Several literary characters get invited to a dinner party.
A love story.
A Comedy of Maladjusts
The invitations arrived with the coming of February and yet another snowstorm. As all the guests on the list had been confined to drawing rooms of which they already had intimate knowledge, they heartily agreed to attend the party of one Winifred Rose in celebration and defense of the continued existence of love. “What a singular invitation” the invitees thought in various incarnations over the course of the two week wait until Valentine’s Day. Little did they know that their hostess for the evening was in truth, the fallen Angel of Daybreak, undercover and gathering evidence against those who declare that love has disintegrated into a mere shadow of what it was previously.
Jane and Rochester arrived first, as can be expected of such a grave and solemn couple. Ever the two concerned with decorum, one would know not that they loved each other if you glanced only at the surface. He was scarred and maimed and it has been said of her that she would “always be plain.” Rochester noticed none of these things. You could see it in the way that he gazed adoringly at her with what was left of his sight. They had had such a hard road before they came at last together that they were nicely juxtaposed with Robbie and Cecilia. “Oh, Robbie and Cecilia” their host sighingly mused as she considered the justification of this dinner and its formal dress. How she loved good conversation and the finery that associates a party given in honor of love and friendship.
When Robbie and Cecilia knocked on the door she ushered them in and sat them across from Jane and Rochester to encourage the verbal sparring that would inevitably ensue. As Ms. Winifred Rose had predicted to no one but herself, they began the evening debating gallantly the instant that love first arrives. Whether it formerly existed or if it sprang up suddenly? Cecilia would defend how she never knew love until the Robbie’s letter was pressed into her hands. She would recall with fierceness the crush of her heart the first time Robbie kissed her. She knew, that moment, that frozen instant, that she could never live without him. Robbie would argue that he knew that he loved Cecilia long before she became aware of him as more than a close childhood friend. “You knew before me” Cecilia considered out loud “It’s like being close up to something so large you don’t even see it.”
“Ha!” replied Hyde who just strode into the room unannounced and found himself situated at the foot of the table, in between Rochester and Robbie. Their hostess had placed him there in case he got out of hand because, although she loved the way he needled the other guests into a more lively conversation, she knew him to be a dangerous man. Hyde eyed her with a wary curiosity. “That one” he thought “there is something of the trickster about her.” With this his countenance changed into one of sinister disgust. “Cecilia, you never saw Robbie or loved him before the night your sister played God with all of your lives. I venture to guess that had Robbie never been accused you would have forgotten the love the you so admirably profess in short time. When you left again or when you found yourself distracted by the shiny lights of London.”
“Never sir!” She proclaimed with fervency that she wasn’t sure that she felt but she kept on what she had already begun and once set on a path she had trouble going back. “There is something wrong with [your] appearance (sir); something displeasing, something downright detestable.” “As it stands I would ask you to hold your tongue on the subject that you cannot have any knowledge of.”
Just then they were interrupted by a knock at the door and two young ladies who could not be more different stepped into the house and continued through into the dining area.
“Ah yes! Miss Laura and Miss Helen, please take your seats. Helen, you will of course remember your old friend Jane.” The two wept and hugged intensely as they hadn’t seen each other since their time together at Lowood. “Miss Laura may I introduce to you to Cecilia whose story I believe in which you should be most assuredly entertained and overwhelmed as her tale is almost as heartbreaking as your own. Which brings me to the reason I gathered you all here: you each have been selected to gather round and break bread with each other and to defend the honor of love. You see, though you all know me little, I am well acquainted with your narratives and what befalls you at the end of your lives. There is a war going on in heaven between those who believe that humanity has no right to experience love anymore. You are all “poor, obscure, plain and little” in the eyes of the angels. There is a small faction of us who disagree and I have brought you here to defend yourselves. Prove to God and the mighty host that you should still possess the ability to love and be loved.”
“Well I never!” exclaimed Laura “Love is one of the most beautiful things that inspires us to give of ourselves for the pure pleasure of another.”
“Really?” asked the incredulous host “Then why, when your proclaimed love was dying, thrown from his overturned carriage, did you not declare with a thousand whispered prayers that you loved your beloved husband? In fact, you demanded to know his whereabouts in the last moments of his breath. You could have kissed him and in fact you condemned him.”
Hyde had begun chuckling in a very dark and concerning manner and now Winifred turned her attention to him. “Yes Hyde? Do you have something to say?”
Hyde replied snidely “No, nothing at all Madam Angel. I see what this is about and I would much prefer to see love banished to nothingness.”
“Of course you would sir, you who was given life by the man you could not have existed nor continued to exist without. You allowed that man to die so that you could come to life and do such brutal awful things. I know what side you fall on sir and you are here to balance out the ladies and their frivolity. Though I would ask of you that you keep a civil tongue in that mouth of yours, I would eventually tire of comforting wailing women.”
Cecilia ashed into the antique ashtray to her right and sighed sadly. “I fear you might be right dear Winifred. If my sister Briony taught me anything it is that love does not conquer all. Though I may not know my ending until I come upon it I feel deeply that Robbie and I will never know true happiness. I don’t believe that we can overcome the obstacles that were placed in front of us, no matter how much we would like nothing more than to collapse into a kind and generous lifetime of mornings and cigarettes and the tiny arguments of lovers. But if we can be torn apart by the meddlings of a child how can we ever proclaim to deserve the love we seek? Is it enough to seek love to be worthy? Or must one be worthy before you can seek love?”
“Oh Robbie, how can it be that I allowed Briony to separate us?”
“My dearest C, do not fluster yourself! Dry your tears, we are here now and if this moment in the library of our illustrious host is the only time we are allowed, I want to cherish it and you. I want to make a lifetime of these simple hours. Oh please believe in us Cecilia. If you do not then what hope is there for the rest of humanity? Yes it took you the time to find and realize you loved me but when you did you gave yourself to me as much as any woman in love with a man can.” With this Cecilia dried her tears and looked up to see Helen mustering the strength to speak.
“I find that I believe in God more than I believe in man and if the angels feel we don’t deserve love anymore how can I argue against the angel?”
“My oldest friend” Jane spoke as passionately as she ever had “you are nothing but good and kind and deserved a much better life than you were given. How can God take such a thing from you when you have had it hard enough already? Have I not paid the price in my separation from my Rochester? Did I not leave him when I thought that that was what God wanted? Did I not do exactly as I had been instructed to by the good bible and what did it get me but heartache and a loveless marriage proposal? I say that there is nothing more worthy of the human race than love and without why would anyone ever aspire to be good?”
“Well said Plain Jane” Hyde growled threateningly across the table “give me yet another reason to do evil and I will revel in it.”
Rochester jumped from his seat and nearly throttled Hyde but gathered his composure quickly and as he began to speak the angels who were listened behind the one way glass mirror of heaven quieted and were struck mute by his emotion.
“I would be nothing without my Jane” he began with a catch in his throat. “In the time that we were separated I could find nothing of beauty, no joy in every day or even in holidays. I was haunted and lost and without a soul to care about. I fell into a depression so deep it began to infuse my soul with anger and hate and all those things that makes a man petty. I had almost reached the end of my rope. God was punishing me for sure. He had taken away my Jane and burnt down my house but I saw that it was my ignorance that was the punishment. I had never known what love was until Jane came into my life. She brought sunshine where there had only been storms. She swept the shadows out with the dust and the deterioration of life lived in misery. If she had not shown me kindness I would have continued my existence as a miserly shell of a man. She saved me and I could never regret any of my hardships after the night she heard my cry through the nighttime and came back to be my own personal angel.”
The angels had begun to cry and through her telepathic connection to them Winifred knew that she had won. She had chosen the right people: Jane and Rochester, and Cecilia and Robbie for their undying attachment to one another, Helen and Laura and their differing frivolities to keep the party light and Hyde, with his quick-witted and evil sarcasm was sure to enliven any discussion.
The party continued after a brief moments respite for the lovers to gather themselves together and though the world knew it not: love and the goodness that it entails, was saved by eight characters brought together by one angel interested in the outcome of humanity.