Everything is as they left it a week ago… so long ago. The garden has already sunk its countless green claws into the rubbish. The grass seems to have grown so hideously long, nourished by the sprays of champagne bubbles, the spilled wine and beer, the blood. All traces of the dancing have disappeared, the twenty or thirty sets of feet. Her own feet had been bare that night. Even the bushes have sprouted more leaves and bend lower heavier towards the plates on the table
the dried blood and bone bits on the curling paper plates. The flies are digging in. She had gone barefooted.
spent a whole afternoon in town searching for the perfect paper plates and cups, a certain texture and sheen and flexibility for the plates and cups that had to be the right colour. All her excitement, all her joy and happiness—was this what happened when you wanted too much. Those silvered cups with their tiny purple stars now lie about in the tangled grass
squashed puckered mouths full of insects or one a spider has sealed with a web. The bluebells stand guard over a half-eaten pork bone and the slugs are too bloated to make it up the wall. A late wasp sucking blood from the bars of barbecue grill. The gnats swirling greedily. The little birds sharpen their beaks against the walls of the house, the windowsills. All her pretty flowers have vicious colours.
Is he in up there.
High at the back of the house, his window is filthy. One of the four panes is cracked. The curtains are closed, filthy as well, soiled nylon rags. But that tells her nothing. She hasn’t ever seen them open. This one lives in the shadows. His heart is only fit for the darkness.
Are you in, devil Donal.
runs in again through the kitchen, across the floor boards of the hall, to the bottom of the stairs.
Are you here bastard?
I could tear you apart like meat from a bone. Coward and liar. This house of his is bad luck. Calm yourself down Veronica. She can’t let go of herself screaming like she usually does why not why not. Because she might not stop. Wrapping her arms around the giant mushroom of coats hanging on the banister head, she lets herself cry, wail, she doesn’t care how loud it is
Can you hear me?
hopes he hears her up there in his room and knows he will never find beauty or peace. Or his cold gloomy silence he likes to think is wisdom.
Or ever feel the mad love of a woman like her.
Do you hear me.
With a cup of tea, Veronica sits in the garden and waits for the grass to eat her, the birds to peck out her eyes, the slugs to slide between her toes. The autumn is coming, the wind and storm and rain that were supposed to mark his return. The thick jelly summer heat has sprouted little tails and swam away, all her dreams turned into frogs lost in the mucky back lanes and hopping stupidly across the motorway.
Martin and her in bed on a weekday afternoon, Martin and her painting a room together, walking at night on a country road and the moon red, seeing his face every morning as he looks out at the weather, them by the fire, them by the sea, on a long drive in his van, the outline of him against the roaring sea and all the time we have
me dancing for him in front of the fire lifting my skirt at the back flapping giving him glimpses the wind shaking the windows baby
every little flower she had planted was a grave the white trumpet daffodils the purple clematis the lavender crocus snowdrops. Speedwell which had her own name and tiny happy blue flowers.
now the autumn is a fake an ugly scam
without the watermark of his face
so alone that if she had reached for the silver handle on the door of that limousine how long would it have been before anybody even thought about where she was or what had happened to her. She shivers. A man whistles a few gardens along. The fat wood pigeons in the trees are humming with contentment, louder and louder like they are going to burst with it. In the grass, she stares at the pale blue seat she remembers standing on during the party, raising a toast to Donal for letting her stay, for listening to her through the weeks of longing while Martin was away.
dead summer I am going to die
She had gone barefoot all through the party and when she got a splinter or thorn Donal had been the one to sit her down and with a candle inspect the sole of her foot. He held her ankle firmly near his long square jaw. The heat of the flame making threats to her soft skin. Had he already made the call by then. Had he already told Martin what had happened, even though she had forgotten all about it. While the flame whispered what it wanted to do to her and she laughed so loudly and he glided his coarse smoky fingers lightly up and down her sole looking for the tiny catch of the thorn, her ankle locked in his fist, had you already told him by then bastard.
she glares up at his window, the curtains the ugliness
and that seat, she had painted that blue seat herself, and the other three, and the round handmade table one afternoon shortly after she moved in. Martin was going away for three months and when he came back they were going to move out of the city, she didn’t care where. It would be everything she wanted, her escape, the two of them together, completely together in their own rhythm. No more running around to the drums of the city, the dissatisfaction she could see stiffening her face. Or pointless conversations with people she didn’t care about or nights in bars drinking for the sake of it, all those useless wasted words, trying to pretend this was the place to be and yet every day forgotten immediately. In the meantime, while Martin was gone, she would stay here in Donal’s house, his best friend.
them in the kitchen, talking, as they always did, they talked for hours, nobody else could keep up
them in the kitchen and music on, smoking their joints and cooking a roast. Smells of the meat and garlic and rosemary in the garden stirred in with the paint where she was kneeling on a newspaper doing the chairs, smearing them in pale blue. Her moving-in party although there was never much need of an excuse for those two to have a get-together and people to arrive. She was in a hurry to get the chairs done so they would have time to dry. They tried to persuade her not to bother there wouldn’t be time but she had got it into her head, the image of those blue chairs in the candlelight in the garden had to come true. After all, the party was to celebrate her, and the time she would spend there, her waiting. She wanted it to look stunning, she liked to have beauty around her she had said with a coquettish shrug that had surprised her and left the two men speechless for a moment, and to cover her embarrassment she had gone further and treated them to a rebellious shake of her hips as she stepped out into the wet garden happier than she could remember.
Happiness. She laid down some newspaper to protect the grass and started on the first chair, which she knew she should have sanded first to remove the rust and old paint. Wearing only her dungarees, and nothing else next to her skin; the dampness from the ground quickly spread through the denim to her knees. The sharp taint of the thick baby blue paint, the grass and dripping trees, and the warm oven aromas from the kitchen were the smell of the future. She breathed it all in. Everything was going to change. And she could hear Martin’s low voice, the words so soft they flowed together, and she was inhaling that too as he was telling some story or other and then
then it went quiet. The birds were quiet, there wasn’t a sound. She was sure they were both watching her, standing at the door watching her, she could feel it. She sat back on her heels, holding the paintbrush. The strap slid down off her shoulder, her strong shoulder, her white strong shoulder. They were watching her in silence. She closed her eyes and straightened her back, stretched her neck.
my hair was pinned up. I could feel their eyes on me. My heart was so happy. I had been kneeling there all my life. It was wrong to turn around but I wanted to. I couldn’t stop myself.
a drop of the blue paint fell on the fine grass, trickled down to the soil. It was so beautiful she gasped. She turned to call them, come here, look, but it was only him there, only Donal leaning in the doorway, his piercing glossy know-it-all black stare, only him who witnessed that moment.