Sunday, 1 February 2009
She heard the door shut quietly downstairs and knew he had gone to work. Then as the thoughts went through her head she suddenly found herself wide awake and she knew that he had not just gone to work. He had gone for good. She got up and prepared for the day mechanically. She went down the stairs of the small house and every step she took she tried not to cry. For she had loved him once. At the sunlit kitchen she stopped in the doorway and put a hand to her chest feeling the slow solid thump of her heart. The kitchen table still had it's cloth of white cotton. In the centre of it in a small white pot of water he had left a small bouquet such as a child might pick. The flowers were violets and she caught the soft dry scent of them. With them were small blue flowers that she was sure she recognised. The rich colour of the violets seemed almost like a dark stain on the cloth. The sun on the pot of flowers had cast a shadow.
She made coffee, still moving with mechanical slowness. First the scoopful of ground coffee into the cafetiere, then the water heated in the kettle just enough. He'd always said that, 'just hot, not boiling'. The sound of her movements in the small kitchen seemed somehow too loud. Her footsteps tapped the tiled floor, she was wearing her stilettos, the black court shoes with the shiny steel heels and the black patent leather that seemed a little too shiny this morning, a little too bright and in their brightness a little too desperate. Her knee-length pencil skirt of charcoal grey and crisp white cotton blouse with the black buttons she had chosen, with the shoes to give her the appearance of toughness.
She had felt stronger when she put them on as if she were putting on armour. Now, in the warm brightness of the kitchen they did not seem so tough. She did not feel strong. She trotted back up to the bedroom and came down with her handbag, which she placed on the table's edge as if it were invading the clean white space.
The kettle was beginning to bubble and she switched it off and poured it over the coffee letting the rich strong nutty scent fill her mouth and nose. She took the coffee to the table and placed it on the edge too. Ridiculous, she thought, it's my table after all. She moved it near the violets and for a moment her composure cracked and she took a deep breath. She turned the radio on and moved it to a music channel for comfort.
She fished into her handbag and pulled out her compact and lipstick. Opening the compact she patted on foundation and brushed it a little with her little finger. Then with care she took the cap off the lipstick and glanced briefly at the scarlet before putting it on, holding the mirror of the compact up to see what she was doing. A song came on the radio and she paused then turned the radio off. She did not want to hear For No-one by the Beatles or Yesterday.
She finished putting on her lipstick and put the lipstick back in her bag. She raised the compact to see her face now. She had large dark eyes and soft long eyelashes. They came from her mother's side of the family as did her long slim legs. She inwardly cursed her father's side of the family for her jawline and her nose. As well as the slow tendency to fat that would come, she was sure, with age. She poured herself coffee and raised it up to her lips. For a moment, her gaze fell on the violets. She remembered when they'd first met and he'd bought her a bouquet of violets to go with the skirt she had been wearing.
She had been at a cafe, sitting outside for the sunshine and the people-watching. He had been watching her, struck by her beauty, so he'd said. He'd wooed her the old-fashioned way, with poems and flowers and invitations to dinner. She'd liked it. Liked the soft gentlemanliness of him, the kindness. The way he sipped his tea as if it were going to spill, holding it a little way from him and craning his neck to sip. The way he'd invite her to do silly things like going to the cafe at a posh hotel and dancing at three o'clock among the tables. It had to be at three o'clock. He had turned up at her flat with a bottle of champagne and croissants at two in the morning asking her if she fancied a champagne breakfast. She'd been ready to curse the person leaning on her doorbell, but softened when she saw him and laughed.
"I'd love breakfast you nana, but not at this ungodly hour!"
She'd let him in and the champagne and croissants had stayed in the fridge until lunchtime while they dallied in bed together. He'd been a gentle and considerate lover, even to her surprise buying her beautiful lingerie that actually fitted her. Neither of them had been rich, but he had saved his money to spend on her. It did not take long for them to become engaged and once that statement of intention was made, it took very little time for them to marry. She had loved him deeply as if he were her very lifeblood. Oh but then love makes you feel such things and say and think such things. He still wrote her poetry when they were married. She would come home from work to find a sonnet on the kitchen table or on her pillow. She would read it aloud and kiss him for them.
The decline was slow and lingering. Like a cancerous growth in their love. Cancer of the Heart. She remembered a poem from school - 'Has found out thy bed / Of Crimson joy /And his dark secret love / Does thy life destroy'. First the poems stopped. She put this down to his work. He was coming home tired and irritable, complaining about work. She noticed little things at first, the waking before her and not waking her. He had always done that with soft kisses when they were in love. He had stopped making her coffee in the mornings. He would not take her out any more. She would ask him if he did not love her any more, was he ashamed to be seen in public with her?
He would brush these comments aside until she felt shrewish and shrill. Then she would leave the room and cry quietly. He knew it, she was sure of that, but somehow he could not go back, could not reassure her of his love. That was when she knew his love was gone. She harangued him with accusations of another woman, but he derided these accusations. She knew somewhere deep inside of her that there was no-one else, but the fear and bitterness of rejection - of his rejection, whispered suspicion in her ears.
She stopped and drank the coffee, tasting the bitter acid tang of it. When she put the cup down on the table and glanced at the rich, gorgeous violets that had begun their relationship, she could hold herself no longer and broke down in tears. Large, heaving sobs that shook her. Her face was hot and her make up ran in streaks from the hot trails of tears. She put her face in her hands then and sobbed bitterly for what she had lost. When she wiped away the tears from her eyes and blew her nose, she glanced back at the violets and the small blue flowers. Now she remembered, that they were called forget-me-nots.
Quote from The Sick Rose by William Blake.