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Jane Eyre, the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, had the misfortune of not discovering her fiance was already married until they stood in front of the altar, ready to say their vows.

I, at least, had the good luck to learn the truth before the wedding.

I don’t remember when exactly I learned of the existence of George’s wife who lives in the upper floors of his house. It might have been after we got engaged. It might have been before.

But I do remember how I learned about her.

I had never been allowed to see the upper floors of George’s house. This didn’t really bother me in particular. He told me they weren’t clean enough – he wanted to straighten up before he let me see the upstairs.

While I told him that wasn’t necessary, at the same time I was sympathetic. I had insisted on cleaning my room before I let him see it – or rather, let him see my Pez collection. And he still hasn’t seen some areas of my parents’ house.

But days of waiting to see the upstairs stretched into weeks and into months.

I could have walked upstairs and opened the deliberately closed doors myself. But I didn’t. (However, I warned him that if he hadn’t let me see the upstairs by November 10, I was giving myself a tour whether or not it was clean.)

My friend Kate questioned my sanity in agreeing to marry a man when I hadn’t been allowed to see the upstairs of his house. She asked me whether he has a criminally insane wife locked up in his attic.

I told her I had already asked him about that.

Her name is Esmeralda.

She lives in George’s loft.

And she is, of course, fictional.

Yet, at the same time, in a way she’s quite real.

There’s no crazy wife hidden in George’s attic – I don’t have to worry about dealing with the sort of challenges a heroine of a Gothic romance would. But George and I will have plenty of challenges to face together as we begin our married life.

And one of those challenges will definitely be keeping the house neat. Neither of us is what I would call extremely messy, but we are far from being neat-freaks. We’ll both have to try hard to develop good habits to keep our home neat.

I’ve seen George’s entire house now, and I am looking forward to it being my house, too, in a couple of months.

When that happens, Esmeralda might have to move out.

Unless she wants to stay on as our maid.

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