Erica Bruyère. Erica Bruyère. Uttering her name brings back all those memories, pouring down like a spring rain on an overgrown garden. Pleasant memories. Bittersweet memories. Mostly bittersweet memories, which is why I do not invoke her name often, even a decade later. I can’t bear the thought of paradise lost. Watching her shun the art of deportment and the expectations of her social class with that mischievous smile. Sipping wine on the moonlit veranda, but really drinking her in. The summer evenings walking along the marbled esplanade. Gazing at candles on the lake, listening to the nightingale’s love song, and talking into the wee hours of the night. The world before us was a theater for two. The afternoons reciting Victor Hugo poems to one another in her gilded parlor. The trip to her uncle’s vineyard, laughing like school children in the hansom on the way. The years have rolled on, and I’ve receded into her distant past, as she has mine. A cruel fate. She was betrothed to the Comte de St.-Peter, forcefully so. Her father insisted on the strategic marriage, as did the bishop of Metz. He put his foot down and there was no stopping him, not her mother and certainly not me, a painter of the petit-bourgeoisie. I wish her well, I wish her happiness. But I will never be the same, and my melancholy only intensifies with time, the graying of life's erstwhile delights in sync with the hair on my head and beard. She lit an eternal flame in my heart and I now walk the earth alone. The passion she kindled inside me will be my undoing, more so than the scars and lingering wounds of the War where I had unsuccessfully sought death. Bittersweet memories, yet I would rather take them to my deathbed than to have never known this fairest of God's creatures.