I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.
Friday, 8th April 1921
Bad news today. At breakfast Margery was looking like a squirrel that had discovered the existence of peanut butter. She leant over to me and said:
“I am rescued!”
Her sister is coming next week to take her away. Her letters have been so sprightly even Reginald has been persuaded that science cannot justify Mrs. Crowther’s keeping her.
“And besides, Cordelia misses me,” she said happily.
I smiled, but I was soggy with self-pity inside. We have been such chums–reading books together and gossiping about the Misses behind her back. I had missed having girl friends. I haven’t known a woman I could talk to, really talk to, since I left home. One cannot really talk to Diana, the way she floats through the clouds hand-in-hand with Hardie.
Margery, on the other hand, is thoroughly sensible–gets dirt in her toenails, and pens caught in her hair–so we understand each other. I do need people to be rooted in the earth. It must be a legacy of my sensible upbringing. I like artists but feel rather suspicious of them, and do not know what to make of it when they go spinning off into the higher reaches of the atmosphere.
When I said, trying to sound as if it were a joke, “But what shall I do without you?” Margery’s eyes went round and moist like a spaniel’s.
“Oh but Jade, you said you liked this place,” she protested. “You chose it yourself.”
“You have been far too convincing,” I said. “You have persuaded me that it is a hole. And now you are going away–to the seaside, I suppose!”
“Cordelia did say we might go to the seaside,” said Margery.
“You will sit on the pebbles in a woollen bathing suit and a cap and gaze at the sea through a telescope and eat chips,” I said. “And never a thought for your abandoned friend! I will shut myself up in my room and go in for becoming an immortal. With you gone I shall have so much time to kill that I’ll be forced to grow a beard and discern the secrets of the Tao to entertain myself, and you’ll be sorry that you did not stick around to hear it.”
“I hope you grow a very long beard indeed,” said Margery unrepentantly. “I shall send you a postcard from Brighton.”
But just now there was a knock on my door and Margery came in, looking soft and curly and sad. She said,
“Jade, you will not really miss me too dreadfully? After all I have been such a bother to you. I will write–I’ll write every week–and I’ll send you starfish for your room if I can find them.”
I felt so guilty! I hugged her and told her I didn’t mean it really.
“I was just being beastly because of my overweening envy. I hope you do eat lots of chips, and wear a fetching bathing suit, and lie on the beach for as long as you can without getting pneumonia.”
But she still looked wistful.
“You will not really be lonely?” she said. “Could you not write to your friend? The nice editor you told me about.”
That gave me more than a twinge around the heart, so I think I have overestimated the rate of my recovery. But I tried to look cheerful.
“Oh, I shan’t need to,” I said. “I have lots to divert me. You aren’t to worry about me at all. I should hate to think of you dripping tears into your kippers on my account.”
Then she was satisfied and went away, saying she would not interrupt the workings of genius. I’ll admit it: I sat down and cried. But I didn’t do it for more than half an hour, and I think it did me good. I wish I were out of love–past caring. When Margery asked me what love was I like I ought to have told her the truth: it’s just the most damnable thing.