It’s been a long, long while since I’ve done some ‘proper’ writing; been too caught up trying to get an agent. Anyway, I have now exhausted my list of agents – all rejections – and was pondering my next step when I had dinner with my lovely friend, Jennifer, who is also my ‘reader-editor’. She reminded me that I am, first and foremost, a writer, having written four (thoroughly edited and re-drafted) stories, and that I had fun doing so. She very firmly herded me back onto the ‘writing path’, and I’ve decided to put the whole agent/publishing thing on the back burner for now while I rediscover my love of writing.
I dipped into ‘The Writer’s Book of Days’ for writing prompts (much like I did with 'The Ghost Horse' story); picking ‘Forgotten’, I came up with this little snippet. I just realised, I don’t like writing in first person, yet whenever I write a short story or a small section like this, I always seem to do it in first person … weird.
I have forgotten what she looks like … looked like. As that realisation sinks in, all power seems to drain from my limbs. I cannot find the strength to lift the teacup; I find myself staring at the coppery liquid as if hoping to see her visage floating there.
How can I have forgotten the face of my love? The hours I spent studying every curve … My fist slams down onto the table; the cup rattles on the saucer, the tea shivers its agitation. Without having to look up, I know the other customers have turned their gazes on me for I can feel their stares, as I can hear their indignant murmurs. I take a deep breath, momentarily close my eyes, and my emotions are, once more, in my control. That is all it takes to calm the inner storm, a well-honed ability born of years of practicing keeping my emotions in check.
To continue the pretence of normality, I lift the cup to my lips and take a sip, then reach for a perfectly cut sandwich. All the while I am struggling to raise the image of my Alice, as futile an effort as a charlatan trying to raise the dead.
I can remember the feel of her skin … soft as the inside of a rose petal, except for the rough, puckered scar on the back of her left hand. I know it was her left hand, for that was the hand that was always nestled in my right, but only when we were alone.
I remember her voice, always soft, never raised, not even in anger. But she was quick to anger. A deathly silence would descend; she would not even look at you. Then, as suddenly as a summer storm, her anger would disappear.
And I remember her scent. Lavender. Not sweet, cloying lavender from a bottle. But fresh lavender, its fragrance released when crushed in the hand.
I can remember all that. Why then can I not remember her face? I try to picture her, but the face in my memory is unclear, as if I am trying to see her through fog. Her father is suspicious of photographs, and neither she nor I could afford to have one done. How petty it seems now not to have done so.
Six years of loss … six years of pushing my grief so far down inside me, I would sometimes forget that I was in mourning. Even at the funeral, I was terrified of letting too much grief show, although I had been expected to grieve. ‘She was like a sister to you …’; ‘So many years together, growing up in one another’s company …’; ‘How you must feel her loss…’
“If only you knew,” I want to scream. Instead, I nod politely, try to hide my tears, as is expected in society. And I continue with my life … pretend to continue … bite my tongue to stop myself telling even her family, “You never knew her, not like I knew her.”
But I cannot. Must not. For revealing that secret would not only condemn me, which I confess is something I do not fear, but would shame my family. And I love my family too much to be the cause of such shame and heartbreak.
So I will continue as I am, following the dictates of society that forbids one woman to love another, as a man would love a woman. I will continue to live my life as a lie, allowing those who knew us to carry on believing that Alice and I loved one another, but only as sisters … when in reality, our love had grown into that which is forbidden.