AND ALL I LOVED C O P E R N I C U S F E N W I C K I LOVED ALONE
He was three years old but his hair was brushed to perfection and there was not even a single spot on his little suit on the day of the signing. Mariana had three curls loose and her face was red from the tantrum she'd just thrown not a half an hour before. Copernicus was holding his mother's hand loosely, she kept pulling his finger from out of his mouth and would wipe it off with her handkerchief each time. It was damp with his spit.
The lawyer was speaking very seriously but when he spoke it was funny. A strand of his hair kept falling onto his forehead and the man would brush it back with black nails that shone to perfection. Spit flew from his mouth in torrents, baptizing Mariana in it each time. Mariana was Copernicus' best friend. He'd gone to her birthday party and she went to his. His parents bought her a lovely pony as her gift and for Copernicus they in turn had given him a gold-plated pen for when he was older. Copernicus was a calm little boy and never minded much of anything but when Mariana had a tantrum he liked to be as far away from her as he could get.
"The paperth are ready for thigning, if you could do tho here," the lawyer said in a fresh wave of spit while pointing his pen at four lines, "And have the children thign here."
Copernicus watched as first his own mother and father stood up to sign the papers and then Mariana's mother and father did so as well. When they were signed, the parents shook each other's hands and his father lit a cigar like he always did when a business deal had gone smoothly. Copernicus' mother smiled brightly, like shining diamonds between ruby red lips. She kissed Mariana's mother on the cheek and then she reached out and beckoned for Copernicus to come to her.
He never made his mother wait, not ever. If she called for him he always ran to her in case he was too slow and he missed her. She was a very busy lady and she hardly had time for her schedule, let alone her three year old son. He pushed himself off his seat and went to her, immediately wrapping chubby little arms around one of her legs. She pressed a hand against the small of his back, bending down to hand him the golden pen that he had received for his birthday. "Sign the paper now Copernicus, just like we practiced," she said. Her voice calmed him and when his father lifted him up to stand on the chair, he did as he was told.
He had practiced hard for his mother's approval, labouring over the loops in his name as if it were a complicated math equation. It was wobbly and a curved downwards but he managed to write 'Copernicus' on the sheet. As he finished the s and pulled the pen away, he looked for his mother's approval and found it in her nod. He smiled, happy.
When Mariana signed the page, her mother held her hand to guide her writing. She had her other hand in a fist and shoved into her mouth. A spot of drool fell onto the thick paper and the lawyer shifted at the sight, most likely horribly unaware that Mariana's drool was payback for his unwarranted shower he had given her previously.
"Ecthellent," the lawyer said as he collected the papers off of the table and shook Copernicus' father's hand and then Mariana's father's in turn, "The Betrothal ith now thet. At the age of twenty, the children will be married and their athets thared."
Then the lawyer poured champagne for all of the adults. Copernicus and Mariana fell asleep on the chairs.
———— We were three years old and they never told us that we were in love. ————
Algernon came to live with me when I was five. Mother and Father said it was because his parents dies in a tragic accident and they had been great friends to our family. I didn't mind. One of my sister was just one at the time, Louvelle. She was a pretty little baby with dark eyes and hair like mine. So I was more interested in the baby than a new friend. Algernon kept to himself mostly at first anyway. He was sad about his parents and I didn't know how to comfort him. I was five years old and it had been two years since I'd been through any real loss.
For some reason, I remember the first day that Algernon smiled at me. We were at the summer house and my older cousins were there as well, so we were playing hide and seek in the woods behind our home. I remember hollering out, Ollie Ollie Oxen-Free over and over but Algernon either didn't hear me yelling or he didn't want to come out. I searched for him long after Lilac and Leo had given up. When I finally found him, he was up a tree. He looked down at me and he smiled and he had dimples. I didn't tell him to come down. I went up.
———— I was five then and you told me that you didn't want to be alone. ————
When he was four years old, his first sister was born. Antoinette. She was very tiny and her hands were so little that they could barely even wrap around Copernicus' thumb. She smelled of daisies but was missing one of her fingers and there was a cleft in her chin. The cleft was fixed easily but the missing finger was not as easy a fix as a finger had never been there in the first place. She was banished to the estate out on the edge of the Capitol, to grow all alone there with only her wet nurse and a stuffed bear for company. Copernicus wanted to go with her, to the summer house. When he threw a tantrum, his father told him not to be a child.
He spent three weeks in protest, wearing nothing but the clean cut suits his father had bought for him, in order to show off just how much of a 'child' he wasn't. His mother spent her days inside of Antoinette's intended nursery room, all by herself. If Copernicus crept the door open just to see her, she was only ever sitting in the rocking chair, holding her daughter's blanket to her face. It was as if she were in mourning for a daughter she had lost, even though she was only a few miles away from her. Copernicus did not understand- if she wanted to see her daughter so badly then why didn't she just go to her?
Copernicus waited to see his little sister again. He drew pictures for her and kept them in one of his suitcases, so that when they moved to the summer house he would not forget them. He wrote down stories to tell her, made puppets to perform shows for his little baby sister whom he'd only been allowed to know for a few hours. He'd always been the youngest out of all his cousins, but it was no longer true. He had someone to look out for too.
When the summer finally came, the Avox packed up the house and Copernicus and his mother made their way to the family summer home. He kept his pictures for his sister in a little bag on his lap and couldn't stop bouncing in excitement. His mother was staring vacantly out the window, at odds with her glamorous appearance. She hadn't really been the same in months. Copernicus hoped that she would be happy again in the summer home, that Antoinette could cheer her.
When they arrived, he hurried into the house, not running because it was unseemly, but nearly. The halls seemed empty, devoid of anything as they always did when they first arrived in the summer. He couldn't figure what room they might be in, the baby and the nurse. He checked each one. Then he did so again. Again. Again.
———— Why didn't you just say she was born too small and her bones were fragile as glass. ————
I fell in love once. Only once and I'm still in love and I will always be in love with this just once person but it does not matter who I do or do not love because I am betrothed to marry someone already. I do not even dare consider telling anyone about this person because I know that it could only end badly. I might be told never to speak to them again, or to see them. If it's like this, at least I can talk to them everyday and I can be near them. It's all I really want, to be honest. I just want to be near them, always. They make time go by faster, make the day better.
I remember once that Algernon told me that I wouldn't know love even if it bit me in the ass but he was wrong. I know what this feeling is, better than I know myself or the business I have been raised to know. I've known what this feeling was since it bloomed so many years ago and I will continue to know it for as long as I live. It's love but it's heartache. Bone shattering and deadly sweet, it fills up my senses like a good Merlot to the point that I wonder how it isn't noticed. I wonder how people don't just look at me and see it on me like a name tag. I suppose it's because I'm so quiet, so reserved. People forget that I have feelings.
I am simply the boy who signed his love away for business at the age of three.
But I am still so, so in love.
———— I was fourteen when I realized that you were absolutely everything to me. ————
When he was ten he was prescribed glasses. His father said that it would make him look more serious, it was a good thing. His mother argued that surgery was a better option. Copernicus' father was always right. He was given his first pair and told to keep them clean and free of scratches. He found them useful only because they did help him see better but they were also a nuisance. He often forgot them in the most forgotten of places and always had to go back for them.
One day when he was fifteen years old, Copernicus realized that he'd left his glasses at the park. He had been there with Algernon, waiting for the car that would come to take him away to his father's office, everyday at twelve noon like clockwork. Agernon had something, it had been funny. He couldn't quite remember now what he had said but it had been so funny that Copernicus had taken his glasses off and lain them on the bench beside him. When the driver had come to collect him, he'd forgotten to take them resulting in a loop around the block to go back for them.
He'd been excited to surprise Algernon, to see his smile when Copernicus came back for that brief moment. However, when he approached the bench, he could see a girl in his seat. Her hair was a violent shade of violet and she wore boots up to her knees. His hand was placed on the back of her head and their lips were locked. He left the glasses in their forgotten place.
Later, he told his father that he had lost the glasses and his father had hit him for it and called him worthless. There'd been a bruise on the side of his head, hidden by his hair.
———— But everything hurts less when you realize that it doesn't matter. ————
I got drunk for the first time when I was fourteen years old and it was because I didn't know how to tell Mariana that I didn't want to marry her. We were at some sort of function, a charity event or possibly someone's coming of age ball. I don't know. It ended up becoming a bad blur, I'd gotten my hands on too many glasses of wine. The taste had been terrible but I'd been desperate to deal with the anxiety bubbling away in the bottom of my stomach. Algernon was there too but my father did not have his eye on him. I spotted him once in the corner of the large room, chatting up a young man. I knew their lips would end up pressed together by the end of the night.
Miserably, I let an Avox replace my empty wine glass with a flute of champagne. Mariana was on my arm, looking restless and just as uncomfortable as I felt. That was one thing we held in common- our general dislike for social gatherings such as those ones. Neither of us really did well in the limelight but we were often shoved into it anyway. I claimed dizziness in order to get a breath of fresh air and when I left Mariana's arm, I did intend to go back to her but instead I found myself on the balcony, hidden and well out of anyone's sight. I sat myself down against a wall and finished another champagne, letting the bubbles pop against my skull one by one.
A couple came through the balcony doors but they did not see me, they were enamored with each other, I think. Their arms were wrapped around each other, the girl's hands running through the other girl's hair with such passion, such longing that it made me feel sick somehow. I did not have a love like that of my own. Or perhaps it was the alcohol broiling away in my stomach. I would have looked away, a blush had already risen on my cheeks, if it weren't for the fact that I recognized the short, brown curls of the girl with her back towards me.
Mariana did not love me either, there was nothing to say to her about it because we were in agreement. Any relationship of ours could only prove to be a cold one.
I stayed there, silent, playing with the crystal glass in my hand long after they had exited the balcony and rejoined the party. Somehow, I could not find the strength to stand up myself. I watched the stars from my spot, unable to see most from the city's light polluting the sky. I gave my pastime as my excuse when an Avox came with a fresh glass of wine in hand. They only blinked at me and bowed their head in politeness, unable to argue even if they had wanted to.
The sounds from the party mixed up with the lights in the sky above me and somehow I thought I was seeing things. The stars started blurring and mixing into each other as if someone was pouring water on them. It took me a moment to realize that it was because I was crying.
———— I don't know why I don't know why I don't know why ————
He smiled softly and ran a hand through his hair as he slipped the piece of paper that he had found hidden in his briefcase into the pocket of his pants. It was a note from Algernon, asking Copernicus to meet him after work for dinner in the city. The pair often did this, it was the effect of having too much money but not enough free time. If it weren't for these arranged meetings, Copernicus would barely see Algernon anymore. Lately, his father had made sure that Copernicus was more and more involved in what was going on in the office. His hours had become longer and the workload more. It had come to the point that Copernicus would be working long into the night on some proposal or other.
"Your father wants to see you, Mr. Fenwick," Sandara, his father's personal secretary said as she handed him a file folder full of papers, "There's a new merger he wants you to spearhead." Copernicus smiled up at her, offering a word of thanks for the message. Before going to see his father, he took a moment to look through the file and realized that this project was bound to take up any spare time he would have for the next few weeks. The company they were looking to merge with was not going to be a an easy deal.
They would have to begin work immediately, especially if Copernicus was going to please his father. He sorely doubted that he would be free to go to dinner tonight. For some reason that knowledge made him feel sore. He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes beneath his glasses. He didn't understand why he had felt so apathetic towards work. His father had been bringing Copernicus to the office everyday since he was eight years old. At this point, he should know this job inside and out, he should literally breathe business. However, no matter how much work he did, no matter how much time he spent at the office, he found himself caring less and less.
It was transferring to other things as well. Things that had used to make Copernicus happy had stopped being interesting. Long hours of work were only broken by uncounted minutes spent staring out the window as if in a trance. There were so many things to see from out of his bedroom window. It looked out onto the courtyard and street. Sometimes he saw people coming and going. He watched the newspaper arrive each day. He began to tally how many times the neighbor's dog escaped. He began to tally how many times Algernon had one last kiss with his latest romance at the gates to the house.
He felt nothing about it. There was just a dull thudding behind his rib cage. Over and over again and it hurt each time, like someone was hitting him, repeatedly in the chest. He didn't know how to tell them to stop. He was nineteen years old and it somehow felt as if he were already dying.
He picked the folder up with a sigh and slipped his hand into his pocket, fingers folding and unfolding the note over and over again. A small smile quirked up the corners of his mouth and he went to his father's office, folder tucked neatly under one arm.