The Toll of Blue Sky Thinking
The bright March sky was a flat reprimand. Sylvia avoided meeting it. Straightening her rigid net curtains, she glanced sideways at the day’s nagging blueness. Thick and opaque, weighted with a strip of lead, the nets cramped the light, keeping it like folded ice. She moved to the kitchen and slanted the blind against the sun’s reaching fingers. She would not be lured out.
There had been safety in winter gloom. The chill, damp months had been her friend; had given her excuses aplenty. Her heart did not want to be woken. Darkness was a numbness she had got used to. Daffodils disturbed her. They glared their yellowness, trumpeting change. Time was moving in the wrong direction. She wanted the past again; the self she used to be.
The armchair was an embrace. Slumped, head down against the future, Sylvia longed for the years that had given her the best of her life. The date-arrested calendar above her head was holding back the worst of times, but the days kept on bringing them anyway.
Molly pushed the handwritten note through the letterbox; muted lilac paper, a picture of violets (somehow soothing) her carefully chosen words below in blue ink – an invitation to tea. Should she really be writing an invitation to something like tea? What did other people do? It felt, in this case, like the right thing. A cautious move; not too sudden. Face to face might be too much.
Molly pictured herself laying the tea table, gracing it with her grandmother’s white lace tablecloth, her mother’s rose-patterned tea service; each an inheritance she didn’t deserve. She imagined her own hands fulfilling the gestures performed for her countless times by hands aged and worn. Her assertions across the tea table had pushed her cup towards them, daring them to fill it with something new, something impossible. Breaking brittle biscuits, she had sipped tea with a sense that communion was pointless. Her terms had been strict. They had failed to apply to anyone except herself, alone…
Molly had only fully glimpsed her neighbour once in the short time since moving to this street. Molly had knocked on the door, wishing to borrow milk. She had noticed that her neighbour had deliveries from the milkman. Everything seemed to be delivered to the door – groceries, parcels… invitations to tea. The door didn’t deliver to the world. The world came knocking. When Molly had knocked, it had opened on a sad faced woman, her expression somehow a darkening of the shadows in her hallway. In that grainy interior, loneliness had grown into a beast that prowled the threshold. The woman held it back by the collar, her eyes turned down in self-conscious defeat.
Ever since that moment, the woman – Sylvia – had preyed on Molly’s mind, mixing with memories of her mother, her grandmother, the ways in which Molly had, over and over, let them down. She did not like to contemplate her past, or the person she used to be. It had been the worst of times. But it was behind her now. The daffodils in Sylvia’s garden were like sentinels to the future. Molly would make amends. Not to her mother, not to her grandmother; not directly anyway. Her regrets gathered round the fact that it was too late for that now. But, she could change; move forward.
As she posted the invitation through the letterbox, pulled her fingers from its spring, Molly thought of the poet John Donne. She pictured him in the old St Paul’s, its stone-cold space swimming with the multi-faceted gleams and shadows of diverse minds. She imagined them gathered together in a net of words by the poet dean, whose journey through the passionate life had washed him to a shore where ‘No man is an island.’
No woman neither.
Returning to her kitchen, Molly wrote in the date a few days ahead on her calendar – ‘Tea – with Sylvia.’ She would keep on knocking.
“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls,” she said to herself, resolute, flicking the calendar to look ahead at the months that would be her change.
“It tolls for thee.”
Melanie Doherty lives in South Gloucestershire. She has had the itch to write from a very early age. In past years, several of her short stories for children were published in magazines – but more recent times allowed very little space for her inner storyteller. For her, this chance to attempt a piece of flash fiction was a timely prompt to let it spread its wings again! Melanie blogs at http://bookishnature.wordpress.com/