27th March 1914
Dearest Diary, I have waited for such a long time for today. Eighteen years, nine months and ten days. My entire life. FOREVER.
Vivian carefully underlined the word forever and in a somewhat uncharacteristic gesture hugged the diary to her as though it was a child. Vivian Foster wasn’t prone to being especially giddy — amongst her friends she was considered the most knowing and realistic — but today was, without doubt, exceptional.
Forever? There must have been a time when she wasn’t aware of how important marrying was, when she was just a child and concerned with paddling in streams, making perfume from crushed rose petals or picking brambles. Then all she’d waited for was the next sunny day. She just couldn’t remember that time. Perhaps she’d written what she had because writing in diaries made her nervous. Stomach fluttery. She was not sure she wanted to be so known, and certainly not by her already far too controlling mother, nosy younger siblings or a cheeky maid, which was the risk. Diaries were dishonest. When she wrote in hers, she fell into a persona that was quite close to her best self but far from her true self, an insurance against prying eyes. She kept her true self buried practically all of the time. Eighteen-year-old girls weren’t exactly encouraged to say what they thought; in fact they weren’t encouraged to think at all. Writing that she had waited ‘forever’ for this day was the sort of thing that could not cause any real trouble; it was the type of comment that people expected young, virginal debutantes to write. NaÃ¯ve. Forgivably imprecise.
Almost the entire Foster family understood the importance of today. Vivian’s two younger sisters Susan and Barbara (the latter known to all as Babe, as Mrs Foster’s way of signalling to Mr Foster that there would be no more babies) were obligingly awestruck. They sat on Vivian’s bed, mouths slightly ajar, eyes glazed with excitement, as she wafted around her room, opening the wardrobe door, fingering the tin of talcum powder, playing with the ribbons on her dresses, until she sent them back to the nursery with an imperious wave of the arm. Of course they were impressed. Vivian was older than them (by two and six years respectively) and had been attending balls whilst they were tucked up in bed, a fact that was too compelling for them to ever consider contradicting her. Her brother Toby, four years her junior, was nonplussed. His gender gave him a strong sense of superiority that, somewhat annoyingly, overrode the age discrepancy.
It was absolutely true to say that since coming out eight months ago, Vivian had been waiting for this exact day, and there wasn’t a huge difference in her imagination between eight months and forever, because before she came out, she was more or less nothing.
She was simply waiting.
A schoolgirl who could be bossed and directed by almost anyone: parents, close and distant relatives, Nanny, the governess, neighbours, the vicar and anyone Mrs Foster had ever been intimate with, who still might be found in the drawing room on Thursday ‘at homes’. Providing a person was old and wealthy enough to have opinions, it was accepted that they could foist them upon young girls, who had to receive them (however ridiculous) in silence. That was why Vivian believed today to be so important. Everything changed.
Sometimes it had seemed as though this day would never come around; irrationally she’d feared that longing for it so ardently might lead to a catastrophic, logic-defying interruption to the passage of time, but time had ultimately surrendered and the day had arrived.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour this week, continuing tomorrow on Handwritten Girl.
IF YOU GO AWAY is available to read in full in Hardback and Ebook now. Buy online.