A/N: The idea of writing a story of a 21st century girl suddenly landing in the world of fiction, sprung from the BBC mini series "Lost in Austen". I felt like it had to be done again. This time for my favourite novel "Jane Eyre". Although it is certainly a challenge, I want to do the story justice. So, I'm taking my time. Sorry for that in advance, but I will try my best to update regularly.
I'm excited to hear your thoughts on what I've written so far. I appreciate your opinion and support. It really helps when the going gets tough to know that there are many of you out there who are as passionate about the novel as me!
Disclaimer: I do not own the plot or the characters of "Jane Eyre". They belong to the wonderful Charlotte Brontë. The main idea is based on "Lost in Austen".
Thanks for your reviews and general support. Enjoy!
Chapter I – Fortune Favours the Brave
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day, but back then I must confess that I was glad of it. Who goes for walks in the middle of winter, wandering around aimlessly with the cold wind blowing mercilessly around their faces, freezing them to the marrow? That does not sound at all inviting to me.
The day I am referring to was a cold winter afternoon in the middle of December. I, Ruby Bunting, was observing my cruel stepmother and her two heartless daughters through the windowpane, as I sat perched on one of the windowseats in the gallery, a woollen blanket draped over my shoulders. My three relatives were trudging through the fields beyond Ravenshead Manor, the grand Victorian estate we resided in. Veiled in thick white mist, they were merely visible as undistinct blobs of grey in the distance. Everything around them was bleak and uninviting.
Christmas was close at hand and I was dreading it. Family holidays - to me there was not much worse. The reason holidays were so torturous to me, was that they reminded me of my unfortunate circumstances. Not only had I grown up with the least decent human beings on the planet, I had also lost my father shortly after he had remarried the wicked witch whom I now barely deigned to call my stepmother. Her name was Mrs Grateley. A very grand name for a very smallminded woman. Her two daughters were equally despicable. They went by equally grand names as their mother thought befitted them: Beatrice and Lucinda. Undeservedly so, as their talent limited itself to the lengths they took to satisfy their sadistic minds. From the moment our families merged, these two nightmarish creatures began taking pleasure in making my life miserable, but they always teased me behind closed doors. Taking on the role of my tormentors, they made sure to make me feel as unwelcome as possible.
Not only my stepsisters, but Mrs Grateley in particular insisted on excluding me from every possible family event, even ones that involved the creation of family keepsakes, for instance having family portraits taken. This type of activity was always undertaken without me, as I was considered too lowly to be included in the Grateley's ranks - not to mention my exclusion from any kind of public display of familial bonds at parties and the like. On those occasions, I was to keep quiet and sit somewhere demurely in a dark corner while the Grateley's entertained their guests, if I was to show my face at all. Ideally, I was to make myself scarce whenever people were invited over, so they would be left unawares of my very existence.
This time of year proved particularly challenging, as it brought up so many memories of my late father. He had always been my sole guardian, as my mother had unfortunately died in childbirth. When we still lived in a cottage in Blackfield, my father and I would celebrate Christmas together - just the two of us - whereby we forged our own special Bunting traditions. We prepared our Turkey dinner together and sang Christmas carols before opening our presents. It was a very happy time. My father used to say to me that all we needed was each other. How true that had been. After my mother's passing, my dad was unable to overcome his grief for nine whole years. It seemed as though he was inhabited by a mere ghost of his past self. It was only after the elapsing of almost an entire decade that my father let himself fall in love again. Unfortunately, it was Mrs Grateley - or Janice as he called her - who made him come back to life. Even though it was rather jarring to grow up without a mother, I felt that all I needed was my father. He was a great parent, one who understood me and consulted me when I was in need. A dear friend as well as a father - and now he too was no longer by my side. Fortune, it seemed, was not in my favour.
This also applied to the ungrateful Grateleys. My stepsisters were two of the most mean-spirited imps I had ever met. They took pleasure in causing me pain and did not stop until they had snuffed out even the last sparks of my will to fight them. They sought out the memories I held most dear and tainted them. They reminded me of what caused me the most pain, my father's demise, until my heart broke. Their prize to be won, was seeing me suffer. I was granted a room upstairs next to my stepsisters until my father passed away two years after we had moved into Ravenshead. After his death, everything changed. My stepmother decided I was no longer in need of a comfortable bedroom. Instead, she stuck me in the attic where the heating malfunctioned all year round and mold had sprouted from the ceiling. Needless to say, neither Mrs Grateley nor her hidiously spiteful children needed to fain any scraps of kindness once my father was gone. On the contrary, they began showing their true colours, making sure they made me feel like a nuisance. They treated me like an outlander, an interloper, someone who did not belong. Their attempts to smother my will to live seemed neverending, but I survived my childhood and my stepsisters. Now I can proudly pronounce that they are nothing to me.
The only means to survive such an infernal home, was to escape. I succeeded in doing so by wandering aimlessly into the most unfrequented corners and hallways of Ravenshead Manor. During my time at Ravenshead, I often got lost in the endless corridors, with their bland grey wallpaper, while attempting to find some peace in isolation. Lost in thought, I would often also lose sight of where I was. Not only did I attempt to avoid the Grateleys once my father was no longer there to protect me, I also discovered a new passion: reading. A wise woman once said "To travel far, there is no better ship than a book." In my world, books were my main means of escape. I sunk my teeth into one story after another; travelling in time, sailing across the widest of oceans, flying to the remotest of islands, meeting the most eccentric of characters, but it was not until I discovered one particular kindred spirit that I gained hope for the first time in forever. The character I felt most for was Jane Eyre.
After discovering "Jane Eyre", there was no other book I wanted to escape to. Jane's story was and always will be my all-time favourite, one that could sweep me off my feet and make me sail away from the tedious goings-on in my everyday life into the whirlwind emotional journey of a nineteenth century English governess. It is a book that has changed my life. Jane Eyre, the book and the character herself, feel like loyal friends to me, waiting for me after even the longest and most tedious of days, not that I want to sound too bleak. From the moment I first glimpsed my favourite heroine's innermost thoughts, I was captivated. I accompanied Jane through struggle and strife from Gateshead and the red room to Lowood and the loss of her friend. I joined Jane on her journey to Thornfield–Hall until I finally fell head over heels for Mr. Rochester, or as Jane later reluctantly calls him, Edward. Jane's thoughts are fraught with pain and unhappiness in her childhood and early youth. I have always admired her strong sense of justice and her need to speak out about cruel injustice, not only if endured by her, but also by her fellow human beings. One of the many character traits I have in common with Jane, is her sense of what is right and her feeling of empathy for those in dire straits. From the first paragraph of "Jane Eyre" alone, I knew I would learn to love her dearly, as if she were my own true friend. I felt I had found a kindred spirit in Jane, although I myself did not speak up when I was bullied or defend myself in my childhood. I merely endured the agony. I tried not to be noticed anymore, to become invisible, which is exactly what I became to the greater masses at my school. When I read Jane's story, I would often curl up in my creaking four-poster bed in my attic room, desperate to escape into other worlds, only in my case it was Jane's own world I escaped to. Snuggled up under a myriad of sheets to retain some warmth, Jane's universe was always my favourite place to be.
Of all the Victorian novels, the love story of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester is the most enthralling to me. Though I appreciate the trials and tribulations of the Bennet family, I feel Jane's story brought out in me a feeling of having found my soulmate in some strange way. Never before had I realised it to be possible to relate to a fictional character the way I did with Jane. She is one of a kind, which is why I aspire to be as brave as her and why I have always desired to meet her one day. Of course, this is out of the question. She is not a real-life human being, made of flesh and blood, after all, but one can always dream - and dream I do. I dream of being wrapped in a conversation with Jane, telling off Mrs. Reed and her spoilt specimens of children and, not in small part, I dream of being loved by Mr. Rochester, the tortured soul who finds his seconds half, whom he cannot survive without. In my dreams, Jane's life would become my life, only I would ever-so-often fast forward to the good part, meeting Mr. Rochester, falling in love with him and being so dearly loved in return. I hold these dreams close to my heart like precious treasures to which only I hold the key. They are my prized possessions. Though not material in any way, they enrich my life.
However, never would I have dared to wish finding my Edward in real-life. Although, I am a romantic, I haven't had a lot of luck in that department. I am aware that I might never meet someone like Mr. Rochester, the dashing romantic hero, but I am willing to overlook that fact and lower my expectations, although I won't accept the first offer I receive either - not that I'm being showered with them. In fact, I have never had a boyfriend and I am now twenty two years of age. "When will I meet him?", I ask myself sometimes. "When will I meet 'the one'?" Telling yourself you'll meet someone when you stop thinking about it doesn't help either, not that I do think about it a lot. Who am I fooling? We all think he's out there somewhere; the man of our dreams. There is just the small matter of finding him. In the meantime, we settle for less, but never give up hope of finding our own knight in shining armour. Rightly so, I say, for what are we without hope or without love?