One of the exercises for my boot camp today - the one I chose - was to contrast despair with a time of contentment. This is about three quarters of what I came up with. The implication is meant to be that she was in a political (albiet loveless) engagement, which was just broken:
Saerin turned the ring over in her fingers, the inscription catching against her nails. “To a fruitful union and two successful lives.” Not a romantic inscription, but the nexus of calculated hopes formed with a man who had understood her priorities. What had seemed very logical and reserved then now drew her down out of – so it seemed – all proportion with her loss.
If that round hollowness inside her crumbled, she worried what else would fall. Into it, she poured the memory of scattershot days, madcap days before she had been elevated to the rank of judge. Unreasoning hope like white-hot barbs kept her surging forward, sleepless, ceaseless, always championing someone for whom there could be no success.
Those were the days of her greatest pleasure.
She guided that foolishness down into the deep and had no idea whether it would ever emerge. The gridwork of ambition surrounded her, this action necessary, then this concession – a sound political marriage … the ring was the same shape as that space she was trying to fill, but her fondest recollections would not substitute for the chances she needed.
Standing in stasis, unfamiliar, balanced on a brink without a bridge – when she had once not cared about the width of the abyss. She whirled, dizzy, snatching at the moments. Happiness … but could she even hold onto why she had been happy? It seemed arcane now. What pleasure in meals that could not fill her, in learning to write by stars when she could no longer afford candles?
Saerin mocked her younger self as she buried the memories. She had known the carter was innocent of running over the young nobleman, but how grateful he would have been for a light sentence, to save face, to remember the dewey-eyed lawyer later. Never mind the twin sons who clung to him and his bustly wife who rubbed her almost-flat stomach anxiously.
She stopped her work of mental reconstruction. It was the blurry sensation of examining a stranger’s life, a woman she could not remember being. A woman who had been happy – and by that extension, she could not recall the emotion. It was a part of another existence. Was it something she could regain? Or, like a quirk of personality, out of reach the same way reshaping herself would be?
“To a fruitful union and two successful lives.” Saerin flicked the ring to the floor, watched it bounce, heard the final click of the gavel when she was not the one wielding it. The pounding of her heart. A wet, hot rush of absolute experience.