Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Monday, January 08, 2007

My Work-in progress-novel...

The Space Between © Nicola Batty 2007.
In fact Constance Wilde fell several months before her husband did. He was sitting in the Algerian sun, with Bosie on his arm, as his wife tripped and plunged headlong down the steep staircase of the House Beautiful in Chelsea. As she fell, she knocked against one of the black and while drawings given to the couple by Aubrey Beardsley, dislodging it from where it hung on the wall half way up the staircase. The drawing came tumbling after her, the glass frame shattering as it hit the floor. Constance finally came to a halt and lay there at the foot of the stairs. She stared dully at the broken picture, the sounds of her own body thumping against the stairs echoed round and round in her head, without diminishing as echoes should. Her fall had only lasted a few seconds, but it was obviously the beginning of the end, her final descent. The house was very quiet all around her, even though her head was full of sound… children screaming and crying, her boys wanting her and needing her… and Oscar, she both wanted and needed him. But where exactly was he? She didn’t know. And so she was alone, lying there at the foot of the stairs with the weak January sunlight falling through the glass panels of the front door, touching her hair as if it were playing a game. She was glad the boys were not there to see her fall. She lay perfectly still and rigid, unable to move. She didn’t want to move to discover what damage she had done to herself. Slowly, very slowly, she flexed her fingers as she heard the rapid approach of footsteps along the hallway. “Mrs Wilde! Are you hurt?” The familiar tall, dark haired figure of their butler had never come as such a relief to Constance; he seemed like an angel, kneeling down beside her to help. His kindly face was creased with worry and concern as he helped her up into a sitting position. “Shall I fetch the doctor?” Constance leant against Arthur’s arm, feeling the soft cloth of his jacket rubbing warmly against her white face. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the thought of herself falling, falling. A picture of herself sitting there hunched up, came to her so clearly that she could feel the lines on her face drawing up together into an expression she didn’t recognise. She attempted a vague smile for Arthur but it didn’t work. She felt tender all over… and all she could think of was the absence of her boys. Her family, all broken and scattered in fragments, like the Aubrey Beardsley picture. She shook her head vigorously, trying to clear the jumble of confused sounds and images. “Thank you, Arthur… I’m not quite sure what to do. Perhaps you could help me get up… into a chair? Maybe I will be alright if I just sit for a while.” Carefully the butler helped Constance to her feet and to a chair in the hallway. Her back seemed to be encased in metal. Every movement caused her pain. As she tried to move a shoulder to make herself more comfortable, the pain was so sharp it caused her to cry out. Arthur stood abruptly, beginning to put on his coat. “I’m going to get the doctor, Mrs Wilde. I won’t be a minute.” Constance gazed after him bleakly as he hurried towards the front door. “All right then, Arthur… if you insist.” He closed the front door behind him with a bang that caused the whole house to shudder and sway around Constance, as if it were a signal for the Last Act. She lay back on her cushions, wondering what she had done to herself. Through the silence she could hear the ticking of the ornate Grand Farther clock beside her; it seemed to be measuring time, spooning each portion up to the child’s mouth, and there were her boys again. That Christmas just passed… the boys singing carols for all the guests on Christmas day… that moment of pride and happiness, the joy of Oscar beside her and the people she loved around… was that all over? Was it really all over? She sat there rigidly, waiting. She felt the silence press against the sides of her head, no longer able to feel any sharp edge of pain… but only a dull ache, a sense of dread.
MORE FROM The Space Between in RM#77.


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