Molly will be here at any moment. I need to pull myself up and be ready to speak to her. To know what I will say to her. I wonít lie, of course. I hate lying, especially of the kind my mother does. Such frivolous hypocrisy! Even if I end up like her in all other ways, Iíll never be that.
But I am a liar. Yet Molly still loves me, even after knowing what she knows, which is after all the worst of it. And she such a good girl, with such an unshakeable knowledge of right and wrong. She would be able to determine where I have done wrong in the matter of Roger Hamley and Mr. Preston, for I am certain I have done wrong, but I cannot tell just where I have done it.
Perhaps my accepting the twenty pounds from Mr. Preston that led to all this trouble could be construed as wicked, but I was only a child of fifteen when I made that fatal mistake, and had every reason to trust the man I so bound myself to. In agreeing to marry him I did no deed that was worse than merely naive and foolish. On breaking the engagement, surely I cannot be condemned. A girl so taken advantage of, all but coerced into such a promise at an age where she cannot possibly understand the horrible possibilities of what a man may truly be like, who then discovers the man she has promised herself to has spoken about her mother in the way Mr. Preston spoke about mine. Whatever she herself thinks about her mother, she can not be expected to tolerate such behavior from her lover. And that does not even take into consideration all the other odious ways in which he behaved to me. If any further justification was needed, his behavior to me after I broke the engagement provided it.
The engagement was broken. He denies that, but I will not marry him, not under any circumstances. If I was to be forcibly dragged to the altar I would not say the words, not if he put a dagger to my throat. So why should I not agree to marry another man?
Perhaps the problem is that I still cannot tell her all. The facts of the engagement, almost everything that is practically relevant, there is no reason not to reveal to her. But my other secret, the one concerned with Molly herself...if she knew that, that would excite her disgust. I am not fooled by her insistence that nothing could make her stop loving me. Words like that only apply to things like engagements to Mr. Preston. They donít apply to things that Mr. Gibson would beyound doubt throw me out the house for, if he knew them. And for that act I would commend him. Were I in his place, I would throw me out of the house as well. After all, he must protect his daughter.
When I first heard of motherís marrying a country surgeon, I felt nothing emotionally. She no longer had the ability to hurt me, and I never expected a nice enough future to be upset about being apprenticed out, as I was sure I would be. But when I first saw Molly, I rejoiced that my mother had made this beautiful girl my sister.
We loved each other the moment we laid eyes on each other. That I did quite shocked me. I had believed myself to love my mother, and then Mr. Preston, only to come to hate the second, and on some days come very close to hating the first. She does not love me at all, seeing me too often as a curse upon her, and I repay her attitude in kind. I had given up on love. And then this beautiful young woman came into my life.
ďHow could I not love you?Ē Those were amoung the words Roger Hamley said when he declared his feelings to me. I could say those same words to Molly Gibson. What I was to him and her, she was to me. The creature so fine God must have sculpted her with as much time and care as when He took seven days to make the world. Though it was not in the end Mollyís pretty features and endearing manner that captivated me, though they helped, but the purity of her very soul. She radiated innocence as if she were the sun. I basked in it. I adored it. And it wasnít too long before I wanted to take it.
From the start I couldnít stop touching her. I hugged her whenever I had the excuse, I kissed her cheeks. I kept brushing up against her. My hands found their way onto her arms and shoulders, even onto her thighs. Nothing that created odd looks when it was between sisters.
I still remember how I realized just how strong my lust for her was. It was an ordinary afternoon, and we were curled up together in the parlour, reading a book. It was one of the ones she borrowed from Hamley Hall, and she always gets absorbed in those. She probably didnít even notice my hand creeping up her side. I didnít notice either at first. I stopped that treacherous hand just before it moved over onto her breast.
She was pressed against me, completely unaware, not even able to detect the heat running through my skin, let alone that burning my chest, in between my legs. My most sinful desires rose in me to the point it was agony to stay still. I wanted so greatly to caress that breast, cup it in my hand, watch Mollyís breath catch. She was nearly in my lap; I wanted to coax her over the rest of the way, feel her legs pressing against mine, her skin growing hot and flushed as I touch her through her dress. Her eyes would water, her mouth form into an O of shock and pleasure as she felt my hands on parts of her she had blushed to think about.
She might push me off. She might look at me with horror and fear. Then leave me, broken by her, because I would be, to sit until she brought her father back to dismiss me from his house. But I wonder. She trusts so much. Would she wait to realize something was wrong, and then discover it felt so good that she didnít want me to stop?
That was how it first happened with me, but then, I never had Mollyís morality. When one of my schoolmates did things to me that felt good, I saw no reason to stop her. We lived miserable lives, why should we have not allowed ourselves whatever pleasure we could avail ourselves of? And it wasnít as if we were allowing any boys or men to touch us. On my wedding night, Roger Hamley may not prove the first person to touch me, but at least he will be the first man.
Several girls have touched me in that way, and Iíve touched myself. I still do, on many nights. After Roger left for Africa, when I did so, I tried to think about him, tried to tell myself Iíd like it when he had me, because I liked it when those girls did. I had not longed for them any more than I had for him, I merely welcomed them when they came. And maybe at one time I would have welcomed him, and would be able to look forward to him now.
My attempts to think of him were in vain. Ever since that afternoon with the book, Iíve only been able to think of one person, want one person alone, in a way Iíve wanted noone, loved noone. I have given up; now I just let myself think about Molly, think about how I would delicately undress here, lay here down tenderly with her looking up at me with no fear in them, but with a trusting smile. Iíd feel her, taste her, feast upon her tender virgin flesh. When I close my eyes I can hear the sounds she would make. They would be soft and surprised: gasps and tiny moans, whimpers and squeaks. She would try to stay absolutely still at first, but then she would arch into me, wanting to feel my hands and mouth on certain parts of her body.
I can picture her then, sprawled across the bed, her limbs thrown every which way, her lips swollen from my kisses, her chest rising and falling as she pants with a need unknown to her. Oh my sweet Molly, how wonderful you would look so debauched. How you would moan with relief when you felt my hand move between you legs, even if you didnít know that was what you wanted. Then Iíd hold you in my arms, let you cling on to me as my fingers worked within you and without you, touching with my thumb that most magical place that first girl told me about, generating spasms of pleasure like youíve never known and youíd sob into my neck, your body pressing itself into mine as you twist around.
By the time I get to such fancies, I can no longer bear it. My fingers are buried in my own body instead of hers, they shatter me the way I would shatter her, her name on my lips, though I dare not cry it out, not even in the nighttime privacy of my bedroom.
After this Iíve often wondered what sheíd look like as she shattered. But I can never picture it.
Iíll never see it. Iíll never do any of it. Iíll never destroy such innocence, never.
Instead Iíll marry Roger Hamley.
Iíd love him if I could. Of course I should. Heís the most decent, honourable man Iíve met. Heís unlike Mr. Preston in almost every way. And he loves me, a thousand times more than he would if there were any justice in the world. All good reasons that I should love him. But none of them are the reasons I would if it was at all in my power. No, the reason I want to love him is because it would make Molly Gibson happy. Because heís so dear to her, and because she wants him to be happy so much. For her sake I would make him the happiest man in the world.
Except when my fears creep in that Iíve got it all wrong. Molly insists she doesnít love Roger herself, except as a sister, but who wouldnít say that to her sister about the man sheís engaged to? And if she does, then what have I done?
No, she cannot. I cannot bear the thought. I would not want to believe I had done that to anybody, but to Molly I simply cannot believe that, or I should die.
There is a knock on the door. She is here.