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Estella, Don't Close The Door
I don't have any more stories to tell you, for the story of my life has nearly come to a close. We used to correspond weekly, and I have always looked forward to your letters, but alas, my dear, that can't go on any longer, for the only things I have to write about are the cracks on the ceiling and the burning smell that has overcome me ever since my dreadful encounter with the fire that has landed me in this cold deathbed of mine. But before we part forever, at least in this life, Estella, I have one last piece of advice. And this time, I promise it won't be in vain.
Estella, I never liked to talk about my past with you-- or anyone. It was something I hid, like a deep scar on my heart. I'm sure people have tried to express to you what made me who I am. But those were rumours, or rather, fragments of the truth. It's time I tell you, as I lay here facing my maker, what really landed me in the predicament I am in.
It was a beautiful day, the second day of July. Thirty-seven years ago, already! These days I can barely remember, for the life of me, what year it is now, Estella, but I have always remembered that summer day. In our little town the week before, it had been so humid! Sweltering! But that day, it was just right, the soft breezes and the sun's delicate glow, and the lovely weather God had decided to give us had made perfect time, for that was the day I was to be married to my Alexandre.
You've seen the pictures of him, my dear. His fair blonde hair and big, green eyes; his muscular build and his all-too-enchanting smile. Oh, how I loved him. My classmates from boarding school-- oh! They always made me feel like I was some sort of posh, spoiled little whinge. But Alexandre made me feel like I was worth each shilling that Father had ever spent on me! And more!
Oh, that day I was so happy! I was more giddy than I had ever been in my entire life. The last time I had gotten so elaborately dressed up, for God's sake, was for Father's funeral. But today was a happy occasion. I was to leave this dusty house of mine, where I was surrounded by maids and butlers and chefs, but felt ever so alone. I hadn't many friends. Nobody would call on me-- nobody, that is, except for Alexandre. But I wasn't bitter; Alexandre was all I needed. And everyone in the family was happy for us.
Everyone but my cousin Matthew. He didn't share my sentiments about Alexandre, and in fact, he rather hated the man. His feelings of distraught about our engagement didn't even cease on my wedding day. I remember that morning. It was almost eight 'o clock, and the sun was already shining like gold as a swarm of people ran around like madmen, setting up for the grand ceremony that was to take place.
I stood before them, ready in my big, white wedding gown, a huge grin spreading across my face as I noticed my team of chefs struggling to carry the wedding cake I had so thoughtfully planned out. In my boarding school in Paris, I wasn't much of an artist at all, and the headmistress wasn't at all afraid to express that; but if I had sent her the elaborate drawing I'd given to the chefs conveying what I wanted for my wedding cake, Estella, she would have wished she'd held her tongue! I was so eager to plan every last detail of my wedding, and that day, I was so fortunate to see almost all of it fall into place.
As I watched everyone prepare for my special day, I saw a little carriage pull up to the house. My mouth opened a little with shock as cousin Matthew got out from the passenger seat. He bade goodbye to the driver, and he began to walk towards me and the garden. There was no bounce in his step today, which I took to be concerning, for Matthew had always been the most delightful joker. Deep inside my heart, I knew that what he was about to say wasn't a joke, but I too, was a trickster; I tricked myself into believing it was.
"Matthew, you're here very early," I noted flatly. Matthew shrugged, and sighed sharply. "I'm well aware it was rude of me to show up uninvited, Alice, but for this, I had to," he said. "You need to hear me out, my cousin. Please. I don't want to see you humiliated. I don't want to see you hurt. You've already had to live with that Arthur; I don't want you to have to live with regrets as well."
"This has nothing to do with my half-brother, Matthew," I snapped. "It has everything to do with that you're after my money." Matthew didn't say a word. He just stood there, his eyes widened and his expression very grim. His eyebrows were furrowed slightly, and he sort of shook his head. He looked like a ghost. I continued, "You don't want anyone to come in between you and your inheritance someday when I die. Well, Matthew, I'd like you to know your fears have been well found; I have written you out of my will!" I have since re-written that will.
Matthew clenched his fists. "You know it's not about that!" he shouted. Some of the servants looked over worriedly, and a few began to whisper, but Matthew didn't care. "Alexandre Compeyson is a fraud! He and Arthur, they're conspiring against you! Tricking you out of everything you have to your name! All you have left now is your dignity. You are in jeopardy of losing even that!"
I held my hand to my heart, frazzled. So Alexandre asked me for a shilling every now and then. That was what couples did; we were to become one in the eyes of Christ today, and so had become our wealth. We were to share our lives together, so I'd shared my money with him.
My servant, Charity, approached us, placing her fair hand on my shoulder with great concern: "Miss Havisham, 'tis your wedding day; we can't have you become a ball of nerves, now can we? I will escort Mr. Pocket back to his carriage." I nodded icily and watched as Charity led the sullen Matthew away, and then decided to go into the house.
Only an hour until the ceremony, I thought, as I practically floated up the grand staircase with delight. Even Matthew couldn't bring me down today. It was going to be the best day of my young life. I was only nineteen, but when I got to my little room, and gazed at my reflection in the mirror, I could see not only myself that day, but for the rest of my life. Waking up every day next to Alexandre, safe, warm, and content. Having his children, who we'd raise together on our own. And someday, when everything was done and over with, spending eternity by his side, both beneath the Earth and in Heaven.
I sat there like that for what seemed like ages, my mind drifting off to exquisite daydreams, when all of a sudden, at about half-past eight, there was a loud knock on the door. My heart skipped a beat-- was it Alexandre? Maybe he'd decided to sneak in for one last kiss before our wedding. I rose from my seat quickly, stifled a giggle, and dashed to the door. When I opened it, I was surprised to see Charity, grasping an envelope in her hand.
"Miss Havisham, it's from Alexandre," she said in a gasp, handing me the letter. I looked at her strangely. "You seem worried," said I. Charity didn't respond. And that made me worried. With the letter, I returned to my chair and sat down. Delicately and slowly, I tore open the envelope. The paper was crisp and white, just like new. The words, however? As all my recollection of the horrible truths Matthew had tried to get me to see flooded into my mind, those words seemed almost old. And as the truths flooded into my mind, tears flooded my eyes. Charity looked at me, her mouth gaping and her eyes wide with shock. I think even she'd predicted what was to take place today, after awhile. Why couldn't I have been the first to figure out that...
...That I was never to be married to Alexandre Compeyson. He'd left town with Arthur, with all my money in tow. I threw the letter to the floor, with all the power I could muster, and shook as I buried my face in my hands and sobbed. Charity dashed over to where I was and enveloped me in a hug, and by then, more of my servants had shown up in my chamber, but I felt so alone. And alone I would always be.
After a few minutes, I struggled to rise up from my chair, and I raced for the door. My servants followed me out into the garden. The sun was still shining, and the rest of my workers were still slaving away to prepare for the wedding that would never be. "Halt!" I cried. "The wedding's off! All of you, out! Leave the cake! Leave the refreshments! I just want you out!" I whipped around and faced my servants. "And that goes for the lot of you!"
As everyone confusedly and frantically began to gather their things to leave, I looked up at the sun. That was the last time I'd ever see the light, for not more than a minute later, I marched up the steps, looked defiantly into the distance of the outside world, stepped inside to the confines of old Satis House, and closed the door on everything. Forever.
Estella, I was so hurt. I decided to adopt a child-- that was you-- whom I'd raise to become my ultimate weapon against men. A beautiful woman who'd break their hearts, like Alexandre broke my own. But that was so wrong. In the end, I ended up hurting only you, your friend Pip, and most of all, myself. Estella, I'm sorry I wasn't able to see you off to boarding school. I'm sorry I wasn't able to come to your wedding. I'm sorry I've never been able to pay you and Bentley a visit at your new home. Maybe things would have been different for the lot of us if I hadn't isolated myself like this. You have to hear me out, Estella-- I was so scared. To take that first step back into the world would have been like stepping into a pool of flames. I was so humiliated. I was so alone. So I closed the door.
Whatever you do, my dear, never make the same mistake I did. Yes, you'll shut out the hurt and sorrow that is the price of living, but you will also render yourself incapable of enjoying all that living has to offer. So Estella, never place your full trust in men.
But never close the door on life.