La Condamine By M.L.
Story based on the 1979 production of “Rebecca” starring Jeremy Brett
“Would it have scared you if I had told you what I’d been thinking then?” She did not speak. She merely gave a slow nod; her sleepy expression did not alter. The respect, the… closeness that we shared had not been shifted by my revelation in the slightest. This, for some reason, disturbed me. Surely, any other woman that I’d
chosen to take on a drive would have been at the very least alarmed by my words? But the young woman beside me barely stirred. “I did consider it,” I insisted, perhaps a bit more strongly than I either wanted to or even should have. My grip tightened on her bare arm, and I pressed my fingertips into her cool skin. “Not when we were driving, as the narrow French roads were treacherous enough to navigate. But when we reached the lookout area, it crossed my mind. Instead of stopping the car a mere four feet from the edge, I could just as easily have rammed that low stone wall with it.” “But you didn’t, Malc,” she replied. Softly. Simply. And I loved her all the more for that, though I knew better than to say so. Love? This delicate, solitary creature knew nothing of love--I felt sure of it. She had both the luck and the curse of being both too young and too inexperienced with the world--too inexperienced with the brutal nature that lies inherent within human beings, but which I had grown all too familiar with. That latter danger is what drew me to her, of course, because I recognized it as danger, one that applied to her as equally to those around her. Such a quiet, well-mannered, reserved yet somehow untamed woman such as herself had no place in the upper echelon of society, and yet there she walked, in the shadow of her employer, who saw nothing but another person who had no purpose except to serve--who saw nothing of the beautiful vulnerability that could, out of pure ignorance, rent a vulnerable man’s heart from him. And so I determined that she should be with me. And so it happened. Oh, I’d grown too used to having things turn my way over the years, so I thought nothing of it at the time. Only in retrospect did it occur to me that her companionship had been utterly
out of my control, and the decision made had been hers, not mine. “As we drove through the mountains that day,” I confessed, “I found a simple happiness in your presence that I hadn’t felt in months, or perhaps years. It was an unfettered enjoyment of the company of another human being. Nothing more. You had no expectations from me, and I, none from you. We lived in the world of the now, with the past cast off and the future utterly unimportant. And I realized that I wanted nothing more than to have life stop right there.” “Hence your thoughts,” she murmured. She lifted one smooth fingertip to stroke the slight stubble on my chin. “I rather thought you might jump from the cliffs edge.” “I considered it for several moments,” I replied in a near-whisper. “At first, out of the shameful thought that I could have ended such a sweet life as yours. ‘How
presumptuous of me,’ I thought, ‘that I should want to exercise such power over someone, much less one who has given me such a glorious moment of pause.’” Tiny dimples of pleasure appeared on her cheeks. Pleasure, in the face of my brutal revelation! My shame at the memories of my impudence and selfishness re-surged within me. Those emotions demanded more honesty out of me, and I pulled her closer for comfort as I continued. “Once I’d calmed down from the idea that innocent blood would be on my soul, my mind began to turn back to old miseries. Then the cliff beckoned for another reason. After all, what did I have to return to the hotel for? Or to go back home for? What more empty amusements could I find to fill my days to anything resembling satisfaction?” Her head snuggled against my shoulder, and I dropped my face down and breathed in the scent of her hair, then sighed and let my gaze turn back to the ceiling.
“And I realized at that moment that I’d just experienced a most sudden shift of emotions. Joy, exhilaration, possessiveness, anger and self-loathing had flowed through me in a minute‘s time, followed by the threat of the same numbness that I’d been living with.” I looked at her again. “And then you walked up.” “To interrupt your brown study,” she said with a delicate smile. “You put me on the path again,” I explained. “I felt myself being drawn back into the land of the living as I turned my view from the sea and encountered your steadfast attention.” I locked my gaze with hers. “Just as that gaze of yours now pushes me to a new level of consciousness. My soul is singing for you. Can you not hear it?” “Can you not hear mine over your own?” she countered, as she blessed me with the most wonderful smile that a man could ever know.