If I were still somewhere else, with the light dancing pink over the pale heathered moor, would you then love me still, still? Your face would bring me comfort now, though it is the face for which I mourn. Its animation would distract from the sickening stillness within. I, like the moor. What bound you to me, your hand to the stretch of my neck; your finger nails to the crook of my elbow. I have very soft skin. When I was young, when was I young?, it felt too much; poor skin, it saw everything- but, much worse, felt it too. Softened, worn, worn softened. Broken in like boot leather.
Quickened blood rushes round wrists, round, round those skinny blue turning points; trees of you within yourself.
Now I feel for the words. I feel for my skin; soft worn skin, keeper of the inevitable flesh; bearer of my first to last first to last breath. Soft worn words the same; over used over used over used and crippled lame- lopsided they approach down the corridor.
Key’s in the lock.
There’s someone in.
Press your ear, the left one, against the dry of door. Your face, now an empty oval invitation, stares down the corridor, no one else comes, no one stirs the air on the other side of the door- you pull away. Inhale. Think not of her but me. That last piece of string tautens to breaking point, and, it, snap snap snaps & is gone.
Back down the corridor, quickened pace, till, running- you turn the final corner to the lobby and the door is pushed open by her not I. Not I. Not I- never again that. In her arms you feel so great a swell of love, so great a swell of need that you wish to open up around her and carry her, inside yourself across any battlefield.
Behind the door down the corridor, out of the sun, blinds heavy green- down down drown, the air finally stirs with my scattered breath.
I’m tired. The day is heavy on me. Every day is heavy on me. Perhaps with thought I could dismiss this as a passing indulgence, but what else do I have? After personal indulgence there is only social fantasy. This is, from one perspective, entirely and only My World. The letter you sent me deserves this reply, a soggy cardboard reply- try to pick it up and it will separate wetly & unpleasantly between your fingered hands. I’ve entirely lost my shape because of you. Again, I should think on. I should think myself out of this. But if this is only sadness then why would I trade it for only gladness? At least I can hold onto sorrow. I like the shape of it; I’m in the market for a new shape! There’s such disgusting sharing demanded of gladness. If you must ask how I am, please, don’t couch it in such unpalatable terms; sympathy is one of the most revolting experiences known to man. Of empathy I am fond but only because I cannot stop it & have never felt it. Oh, how I seethe your smugness. How I know your certainty. How could you turn me into this? I was you! You was me! Remember? Old jokes die horribly don’t they? Damn my academic understanding of this situation, damn my patience, damn my life, damn me. I shall post this before I burst.
No longer yours,
I had an Aunt Gladys so when you write ‘gladness’ I think of her and can’t care what you’re talking about. She made very delicious butterfly-buns. I’m sorry you’re feeling so sorry for yourself, do carry on with it though- it suites your prose to be so cynical and twisted. Also, don’t kill yourself will you? I had a friend who did that and I’ve been haunted by his face ever since, in the weeks following his death he would try to ‘get back in’ during my dreams. For instance I dreamt I walked through a wood and there he was; high up out of sight & sound, above the singing leaves, waving his arms and legs as though caught by a casual but permanent force-field… and I thought, or felt; ‘oh dear, he is trying to get back in.’ I have bad cramps today and I can’t concentrate properly on anything. May I liken my cramps to your sadness? They are part of a cycle. I do not try to vanish them with painkillers, instead I cosset them with bathing & hot-water bottles and comfortable clothing, ‘oh, poor Cramps’ I say ‘poor Cramps, here- have some warmth so that you won’t feel so cold and bleeding angry.’ A ha ha. I know you will not enjoy that I wrote of cramps or that I attempted to make trope from my pain to yours. Suddenly I am hit by a wave of rage that you are so determined to be unhappy. I will post this before I decide not to.
What a surprise! You managed to write nothing of any interest and again laced your ridiculous bantering tone with sympathy, although I must credit you with having some style as the inclusion of a suicide story quite made me lick my lips! As for your being ‘hit by a wave of rage’- ha. You have no notion of rage. I know rage. Sorrow is rage; it’s rage in a cage. Caged rage! Caged rage! It’s what we’re all suffering from if you ask me! Nobody will ask me!! We’re all fucked full of anger we won’t let out. I’ve been drinking if you want to know. Gin. Gin. Gin. Lovely gin! Anyway, my Caged Rage is my sorrow. If I could let it out it would kill all the bastard fuckers who make me feel like this. I don’t know what this is. But I’d uncage my rage before they knew about theirs! FUCK THEM! FUCK THIS! Sorry, it’s All-SwearsGin-day. I’m a mess, more drink now. I drinkly drink all night chin chin lovely gin. Is this happy? I am. But what about tomorrow? So dry! Please can we meet up? I could come to your house. You know sometimes I think I will, and I’ll get hold of you and rape you and never feel sorry for it.
I am love.
I still have a key.
I am replying to your last letter, although I shouldn’t. It took me a long time to read the scrawl. Stop drinking gin. Stop drinking. You are capable of stubbornness; why not turn your capabilities to your advantage for once? You could stubbornly refuse to be a complete shit. Alcohol is a depressant and will fuel your conviction that the world is only your world and that only your world is sorrowful. And because you already know this you will dismiss it and will go on ginning the nights away and hating the days. Pointless! Writing to a wall! Perhaps you have chosen not to remember but at the end of your (most recent) gin soaked letter you wrote that you sometimes consider raping me and further to that- never feeling sorry for it. Do I need to explain to you how appalling that is? That you would write such a thing… I know your humour plays with darkness but surely some error of audience & timing has occurred? No, we cannot meet up. Now go and use that other capability you have, cook yourself happier silly G!
I am far too kind to you & do not truly feel the lightness of that last sentiment.
Please be good,
I hope the brevity of this missive and the fact that it is written in my own blood will induce you to please, SEE ME THIS WEEK.
I’ve got lost again, very badly.
I AM SO SORRY. I WOULD NEVER HURT YOU. NEVER.
I waited a very long time for you to arrive the other night. It was quite humiliating sitting at home all alone, waiting. I’m long acquainted with the sensation of solo embarrassment but you bring something horribly extra to it. With all your begging for a meeting and booze fuelled dramatics your non-arrival has lead me to believe that you must be dead! I can think of no other reason for your not having come to see me. In which case I am quite at liberty to tell you what I think of you as you will never read this page and by now should be well on your way to one of the more fruity levels of the Inferno. You, G, are a dull cunt.
Spitting on Your Gravely,
I am so far from the Inferno.
Tabitha sits and watches the male blackbird shriek at her from his perch on the gatepost. She sees his yellow ringed eyes; his fine little yellow beak; she understands the delicacy of his body and the ferocity of his call; his perfect composition drags at her heart. Earlier Tabitha had watched the female blackbird pulling a worm from the earth, the determined tugging of the bright eyed bird and the fat stretching of the worm’s body, it’s obvious reluctance to be taken away, had upset her very much. Now Tabitha leaps up from the wet grass and the coal-black bird flies quickly into the ivy wrapped hedge.
From the warm kitchen Rose watches Tabitha and does not see the blackbird, although his jagged warnings lightly line her soft white brow. Rose does not think anything of Tabitha, she simply sees her. Rose does not let herself think anything of anything, she is untroubled and having never known unhappiness understands that she must be happy. Sadness does not impress Rose and she watches her sister cry in the wet spring evening without consideration.
Rebecca stands in the doorway to the kitchen, she sees Rose and beyond her through the rapidly misting window she sees the blurred colour and moving shape of Tabitha, who is now dancing about the small garden tapping twigs and stronger stems so that they lightly spring their gathered water droplets back up into the drizzle. She taps her coffee cup with her ring finger, the gold band clinks awareness to Rose who turns and stares at her mother. Rebecca nods to her daughter before stepping back into the living room where she listens to Gardeners Question Time, her coffee cooling in its cup, and in the kitchen a saucepan of new potatoes simmering a smell of goodness into the air.
Last night I drank till I danced and the music was too loud in my ears and blood, movement absolutely perfect and no one to see. Life’s momentum takes physical form when the bloodly rolling noise fills the air and when I thump my head to pillow my pulse continues to move me. All through the night my pulse moves me. A shower is a good thing anytime, I shower every morning. I stay long in the shower and my naked body is happily mine beneath the warm rain. Lemon light licks the edges of the blind but I know the sky is papered white and that no blue and gold waits to enrich me. I turn the shower off, always a small sad moment- a feather of woe atop my growing carcass heap of hope. Dressing for a day alone inside the house is frivolous but I have so many clothes and wish to use them for other than the diminishment of my money stock. If I could utilise ignorance perhaps I would shop every day away and the garments and soft home furnishings would soak up my pool of misery. I will not open the curtains today, I decide as I enter the living room I tidied last night so as to avoid any mess distress come morning, this morning, that morning. I turn quickly and see nobody where I felt sure somebody was. My feet pad the kitchen floor, I fill the kettle and click- I wait for it to boil. Caffeine intake must be monitored, too much will wheel me off the hope heap and land me in the dust of the anxiety ground. Lifting the coffee cup to my mouth I tilt bitter sweet into my throat, I am unhappy. I know the things I know and strive to understand the things I do not. Why am I here? Surely there is no reason, yet I am troubled daily by the myth of purpose and find society’s acceptance of the absence of purpose awful, when I must walk in the city it is with a heavy heart. My coffee cup has cooled in my hands. Thought takes longer than it should during the times I am captured by sadness. Surely I will not be wrapped like this forever? Willpower is the only defence, writing to her lightens but not for long enough and sometimes after I have shared thoughts as words I am sick at the inaccuracy. Sleeping is the only safety and I cannot easily access this safety if I am to live life awake. I find this kind of emotion terribly human, but I will never give myself truly over to apathy and must endure this docility in total consciousness. The day unravels before me into waving threads of possibility. I place my coffee cup in the kitchen sink and go back to bed. I notice the house has become dark; somehow it is six o clock in the evening.
Thomas stands from his office chair and stretches his arms up towards the vaulted ceiling, clasping his hands together then wringing them in small violence. He yawns hugely and snaps his mouth shut, smacks his lips and spins on his right heel, pushing the chair to one side where it coasts a moment before bumping still against the wall of grey filing cabinets. There is no one for him to say goodbye to and his nodded farewell to the spider plant elicits no response but gives a satisfactory close to the working day. Thomas pulls his right trouser leg tightly out and round and clicks his cycling clip closed, lifting his fluorescent vest from the hook near the door he leaves the office, a smile of contentment complimenting his mournful brown eyes and large pitted nose.
‘Hello!! Hello Daddy Down There!! I’m up here! All the way up here!! I am tall as a tree, with my arms as branches!’Tabitha swings back and forth from the fat little apple tree’s highest branch.
‘Hello! And I am fast with my legs as wheels! Now, come down here my daughter before your Mother sees you and has a fit.’ Thomas loves Tabitha and Tabitha loves Thomas, they are a Father & Daughter whose relationship hurts both the Mother & the Wife. Tabitha swings herself a last time and launches into the air, she lands-slips-falls on the brown and green ground. Thomas emerges from the shed having put his practical & rusting bike away, in time to see his daughter pick herself up from the patchy lawn- he will need to sow grass seed soon. They approach one another, moving like monkeys and begin to make monkey calls to each other before they reach the back door of their home and move into the warm kitchen. Thomas removes Tabitha’s shoes-‘These are very muddy shoes for a monkey to be wearing!’
‘I don’t even want to wear shoes ooh aah ooh aah ah ah!’ Tabitha jumps around the kitchen, ‘Bananas! Give me bananas for my tea! Banana potatoes, banana cold-meats, banana vegetables all for me!’
Rose stands with her arms folded across her chest, she frowns at her sister’s antics, ‘Tabby, Mummy wants you to set the table.’
‘Ooh ah ah who is Tabby? I’m Itha the Monkey Queen! No knives and forks for Itha the Monkey Queen! I ah ooh ooh ah ahn’t going to set the table Runny Rose!’
‘Don’t call me that please Tabby, I have asked you before not to call me that. And Mummy said youmust set the table.’
Thomas is sensitive to his daughters differences, it is the truth however that he has much more fun with Tabitha than he does with Rose, and Thomas- despite his reposed sorrow- is a laughing man and a lover of those who let themselves be free. Rose is two years younger than Tabitha but is so dreadfully contained that Thomas often thinks of her as being older, as being much older, than she is and somehow from a different era- yes, thinks Thomas fondly, Rose is a ‘Maiden Aunt’ at the age of seven. His heart plays in fullness as he regards his two different daughters.
‘Itha the Monkey thinks ‘you’ means ‘you’ Rose ooh ah ah!’
‘Please don’t be clever with me Tabby, Daddy- please tell her.’
Thomas knows the seriousness of Rose is a reaction to Tabitha’s unstoppable and generous happiness, he winks at Rose,
‘Itha the Monkey! As part of your initiation into the House Of Man you must arrange theses knives, forks, spoons and place mats in a Human Manner upon our Human Table here! Will you accept this challenge oh Monkey Queen?’
Rose leaves the kitchen and goes to find her Mother, the simian screeches and clattering of cutlery fade behind her and she scratches her nails lightly down her left cheek.
Last night I set my arm on fire! Really on fire! I was frying this big bit of meat and I couldn’t move away from it or do anything properly, like know how long it had been cooking for or if I had put any oil in the pan, the fat from the meat was spitting up into my face after a bit and some of it even went in my eyes- it hurt and tears came and fell down my cheeks and then I noticed the kitchen had filled with smoke, grey then black, and that the smoke was coming from the pan, from the meat, and the meat was black and more like coal, or charcoal I suppose! So I threw my glass of wine into the pan and poof!! Like magic, like fear, like a knight’s end- there were flames dancing on my arm! I’m sure I stared at it, my arm, on fire, for an hour or more but it must have been only a few seconds because I’m not badly burned- then it went out, or finished, or died and there was my arm all prickling, no flames left, and I felt odd so I turned off the gas and went to bedThen I thought I hadn’t turned the gas off so- do you know what I did? I opened a window! Does this mean something? If I was normal wouldn’t I have gone and checked whether I turned the gas off? Oh, I am laughing out loud- I suppose if I were normal I wouldn’t have allowed myself to end up standing in a room full of black smoke with my arm on fire in the first place!
Rebecca puts the journal to one side, it is bound in heavy deep red card that has softened at the edges and along the spine- the pages are edged in gold so that when closed the book becomes an important object. Rebecca picks up the letter she received by the afternoon post.
Oh, oh, what a long silence I am breaking. My words will boom and echo from the page. I understand why I should not have gone, that I may have hurt you but- but, I am back… I cannot write of this, I must see you. In your new life maybe I can be new, or renewed at least.
Rose watches Rebecca read the letter, ‘Mummy, Tabitha is setting the table but she says she is a monkey and is setting the table as though she were a monkey.’ Rebecca turns to face her pale composed daughter; she is so neat in the doorframe, her words so appallingly adult! Rose is shocked by her Mother’s laughter; it rings through the house, a happy frightening chime, and joins with Tabitha’s monkeying to make the family home momentarily alive & strong. Rose pulls her hair too hard and feels the tiny ripping of strands.
Can the shit stop now? I was followed home by a wolf with blonde hair wearing the stench of despair- vodka and dead love. For god’s sake! For god’s sake! I am not a fool, I will not go along with this, and I must tell someone.
I watched you buying oranges and I bought some oranges too but I don’t like peeling them and have no knife here to cut them into half time pieces so I’m consuming them with my eyes, I’ve never really looked at an orange before- what an alien the orange is. I tried it with other fruits, and you can buy a lot of different kinds of fruit these days you know- but nothing was as disturbing as an orange, as the orange. Not even tangerines clementines satsumas or lemons or limes sat so sinister before my eyes.
Here is my latest dream, the latest dream, a dream, my dream.
I lie down in the tall grass and try to calm myself, there is blood on my hands and my skin is the white of an empty sky in winter. I shake so hard & am so huge that the world shakes with me. I hug myself tight to warm up but I am perfectly cold, stars of ice form before my eyes and I feel branches of frost grow through my beard. There is the moon, how can it be? Hung up in the air a looming witness to my crime. Murder feels like more than a crime, it is an act, one reality in a world of fictions. I killed her because I killed her. It is too early to fully test my emotions but this immediate feeling I can name swiftly as lust. I wipe my hands in the long grass, it is soft and cool and damp, and feels too good to bear. Standing feels magnificent; my body is full of me. I walk through the garden and into the alley and out onto the street, a giant full of fuck and song.
On my way to the bar I pass a black pony tethered to a metal post leaning out from the crumbling tarmac of an unlit car park, I kiss the pony on it’s hard cheek and as I loose the tether I kiss the heavy velvet night that shrouds us. When you kill you get the life you have taken, I have all her blood and all her heart, her flesh is truly mine and I own it all with my whole and only mind. My skin still glows white and I am laughing as I enter the bar because I am alive and you will all soon be dead.
Half term is not easy for Rebecca as it is too short a time to find the girls an official activity; in summer they go to stay with Rebecca’s parents at the house in Devon and Thomas has three weeks off from the library over the Christmas holidays. Half terms are when Rebecca is stuck with her daughters. She finds herself often at the local shops standing with other Mothers saying ‘roll on next Tuesday’ and ‘I’ll be glad when they go back.’ She is nothing to do with these women, she finds women strange company. But she craves happiness and normality always looks like happiness from the outside, so she joins in with the other mothers while letting her thoughts tumble to possibility.
Rebecca sometimes feels that Tabitha takes all her energy, deliberately, like a little vampire- using the energy to become more vivid and powerfully lovely, and giving that brightness to her father when he returns in the evenings. Tabitha is the unpleasant catalyst of Rebecca’s life-force, a force once given directly to Thomas- although never with theabandoning lust with which she had given it to G. Rebecca feels the tightening of massive pleasure grip her chest, she takes a breath and resumes the colouring-in of a butterfly-
‘Mummy. You’re going outside of the lines.’ Rose points to the page. Rebecca looks down and sees that the butterfly’s wings now bleed a heavy orange into the dirty white void they rest upon. Rebecca laughs, Oh Rose, you can’t always stay inside the lines!’ Rose breaks the crayon she holds, a lovely green, by pressing too hard, she does not know this woman who speaks so differently to her, her Mother is being different. Rose tries to make herself feel the unfamiliar sensation creeping into her body.
Tabitha prefers to draw; colouring-in does not hold much pleasure for her. While her Mother laughs, Tabitha chooses a deep pink crayon and makes a cloud of the colour around the thick purple lines already on the paper.
Rebecca does not know whether to tell Thomas about the letter from G. In the early stages of their relationship complete openness had afforded them their starting fires, he adoring the fact of her disclosure, she taking power from making her life a story- a story that sounded interesting, the telling of which gave a temporary distance from the horrible pains of truth. But now, years down the line, Rebecca is sure she follows a line- what would Thomas think? She corrects herself, what would Thomas feel? He is not like her; he is made of emotions and the practicalities of living. She shudders with the greatness of Thomas’s love for her. No, Thomas must not know. Or, not yet. Through the kitchen window she watches her daughters- it is Friday afternoon, they will return to school on Monday. Tabitha is in the flowerbeds wrapped in a sleeping bag; a giant caterpillar, zipped in green with orange hair frizzing from the mouth, carefully moving back & forth amongst the plants. How strange she is, thinks Rebecca. Rose sits on a blanket and solemnly pours water from a small china teapot into three small china cups for three immaculate dolls. Rose looks up and sees through the reflections of early Summer garden, her Mother staring at Tabitha- she picks up her most tidy doll and firmly presses it’s face in with her two thumbs. Satisfied but with another feeling still undefined she watches the doll’s face awfully & slowly spring back and re-establish itself. Violent words without names cluster at the back of Rose’s beautiful brain.
Ha, I’ve gone now- they won’t follow me here. I’m well hidden. No more citrus fruits! I exist on coffee and cardboard, I have forgotten what it’s like to suffer taste. All is now perfectly dismissed, I am thinner and thinner by the day and I move away from sense. Sense- oh god, damn it now… with weakness comes sorrow. My heart is doing something terrible to me… am I my heart? I miss that body of that girl woman. What is it now that I think I want? How can I happily remember times within which I was sadder than a dying fox? Walking road kill, poor, poor me. I have self-pity but no end to it can I see. Delirium makes me poetic does it? No one helped me. Do you know that? Humanity is like a sickness in this place. I must head to the country. I have no furniture left; it seemed so ridiculous to have a chair- a chair! And I could not find the words to describe the insanity of a table- a table- a table… a brown cow of a thing in the corner my table. So I put it all out. And people took it all. I saw them from my window. I can’t get rid of the windows, there is something natural about windows and I want that, I want nature. I am crying now. My crying is awful these days. And it echoes in the emptied space of my apartment. I think I must have got rid of everything so that the crying could fill it up…after a while the crying sounds like laughing. Sick! It is sick! Terrible chimpanzee limitations of my noises. I can no longer cry in the city, no one hears me and sympathy is twisted to disposal. I want silence and I have money. Again, I have written my solution. If I can get it all done before the next bout of madness. Can anyone hear me? I must find silence.
Thomas closed the book he had found in the drawer, beneath his wife’s underwear. Thomas loves Rebecca’s body but he no longer sees it as flesh- it is an imagined place. He mourns for the loss of his beloved’s form and spends himself with these light garments that have been close, so close, to her perfect skin. The heavy object had shocked him as he let his hands wander, his heart skipping in his throat, through the pants and stockings, vests and bras make a different sensual impact on his semi-woken nervous system. The squarely alien object startled stars behind his eyelids. He came and quickly tidied the small mess, the little loss necessarily ignored, his face reflected accurately backwards above the sink as he washed. Before opening the book he knew what it would be. Now he lies back on the bed with the journal clutched to his chest, feeling awkwardly for memories of his brother and finds only the sight of his beloved wife on their wedding night- in pink sunset light, naked, reclined in pleasure, hers and his. Tears well and fall, Thomas fills with love and despair until sleep gently holds him.
‘Who are you? You look like my Daddy but upside-down, I mean I know I am upside down but…’ Tabitha swings herself by her thin and freckled arms off the metal bar of the playground’s large gate.She stands beneath her fiery hair halo, hands on hips- assessing. She knows not to talk to strangers but finds herself unable to stop- this man has appeared in front of her in such a busy place after all and she is already outside one law by being at the play-ground without permission. ‘Yes, now I am the right way up you still look like my Daddy, but upside-down. He looks sad-happy and you look happy-sad.’ The man regards Tabitha with his head tilted to one side. ‘You are Tabitha, hello Tabitha. I am Graham, I am your Uncle Graham.’
‘Mummy, Tabitha is in the garden with a strange man.’
Thomas puts the receiver into its cradle; he sees the damp marks of his gripping palm vanish on the black plastic. Coming into work on a Saturday morning is a pleasure he does not allow himself very often, he has the office and the archives all to himself, the quiet and the peace of honest history- the life of the individual, unfurls around him. He had not told Rebecca that he had found the journal, and the letters pressed between the back and the last page. When his family returned from their Friday evening swim he embraced them all, shocking Rebecca and Rose, and danced Tabitha into the kitchen to help him plate up the supper he had made after waking from his fast, deep sleep. He had hoped simply to forget what he had found. Graham had been gone for over ten years and had now reappeared, last night in Thomas’s mind and this morning in Thomas’s life. How simple it is, thinks Thomas he was gone, he is back. He lifts himself from the chair, and returns to a cardboard box-file the delicate hand-written statements of love from one long-dead lover to another; the faded calligraphy of forgotten desire is closed into darkness once more.
Rebecca is in a state of frenzy but with no way of expressing it. She has sat Graham at the kitchen table and given him tea and biscuits; Rose and Tabitha sit with him- the former in silence, the latter loading the air with questions and exclamations. She shakes as she replaces the receiver. She enters the kitchen sure her knees will buckle. It is horrendous to see her two children in the company of this man, as though the world has ruptured its order and allowed her separated thoughts to consolidate themselves into an awful union. She is sweating and cannot believe the thumping of her heart is not audible, ‘Graham, Thomas will be home soon- more tea? Are you- alright?’
‘I am okay for tea thank you, and I am happily having my curiosity quenched by Tabitha here. Rebecca, you have such beautiful daughters.’
‘Mummy,’ Tabitha turns to her Mother ‘may I show Uncle Graham the garden please?’
Rebecca flinches at the use of ‘Uncle’ before her once was lover’s name,
Yes, of course you may- but, first, I have to show your Uncle Graham his room upstairs…I think he will be staying with us tonight, I hope-’ Her face flushes hot, she is a Mother, a Wife, but also, now- she is a woman of surging blood and desires. The shock of her rediscovered body makes her feel monstrous before the delicacy of her little girls, ‘You girls go outside and your Uncle Graham and I will join you in a moment.’ Tabitha & Rose share a look of confusion, they are entirely different creatures but both know their Mother well and see that her manner is odd. Tabitha sees something odder still in Rose’s face and breaks the strange moment,
‘Come on Runny Rose! Ooh ooh ah, Itha the Monkey Queen wishes the dolls to pay their respects to her in the form of a tea party! Come!’ Rose regards Tabitha with her light brow knitted to its light frown-
‘Tabby, don’t call me-’ But something stops her continuing the objection and she follows dancing Tabitha out into the garden, green and various in its delights.
‘I can’t believe you’re here.’
‘I am though, I am here.’ Graham’s voice is quiet and lined with consideration.
‘I thought you would write again, and I thought- I thought it was me, only me, that you would want to see. Your letter was to me. It – I- you-’
Graham reaches out his hand and holds Rebecca’s wrist, electric past jolts them both.
‘Let’s go upstairs, I would like to talk to you, although- I have gone off language since we last knew one another. Those letters we would send-‘
‘I went to your flat, when I got that last letter- I waited a while- you were far- from the-‘
‘Inferno! Ha, yes, how silly I was, so indulgent. Selfish. I am sorry you know.’
‘You left your journal there, with my letters- well, not all my letters-‘
‘I burned some, I kept some, all are lost now. The past must be allowed to pass.’
‘I have the journal. You did mean for me to find it, surely? I have wondered…’
They reach the top of the stairs and Rebecca turns to face the face that has filled her days for many years, as a bold constant, then as something hopelessly fading, and lastly as an unwanted ghost settling over the face of her husband so that she had to turn away from him. She opens the door of the guest room and walks in ahead of Graham, he follows her into the small space, turns, closes the door behind them and sits on the bed.
‘Sit down Rebecca. Rebecca, are you alright?’
‘You left me.’
‘I had no choice, it seemed a choice at the time but when I look back I know there could have been no other way. The force of my madness eventually made me sensible. Our relationship was not what broke me off from things, the darkness in my mind was not to do with the life I was living but I had to give up the life to fight the darkness. It is hard to win against something not solid. You were so lovely to me, so tolerant of me, that you allowed me to carry on- I kept that journal, I wrote you letters, I sometimes saw you- those were the three stations of my existence. But it was all wrong, to treat you like a container for my overflowing self, to use you like that. And I thought- oh, don’t cry Rebecca. You see, I loved you, I will love you- but, you see, Thomas was always the one you needed. The one for your life, he is made of life. Was I not a sort of death for everyone?Some of us are bright and some of us are dull. You must see-’
‘I do see but-’
The door into the little room opens revealing Thomas, red-faced and frowning, his right trouser leg still bicycle clipped, his hair darkened by sweat. He is filled with feelings too grand to organise and stumbles into the room and almost-falls on top of Graham, there is not enough room for three people. Graham reaches his arms around Thomas’s warm middle and pulls him close, pushing his face into the crook of his brother’s neck- Rebecca places her hand on the back of Thomas’s head, and feels the hard wet hot of his scalp, she stretches her fingers to brush Grahams hair; darker than Thomas’s, though drier. The situation is too beyond anything she has known and with the blindness of new experience she finds pleasure swelling in her chest. Thomas pulls away from his brother’s embrace and turns to his wife, they share each other’s sight.
‘I am sorry.’
Thomas and Rebecca walk ahead of the group, they hold hands and look at each other every now and then- Rebecca seeks an answer with her glance and Thomas returns one with his. Tabitha is skipping back and forth between her Mother & Father and her Uncle & Sister, Graham talks seriously with Rose whenever Rose wishes to talk- which is not very often, mostly they share silence, they are the quiet two in the newly completed family. Tabitha grabs her father’s hand, ‘Daddy! Look, I am a bird!’ and she jumps into the air, flapping her arms, ‘I can’t fly properly yet, but I am only young. I am a baby bird with not quite enough feathers to fly yet.’ She jumps again, dust and gravel leap for a moment at each launch and landing. ‘And I am a bird too- I’m a duck, look.’Thomas tucks his hands into his chest and waddles toward Tabitha quacking, Tabitha dashes to her Mother’s side, ‘Ah! Mummy! A giant duck! Help!’ Rebecca shields Tabitha, ‘Stay away giant duck!’ and she sweeps the air with an imaginary sword. Thomas ruffles his imagined feathers and turns towards Rose and Graham, ‘Quack! Quack! What a pretty human!’ Rose regards her Father, then turning to look at her Uncle, shakes her head and smiles, ‘Oh, Daddy, you are silly!’