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As part of the festivities, we will give away prizes to the first person to answer various questions. To that end, I offer a tiny sampling of my short story, which is an expansion of the classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
I sat at the breakfast table across from the very picture of feminine modesty and conjugal devotion. I could not stand to look at her. Ire coursed through my veins, hot and quick, and I dared not speak. I stared at the fish on my plate.
“You are not eating, my love,” my tender bride cooed. “I had thought you swam this morning.”
“Then you must be famished, especially after . . . last night.” She eyed me through her long, dark lashes. “You must keep up your strength.”
“I told you, Mrs. Rochester, I do not care for the whole of the fish. In England, we gut it before we cook it.”
“But we are not in England, my darling. Cook knows nothing of such food. We must go there soon, that she may learn—”
“Fairfax, darling, you promised to take me to England to meet your family. Do I so shame you that you hide me away? I am good enough for your bed but not your friends? It’s because my father is in trade, isn’t it?” Her voice grew shriller as she spoke, until it spiked through my brain. “You are so much higher than me. You treat me like the dirt beneath your boot.”
I simply eyed her. Her face screwed up into a petulant pout. Tears rushed her eyes. Her hands slapped down on the table. The crystal and china jumped. “I want to go to England!”
“When I trust you within five thousand miles of my family, we will go to England, but not a day sooner.” My voice sounded cold and flat.
“Trust me? Trust me?! You are a monster—a horrid, beastly monster!”
“Better to say an ape.”
She started at the words and glanced up at me. I stared at her blandly. She rose and went to the sideboard. She feigned concealing a fit of tears, but I knew it a ploy to add rum to her orange juice. My mind filled with images of my brother sharing his morning with the polar opposite of my angel wife. I jabbed my fork into the fish on my plate.
The tines hit something hard and screeched across the china. The exposed and torn gut glinted in a stray shaft of sunlight. Dumbfounded, I stared at the mess.
Bertha returned to her seat, glass in hand, once again the very image of a model wife. I carefully slit open the fish’s gut and spooned out the innards.
“That really is the best part, you know,” Bertha instructed, her cheeks pouched with gobbets of her own mackerel. “After the eyeballs, of course.”
I scraped away the offal, and there it was: Yvette’s pendant, chain and all. It felt as if the sun burst free of heavy clouds the moment I laid eyes on it. A freshening breeze cleared the cobwebs from my mind. I could breathe again. I still tumbled in unforgiving surf, but I thought, perhaps, I could at last get my feet beneath me.