Dear Charles… [a letter]

Another planet, 15 February, some alternate universe

Dear Charles,

Please ask your secretary (is it Louise, the one who never has a hair out of place?) to ensure you are not disturbed. And read this before you open the box.

Now, to use your favourite phrase, I will proceed.

You asked me yet again if we could set a wedding date. “Two years engaged is a long time,” you reminded me. On that, we both agree: on other things, less than you realise — a lot less.

So, I prevaricated. “It’s mind-boggling what has to be worked out, and your mother has ideas she wants to share.”

You flicked your teeth with your fingernails in that irritating way you do immediately prior to pronouncing judgment.

“You would do well to listen to my mother. She’s got far more idea of what would be appropriate, dare I say, than your own mother.”

As you said that, did you notice I pulled away — emotionally if not physically? No, I think not. Nothing makes much impression upon your tradition-oriented ego.

Once, I looked forward to marriage. Now, those joyous expectations have become rather like the prunes your mother suggests I eat for breakfast.

You took my presence for granted. I was there for every event you wanted me to grace. I sank my earnings into an elaborate wardrobe to please you. I was your convenient acolyte, who could be relied upon to bow to your every whim.

Taste or tradition or something dictated that I wear pastel colours — and hats. HATS!

I went to dreary singing concerts where I sat stifling yawns while ladies with gigantic bosoms tried desperately to find their next notes.

“What a brilliant bit of recitative!” or “What an absolutely glittering cadenza!” you used to enthuse.

I squirmed. If I’d spoken then, my voice would have wobbled too.

In Intermissions I had to “Ooh!” and “Aah!” over the reported antics and accomplishments of your friends’ pedigree poodles, their plans for the next big OE and the specifications of their yachts, sports cars and proposed summer residences.

Did you notice yesterday’s date? Another Valentine’s Day has passed without me feeling in the least valentiney. When the doorbell went early that morning it was the florist for Kate (you know, my flatmate who frequents discos and sunbathes topless and you hardly see her bed for cuddly toys).

In the box is your ring. Because I didn’t choose it, I never felt as if it were truly mine. Also the gold diamond bracelet which used to give me an instant rash (“Can’t you keep still?” you used to hiss at me when I scratched). You’ll find the apricot twinset you said looked so nice, but which I detested.

Oh, and the hat I hated the most. The others have gone to a kindergarten. The kids were most impressed by your taste.

Today I’m going out to buy that clinging crop-top you said was so unseemly, some green nail polish, and an all-day pass at the amusement park where I shall shriek whenever I like and come down off the roller-coaster all dishevelled.

Tomorrow I’m getting some streaks put in my hair. So, tell your friends you decided I was unsuitable. I agree wholeheartedly, for whole-hearted I shall be at last.

Next time I have a walk in the park, I’ll stop to pick some daisies. Enough to make a chain for my hair. Back home I’ll lie in the bath, my hair spread out among the daisies.

I’ll be like Ophelia: but, unlike her it will be a return to sanity…

… and life.

No longer yours, and no longer Belinda,

but very sincerely,

Lindy — or maybe Bella?

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