School: School 11, St Petersburg, Russia
Hello, my dearest Jack, hello my precious love. I know, it’s been a darned heavy time for you and me – with all these horrid things going on – but you have to remember, we love each other! We belong together, and God’s meant us to be this way! We can’t simply say goodbye and go on coolly with our lives, as if nothing has happened. After all, it’s family and love that is important for everyone, isn’t it? We can’t just turn our backs on each other, and I know you would’ve never left me alone. You are always near me, you are never gone. One petty, paltry mistake of mine can’t cross out all these years of our idyllic family life, can it?
I heard somebody talk last night, the voice seemed intimate. Confess, was it you? I tended to say it was but why were you there? You haven’t shown up in forever. I know you’ve escaped, so where are you now? I miss you a lot, you know. I wake up every day with a hope one day you’ll come back, and I’ll be able to beg for your forgiveness. Repent. And in the evening, I go to bed praying you’ll return, and we can start living ordinarily. I feel like now my life is all about you, not me, and I know you feel the same way. My head – it’s filled with thoughts, not of myself, but of you; of your beaming eyes with a hollow glow inside of them, of your unforgettably resplendent smile that could charm anyone who saw it, of your voice, so encouraging, eloquent…
And at the moment of writing this to you, I’m again making certain to myself how much I love you! The old friend of mine who had come to my place earlier that day remarked I was a little absent-minded. But I wasn’t, really. I was merely musing upon you… I was utterly yours that day with my thoughts wandering in the past. When we were young and pretty…
Every time I reminisce about you, I go back to the moment we met the first time. I go back to myself sitting on the bench, serenely looking at the distance; to the idle sun, with my shoulders composedly basking in its hearty warmth; to the cheerful trees, rich green, mildly rustling from above… And of course, I go back to you, my love. Do you remember how it looked like?
You were approaching me apprehensively, unsurely glancing at my side.
I reflect upon your chestnut hair, slightly blown by tcountenance – God, you looked so lost – upon your smile, bewildered, perplexed and boyish… And of course, there were your eyes… big eyes with elusive naivety… innocence… There was something deceptively peculiar about you – and I couldn’t really say what.
I remember abruptly the lyrics of an old song came across my mind spontaneously at the moment when you were slowly coming towards me: ‘I saw you creeping round the garden, what are you hiding?’* Strangely, but now these words always remind me of you.
Meanwhile, you were already beside me.
‘I’m sorry – I didn’t know – is this your –?’ you began in a quivering tone; your air was embarrassed. ‘Your…’
‘Is this my property, you mean? It is.’ Your face brightened a bit. ‘Now, who are you and what are you doing here?’ I queried severely. You looked confused again.
‘I – I just – don’t get me wrong – it’s… it’s nothing. I’m not a stalker or anything of that kind.’
‘Who are you then?’
‘My name’s Jack – Jack Hamilton.’
‘So, what do you want from me, Mr Hamilton?’
‘I wanted to tell you – just wanted to tell you…’ you said incoherently and became quiet for a sec.
Another piece of lyrics crossed my mind: ‘I noticed you got hot in summer, you had no comfort. Your shirt was cotton, your face was sunburned.’
‘Well?’ I asked.
‘Your garden is magnificent!’ you declared suddenly and broke.
‘I beg your pardon?’ My eyebrows lifted up while you were speaking.
‘I mean, it’s a picture! So beautiful… majestic… pure…’ There was a certain spark in your eyes when you were talking.
You were a stranger, a perfect stranger to me, and I didn’t know anything about you: who you were, how you lived, what kind of things you were interested in. But as you spoke and spoke, I got an odd feeling I’d known you for years. You were a charmer – quite a charmer!
In several minutes we were already speaking so fluently, as if you were an old acquaintance of mine, discoursing upon everything that crossed our minds. But I’m afraid I haven’t listened attentively enough. I was discerning you, your pretty face.
It was the moment I got to realise: I loved you. You were the person I had been waiting for that whole time. You were my white-horse prince. Yes, you were! And I can imagine how boulevard that sounds. But it was true – our love, I mean, it was a true love, from the first sight. Afterwards we promised each other to meet in my garden every day. Then you went away to where you’d come from, and I returned to the house.
I woke up the other morning having an overwhelming feeling of vast happiness that was giving out warmth intensively inside me. Yes, I was happy! I was happy, because of you. You and only you were my meaning of life, the thing why I went on and on. Over and over again waking up in the morning – you were the reason why. I wanted to spend every darn minute talking to you. You were my oxygen, and I felt as horrid as being choked when I was without you. We met at my place every day and that was the best time of my life.
One time we met, I noticed a change in you. It was something very small but, nevertheless, something very thrilling and apparent. You were somewhat baffled, vexed and unusually quiet. I couldn’t help guessing what it was. Now I realise how stupid of me it was to worry that much, but back at the time I remember crying in the bed, because of my ignorance. I just didn’t know! The whole suspense went away, when once I straightforwardly asked you:
‘What’s happening, Hamilton?’
You, in your usual ordinary fashion answered, ‘There’s nothing. You don’t have anything to be afraid of, honey. Honestly.’
‘If that is so,’ I said, ‘why don’t you reveal it to me?’
‘No point in doing it now,’ you said. ‘You’ll see everything yourself real soon.’
And as promised, in several days you made me a proposal. I would really much like to say how unexpected that news was, but indeed it wasn’t. When you’d said that I was going to ‘see myself’ in the nearest future what it was, the idea, I guess, sneaked into my mind itself on the spur of the moment. I felt even better than I had been before. I felt blessed.
We didn’t announce anything. We merely registered our marriage – that’s all. I felt awkward and ashamed that we hadn’t told any of our relatives and friends about being a husband and a wife. You said to me that there was nothing to worry about – just like at that moment. But those words never diminished my feeling of a horrendous blame.
So when my sister Lucy assented in her letter to come round to me, I was over the moon about that, and at the same time I comprehended that I would have to discourse her upon my marriage. She was the only person I had, I could rely on, since our mother passed away and before I met you. I knew she was a hard type, she had always been. Bossy but lovely, she was.
Lucy could never bear changes. ‘Everything’s fine as it is,’ she would say. I knew that all along. Regardless, I thought that because of her love towards me she would accept my choice. How wrong I was!
She looked at you with a strong suspicion when she arrived at the house and masked it with a cautious politeness. ‘Who’s that fellow? A new friend of yours?’ she asked drily once. What could I say? That you have been the genuine love of my whole life? Perhaps. Maybe she could accept my choice at some point further and go on living with this fact. But I didn’t do so. Instead I muttered something hardly believable to myself and evanesced.
The following days were torturing. Lucy said she would stay for a week but this week lasted for a month. I was so scared that she would know the truth, and as I had always been bad at concealing things, my secrecy might have been the matter why the suspicion arose. The atmosphere in the house was alarming. I even started to regret letting her into our home ad not making up some urgent excuse. The relationship between you and Lucy continued to become heated, when one day she came home, enraged and mad. I looked at her face. I knew she knew.
‘How could you do so? How could you – do this to me?’
My cheeks grew crimson.
‘What are you talking about?’ I asked factitiously.
‘You – without telling me – how could you?’ Lucy cried sobbingly.
Then you appeared in the doorway all of a sudden. You asked serenely, ‘What kind of fight is going on here?’
‘How – how dare you, scoundrel?!’ She pointed at you with a trembling finger. ‘You are so fishy, so skeevy I can see through you clearly. You’ve tried to deceive my sister all along, and you are going to pay for this.’
Without looking at me, Lucy crossed the room and went away, but her words were still in the air. I felt broken, you too, I believe. With a reddened face you left the room and left me all alone.
Next day, in the morning, I totally absently went upstairs. I knew my sister was a destructive type, but what she did was too much. I mean, it wasn’t like I’d killed her lover or something… It seemed over-dramatic over things that weren’t that dreadful.
I expected to see Lucy packing up her things in the guest room, but strangely, she wasn’t there. I already wanted to make my leave, when I abruptly noticed a shadow outside the window. I knew that was you – standing over there, under an old yew tree. Its trunk was rimed finely and was gleaming solemnly under the cold but still so bright sunbeams. And you, you’d always loved the garden and come there when you wanted to be alone. My garden was at the back yard, and it could only be seen from the inside from the very place where I was standing.
It was a bleak beginning of the winter, and we didn’t go often outside, so it was odd to see you there, despite your connection to that place. However that may be, it didn’t seem you were merely enjoying the fresh air.
That song – I hadn’t thought of it for a while – but now it got into my head so suddenly that I couldn’t resist it and whispered to myself: ‘You paced around like you’d been waiting, waiting for someone.’
I wanted to call you to myself, but unexpectedly saw my sister approaching you. I held my breath. Slowly you kissed each other.
I heard her saying in the distance, ‘Why can’t you escape, right now, with me?’
‘Wait a little,’ you replied composedly. ‘I’m afraid we should make up another quarrel for everything to seem natural. And I know it’s a drag. But it’s a needed drag.’
She said, sighing, ‘Yeah, yeah, I understand. I’ll do as you say, Boss Man Jack. But this whole business is so dismal – it gives me chills.’
Lucy shuddered, and you embraced her heartily. ‘Don’t worry, baby. There’s a storm coming, but the good thing is that I know exactly what to do.’
‘You always seem to do,’ my sister said.
And you kissed again, so passionately, so fiercely, like we together never did.
That night I couldn’t put myself to sleep. Just – couldn’t. I rose upon my feet absently and sang to myself in a vexed manner.
‘Is it me, was I wrong to have trusted you?
Did I see what I wanted, what wasn’t true?
Was I wrong to go on like a little fool?
It’s amazing what women in love will do.’
It didn’t help. There was a still a picture of you two kissing each other in front of my eyes. It seemed like a true nightmare, and I couldn’t wake up. But I wasn’t either afraid or sad, I was – I felt wrong. I think that was the time when the idea of a little fire first occurred to me.
It was a flawless idea. It could be considered an accident, and no-one would get injured, except my victims.
The arson was easy. The house we lived in was utterly wooden and I knew that my sister was a habitual smoker – she used to smoke in the evening – and it was always hard to detect precisely when the fire got started, I knew that from detective books. One or two hours didn’t play a big part.
It was almost fun abandoning you two together and knowing that love, after all, is sometimes not enough. This killing gave me a feeling of hope. Strange, isn’t it? It shouldn’t have worked that way, and instead I should’ve felt a remorse or some nonsense of the kind but I hadn’t.
‘Your world was burning, and I stood watching,’ I said drawlingly.
As I looked on the flames grew high. You watched me frown. I said goodbye.
P.S. It didn’t have to end this way… It really didn’t… If only it wasn’t for you… But I should’ve guessed. Of course, you had known Lucy before. I could read that from your countenance when I had suggested my plan to you the first time, yet I was a fool. I still believed in you, I still believed in the better part of you. And then I heard you saying to that vamp, ‘There’ll be a storm coming but the good thing is that I know exactly what to do.’
What a line! Surely you did know what to do.
I had apprehended something was off all along. From the very moment we had first met. Your smile – I said it was boyish – but now I think it was deliberately boyish. And in all fairness everything about you was deliberate, I guess.
And that stupid plan of mine! I had never liked Lucy. She was all too overbearing. And mother had always loved her more than me. When she had inherited a hell of a lot of money. I felt betrayed. But then I read her will. It turned out that in case of Lucy’s death, I would inherit her money. That’s how the idea of a fire was born in my mind the first time.
And you, bastard, said that it was a good plan and you would help. But I didn’t know you had dealt doubly. It was you who asked Lucy to set my house (with the garden, of course, excluded) on fire and run away. The only thing that stopped you, that made you second guess, that saved my life, was my garden, the only thing you had ever loved. No, you had never been in love with Lucy, and you had never been in love with me. We all were your hollow puppets, and the only thing you were interested in was my money. And the garden.
But I know you have escaped your death; your body has never been found. You ran away meanly leaving everything and everyone behind. After all you were just a goddamn coward, nothing more.
So where are you now? Probably you’ve moved somewhere in the south, to Greece or to Spain, and found another rich woman with a splendid garden. And you know what? I’m kind of glad you are still alive.
‘Love doesn’t have a demise,’ they say. And mine is no exception. I still love you, you with your big eyes and big lies.
With love, Cynthia Hamilton
*Quotations are taken from the song ‘Big Eyes’ by Lana Del Rey