My Dear Mrs Gardiner…
A Victorian Epistolary Seduction
Reading instructions: imagine on slightly creased, time-yellowed paper, written with dark blue ink in a neat, spindly cursive that slants a little to the left. A distinct smell of dust.
My dear Mrs Gardiner,
(for there is no earthly way I may still call you Kitty, now that you are a married woman, and the wife of a vicar at that, may I?) I am writing to inquire if your recent wedding proceeded in a satisfactory manner. I am extremely sorry for not attending the aforementioned nuptials, for as a childhood friend, and moreover, a school companion of the bride, my absence is inexcusable. The only defence I can offer is that I was not invited, and uninformed to the point where I was not even aware of your engagement. This is certainly due to the inadequacy of the postal services in Scotland, where I have been employed as a governess for these past six months, and not to any conscious decision made on your part to exclude me from your life for fear of a scandal. Surely that would be laughable. Nevertheless I would love to hear about the details of the ceremony, if you can spare the time to describe them. You were no doubt radiant with orange blossoms in your hair, but was Mr Gardiner similarly handsome? Were there doves and cathedral bells and a gilded six-horse carriage like in the wedding you imagined when we were eleven, or did you have to be content with a humble hansom?
Since I am asking about your wedding, I am sure you will not think it too forward of me to also inquire about your wedding night. We are old friends after all, and a woman cannot discuss these delicate matters with anyone but those she trusts without reservation. Yet discuss them she must, for the first time in the marriage bed can be a harrowing experience, even if the husband is considerate. Was Mr Gardiner a considerate new husband, coupling with you gently and cautiously in a darkened room, promising not to inconvenience you anymore once he had gotten you with child? Or did he slake his carnal appetites on your helpless body, ignoring your tears and feeble protestations, his impatient hands tearing your nightgown, his teeth marking the curve of your shoulder while he rutted into you brutishly? And what was your contribution to the act, Mrs Gardiner? Did you kiss your new lord and husband on the mouth, did you twine your arms around him? Did you eventually find some enjoyment in loving, honouring and obeying your man by spreading your legs? When he entered the room, did you do as your mother told you? When he climbed on top of you, did you close your eyes, did you lie back and think of England?
Or did you think of me instead?
Did you not imagine, when you felt the weight of a body pressing into yours, that instead of the angular physique of Mr Gardiner, you could feel bosoms and soft feminine hips pressed flush against yours? After all, the hands of a vicar (having worked not a day in his life) are just as soft as the hands of a governess, and if he ran a palm down from your neck to your belly, you could bear it well enough. If he happened to tighten his hand on your arse until it hurt, you may have even whimpered and raised your head, thirsting for a kiss. But when you felt the prickling of a moustache above the lips you were craving, you would be thrust back into reality. You would lie back again, letting Mr Gardiner satisfy his lust, for the lust awakened in you could not and would not be satisfied.
I suppose your husband took you in the belief that you were a virgin. Had he known what a wanton unclean creature you were, he would not have married you. You know that you do not deserve to wear the white gown you coveted so. Do not protest your innocence to me, I know full well that no man bedded you before, but that does not mean you retain your purity. You were not pure when you sucked a bruising kiss on the side of my neck just below my collar, a kiss that ached and smarted for days. You were not pure when you unlaced your corset and lifted your camisole to free your lovely white breasts, and your lips opened in a little tremulous sigh at my first slight caress. You were not pure when sitting by my side in the dining hall, you sneaked a hand into my lap, and there, concealed by the table yet in front of the matron and all our schoolfellows you began to touch me most intimately, until my cheeks were red with shame and want commingled, until my longing for relief overtook my fear of discovery, when you withdrew with a cruel smirk, leaving me on the brink of completion, my head reeling with desire. And you were not pure, how could you even want to be pure, when I laid between your legs, licking and lapping at your lovely little cunt, and you could not swallow your sweet, sweet moans for wanting me so, and when I stopped to tell you to be quieter for fear that we will be discovered you panted “Oh please God don’t stop, I will be quiet as a mouse, I swear to God I will do any god-damned thing, just don’t stop.” How would you feel if your pious husband were to learn that you took God’s name in vain three times in one breath, and that that one breath was you shamelessly begging for a filthy invert to put her mouth back on you?
But that is not what I want to know. What I would like to ask you, Mrs Gardiner, is how you are feeling right this moment, reading this letter. Are you as calm and collected as any vicar’s wife should be when reading her correspondence? I do not believe so. I can almost see you sitting in your armchair, your cheeks flushed and your eyes gleaming, your legs crossed tight against the desire that rushes at you against your will, yet so deliciously that you cannot let go of this sheet of paper but cling to it with whitening fingers as you would cling to me, if I was only there. You refuse to alleviate your suffering, and imagine yourself virtuous, but I beg of you, envision me, instead of this letter, lying in front of you. I know the last pretence of your composure would melt away the moment you laid eyes on me, and you would let me do the service you deny yourself. You would not hesitate in pulling up your gown and your petticoats, you would spread your legs with haste (far more haste than you will ever show your husband) to let me pull off your underthings, fast, faster, and bury my head between your legs. I know that at the first touch of my lips your whole body would curve up towards me, a slow wanton push that is both glorious and yet still not enough. You would hook your legs around my neck with desperate strength, and fist both your hands in my hair, pushing and pulling and heaving and shoving me closer, even closer, even faster, caring not a whit if you hurt me. You would beg and babble and moan and pant, your sweet lovely face contorted in a lustful grimace, while you bucked against my lips, while you rode my tongue like a bitch in heat. All that you are and all that I am would be washed away in a filthy deluge of pent-up denied carnality that demands to be satisfied now, now, now.
But no, I do you an injustice to assume it would be so. After all, you have not seen me for more than half a year, and I know I am not mistaken in thinking that no matter how you are burning for my lips between your thighs, you crave them still more to press against your own lips. And once you looked into my eyes, you would not turn away. We would undress one another slowly, like we always did, and I would lie with you on the rug in front of the fire. You would run your fingers over my skin wonderingly and kiss me softly again, again and again, like you have forgotten how to stop. When I slid my fingers inside you, you would let out a sigh, a breath you have been holding for months. You would lean your forehead against mine as my fingers moved inside you, and you would have to fight to keep your eyes open for you would be so full of pleasure that you would feel it in your fingertips and your toes, that you would fear you might catch on fire. I would revel in the way your hips started to move, lifting and twisting in an effort to push my fingers even harder against the one sweet spot that made you whimper in the most intoxicating way. I would know your little death was approaching by how you clutched at me suddenly, shaking as if terrified by the thick rush of pleasure. But there is no need to fear, no harm will come to you when you finally fall apart, the world shattering to pieces in a flash of white-hot joy.
You would lie in my arms spent and content, and I would kiss you as your trembling subsided, kiss your lips, your cheeks, your eyes and tell you what an utterly delightful creature you are. I regret that I cannot do the same for you right now, now that you have abandoned that foolish act of cold indifference and reached a hand into your drawers to hastily and fearfully stroke yourself to completion, me and only me behind your closed eyelids, now that you are picking up my letter once again with a slowly calming heartbeat and a shaking hand still wet from your own lust. Do not be outraged, I know you. If you feel bitter and cold sitting alone in the parlour, and shame threatens to engulf you, please do not think of me with resentment, for you must know that I did not write you with the intention of making you suffer. Instead think of me holding your naked form, blanketing you from the autumn chill while we listen to the patter of this relentless rain, and imagine me putting my lips to your ear to whisper “Kitty, my sweet Kitty”. Then you would understand that even if you can deceive the whole world, you cannot deceive me.
For all your indiscretions, Mrs Gardiner, I know you to be a most prudent and sensible woman, therefore I will not even attempt to convince you not to burn this letter after having read it. I wish you happiness and success in all your endeavours, and I sincerely hope that you will find your married life fulfilling. Nevertheless, should you feel in need of feminine companionship, I would like to inform you that I have taken a position as governess for the Norrell family in Gorleston-on-Sea, not ten miles from your husband’s vicarage. I have my evenings free every second Tuesday.
I am and will forever remain
your loving friend,
My Dear Mrs Gardiner… by Elaine Fowler wins third prize in
the 2012 Erotic Review Short Fiction Competition (for students).