A mismatch, they’d said.
They were not the normal pair at first glance. He, the broad giant and she, the petite porcelain doll. Him, scientific and rational and her, creative and sensitive. He of the nouveau riche, clawing his way to the upper echelons and she of the nobility, comfortably set at the top and looking down upon the world from her ivory tower.
But if they would just take a closer look, the world would see that Emma Carew and Henry Jekyll complemented each other quite nicely.
The gentle giant knew the worth of the porcelain doll and he held her like she was the most precious thing in the world - for she was to him - with a delicate grip and soft caress. His scientific mind created an intellectual match for her that not many in her circle could provide, and her interest in the fine arts gave him an education in the nuanced proceedings of sophisticated society. He pulled her out of the tower to see the world with him, and she helped him to stop and smell the roses, slow down in his quest for greatness and appreciate what he had already achieved along the way.
Most importantly, he loved her passionately. Every look he gave her, no matter how close up or far away, sent a shiver down her spine. The air between them as they stood in close proximity, as they conversed, as they danced, was electric. His kisses, always stolen and secret, sent shocks through her that would continue coursing for hours after their lips touched. Her thoughts were consumed by him, and he drove away the melancholy and ennui that being a lady often brought.
He was a live wire that jolted her back to life. And like a live wire, the excitement he brought to her life came with danger, like the currents that could power the city but could cause a person’s body to shut down at the same time.
Henry was a proud man. It was this confidence that initially attracted Emma to him. Yet he could be blinded by his own vision. His ideas were visionary, but he was impatient, and Emma knew that this would be a challenge to their relationship. But every relationship had its hurdles, and she was positive they would overcome this.
“Be careful tonight.” She warned him, knowing that he would be going out with his John for his stag party.
“Emma…” He sighed and took her hands in his. “I will be true to you, I swear. You know I could never even think of straying.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
A puzzled look crossed his brow.
“I know you, Henry.” She said, her head tilting in a knowing fashion. “I know you push yourself too hard. I know you stay up to all hours of the morning trying to further your discoveries. And I know how you get when someone spurns you.”
“I do not get any way when I am supposedly spurned.”
She quirked an eyebrow. “Really? Being late to your own engagement party wearing a cologne of god knows what laboratory chemicals says otherwise.”
A color rose to his cheeks, one that made him look downright boyish for his tall stature. Emma couldn’t help but smile as she continued speaking.
“Promise me you’ll enjoy tonight and you won’t push yourself. I need you, all of you, in one piece. Your work can wait.”
He placed soft kisses to both her hands. “I promise, my dear.”
Her breath hitched in her throat. He had no idea just how deeply he made her feel. He may never know, but she knew if the wire that was giving her power was cut, she could not go on.
A hothead, they’d warned.
Henry Jekyll did not consider himself a hothead. He was persistent, and fervent about his ideals. He was a man who cared, and he just wished others could see that.
The board of directors would never see that. They would keep writing him off as a young upstart threatening their power, a symbol of the changing world around them who wanted to make a difference and reform their institutions, overturning the established order for the good of man with his discoveries.
His father would never see that. He was barely coherent, and deep in his soul, Henry knew that his father would not venture outside the walls of the asylum until death came to him. Reversing his condition would be impossible, no matter how hard he tried.
John, though he meant well, would never see that. John was content in his complacency, not seeing that he could have so much more as a higher level barrister if he just pushed himself. He was thankful to have a friend and personal solicitor in the man, but tonight’s activities proved to him that they were fundamentally different.
Though there was one person who would understand him, and knew that he cared. Emma Carew.
Emma, who saw him for who he truly was, how he wanted to be seen. She revered him and elevated him to a level that no one, not even he himself, had done before. But she was a practical woman, and in doing so she knew his limits and was not afraid to enforce them. She knew he cared, and cared for him in return.
He, a man of science, a man who overthought and rationalized every detail of life, was hopelessly in love. He knew there was no explanation for it, but he loved Emma with all the might in his heart. Even the way he thought about her was so poetic, so romantic, so unlike himself, that he couldn’t believe how much she’d changed him.
Henry found that, surprisingly, he preferred it that way. Emma was a mystical phenomenon he could never explain, nor did he care to. He wanted to spend every day of his life continuing to be surprised by her. He couldn’t contain her in the rational bounds of his world. She existed in her own realm, and he was eternally grateful she had let him into it.
As he sat in his laboratory, scribbling away in his notebook, he could feel himself getting closer and closer to the formula he would need for his serum, he was on the verge of something big, something that could change everything.
This is the moment…
And then he thought of her. The promise he made. How he had made a promise to her when he proposed, and how he would make the same promise to her on their wedding day. To love her and make her a priority in his life, to make her happy, to ensure they, together, were successful.
Yes, this was the moment, the moment he finally set his work aside and put his greatest passion first. He would choose Emma, and his new life with her, over his follies and professional whims.
Henry Jekyll was, indeed, no hothead. He would not let the jeers and laughs of others dictate his actions. He could compose himself. He would prove all the naysayers wrong by proving Emma right.
A beauty, they gasped.
It was said that a woman was most beautiful on her wedding day. Emma never believed that, feeling that it was a disservice to every other day in a woman’s life that she strived to appear her best. Now that it was her wedding day, however, she started to understand what they meant.
She didn’t think she looked particularly different or transformed in any way, just like her normal self wrapped in mountains of white silk and tulle. But she felt more beautiful than on any other day of her life.
It was the thought of Henry waiting for her, patiently, at the end of the aisle, that made her glow and smile as the carriage took her through the streets of London to the church. Her father escorted her down the aisle, tears in his own eyes at just how elated his daughter finally was, how she finally had the one thing he couldn’t provide for her.
As her father guided her into the church, Emma saw her groom, tall and handsome in his elegant morning suit, beaming back at her like she was a new discovery. She knew she had made the right choice.
Her gait was slow and steady as she reached him, but an anticipation buzzed through her as she stood by him. Both of them were eager to finally be themselves, together. To cast away the facades they were forced to wear and have someone they could share their true selves with behind closed doors.
Emma did not remember much of the ceremony, really. She had been too distracted by her excitement of Henry being by her side to really focus on what the vicar or anyone else that day had said to her. Mostly she could recall the firsts that she and Henry experienced. The mirth of their first kiss. The emotion of their first dance. The elation of first hearing herself announced as Mrs. Henry Jekyll, somehow feeling more herself than she ever had as Emma Carew.
The words she remembered most strongly were those she and Henry exchanged after he picked her up and placed her delicately in the carriage going to their new home.
“Thank you.” She said, curling into his side.
“For what, my love?” He replied, genuinely confused.
“For staying in one piece.” She replied, looking up at him with a dreamy smile.
He smiled back at her. “Thank you for giving me a reason to.”
A genius, they cheered.
Henry found he hated being called that nowadays, because he wasn’t the only one that should be lauded. Emma was just as responsible for his success as he was. If her strength hadn’t been there to anchor him and his pride, he would have driven himself mad years ago.
The climb to greatness was a slow one. But it was worth it. Henry had learned to savor every moment of it, especially with his beautiful wife by his side. He quite liked being domesticated, just as he knew Emma quite liked adventuring with him when the time called for it. They had struck a balance, allowing them enough time to enjoy being married and being them, while Emma hosted the highest of society and Henry labored at his research. Together they braved society’s expectations of them, defying what had been said and foretold of them personally and professionally.
Henry left the asylum when it became clear he would be getting no funding or support, and with some revisions from his wife, his research proposal was accepted by his alma mater. She knew he could do it if he stayed calm and found other ways, and she had been right.
She had been right about everything.
And he did everything in his power to make sure she stayed that way.
One night he found her pouring over his old notebooks in the laboratory, her face alight at one of the worn pages.
“Henry, why didn’t you tell me you had worked out the HJ-7 formula?”
“That old thing?” He smirked. “It’s unstable. It would be too much of a danger on a test subject.”
“Well I haven’t taken a look at it yet, maybe we could start smaller and slower…”
“In addition,” he said, snatching the book from her hands. “I began it before I made a promise not to work myself too hard. I couldn’t bear to look at it without thinking of the temptation it caused me. How I considered putting it before you…”
Emma wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him in close. “I think I will be able to forgive you for that. Besides, we all are tempted greatly at one point or another.”
“Are we, Mrs. Jekyll? What would you say your greatest temptation is?”
She pretended to think through many things,but it was clear she had a single answer. “You.”
He smiled and took her in his arms, carrying her out of the room. “Your work can wait.”