Sunday, October 28, 2007

It was not my intent, when I first made the acquaintance of Mr. Abel, to pay him any particular notice.

He had much to recommend him as a friend: an infectiously cheerful, friendly demeanor, a willingness to dance wherever music or room could be found (and perhaps with only one of these two necessities), and an ability to render me lightheaded with laughter at his writing.

It seemed a happy thing in itself to have such a friend, and I did not wish for anything more, or regret the circumstances which removed the possibility of more. Even laying everything aside, which I never could have done, he seemed at the time to be... dare I acknowledge, not the sort of man to inspire those sorts of feelings in me? We met infrequently, though I had occasion once or twice to be gladder for the comfort of his presence than I could explain. Sometimes one kind word from someone not an utter stranger is enough, and Mr. Abel has nothing but kind words, it seems... I didn't feel so presumptuous asking him.

How peculiarly difficult it is to write this evening! The words don't want to come, but beg me to let them rest where they lie, unspoken and safe from all threat of being misused or regretted. I suppose this means I fear the risk of saying nothing more than the risk of speaking. If he weren't so patient...

Recently- and can I really mean by that vague word only the last few weeks? It feels ages longer- but only recently did he begin to seek my company more. No one else was claiming it any longer, and so I wondered what could be the danger? None to him, anyway. I enjoyed what friendship was given, and gave thanks for it, treating the idea of an exchange of affections as the impossibility it seemed. It was pleasant to dance and flirt and laugh and not, for a little while, care so much about whether I was cared for.

But it happened that the impossible became possible. We've spoken very little as to how, in part because I fear to ask. The timing of it all tries my belief in coincidences, but it was explained as though it were a decision made before the question of my interest was even raised... and that suffices because I want it to. If I found it were otherwise, I'm not sure what I'd do.

So it happens that I find myself, unexpectedly... happy? Lord help me. Let me not wake up and find there's been a mistake, that this gift was addressed to me in error. I don't want to give it back.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My association (I cannot properly call it courtship, for it never really was) with Mr. Gryffin Hax is finished. Before it ever had a chance to actually begin, and perhaps I should be glad for that- at least, that is how I intend to view it, once the hurt has subsided. Cautiousness has its uses. At least I can be perfectly confident that I have given him no injury. It's strange, I had thought there was something worth pursuing... but he didn't. And that, apparently, is that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I happily interrupt declension of the past imperfect for matters more current- namely, the rather unfortunate mistake I've made in assuring the representative of the Imperial Navy of Caledon that Middlesea had no plans to form an independent fleet. It is in fact the heart of the error, rather than the excuse, to say that I did not know about it. While I had effectively turned over decisions on those matters to another, it always remained my responsibility to stay properly informed, and I have grown shamefully lax. I have offered my apologies to Commodore Trenton, who first approached me on the matter, and am prepared to do so for the others, if it should be necessary. The fault is entirely upon me.

Friday, October 5, 2007

What delight to discover in the Friday post an invitation from the Dowager Lady Soliel Snook and Commodore Sputnik to take tea with the appointed chaperones of the Caledon Season- and what immediate disappointment when I realized I would not be able to attend. Not even in Caledon, by the time the appointed hour came around, and so there was little point in regretting. I did hurry back for the introductory ball yesterday afternoon, arriving, despite my best efforts, a little worse than halfway through. The anxiety of locating and fitting a suitable dress really did turn out to be wasted, for I stayed no more than half an hour in the hall itself. I could hardly tell you why. After I had bid everyone good evening, and made some halfhearted attempt at conversation with a few similarly unoccupied guests, I found myself gripped by a curious lack of feeling. Like boredom, but without any logical source- more as if I could not engage myself with what was happening around me. Irritated at myself and not a little uncomfortable in my debutante's gown, I curtsied my way through the crowd and slipped out.
Fortunately for me, her Grace of Carntaigh has some very fine trees. I slipped off my shoes and clambered up. The apples were not quite ripe, so I did not disturb them, but I'm not sure I can say the same for the squirrels.

The windows of the hall were partly ajar, I think, to admit fresh air, and through them I kept time with the orchestra and with the conversation of the dancers, the pleasant rumble punctuated frequently with a giggle or an exclamation from one of the girls in response to some inaudible remark. I began to wonder rather seriously whether I were not being foolish to think that I ought to join them, not merely that night, but every night of the Season. Their Graces were, as ladies will be, gracious enough to accept me despite my warning them of my unsuitability. If I do not go forward, what options are there for me? I'm not mature or experienced or accomplished enough to serve as a Caledon hostess, and would rather forgo society altogether than hover anonymously upon the outskirts of it as if I were afraid. That is one thing, thank Heaven, I am not.
And still, this ridiculous hesitation... but I seem to be hesitating in every area just now, not merely this. So many things lie so near at hand that I can almost feel them brushing against my fingertips, but I demur, ready yet reluctant to grasp them. I know nothing waits forever, and still...
My back and other places were growing quite numb against the tree's hard limb by the time the music of the eleventh set began, but I waited, stubborn and unwilling to leave entirely until the other guests had said their goodnights to each other. I stopped to laugh at myself- and memory supplied the echo of another's laughter, which mingled strangely with mine until I remembered... six years old, on that last unclouded summer, and my mother sending my oldest brother to find and fetch me, which he always could better than anyone else. He knew as the others did not that I hid only for the delight of being found, and knowing it, how he teased me, standing beneath my tree and shaking its trunk (he was past sixteen and strong as a young giant) to hear me shriek with terror and delight. For our grandmother had arrived, accompanied by a veritable caravan of gifts- my sister's wedding was mere weeks off- a surprise arrival, and all I knew was that there would be company for dinner and I didn't wish to have my hair curled. "Little idiot," he called- such was his pet name for me because I willfully escaped our tutors and the classroom at every opportunity- "little idiot, come down from there. Don't you know you're only harming yourself?" Of course I didn't know; I seldom do. In the end he carried me down as I had intended. How much for granted did I take his patience, his strong arms, his caring, his very presence! How much I would exchange for the chance to hear his scolding now. Last night I climbed down by myself as the last of the orchestra's music died away, the three days of sleeplessness slamming into me as suddenly as if I'd lost my grip and fallen to the ground. My own reproaches will have to serve, however inadequately; grown up too soon, I believe in some ways I've failed to do so at all.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Changes in the preceding weeks have brought their expected allotment of pain and enjoyment. Though delight and gratitude can still overwhelm me, and thoughtlessness or unkindness still prick me, I grow weary and restless. I feel much like an old actor continually cast in the same part: new faces and phrases around me repeating well-worn patterns, and I undoubtedly doing the same to some of them. Will I ever be surprised at anything ever again? Never mind novelty for novelty's sake- it's substance that seems to elude me.

What does not escape my notice is the selfish aspect of my desires. Certainly, I took my work seriously- this isn't a matter of a lack of teas to attend or jewels to acquire or serfs to exploit (if one has time to study Marx amongst frivolous social obligations), but one grows accustomed to responsibility. I was not banished, and I could return- could even have my council post again, for after my example, I hear with a somewhat vengeful pleasure that they cannot fill it. I could be endlessly useful again. I could also throw myself into a particularly conveniently placed volcano, and therein make an equal sacrifice by a less painful method. Neither truly appeals, but the shadow of my old ambition follows me far.

Additionally, though it seems thoroughly ridiculous to feel ill at ease for lack of conflict, the fact is that I've never forged a friendship that was not based at least partly upon a shared enemy, or the binding of wounds physical or otherwise. The idea that polite conversation can create bonds of any real strength is an utterly new concept to me, and my ineptness in this area is reflected quite clearly in my lack of intimate friends. Then, too, such a history gives rise to a certain amount of what used to be healthy wariness, but now feels more like paranoia. Always before, I could count upon some awful event to shatter a period of calm. I keep waiting for what I had accepted as a child as a fundamental fact of life, and how does one unlearn that? I was wrong, before; the dreams have not lessened, but increased, and if I did not know his conscience to have been reawakened since our quarrel last year, I would suspect them of having been sent deliberately by an old friend.

The fault, of course, lies in myself-- to write otherwise would be ungrateful and wrong. The panmilitary O'Toole remains a ready and delightful subject for occasional expressions of flirtatious energy, and I have some hopes of knowing the (Right Honorable) Lord Bardhaven and Mr. Welinder better. I wasn't certain that they gained a favorable impression of what they politely term my wit, but they both offered their hand in friendship, so... perhaps. And then of course my neighbor, Mr. G. Hax, whom I find excellent company but occasionally difficult to predict; I do not know what to hope there. Last but hardly least, Mr. Abel, who seems as genuinely kind a man as I have met, not to mention hilariously inventive, has been very welcoming.

Beginning again, even with such prospects, is daunting enough. But the simple truth is that, for all my wariness, I had never really planned to be alone. I never truly have, for good or ill, been without a father or guardian or tutor or husband. I might have (and at times, have been) glad to become independent of them, but not of my last, the only one I chose for myself. It is this, above all, that renders me unfit or at least unreliable company. When around others, I throw off my sadness as I cast off my black gowns- but I always return to it, and how often later do I condemn myself for each laugh or lighthearted phrase? How often do I wonder why I should even care whether I have friends, when I'm not even certain of my right to live in a world where he does not?

I made the mistake of referring to this, vaguely, to Mr. Abel some weeks ago, and found myself in a position of being completely unable to answer when he asked if I had lost a companion recently. "Something like that," I replied, quite stupidly. For once it was neither reserve nor a desire to guard my secrets. It was and is a simple inability to express it aloud. Where does one begin to speak of such a thing, a loss that was less a death than an amputation? I feel there's little benefit to learning. It is a wound I don't think I want to heal, for to grieve less would be a disloyalty I do not wish to consider.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Les deux grenouilles d'Eyre

On my very first walk through the glorious old woods of Eyre, I was stopped short by a very tiny, yet most authoritative croak.

Proof positive that I am not the only frog of any sort to inhabit the corner of Caledon that will soon be my home. Francois, though in size the least of my new neighbors, promises to become a very near friend, as the stream he inhabits winds its way through the forest down an incline from my land, and it appears to be a spot excellently suited for swimming and bathing. I sincerely hope he will not object. People's opinions I can disregard at will; animals', never.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

(Several days old, obviously!)

The meeting of Mssrs. Somme and Drinkwater upon the field of honor was an event to which I had particularly been looking forward. Not only was it not a ball (as previously mentioned, I've not had especially good luck with those recently,) but it was a duel of the sort nearest to my heart- one of wits, of words, and specifically- of haiku.

I had what I now understand to be the very rare pleasure, a few years ago, to engage in this exact form of combat with a beloved friend of mine, a gentleman of marvelous imagination and linguistic skill, M. Hask. I admit that I had been expecting something at least as bloody as my friendly battles with him at the duel yesterday evening, but found myself disappointed in that sole respect. Politeness seemed the rule of the day (and indeed I begin to wonder if the unspoken motto of Caledon is 'Live civilly or... well, please do, anyway?')- and except for some light insults against the combatants' respective families, the two haikuelists were disturbingly well-behaved. I was slightly put out.

But, considering the size of the audience, it was not a great shock, and I must learn to remember that Caledonians, on the whole, are not a bloodthirsty breed, even and perhaps most especially when pride takes the place of actual flesh. I do not think I can wish them otherwise. Certainly, it is a quieter sort of life that I lead now, but so free of care that I am drawn to it nonetheless. I have had very few dreams of any sort since I arrived here, and for that, I am glad.

I do the two gentlemen a disservice, however, to express only what I found lacking, for it was such a small part of the evening's experience that I could easily have never mentioned it at all- except that a person may, I believe, do as they bloody well like in their own diary. Yes? Quite. Now, completely leaving out the physical impressiveness of M. Somme and M. Drinkwater (and their seconds, if one's inclined to be thorough,) because I bore even myself sometimes with admiration, I was in all other respects happily surprised. Both displayed a fine degree of ability, and the result was fluent and cohesive. From experience, I know only too well that delivering a perfect haiku under pressure is rather more difficult than it first sounds, but errors were few. Whom- that is, what-ever the original argument was that inspired this battle, it was transcended by the patriotic zeal of the competitors, and the genuine benefit which will come of it.

There was little occasion for chatting with the other observers, since we kept noise to a minimum apart from some good-natured heckling and encouragement, but I did exchange a few words with O'Toole once he discovered me seated directly behind him. I could hardly help the location- it was the only seat left available in the first row. And, with such a view as this presented of the perpetually amusing Colonel throughout the duel, I could likewise hardly help teasing the man a bit when it was over. He endured it well.

If he were another sort of fellow, I should have qualms, but he seems in no danger. The more... interesting... a man's reputation, the safer he is as a target for a woman's harmless attentions- provided there isn't another woman with an even worse reputation than his laying exclusive claim to him. He provides an excellent focus until one learns the way of things and can tell just how much flirting is tolerated, and with whom. It is simply necessary, especially in a land of pervasive politeness. My tongue lacks a whetstone and, I fear, grows excessively dull.

After the event, a few of us strayed to the Falling Anvil and he remembered kindly to invite me along, but once there, I'm afraid I disappointed even myself. The talk centered upon the recent werewolf encounters, and apart from a murmured condolence to the lovely Miss Maertens whom I understood to have actually been confronted by the creature, I sat there like a sodden lump while my mind contemplated the properties of silver. It has several fascinating, even incendiary forms... but, as I had no specifically useful advice to offer at the time, I stayed silent and meditated.

Not too much so that I did not take notice of the other two gentlemen there, both encouragingly appealing, the elder of the two, M. Susenko, in particular. He has a look about him which reminds me of my Grigori.