years of coming to this side of the forest, she had never seen anyone else.

This woman, in tall stature, moved in fluid-like movements towards Emma. The woman had chestnut brown hair which was styled in elegantly crafted curls that sat in a messy up-do on her head. She wore a chartreuse dress that reached down to her ankles with oxford shoes. She had a journal in one hand and a pen in the other. She stopped in her tracks about two feet away from Emma.

“I express my sincerest apologies for startling you, for it was not of my initial intent. I only came to witness for myself the notorious beauty of the sea,” the woman said, in a sweet-as-honey, sensitive voice. She sounded as if she were, instead of another area, of another era.
“It’s nothing to worry about. It’s just that I’ve never seen anybody here before, besides myself of course,” She let out a nervous laugh, paused, then continued. “M-my name’s Emma. Emma Norwood.”
“Emma,” she repeated as if she were embedding the word to memory. “What a beautiful name, Emma. My name is Jane.”
“Are you new to the country, Mrs. Jane?”
“New, indeed. However, my title is Miss for I have not given my hand marriage.” She said with a half-hearted smile. “Are you married?”
“I’m engaged to Clayton Tumnus, the shoe maker of the countryside. He isn’t of wealth, but he is certainly of heart, soul, and mind. I couldn’t request for more than that.”
She smiled, “Excellent. I feel I am obliged to enlighten anyone whom I encounter, who has not given their hand in marriage I mean, to only do so in affection. What significance is there to live a life with someone if you don’t love them?”
Assuming the question was rhetorical, Emma didn’t bother to answer, but to only let her words sink in and reminisce on her mother’s judgment of Clayton. “True, indeed, Jane, but my mum seems to see things otherwise. In her eyes, poverty destroys the spirit. And it will destroy love in the journey.” Emma looked down, for she didn’t have the strength to look someone in their face and talk poorly of her own mother.
“In ways, your story is my own. I sympathize as I experienced misfortune of the same context in my yesteryears. Take a stroll with me, will you? And I shall begin to explain.”

And that is what the two did. They walked through the twisting paths in the forest. At first they stayed silent, soaking up the surrounding environment until Jane broke the silence.
“Of what age are you, Emma?” Jane said in a delicate voice.
“I’m twenty years old.” replied Emma.
“That is the age I was when I became acquainted with Tom. Upon first impression, however, he appeared as cross, mean and arrogant. I wasn’t fond of him and thought nothing twice of the man. But the further I got to know him, the deeper in love I descended. My mother wanted me to wed another man, Mr. Wisely, but I was not about to marry without affection. She felt that he’d be good monetarily for me, but I did not care for his riches. He could’ve had all the wealth in the world and I still wouldn’t have married him. It would have been matrimonial deception at its supreme.”
“What did your mother say when you said you weren’t going to marry him?”
“Oh, she was distraught; more distraught than I’ve ever seen her before. I even began to feel the slightest hint of guilt for her. But, I stuck true to my feelings and he done away with the proposition,” Jane replied. “Tom tried to get his uncle’s blessings for us to marry, but he wouldn’t permit it because I was meager and poor. He even had the audacity to tell Tom he’d rather have him be a ‘w****monger’ than live in poverty in a dreadful marriage.” Emma gasped at the idea. “Anyway… he projected we run away together and that’s what we did. At the moment in time I was eager to be able to go away, but then I stumbled upon a letter from Tom’s mother expressing her gratitude to him for sending his allowances he received from his uncle. He was helping take care of his family. If he betrayed them, they’d have no source of income. I couldn’t just consent to Tom allowing such betrayal. So I left him. I went back home and on no account did I ever marry.”
“Oh, Jane… that’s such a sad thing to hear. Do you regret it?”
“I’m not convinced that I do. For one, he did inspire a book I wrote whilst in London. Also, I became reacquainted with him at a social gathering. He had a lovely daughter who, too, was named Jane. I enjoyed her companionship. But at any rate… enlighten me on the subject of your account.”
Emma took a moment to recollect her thoughts and then began…
“Clayton always fancied me and for whatever reason I’ll never know. But, by my mother’s prejudices, I became prideful and never gave him the time of day. I always thought of poor people to be scum and lowly. That is until I ran into him without my mother at my side. We sat at the waterfront watching the sailboats and he and I talked until dusk. I instantly was smitten and came to realize my mother’s view was immoral. We spent the next several weeks surreptitiously meeting and talking.
“We became engaged and mother was livid. Her face became as red as her hair when she initially found out. I told Clayton that mum didn’t agree to our engagement and that I may have to rethink my decision in marrying him. He didn’t say anything, except that he will always love me.”
“Emma…if you don’t give mind to me advising you with this, don’t allow your mother to direct your decisions in that manner,” Jane said in a tone that could only be described as melancholy.
“Why not?” Emma asked. “We’ll never receive her blessing.”
“Emma, it doesn’t matter. Her blessing doesn’t matter. One thing I wish that I had known then was that mine and Tom’s feelings for each other were the solitary things that mattered. And if you are inevitably devoted to Clayton, then marry him.”
A smile spread across Emma’s face. In that moment she realized that Jane was right. She turned to thank Jane, but realized she was no longer there. Emma looked around puzzled. “Jane?” Emma called out to the desolate forest. She repeated this a few more times before searching frantically for her.
In her search, she discovered something that froze her to the bone and made her lips turn pale. Before her was a headstone that read “Jane Austen.” She became frightened by the prospect. Everything came together like the end of a good mystery novel. Tom was Tom Lefroy. The book Jane spoke of writing was Pride and Prejudice. Jane was no ordinary woman, but the apparition of Jane Austen, the authoress.
She abruptly became overwhelmed and gasped for air, but could not inhale. Or was she even trying? This, she did not know. The earth around her was spinning and she could not even establish where she was. She stumbled backwards until she turned completely around and broke out into a run. She was running in such a hastily manner that her legs began to burn in anguish and the bitter, sharp breeze was thrashing her face.
Quite suddenly, she fell. She was about to pick herself back off the ground to persist her stride when she realized she was still falling. She felt like she was in a state of stupor and could not escape. She was falling past all her memories. For an instant she felt as if she meant this allegorically, until she noticed she meant it factually.

She could see vividly the moment Clayton proposed to her. She could spot the moment when her mother was screaming at her for becoming engaged. She then began seeing glimpses of the future. She was dressed in a beautiful ball gown sitting in a fortress. In another, she was combing an adolescent girl’s hair. In another she was taking a walk. Each one made her look sad, forlorn and gloomy. It seemed nearly as if her future self had gone astray. She was there in body, but her mind was elsewhere, if anywhere.
But before the glimpses got even more nightmarish, Emma woke up. She found herself back where she was only a few hours ago. She was lying on the rocks by the sea where it was still lightly raining. She realized that this all had been a dream. She never, in actuality, met Jane. She never took a stroll through the forest. She never seen Jane Austen’s headstone. She never fell. It was all a dream.

Emma sprang to her feet and scurried home. Her bouncy curls were dancing in the blustery weather. When she reached the entrance way, she removed her shoes and went upstairs into her brother’s bedroom. He had a book lying on his writing desk in which she borrowed from him, entitled Pride & Prejudice.

When she sat at her window sill, she watched the rain for a moment to reminisce on the dream she had. She watched how the raindrops would knock against the window making light thuds then gracefully tumble downward. In their decent, they would connect with another raindrop in its course and become as one.
Something outside her window caught her eye and it was a woman emerging from the forest. Emma looked at her, not alarmed, but in assurance. Jane smiled at Emma and Emma smiled at Jane. As quickly as Jane appeared, her appearance melted away, but her memory would eternally reside with Emma.

Emma stared for a few moments after she vanished, but then looked down at the book she had sitting in her lap. She opened the volume and felt the brittle, yellowing pages and caught the scent. It had an antique smell to it that gave away the book’s age. She then began to read…

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife…”





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