The wisteria whispered on the stone walls outside, seemingly telling secrets that he desperately longed to hear. Since coming here, the world to him seemed new and wild and he was eager to learn its language. Victor was content to become a part of it and leave himself behind as he let this land around him reveal itself. His heart ached still but the air here was soft and filled with a bouquet of blooms that meant nothing to him. The flowers were different from the ones that his father had loved and when they first began to sprout he’d grown fond of them. It felt appropriate to allow these ones to climb the newly made columns and cast their webs to catch his nostalgia. From the first time they appeared, he took a near obsessive interest in what grew on his new estate. He encouraged the growth of the wild meadow around him. It was like a hidden treasure each time he discovered new growth finding its way through the remains of what was left from before. He found comfort in these unfamiliar things. He took great pride in creating something that felt entirely new though in his heart, he knew that he had not come away from the familiar far enough for his liking. When he looked at his own surroundings, he saw traces of things that held sentimental value. The shapes of the doors and the way they were arranged. The kinds of furniture that he preferred. The color schemes that he chose of his own accord. They were a part of his blood and a part of him hated that he would not be able to purge himself of his own enjoyment of the aesthetics that he knew. Still, he was well aware that his father would hate this place and that was enough to lift his spirits whenever he thought about it too long.
It was appropriate that this house and his home should be on scorched earth. Victor never knew what it was that had started the fire and by the time that he’d seen the land he purchased, there was nothing but ash and blackened dirt left. By all accounts, he had heard that this section of land was recovering nicely from a raging fire storm that had neatly wiped everything from the surface. He could still recall the way he felt as he dragged his hand through the black film that made up the top layer of dirt and felt the crunch of the grit between his fingers. He was no expert on these matters but he knew almost immediately that the story he’d been told couldn’t have been the culprit of this kind of devastation. Before the foundation for his home had been laid, he thought about it a lot. He wondered what could have happened to scar the land so badly. What manner of terrible thing had been brought upon this place that someone would lie about it. He knew nothing else of this land other than it was a clean slate for him to build a new foundation and he very much wished for nothing more. Strangely enough, the very same tortured land seemed to respond in kind. The clearing, when he arrived here, was little more than charred soil but it soon began to show its charms and jewels as the year progressed and Victor was able to get the foundation laid. The grass emerged a vivid green like emerald swirls that grew in a pattern. Soon the flowers came too and by the end of the first year, the meadow had become a great mosaic of plants and life that he’d never seen before. With it came the sounds of the wild world and their cries and songs helped to deafen him to his own thoughts.
The house was not finished yet. There were many things that he wanted to see as part of his final vision but he found that he often was captivated by the emerging beauty of this place. To escape the noise, he would allow himself to wander around the areas outside, even go so far as to stray along a grown over pathway through the trees to see where it led. This had become his favorite thing to do over the summer and when work did not call and when the builders were hard at work making a terrible racket, he found solace in the dim glow of the sun through the thick trees and the murmur of their leaves above him. It was the only time that he could remember in recent memory where he felt at peace with himself but it never lasted. Victor was well aware that his memories could surface at any moment and the longer he was alone, the more likely he was to think of the past. He valued and guarded his precious time among the trees and wandering through the meadow and as much as he loved it, he forced himself to return to the noise and the bluster of life before the image of her eyes could crowd its way into his thoughts and spoil his mood.
That afternoon he was furious as he left the house. Caroline had come, just as he’d suspected, to prey upon a sense of sentimentality that he had long left behind. He had known it since she arrived at the edge of the circle drive and climbed the steps in her all too sincere manner. He knew she wanted something then and he should have found a way to see to it that she left immediately. He resented her presence since last night and he was eager to rid himself of it. Victor felt like she’d brought a pall to the house since she arrived and it bothered him that she managed to spoil the news of his father’s coming death for him. Miserable old fool deserved the pauper’s grave that he is owed and yet he would still end up in the family crypt. And she arrived to tell him these things. To play on a sense of pity like they spoke only of an old man whose charm is hidden just below the surface. No, Victor was no fool and he knew very well what he left. The man who would be his tyrant if he’d managed to keep his control of him. The man who would sell him into a life of misery to make up for a debt that he would never speak of and yet it plagued him. It was disgusting to him to remember the look on his face when he told Victor that he was to marry. To see the delight in him as he knew that his greed had won and he would be relieved of his mysterious burden. A burden, Victor seethed, that would belong to him for the rest of his life. How dare she spoil this moment for him. The miserable bastard would finally reap his own reward and she wanted him to lower himself to feeling pity. It was an insult of the highest order.
In his brooding, Victor had allowed his feet to take him along the familiar trails that of late had been bringing him solace. He was irritated with his unwanted visitor but moreso with himself now as he realized how close he was to places that had made him feel something that resembled fondness. Places that had been charming to him initially and he knew that his sour mood could cloud his tender affections for the smallest of things. He wanted to love his new home and he could not do this with the spectre of his wretched family hanging over him. He stopped abruptly on the path and closed his eyes. Save those sweet images for another day, he thought. Save them for eyes that were weary and able to appreciate the small things. No, it was too great a treasure to squander and all for a woman who had come to make him repent his quest for freedom. He would not tarnish his home. Not for her. Not for a father that he could never bring himself to mourn. He’d forced himself to wander further from his intended destination but it was bringing him further from his known path. He knew the dangers of these things and found that his feet were moving faster. He fell several times, lest her voice surface in his mind. Lest her eyes sparkle in his memory. He could not see these things in these woods. He would wish too dearly to see them and his despair could not be repaired so easily here. There were no friendly hands to find him. No tender affections to soothe his heart and he wanted none of them. He wanted his loneliness to be left wanting. Keep the wound so fresh but let the memories fade. It was the glowing embers that had driven him to find his fortune and it was this that kept him angry enough to stay firm. He would never return whether in illness or fear or failure. He vowed that death would not take him back to France and so it should not be now that her beloved memory would chase him to her grave to join her.
Stumbling like a drunkard, Victor found his footing more solidly as he emerged at the back of the charred area that faced the back of his house. The air here was cold and he found himself feeling sobered of his melancholy but still aching inside. When he’d arrived, this area was deemed unsafe and he’d laid the foundation of his house further to the front towards the trail to the road rather than further back. He had rarely a reason to wander here and was perplexed now that he should find himself in a spot that still held many of its scars from before. He slowed his steps and allowed himself the time to take it in. This place, he felt, deserved such reverence. There was a sense here that the land still remained what it had been before and he was careful as not to disturb it. Whether out of respect for or fear of what he would find, Victor did not know but he felt something here. His feet silently sifted through the ashes that had mixed with the dirt. The remains here were still showing so many signs of what had been. This land was cleared before he came here.
Victor paused at this thought and looked around himsel. The trees here had been tamed back and there was a clear divide between the forest trails and where the land began. He had once come here but had been warned about his safety. He wondered now why he would think to heed such a warning when he’d arrived. Victor had cared little for his own health and the idea that he should choose to be cautious at such a time felt strange to him. Like he was remembering something different than how it happened. As he stood there now, surveying the land behind his house, he was struck with a recent memory that he had banished along with the others of her. He’d come here alone at dusk and wished to see for himself what it was that was so dangerous. He felt again the chill in the air as he stood on this ashen land that stood in a slow recovery. He knew again that the lie that he’d detected in the man who’d sold him this land. He felt again the sensation that this was something far greater than him, standing here. Something beneath the ash was aching to tell him something and its soundless voice called out to him.
Slowly, he turned about himself, looking around as if he sought out the source of the summon and foolishly, he felt as though he might be dancing with himself. Yes, this land had been clear once and it had been the site of something before that fire had claimed everything on it. So hot it had burned that it had erased everything but something hotter burned still among the shadows. Victor felt as though he was intoxicated as he moved around, tracing steps as though he were being led around a ballroom by the arm. He felt himself flush with shame to think if someone could see him now. He was a man of reason and he paid little mind to such things as ghost stories. Surely he must have lost his mind in coming here. So many rumors that he’d heard and paid them no attention at all and yet here he was, nearly dancing among the deserted land of his property and he swore he felt the presence of someone with him. Someone who wanted to dance with him and the insistence of it was alarming and exciting all at once. Victor felt himself almost seduced by the feeling, wishing greatly to surrender to it and allow it the ability to lead him anywhere. Yes, he thought in that moment. Take away the memories. Take away the wretched thoughts of family and the strain of knowing that he was still being used as a pawn for a game that he never chose to play. No!
With great effort, Victor shook himself from the feeling and found that he had wandered closer to the house. The call to join the dance in the darkness cast by the woods was still strong but he forced himself to look away. He looked down at his feet to steady his breath before he made his way back to the house. He stopped himself from moving forward when he spied a large, strong root emerging from the budding grass. The root itself was gnarled and had he not paid attention, he would have surely fallen over it. A short distance away, he was struck by the small but flourishing rose bush that stood at the edge of the property. Victor carefully stepped over the other dead roots as he made his way over to where the brilliant green foliage was swaying in the breeze. The bush was thriving even though it was half hidden in shade and though most of the blooms were still buds not yet ready to open, there was a single bloom that had recently emerged. Victor was struck by its appearance. The rose blossom was not even open yet and still probably the largest he’d ever seen but it was also one of the strangest. The outer petals were brilliant white but the inner parts of the bloom, not yet unfolded, were a blushed hue. Never before had he seen a rose that had such a color. Though he felt his body shudder and his heart quicken at the sight of it, he at once knew that he must have them as part of his home. A home, he at once knew, that had once been theirs too.