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My whole adult life has been spent trying and failing to convince eligible ladies, who’d otherwise be marrying men, instead to marry me.
I’ve not had the luck I’d wished for, and yet, throughout all my scrapes with women, I have evolved. I’ve gotten smoother. I know how to arouse them in ways they never see coming.
But the loop still repeats regardless of my refinements, calculations, and choices.
I’m in love as the courtship begins and the boundaries between us are redrawn. Romance is everywhere when we’re together. Every touch leads to a kiss and then to more until her resistance is gone and she’s mine.
But it always ends the same. My love is lost, pain begins and spreads everywhere. Misery overtakes me in a perpetual winter.
I’m almost to the entrance of the tunnel, where I’ll ready my surveillance for Ainsworth’s carriage when out charges a fierce-looking thug who strikes me hard against my cheek and down on my shoulder with his stick. Some part of me cracks still I manage to throw his weapon out of reach. He reacts with a punishing blow to my face. Immediately, my mouth fills with blood, and I stagger every time he strikes me.
All I can hope for is to duck and avoid his fists and try to land a few good ones of my own, but I never suspected he’d hurl spit at me, warn me off Miss Walker, and then, suddenly leave.
Dazed and injured, I spew out a stream of metallic-tasting blood. I cannot live with myself if I don’t do it. I check my pocket watch, and with my one good eye left I see that it’s 3:57. I can make it. I lift my hat off the ground. Ainsworth’s carriage will pass by here near four. One brutally painful step at a time I make it through the mossy tunnel with a minute to spare.
Even if it kills me, even if it’s the last thing I’ll ever do in this life before I leave this beautiful earth with incredible growing things, like this thick green moss …when suddenly I see double and feel the right side of my face sliding down a slippery wall of green. Then a stream of vomit. This one is blood mixed with bile. I need to get home where it’s safe, but I’m driven by her voice in my head that keeps repeating, ”It’s utterly clear to me now. It must be him …it’s the Reverend Ainsworth I must marry.”