By Elizabeth Akinwande (13), Donabate Community College, Co Dublin
Photograph: Alan Betson
As I walked down the library halls, I could almost hear the sounds of gun shot. The fire crackling, people’s thoughts. The creaking of the doors. Pages being turned. The library was speaking to me, telling me of the hardships it faced, telling me how lonely it was during the famine. The slow inhalation of the reading people. The quiet steps of learners walking along the creaky floorboards. The shattering of the windows. The ear splitting sounds of the bullet burrowing in the wood fibres of the door.
It tells me how it weeps to see its children burn. The pages flying about, littering the floor with words. Words that will never be read, never be learned, never be floating around someone’s mind, never making them cry, never making them laugh. It weeps for its dead children that never got a chance to change people’s lives.
As I continued walking down the weeping walls I felt a sudden breeze. That made the hairs on my neck stand alert and goosebumps rise. I felt a presence. An eery presence that made my stomach twist and turn with dread. I hesitantly turned around, I saw Narcissus Marsh, standing there looking at me with seemingly never-ending black holes for eyes. I heard a whisper just barely. Save me it whispered, so quietly as if it were a secret. It was coming from Marsh, I looked at him and in his “eyes” I saw Stella. I saw a broken girl that wanted to be saved but never was, a girl who wanted to live her life but did not have one to live, a girl that wanted to be free but freedom comes with a price and she did not have the price to pay.
She was trapped in Narcissus, in his library, a wandering soul just waiting, waiting to be saved. I want to save her but I need to save myself first for I myself am confined to the bounds of my past. I only wish to sit in the sky’s tears and drown in something other than my thoughts. I am just the empty shell of a man I once was. Love broke me. I loved Stella but she did not love me back for she was in love with another – Jonathan Swift. Of course she was. A handsome rich man like Jonathan who could offer her the world and everything in it, against a poor gardener who had nothing to offer her but my love; it wasn’t enough.
I was snapped out of my reverie when I heard her voice again. Save me. Then suddenly Marsh disintegrated like fine sand being carried away by the wind. Thoughts swarmed around my head in jumbled letters until everything stopped.
One sentence became clear. She broke you, she fixes you, the truth hurts but it sets you free. The words kept running through my mind on constant replay. Truth hurts set you free, fixes you broke you, hurts broke you, free hurts. They echoed through my mind. A book flew off its shelf and landed with a smack on the wooden floors with dust particles floating out from in between the pages. The book opened and started flipping between pages. I was petrified, it was as if someone held all of my limbs and tied them together. I was trapped in my own body. The pages stopped flipping and opened on page 1707. It seemed as if someone cut the binds that were restricting my movement. I inched closer and started to read . . .
“Stella is to marry Jonathan Swift whether she likes it or not. I have to get that delinquent gardener she loves so much to hate her. I will not allow her to marry someone so poor and useless. If she doesn’t I will force her to live a miserable life in the confines of my library.”
This was Marsh’s journal.
I froze. Stella loved me, she loved me, I didn’t listen, it wasn’t her fault, she didn’t love him, she loved me , I didn’t listen, it’s all my fault I didn’t let her explain, she married someone she didn’t love. My love was enough, I was enough, she died knowing I hated her. She died knowing I didn’t love her. I kept repeating these words until something clicked. I have to find that letter, I thought.
I don’t know what to do, where do I start. It was like someone put the words in my head, the answer is where her body lays. Her grave, it said. It was now I started to regret my decision – if I hadn’t been so jealous and selfish I would have gone to her funeral. My vision blurred and tears were slowly dropping down, creating wet patches on my tattered jeans.
“I’m so sorry Stella, I’m sorry,” I cried out.
The soft flickering of paper halted my sobs. A newspaper, I picked it up. I quickly scanned it but I came across something that made me stop. Stella’s obituary.
She has been buried in St Patrick’s Cathedral, it read. I quickly gathered my stuff and ran out the large mahogany doors. I ran down the road, my feet creating a smacking sound against the pavement. I opened the gate to the church. I quickly found her grave, a marble headstone over where her body lays.
There was a single white rose. Her favourite flower. The flower I gave to her every day from my garden. We used to plant them. It all made sense, the rose garden. I rushed back home to my garden, my beautiful garden, the one I made for her.
I slowly walked to where we planted them, trying to relive the dead memories, trying to resurrect them, trying to breathe life into them, trying to make them real again. But no matter how hard I try they will always be dead memories. Like me and Stella.
In the middle of the red roses there was one white one, Stella’s rose.
I dug up the flower and scraped away the dirt until I hit something. A bottle with a letter and key inside. I opened up the bottle and took out the letter.
“My dearest Robert. If you do find this letter. I want you to know I’m sorry and this isn’t your fault. I love you so much Robert but I couldn’t be with you for Narcissus had forced me to marry Jonathan, a man I did not love . Our love was pure Robert like this white rose against all the stained roses. Set me free Robert for I am trapped in the library, in Narcissus Marsh. This key, give it to Narcissus. Set me free.
Marsh’s portrait on the wall. Give it to him. The voice whispered again. I took the key and walked inside, his portrait hung proudly on the wall. I took the portrait and laid it on the floor. I removed the canvas because behind was the keyhole and I put the rusty metal key inside.
I felt a presence, a comforting one this time. I turned around and saw Stella. She spoke to me. “Thank you for setting me free Robert, I love you.” And then she disappeared like a distant memory. I walked along the hallway for the last time and seemingly the walls stopped weeping and there was only a calm silence.
Love fixed me.