Monday, 16 August 2010

Promises - Part two.

As time went on, the town sunk into depression. From my house on the hill, I watched it happen. The misfortune spread along the houses like a brown fog. As the misfortune grew, so did the number of appointments made, so did the misfortune… and the circle continued.

At first when I walked into their clinic, they ignored me. She continued to measure out those liquids, green liquid sparkling in the polished glasses as she held them up to the light. He just sat in his corner, his back to me, bent over the counter, the muted light from the candle next to him sliding off his hair and falling onto the floor in broken fragments.

Her house was coated in memories. As I walked up the steps, they would slip up from between the slats and from under the floors and from deep in the walls and pull a smile from the corners of my mouth. Emme would always be waiting in the doorway, behind the screen door, laughter hidden in her eyes. She had the most beautiful, deep purple eyes.

I was held in high regard by the towns people. I never quite understood why, but often they would come to me for assistance or a kind word. I often didn’t even have to say anything. My listening to their troubles would be enough. But what they didn’t know is when they came to me and released their troubles, they left them sitting in crumpled piles in my rooms, and crawling with chipped claws across my floors. They came more and more often as the time went by and my house got more and more full.

When she dipped the syringe into the green liquid and pulled the stopper to suck it in, I saw the swirl of turbulence made by the suction in sea-blue tension lines. She lifted the syringe to the light and pushed the stopper gently, letting a single drop of liquid slip down the metal tip.

As I walked up the steps of her house for the last time, I held tight to the hand of my half-sister, and her thin fingers in mine comforted me. My Bekka; she strengthened me. I think even though it was Emme’s house, our weakness meant that we suffered more than she did. Emme’s ability to hold onto what was hers meant that what was no longer hers did not cause her as much pain.

People began to talk of moving. What else was there to keep them here, they asked each other. They had no lives left, only the promises they had bought, tied in their hearts and hopes with broken pieces of lace and ribbon and string. They rustled by each other in their long skirts and nodded to each other, heads low in their humiliation, and their shame gave birth to a restlessness and fed the hope in their centres until it raged with unfulfilling anger.

Finally she turned towards me. Her white shirt was fastened up over her neck, the brass buttons glinting as she moved. Her peroxide hair was rolled back to the nape of her neck. Her lips still as red as blood. Her eyes were as pale blue as ice. And behind their cold mask, I could almost see the triumph.

The man who now owned the house stood with his small daughter on the steps and talked loudly of his plans for it. Emme met us at the door as she usually did. She smiled as she saw us coming, held out her hands towards us. Behind her calm posture was an urgency we both understood.

They came so often to my house on the hill. They came because of the depression, because of the misfortune, because of the growing trouble. They came because of their uncertainty, because of their fear, because of their own lack of confidence. And afterwards they came because of their shame, because of their guilt, because of their humiliation.

She wrote my name down in black ink; spidery letters scratched across the dull page. The nib of the pen spurted splats of ink if she pressed too hard. My name looked so insignificant. Just another name on another page of the book.

We went straight to the cupboard in the hall. I pushed the door open; it slid sideways on its runners with a rusty screech. The cracked, pale paint flaked off and flittered to the floor with my touch. We shoved aside the dusty tin boxes and old, half-forgotten things that sat under a layer of dirt and grit on the floor of the cupboard. We flung them with reckless abandon on to the floor; they rolled and jumped and shuddered across the uneven tiles, trailing clouds of dust and cobwebs.

Their troubles piled up around me. They sat chattering quietly in the corners of my rooms and lay crumpled in piles around my furniture. They lined the edges of the walls and the door and window frames, blocking out the light and making it hard to move. They lay discarded, and all of them reeked of the depression and let off the fumes of fear, so that they choked the air. They made it hard, so hard, to breathe.

I had to wash my hands and my face. The water was an odd, light blue colour. She gestured to an old, leather patients chair and I sat, obediently, my hands folded in my lap. I remember I was shaking slightly.

We flicked away the dirt and strands of spiders web and I wiped a hand across the back slats of the cupboard. My hand came away grey with dust. There it was: the child’s drawing was still hanging on the rough wood. The edges of it caught at my fingers as I swept them over it. Emme leaned over my shoulder and blew at the dirt; it cleared as if it had never existed, leaving clean, dry wood and a clearly visible picture.

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