Disclaimer: Daphne du Maurier and all those affiliated with her owns 'Rebecca.' I am making no money from this.
We were having dinner at Manderley. Today was no different to any other day, this meal no different to any other meal we had had yesterday, or the day before that. I sat in my usual place at the head of the table while she sat in hers - Rebecca's previous place. The young woman who sat there now could not be anymore different from her predecessor. She was young, pure and, I believe, did not hold a single malicious thought in her head. She was innocence personified.
Rebecca on the other hand was manipulative and devious, an animate shell of a woman devoid of any soul. When I first met and knew her, she was charming and elegant with a beauty unsurpassed by any other, a beauty that was accentuated by her grace and disarming charisma. I was considered by myself and all those who knew us, to be the luckiest man on earth. Of course, I soon learnt what she really was, why she picked and married me out of any other man that would have willingly laid their lives and earthly possessions at her feet, should she have desired it. However, Rebecca did not marry me; she married the de Winter name and Manderley, with its seclusion and prestige. It was the perfect playground for her. In public, she was the flawless mistress of Manderley, loving wife of Maxim de Winter and gracious hostess of the annual fancy dress balls. Manderley gave her wealth, power and the regard of the surrounding county. It was a comfortable abode when she wasn't in London doing God-knows-what in order to satisfy her perverse, carnal pleasures.
When we weren't in the company of others, she disappeared for hours at a time, 'sailing' as the servants believed. I knew full well what she was doing and she knew that I knew and delighted in the horror and anger it inflamed in me. She did not belong to me and never did. In fact, it was I who was to be completely in her power when she revealed her true self and intentions to me on that day in Monte Carlo.
"I'll run your house for you," she told me, "I'll look after your precious Manderley for you, make it the most famous show-place in all the country, if you like. And people will visit us, and envy us, and talk about us; they'll say we are the luckiest, happiest, handsomest couple in all England. What a leg-pull, Max!" she said, "what a God-damn triumph!"
I knew then that the choice I made at that moment would alter the rest of my life. And it did. I did not divorce her there and then as I should have, but chose to uphold the name of de Winter and Manderley, the house I loved so much and thus become Rebecca's captive for the next twelve years.
My imprisonment ended the night I murdered her and the child she carried; the bastard child that she was to pass as ours and inherit Manderley when I died. I did not hesitate when I pulled the trigger, for I saw my chance to escape from her and took it. Finally, I was able to breathe as a free man, yet for ten months after Rebecca's death, I wandered, both physically and mentally – listless and passive, without any purpose. The bonds that had tied me to Rebecca and our farce of a life were broken, but somehow I knew that Rebecca would never really be gone. My home would forever be Rebecca's as well, as her chairs, tables and ornaments were still arranged in the ways that pleased her. Sometimes, I could still smell her signature azalea scent wafting around in her favourite rooms, as if she had only just quitted it before I entered. She was such a presence in life that even in death I found her memory to be overwhelming.
I went back to Monte Carlo that summer, to get away from Manderley as well as to re-assess what was left of me. It was there that I met her, the woman before me now. It seemed then that she had only just left girlhood and was so shy, almost to the point of embarrassment. She possessed a curious look that aroused my interest the very first time I saw her. In the following days that we spent together, we saw Monte Carlo, or rather she saw Monte Carlo and I observed her delight and surprise at places and things that no longer seemed so awe-inspiring to me, as it did to her. When we drove to the seaside to admire the view, she saw the peaceful and calming monotony of the waves, while a dark memory in my mind made me see it as a perilous danger, whose waves would surely reveal the secrets of the deep before long. But soon, as she experienced emotions and occasions new to her, so did I, through her. She was enchanted by the quaint lives of the peasants, the glittering harbour and the rustic cobbled squares. Her senses seemed heightened as she took in each delicious smell, wondrous sight and pleasing sound in her child-like manner.
I sometimes felt as young as her again and nearly forgot the past twelve years of my life. It was incredible that a young woman of her age could have wrought such an effect upon me at a time when I believed to be past feeling those things again. She gave me new life and instilled a hope into me that this was not the end, but rather a new beginning. I clung to that hope and knew that I could not let her go, as she was the one who gifted me with that. And so, I married her.
Perhaps I married her for what she represented to me. A young life just started out, uncorrupted by the evils that the world had to present. I wanted to keep her safe here at Manderley with me and forever maintain that lost, innocent look she had in her eyes that I loved so much. Yet I knew that by marrying her, I was tainting her purity with my own dark past. The irony was not lost on me, but I didn't care. She was now my wife.
As I observed her while we ate our dinner, her countenance changed. Suddenly, she was no longer the one I spent idle days at the cove with, nor was she the awkward hostess at our obligatory teas with unwelcome guests. For a moment, she held the same look on her face that Rebecca did. For a moment, I feared she was Rebecca. My throat constricted and my body tensed as if the bonds of my former life were coming back and tightening around me. In our sham of a marriage, during the times when it was just the two of us, she always held a look in her eyes as if she knew things about you that you yourself never wanted to admit to another living soul. My darling wife had that same expression for a moment. I tried to inquire as to what was going through her mind, fighting to stave off my unwarranted and rather irrational alarm.
"What the devil are you thinking about?" I asked with a forced, faint laugh in my voice.
She blushed and my beautiful wife returned to me again, as the momentary trace of my former captor dissipated. It turned out to be a harmless trifle of hers and we talked of the upcoming fancy dress ball, an event which I hoped would create new memories instead of resurrecting old ones. This time at Manderley, the fancy dress ball would not be a prison for me as it had been year after year, as I smiled at guests while Rebecca held my arm in a vice-like grip. This year, the ball would be a joyous occasion, and Manderley would be the welcoming home that it is.
When Frith had served me my coffee in the library, I relaxed. For now, at least, my captor was gone. I would never be tormented again, nor struggle to live, day after day in a lie. Rebecca was not coming back; my wife would never ever become anything like Rebecca. I would see to it that it never happened. She was mine and as long as she wasn't Rebecca, I would keep her with me forever.