Author's note: I got the idea of a controlling mother from the movie Titanic. I also love the idea of historical... Show full author's note »
"No more puppet strings"He was sneaking away, making sure no one saw him, when he turned around and said, “If you change your mind, you know where to find me.” And I did know where he would be.
I took a few deep breaths as I prepared myself to go outside to face my mother and the other women. I saw their heads close together as I came up to them. I heard some words such as “…respectable marriage…” and “…is blooming and he will…” until Mother saw me coming and gave them a look that made them stop talking.
“Come along, dear,” Mother said to me. She waited to start ascending the stairs until I was beside her. She turned to me half way up the stairs and said, “You might want to try to look happy, instead of like you are walking to your death.” She didn’t try to comfort me. She didn’t understand that I didn’t want to do this. She didn’t know that with every step I took towards my unwanted destiny, I wanted to take three large steps back.
We reached the top of the stairs and I looked down on all the people dancing around the hall in a flurry of colors and polite smiles. I felt like I was suffocating as I removed my coat to give to the servant standing by a closet door. He took the coats with a “Thank you madams. Enjoy your evening” without a smile or a look above our shoes.
I felt Mother poke me slightly as we prepared to start down the stairs. I heard her talk to me as if from the end of a long tunnel. I tried to focus, but I could only think about everything I never got to do, and never will.
I shook my head slightly, and said, “I’m sorry Mother, could you say that again?”
“I said, there he is,” she said in my ear. She was pointing to a man who was surrounded with other men at a table. They looked like they were in very serious conversation. As a servant girl came up to them and asked if they wanted wine, I noticed Ralph didn’t even look at the servant girl. He just shook his head slightly while still continuing his conversation with the man across from him. He was tall but pudgy. He had a big red mustache with a top of hair that looked like a red wig. His eyes were sunken and his face looked very unkind. But the most important thing I noticed were the wrinkles around his eyes, mouth and eyebrows.
I turned to Mother, horrified, but she was already walking over to his table. I had no choice be to follow.
“Mr. Destine may I—“
“Hold on, woman. Can’t you see a man is trying to talk?” He didn’t even look at us while he said this. “Yes I quite agree, Tom. I shall write all of my views and send it to you so you can put them in the paper.”
When he was talking to his friend, I had turned to my mother. I wasn’t just sad and scared anymore: I was downright angry.
“How could you?” I whispered. I couldn’t believe she had matched me with this man, of all the wealthy men in London. He looked older than my father had been, and he was rude and uncaring.
“You will be kind and obedient Anne, do you understand me?” she answered through her teeth, which were still pulled into a grin. When I didn’t respond, she pulled on my arm and made me look her in the eye. Her eyes didn’t have a spot of remorse in them: they looked scared. She was afraid of how I would respond, of being shamed in front of all the important people of London.
I knew then what life I would lead. I would always be judged and rated according to how well I could sit under my husband’s thumb. I would be expected to never speak my opinion, only make children and a beauty for him to show off, as if I was his property.
I wouldn’t have it.
I looked at my mother once more. I saw her eyes narrowed in her sockets, her skin pulled and covered with makeup. I saw the blond hair that I used to play with, I saw the mouth that always used to smile at me and give me kisses on my forehead before bedtime. That was all gone and I wasn’t sorry. However, I knew I would have to help her when I left.
“I will send you money,” I said to her. My voice was no longer a whisper. One or two of the men at the table turned to me, puzzled before turning back to the table. I curtsied to my mother, turned on my heel, and walked away. She didn’t come after me.
I walked up to the servant next to the closet door and asked for my coat. He gave it to me without any emotion in his face. I made my face a mirror of his while I turned back to the hall where my mother was looking up at me. She was tapping Ralph on the shoulder and when he finally looked at her, she pointed up at me. I gave a wave to both of them, then turned and walked out the door into the cold night.
I walked quickly through the streets of London, feeling the sting of the cold air on my face, and I welcomed it. I was a woman who could do what I liked now; I chose to walk in the cold. No one told me to walk, and no one was holding me back. I was in control now; no more puppet strings.
I walked to the Thames and closed my eyes. I could remember when Tim took me here and told me to close my eyes. I am right here. Walk to the center of the bridge. Close your eyes, and walk forward three steps. Then turn left and walk forward one step. Open your eyes and lift the trap door beneath your feet. That’s where I will always be, if you ever need me.
I followed his instructions and an old staircase was underneath the door. I walked down them and came into a small room. There were candles in the room so you could see where you were going. There was a bed against a corner, a little table in the middle of the room with a book on it, with a pen and ink next to it. There was also a bookshelf filled with little notebooks that had clearly been written in; there were ink fingerprints on the books’ sides. I smiled at them and then looked in the last corner. A cabinet stood there, probably with clothes in it.
No one was in the room, so I went to the cabinet and opened one of the doors. A shirt and trousers were in there. I pulled them out, and recognized them as the clothes that Tim had gotten me a long time ago, when we had free time to go around London and I had gotten sick of my heavy layers. I grinned so widely I felt I would pull a muscle in my cheeks.
I hurriedly took off my dress and corset with deep full breathes that I could finally take. The shirt and trousers were so comfortable; I could move anyway I wished and not worry about what people would see, because everything was covered.
I heard footsteps from behind me and I jumped around, heart pounding. I relaxed when I saw Tim’s hair glowing softly in the candlelight. I ran to him, and was crushed into his embrace.
“Where should we go?” I asked into his ear.
He pulled away to look at me, confused. “What?”
“You never said where you think we should run away to. Did you have a particular place in mind?”
He grinned my favorite smile and said, “Well, where would you like to go?” as he slipped my necklace back around my neck.