She does not want to be an angel. The appellation does not fit her; it feels tight and binding like an over-laced corset. She has been too many extremes too many times.
But at least this is different. It makes a change even if she does simply laugh at it awkwardly. She has been the devil to too many men for too long - and all his whores rolled into one if she is to believe what they tell her. She no longer believes what anyone tells her.
But he could be different. Surely somebody has to be. He says he loves her and she finds herself believing it. She wonders how he knows her well enough to love her; she does not think she knows herself well enough to know what she thinks. She is so afraid, both that he says it and that she believes it, her heart swallowing it so quickly she fears she will choke on it.
It is almost the first thing he says to her when he sees her in the sunlight in the field that first day –
“I thought you were an angel,” and it becomes a theme between them, my angel spoken again and again both in soft affection, a kind of self-conscious comparison of himself to her in which he finds himself wanting and in genuine devoted worship. She wishes he were less reverential, wishes he had not placed her on this pedestal from which she does not know how to step down. How can she tell him now? How can she prove him wrong without him thinking she has tricked him all along?
She never lied before now. There was never anything worth lying for. But she cannot lose this and she cannot let him see her for what she is – what the world has pronounced she is. She cannot explain now and why would he believe her any more than the law believed her in the first place?
It had taken all of her courage to go to anyone in the first place. She was not even sure if she was right in thinking that what had happened to her- what kept happening – was wrong, or different from anybody else’s experience. But it had to be. She barely had the words for what had been done to her but she told the story anyway hoping that it would change something, that any change could only be good.
They even listened to her at first. But then they had to take the Priest’s story too and who were they going to believe after all? If feeling as stupid as she did could have been the end of it she would have been grateful. But it was not the end of it. The picture the priest painted of her was one the law could not ignore. The woman who had first seduced him and then tried to blacken his name could not be forgiven and to have done the things he said she had done was an abomination against god. She had done them, yes, but it was him that had made her. She did not know how to seduce someone, not back then. She tried to tell them, even how she had cried beneath him, begged him not to every time. It only proved what an unrepentant liar she was. She had to be branded to protect the rest of the world from her wickedness.
It was the injustice that turned her to stone, injustice that stopped her from feeling the burn as she should have. Even though she had never felt a pain like it she refused to struggle, to cry out, to make even a sound, to let them avoid her eyes when they did it. Look at me, she said; Look at me when you do it.
And she could tell they were afraid of her. Her unflinching stare and her silence. She had to be made of hellfire not to flinch or cringe from the smell of her own burning flesh, but she had flinched and cringed enough for a whole lifetime. It proved once again that she was evil, of course, but it hardly mattered any more. She had come to believe it too. It had become a comfort.
And then he came and made her doubt all over again. Maybe, after all, he could see something in her that she could not; that nobody could see. Maybe there really was goodness in her after all. It seemed unlikely. It was almost terrifying, an idea that wriggled like bugs in her chest, moths beating in her throat. But she saw herself reflected in his eyes and could almost have seen herself shimmer.
She had never seen a kind of light in the world such as illuminated the air that summer and she did not see it again until sometimes she wondered if it had been there at all. She was so sure that it had been in the times when she was sure. He blew into her life on the last of the spring rains and everything was clear and clean. It was a need for this freshness that had taken her out of the city in the first place, unsure how she would live out here but desperate all the same to get away. She was tired of the city and its filth and stink and of herself, rotten and ruined within it.
She had fallen in love with the world that first day in the fields surrounding Paris, the sun and the sky and the grass and he had ridden past her like a dream, something from a story, the kind she had not really been allowed to read but had read all the same. She had never expected him to stop his horse, to turn and look back at her, to look at her like that, blinking in the sun –dear god who are you? Have I seen you before? She was barefoot in the meadow, feeling the grass like velvet between her feet. It had been the easiest thing in the world to fall in love with him, as obvious as breathing, and he told her it had been the same for him. It was as though you had been waiting there for me forever, he said – I couldn’t have just ridden past. I think, he said, you were pressed onto my heart in that very first glimpse. And if she had not felt those words echo in her own chest it would have been ridiculous, even more ridiculous than the echo itself. It felt like what she imagined coming home must feel like, as though her head belonged beneath his chin and she felt herself fitting into the hollow of his throat as neatly as though it were a place that had always been waiting for her. He said he had been looking for her all his life and that seeing her was more like recognition than something new and this too she could believe. And then too it was new and wonderful, and for the first time it felt as though the past could be forgotten and she could live and breathe in the now and the future.
But she could not forget the past. Not all the time. Not with the evidence of it seared into her shoulder, reminding her that she could never be fixed, innocent, loved. She tortured herself imagining what he would do if he saw it – when he saw it. She did not imagine she could hide it forever. She imagined cruelly to herself how he would react. He would think she had lied to him, hidden it from him on purpose, hidden everything to trick him and so she made the worst decision she later realised she could have made – she lied to him on purpose and looked for ways to trick him.
At first it was just omission. It was easy enough. She was so perfect in his eyes, so pure, he would never have dreamed of doing anything untoward before they were married. And so, in so many ways, those first weeks were the sweetest. She could not remember having smiled or even laughed so much. They were like children, finding themselves and each other and world together and it felt familiar and exquisitely new all at once; as though they had already spent one childhood together and were only now reunited after a long separation. They squinted at each other shyly in the sunlight, fingers touching in the grass with electric tenderness, sharing breathe and the gentlest of kisses as though to do more would wake them from a dream.
She could almost believe she really was as innocent as he thought she was and after all in her heart was she not after all? She had never been in love before, never felt or done any of this, never done any of the things that made her wicked willingly, whatever they had said about her. She had wondered often enough whether or not there was anything she could have done to stop those things from happening and could not think of anything nor anything she had done to make them happen either, beyond the temptation of her own beauty which she did not understand how she could help. And so it seemed to her now as though this time and the future that was offered to her was the only real choice she had been given in her life.
Of course she chose him. Of course she said yes when he asked her – nervously – he was afraid he was being too forward, too quick, but he could not do otherwise he said. And her reply had leapt excitedly in her heart before even the breathless yes! that she spoke out loud.
I’d have died if you said no he said – You’re my life, my life cannot leave me.
She wondered if the magic of the summer had thrown pollen in her eyes, stuffed her ears with dandelion seeds until she could not see or hear truly. It seemed too amazing that anyone would say a thing like that to her or to look at her the way he did. She had thought that happy ending of a delighted marriage was just a part of those stories that had sounded like fantasy but it was true and she felt like a foolish young girl on her wedding day, not caring even just how foolish it was that she could say so freely this has been the happiest day of my life!
But it was true. The perfect storybook happy ending.
So this was gonna just be a one shot but it started growing somewhat so will now be a two shot at least. I may also put the rating up later I’m not sure, I’ve been vague so far but we’ll see. Also let me know if I’ve missed any necessary trigger warnings. I like to be thorough and not upset people. :-)