Short Story: The Life and Death of the Princess of Camelot

Carolyn tried to be a model in her youth. She was beautiful, with flaxen hair, wide eyes, and a shy smile. Her modelling career was short-lived but her love of fashion persisted. After college, she began working for the renowned American designer, Calvin Klein.

She met John while he was still dating the movie star, Daryl Hannah. He was enchanted by her kind demeanour and effortless style. Two years later, when they were both single again, they began dating.

John and Carolyn were hounded by the paparazzi, who saw in them something that had been missing since the fall of Camelot: a kind of unmistakably regal glamour. They camped out outside John and Carolyn’s Tribeca loft and followed them around town, their cameras clicking. When they got engaged, the media frenzy scared Carolyn. She was not used to it the way John was. He had grown up in the spotlight and shone in its light. Carolyn was a private person and she wondered if she was making a mistake. Her love for John was the only thing that kept her from fleeing.

They were married in a private ceremony, held by candlelight, in a small wooden chapel in Cumberland. It was everything Carolyn had ever dreamed of: private and intimate. It was the truest demonstration of their love. Her dress was made of pearl-white crepe. It was as simple and lovely as the woman who wore it.

They honeymooned in Turkey, in almost complete solitude. It was only when they returned to New York City, and the frenzy that surrounded them intensified, that Carolyn realized she had made a huge mistake. She was not built the same way her new husband was. He adored the attention as much as she loathed it. She found it disorienting and at times frightening. She longed for the anonymity that she had grown up with. John tried to be sympathetic but he did not understand why she was not adjusting faster to something he had taken for granted his whole life.

Carolyn bristled when she was inevitably compared to John’s glamorous mother. It was not how she saw herself. She threw herself, instead, into charity work, and thereby continued a tradition that ran deep in John’s family.

Her new husband, who had struggled to find a career he was passionate about, started a magazine, and began spending long hours at the office. Carolyn felt abandoned, adrift. She turned to drugs for solace. Cocaine was the only thing that made her feel like her old self. It made her feel like the woman she had been before she met John but it also made her paranoid. She believed John was cheating on her and that their apartment had been bugged by the paparazzi. John wanted to have children but Carolyn could not fathom bringing a child into this new world in which she was barely coping. They fought constantly. She could not contain her near-manic laughter when John called her selfish. That is how she would have described him. They tried therapy, but their problems seemed insurmountable. Carolyn began to wonder if divorce was the only viable option that would save her from this circus of a life that they had built. She felt like every day she became more unhinged, like she was losing track of who she was.

She did not want to go to the wedding in Martha’s Vineyard. She dreaded having to make small talk with John’s stuffy family. She intentionally dragged her feet while getting ready that day, relieved that complications at her sister, Lauren’s, work were delaying their inevitable journey. John stood by the front door, growing impatient. They picked up her sister on the way to the airport. Carolyn took a deep breath before stepping onto the small plane. She did not feel safe when John flew. He was easily distracted at the best of times. This did not improve even when he was flying, but they had done it so many times that she ignored her intuition, her rising fear, and settled down to drink a glass of champagne with her sister. Lauren was upbeat that day and soon they were giggling, which only put John into a more foul mood.

The sky grew dark as they approached Martha’s Vineyard. John’s brow was furrowed. He did not like flying at night and the skies were hazy. He was relatively new to flying and knew that his license did not permit him to fly in these types of conditions.

Somewhere during the descent, John lost control of the plane. It suddenly careened to the right, then to the left, jarring Carolyn and causing her to spill her champagne. She locked eyes with Lauren for the briefest of seconds, her terror mirrored in her sister’s eyes, before the plane plunged towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Carolyn did not feel the impact when they hit the waves and the plane cut through the choppy water. All three of the young people died on impact, their vibrant lives cut short by a deeply unfair twist of fate. Carolyn’s last thoughts before she lost consciousness were, “I shouldn’t be here. Lauren shouldn’t be here. This is how it ends.”

It took three days for the search-and-rescue team to find the plane on the bottom of the ocean floor. It took two more days for them to recover the shattered bodies. Carolyn and John’s bodies were cremated and their ashes were scattered off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. It was a tragic end to their love story, which had once held so much promise.

Their deaths did nothing to end the fascination people had with the young couple. In fact, the vultures descended, picking apart the corpse of their marriage. They called Carolyn manipulative and cold. Tales of her drug use were splashed across the front page. John, the golden child, remained relatively unscathed even though his self-absorption and neglect had been just as much to blame for the state of their marriage at the time of their deaths.

Dying young is no doubt tragic, but the silver lining, if it can be called that, is that time never has the chance to wither their bodies. John and Carolyn will remain beautiful and young in peoples’ memories. Perfect and flawed and lovely.

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