Mary Hunt is not a good person.
She knows this, and accepts it readily enough. She is not a particularly bad person, either, and that, she decides, is enough. Really, she has no outstanding desire to be a ‘good person’—not when ‘good people’ spend their entire lives sacrificing themselves for the happiness of others—others who won't so much as thank them.
Mary doesn’t believe in little, half-hearted gestures, or pretending to be some altruistic martyr just to please the rest of the world. Yes, she is selfish. But, she thinks, isn’t that, in the end, a kinder way to live than to pretend to care?
And it isn’t as if she is heartless, or cruel.
Mary Hunt loves very few people, but those few she does love, she loves fiercely. There is only one person Mary Hunt would sacrifice much of anything for, but for that person, she would readily sacrifice everything. There aren’t many people Mary Hunt can call true friends, but those she can, she does despite the fact that they threaten to steal that one person away from her at a moment’s notice.
(Metaphorically, you understand—if anyone was to be doing any absconding with Katarina, it would be Mary.)
And that, she thinks, is an honorable enough way to live, in its own right.
Mary Hunt doesn’t live by ‘I don’t know’s, ‘maybe’s, or ‘halfway there’s.
Sometimes, though, Mary does wonder who she would have become, were it not for the chance encounter with Katarina Claes in her family’s garden all those years ago. Part of her wants to believe that she’d still love her—that she’d always love Katarina, regardless of the universe or timeline.
The stoic, relentlessly logical part of her brain—the part that isn’t swayed by love or fancy—knows better, and that in itself is enough to turn her away from the idea.
Still, she thinks, possibly, that many people would posit that Mary-without-Katarina would have been an arguably better person. Not so outspoken, not so manipulative.
Not so clever.
Not so confident.
Here, again, Mary would rather be a not-so-good person and happy than beloved and miserable.
It is unfortunate, then, that these very distinctions will, in all likelihood, be what loses Katarina to another. Straight out of Mary’s desperate, possessive cling and into the gentle, all-loving embrace of another.
(She has some idea of who that other will be.
It isn’t, of course, Alan—she’s made sure of as much, though she is becoming increasingly unsure of whether her efforts will have made any difference at all, in the end—or Keith. It isn’t Sophia or Nichol, and it certainly isn’t Geord, even though he is so arrogantly convinced it will be.
It isn’t Mary, either.)
It is, again, unfortunate that her fiercest competition comes in the form of the one rival whom she can find the wherewithal neither in her mind nor her heart to properly trounce.
This is why Mary hates being ‘good’. Even as she is, she cannot find it in her heart to be truly cruel, no matter how her brain urges.
(She wishes she could.
She wishes she could look at that beautiful, kind face and just hate Maria for it.
She should. In every book she’s ever read ((and she’s read a fair few, though not nearly so avidly as Sophia and Katarina seem to)), the kind, saccharine, all-loving heroines make her want to vomit. And she expects that when she looks at Maria. Every time. Even now, after knowing her for so long.
But it’s like the all the will is leeched from her very veins the instant she meets those painfully kind (but not quite innocent, not quite naïve, and maybe that’s part of it, why Mary can’t hate her like she hates the girls in the books) blue eyes.
She hates Maria for it.
Wishes she could hate her for it.)
Being ‘good’, at least for Mary, always seems to end in loss.
(But then, being ‘not-so-good’ doesn’t seem to be working out that well for her, either.)
As long as she is loved—in whatever manner—by Katarina Claes, the rest can fall of the face of the planet, for all Mary cares.
She doesn’t need them.
She doesn’t particularly want to lose all her friends, but.
And this is it, the big but:
She doesn’t need them.
Not like she needs Katarina.
And that is why Mary will stay by Katarina’s side, even if she chooses one of the others. She will never just bow out graciously, of course (of course), or give Katarina away with a fond smile—she is, after all, far too selfish for all that—and she can’t even promise she will ever truly give up, even if Katarina does choose another. She can’t promise she won’t be right there, waiting in the wings, watching strategically, ready to jump in at a moments’ notice with a shoulder to cry on or an ear to bend or arms to fall into or lips to—
She can’t promise any of that.
No. If Mary were up against herself, she wouldn’t trust herself farther than she could throw herself. And she will readily admit as much. One doesn’t turn one’s eye from a snake in the grass unless one is eager to be poisoned.
In the end, these are promises made by good people, and Mary Hunt is not a good person.
But she will respect Katarina’s decision.
But she will stay.
As long as Katarina is by her side in some form, Mary knows she can manage. She can feel the strength within her, the will. The resolve.
She can endure.
She can, but of course, in the dark of the night, in her most fervent dreams, she wishes desperately that she will never have to.
She wishes desperately that Katarina will choose her.
Her, or perhaps none of them. That would be better than her choosing another, at least.
Because Mary could bear it, if Katarina were to choose one of the others over her. She could bear it because she would have to. Losing Katarina is not an option.
She feels certain that she could bear it—but at the same time, she feels quite certain that it would shatter her.
If Katarina chose no one, Mary could find solace in the fact that, in doing so, she chose no one over Mary. That none of them ever had a chance to begin with. That there was nothing more she could have done.
But if Katarina were to choose one of the others… If she did choose, but did not choose Mary…
Well, that would be concrete proof that it was Mary herself who was somehow not good enough. That there was something she had done wrong—something long ago she should have done differently.
That Katarina simply loved one of the others more than she loved Mary, and that there was nothing Mary could have done differently in the first place.
These are the kind of thoughts, Mary decides, that make her a not-so-good person.
Because this is the part where she’s supposed to proclaim that she will be happy just as long as the one she loves is happy. That she will support their love with all her heart—that she will stand by in a bridesmaids’ dress on their wedding day, tears of bittersweet happiness welling up in the corners of her eyes.
That is what a good person would do.
But but but.
But Mary Hunt is not a good person.
She’s not a good person, and she’s never once wished that she were.
But but but but but.
Sometimes, when she glances over at Katarina when she’s not looking and sees Katarina glancing, in turn, at Maria—always with those innocent heart-eyes (because Mary knows that’s what they are, even if Katarina doesn’t yet)—Mary does wonder.
If, had Mary been a good person, Katarina would look at her like that.
(She tries not to think of this too often, though, because the direction that particular train of thought always seems to take—what if it was just never going to have been Mary in the first place?—is more than even Mary, in all her strength, can bear.)
When Mary stops and thinks—truly thinks—she knows it will not be her. If anything, she is the villain of this story, and the villain doesn’t get the girl. That isn’t the trope, after all.
She takes some small amount of comfort in the fact that at least it won’t be Geord, either. She doesn’t think her pride could bear that end.
(After all, if Mary is not a good person, that makes Geord…well. Such language is not uttered in polite society, and Mary Hunt, for all her faults, is nothing if not the human incarnation of societal etiquette.)
Despite this—despite the inevitability of it all—it is not in Mary’s nature to simply roll over and accept defeat before the outcome is declared. She will fight for Katarina with all her heart, until the bloody end. To do otherwise would be cowardly and disgraceful, and Katarina deserved better.
Should she lose then…well. She would, as stated, respect Katarina’s decision, if nothing else.
But at long as Katarina would have her, Mary would stay by her side, in whatever manifestation that took.
Because although Mary Hunt—being the not-so-good person she was—would not sacrifice much of anything for anyone, she would readily sacrifice absolutely everything for Katarina Claes.