It turns out there is something more shameful than laying drunk and helpless in a gutter; laying drunk and helpless on the seat of a train while behind sit one’s own mother and brothers. There are many kinds of rock bottom, I am beginning to learn – too late, perhaps, but that remains to be seen. At any rate, this moment is a particularly embarrassing low: curled like a sick child in yesterday’s clothes, reek of drink and vomit on my breath, neither ill nor intoxicated enough to sink into dreamless sleep. And in accompaniment to the aches and protestations of my body, behind me is the constant cluck of Mother’s patent disapproval. Perhaps it is my punishment to remain just awake enough to hear the long list of my faults and failures.

“Perhaps he should see a doctor, Mother, he looks quite unwell…” Sweet, naïve Thomas. Too young to understand how properly ashamed he should be of his elder brother, or does he simply find it more shameful to drag me along in my current condition? He should follow Jonathan’s example of cool disdain.

“Ignore Stefan; he made his bed and now he shall lie in it,” And Mother chiding now, true to form, in her perfected stage whisper, the voice of drawing room gossip circles. “Sometimes I think it’s a blessing he shows no interest in marriage or family, who knows what sort he’d bring home…” Her derisive sniff curdles my stomach more than the stale drink churning within.

They think I do not care, that I feel no shame for my actions. But what if my actions are the result of shame? Would Mother worry if she thought this were a cry for help, or would she merely purse her lips at such unwanted drama? Lord, I could use a drink…

And now this pointless Paris trip! Why Paris? Will Paris be any better than London? Better food, better parties, better gossip? Every city seems much the same to me, Paris or London or New York. The very thought of braving my way through noisy, chaotic crowds of people makes me want to sob, to hide beneath the seat, to leap from the train and end this misery once and for all. Do they not understand I want only to be left alone?

Though… Peter is in Paris. Kind, gentle Peter. Lovely Peter…

No, no. Don’t think of him. Why should Peter do anything but turn me away, wretched and disgusting as I am? I cannot go to him for help or understanding any more than I can go to Jonathan or Thomas. Better to stay as clear of Peter as possible so his only memories of me may be good ones – or at least not… what I am now. If the Lord will show me any mercy, I will be free to hide away in our rooms and venture out only for another bottle or a dose of laudanum.

Oh, Peter…


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