Monday, August 18, 2008
Behind The Glass
Rose Marple, 71, had not stepped out of her house since a broken October morning in 1966.
"And why should I? I have everything I need right here."
Fresh flowers—ordered from Miriam’s Grotto at 8:00 a.m., prompt—arrived daily, so that her guests could divine, with a glance at her parlor window, the nature of its mistress’s mood.
Sunflowers reflected a generosity of spirit. A niece, or grand-niece, materialized after months of neglect. She’d brought saltwater taffy, Aunt Rose’s favorite. Sprawled on the pink chaise, the girl shed tears for the brutishness of men…and an empty purse.
Daisies implied wistfulness for girlish days. Georgiana lugged over the photo album and dusted off the LP’s. The two sisters drank their Earl Grey tea, listening to Ella Fitzgerald croon, “Prelude to a Kiss.”
Snapdragons forbade visitors of any kind. Solicitors failing to notice this warning were to be pitied. Miss Marple’s silky tongue could sprout thorns.
But orchids? Such an exotic, sensual flower. A little too other for the Oaksville crowd. And certainly for Rose Marple, behind the glass of 233 Alice Street.
Georgiana rode her curiosity through Rose’s front door. In the parlor she discovered her sister, wearing a stiff cream dress, and matching bolero jacket. A faded Samsonite suitcase leaned against her leg.
Georgiana could not immediately locate her tongue.
“Hello, Jo, dear. The cab should be here soon. Help me with this suitcase, will you?”
Old starlight from her milky blue eyes bounced across the room. Unveiling a dust dance around the corner curio with Mother's china entombed inside.
“But Rose! What on earth?”
Her sister gave a short laugh. “Oh, well. Got to start living sometime.”
Georgiana sank into the parlor’s chaise. “But why now?”
“Since Linus’s death, I’ve been a bit silly. No, I know. Trust me.” Rose adjusted the fingers of her lace gloves. “It started that I couldn’t go out. Physically, I mean. My feet were on ice. And then it became that I shouldn’t. Like I was betraying him in the act of living. I was going to be more of a widow than any old wife, you see. I could marry him that way..."
She winced at the sunlight streaming through the window.
“And then the fear took hold.”
Georgiana’s eyes absorbed the stale, shabby room. As if it were the first time.
“And now?” she asked.
Rose turned to her. “Now--”
The cab driver. Honking twice.
“Miriam delivered orchids today, instead of Black-Eyed Susans. Imagine that.” Rose shook her head and smiled. “Clever girl.”
Striding past Georgiana into the foyer, Rose swung open the door. Confronting the blue haze of Indian Summer.
Filling her lungs, she sighed.
“I could swear I smell lilac. Can’t you?”
Georgiana could. In a way. Must have been the power of suggestion.
The orchids' petals shivered as the door clicked behind them.