He’s left the shutters wide open, and I can see the burnt grass stretch off towards the woods. There is nothing but the sound of crickets and the taste of red wine that I wish I had not drunk.
He’s stalked out of my company, one of his tempestuous moods, as shifting and unpredictable as a midsummer storm. I can feel one in the air now, lumbering above us until the clouds break. As with him, nothing can be done to quell the sudden outburst. All one can do is find shelter and wait. I’ve taken refuge in the wide white room where his mother wrote. He would not dare commit the sacrilege of his rage in here.
Her desk is a shrine. Red notebooks, wide blue fountain pen handwriting, the lid still off the pen as she left it, yet dusted each day. She writes of the grey of Lille and the yellow of Nimes, the ochres of the Cape and the agitated tones of Tuscany. Her prose is pretty, but frustrated. It reads as a woman waiting for her final muse. We shall forever wonder what that might have been.
I would write of her son. I knew she saw his soul with the steel truth that only a writer can. She was a petite woman, bent over her cane in floral shawls, but she only had to meet his eye to silence him. She saw the hulking creature with that sadistic, ripping hunger when he was a child, long before I fell for the act. She saw that savage pain in his soulless grey eyes.
I’m suddenly too hot, the low sun burning into my shoulders through the gaping window. I’m reckless, apathetic after too much wine, and stand barefooted up on the frame, hoping for the wind to arrive and blow away the static heat. This is childish, ridiculous. But I know his mother is here now, and she understands.
I hated her for letting me marry him, at the time. I had been so young, so naive to the easy charm and slick tongue of an older man. Famous family, good stock. All was well on paper. I wore stiff lace that grazed my chin and carried cornflowers and violets. He hated roses. Called them gauche. She had sat in sombre greens in the front row, her mouth small, hands folded neatly in her lap. I read this as her disapproval of me as a daughter in law, on the day. It was only later I learnt that she pitied me. A tragic victim served up to the Minotaur. A fanciful melodrama.
He was capable of incredible cruelty and compassion at intervals as regular as the coming and going of the moon. One moment he’d dance me drunkenly across the hall, the next he’d be ripping my poetry up from the typewriter and demanding I told him the names of the fictional lovers in his head. When she was here, she’d protect me, appearing in the doorway and calmly taking my books and papers from his clamped fists.
Now, only her room remained my sanctuary.
I’m suddenly aware of his presence behind me at the window, his shadow falling far down to the ground, overlapping with my own. His hands rise to my shoulders, his gesture unreadable. Smiling, I grasp his hands tightly until my nails cut deep into his palms.
“Push me then, darling,”
I whisper, as the lightening splinters the skies. “But remember, your mother is watching.”