Friday, 14 December 2012

228: Faithful Unto Death

She thought they would be together forever, like swans.  Even though she feared she looked more like the duckling sometimes, especially when she was pre-menstrual or had a bad hair day, he made her feel like a swan.  She liked it when he caressed her neck and said it curved like a sibilant S, how he loosened her scarf with his finger and exposed her skin to the air.

He said there would be no other, for ever and ever.  She knew there would be no other for her and that there never had been, not really.  The boys in college who once meant so much, the first love and the real-first love and the proper-first love, were all but forgotten.  All-thumbs fumblings in the back rows of cinemas and parental cars forgiven as naïve learning nothing more, certainly not as using any girl for fun.

She wondered about the big fluffy dress, one that made her movements along the aisle seem like gliding whilst little feet paddled along out of sight.  Deciding she would prefer a metaphorical than dress-up swan, she chose a simple silk shift that grazed her calves and draped a beak-yellow stole about her shoulders.

She tried and tried but never could carry his baby past the first few weeks.  He said it didn’t matter, that he loved her for herself, not for the heir she could give him.  She’d never thought of their child as his heir until he used that word and then she couldn’t think of it any other way.  He said her body would do what was right for itself and for them, but she felt like a bible-belt punishment for the cumulative sins of the world.

Her little feet paddled hard against the current, unseen even without the puffy white skirt.  Seemingly nobody noticed as she increasingly went nowhere, not even backwards.  Her neck trabeated and hardened against his touch as his touch became less frequent and judged her more.

He worked late a lot.  She waited a lot and tried to paddle.

Then she learnt from a TV documentary that swans don’t always mate for life.  Sometimes they divorce, if there are nesting problems.  Her nest was all gaps and no twigs and the baby swans slipped through the spaces and she flapped along anyway.

One day the lake froze round her little feet, so she unfurled her wings and flew towards the sun, curving her head onto her breast and letting the current carry her far away.

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