Miss Havisham

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Today is the day my life begins.

I am wide awake, instantly. The enormity of this moment pounds in my ears and the clock seems to tick, tick, tick faster than normal, racing my heart.

I swing my legs to the side, and step my bare feet onto the shining planks, feeling the rough-smooth texture. A welcome scrap of reality which I cling to. Right foot, then left.

I take a deep breath. It has no effect whatsoever, so I give up trying to stay calm and jump to my feet. The clock’s screaming gallop now has slowed to a donkey’s plod. Five o’clock. I should go back to sleep, but that would be hopeless, so I go to the dressing table and pick up my comb. The faded cream paint and engraved pattern slips through my vague fingers, whisking me back to my eight year old self, receiving the comb as a present. I was bored by it then, eager for cake and more exciting presents. Now it reminds me that just a few summers ago I was still a child, and that I had quietly become an adult while the comb sat on my table.

I drag the teeth of the comb through my sea of hair, calming the stormy waves into smooth curls. My eyes flick up to the clock again and again. I want to run to the wardrobe, try on my dress, act like a princess.

But I sit still, a lady, no longer a child. I comb my hair as the sun creeps further in the sky, hesitantly claiming the day. A web of birdsong shines through the window, enveloping me in a symphony of lullabies and staccato notes.

I give in and skip to the wardrobe, taking down the dress and holding it in front of me. I check the time: five o'clock.

I glance at my reflection, and cannot recognise the woman who stands there. She is happy. A thrill of nerves swoops through me but fails to change this glow of peace I feel.

The next few hours spin by in a whirlwind. A corset is tightened on my slim waist, and layers of underskirts are built up around me like meringue. As the dress falls over my head, the silken fabric feels too delicate to touch. Tiny buttons are fastened at the back and I feel like if I move a muscle it will break; a child playing at dressing like a grown-up.

The soft shoes are on my feet now. Right foot, then left.

A knock at the door. I glance at the spindly hands of the clock. It is twenty minutes to eight. A letter is placed in my hands: creamy parchment, thick, decadent.

My eyes read the words, but they don’t reach my mind. I stare at two words:

Yours,

Compeyson.

'Yours'? I almost laugh. Because, from what the rest of this letter says, he is no longer mine.

My knees hurt, and I realise it is because I have fallen to them. The harsh wooden floor will not let me sink lower, it keeps me steady, in reality.

I am vaguely aware of servants, friends, family, crowding around. They read the note that has fell from my hands, that pathetic, cowardly note. Not enough, to break my heart. He had to do it from a distance.

It doesn’t seem enough, one note. The whole world should stop. So that’s what I do. I order every clock, every awful, ticking, ticking, ticking clock, to be stopped. Stopped at twenty to eight.

Today is the day my life is frozen.

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