Chapter 11 : XI.
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1 November was a very busy, hectic day for me - lots of reading for school, an essay (that I still haven't finished), and NaNo (happily I'm ahead as of right this second), and by the time I remembered what else I had to do, it was already the second. So, really, my bad.
Anyway, enjoy the very last chapter of Napoleon's Complex.
It might have escaped her attention, but I bet the statement “I love you” didn’t escape yours. Good on you.
The problem with that, of course, is that you fail to remember that I am not Eugenie. She has her ideas about love. It’s a loose concept that she doesn’t apply to many things, certainly not to me. And I have mine. In my world, I can love Eugenie without liking her. I can say, “I love you” without it meaning anything.
The difference between us is that I’d always needed an unequivocal answer to my questions. She never had. She reveled in ambiguity and dabbled sometimes in preciseness.
But the words, those exact words, never mattered to her. To this day, after all, I haven’t heard her say them to Philip or anyone else. That isn’t to say that she didn’t feel any sort of love, because she did. It just wasn’t for me.
One day, I dragged her to Tower Bridge to save her from ripping her sister’s head off. We’d stopped off at Fortescue’s. I had butterscotch, she had black currant, as usual. More concerned with our ice cream than with each other, we’d settled into utter silence.
I thought, sometimes, that Eugenie wished that she wasn’t getting married. I think she fantasized, sometimes, about living in a Kiev nunnery and never having to deal with anything remotely difficult. Philip wasn’t helping either, by the way. He was the one who forced her to let her half-sister into the wedding.
“I hate her,” she said after a long time, when most of the ice cream was gone.
“No, you don’t. You like that she’s finally a part of your life. She does, too.”
“That’s ridiculous. You know she wants to put pictures of Napoleon on the place cards? Because that’s how we really met?”
“That’s not ridiculous.” To be honest, it sounded kind of cute. As long as they used a picture of him from when he was young and looked almost like an actual cat.
“Fine, that’s a little ridiculous.”
“It’s a lot ridiculous. I hate her.”
“It’s times like this that makes me wonder if you like anyone.”
She glared at me.
“A product of his times. Do you realize that he would have been, should have been, nothing? And yet he was something. He was kind of brilliant. Flawed, of course, but brilliant.” She stopped walking, leaned out over the side, and chewed her sugar cone pensively.
I stopped and joined her, looking out over the Thames. I didn’t feel like correcting her. She probably knew what I was actually talking about, anyway. “If by brilliant you mean an angry little tyrant always trying to compensate for something, sure.” Philip had lent me some of his old uni textbooks just for the fun of it. It was not fun, but at least now I could follow a vague thread in their conversation.
“I don’t believe the whole thing about his height complex. He was average for his times. There shouldn’t be a complex. But the possibility that there might be something deeper than what we see, that’s the interesting part about history, isn’t it? Don’t we want to find something that explains everything? The problem is,” she mulled, more to herself than me, “that sometimes we’re looking for something that doesn’t exist. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking there’s more to something than there actually is, and sometimes it’s the other way around. It’s all very interesting. At least I think it is.” She glanced at me. Not glared, for once. “Am I boring you?”
There is love like that you have for your parents. Eugenie didn’t have that, sadly, but that’s another story. There is love that you have for your siblings. There is love you have for your pets, and relatives, and food, and your job. All very different things, but they all deserve some sort of love. There is love that you have for your friends. But Eugenie and I didn’t have that at all.
We weren’t in love with each other. Neither of us could have survived that. Maybe, once, we could have been in love with each other. Maybe you think we still could, and maybe you’re right.
The fact is that we were much closer than we thought we were. After over half of our lives devoted to this principle that we barely like each other, how can love, in any context, make sense? How can it be this awful, complex thing that can bring us together and leave us hanging and allow us to stand for horrible things and still, eventually, hold out an olive branch?
The answer is, in that case, that love is a fluid concept.
It’s my turn to ask a question now. I think I should be allowed a question after providing you with so many answers. It’s only fair.
The first line of my story was “I suppose you could say the problem started when we first met.” I being me, we being Eugenie and me. But, and here’s where the question kicks in, what was the problem?
Think about it.
There are a few schools of thought you could come up with to answer this question.
If you’re a cynic, you’ll say that our association is the problem. That the fleeting moments of pseudo-friendship we had weren’t worth the mistrust and the dancing around each other.
If you’re a romantic, you’ll say that my feelings about our association are the problem. That it’s my fault for not trusting her, and that I could make the concept of us work if I really wanted to.
If you’re both, you’ll say that she, as an individual element of us, is the problem. That it’s her fault too, for being so difficult to deal with, so unreadable and manipulative. That I’m only slightly right in what I think of her.
If you’re neither, you’ll say that it never really mattered, that there was never a problem. That we are both people, there is no fault, that some associations blossom into other things and some don’t.
These are all valid interpretations of our situation.
To be honest, I think it’s a little bit of everything.
Our association was only ever an association. It could have been more, but it wasn’t, and the fact that we continued with it was stupid.
I was wary around her, I didn’t trust her, she bothered me, but I could have ignored all of that if I really wanted something more from our association.
She distanced herself purposefully, didn’t trust me, sometimes she didn’t even like me, and she should have been merciful and let me off the hook.
But we accepted each other, didn’t question the perceptions we’d wanted to keep alive, and that’s really what we were meant for, and that’s okay.
You could say that that’s a dodgy answer, barely an answer at all, an embarrassment to explanations the world over. You might be right. But it’s what I think, and please don’t tell me what to think.
Remember, I haven’t told you everything. I’ve withheld from you much, much more than I’ve told you. Don’t forget that when you make your judgment. You don’t have the whole story. You have what I gave you.
Now, I said earlier on that I don’t like wasting my time telling stories that don’t need to be told. And I don’t think I’ve wasted my time at all, have I? I’ll leave it up to yourselves to decide what to make of it, and what you think I have made of it.
There are two other things that you should know before I end our exhilarating and exasperating tale, presented as a pair:
I am single now. Eugenie is married. And I like her husband more than I like her.
Author's Note II So... there we have it. This is the end.
Firstly, I hope you enjoyed Albus and Eugenie's fairly wild ride. I hope you liked the three-day system that worked (almost) perfectly. I hope that you forgot, as I did, that this was a 12+ story.
Secondly, this is the second multi-chaptered story I've finished in the last seven-ish months. This has never, ever happened to me, so I'm really, really excited that it has, at last, been accomplished.
Thirdly, I would like to thank the following people: Susan, whose challenge gave me the opportunity to write again; Rachel, whose initial encouragement gave me the, er, courage to continue with this wacky story; all of you lovely, lovely reviewers for providing your insights and opinions in what really is an open-ended story (Gina, Linders, miss_aurora, justonemorefic, Regina_Penworthy, and the rest of you); and of course, you darling readers, without whom I probably wouldn't have posted at all.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can always drop me a line at the forums (my username is gubby) and we can discuss it.
Thank you so much for your time.