Fairy Tales by Jessie Willcox Smith. Chromolithograph for book cover illustration (c 1861 – 97). Boston Public Library. Source: Wikipedia.
extract from a story by Noëlle Mackay (reblogged from Tumblr)
“She’s mad. And she hates me. I’m sure she wants to kill me.” Imogen, unusually agitated, trying too hard to keep her tone flippant, was standing in her kitchen, clutching a glass of wine far too early in the afternoon, knowing she was about to give away too much to her avid audience of one. “And she’s living in my house, looking after my children, sleeping with my husband.”
“Darling, you are so lucky and so beautiful – your life is a Victorian melodrama. Oliver is so sexy, we all want to sleep with him.”
Mark, for all the campery, had hit the nail on the head. Oliver was less of a person than an object, everyone’s object, the golden goose, there for the laying, if only you could get to the front of the queue. She had known that when she married him; she could hardly accuse him of betrayal.
Mark was so wise for such a young man, young enough to be her son, though she would never say it. He was exquisite, slender and fair, with an angelic face and solemn judge’s eyes.
Flirting with him was a courtly pleasure that relaxed her. The mind sex invented by women when they were chattels of men in tights was still liberating. She wondered if Oliver thought atavistically of her as a chattel. It would explain a lot. “Marriage is no real excuse for not loving” she remembered, but couldn’t remember the last time she had felt loving towards her husband.
Annoyingly, Mark didn’t drink alcohol. She put down her glass of wine. “It would be better if I started smoking. All we need is something to keep fingers and mouth occupied. I’m sure that’s why my mother smoked so much. She did everything else in moderation. I wish I was like her. How is your mother?”
“She is well; she is beautiful like you; she knows how to organize her life, though it is harder now my father is home so much.”
“But they love each other, don’t they? They’ve made it work.”
“They got used to being apart. It was a pact: he earned the money abroad; my mother brought us up and worked when she could.”
“And I can’t manage without a frigging nanny.” Heroically, Imogen did not pour another glass.
She looked distractedly around the gleaming work surfaces and artfully distressed furniture of the room, where every utensil and flower was coordinated for a lovely whole.
Imogen had created this order herself. She was a priestess of shabby chic, manifested in her clothes, her expensive hair-cut and make-up that did not look like make-up. She wanted everything to look natural and spontaneous, which cost her great effort.
Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875) Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Source: Web Gallery of Art.
She continued: “Is that what you’re thinking? My poor, privileged children. I hate having a nanny. I don’t know how I let it happen. Any of it. Do you feel hard done by, have regrets, about your father’s absence I mean?”
“No. He made money to make us free. My sisters and I wouldn’t have got our flats without his help. We’d never have afforded tuition fees. They thought it through.”
“And are you free? Do you feel free? I don’t. Now I think I have to welcome refugees to my spare room – the one She’s got now. And I don’t really want them. Well, I want nice ones, of course. But I can’t choose people as if they were rescue dogs or cats. I can’t face more clutter, more emotion. Isn’t that bad? To reject my White Woman’s Burden? To think that I could use refugees as an excuse to evict the nanny? Thank God I never tell the truth on Facebook.” Continue reading