Jonathon and Amelia both came from very wealthy families, and their marriage was said to be a smart one. Jonathon’s family had been prominent from the early beginnings of America, accumulating their wealth from the cotton industry. Though no one was certain of the origins of Amelia’s family’s wealth, rumors spread that she had some connections to English royalty. Through quick wit and a tight fist, their financial status managed to survive through the Civil War. Amongst the turmoil of the post Civil War Era and the South’s reconstruction, Jonathon not only managed to maintain his small wealth, but to expand it as well.By 1887, the family’s finances were very healthy and heaping. The year marked a great gain for them. This was also the year that their only daughter, Elizabeth was born. As a child Elizabeth was never much spoiled as one might expect coming from a wealthy family. This is not to say that she was not loved dearly and doted on by her loving parents, yet there were limitations. Her father, being very parsimonious in order to ensure the family’s wealth, did not see the need to live a frivolous life and was himself a very plain man. In his later years, people would comment on his similarities to an old toad in the way of not only looks, but disposition. The people who were familiar with Jonathon feared that Elizabeth would end up a plain child whose only conversations were of monotonous construction and who was to be thought of as a bit odd. Fortunately, her dominating genes were those of her mother’s, and Elizabeth was adored by all who met her. A carefree young lady, notorious for her sweet disposition and striking beauty, the family had no problem settling an engagement to a wealthy son coming from a very prestigious family by the time she was seventeen.Though she was not in love with her betrothed at the time, Elizabeth accepted it to be a family duty, even an obligation, as her parents had married for the same reason: financial and social advancement. When she looked at their marriage, neither of them seemed frustrated nor inundated with grief at the union in which they created many years earlier.She knew it to be a smart marriage, and thought the young man an agreeable gentleman to spend her life with. A few times he had even been somewhat romantic, and Elizabeth thought that she could potentially love this man in a true way.With the life of her new husband came a new and alien life of luxury and splendid frivolity that Elizabeth had to adjust to. It took weeks for her to adjust to a life of abundant wealth that was not cautiously stored and saved, but flaunted.It was with immense joy and happiness that Elizabeth found out that she was pregnant. Her husband shared her joy and spoiled Elizabeth even more so. In making preparations for their baby, price was no limit. Lavish items were bought. The greatest and grandest room in the house was redecorated in décor suitable for a baby prince. And as the eighth month of pregnancy came, Elizabeth’s excitement was captured in her features and her expressions. She had an almost angelic glow. Every one who so little as glanced upon her face was immediately carried away with her contagious happiness.On the day the eighth month turned to the ninth month of pregnancy, Elizabeth went into a painful labor while drinking tea with her husband. Nervous, yet extremely excited, he sent a servant for the doctor and then escorted Elizabeth to her room. He paced the hallway nervously, allowing no one to persuade him to leave for food or any other break. After eighteen painfully long hours, the door of her room slowly opened to show the doctor. He instantly noticed the doctor’s downcast face. Wasting not a moment, he rushed to the doctor and begged for news. Elizabeth was fine, but the baby was stillborn.Instantly, he rushed to Elizabeth’s bedside. As she turned to face her husband, he saw her pain. Sinking to the floor in his own pain, he sobbed as he held her hand.Elizabeth’s elated joy sank into a pit of immeasurable grief. Though it did not seem as if she could feel any worse, with the waking of every new day, another part of Elizabeth died. Every morning she wished as if she could leave her life to join her baby.Her poor, beautiful baby girl that had been part of Elizabeth now consumed her thoughts. Thoughts of memories unfairly ripped away before given a chance. A promise of a happy life shattered.Elizabeth, previously so filled with life, joy, and a brilliant spirit now wasted away in her bedroom. Her beauty faded as did her mind. Soon, she was unrecognizable. She now did not live life, but merely an existence. An existence that only knew pain and anguish. On a weekly basis, she tried to take her life, feeling as if the only purpose her body served was as a prison with no promises of happiness, no promise of escape. She had created her own hell.Her husband, also devastated at the loss, tried to console his wife whom he had grown to love deeply. Day after day for the period of a year, he tried desperately to put aside his own grief in order to release Elizabeth from hers. When all of his efforts proved fruitless, failing miserably, he gave up on his own life.He sought comfort in his whiskey, and earned a reputation of a gambler. At first it was a gradual decline in wealth, and then great masses of wealth started to disappear. His family, furious at his recent behavior, repudiated him. One day, coming to the realization of what he had become, he locked himself in he chambers, to be served by his faithful manservant. With this being done, he fired all other servants with the exception of a cook, and a servant for Elizabeth. But Elizabeth’s servant was not as faithful to her as her husband’s servant was to him. She was often found wandering the halls, looking at the elegant furniture and art, grown dusty from neglect.One day, Elizabeth sat up in bed with an effort not slow and dragging, but with surprising energy and determination. Looking around quickly, she searched for her servant. Suddenly, with sad realization, she knew she wouldn’t recognize her servant when she saw her. Her memories only showed her as a dark, hazy silhouette. She was glad for her servant’s absence; the woman would only get in the way of her plan. Opening her bedroom door, she stepped out into the hall. She gave a little gasp. Though in reality it had only been a brief period of a year, for her it seemed like a whole life time spent in her room. She had forgotten how splendidly the house was decorated. Even the layer of dust could not take away from the beauty of the house.For an hour, Elizabeth wandered about a home that she just now seemed to be discovering. She trailed her fingers over everything, suddenly wanting to touch it all, reconnect with the old life, to be close to it all one last time before she left this life behind. She hesitated a moment at a picture of her and her husband. She could remember the day: she knew that at the time she was happy but failed to recollect what happy felt like. For a moment she hesitated and considered going to see her husband. She was suddenly assaulted by memories of him pleading for her to smile, spending hours in her room talking of old memories, of the weather. She was then reminded of him giving up on her. Bringing her left hand up for closer examination, the ring now felt as if it held the world, weighing her down. With her right hand she easily extracted her ring from her finger. Gently, she placed it down by their picture. Her hand felt unbelievingly light and bare. She felt as if, by taking off the ring, part of her had already escaped.Turning abruptly, she walked out the door of the great house. Her body was immediately greeted with a warm breeze befitting the June day. Looking around, what used to be marvelous gardens was now overpowered by weeds. It seemed fitting of the situation, and a fair representation of the happy family that once lived there. As she walked down the driveway she was very grateful that she hadn’t encountered another soul. She didn’t even look back at the house she once loved and in return became her prison.The river that her and her husband used to have picnics by on days like this seemed the same, as if it was never touched or punished by time. Taking a deep breath she looked up to the sky and thought with great joy that she was soon to be with her baby again. Then, with no further thoughts, she plunged in. Under water, with an insane sense of relief, a smile crept upon her face even as she thought that her body would explode.
December 26, 2008