Excerpt for Selected Journal Entries from My Great Grand Mother, Isidora Wilcox by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Selected Journal Entries from My Great Grandmother, Isidora Wilcox

By Jenna Cartwright

Copyright 2018 by Cartwright Publishing. This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of this material or artwork herein is prohibited. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents either are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. All rights reserved.

December 11th, 1915

When I came to, I recognized where I was. I had heard stories of this hospital in the days after the Battle of the Marne. Five hundred men bleed from their wounds while they sat outside on a pile of hay in the pouring rain. They waited to have their leg or arm amputated, sometimes, too often, both. In those days there was no way to save the limbs. It was an assembly line of carnage where young men were told they'd never be whole again.

George Crile, a volunteer physician from Cleveland's Lakeside Hospital, wrote back to the states saying he had to remove hundreds of limbs for no reason other than the fact he lacked the antiseptic needed to treat the infected flesh. The Allied Forces prioritized sending bullets, artillery, and machine guns to the front, but when they realized they were losing as many soldiers to infection as they were to German shells, that all changed. I think going forward, after the war, all hospitals, everywhere, will adopt these practices. Everything must be sterile. Everything must be cleaned.

Maybe it's easier to focus on that and not the truth of why I'm here. It's a truth I can't remember. I grasp at it but it's always out of reach.

For the last fourteen months, I've worked in the triage camp in Hooge, just four kilometers east of the Ypres salient. Ever since the Central Powers invaded Luxemburg and Belgium this had been where the fighting was most fierce. This was the place I could take my training as a nurse and put it to some use. Sitting at home while Spain's bourgeois supported the Central Powers was not an option. I'm convinced our king would have sided with them, too, if not for the people sympathizing with the Allies. The only thing our king feared more than the bourgeois was the people rising up. So, he came out for neutrality. Neutrality! Who can be neutral when the world is killing itself? It boils the blood just thinking about it

I awoke in a fog of morphine to the sounds of men groaning in pain. But I wondered why I couldn’t hear the artillery exploding off in the distance. When I first arrived to the front, every explosion felt like it was happening inside me. By the end of my first month, I had grown so accustomed to it I hardly noticed. 

I couldn't see out my left eye, so I reached my hand up to touch. This was the first time I noticed the bandaged stub where my arm had once been. I looked around in my bed like it was misplaced- like I just needed to peel back the sheet to find it laying there. A nurse I didn't recognize pulled my no longer existent arm from my face. "Don't touch, now. We don't want to see you get infected."

“What happened to me?”

“I’m sorry, dear. We rarely get that information.”

What she said next, my lips practically moved with hers. “You probably don’t remember, but you were so strong during the amputation - so brave.” I must have been the first woman she gave the speech to. This was something we told the soldiers to ease the blow of learning they lost a part of themselves. It helps to think you were fearless in the face of such a sacrifice. “In addition to your arm we had to remove your left eye, and part of your orbital bone. I don’t know how it happened. But I do know you were an ambulance driver running soldiers from the front to the triage camp. I should think that would be a most unnerving job, being so close to the fighting.”

She set a small pad of paper down beside me on my bed. “A lot of soldiers feel better after writing home or making a few journal entries. It helps to process everything, I think.”

The nurse turned and moved on quickly, leaving me alone with nothing except a pencil, paper, and my thoughts. "But I'm left-handed," I said out loud long after she went.

I had such fantastic penmanship all my life. I remember in primary school Ms. Garcia held up my paper to show the rest of the class. “Children, look. See this. This is a perfect example. See how clear and refined Isidora’s writing is. We should all work to have such beautiful penmanship.”

And now look at it. It looks like a two-year-old’s first attempt at scribbling words.


December 12th, 1915

A strange man came to visit me, a Brit named Henry. He held his Brodie helmet to his chest as he sheepishly approached my bed.

“I may only have one eye, now,” I started. “But, even with one eye I can tell I don’t recognize you, sir. This isn’t a carnival. I’m not one of the attractions.”

He stood up straight as if I were his commanding officer. "No, ma'am. That's not why I'm here. You see, I'm the one who found your ambulance on the road. I must have been a half kilometer behind you because I heard the explosion. I knew it was too close to be from the front so I double-timed it and came upon you quickly."

“You know what happened to me? Do you know what happened to the other nurse who was in the passenger seat? I remember we were on our way to the front but the rest of it is out of reach.”

Taking a few steps closer Henry’s head sunk. “Yes, ma'am,” he whispered. “Jerry’s been poking holes in our defenses along the northern side of the salient and they’ve been using landmines to disrupt out supply routes. I think you had the misfortune of coming across one before the minesweepers found it.”

“I see,” I said, glancing down to the floor, like the answers might be there.  It felt like I was inside a drum, and every breath I took echoed off the metal walls. “What a thing, landmines. How easy it must be to dig a hole and bury your weapon, then move on and never think of it again. A coward’s weapon is what it is. Just like the gas attacks. And what of Edith. Were you able to pull Eddie out as well?”

“I’m sorry,” Henry grimaced and shook his head. “The mine exploded on the left flipping the ambulance on its side. There was nothing I could do for her.”

I suspected as much. If she were injured, she would have been with me in the hospital. Her absence told the story, and still, I held out hope that somehow that lovely young girl got out unharmed. As was my custom after losing a soldier in my care, I took a deep breath and dropped my head. "Edith O'Dwyer, a beautiful Irish girl with Irish red hair. Receive her soul and present her to God the Most High." Henry quickly closed his eyes and hung his head. "May Christ, who called you, take you to Himself; may Angels lead you to Abraham's side. Amen."

I let the thought of her standing in heaven wash over me. I tried to picture her clean from all the blood and dirt of Belgium. I decided to see her pale white skin and numerous freckles glistening under the Lord's light. "The irony," I said more to God than Henry. "That she would fall victim to this war while her brothers were still fighting. She had one on as far north as Poland and the other all the way south on the Moroccan front."

“I’ve heard the fighting down there is every bit as brutal as it is here,” Henry added.

"Can you imagine it?" I incredulously shook my head. "An Irishman in Africa. It seems absurd even by this war's standards." I tried to fight back the tears. There is no time to cry in this God-awful place. But I pictured them held up in trenches somewhere getting the news they lost their sister. It was too much. It's all just too much.

Henry moved quickly to hand me a handkerchief but I swatted him away. “I’m perfectly capable of tending to myself, thank you very much.”

Henry stepped back, “Of course you are, I’m sorry.”

Look at me, I thought. I acted like a brute. "No, no… It's I who owes you the apology. I probably owe you a great debt of gratitude for what you did for me. If you hadn't come along, I- I shudder to think what might have been."

Henry moved fast towards me. Standing by the side of my bed he held my hand and looked into my remaining eye. "No ma'am, I feel like it is I who owes you," he said like his life depended on me knowing how earnest he was being. "That mine was meant for me. If you hadn't been ahead of me, I'm sure I would have been the one who found it. That's why I came here today. I wanted you to know that I am forever indebted to you."

"Don't be ridiculous," I scoffed trying to pull my hand away, but Henry wouldn't let go. "I did nothing."

“I know, ma'am. I know it was just the dumb luck of war. But, I can’t help how I feel.”

December 17th, 1915

Despite my insisting that he must have more important things to do, Henry has visited every day. He runs supply trucks to the front filled with artillery, but when he returns he often has to wait for ships to come to port. Our supply ships can’t simply take a direct route from England or the states. German U-boats litter the ocean like scabies. They’re just under the surface scratching and itching, looking for every opportunity to destroy anything they see.

At the start of the war, the Central Powers observed the "prize rules" which governed the treatment of enemy civilian ships, but after a U-boat sunk the SS Glitra, everything turned ugly. I can't imagine what it must be like to be standing on the bow of a ship, knowing at any moment a German U-boat might take aim at my hull. It all does seem random and haphazard. And maybe that's how God's plan is supposed to look. I hold so much hope that is true, that His plan is so vast and all-encompassing that we're blind to its perfection.

Henry has been reading to me. At first, he read stories and poems from The Wipers Times. I told him, I didn’t appreciate the humor. War isn’t funny. He told me the men really love it. It’s not easy to come by a laugh in the trenches. “It’s published right here in Ypres, did you know that? The 12th Battalion came across an abandoned printing press and put it to good use.”

A couple of days ago, when he came to visit, his eyes were shifting back and forth, and he was holding something under his jacket like a man sneaking contraband into prison. "Isidora, I have good news! guess what!"

"The Central Powers have surrendered, and the war is over?"

Henry frowned, “Not quite that good,” he said, pulling a book from underneath his coat. “I asked my commanding officer if I could borrow it. The officers always have the best literature.  He had the new book by Joyce. Have you read it? ‘Dubliners?’”

“No, I’m not familiar with it. I haven’t had much time for reading these days.”

“Well, it’s about life in Ireland. I thought I might read them to you as a way of honoring your friend, Edith.”

The kindness of his gesture was too much. It was just too much. “Oh Henry, now ook what you’ve gone and done,” I said wiping away tears falling from my eye. Even though I was only a little older than Edith, I had taken on a motherly role. When she first got here, she became too familiar with the men. Her heart was in the right place. She saw all these brave souls in pain and wanted to comfort them by asking about how things were back home; what they did before the war. Pretty soon she couldn’t tend to her duties because of all the men who had fallen in love with her.

“You need to stop that,” I told her. “I can see it isn’t in your nature to be cruel, but you’re not helping these men.” After that, I tried to impart everything I learned during the war and before. She was an exceptional nurse, an exceptional person. Henry was too kind to think of her on my behalf.

He stayed with me, reading the beautiful words of Joyce describing the Irish countryside, filled with diligent women with long red hair, and men covered from the day’s work, sitting around fires drinking potein. Henry had a lovely voice. His cadence soothed me. It took me to a field of tall grass, backdropped by rolling green hills, far away from the Ypres salient. He sounded so proper. He grew up in Dover, a town southwest of London where he went to school until he started working in the factories near Uplees. “Everyone worked in the factories,” he said. “Before the war even began I was already part of the effort.”

Henry described how he grew up poor like many in Dover, but his mother taught literature in the town school. She made sure he had a proper education. He grew up memorizing the words of Tennyson, Blake, and Wordsworth. She made him, his brothers and sister recite poems for her before dinner. “I used to think all of it was a colossal waste of time,” he said. “But sometimes when It’s dark in the trenches, those words rattle around inside my head. It’s like they were imprinted on my mind and they help me get through almost anything.”

That night I said a prayer for Henry’s mother and all his brothers. What a thing it must be to have all your sons at war.

December 25th, 1915

Last year we had the Christmas Truce. It was the wildest thing. The Germans came out of their trenches unarmed and shook the hands of their enemies. They sang Christmas carols, exchanged cigarettes and even played a friendly game of soccer if you can believe it. I think, if the men had it their way, the war would have ended right there, on both sides. They didn't hate one another. I prayed to God for another truce, but the war had gone on for too long. All the goodwill that once existed is now a festering, smoldering hatred that I fear will last long after this war ends.

Henry took letters I wrote to the triage camp in Hooge. I wanted to apologize to Dr. Crile for ruining the last ambulance. He was very kind with what he wrote back. “Don’t you worry. We’re getting along fine with horse and carriage. They aren’t as fast as the ambulance, but they don’t break down, either.”

Henry brought me some trench art he had made. He's very talented. He used a shell from a French weapon called a Schneider. He carved out Mary holding her newborn son, standing under the north star. I quite enjoy looking at it, thinking about him sitting in the trenches waiting for daybreak to return and reload his truck. I imagine him sitting by a small fire, his hands working diligently scratching away at every detail. I was embarrassed I had nothing to give him for Christmas. But he told me, saving his life was gift enough. I had grown tired of trying to argue with him on that point

Tomorrow, I will have these bandages removed from my face. I already know the person I see won’t be me. But, so what? I’m not the only person left disfigured from this war. Many will question what kind of monster I am. Maybe I’ll grow a hunch in my back and growl at the children I pass on the street. I don’t care. It makes no difference. Physical beauty is a waste of time, really. Who do I need to look good for? Still, I’ve lived my whole life with this face, and now I’m going to be a stranger to myself. I wonder if every time I glance in a mirror I’ll be reminded of this place. I wonder if all I’ll be able to see are men crying for their mothers and confessing their sins before they die. I tell myself, this is what scares me, not being hideous, but sometimes I think it’s both.

December 26th, 1915

Justine, one of the nurses, unwrapped the bandages from around my head. She grew up in Ypres and refused to evacuate as the Germans marched towards her place of birth. We had grown close as nurses in wartime do, commiserating about the arrogance of the doctors. “It will probably be a shock to you to see how you look but believe me when I say it doesn’t have to stay like that,” Justine said. “There’s a British sculptor, Francis Derwent Wood, who’s doing amazing work for men damaged by the war, absolutely amazing.”

The bottom layer of bandage stuck to my skin, and Justine had to cut it away carefully. "It looks like you've healed well since the doctor removed your sutures. There's still a little swelling, but that will go down in time."

She took an iodine-soaked towel and lightly patted it around my brow and cheek. The pressure hurt, but not nearly as much as it had three weeks ago.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

I took a deep breath and nodded. Justine smiled. She held my hand as she raised a mirror in front of my face. At first, it was strange. All I saw was the woman I had always seen, a thin, sleek face, long dark hair, olive skin. My two halves might as well have been an ocean apart, and then it happened. I felt it inside me. The distance between the two evaporated, and there I was, consumed by the reality that I'm not who I once was. The war gets the better of us all. I'm no different. It looked like someone had dropped a bowling ball on the right side of my face. I bit hard into my lip, and Justine squeezed my hand so tight.

"I've seen many men broken from this war," I started. "I never thought of any of them as less than. I'd say ‘people will see your wounds and treat you as a hero. Wear them as a badge of honor.' Now I know how empty those words were."

Justine was very kind to sit with me for as long as she did. I'm sure she had so many other things that needed her attention. We talked about the war, about what life was like back in Spain. I told her about how my father died from the flu and about my mother who works at a trading post weighing out coffee beans. It was nice. I knew she was trying to help me take my mind off the monster I had just been introduced to. But I didn’t care. It was just so very nice.

December 28th, 1915

Henry told me he wouldn’t be able to see me for a while, but I find myself picturing him lying motionless in the mud, stabbed through the chest with a bayonet. Or maybe worse. Maybe he’s alone out there, wounded with no one to care for him. Dear, Lord. Please keep Henry safe. Please allow him to carry out his duties unharmed. News travels slowly around here. There could have been a major battle twenty kilometers away, and the hospital wouldn't see its first wounded for a week or more. At the camp, we'd be able to hear it and know to get ready. The ones we could treat we treated. The ones who needed comfort we comforted. Those we could stabilize waited for transport to the hospital. But with most of the vehicles having been requisitioned for the war effort we only transferred a couple at a time. After the wounded had been moved the dead could be dealt with. If Henry were hurt or worse, I wouldn't know about it for some time.

I'm so selfish for being glad he can't see me like this. Before the explosion, I had little interest in finding love. I wasn't going to be someone's wife to serve my husband. I was fine with that. But now I fear I'll never have that option. Late at night, I find myself waking up in a panic. I see this broken woman lying in a dirty old bed, having gone mad from the loneliness. It's all too much.

I met Francis yesterday. He came to take a mold of my face. Too old to enlist in the war, he said, "Helping men become whole again is my calling. You'll be the first woman I've helped. But don't worry. The process is the same. I take a mold of your face, use clay to sculpt back what you've lost, then I make your mask out of a thin layer of galvanized copper."

He was so pleasant and kind, but I wasn’t in the mood for it. I sat there and let him do his work. A mask wasn’t going to fix what was wrong with me. I worried in some ways it could be worse. It might draw more attention than the wound would have by itself. I’ll be the Phantom of the Opera. No, it will be much worse. I will be the troll of Catalonia.

He returned the next day holding a box. “It will seem heavy at first. It weighs about a half a kilogram. But most get used to it within a day.” 

Wrapped in cloth, he removed my mask from the box. I saw the side that was to be against my face first. It looked unremarkable. "I fashioned a pair of spectacles to hold the mask comfortably in place once I make the proper adjustments."

Francis fidgeted with them a bit, “Yes that’s it. A little more to the left, I think.” He took a step back and used his hands to frame my face. Then he adjusted it some more. “I really think you’ll be pleased. This is some of my best work.” He took another step back. “Yes, I think that’s it.”

His excitement had my heart racing. I began to think maybe there’s a chance it could work. Maybe I could be made whole again. I gripped my thighs and dug my nails into my skin through the sheets as Francis picked up the hand mirror. “Isidora, are you ready to be reintroduced to the old you?”

I sniffled back tears and took a deep breath. “I am.”

Francis held the mirror up. The first thing that drew my attention was the eye. The depth of color- it was like he must have used a million different shades of brown to capture the human soul. I could see it. I could see myself in my new eye. Deep within the iris, where God must hide all the secrets of creation, heaven and earth, and beyond, I could see it all there. "How?" Francis remained silent. "It's me," I think I said. Tears rolled out of my good eye, and I half expected them to roll out of my new one. How was this possible, I didn't know? Surely this man should become a world-famous artist. He must be God Himself in human form, come down from heaven to give me this gift. I leaped from my bed to wrap my arm around him. I held him so tight. How do you thank someone for giving you back your life, your future? I didn't know. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," I said until my arm went numb from holding him so tight.

January 3rd, 1916

Henry returned today and was quite taken with my new face. He hadn't seen what lies underneath and I wasn't prepared to show him. We talked a while about the craftsmanship of it all; the skill that Francis possesses. "Are you well enough to leave?" he asked. Calling out to Justine, "Is she well enough to get out of the hospital for the day?"

Justine looked up from the wound of a soldier she was tending to and nodded. “So, there it is. Would you like to join me for a day on the town?”

It was one thing to be around people who see the consequences of war every moment of every day. It was altogether another thing to be amongst people walking up and down the streets. Will they stare at me, I wondered? Will they whisper as I pass by?

Leaving the hospital, I found myself watching to see if anyone’s eyes fixed on my mask or my missing arm. First, we came upon an older gentleman with a limp. I gripped Henry’s hand so hard, he whispered, “It’s alright, Isidora. Look, he didn’t even notice you.”

Next, we passed a woman and her young son. Henry politely said, “Good day,” and the woman nodded.

“See? Nothing. It’s just another day in war-torn Belgium.”

My grip on his hand loosened.

We sat at a café for a while. It was strange that a café existed when it could be obliterated within a half hour of the Central Powers breaking through the trench line. Nevertheless, there we were, sitting and sipping tea, as people busily went about their day. "It's like they don't even know there's a war," I said to Henry.

“Yes,” he replied. “It’s amazing what the human mind and body can adapt to.” I do not think he was only talking about the war. I think he was trying to be clever. I do like it when he’s clever.

We sat quietly for a while, and I kept watch, waiting for someone to point and snicker, or take a look at me and run off in horror. It didn’t happen. It all felt so normal. After a while, I became less and less aware, and it was just me sitting and enjoying the company of someone I was very fond of. 

"I feel so normal at this moment," I whispered to Henry.

“I’m glad you can feel that way,” he leaned in. “But don’t for one second believe you’re normal. That’s the last thing you are.” Before he continued I felt a pain in my chest. Here it is. Here’s the moment I find out it’s all a big hoax and everyone has been staring at me all along. “You left the relative safety of Spain to get as close to the front as any woman could. You nearly died, and yet you felt great shame over losing the ambulance. As you laid in your hospital bed, healing from your wounds, you only worried about the women you left behind at the camp. If you could - if they’d let you, you’d be back there now, with one arm, trying to comfort and save the lives of soldiers near death. I’m glad you can feel normal, Isidora. But normal is the last thing I’d call you.”

I waved my hand at him dismissively. “Stop it. I don’t want to cry in front of you.”

He took my hand and kissed it. “If you can’t cry in front of the people who love you, then you’d only ever cry alone.”

Henry handed me his handkerchief and I wiped away the tears. I think, perhaps, for the first time in my life, I now know what it's like to be vulnerable. How can something feel so good and terrifying all at once? The last thing I wanted was to need him and yet here I am writing these words, still smelling his scent; still hearing his long shallow breaths.

I’m not impulsive. I don’t give my heart away to try and be what the generations of women before me were. I truly believe a modern woman should forge her own path, fight for her voice to be heard. Right now, millions of us work in factories all over the world, making bullets and bombs. When this war is over, things won’t go back to like they were. And here I am in the middle of a godawful love story. But I can’t deny how kind he’s been to me. I shouldn’t have to deny my need to be close to him.

 I suggested to Henry that I might like to see what the hotel across the street was like. His eyes grew wide as the implication of what I had said came clear. Then he gulped down the rest of his tea and stood up, reaching out his hand to take mine.

We walked silently holding hands as we crossed the cobblestone street. The hotel owner was an elderly gentleman who spoke louder than was normal. I stood back and let Henry take care of procuring our accommodations.

The room was small and the bed made of wood. “There’s a nicer place closer to the port if this doesn’t suit you,” Henry said, unable to make eye contact with me.

"No, I answered, as I slid my hand along the oak dresser under a mirror. The floral wallpaper, though dulled by age, had an almost pleasant feeling too it. "I quite like it."

Henry swallowed hard and then asked, “How would you like this to begin.”

I suggested we sit on the bed and talk. Even now as I write about it, I don’t remember what we discussed. Henry’s nervousness was adorable. Of course, I wanted what was to come next, but more than that, I never wanted to forget the moments before, when neither of us could express what we felt without having our hands on one another. It was as if all we had were questions, and we knew soon we’d have all the answers.  Finally, I interrupted him, “I think I’m ready. I think I’m ready for you to kiss me.”

Henry took a deep breath and he was finally able to look at me. He was able to look into both my eyes, and I could feel him in both my eyes. "Isidora, I must confess," he said, brushing strands of hair off my face. "When I first saw you in the wreckage of the ambulance, I thought to myself, ‘this is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen'. I felt as if God had put me there to rescue someone who was important to Him. It's a feeling I can't shake."

He leaned in and pressed his lips to mine and then pulled away. “I know it’s easy to trick the mind into false fates, but I refuse to accept what happened wasn’t part of a larger plan.”

He kissed me again. “I can’t decide if war is the best or worst time to fall in love. I refuse to believe that God brought us together for no reason at all. I refuse to.”

I dove in and wrapped my arm around Henry, kissing him, our mouths opening wide. And for the first time, the very first time, I forgot. I forgot about the Central Powers, the tanks, and the artillery. I forgot about my camp and all the dead I've seen. I forgot about the landmine and all my injuries. Henry lifted my blouse over my head, pulling it off. And it all came back. It all came rushing back so fast, everything, the war, the death, the blood, and sorrow. It all came rushing back when I realized pulling off my blouse had pulled off my mask as well. Immediately I hid my face. "No, don't look at me, please don't."

Henry didn’t flinch. He didn’t grimace. He gently pulled my arm away and lifted my chin until we were both eye-to-eye. “Isidora, look at me,” he said as gentle as a down pillow. “Tell me if it looks like I care the tiniest little bit about your injuries.”

With his hand, he covered the damaged side of my face and held it there for a moment. Then he covered my undamaged side. “No,” he said shaking his head. “It makes no difference to me. I can’t see what’s wrong with you. All I see is what’s right.”

Henry picked up my mask and gently laid it on the nightstand. “I can’t promise that the world will see what I see. But I can promise you never have to hide with me. Not now, not ever. Not for one second. This must be so hard for you. I can't even imagine. But tell me if you think I have one millimeter of doubt."

I couldn’t because there was none.

Without my mask, Henry kissed me. He kissed me as tenderly as any man could have kissed a woman. We undressed each other, and our hands explored each other’s bodies. I found all of Henry’s scars. Some from the war, some from his days working in the factory.

He laid on top of me, and for only the second time in my life, I felt a man inside me. I wrapped my legs so tight around him- I wanted to pull him closer, I wanted to make sure he felt that I needed all of him. He looked into my eye and he looked into the patch of skin that covered where my other eye had once been. Pushing deeper and harder, I couldn't help but cry. "Isidora, do you want me to stop? Am I hurting you?"

“No, please don’t stop,” I begged. "Please don’t. No matter what, you can’t stop.”

Henry held me tight, resting his head on my shoulder. I felt the weight of his body pushing into me as I pushed against him. He must have been able to feel my tears falling against him. He must have been able to hear my sobs. I don’t know how to describe it. How is it even possible to understand being accepted in a moment you thought acceptance would never come again. I don’t know if I loved him before that moment, but I know after it I’ll never stop. I know for as long as we’re both alive, my heart will belong to Henry Wilcox, a strange Brit from the town of Dover.

He was the second man inside me but he was the first who drove me to hysteria. I had heard other women talk about it. They described it as feeling like they were possessed. All that friction, all that tension unleashed, and I felt Henry unleashing into me. Maybe other women believe the devil drove them to such things, but I have no doubt my hysteria was a gift from God Himself. The heat from our bodies rubbed together and sweat condensed in the space between us. Henry’s lips kissed my neck and my nails dug into his skin. If I could, I would have ripped him apart just to live inside him, surrounded by his unbreakable will.  “Henry, I love you,” I whispered through my tears.

Pulling back, he looked right into. Once again, he didn’t flinch. He didn’t waver. “Isidora, I love you,” he said without a glimmer of doubt.

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