I entered the room carrying a tray of tea. I took cautious, slow steps, so as not to spook him like one might do with a skittish kitten. But that was what he had become, as far as I could see. There was an oddness to his features. Had they become unfamiliar to me this quickly?
He stooped over like a man twice his age and I noticed that his face was more drawn and I swore that I could see more wrinkles across his face. It had never been a handsome face, but it had been natural. Now it seemed as though hundreds of years had pressed down on him all at once, aging him.
Suddenly I was able to believe what the man had told me. The man that stood in front of me was a man that I could imagine screaming at night, not to mention being afraid of anything that crossed his path. I could even sense a sort of fear towards me, although perhaps this was warranted.
At first he was confused. "Why have you come back?!" He demanded.
I tried to explain, but can see that he is not listening. He tapped his fingers incessantly and kept looking behind me, as if some monster would suddenly appear. Something plagued his mind, that was obvious. I know in my heart that the fire could not have shaken his iron constitution. But if not the fire then what? I had to find out what.
Eventually, he consented to me sitting down with him. He stands up stiffly, as if his legs hadn't been used in some days. With a nervous hand he took my arm and we walked arm in arm to the sofa. He felt my entire arm and then proceeded to caress my face lovingly. Yet there is something different about his touch. It is as if he is ensuring that I am actually here rather than just loving me.
We sat together for hours. No more than ten words could have passed between us. We did not need words; we were content to sit together in each other's arms. Even during this time, I could tell that Mr. Rochester was unwell. He twitched and fidgeted incessantly, even as we gazed into each other's eyes or I rested my head on his shoulder. Never was he fully focused on me.
But it grew late and we both retired to separate rooms.
Mr. Rochester led me to my room. It was dark and underused; I could see cobwebs in the corners and the blanket on the bed was covered with a thin amount of dust. Still I smiled at Mr. Rochester and thanked him for his kindness. He was in a fragile state and I had to be careful not to upset him.
With some ushering from me, he finally left me to retire to his own bed. I wondered if he actually got any sleep at night. I prepared for bed as soon as he disappeared. I wanted to get to bed quickly; the quicker to sleep, the quicker I would awaken and see Mr. Rochester again.
The problem was that I could not sleep. Something was keeping me awake. A darkness was heavy in the air. Although I could not see anyone in my room I felt a presence surrounding me. It was waiting patiently for the right moment to spring, I could feel it. I then realized that I was waiting too, I was waiting for it to show itself.
I did not have to wait long. My eye lids had actually begun to grow heavy, but every time that I closed them it was like a storm erupted in my mind and my eyes would open again, staring into the darkness. Twice this happened before the wind kicked up.
The first thing I did was check the windows. They were all closed and locked. The wind increased as I did this. I was aware of the same presence as before. I was not alone, that much was obvious. A sudden chill came over me; I could see my breath, smoky like a dragon's breath.
I wondered what I should do. Nothing else seemed to be happening. Should I get Mr. Rochester? No, I decided, he was hurt mentally as it was. I could not put him through more trauma. I would have to take care of this myself. But, I did not know what I was getting myself into.
"Jane." A voice hissed and I looked up to find a half formed woman floating above my bed. I recognized her tangle of black hair and the deranged look in her eyes. It was the same look that I had seen what felt like so long ago, when I'd found her tearing my veil in half, madness and savagery pouring out of her. I knew this woman.
It was Bertha Rochester.