I’ve been writing a lot of short stories recently, and thought I’d start sharing some of them here. This is inspired by my all time favourite novel, Rebecca – a fan fiction of some sorts I suppose, looking into the future.
RETURN: A STRANGE ENCOUNTER
England smelt different somehow. It had been over twenty years since I had last put a foot down on English soil, and yet, as I looked around, it all looked the same. Just how I imagined it. Could things from dreams come true?
It certainly felt like it.
I wrapped my cardigan tighter around me, and tried to navigate my way back through the airport.
Life had certainly moved on. And now, I was here, alone again.
Despite having spent the last twenty years on the move and travelling, the airport was alien and far too big. England was strange too.
I pulled my case from the rack, and not finding any help anywhere, made my own way, slowly, through the airport to the taxi ranks. It was easier to take it, each step at a time, move through the crowds, the vast spaces, just thinking about now, the present moment, not the past – nor the future.
‘Excuse me,’ a voice called after me and I pretended not to hear it. It was easier that way.
Why had I not realised that it would this difficult to return?
‘Mrs de Winter?’ The hand touched me on the shoulder and whirled me around. Unable to ignore the call this time, I was whirled around to face my pursuer.
‘Yes,’ I stuttered. ‘That’s me.’
I didn’t know why I hadn’t lied, why I hadn’t pretended it wasn’t me. It was a heavy coat to put back on – this name, and everything that came with it.
After twenty years, I thought that maybe I would be forgotten. Look different. I was older, wiser. I was a different person, but I supposed, if you had known someone once, it was hard to see them as any other person.
I examined the face in front of me.
‘You probably don’t remember me, ma’am, it was so long ago,’
‘Ma’am, now I feel old,’ I stammered my reply, that awkward shy school girl coming right back to me as if I had never left her behind. I wanted to pinch myself.
As if in memory, I clutched my gloves tightly.
Why had I come back? I wished now that I hadn’t. Why had I expected anything to have changed?
‘You look the same, if you don’t mind me saying.’
Wonderful, I thought to myself. I didn’t want to look the same. I didn’t think that I looked the same.
‘It’s Robert, ma’am, from Manderley.’
Of course. His face had been youthful then, and although he was older now, as I scrutinised him, I could still see that boy inside him. ‘Robert, of course. I’m sorry, it’s been a long journey.’
‘Are you back for a visit? Is Mr de Winter with you?’
I shifted uneasily, and looked down at my gloves. ‘I guess you haven’t heard then? Mr de Winter passed away two months ago.’
Robert’s face fell. ‘I’m so sorry Mrs de Winter. I didn’t mean to – I didn’t know,’
I cut him off. ‘Robert,’ I said gently, somehow finding my strength again. ‘It’s okay. There was no way you could find out.’
‘So are you, I mean,’
‘I’ve come back for a bit. I had enough of being abroad.’ I smiled. ‘I have to get a taxi, I don’t mean to rush off, but,’
‘Can I help you? I’m not going anywhere in a rush, so,’
I hesitated, but knowing I probably wouldn’t get many offers like this, accepted. ‘What are you doing here?’ I asked as we headed through the airport.
‘I’m picking up my daughter.’
‘Your daughter?’ I said, delighted. It was strange to think of all those lives that had moved on.
Robert nodded and told me of his family as we headed outside. ‘We’re a long way from home aren’t we, both of us?’ I said as I observed the unfamiliar sights in front of me. It had all changed so much. It wasn’t like getting a boat or something.
I sighed and Robert glanced at me. ‘Are you going to be okay Mrs de Winter? I mean, you have somewhere to go, don’t you?’
‘Oh yes,’ I told him, smiling, but I didn’t think that it convinced him anymore than it convinced me. ‘I’m all sorted.’
He got me a taxi and loaded my suitcase in. ‘Well, it was a pleasure bumping into you again ma’am. Maybe I’ll see you again.’
‘Oh yes. It was lovely to see you too Robert. And thank you.’
As the taxi pulled away, I peered back at him. He had already disappeared back into the airport to find his daughter. I smiled. Nice of him to bother with an old fool like me.
Truth be told, I had no idea where I was going. I watched the unfamiliar scenes pass me by. It had been a long time since I had been in England, even longer since I had been in London.
I had intended to spend a few days in London, and then see what options were available to me, but my encounter with Robert had stirred something in me. The coast was calling, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay away from Cornwall for long.