Jeremy betrayed me. He told me he had done it in a letter he wrote some few days before his death, but in that letter he made it clear he expected I would not learn of his act for some time:

“I know you, my love. I know this missive shall remain unread for decades, perhaps centuries. It is conceivable you might never read it, and never know what I have done, or why…”

He was correct on both counts. I had only recently begun carrying bits of my past forward, storing them against future need. Oh, I have left hordes in the past, but I have never returned to them- best to leave the past behind, let it remain dead. Only over the past few centuries have I made an effort to change this, with some success, I might add. Thus I still had my diaries from my years with Jeremy.

I retrieved the first volume of that diary some months ago, along with the letter he wrote on his deathbed. At first I had not opened it because my grief was too deep. Later I was afraid to read it and reopen the wound his passing had left in my heart. Finally, I had set it aside as part of the dead past. When recent events lured me in to revisiting that time the letter was still there. Once I had made my peace with my past I decided it was time to read it.

I cannot begin to recount it in its entirety for it is too detailed and I am loath to remake his words for my own petty needs. I am also somewhat at a loss to describe how I feel about this.

Five children survived the fire that took the lives of Reginald, Clarice and their youngest child, Sarah. I have made little specific mention of them for several reasons, none of which I am at liberty to discuss here. The eldest I shall refer to as Joshua, the youngest as Catherine (named after Reginald and Jeremy’s sister). Joshua was fourteen when Jeremy and I arrived in his life and while he respected his uncle he absolutely despised me. His intense dislike persisted until the day Jeremy’s Will was read and he understood that I had been left nothing of the family’s fortunes, and that I had been pleased to have it so. After that day he subsided in to simple irritation with me and with his youngest sister who, along with her husband, inherited the family home and its lands.

Catherine had always adored me, something I am sure contributed to Joshua’s dislike of me. After Jeremy died she insisted I remain with her and her family at the house, and I did so for one year, mostly in response to this odd feeling that she desperately wished me to remain more out of concern for my welfare than for her own purposes. When I did choose to leave, journeying to Boston, Catherine went to great lengths to maintain correspondence. We exchanged frequent letters for several years and when I was ready to set aside my identity as her Aunt Elaine I actually went to the trouble of hiring a law firm to collect any further letters or packages from her and hold them indefinitely until I sent an agent to retrieve them. I then became Melissa Burns and disappeared.

I had always wondered in an offhand manner why Catherine had been so concerned with me. Now I know why.

Jeremy revealed my secret to Catherine just over a year before he died. That I did not detect this I attribute to my foreboding of his coming end. He was still healthy, but he was no longer young. At sixty-one years of age he was now prone to infections in his lungs during the winter and I knew that it was only a matter of time. Preoccupied with what for me was an immanent change I failed to notice or properly account for Catherine’s change in attitude. In the wake of his passing, well, everything had changed for all involved.

His letter explained that he was not content to have me wandering the world, hiding here or there, always lost, always alone. He wanted to provide me with a refuge, a place to come to whenever I wished where I would be known and accepted. He wanted me to have a home. He charged Catherine with seeing to it that our home would always be available to me. He laid that obligation upon her because he knew she was fond of me and because she was such an extraordinary woman herself (a trait he insisted was my doing), having studied literature and law and the sciences at an advanced level despite her youth. He trusted her with my secret because he felt he knew her heart nearly as well as he knew mine. What surprises me most is that she might have believed him at all.

My very first instinct was to disappear: to drop everything and go underground in Eastern Europe or South America. I thought better of that- the secret had been “out” for better than one hundred and fifty years to little or no effect so there could be little harm in taking the time to examine what this meant. Still, I did make certain arrangements against possible need.

Then I returned to Boston to sift through everything I had from Catherine.

One Response to “Betrayed”

  1. The following comments are as they first appeared on the old BlogSpot/Haloscan system. —ZM

    Curiousity is the emotion you exhibit?

    Are you angry, sad, numb, exhilirated, grateful?

    On one hand he possibly put your greatest fear on the table – on the other, he demonstrated extreme compassion.

    You used the word betrayed – as if he failed to trust you to do what was right – and yet we don’t always know what is right for us. Even those that happen to live an extra year or two longer than the rest of us.

    Do you ever dream MD?
    TheYeti | Email | Homepage | 11.10.03 – 6:38 am | #

    Stunned, is probably the proper description. Bear in mind that I have not disclosed the entire contents of the letter, nor are you privy to all the conversations we shared. We talked extensively about what I would do when Jeremy passed on… as I reflect on that I have to wonder what he saw in me that prompted him to do this?

    Betrayed. It is a very strong word, I know, but that was the word he used. And it was certainly how I felt, at least a first. As of now, I honestly do not know what I feel. The urge to flee, mostly.

    I am going in to the city for lunch, then to retrieve some cases from storage. Give me time to sort through them. If you never hear from me again feel free to assume the worst.
    MD | Email | Homepage | 11.10.03 – 9:01 am | #

    It is a harsh, cold world you live in.
    Dishman | Email | Homepage | 11.10.03 – 12:52 am | #


    If this is your last post, I will be sorry to see you go. Your blog has been a very interesting read. I have enjoyed all of our conversations (public and private). That you even acknowledged me makes me feel privilaged. Thank you and good luck…you know my email…

    Joe Bowers | Email | Homepage | 11.10.03 – 5:11 pm | #

    I sincerely hope this is not the last we’ll hear from you, but if it is to be, then I wish you well in the future. I do hope, though, that you will continue with us.
    etherian | Email | Homepage | 11.11.03 – 8:49 pm | #