One damp morning in the spring of 1951, an elderly woman sat in her drawing room, and stared out of the Edwardian window, stretching from the floor to the ceiling. The velvet green curtains fluttered slightly against a draft. This is her place of rest, were she chose to lead the rest of her life peacefully. She gazed into her garden. Her drawing room was vacant when compared with the beauty of nature. The walls were lined with great masterpieces, her tables decorated with beautiful and rare Ming vases. She sat upright against the silk tapestry cushions of the chair. She loved the outdoors, and always felt uncomfortable with the four walls enclosing her, no matter how beautifully they were decorated. She always adored her garden, the white and pink roses in her numerous and perfectly arranged, symmetrical beds.
The garden had limestone stairs, and she peered out of the window, down the grey-white steps, to a garden that stretched to the horizon. The grass was a pure deep green. And in the centre, a pond, stretching horizontally from one end of the garden to the other, the only means of crossing was an old bridge of pale wood with small engravings of dragons lining its railings. She watched the golden red carp glitter in the soft morning sun under the water’s surface. Her garden shone with pink and white blossoms. The flowers, at this time of year were mainly spring pansies, daffodils and bluebells, dripping with morning dew.
The rose bushes stretched all the way across the left side of the brick wall, ruining its foundations. She remembered old age, spreading through her body like the flower, ruining her strength. Her once able body was frail. Time was running out: the hourglass had tipped.
She leant forward to the man across the table, sipping his tea and waiting patiently for a reply. She felt his harsh gaze in her eyes.
“So, Miss Amanda Daley”, he began, “are you considering ever using our services again, perhaps writing another book or novel? I hope you know, and of course you do, being a lady of worth, that our services are at the best of prices and of the highest quality.” His words remained unanswered, and she carried on staring out of the window. His pinstripe suit and unmarked suede shoes were intimidating, and clearly he was a wealthy man, ignorant to suffering.
She was uncomfortable in his company, and like a small child, looked at the floor. And yet, she hated silence, the social void, representing her lack of communal knowledge, and gossip could spread about her past. She sat with her back erect, causing her pain. And yet, she felt that etiquette overcame physical pain, as her father had always taught her. Her back throbbed. She was indifferent to her publication anyhow, since she grew increasingly ill, relief succumbed to etiquette. Her back relaxed. And, as she suspected, she felt a kind of paternal betrayal. Finally, she brought herself to mutter a few words, “Yes, thank you, I know. I shall send a telegram when necessary. My book will be finished in about three weeks. Come to collect the papers when I call.”
She led him to the front door, where he stepped into his automobile. ‘Being a lady of worth’- these words irritated her, p around in her head, but she kept calm and showed no discontent. His car vanished through the drive, and she saw no point in waving him off. She had work to do.
She was to begin her story. She sat in the drawing room, asked the maid to fetch her a blanket and hot tea, and sat at the oak table near another window. She stared at her aged hands and wrinkled face in the reflection of her silver teapot, each line representing a time in her life, and she also noticed her hollow eyes. The blue veins emerged on her fingers, as if her condition had just appeared overnight. But alas, this was not so. They did not just emerge, but the veins remained; no medicine could possibly cure it. She had simply not cared before. There were more important things to handle previously; age was a meagre aspect amongst her losses. She sat back, and allowed the painful memories to enter her mind.
Her mother, whom she adored with all her heart, would tell her stories when she sat up in bed, and listened with the same intent, even though the stories were often alike. Once her mother had left, and she had said her prayer, she looked out of her window to the star-studded sky, against the black sheet of infinity, and rested against it, was the chalky moon. She shut her eyes. At sunrise, she saw her father leaving the house, as usual. He shut the door with the same pessimism. His job was tedious, though he was too arrogant with false masculinity to ever admit it. He was well educated, well dressed, well paid and an owner of a leading company. He paid for servants to look after her family, even though her mother saw it as an intrusion of privacy.
The house was situated on the edge of the sea cliffs, and the path following down to the ocean was lined with jagged rocks, sharp enough to cut. An hour later she tore her shoe on the steep path when walking down to the bay. As she stared deep into the horizon, she wondered what was beyond it. The sea lapped at her bare feet and she felt a slight spiritual familiarity with her surroundings, an eternal bonding of the vast and treacherous sea with her small, trusting heart. The sea sang into her ears, the wind caressed her skin and the sea appeared to be studded with thousands of diamonds against a turquoise backdrop. The sun blazed and her skin shone pink.
She returned to a silent house.
“Mother”, she called, looking uncertain, bracing herself. A splutter came from upstairs, and the servants were nowhere to be seen. She saw her mother coming down the stairs.
The reply was not as dire as she had expected or it was and she simply did not understand.
“Annabella”, her mother said. She spoke in a quiet tone, one that would have been soothing if it were not for the overwhelming fear that she could sense in her mother’s eyes and expression. “Your father has been injured at his factory. Now, I don’t expect you to understand this but we are treading on thin ice. We may be in slight financial trouble, but there is no reason to worry.” But there was. Annabella could sense it.
What was a pretty Victorian house was now wrought with depression. Annabella stopped walking down the beach, and fell asleep in tears. The month later, she was roused by Victoria, her maid, and was told to dress. She met her mother at the breakfast table. Her beautiful green eyes were now veiled with tears, her curled blonde hair was now matted and greasy. She managed to force out the words, but Annabella knew exactly what she was about to hear. The house was silent again, no coughing, no cries and no shouts. She whimpered and tensed herself. All she heard was, “He’s gone.” No sounds from her father, no reminders of the infected wound. She did not cry. She was grieving ever since he was hurt, and she knew it.
Her father had died after a wild fever and her family suffered in horrible grief, his death believed to have been caused by the infected wound. Once she understood the cruel consequences of her father’s death; a growing anger came over her, like a flame on oil. “Why has he left us?” she asked herself. “He had not taken any care; no money was ever left except for the pittance that remained after debts and taxes. There was no longer any financial help. He left my mother in hysterical tears, a sorry and disconcerting spectacle to their children.”
Even though it was many years since her father’s funeral, she remembered the light oak coffin in which her father’s body rested comfortably against a white silk tapestry. She remembered the echoing aisle sounds of shoes against the limestone floor, her silent mother and wailing brother, still young and too small to understand.
During the final stages of his life, he had grown incredibly weak and thin. Two dark pits surrounded his eyes and the red and brown liquid seeping from his mouth. Her mother was always kneeling at his bedside with a damp cloth in order to calm the fever. The injury in his chest had become infected, and his whole chest was swollen, and his temperature soared. He often vomited. He cried during the night and woke up the house. Her mother never allowed servants to look after him, and she stayed by him, feeling that it was her responsibility. The memories of her father stayed with Annabella for the rest of her life, traumatising her, and yet provided her with an inner strength and understanding of the temporality of life.
Unable to hold her pen any longer Annabella sat back, shut her eyes and waited till she had the enthusiasm to start the next chapter. The book, rather than being a release of the emotional torments, became a burden of pain.
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