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The Mystery Which Binds Me Still

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I, who had read tales enough to be wary of a tall, dark stranger, ought well enough to have known better. But, for all that I flattered myself as worldly through the lives I'd lived in the many pages I'd turned on many a candle-lit eve, I had known nothing of passion. Thomas scalded me with that rebuke once and later claimed it fiction, but there was truth in it. Much can be learned from books, but not the depths and breadths and hollows of the human heart. Words on a page may send shivers down your spine or tears to streak your cheeks, but they do not truly impart the thrill of being made beautiful in another's eyes when beauty had never before been of value to you.

Where Austen's Darcy scorned Elizabeth at that first ball, my Thomas took me from an overlooked bluestocking to a romantic heroine in the middle of my own small scandal. Eunice McMichael, who would surely have perished at Allerdale, likely still doesn't forgive me that waltz. But oh, dear reader, that waltz. All that came after, I do not wish on another, but every girl with even a shred of romance in her soul should, at one time or another feel as I felt when he danced with me. I was the flickering candle flame in his hand, spun around, all ecstasy.

Prior to the day I met he who would become my husband, I had not felt at all. Not when I weigh the sum of feelings before and after, one against the other: it is as night and day. The furies of passions I'd never imagined, the raptures and pangs of love, the terrors and imaginings and storms I learned to weather. I came alive when he looked at me, and I lived entirely for him once my father passed. Thomas had been my rock and I resolved to be devoted. I would have passed a happy life, I had thought, by his side, a second-self, a help-mate and companion, but that he had other society.

I will not be false: the riddle of Lucille vexes me yet. Her flinty fragility and the deadly awful sadness that she wore like a veil could not have prepared me for all that I would suffer at her hands. What spark of humanity that she once had turned blackened ruin long, long before I blundered into her sphere. But forgive me, I have resolved not to think on her overlong, save that she might lend shade and shape to some cold woman or another in my stories, or to think on Thomas. I will not give her the dignity of haunting me. Her shade, if it lingers, must confine itself to that crimson peak and leave me be.

For this much I know: ghosts are real, and they represent the past. There, in the snow, I had let him go with one last benediction not wholly mine to give. He saved me, it's true, but I was not the only woman he wronged, the only soul he snared in the web of his keen blue eyes.

Perhaps that's why he lingers on now, shrinking from the abyss, to endure ever by my side, the companion he never was in life. In his presence, I thoroughly lived, and now, in his continued presence, I live on, far away from wind-swept Cumberland, save in my dreams when I wander the Crimson Peak once more.