The Ballad of Cornelia and James

James was not sitting down when he read that letter.

It was a pity for him, because all the words in that two and a half pages of paper revealed nothing but heartache for him. And oh, it was the worst kind. It was the sort of heartache that pokes you in your sleep, stings you in the eye and wakes you up in a heap of sweaty mess… Then after a few minutes of blurry vision and heavy breathing, you come down to a clear conclusion that everything was indeedly, and very much, your fault.

Yes, your fault.

Your own sodding fault, James.

Cornelia was a blooming young virgin when he first met her. Not pretty, but attractive. She was smart, artistic and a little boyish, with that rare sense of humour that only most men would buy. But that was the exact package that drew him to her. Her essence was different. Unique. Like a perfume from a foreign country that makes you turn around and think ‘I’ve never smelled anything quite like it’. This was her. But when the time came for James to make his grand entrance, he slipped. Embarassed himself. Cornelia giggled, and went the other way.

A year passed quickly before Cornelia and James crossed paths again. She passed him in the same notion as she did a year before, turning his head around with a familiar ‘I’ve never known anyone quite like you’. So as the second chance was given, James grabbed it. “May I be delighted with your number?” he had asked at the party that night. Cornelia took her napkin and wrote down on it. Then she went the other way, but this time with a small smile playing on her face.

After a quick exchange of messages and phone calls, they were together like any other couple in campus. They were raucous and kissed each other at every break they had. They left messages on the building walls, within the corners that only they would know. I was here at one o’clock, said one writing. I skipped class today – meet you at two, said another. They displayed their affection very publicly and candidly, and any stranger who saw them together would think how lucky they were to be so young and so in love... only thing, they weren’t.

Sex wasn’t included until the second month they dated. The first few tries were painful and forgettable. Yet it wasn’t long until it escalated into a hot and steamy passion, and they proved it by making love every single day. Make-up sex became the highlight of their affair; the unhealthy type of sex that kept problems unspoken and forgotten between orgasms, driving all that anger into a rage of sexual tension. After the deed, she would always thank him, and he’d grin widely with the feeling of a grown man. He never thanked her back, but he’d kiss her forehead and let her cuddle up to him, thinking it was enough. She never said anything. She was very loyal to him.

Six months into the relationship and Cornelia fell in love. And oh, it was the strongest kind. It was the sort of love that keeps you awake at night, pulling the strings in your chest, inside and out until you sit up on your bed and sigh… Then after a few minutes of turning scarlet, you come down to a clear conclusion that you’re a fool.

Yes, a fool.

You’re a righteous young fool, Cornelia.

Because James was not in love with her. When she braved herself to say those three little words, he repeated them for her, but he never meant it. He was afraid of breaking her heart. Cornelia was fun, generous, helped him with college work and desperately in love in him, and he was afraid of breaking her heart.

But he did care for her, deeply. He cared for her enough to whisper sweet words in her ear, unknowingly kiss her while she slept and promise a future of her dreams. “I’ll always be there for you, Cornelia,” he had said. So Cornelia poured her heart out to him, and he had listened. In the tenth month, Cornelia poured her heart out to him again, but he had walked out the door. He was not there for her when she cried.

One year was more than enough for them to get to know each other. Especially for James, who discovered just how painstakingly fast an ‘I’ve never known anyone quite like you’ could turn into ‘Just another girl’. He was a little bored, but not at all sick of her yet. She remained as his oxygen; someone he yearns for, but is taken for granted.

Poor Cornelia never said anything. By now she was beaten as ever on the inside, and questioned him, and doubted him, but still craving so badly to love him always… God knows how much she tried to keep him at her side. God knows how much she had stayed silent all this while…

And so the letter started with a Dearest James.

It ended with a Love, Cornelia.

And in between the lines, there was a question of ‘Were you ever worthy of my time?’.

James was not sitting down when he read that letter.

It was a pity for him, because her handwriting will be the last thing he will ever see of her. The two and a half pages of paper he held was a concrete material, something he could burn afterwards and never lay his eyes upon again. The words he read and the guilty burden he felt, however, would never be erased from his memory. And in between the lines, he felt a question bursting from inside his head, a question far too late to ever ask…

Could I have loved her?

With the crumpled letter in his hand, James staggered to sit down.

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Writer neko-man
neko-man at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (9 years 42 weeks ago)
100

Briliance, I think this will make me your fans ha ha. Gee, I hope someday I get better with my English. Your description was wonderful, "Like a perfume from a foreign country that makes you turn around and think" I never think something like that. I get lost a while in the end, like "What the point?". Great writing however. NB :I would love to know your fanfiction, where?

Great story! I wish I could make something like this...

Great story! I wish I could make something like this...

Writer reniand
reniand at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (12 years 44 weeks ago)
80

Agree with Faris. I have a suggestion, why don't you include Cornelia's letter in full? That way, Cornelia's POV won't be so distracting.

Writer Faris
Faris at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (13 years 3 weeks ago)
80

Poor James. Great Opening. Nice Ending. Though I kinda lost track when the POV changed from James to Cornelia.

Writer Gieduth
Gieduth at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (13 years 7 weeks ago)
70

i lost words, amazingly vulgar yet exotic

Writer chaz
chaz at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (13 years 22 weeks ago)
70

First of all, before I comment anything on the story, are you the same meethz that used to frequent AP forums and LJ, who adores One Piece?

Okay, whatever the answer to that question is, here's what I think of the story: it's nice. You write well, better than most people I know, anyway, but it's just... nice.

There are some very interesting, genuine phrases, which unfortunately are not enough to lift the whole piece into another level of good. I quote: "Like a perfume from a foreign country that makes you turn around and think ‘I’ve never smelled anything quite like it’." That phrase needs to be praised because it humanizes the way James sees Cornelia and a part of me when reading it felt like I've known that sensation. It's that strong.

But the rest of the story is not as captivating as that one. I like their early courtship -- the messages left behind and the awkward, painful first tries of sex -- because it rings true. Then suddenly all things go downhill and I was grasping for the pace of this story. In the end James hardly feels like a person anymore to me, maybe because he's..., well just another lines and paragraph. He is told, not shown, and loses his charm.

Then again, it's short and therefore constraining. Still a good job given that you haven't written fiction in two years (I read the comments). Will then be waiting for another example of your brilliance.

~chaz

Writer splinters
splinters at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (13 years 23 weeks ago)
90

oh, gurl. now i'm craving for more. it's your fault! you fool! hehehehe, i always love stories that are painful, yet beautiful. what can I say? "I want more!"

Writer FrenZy
FrenZy at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (13 years 23 weeks ago)
70

the overall idea is nice, and i don't think it's too fast coz although it's short, it becomes a flashback of the past. nicely told. however i noticed a few grammatical errors, you used present tense for a few sentences in this all-past tense story.

Writer meethz
meethz at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (13 years 23 weeks ago)

(CHAZ)

yes, that is indeed i! :D how did you guess? i'm still in the forums, but i just don't post as often. my LJ is half dead and my account still exist simply for the sake of commenting on other people's journals :p

as for your review.. i think it's the most spot-on review i've ever had (well, considering i only had three xD) i wrote the first parts rather emotionally, because i was having all these anger that just had to be placed into words. then i had coffee break and immediately felt better xD afterwards the single thing that was left on my mind was the excitement of 'OMG i'm writing again' and 'i want to finish this as soon as possible' .. well that probably resulted in the sudden change of the story's pace. but hey, i learned my lesson: rushing is BAD. he he! thankies dear~

(SPLINTERS)

seriously? xD wuhuuuuu! senangnya hatiku~ yay for the confidence boost! much thanks and wuv :)

(FRENZY)

present tense? you mean the whole 'you're a fool/your fault' thingy? actually, if you read carefully, i made that not as a part of Cornelia or James :p it's basically like a writer's comment to her own characters within the story, which is why i wrote it in present tense. i used that a lot when i was still writing fanfics xD

but i do have a problem ganti2 from a past situation to a past-present situation, that i confess :p

thankies!

Writer annonymouse
annonymouse at The Ballad of Cornelia and James (13 years 23 weeks ago)
70

as always you have a way with words, and I'm forever a fan =D

I loved the ending, the whole the letter started with a Dear James thing.

I like the different "sex"s they do and the writing on the wall thingy! Bootiful!

I'd complain it was too rushed, but it's not.. not really.. This _is_ meant to be a short fic.. But something is missing here, the thing is.. your fics always make me feel something.. _more_. This one feels like a recital..

But I loves j00, and your fics =D Your descriptions are fantabulous as always!