When I awoke it was broad day. The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone in between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained plaster of Lowood, that my spirits rose at the view.
Externals have a great effect on the young and I thought that a fairer era of life was beginning for me. One that was to have its flowers and pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils and faculties. Roused by the change of scene, my senses seemed all astir. I stretched, feeling a new delight awaken in my body. So long accustomed to sleeping in the company of others, the soft silence of the room, the trill of birdsong faint beyond the window, made my excitement mount.
I threw back the counterpane, letting the sunlight fall on the thin muslin cloth of my nightgown, and I spread my limbs, sunbathing like a cat. As the steady warmth increased, I felt my hand falling to the soft pillow of my inner thigh.
Unlike yesterday in the carriage, I knew this morning that I had time at my disposal, and with this in mind, I closed my eyes, and found myself remembering Emma Wilby. After my dearest friend, Helen Burns, had died, it had been Emma with whom I had formed a deep attachment and I now reflected on how Emma would have loved this room, this space and solitude. Yet, at the same time I couldn’t help remembering how our exploration of one another had only been heightened by the illicitness of our encounters in the public spaces of Lowood.
Now I heard a gentle moan escape unbidden from my lips, as I remembered that first far distant day in the library, Emma’s face still etched in my mind, as she’d looked up at me from between my legs, her eyes glittering, as they’d dared me to command her to stop. I’d sat on the edge of that hard teacher’s desk, my skirt hitched up around me, naked above my stocking tops, Emma’s long red hair tickling my thighs, hardly daring to breathe, knowing how close we were to being caught, but unable to move away. How I had trembled against her like a fluttering bird, but she’d only assured me not to be afraid.
I felt my hand languidly lifting my gown and straying to the place Emma had caressed so often, my fingers feeling my silken wet crevasse, remembering that first flicker of her tongue against my bud. I felt my sex warm in the sunlight through the window, opening like a flower, and my memory pulled me back to Emma and how I had braced against the desk, terrified and yet delighted in the shimmering dart of pleasure that she had ignited within me. How she’d spread me with her fingertips, holding back my damp, coiled pubic hair and lapped at me, and how the sound of my juices against her mouth had excited me beyond all measure, until I had implored her and, grabbing my hips, she’d pressed her mouth against me, sucking me harder, pulling me into her.
In the sunlight now, I pushed my finger inside my sex, feeling the warm, wet opening yielding, then pulling it out again to rub my engorged bud. Bucking up, my thighs tensing, I gasped, as with the memory of Emma’s flickering tongue, my head seemed to explode like a shattered mirror, shards of pleasure spinning with light.
Sated, I rose, my sex still throbbing in the aftermath of my pleasure. I dressed myself with care, although I was obliged to be plain, for I had no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity. Even so, I was still by nature solicitous to be neat. It was not my habit to be disregardful of appearance or careless of the impression I made. On the contrary, I wished to look as well as I could, and to please as much as my want of beauty would permit. I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer and I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose and small cherry mouth. I desired to be tall, stately and finely developed in figure, with the kind of buxom full breasts that Emma had so proudly possessed. I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so marked, although the pertness of my nipples and my buttocks had been held in high regard at Lowood by the other girls.
Why had I these aspirations and these regrets about my womanly faculties? It would be difficult to say. I could not then distinctly say it to myself, yet I had a reason, and a logical, natural reason too. My experience at Lowood was over. Helen, Emma, all the others had gone and I would never be in the company of those girls who had comforted me. I wondered how long I could sustain myself on their memory, for already they seemed to be slipping away like ghosts, leaving me with a new kind of yearning, but for what, I knew not. Cast out into this new adventure, with no experience other than those pale-limbed innocents, I felt unsure of the future and of this adult world to which I now belonged.
I felt confused, too. The bodily pleasures in which we girls had all delighted in the dormitory had been so commonplace as to indicate normalcy, yet in the two moments I alone had enjoyed since my departure from Lowood, the solitary secretiveness of my self-pleasure appeared, in retrospect, more shameful than I expected, and a creeping and unfamiliar sense of wrongdoing came upon me.
However, when I had brushed my hair very smooth, and smoothed the black frock over my slim waist – which, Quakerlike as it was, at least had the merit of fitting to a nicety – and adjusted my clean white tucker, I thought I should do respectably enough to appear before Mrs Fairfax, and that neither she nor my new pupil would ever guess my secret, or recoil from me with antipathy. Having opened my chamber window, and seen that I left all things straight and neat on the toilet table, I ventured forth.
Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Charlotte Bronte and Eve Sinclair is out on 13 September, published by Pan.