A door with a frame painted a crimson hue; no signpost, address or nameplate is visible. A plaque of nevercold brass sliver is inset into the archway, and the inscribed words In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni glow with the borrowed flame of gaslamps on either side. Such a fiery sentiment and alluring shade of red can only mean that you’ve found your way to that fabled paradise of delights…
The Crimson Ring.
[A letter on personal stationery, in an elegant, loose hand.]
This morning, darling, I find myself on the veranda staring out towards the gardens and was inspired to write you in the rise of a particular hunger.
It is a morning (or whatever passes for such here) in which I find myself craving the fresh scent of roses, to inhale the piquant air of even one of those luscious blooms that once grew nearly wild on the back of the house of my youth. I know it is nearly time on the surface for their blooms, and certainly I could easily purchase a bouquet brought down.
But I think I shall not. Such dusty, half-spent blossoms would only incite in me the yearning for truth, for the fragrance that I cannot have. Why settle for the shallow attempt, the counterfeit, when even the aching memory of the true, transient fragrance is more fulfilling?
Thus you know the woman I am: I cannot ever grow content with shadows, even if they draw my eye from time to time with their pretty imitations. My spirit is stirred by the embrace of the genuine, and I long for it, even though it may be elusive. All else is a distraction that shall never live up to my desires.
The envelope is sitting on the pillow of your bed, but it doesn’t appear as if anything in the room has been disturbed. Perhaps the maid brought it? Wait, you don’t have a maid? Nevertheless, it is here.
Once opened, a letter on fine stationery is folded with a stark crease. It reads as follows:
The chambermaid appears at the door, a hollow knock against the frame. Scarlet quietly stows the embroidery frame behind an expansive oak Chippendale-inspired display case that reaches to a height such that the top shelf is accessible by Scarlet. The glass is etched with a swirling ivy design that conveniently obscures a completely clear view of its contents without being directly in front of the case and angling one’s view. The item on the lower shelf looks to be a wax head of John the Baptist– one can only imagine what else is contained therein.
Two letters lie on her desk – the one on the left sports a viciously angled script, scrawled across the page in fits and starts. It will never be delivered; the flames in the fireplace are stoked even now to consume it.
The letter on the right is only a small piece of paper, fit for delivery by bat.
My dearest love, Lamont,
She waits in her parlour for the Commodore; tea service is ready to arrive as soon as he does.
It makes no sense to hide the bandages from the burns -it’s likely he already knows, or would assume that small attacks have begun. And there is no dress that can hide the one that spreads like a handprint from her neck onto her face. At least I can wear a corset, Scarlet thinks, remembering the last time she was badly burned. She smooths out the black velvet skirts with attentiveness, doing something with her hands to avoid fidgeting overmuch.
[cue The Commodore.]
That the urge strikes feels ridiculous: hadn’t she left the whole of that life behind?
Scarlet puts down her pen; it is mostly written– not perfect…in need of editing…in a bare pentameter–but the majority was complete. She read it over, her notes on the side of the paper with details and reminders such as Quince = the fruit of the Garden of the Hesperides. Golden. Marmalade coming from Marmelos = portuguese word for quince.
“Still it isn’t half bad for a first pass-through,” and she begins to recite her little epic aloud to herself, stumbling here and there.