From her elegant Edwardian town house,she waved goodbye to her husband and began just another day.Those days of empty hours,endless cleaning,mindless chores that caused a fracture in her soul.Dont get her wrong,she was grateful,almost obscenely descent about the whole thing,but somehow it wasn’t enough.As the early light crept through the drapes,she conjured up enough life to turn the gas on to boil the kettle.Rosalind wasn’t quite ready to start those dreaded chores yet,and somehow the mills and boon ,the stories that emotionally tied her to a fantasy gripped her more.
Not being appreciative was her parents constant moan -“After all we’ve done for you ,and you do this,how could you “.Those words ,each enunciated with venom ,fired like a burning arrow to her young heart,penetrated her.She once said that to Miles that if anyone could lick her heart,it would poison them.Her words ,naked and raw,like manure made from farm waste,repulsed him.He just couldn’t bring himself to even try to understand ,just couldn’t.Rosalind felt isolated ,an island ,emotionally ship wrecked cut loose in the gale force of an early death.Why couldnt she just move on,forget about it,count her blessings,another derivative of “you’ve had so much done for you”.
She replayed those words in her mind again and again.Although their number was etched inside her like a branding mark:Newquay 4706 -she could hear her mother’s voice ,how it would sound ,the slow high pitched welcoming voice ,”hello,New…..quay Four seven oh SIX.”.Only,those hospitable words and numbers were only reserved for her real family,and not for the black sheep that was Rosalind.Alone with her thoughts ,the crescendo of her kettle jolted her to get up and grab her tea towel ,gripping the baker light handle ,pouring the boiling water into her mug .”Oh hell,it’s still dirty “,she remonstrated with herself.As if to engage in the futility of it all,she got a replacement mug from the rack,the one she had been given by them when he was twelve.It had a picture of King Harold on it and said:”Hastings,popular with visitors since 1066”.She remembered that holiday well,vividly.She harked back you see when she had “people in her life”,before her big mistake,the time before the family curse that she had brought upon her parents.She cupped the mug like a trophy ,the World Cup of acceptance,the validation of her existence was somehow contained within this shabby bit of enamel!
Maxwell house coffee,her mother’s choice ,a step up from the camp crap her mother had made due to the rationing of wartime and immediately after.Her mother delighted in this step up,in her husbands standing ,his charity work,the round table,the handshakes.Oh,how she hated her life now and her state of rectitude?If only Miles could just ,could just,,,,,,,,as her frustrations with her existence reached fever pitch,she threw her Hastings mug in the sink,replete with the dregs of Maxwell house coffee left at the bottom.”Its no good,she scolded herself,it’s just never going to be the same”.She stared at the phone in the hallway,trying to make it ring ,but it never did,When Miles left for work ,everything just went quiet ,a deftly ,Eire solitude of enforced purgatory.Oh,that word again,like a trigger to her heart ,or what was left of it,inhabited her life ,her existence ,her energy ,everything,It wasn’t that she believed any of that mambo jumbo in the first place,but it still affected her ,somehow delivering a blow to her every time she looked at that phone:”You’ll end up in Purgatory my girl”.Those were the last words her mother had spoken to her since it happened an what had she got to show for it?No baby,no man ,or a man that loved her,just a shame marriage with someone who used her as a front for his own “alternative life style as he called it”.
She spoke to herself ,she ran through the daily cleaning rota in her head,only hers was the only name on it.She cleaned the cooker again,the Fridge ,the kitchen floor,the whole shooting match and by doing so,to cleanse herself of the phobic guilt implanted by her parents,her so called guardians.
Rosalind lost herself in her endless cleaning,her escape from the dismal reality of boredom ,endless emptiness in the pit of her stomach.Just then,a Knick came at the door.It seemed odd as she wasn’t expecting anyone as it was still not past ten in the morning.As she looked into the spy hole,a precaution taken by Miles after the proliferation of doorstep sellers in recent months,Assuming that it was just another one of them,she didn’t intend on opening the door but the persistence of the knock alerted her to the fact that it could well be a more official call.She opened the door and her suspicions were confirmed:In that split second ,divorced from anything tangible ,her heart seemed to thud inside her ,like a forge hammer ,pulverising ,pulsing,bleeding from every artery.She couldn’t control this involuntary reaction ,it was biological in its nature,but organic too,seemingly endlessly pursuing her own demise.The words spoken by the police officer were all but a blur,but the main thrust of what he said was registered,just not accepted.Words like :”It would have been instant ,and he wouldn’t have felt anything,and would you like us to contact your mum and dad dear at a time like this”.Rosalind politely refused,ensuring them that she needed some time on her own and that she would let family members know herself.
Closing the door,re-entering her existence once again,the walls of the house somehow comforted her,their solidity,their density and permanence.She sat down filtering out for a moment the noise in her head .If people but knew,she hadn’t ever loved Miles ,well,nit since she realised that Miles refused to consummate their union that fateful night when he slept in the hotel chair instead of by her side !!!!So,she was sad ,a little at sea almost,but not beside herself.With the knowledge that he didn’t suffer,and the fact that somehow through it all,he had maintain appearances as to the validity of their union.She had played her side of the bargain,entertaining Miles business friends from japan and the US whenever required gave an almost business edge to their “arrangement” as Miles liked to refer to it as.
Rosalind looked at the phone in the hallway and as she did,she wondered if she should let Miles parents know now.It would be a huge shock to them,as he was their only child,their greatest wish had been for them to have grandchildren.She couldn’t quite believe that they hadn’t suspected that Miles was gay,but they were hopeful that she would go along with the sham and that he would father children for them to dote on.She thought how amazing it was that folk could inhabit an unreal world just to look good in the real world one.They had tolerated her 8n many ways,but she knew that both of them looked down their noses at her and her “past mistakes”as they liked to term them.
As the clock struck almost twelve,she moved towards the bay window,and as she did,with almost metronomic regularity ,she carefully moved aside the net curtain to glimpse the next door neighbours son ,Robert coming home for his dinner.She had a clandestine fascination for him ,an obsession almost.He was 8 years old,quite tall,and extremely polite and so well turned out.Why,he was perfect ,just perfect.Once,when his hair looked a little scruffy,she wished that she could run a comb through it for him and arrange his tie for him .Oh,he was such a fine boy,such a fine boy.As she followed him with her eyes,she wondered if he ever wondered if he was being looked at.
Through the curtains,her and Miles were just another respectable couple ,entrenched in the solid values of hard word and thrift,extolled by millions of others up and down the land.They were never a showy couple,never left their property unpainted or over indulged it’s exterior.They were conservative in their tastes and habits.As Rosalind looked at the young boy walking up his driveway,she felt an odd calmness coming over her as if just to see him each day kept his memory alive.He would be have been mine in a couple of weeks.She still had his cloths that she had bought and some that she had stolen too from her local mothercare.Her obsession with his cloths meant that she would wash them each week,placing them discreetly in her knickers drawer where Miles would never look.In fact,Miles never took any notice of her body,let alone her lingerie.He was to her,a living link to her baby,her precious boy,and as long as she saw him each day,that link remained intact to her.
Placing a chair at the side of her bay window,she sat patiently and waited for him to return to school after his lunch.She knew that his time keeping could be irrational-a typical boy,she thought-but today of all days,he was later than normal .As the hallway clock ticked it’s solitary metronome ,the echoes of those ticks pulsed in her heart and her anxiety levels increased.There seemed no release for her today,and everythimg just seemed to be going wrong and it led her away from the curtain ,sad and forlorn ,desperate.
What if something had happened to her boy,…..a she meant ,him.Her mind went into overdrive as to the possible reason for his not returning to school.As it did,her mind conjured up all sorts of reasons,plausible and otherwise as to whyMaybe ,he had the dentist,or the doctor,or maybe he hadn’t felt well .But then her mind conv8nced her that he was never ill,that he was a big strong boy,her boy,and that there had to be another reason.She just couldn’t think.Just then,there was a knock in the door,and she for a moment went to open it without checking the spy hole,As she did,she rega8ned what little composure she had and leant into the hole ,viewing a rather dimmunitive lady who had stepped back from the outer reaches of the magnifying aperture,With that,she opened the door,and a softly spoken lady stood there,announcing that she was a social worker who worked in conjunction with the police and she had come to offer support to her because of the loss of her husband that morning,
In all the confusion as to where her boy had disappeared too,she had quite forgotten about Miles,but knew that she had to keep appearances up that she was in mourning.This lady assumed that she was in a state of shock ,offering to make her a cup of sugary tea.It didn’t seem much of a solution if she had indeed been in shock,but Rosalind was glad of the respite ,pleased to just find an avenue to cope with the present emotional hiatus.
As she brought the tea in,her voice soothed Rosalind much more than she had anticipated.There wasn’t too many people who could soothe her and until she knew that her boy was safe ,then she needed all the help that she could get.This lady was surprised that Rosalind couldn’t remember so many important things about the officers call in the morning,but still put it down to her being in shock.As the full impact of Miles death might now begin to sink in,she offered to do some of the family contacting for her.This offer was duly accepted by Rosalind and the address book was produced for Melanie to access.As the calls were made,Rosalind excused herself,preferring to sit at the window with the curtain ajar just in case her boy appeared.Rosalind heard Melanie explain the news to her mother and father in law,clocking the gasps of terror and sorrow in each.It would hit them both very hard as he was their life and they had so much pride in his achievements.Never had they missed any of his most important life events,and their home was quite a shrine of pictures of him.She couldn’t imagine what it would be like now after his death.
For what seemed an eternity,she watched at the window,visualising if her boy might yet appear.As she did,a car pulled up outside his house,quite a large one ,out of character for the neighbourhood she thought.As the driver appeared,she got out and slowly walked up to his front door.If Rosalind could incline her neck a little bit more at an almost obtuse angle,she might She more.That said,it would require pulling the curtain back even more than was safe ,as this was a clandestine observation and she didn’t want her boy to be spooked.Her curiosity got the better of her,and she just had to pull the net back.As she did,it coincided with the door being opened and her boy rushed into the arms of this well dressed affluent looking lady.He seemed to cling onto her as if he had been waiting to see her.They embraced for what appeared an eternity and Rosalind was envious of the well dressed affluent lady not because she was rich,but because she obviously had a real relationship with her boy.But what did this all mean,she said to herself?.She had always thought that her boy was the son of Marjorie and Bill Graham.As she sat there wondering,Melanie appeared and it was all Rosalind could do to enquire after her parents in law.She did after fashion,and it was clear that they were in a state of total disbelief that their son had died in an accident like that only this morning.
Melanie had enough understanding of people to know that Rosalind might need further support with all the arrangements.As it was a delicate matter,she steered clear of any provision that Miles might have made for her future,preferring to concentrate on enquiring what her wishes might be as to his internment.It seemed safer to Melanie to tread carefully.Rosalind though knew that Miles had had life assurance and that this would pay out a cash sum to her should anything happen to him.She would have enough money to pay off her mortgage and retain a measure of security.Rosalind had always insisted that Miles look after her material needs if not her other ones.
These things would come and go Rosalind thought,but what of her boy,and who really was this mystery women.?She rearranged the nets again,and thought about him,and ached in the pit of her stomach for her baby boy.Moving away from the window ,the curtains twitched at number 24 Morningside gardens for the last time.In the forthcoming months,she would sell up and try to piece together her life.Her parents would not warm to her as so many know who have known what fractures in family and feuds can do.Rosalind never saw him again because she accepted that he was never hers in the first place.
She kept her baby cloths though in a special drawer in her new flat which was all she needed.Those were her memories,her keepsakes if you like.
She never did peep out from behind the curtains again and that is the end of the story.