Friday, 11 September 2015

somewhere





Matilda Brown had always lived here.
The little terrace cottage suited her just fine.
Neighbours had come and gone over the years
...but not she...

...this is where she saw the first light of day when mum cradled her in her arms some sixty years ago and she felt no need to be anywhere but where she was...
...this is where she belonged...
Mum said: this is your home our Tilly, this is where you belong...
...and that is how it was...
...no need to go into the town even when she could get all she wanted in the village , no need to venture far, she had the knack for growing cabbages in the flower border along with leeks for spiky foliage and lettuce for soft edges, carrot tops for frondyness where it looked right. She was quite an artist in her garden, small as it was, and there was always a patch of sun to sit in to warm her bones.. when the sun would shine, that was...
...no need for anything other than what she had already...

...What with Roger and Maureen living next door, very interesting when they moved in after Ma Hockin was found in her bed, a little smile on her lips and eyes tightly closed and her house was sold. She could hear them sometimes through the wall when all was quiet everywhere. Night noises she could hear, snoring, moaning, Maureen did an awful lot of moaning, Matilda suspected nightmares, poor thing, and little screams as well and she was such a cheerful soul every time she saw her pegging out the wash and singing or when they bumped into each other in the post office and then walked home together.

Alf lived on the other side. Alf was an artist and he hadn't lived there very long.
'I could paint you,’ he suggested to her one day not so very long after he had parked his little Austin in front of his red door when he moved in, ‘or draw you.’
'I'd like that’ he said, ‘we could even go out if you like, have a cream tea...’

Out? Cream tea? He hadn't been here long enough to ask her out! The nerve of it, she thought out loud, the nerve of it! But she felt flattered all the same and all warm inside as her breasts expanded, still got it she thought...but then she pulled herself up very sharp, she could not be doing with that. Mum and Dad had long gone and she remembered mum's warnings to her to this day: don't let any boy kiss you Tilly my lover or you might...you know...get in the family way...whatever she meant by that and she could not forget the look that went along with that statement, or the nod, emphatic, only one nod...couldn't do that, no, no boys for her and no kisses, no touching or nothing, no, nothing like that.

Across the road a young couple moved in, never drew the curtains, they, and she could watch when her lights were out and see inside, a lot went on that she could see...no need to go away, her street was exciting enough for her... but she wondered what it was like to have her bottom stroked and him kissing her throat to her breasts...

Alf might not only want to draw her, she thought...no, no, it wasn't safe, a cream tea was all very well and a very nice thought, but what could it lead to! Unmentionable, that, she’d seen it on the telly and it was NOT for her! Kisses weren't allowed, mum had said so, kisses weren't safe, mum knew that and had told her. She was far too good for that...

Alf could take her for a drive, he said, Tarr Steps had a little place for a cream tea in the sunshine and then a walk through the woods by the river, listen to the chatter of the rushing water, the whispering of the trees, watch for the purple hairstreak butterflies....so rare and one of the only places in all of England is where they were, right here, right on their doorstep...and then a little sit down on the soft moss among the bluebells, share a box of Roses, did she like the pink ones? Strawberry...

...Bluebells? Chocolates? Soft moss? All very well and a very nice thought, but what could it lead to! Mum, what could it lead to!

Tilly Brown had other things to think about she told herself...she was a crone by now and her beauty had faded, though her skin was still soft, smooth and her hair still a crown of gold even if it was streaked with a little silver by now. Alfie said he liked it that way, it made her very interesting, very attractive, if she knew what he meant...

...knew what he meant? She knew alright but she never thought about it and what had her streaks to do with him! Nothing, mum would have said...nothing!

‘I must paint you Matilda,’ Alf urged, ‘before the gold turns to white. I must draw you...and then he took to giving her flowers. He picked daisies, hawthorn blossoms, sometimes a wild daffodil, the first bold burst of yellow of the spring ‘We must go out,’ he said, ‘go for a drive, Tarr Steps for a cream tea, you'll love it Tilly, we both will love it, COME ON Tilly, he tempted...

...’no no,’ she said, ‘where will it lead to? What if there's a mist rising and we can't find the way home? What then Alfie dear?’...
...nothing, dear Tilly, well just park and we'll sit close hugged together till the mist  clears and then we drive home.’...

...’and what will Maureen say if she hears us this late? And what of Roger Alfie? What will they think? What will they say? Maureen does not sleep at night Alf, I can't do it to her...she moans in her sleep Alf and Roger is a noisy sleeper too...mum would have said that I must not do it dear Alf. Mum would have told me to stay put in my house and not go for a drive and not be drawn or be painted. Mum would have said no bluebells for you and no moss, no tea or misty hugs or sitting close...mum knew about these things...

I'm happy as I am, I am, she thought,
I'm happy in my little cottage...
...and...
...it suits me just fine...
...and...
...I don't need to go anywhere else at all...
...everything I want is right here in the post office...

...but...

..when she hears the sound of Alfie humming a tune as he works at his easel there is a change in her that is quite new, her body churning and she wants to stand close to him, like the girl across the road, tight against him, feel his hands and taste his kisses...but Mum would have said...mum would have said...to hell with what you would have said mum thought Tilly Brown, defiant, I'll go for that drive to Tarr Steps and see the butterflies and hope that the mist comes down!

...and like a glorious sunrise bursting through the dawn her joy rose  in her body, her love for him, her longing and desire, and she ran into the garden to reach out to him at last and she called out his name...Alfie!

...’Alfie!’, she called out to him over the fence, ‘let us go for that ride! Let us have tea and some scones and raspberry jam and clotted cream on the top, let us walk and listen to the riverchatter, feel the soft moss Alfie, with bare feet and watch for the butterflies!...Alfie!’, she called...

...but...
there was no answer from him,
he joy was lost in hollow silence
...and...
the silence embraced her...

...his little car was gone...

...on her doorstep she found a painting...
...a beautiful woman,
smiling...
...and...
...pale,
her eyes closed,
sitting on the soft green moss,
in the bluebell wood by the river,
alone
in a patch of golden sun,
with her crown of hair in silver...

.