Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Magnolia sat, with her feet tucked under her on the red cushion.
Cora was gone now; she sat on her previously occupied spot on the settee. There was a much more pleasant air to the room now, a silence that was peaceful rather than glaring. Marie was still on her same chair. Her hands were stretched towards the hearth and she stared absently at the pattern on the carpet.
“Nolie,” Marie began abruptly, after a few minutes. Magnolia glanced up in surprise.
“Nolie. Why are we here?” Her voice was soft, and it had a startlingly quivery edge, as if she was near tears.
“Well…I suppose, because Miss Bonifaz thought it would be good for us. To come. And, because of Cora.” She spoke uncertainly, but tried to sound vaguely comforting. It seemed as though Marie was more upset than she’d been letting on.
“But why? Why is it good for us?” Voice catching, she put her face in her hands. “I want to go home.”
Now she was sad too. “Three weeks, Marie.” Nolie slid off the settee and put her hand on her shoulder. “After that we’ll all leave.”
Her cousin’s eyes were damp. She stared up at her and tried to smile, weakly.
“Give it a chance. Try to enjoy being here. You know I didn’t want to come either.” Magnolia grasped her hand and hauled her out of the chair. “Come on, now.”
Together, they stepped across the cold floorboards. Marie closed her eyes for a second. Although possibly not her first choice in companions, she was thankful Magnolia was there.They walked up the stairs still in step
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
It was late when the car finally pulled into the gravel drive. Marie was leaning on Cora’s shoulder, both fast asleep. Each time they hit a rut (which was a lot, obviously the driveway wasn’t well taken care of) they snorted and snored louder.
Magnolia sat still and listened to crunching of the rocks beneath the tires, the wind blowing in the trees on either side of them. She tried very hard not to listen to her companions, despite the fact that Marie was sagging against her and Cora’s elbow was digging into her back in a very uncomfortable way.
The sky outside was tar-black, and she thought the moon was unusually faint. Nevertheless, Nolie held up her watch and squinted—it was just past one in the morning. Then, the crunching gravel completely stopped, and Marie and Cora slumped suddenly forward. They had arrived.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was hard to remember what happened, exactly, after everyone had piled out of the car. Cora didn’t even remember getting out. When she had finally woken up, it was in a four poster bed with morning sunlight pouring in through the windows, which was fine with her. She wasn’t someone who questioned, as long as she got her way. Especially if a servant happened to come in with a soft-boiled egg in an elaborate eggcup, toast, and fresh-squeezed juice on a silver tray.
So for Cora, the first morning at the Red House was a good one.
When Marie opened her eyes, the first thing she noticed was that her nose was completely stuffed up and she had a headache. There were no tissues to be seen. She stumbled up and down the hall in her rumpled dress from yesterday, only to be told by a passing servant with an empty tray there was a washroom right in the back of her own bedchamber. This made Marie feel distinctly foolish. Having her own breakfast served to her in her own bedroom was only a very slight comfort, so even as she ate, sitting up against two pillows, she had a creeping feeling that the day wasn’t going to improve. Marie sneezed loudly and dropped her toast.
Nolie woke up the most tired of the three, having not slept a wink on the way there. There was a huge window that looked out over the grounds and the main road right across the room from her bed, which delighted her. As soon as breakfast came, she changed into fresh clothes and ate her eggs sitting on the window seat. The sun shone brightly from behind the trees. The Red House had a very romantic, old feel to it—the feel of a majestically ancient place that wasn’t going anywhere. Magnolia smiled and set her plate on the floor. That feeling was always a good sign.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
At eight thirty exactly, the three of them met in the sitting room. Cora seated herself immediately, directly in the middle of the settee that faced the fireplace. Nolie and Marie found themselves in matching armchairs opposite her.
“Cora. Please tell me again why we’re even here.” Marie’s voice sounded hoarse and she seemed paler than she should be.
“Are you okay? You look terrible.” Her face was concerned, but at the same time Cora played with the lacy collar on her dress, as if making it clear who looked terrible and who didn’t.
There was a brief silence, and when it seemed like Marie wasn’t going to reply, Nolie broke in.
“What are we doing, for real, at a mansion? Just tell us again the exact reason you dragged us here, because I can say for both of us that we’ve lost track.”
Her good mood was disappearing rapidly just being around her cousin. She crossed her arms over her chest and waited.
At the same time, Cora was scowling and remembering what Magnolia had done yesterday in her anger—“STOP it!” she had yelled, over what Cora couldn’t remember—and then forced both her neat gloved hands down into a mud puddle. She exhaled sharply and still did not reply.
Marie was thinking only of how she felt horrible and headachey, and how she wished—wished so badly---she never would have had to come here in the first place.
Bitter feelings were floating around the room. A draft crept in from under the door, chilling their bare toes. The fire popped and sputtered.
Friday, February 17, 2012
The first chapter of something I just began.
Cora, Marie, and Magnolia sat together, cramped into two small seats. All three of them had identical black trunks resting on their laps with initials stenciled in white paint—
And all three had the same blank faces, made empty by six days of travel. They sat in silence and watched the road stretch in front of them and the sky stretch behind them. The air of the car felt still and heavy, like it was hanging around them in great folds, in the way of musty velvet curtains.
It was Magnolia who was making such comparisons in her head, thinking absently how the sky was billowing like sun-bleached cloth and how the road ahead was a single line on the map of her life: hand drawn, wavering, and all alone. It gave her a funny feeling, rendering her very existence as a piece of paper. It wasn’t a bad feeling, though. She closed her eyes in a meditative sort of way, to help along further analogies.
It was Marie who was worrying. She frowned involuntarily as she gazed out the window and thought of upsetting things. First of all, why was she even here? In a car with her two least favorite people, driving unprotected to the last place she wanted to be. It should be the opposite, Marie fretted. I should be on a majestic cruise ship, sailing OUT of England, not further into it. Headed towards…New York City with…with….she didn’t even know. Marie rested her head on the window glass.
It was Cora who was fussing. She squirmed and retied her hair-ribbons and pulled at her dress, grimacing as she thought of what she might look like at this moment. In her world, six cramped hours in a car without so much as a reflective window, let alone a mirror, did things to you. And furthermore, Cora couldn’t even bring herself to look down at her gloves. She clenched her fists. Magnolia. She directed hateful, hateful thoughts at her companion but refused to look at her companion (who was inconveniently squashed next to her.) Angrily she produced her wire brush from her handbag and began to groom her suede boots to further perfection, just to keep her mind off things.
The car sped along under the immense grey sky, and each girl’s thoughts floated out and up, up to join the clouds above them.