| I don’t recall when I lost my identity forever. I don’t know when I stopped being Celeste and became Elizabeth. As a fact, none of us know. We are all robots; here to please, here to be someone we are not, here to live out our lives as Elizabeth.
My name is Elizabeth and this is my story.
~*~ Chapter One ~*~
I was not an average young lady. I had no interest in the things other girls my age were doing. Where they were flirting, going on dates, I stayed home and read a new novel. Where they were going to operas and ballets, I went to college. I knew that I didn’t fit in, but it didn’t bother me in the least. I enjoyed learning and I was determined to discover all that the world offered.
My parents were concerned, as all parents would be. But they didn’t try to run my life. They thought that when I had my fill, I would entertain more suitors than any girl in the town. But they were wrong.
I never had my fill. Up until the age of twenty-three, practically an old maid, I was still studying. Then a stranger entered my life and everything changed.
My parents met Tanner Anderson at our church. He was only to be in the area for a few weeks on business and planned to stay at the boarding house, but my parents decided to welcome him into our home in hopes that he could win my affections.
I liked him from the start, but not enough to marry him as my parents wished. Yet as the weeks went on, I began to enjoy his attention. It seemed that he had an interest in me; he took long walks with me, and spent hours sitting on the front porch swing talking to me. Tanner complimented me often; he said that no one else had blonde hair that shone like the sun and blue eyes that looked like the sky. Through all of this, my parents became concerned. As much as they wanted me to marry, they felt there was something more to Tanner than we knew about. I ignored their protests and continued encouraging his attention. Three days before he was to leave, he asked me to marry him. Against my parents’ wishes, I agreed.
They argued with me for hours, stating that I didn’t know him and couldn't love him. But my mind was made up. With only my parents and the preacher’s wife in attendance, Tanner and I were married an hour before we were to meet the train. The moment I said “I do,“ Tanner had a look of triumph on his face, and I had a strange feeling that I would never see my parents again.
~*~ Chapter Two ~*~
Tanner said little on the trip to his home- now my home also- and it wasn’t a pleasant silence. I had no idea where he lived, or what his house was like. In a way, I didn’t want to know; I felt as though the very knowledge would end my life.
The farther we traveled, the more uncomfortable I became. I realized that I didn’t really know the man I married. He had always talked about me. I knew nothing of Tanner’s family or even of his business. My husband was practically a stranger-I knew his name, but nothing more. We changed trains often, Tanner said we needed to, but I wondered secretly if it was to confuse me. I never knew where we were; in fact, for the next two weeks I might have been in a strange country. Tanner kept all of our tickets hidden and I was never allowed to go with him when he got our new ones.
After traveling for what seemed like years, we finally reached our destination. A carriage met us at the depot. The town consisted of only a mercantile, hotel, and five houses. I was surprised; I had expected someone like Tanner to live in a city. Tanner was silent on the ride to his house. After an hour-long ride in a plush carriage, Tanner told me that we were to soon reach his home.
“We will soon be at my house. Do not talk to the servants; I will do all of the necessary speaking. I will have your personal maid show you to your room. You will stay there until dinner, which is at 7:00. Do you have any questions?”
I was too shocked to speak. He made it sound as though I was an unwanted guest or a prisoner instead of his wife. The way he worded his query was as though he wouldn’t answer my questions even if I did ask any; so I just shook my head and remained silent.
“Good. I will tell you about the running of my estate after dinner. Now don’t look so weak. I do not want the servants thinking you will be lenient.”
Throughout the journey I had wished he would converse with me, I now wished for him to be moody and mute once again. I didn’t know what to think of this new Tanner. Yes, my parents had been opposed to our marriage, but they knew they couldn’t change my mind; therefore they had accepted the fact that I would spend the rest of my life with this man. But how could I feign affection for someone such as Tanner? He was almost like another man. I had read stories, of course, about people who would act like the devil himself one moment then the next be amiable as ever. I could not recall the name of this “disease,” but I stored my thought away.
Deep in my thoughts, I did not notice that the carriage had stopped, nor did I notice Tanner staring intently at me. He aroused me from my reverie by clearing his throat. I blushed. It was almost as though he knew what I had been contemplating. But of course, that could not be. He may be odd, but he is no mind reader. Tanner’s disapproving gaze settled on my dusty dress. I quickly shook my skirts, trying to look presentable. The long journey had left many wrinkles and a lot of dust on my traveling dress.
Tanner stepped out of the carriage then turned to assist me. I took hold of his hand and prepared myself for the worst. As soon as my slipper-clad feet touched the ground, I looked up to see his house- our house. It was an impressive, towering mansion. I gasped in awe and admiration for this masterpiece. For masterpiece it was. The Emerald Manor, which I soon learned was its name, had towers, stained glass windows, and a beautiful green vine growing up all of its magnificent walls. It was welcoming, and I quickly and thoroughly put Tanner’s use of the word “house” from my mind. It became “home.” When I finally lowered my eyes from my home, I noticed many servants watching me keenly. Tanner immediately made introductions. The last person to be introduced to me was a young girl who looked to be about fourteen with beautiful auburn hair and fascinating green eyes.
“This will be your personal maid, Celeste. Her name is Hilda, and I am sure she will serve you well,” he said brusquely. Then, turning to Hilda: “You are to please her and obey her in all things. Never question anything she tells you to do.”
“Yes, sir. It will be a pleasure, sir,” she responded. Her green eyes sparkled. I knew then that I would have at least one friend at this place.
“Now go on inside, Celeste. Hilda will accompany you. I want you to rest after our long journey. Leave the unpacking to the servants. ” His eyes told me to say nothing, just to obey. I felt like a servant myself, dismissed because my best was not good enough. I nodded in his direction, then turned and left. Hilda followed me to the front door, then once we were inside and out of sight, she began talking excitedly, her green eyes flashing.
“Oh, ma’am, you are beautiful! I have been here since I was a child, but never have I seen such a beautiful lady brought in by Mr. Anderson. He has brought others, of course, who were pretty in their own way, but you are the first wife who--”
“Hilda!” A lady interrupted. I remembered this lady to be the cook, Mrs. Lohr. “You are talking too much, dear!”
“Oh, Mother, I was just trying to make Mrs. Anderson feel welcome.”
I quickly glanced from one to the other. What were they not saying? And what did she mean “he has brought others“? “Hilda, you are making me feel very welcome, and I thank you for that. I was not sure what to expect, but this,” I said with a wave around the room, “is more than I could have ever dreamed of!”
“Well, ma’am, we want you to feel at home. You call on us whenever you need or want anything,” Mrs. Lohr said. “Now, you had better go rest. You don’t want to cross the master.”
“Of course. Well, Hilda, let us be off. If you would, I would like a tour later today.”
Hilda proceeded to guide me through a series of rooms and hallways until she finally stopped at double doors on the second floor. She opened one, and for a moment I was speechless. Surely the room before me could not be mine! Beige and red were predominant in the room, with splashes of greens here and there in the carpet. The monstrous canopy bed was overfilled with pillows, and the window seat had the same fabric as the comforter on the bed. The room was beautiful; something I had always dreamed of.
I must have gasped, for Hilda said, “You like it ma’am?”
“Oh, I love it! It shall be my sanctuary from...” I cut myself off. I had been about to say “from Tanner.” Hilda gave me a searching glance. I turned away. “I shall prepare to rest, now.”
“Yes, ma’am. I shall return at six to prepare you for supper.” With one final penetrating look, she left.
To be continued sometime in the future.....
The ending (for when I finally finish the middle)
People always say “If I knew then what I know now...” and they never finish the thought. I can now say the same; but for those who might follow me, for those who might be as ignorant and foolish as I was, I shall conclude the statement. If I knew then what I know now I would not trust as easily. I would not become attached to people so quickly. I would never rush into commitments. I would listen to my family and friends. And I would have never become Elizabeth. I am Elizabeth; and Elizabeth I will stay. Forever.