… Or so the popular saying goes.
Heathcliff and Cathy. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. Pip and Estella. Dexter and Emma (One Day)… Romantic stories throughout the history of literature are peppered with the prolonged separation of lovers, which serves to bring them closer together.
Being apart from someone you love is, of course, painful. But in a romance story, I think it is essential. The separation is a means by which the lovers have some space to explore their feelings; to think on the events that have led to this point; to wonder about, worry about the other person; to get some perspective and consider a future alone, without the other; to reach the point where they both realise that they are no longer a singular, lone entity, but one part of a whole – and without their soul-mate they are incomplete, lost, aching, empty.
In Burning Embers I don’t pull the protagonists, Rafe and Coral, apart for long – because their love develops in an intense, fast-paced way. Nonetheless, I felt it important to move them apart at some points in the plot. The story is told mostly from the point of view of Coral, so it is her perspective on the separations that we are most aware of. She uses the time to explore her feelings, and she realises that she is drawn to Rafe, and life lacks colour without him.
The final separation is the one that is most key to the realisation of their love. They have rowed over a misunderstanding, and they have walked away from each other, too stubborn to swallow their pride. But in the ensuing split Rafe becomes ill: he quite literally can’t live without her. And Coral is a shadow of her former self. The illness, once it is discovered by Coral, becomes the catalyst for their reunion.
Thus I would echo the words of the great playwright William Shakespeare: ‘Absence from those we love is self from self – a deadly banishment.’ But I would add to this the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran: ‘But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.’
Both absence and togetherness have their place in love.