Please be gentle. You'll never believe who this story is about.
Dedicated to Katie, my partner in crime. Only we can come up with things this weird.
Life In A Glass House
As a Merteuil, there were many things expected of me growing up. I had to be perfect. You would think that the horror of my childhood would make me sympathetic towards my only daughter, but seeing her standing alone on the steps of the Church, I felt no such thing. Seeing my beautiful child, my first born, my own flesh and blood finally deserted, seeing her abandoned and alone, my heart didn't go out to her. It didn't ache for her. I did not feel the pain of a mother watching her child's heart break. I felt a strange sort of satisfaction as her bright eyes pooled with tears, those eyes that so many had admired. The green irises blurred with unshed pain, but not even as the tiniest tear slid down her porcelain face did I feel remorse. Kathryn had failed, and it was a long time coming. I had always known that Sebastian Valmont would be her undoing.
Maybe this was all my fault. I had seen the signs ages ago, the seeds of a relationship incomprehensibly deep. I had ignored them because, quite frankly, I had better things to do than worry about Kathryn. She wasn't the only one with a life to live, or a double-life to be more accurate. Pride can't help but leak through at the thought of all the Upper East Side buffoons that she managed to pull the wool over on.
I can hear your shocked silence, the startled intake of breath. I'm a mother, you're thinking. And this is what I thought of my 'baby'? Well, yes, it is, and I'm not ashamed of that. At least, not really. Should it ever get out, I'd pretend to be, naturally, because that's what's socially acceptable. There are two places where a woman can be herself—her heart and her mind—and in both, I had no feelings for Kathryn. How could I? The girl was carved out of ice, and I was much the same. Feelings were not a factor. At least, not once she had hit her teen years.
As a young child, she was the most beautiful one I had ever seen. Kathryn was so much like the porcelain dolls that girls longed so deeply for, and I was completely enamored. It was my own living, breathing, life-sized doll. She never whined or complained like my friend's own children had tended to do. Long ago, Kathryn had learned that tears would never get you anything, not when there were so many more effective matters. In Kathryn, I saw a manifestation of all I had ever thought was good in the world--- breeding and beauty and natural grace and poise.
More than that, she was something I had never before seen in the world. It was an unconditional sort of attachment, a person's whose affections I didn't have to earn. I didn't have to put on a show for the adolescent with the eyes that seemed to see all. I never had to earn her approval the way I had to with my own family, and so we became each other's family. Maybe this was a mistake too, this isolation from the rest of the family, leaving her alone with the quivering mess that I tend to become.
But I'm a Merteuil, and it's been embossed into my brain that remorse is not a state of mind. There is never an instance where I shall accept guilt or defeat. Especially not when there are others to shove it off upon.
Now do you understand? Can you see why Kathryn turned out the way she did? It's because I'm a monster, I truly am. I'm so full of self-deprecation, hidden behind a confident exterior and a good name. I shoved her away in her formative years because I couldn't be bothered, and maybe I damaged her forever, or maybe I made her stronger than love ever could. Love is a weak emotion. It turns you into a person who needs, a person who feels, a person who fails. My mother learned this before I, and her mother before her. I passed this so-called wisdom onto my only child, because it's the only thing I could do. So perhaps I destroyed her. Perhaps this way of thinking that turned her into the repulsive creature that Manhattan would scorn. Or maybe it was this that turned her into the lady that everyone loved, the debutante that all of society would worship. Maybe it's not up to you to decide.
It's people like that, those who judge, that are the real problem with society. You prance about as if we can't all see what you're doing, as if you're the only one who knows what a Gossip Column is. All your misdeeds are on display, a public embarrassment not exploited only because of the worthless tradition of turning the other cheek to scandal. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
As I watched my Kathryn on the steps, that's what I thought about. She turned page after page, and a shiny tear slid down her cheek, and I could see the glass house falling down. Its walls shattered around her, shattering into shards, the shards cutting her deeper than you could ever imagine. The glass tore apart her soul, its transparency giving no indication of the pain to the onlookers. They would have to be satisfied by the tear. It's more than they deserved.
Perhaps I exaggerate, and I do have some affection for the girl. Not the woman she had become, but the girl that she used to be. The stifled soul that was still contained within the twisted and depraved teen. Oh yes, there would be retribution for this act… I hope Hargrove doesn't like his job too much…
As she hit ten, eleven, twelve, then thirteen, Kathryn had not aged like all the girls around her. She did not slouch uncomfortably, shuffle her feet, sprout up like a beanpole and walk awkwardly as she grew into herself. Kathryn had, throughout her life, maintained a delicate poise and confidence that few could manage.
It was at this time when I started to see the changes in her. Disappearances in the night and quiet disobedience during the day. She pasted on a perfect smile for the world to see, but only I could see the cracks in it. And I did nothing to repair it.
I don't know when it was when I woke up and the smile was cold. I can't give you a certain time as to when her eyes turned to ice, when she ruined her first life, when the darkness inside her began to grow. But I can tell you the exact date as to when the smile turned into a smirk.
May 15th. It was the night of my rehearsal dinner, the eve of my wedding. It was my second marriage, and a far better prospect than my first, as my mother had so kindly reminded me numerous times. Deep down, I knew that she was right, and that killed me. The Merteuils were a force to be reckoned with, but the Valmonts? Well, the Valmonts were a whole different breed.
Edward was certainly charming, and he made for a fine accessory. I know, I know. People should marry for love, not social standings, but do you know what love is? No, no one really knows what love is. Love is the unconditional feelings of devotion towards another person, giving them the ability to tear your heart out and leave you there to bleed. If people knew what love truly was, they would be far less willing to make themselves slaves to it. As for me, I was a slave to nothing and no one. But how ridiculous would I look, a widow at forty, a single mother wasting her time and money? At least with Edward, the sex was good; the social situation was secure, which left us both free to pursue other interests. Although I suppose that if we knew more about our respective children's interests, we'd have spent more time at home.
At age fourteen, Kathryn had grown into the young woman that I had hoped she would be and prayed that she wouldn't. Beautiful and confident, elegant and poised, she was the living, breathing advertisement for how well off the Merteuil family was. That evening, she was clothed in an exquisite emerald green gown that accented her eyes, and was a little too low cut for my taste.
While the social empresses around us tried to engage my young daughter in conversation, Kathryn's expression was polite but vacant. Her eyes scanned the room disinterestedly, and I was trying to find the appropriate moment to take her aside and scold her when I saw that her bright eyes, so uninterested only a moment ago now lit up in interest. Wheeling about to see what had managed to capture the attention of my perpetually sullen teenager, I sighed at what I found. Tall, blonde, deep eyes, almost too pretty face. My future stepson.
This was the first time Kathryn Merteuil came face to face with Sebastian Valmont. You could mark this date as the beginning, or perhaps the beginning of the end, but Sebastian and Kathryn were something else. Even when their eyes locked from across the room, you could feel something. It was eerie to be around the two. It was as if they existed in a universe all their own, a place cruel and unusual, where they were the gods and they made their own rules. I had no doubts that Sebastian was Kathryn's closest confidante, and this worried me. Trusting someone was a lot like loving them. It was giving them the power to destroy you. And that's what he ended up doing, didn't he Kathryn? I told you all along that men were not to be trusted, that no one was to be trusted. You always played by your own rules, you were so convinced that you were untouchable. And you came so close sweetie, you were almost there.
I knew that something was wrong while you were making your speech. It was Sebastian's memorial service, and I mentally willed you not to cry. Contrary to popular belief, I did give a damn about your stepbrother, but I was slightly impressed by the way you managed to turn the eulogy and make it all about you. You'd certainly make your grandmother proud.
The air seemed stiffer. It was thicker, tenser. There was excitement in the air, mixed with apprehension in a truly lethal mix. It was not the quiet calm, the mourning of a beloved citizen, but a hushed treachery. Not a bird chirped outside, and people in the chapel seemed afraid to even breathe. That should've been your first clue, Kathryn. If I could pick up on it, so could you. I raised you to be better at this game than I. But then again, you failed miserably. You trusted. You lost.
And then I could see you standing on the chapel steps, alone at last. Sebastian had abandoned you, just like I always told you he would. Trust is nothing but a figment of the imagination. To trust another human being is to try and walk on a phantom limb. Yet I suppose that's what Sebastian was to you. What was he, Kathryn? Your phantom heart? What were you trying to stand on when you frantically flipped through the journal? What were you looking for? What did you find instead?
So was it worth it, honey? You deliberately disobeyed me, when all I wanted was better for you. Now that you've loved and lost, and I know now that you loved him, do you feel fulfilled because you have something to wax poetic on? If you would've just listened to me for once, this whole mess could've been avoided. If you could've been strong like you were born to be, Kathryn, you would've been untouchable. You were born for so much more Kathryn, and you failed miserably. If nothing else, I taught you that all of life is a game. Game over, Kathryn. You lose.
Okay, this ficlet scares the crap out of me. I have no idea how this turned out, and I've never written a story from the POV of Kathryn's mother. I've actually never even read one. So I was just kind of fumbling blindly, with Katie to help of course. So special thanks to you, because I could've never gotten this out without you. Anyway, please review guys, because constructive criticism is definitely appreciated. (As are compliments… hahah)
Thanks for reading guys,