You may remember that I posted a Karl Lagerfeld film (featuring Pharrell Williams, Cara Delevingne as ghosts & Géraldine Chaplin and Coco Chanel) last year in winter, just as it released. This year, I wondered what might happen if I showed it to a few authors of varying interests, talents and skills and asked them to use it as their inspiration to write a piece of flash fiction in our theme of Winter Horror. This series is the result and my first try at editing and curating for other authors for a short fiction project. I hope you enjoy their stories during this month. ~Mimielle
Now and Forever, Love Grown Cold
He is always there, from late at night to early in the morning. When she is sick, when she is tired, he silently watches, holding the bucket while she retches or soothes her face with a scented cloth when the sickness is not severe enough for vomiting. He is quiet but his presence is large, a looming shadow in front of the window- a soft sound as he shifts in his chair, turning the pages of the book he always has in hand. Faint sounds of the city come and go as the light waxes and wanes, early darkness now falling with the winter chill. The streets being narrow and the buildings high, it was sooner still than in other places. It is a dark city in general, pollution hovering like a malignant haze clinging to the rooftops and choking the throat.
Would the illness pass, or would she continue to be sick for the entire duration of her lying in? To discover you were pregnant in early winter brings the pleasant thought of a summer birth, but the chill and stillness of winter also brings with it some worries- will the fuel hold out, will I be able to continue to work at all, will my doctor be sympathetic, will my baby be healthy if I can eat only one meal a day?
She sleeps again and wakes. She was weaving in and out of a dream, seeing hazy vignettes of a summer trip to the seaside flashing by, echoes of her laughter and glimpses of splashing in the tide pools with a smiling man who is now somber and sits silently beside her, preoccupied and expressionless.
He had not wanted a baby at the time and now, 3 months into the pregnancy, has not warmed to the idea. Everything remains cold. Their greetings, their conversations, their kiss goodnight are as cold as the biting chill of the winter air that creeps under the door, impossible to ignore.
That summer is behind them, now and forever.
She turns and makes a small sound and he looks up from his book, folding it closed, considering his words before speaking. “I will go out to get some air and some food for tonight,” he states quietly. “Will you be all right here alone for a time?”
“Yes. When you come back, can we…?” she replies, her voice catching because she wants to say more but the words do not come.
“Very well, I will return soon.” He does not want to hear the rest of her question once he has the answer to his own.
She sleeps and wakes again. Wakes alone in the gloom that is daytime, sounds of the city louder now. Horses drawing their carriages down the cobblestone streets, people walking by, and the distant barking of a dog. London is still industrious and noisy, even on such a bitter winter day. She feels a bit better, her stomach settling and her mind feeling clearer as she ponders the future again. The worries resettle on her shoulders, and she sighs and decides to bathe before he returns.
While heating the kettle, she fills the hip bath with cold water and unbraids her hair. The long pale tresses softly cling with static as she brushes them through. After pouring the hot water, she bathes quickly. She redresses in her second clean nightgown, rebraids her hair and pins it into a crossed pattern on top of her head. Looking in the mirror, she is pleased with the pink flush from her bath and her condition. She sleeps again.
He returns and lets himself in quietly, putting the paper-wrapped packages in the kitchen ice box and cupboards without a sound. His eyes settle on the knives hanging over the counter- the meat cleaver, the serrated one for bread, the slim boning blade. He turns away and returns to the door of her room, pausing to listen. He hears her even breathing and finally comes to a decision:
They will not have the conversation she wants to have and he will not say the reassuring things she wants to hear. They will not speak of the pregnancy when she wakes, or argue. They will not eat the supper things he has purchased today. His eyes glisten as the winter sun comes out unexpectedly, the knives gleaming. She will not wake again.
Accidental author, virtual world princess in disguise, artist in both worlds. Likes to point with a sceptre while shopping and have guerrilla graveyard tea parties that turn into fashion shoots. BLOG
Valérie Renée Davis, a personage of particular sensibilites and impeccable taste did generously lend her editorial hand to sort out my snarled tense and generally just Made It Better.