The book wasn’t here yesterday. Amelia doesn’t know where it came from. It’s heavier than it looks and its frayed edges feel rough as her hands tremble and tease open the cover. The scent of oil and dust intoxicates as she runs her fingers across the page to meet a handwritten inscription that says, ‘For the lovers.’
Amelia turns the pages. Fear sinks into unexpected disappointment as she finds them blank. Then, as she begins to close the cover, one word appears, ‘Once’, followed by another, ‘upon’. And soon the page is flooded with black ink scrawls. Amelia is afraid to read them, uncertain what they will bring. But her mind pursues her eyes as she surrenders and immerses herself to the magical words; to the sound of words as they form and fade, like standing on the shore, her ears anticipating the progression of the sea — sometimes urgent, sometimes hushed — before her eyes can recognise the waves.
After several chapters, Amelia has already escaped to some happier place — a rose garden where the sun shines kindly, a gentle breeze carries the smell of wild strawberries, pebbles crackle beneath her feet as she moves past the cherub fountain towards the manor house. This is what love feels like and it was no longer frightening.
And as Amelia reads on, running towards the house past the laurel trees, she feels she has known each syllable already. She runs her fingers across the wrought iron gates in perfect synchronicity between words and senses, treasuring each rusted crack and blemish as they simultaneously appear as phrases and metal.
But, as she opens the heavy doors and steps from sunlight into shadow, a realisation settles like a leaf falling on autumnal ground, that, like all things, the book must end. That with the turning of each page, things will no longer be the same; with each passing word the roses will wilt, the sun will burn less kindly, the fountain will run drier, and the breeze will be less sweet — another word loved is another word closer to the end.
Amelia reads as she walks through the hallway, the stone floor feels cold and dusty beneath her feet. Words create light, red shadows flicker as she reads and stares at her reflection in the mirror, noting how she has aged around the eyes.
Her heart quivers with love that belongs to her unwritten lover. The book has told her he will arrive. But the words have stopped forming and she doesn’t know when.
Evening descends on the rose garden, rats scurry around the fountain, and inside the candles burn lower as a spider trails across the mirror. Amelia sits with the book on her lap waiting for new words as she rereads all that has been written in the remaining light, so she may remember this feeling of wanting and being wanted, of the anticipation of fulfilment in a world of beauty, of holding something that desires to be held where words are unspoken yet understood — for the book tells her that this is love and it should be a most wonderful feeling.