(Lawrence fell in love with Gwen, as she did him, but tragically it was not to be. If only he had known her in another life ….)
-note: some scenes described are from the extended edition of The Wolfman-
He would never forgive himself if anything ever happened to her.
Oh, but even before this he knew he was falling in love. At first sight, perhaps, when she so boldly came to him backstage at The Theatre Royale in London. She sought help when her beloved Ben disappeared. Her demeanor was direct, her temperament in check, and Lawrence knew she was an extraordinary young woman. He sensed it, admired it, and nearly begrudged her the obvious worry and care for her missing fiancé.
Poor Benjamin. He was Lawrence's even tempered fair-skinned brother, who the actor hadn't seen face to face in years. There had been a photograph, a small oval-shaped print Ben mailed to Lawrence a few years ago - and my, how Ben looked like their Father - but they would write to one another only occasionally. Lawrence wondered if Father knew about their correspondence - and if he would care if he did know?
And did he know of Miss Conliffe's visit?
Last year Ben mentioned in a hastily written missive that he was seeing a Miss Gwendolyn Conliffe, the daughter of a successful antique dealer, but Lawrence did not know how far the relationship had progressed. Perhaps Ben had wanted to keep her under wraps, to protect her from the tragedy that was his brother's life ... And he had completely failed to mention that Gwen was an exceptionally beautiful woman.
Lawrence refused to help at first, thinking Ben had cold feet and simply ran out on his obligation. However, the look in her eyes, Gwen's desperate words and determination, had shaken his stubbornness. There was something there, a near challenge that stirred his blood. And, in retrospect, Ben would have had to been out of his mind to abandon someone like Gwen Conliffe.
Even during that brief introduction and exchange he saw she was so unlike the other women he knew; the brazen actresses and admirers from the theatre. All Lawrence had to do was snap his fingers and any one of the striking young ladies would be his companion for the night. Popularity, Lawrence flipantly told friends, often has its rewards. But it also had its demands - And, in all honesty, he was a very lonely man, despite the attention.
Miss Conliffe, he reasoned, was respectable and genteel. She might possibly even a bit of an autocrat if given the right circumstances. Yet, she also had a warm, loving heart and - he reflected - a passionate feistiness that might seem unladylike to some who did not know better ... but it captivated Lawrence - and Ben too..
No, she was not a phony and Lawrence could see how his brother, an honest man of few words and a less than worldly nature, had managed to impress and woo a woman like Gwen Conliffe. At least, Lawrence thought he understood. Ben was simple and uncomplicated. He was trustworthy and secure. He was also well-liked in Blackmoor. Any woman would be happy calling him her husband.
Lawrence and Gwen never really got around to talking about she and Ben during their brief talks near the falls, the lake, or even when he was recovering, unknowing of his fate, and she sat there by his bedside. It was just too painful. Shamefaced, Lawrence found himself wondering if he came back to Blackmoor for Ben or to further find himself in Gwen's company. He felt further guilt when his father informed him that Ben was no longer just missing but dead, mauled by a madman or creature of unknown orgins.
Then, when he was attacked himself and she was there, by his bedside, watching over him, caring for him and his most unnatural wound - how could he not love her? Lawrence would open his eyes during the night, the glow of a bright half-moon filtering through the heavy curtains and she would be sitting there, eyes closed, resting or asleep, an open book oftentimes clasped to her lovely bosom. Groggy and half asleep himself he had wished he was that book, to be so close to such perfection.
But then he would fall asleep again and the dreams he had - awful violent nightmares - would over-shadow the gentleness of the lovely, calming vision that was his late brother's fiancé … the woman Lawrence had grown to not just desire but revere.
Oh, but it was so wrong. Such guilt he felt every time she came close and he yearned to touch her, smell the delicate perfume she wore, and look deeply into the stunning depths of her eyes. And how he wanted to hold her, kiss away her pain, hoping she might take away some of his own heartache in return.
Lawrence decided could live very happily for the rest of his life with a woman like Gwen Conliffe by his side. It was so wrong to think such things, his brother barely cold in his grave, but it also seemed so right. When they spoke with one another there was such a connection, a chemistry, and when they touched, when he taught her the rock-skipping trick, there was laughter and an all too brief joy.
It was as if she were his soul-mate ….
Silly nonsense, of course, but there were times when he would look into her eyes and see the same longing, the identical need, even if neither of them said it aloud.
His father, Gwen had said, resented her because she reminded him of Lawrence's mother … a lovely woman of Spanish, possibly even a mixture of bloods, who Lawrence resembled. Perhaps that was a part of the puzzle. Despite her heritage, a dark skin color, and an uncertain pedigree, Mother was a bright light in their large dreary home - as was Gwen. That must have been a terrible conflict for Father; to have loved Mother so much, to have had her taken away by her own hand, then to have Ben bring Gwen into their lives - a terrible reminder of what Father once had and lost.
Lawrence too had loved his mother. She would often read to he and Ben, as they sat at her feet, and oftentimes his head would rest on her knees, the cool silk of her gowns soothing under his cheek and she would stroke his hair. She had told her children stories of strong Persian heroes, English Knights, giants and dragons … but never monsters. Perhaps she had an intuition that such evil would come to her family soon enough … and all innocence would be lost forever.
And it was. The nightmare was never ending. Only death would bring it to a satisfying conclusion. And, if God, or whoever was in ultimate control of mans destiny, was kind it would be quick and merciful - and come at the hands of someone who loved him.
He was a monster. His father was a monster.
Oh, Gwen …
Her kiss. Her touch. Her kindness. Her love.
"I'm sorry." she whispered, holding him, tears running freely down her exquisite cheeks. They were near the falls. She was tenderly stroking his hair and face. And there was pain, life ebbing, but not as agonizing as one might think. There was silver in that bullet, he thought briefly. Perhaps that made the difference ….
The last thing Lawrence remembered was confronting his father in the great-room. Sir John Talbot had killed Lawrence's Mother … no suicide … and poor Ben … and so many others. Father had confessed to it all. He was a werewolf. Like father, like son.
Sir John was the demon that had made Lawrence the way he was. He ruined his childhood and adult life. He had taken everything from him. But, despite this, Lawrence hoped God was forgiving. His father had gone mad. It took twenty-five years to truly manifest itself but it was madness just the same. Lawrence could forgive him now …
"It had to be this way." Lawrence tried to reassure Gwen. The misery on her face was almost too much for him to bear. But even this was fading. Darkness was over-coming Lawrence. "Thank you." he breathed out heavily. My darling ….
Gwen. Yes, thank you for ending this. You are truly the one genuinely good thing that has happened to me.
If only he had known her in another life …
(Go to Chapter 2)