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letter one

To Mr. Thaddeus BLACKWOOD, Bristol Cove, MA
St. Martha’s, 14 February 18—

My dearest brother, at last I have a moment to myself to write you. You will be pleased to learn I arrived at St. Martha’s without incident a fortnight and a couple of days ago. Also, the trunks mother sent over have finally arrived safely and without much ado. Sister Agnes says they will be brought to my rooms over the weekend. I am grateful. 

I have a set of rooms on the southeastern side of the convent facing the Straits. The music of the sunrise is the most beautiful I’ve heard since home off the lighthouse pier. I have to tell you there is a ray of light that pierces my room each morning and sets of the sound of longing that echos through these empty halls between my rooms.

I miss you. I miss mother and Lacy too. I know you do not understand the reasons I felt compelled to leave. Now that I have time to write, I want to tell you the whole story. I need you to understand. You really only know part of the whole story. You only know from the time mother sent for you from Paris, just before the music hall burned down, until that final night when she decided to send me away. I want to tell you everything. It is my hope you also will be able to explain to Gideon. I know his heart is broken. I never meant to hurt him. If I tell you all that has happened, you can help him understand that leaving was for his own good as well.

This melody of madness swirls in my head even as I try to force it into the recesses of my mind. It plays over and over again. It provokes me. It prickles my senses in such a delightfully sinister manner. I am unnerved by the sound of the song in my ears, and yet it is not with my ears that I hear it. It rages through me. I feel urges. I feel needs. I feel a necessity of something within me that longs for release. It feels unnatural yet it feels wholly me as if by God’s own design. It is difficult to explain. 

Do you remember when I would perform at The Grand? Night after night, I would finish a performance. The sound of the applause filling my pride that I felt I might burst with the adulation. I was soaring, Thaddeus. Every performance felt like a journey to the very center of heaven itself. 

And then the Maestros came for me.

I cannot tell you how the radiance of those memories of being merely “the best pianist in the world” (The New York Times), “an eighth wonder of the world” (Bristol Cove Gazette), or “a fiendish force of nature who doesn’t give concerts but offers religious experiences” (Providence Journal) is like black mold in comparison to the feeling of being wrapped in the Mistress Arabella’s arms, the smell of her suffocating my senses as she pressed my face to her breasts, the desperate clinging for her that arose from within me every time she whispered my name. She was the incarnation of my every want, and I dropped like water between her fingers when she held me. Unnatural, indeed, Thaddeus, for if she was only a mere mortal like us, I can only hope such charms would have been insufficient to sway me as she did. She was honey on my tongue when she kissed me, and my body buzzed each time she gently stroked the inside of my thighs and placed her hand in those regions of tenderness. The resonate harmonies she taught me, the melodic tones she whispered into my heart. She was a creature of passion that I longed to caress with something inside me that I didn’t even know existed until I met her. How desperately I wasted away for her … 

But you think me mad, I know already, and then I dare speak to you of Nathaniel. Oh, by the old gods, Nathaniel! He was so quiet, so intense. There was such a moodiness to him, such darkness. I loved that beautiful man, Thaddeus. What he brought into this world of mine was immense. I felt something different when I was with him. I was obsessed with the insistent pull of those drum beats his heart made as my head lay on his chest night after night. They were brooding without being lonely. They were secrets without being violations of my soul. When he made love to me, there was something tender in the way he entered me that felt like a million years of love flooded me each time we found ourselves wrapped up in the tempest of my sheets. He ignited something inside, something feral and devoid of manners. He let me rage at him. The sounds he brought out of me were discordant and hellish. He drew black blood from my soul, and I loved him for it all the more. 

I know you don’t want to hear this, but I need you to hear this story. Now that I have been sent away, I need you to know and understand what I’ve been through these last two years that you have been away in Paris.

These two maestros, each so different in their approach, became the pillars of my world. Their rivalry was palpable, a silent battle waged through melodies and harmonies, through whispered words and stolen glances. I was the battleground, the prize for which they contended, and in their struggle, I found myself torn apart in a powerful war between them. When those pillars were pulled out from underneath me, there was only one place left for me to go. Here I am in this convent, with the sisters of mercy, in this asylum of beauty and pain. I am alone with the songs of love and death that waft through the air like a lifeline to nowhere.

Hear my story, Thaddeus. Hear the music of my soul as it bleeds over these stones that only echo my sound and none of my voice. 

Your faithful sister,