May 11th, 1821

All day Daisy acted like her words and tears in the garden yesterday did not happen. She is inside herself, folded over, covered in silent tears, muted.
Resigned.
I never want to have to pretend. Never. It must be like holding your breath and never really die of it. Or just a little.

I have been trying to understand aunt Emeline’s change of attitude since the Granders’ arrival. At first, I thought her anxiousness was caused by her will to be a perfect host, her perfect self. But now, around Daisy and Alan, she is either discreet and composed or laughing freely like a very young girl, looking at her reflection on cristal perfume bottles, silver knives and glass cocktail tables. Now I think the real cause is named Alan.

She looks at his lips when he talks.
She plays with her hair when he pours wine in her glass.
She does not push Hector the cat away when he brushes her ankle.

When uncle George told her how much he appreciates “this Alan fellow”, she replied “They are nice” while looking at an empty vase, adjusting one of her earings.

I think Alan reflects happy memories from her past. Ephemeral youth, blurry ideals, thoughtless decisions, afternoon courting. That is what she sees in Alan’s perfect face, in the way he finishes his sentences in a whisper.

She can hear her own heart beat today. It will not last. The wind will rise again.

May 10th, 1821

Alan Grander and uncle George went duck hunting together at dawn. I was awake when they left the manor and when I went to the kitchen to fill my bedside water jar our cook Veronica was filling a bag with fruits and bread for our two heartless gentlemen.

After Sonia helped me get dressed I went outside with Hector the cat who insisted on being carried to avoid having his delicate paws wet with morning dew.

I looked at George’s slaves working in the tobacco plant in the distance like tiny black ants gathering straws and leaves with obvious acceptance.

The sky, seemingly aware of the events to come, was slowly moving severe and silent ash-colored clouds over the plantation. In an other field, sunflowers turned toward the sun were bending their heads down like a people in prayer.

Then I saw her, standing by the fountain, thoughtfully throwing pebbles in the water. I looked at the back of her neck for a moment. Daisy really is a beautiful woman, especially this morning, with her curly red hair loosely piled together and her dark green dress. There is something sadly romantic about her when she is alone. While walking toward her I realized I was tiptoeing to avoid her noticing my presence but I suddenly could not find any good reason for me doing so.

The wind rose. A strong, loud wind that makes your sentiments appear more real than the rest. She turned toward me. Her face first, her shoudlers second then her hips and finally her feet. Some hair and tears were crossing her pale face because of the wind. Our dresses floated and it did not matter. Her veiny hands took mine. The all scene was so dramatic I doubted for a second I was really part of it.

We had no shadows, the sky was low and the fountain silent.

She said: “My love for Alan is gone. I am expecting his child. I will have to pretend for the rest of my life and I am not strong enough”. I think she said it loudly but I heard a whisper. The wind took her voice away. Her love too I told myself.

I suddenly treasured my aloneness but I felt sad for her. Once you allow yourself to embrace your true feelings, all the choices of reason become burdens, often accepted, always undergone. I did not find anything to tell her at that moment, nor later, so I slowly moved my hands toward her face and wiped her tears. She sobbed. I caressed her hair until there were no new tears and previous ones had dried. She kissed my forehead and smiled.

It was not until we came back inside the manor that the wind stopped, making this odd parenthesis unreal.

She smiled a different smile that evening.

May 9th, 1821

Daisy and Alan Grander arrived late yesterday night. While waiting for them I saw aunt Emeline looking nervously at the cold roasted goose for long minutes, letting the ash of her cigarette fall on the kitchen floor. Her cheeks were bright pink. She could not help playing with her ridiculously large rings. Her whole attitude appeared to me completely out of phase with the situation which had a slightly distressing element to it.

But when the long-awaited couple arrived, Emeline put on her composed mask and dinner was served moments after she cried “Veronica!” in an exaggeratedly loud voice without taking her eyes off Daisy’s dress.

It was a pleasant evening. Daisy and Alan have that energy from the city, a New York magical dust that leaves an invisible trace behind them wherever they go like an intoxicating perfume that stays on clothes and curtains. They made uncle George smile. They talk fast and like to dance and seem to love each other. But in the fog of appearances, one can hardly tell which thoughts, feelings and truths lay behind staring bright blue eyes or pressed lips.

I look forward to talking with Daisy tomorrow if I have the chance. I find her slightly palpable sadness moving

May 8th, 1821

Daisy and Alan Grander, a friends couple of aunt Emeline, are going to be staying for three days at the manor. Mr Grander needs to see uncle George to talk about a possible business association I believe. They live in New York.

Emeline briefly talked to me about Daisy and Alan. She has not seen them in years. The three of them grew up in the same town and remained friends over the years before Daisy and Alan fell in love and got married. They were very close back then. Emeline’s voice is different when she talks about this. I do not know if it is nostalgia that I hear or a less obvious sentiment.

They are coming tonight. Emeline is busy doing nothing, going from to room to room with excitement or anxiety, I can not tell.

I went into the kitchen to take some tea leaves. The table was covered with champagne bottles and dead gooses.

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