This story is by Shreya Ganguly and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The sky and waves met to submerge into one beautiful landscape. The tree’s bark stood still, overflowing with leaves atop the blossoms of the branches. The oak tree had stood long, enduring the arduous months of frost in the brutal winters of the coastal line. The bark held each thought of the day, binding the fields in love in waiting over the city’s memories with the comfort of the tree’s silhouette against the clear, velvet sky and the onrush of the spring bluebells.
On the kitchen table, there lay miscellaneous scraps of paper, sitting without much use. As the darkness in the air fell upon the rooms, Sylvia marched forward with shining eyes. “May I speak to Mariyah?” she asked the elderly woman with a jitter of hope in her voice.
“Yes, you may speak to Mariyah. Do not bring her outside, for you know how ill she is.”
Mariyah, a frail girl of fifteen years, sat positioned on her bed, longing for a touch of company. Her cheeks, rosy and kissed by the sun, were part of the light cotton cream.
Sylvia bid a farewell to her acquaintance, Mariyah with a rather solemn message.
“Madame Leache, what happened of Mariyah?” Venetia pounded on the ground with scorn. “Dear, that is a hidden secret. I don’t want you telling the public what insane acts have caused her death,” Madame Leache replied with a meticulous smile. “Are you telling me that Mariyah’s death has not been caused by the pandemic of Spanish influenza?” Venetia inquired. Madame Leache fled the room in utter disgrace.
Venetia was the most rigid, disagreeable girl in all of Toronto. Anyone who endeavored to convince her out of her presentiments was despised by her. Her face, the darkest of dusky tones visible, still managed to attract many.
“Aunt Katherine, who is my mother?” Venetia squealed over the dinner table. “Venetia, your mother was Sylvia, the cousin of Mariyah,” Aunt Katherine elucidated. “So, you are telling me that Mariyah was my aunt. What caused her death? I understand that death is destined, but I must know why my aunt, Mariyah passed on,” Venetia speculated. “Ten years ago, Mariyah was found dead in her bedroom. We concluded that she died of lung disease, for she had difficulty breathing. However, Mariyah was a depressed being. She contemplated life and death for a long time. She used to say such profound things. I gave her a copy of The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. She confidently said, ‘I can write better than Charles Dickens’ and a young writer was born. Upon publication of her novel, Between The Edges of Light, she was deceased. Suicide is never encouraged in our society. I do not want for you to get actuated by her intents,” Aunt Katherine finished with her lengthy explanation. Venetia’s eyes grew wide and dark. She had come to a point in her road where she saw what had occurred afar. Mariyah’s death must have been suicide, the act of killing one’s self. Such a sensitive topic, cases of suicide were censored in the public. “This is why Madame Leache had refused to inform me of the minute details that ignited the day of my aunt’s death,” she said in revelation. Aunt Katherine would just watch movies all day long and ignore the realities of the world.
The next morning after breakfast, Venetia was picking apples at the orchard. Upon the crisp arrival of spring, the flowers blossomed in all vibrancy and added color to her life. Reminiscing her time on the gardens of Prince Edward Island, the fir trees and spruces were filled with bluebells and marigolds during this time. Being mellow bright and serene, Venetia could merely feel innate happiness here.
Wearing her rimmed glasses, Venetia started writing her article for the newspaper, the story of Mariyah’s life and purpose. This was a story that had to be revealed to the public. She kept at it, writing for hours. Aunt Katherine had made her way to Venetia’s room. “My dear Venetia, don’t go around musing such stories of our family to the public. I am sure Mariyah would not appreciate the act of sharing the story of her death. She was a renowned author. You will be shamed. I never want that to happen. Suicide is a curse. Why did I ever tell you Mariyah’s story? You are impudent and so used to going your way in life. For once, think of our plight”, she complained. “Aunt Katherine, this is my career. I am a journalist. It really is an illness of your mind here. Let me do as I please,” Venetia argued.
The doorbell rang and Venetia raced down the stairs. “How are you, Venetia?”, Henry Powrie asked her. “Henry, I am well. I know your purpose of arrival. Don’t even think of asking me to marry you. I am quite young. I am only twenty-three years old and have not yet considered marriage,” Venetia uttered. “You never have to do anything against your will. I read your article about Mariyah and her incomprehensible death. I believe twenty-three is the perfect age for marriage,” Henry comforted her. Venetia’s face began to burn, for the world had started to discover the tragedy of Mariyah.
Wednesday, April Tenth.
Dear Henry Powrie, I am so remorseful about how I behaved with you this afternoon. In fact, I may as well marry you. We have been childhood friends and you have accepted me for who I am. I am writing this because the public is now aware of my aunt, Mariyah. Why pity her of the decision as she lay in the waters between life and death? Unfortunately, I am horrible at first impressions. My aunt, Katherine is convinced that my intentions are threatening. Why do they say that suicide is a sensitive topic? Despite being rejected by society, you have held every belief in me, Henry. Perhaps, I have even thought of ending my life. I know that we will all die one day and death is completely destined. Why kill my body when death is on its way? Somehow, you have acceded to my thoughts and want to be my nest, protecting me in all experiences. In writing the story of Mariyah, I have come to realize the illness of our minds. Please, don’t leave me, Henry. I am Venetia, the girl from your childhood. We would stroll through the gardens to school. I am desperately ready for marriage. After all, it is just a dream.
Sincerely, your kindred spirit, Venetia Bard
“Aunt Katherine, may I wed Henry Powrie?” Venetia entreated. “My dear Venetia, I think you should marry John. Henry just wanders around the gardens all day long,” Aunt Katherine replied in all sulkiness. “Henry understands me, unlike you. We have grown up together. His voice is much like the chirping of a bird; it considers what I want. I am not as selfish as you think. Think of what your dear niece wants. This desire is love, the only real feeling there is. It is much more powerful than your worldly desires. What a possessive person you are! Please try and understand my perspective for once. I am old enough to make my own decisions,” Venetia went on. Aunt Katherine pinned up her grey hair and made her way to her bedroom in haste.
Aunt Katherine’s face darkened in utmost misery. Her niece would go out of the mansion and do as she wished. The mansion of emptiness-so called because there were scarcely any residents in comparison to the size of the house. What would Katherine do? Happiness would not be willing to sit on her bed of loneliness, and yet she held the knowledge that the tree’s bark would leave Venetia in a placid pool alongside Henry, the mere way for peace in the Bard household.
Venetia was already leaping across the gardens. Above her, stood a tall tree. The leaves were separated, leaving each branch visible to the public. Venetia’s arm joined Henry’s long fingers from the side. “My Venetia, where are the guests?”, he asked, bewildered by the solitary place. “In true marriages, there is no need for guests. We merely need a husband and wife with a feeling of love”, she explained. The night drew in, star-lit. Taking her satchel, Venetia took in the breeze from the exposed tree. In the dull grey sky, lay a lamp of prosperity. The couple walked over triumphantly and the marriage was complete in its peculiar beauty.