Sunshine and sadness
The sunshine beat down, making the dead still air hum like static. Nothing moved. Nothing stirred. The whole forest and world rested in the maddening heat of the day. She looked up into the sky where this giant tangerine sphere blazed away, and she mopped her brow. She was hot and sweaty. Moving slowly back towards the sad little row of town houses where she called home. She heaved the panel of wood carefully and painfully slow to her house; the middle one in the row. The brightest of all the little homes, its white paint glistening in the hot sun. She thought of her house as the last good tooth in a rotting mouth. Rubbish and filth marked the other buildings, faulted by the need for their owners to work long hours just to survive rather than to maintain a nice home.
But she did, and she worked harder than any.
She heaved the panel finally in through her door, propping it up for now in the hallway. She had gotten up early that day, putting her hours in early at the little shop in town where she worked, so she could leave before five to get to the wood shop before it shut. She knew the owner well enough, and knew he never did business out of hours. And she wanted the wood today. She wanted to fix the door tonight, while she knew he would be out.
As she caught her breath in her little hallway, she sighed at the cliché of her life so far.
Married when she was just seventeen, to someone she never loved. Stuck, out of circumstance, to the man and the place for fear of having to start over with nothing. The money her parents had given her was swallowed up before she had even been married a year. Drinking and gambling away her inheritance it seemed was his favourite past time. And she let him; she knew she was indeed part of the problem. She allowed him to drink and stay out because it meant he wasn’t there, at home with her. Punching the walls and putting her down. Complaining and demanding things and putting his foot through the back door.
She went now for a glass of water, fanning her arms to cool them down as best she could as she made her way to the tiny kitchen. Her house was cool, she made it that way the best she could, but in doing so it was dark and cave like, blocking out the scorching sunlight wherever she could. Their town: plagued by tropical heat and an unrelenting sunshine that cooked and boiled everything beneath it, was something she had come to despise. She drank from a glass, looking now at the gaping hole in the door panel.
An easy fix and done before. This time she had made sure to get stronger wood, something that would so easily be destroyed. But something had been different this time. A part of her heart had splintered and snared like the bits of wood that stuck out now like vicious thin teeth. Her heart, hardened over the years and placed under a cloud of criticisms and chaos, surprised her at making her feel something. Something where everything she thought was numb.
But what was it; anger, remorse?
She wasn’t too sure. Suffering so long in the dark, it’s painful to see the light after so long. She mistook the determination for her usual war-time mentality of getting things done, carrying on and making things right. Getting the wood panel for the door, fixing it so there was no longer the yawning reminder of the open wound that was her life. Letting the dank air in. Letting the light in.
Something within was screaming. Something determined to be heard and acted upon.
She filled her glass again from the tap, drinking down the cool water. Replenishing her fluids that had escaped in her long hike from the wood-shop, and the internal steam engine that was slowly gathering force to implore her to act.
And then she heard the door go.
The front door slammed shut, not caught in any breeze that the deadened air around could muster. He was home early. Must have been a bad day. She heard the yelling in the hall, incoherent cries like the nightjars she passed on her way to work, gathering and chorusing in the trees above. Soon he was there in front of her, gesturing to the hallway, no doubt the wood panel caught in his way. He looked hot and red, his skin crumpled and dirty; burnt by the sun after the long day in the fields and the alcohol that dehydrated him. His hollowed cheeks, gaunt by a wicked life and bad teeth, threw shadows on his face making him look like an angry red skeleton fresh from the grave. He banged and blamed, flailing his arms around. Knocking things off the kitchen shelves. She would have to fix things, she always did. Clearing up his mess while he slept off his mood.
She ducked more than once, mindful not to be the target of his rage and waited for the storm to die. But she did something then she had never done before. The steam engine in her had reached its peak and burst, emptying out years of frustration and hatred in a single event. She launched the glass she held in her hand out into the air, and watched it sail over the kitchen and smash on the stone wall. She screamed loudly, like one would into a pillow, so loud it sounded like an air raid siren. Momentarily it confused him, like some animal. He stopped dead, unsure of what was happening. She was usually so passive. So subservient. Afraid to rock the boat which would lead her to drown in a deep sea of chaos.
But the mouse had roared.
He acted fast, waiting for her screaming to subside. The chemicals inside kicking into gear to save his self-preservation of a life he had constructed. A life where he was the boss. He grabbed her roughly by the hair, spinning her around and pulling her backwards. He wasn’t a big man, or even strong. But fuelled by fury and drink, he handled her like that of a ragdoll, pulling her free of the safety of her little home. Their little home.
Kicking free the remains of the broken door, and out into the scorching heat. Though the day was heavy, the sun drew up on them, an oppressive spectator in the unfolding drama. She didn’t cry out, too shocked and stunned into what was occurring. She was dragged out to the centre of the garden they had, and roughly shoved into the middle, finally free of his hands from her hair. He grabbed a chair that was propped up by the fence, unfolding the deckchair style and placing it on the grass that had shrivelled into a horrible rug of dirt and dry leaves.
He pushed her into the seat. The silence signalling, she had gone too far with the glass. Too far, and too brave to have even begun a journey on him. She sat, motionless; waiting and watching to what was to happen. She watched him find some garden trellis string, some she had bought last year to help keep the cucumber plants steady and vertical.
He was quick tying her to the chair, binding her hands and then her legs to it. She began to protest, pleading half-heartedly that she wouldn’t do it again. A lie, she knew she would. She knew then that if there were ever a next time, she would smash the glass on his skull and be rid of him forever. But he was fast, and tied a rag in and around her mouth, keeping it in place with the string. The string, which she felt now digging into her wrists.
When he was done, without a word, he stood back and quickly went back inside. She was left there, in the garden with the sun burning down on her, tied to the lawn chair. But his return was swift and carrying a bag of rubbish which he emptied all around and over her. Foul bits of food and muck covered her, lapped at her feet like a garbage tide. He returned two more times, fresh trash spirited from their neighbour’s houses, to be emptied on and around her. Crowning her as the queen of this new tragic kingdom. He threw the last empty bag away and came close, his eyes piercing hers as he bent low. Grabbing her cheeks between his fingers, pressing his dirty nails into her skin, he hissed at her.
“If you ever do that again, I will kill you.”
And he released his grip and stalked back inside the house. A diminishing monster, back into the depths.
The humiliation was as bad as the smell, but it was the flies and the sun which were the real torture. She was out there hours, cooking in a putrid heap as the flies nibbled and pecked at her like tiny vicious birds. The sun radiated an intensity that nearly caused her to faint, pushing down like the fiery hand of god.
But she survived.
Woken, out of the delirious dreamscape her survival mind had slipped her into reality, by a bucket of cold water thrown over her once the sun had set. He loosened her from the chair, not saying a word. Not able to look her in the eye. Before disappearing out, off to drink and spend more money.
In the aftermath, she collected herself best she could. She cleaned herself off and tidied the garden to keep the rats from overrunning the place. Despite her nausea, she had some bread to fend off the intense hunger and disgust that brewed and bubbled in her stomach. And then she went to her bedroom and began to pack. She did not want revenge, no good could come of that. But something had snapped within her like a broken twine around the wildflower feelings she had kept tightly bound. The spun sugar strand of patience had shattered.
She collected only what she needed, throwing it all into a bag and bringing the walls down to this part of her life. She cleared out the little box under the floorboards where he kept some money, the one he thought she didn’t know about. She put it back, empty, sealing the box to a grave of loneliness. She stripped the house of her, of the things she needed to go on with. Cutting the cord to an unhappy life there. She stood in the front room, wondering if all her life could really lie crumpled and stuffed in the small bag she held in her hand. And then she saw it, the snow globe up on the shelf.
Twinkling away through the dust at the higher realms of display. She had bought it herself, years ago. A winter market in one of the neighbouring towns had brought it into her life. She had been transfixed with the winter scene at the time, like bubbles of snow dancing in a small sea of dust in the wind. It was small, no bigger than her fist. And she had remembered placing it up on the higher shelf to give it a better chance in her life there, out of the danger zone of fists and fits.
She took it down now, unsettling the snow that had gathered in the bottom like pebbles in an aquarium. She couldn’t help herself, she shook it, making it and herself one with the disjointed feeling of a world in flux. How long she stood there, she didn’t know. No happy memories were there to be collected. Only dark shadows of the past that she wanted to put into the grave.
And then, she left.
The rest was a blur. She left the house, the street and the town. Traveling far on the little she allowed herself to spend. Finally settling in the little cottage that she lives in now, though much different from how it was when she arrived. Years of hard work had made it her home where now, she was, currently entertaining the girl from Europa. Unknowing, in part, of the little eyes who watched it all unfold, and the man of the boxes who skulked around her house.
You may be asking yourself why she never used magic to save herself from a life so fraught at the beginning. Or why she never turned her husband fittingly to a bug to squash underfoot. That too is an interesting story. For you see, once she was married, she was taken away from her family and where she had grown up. The choking rights of marriage had labelled her practically property, and her husband had concluded that she needn’t have many things in their new home. His own were suffice. What her family didn’t know, and neither did she until later once she had left, was that he had used a bit of magic himself in the first place; to marry the lady of the jars who, at the time, was just the girl with the glass like beauty.
This may sound all too convenient and easily explained away, but yes; sometimes life is that clichéd. He hoodwinked them all, sloppily as it turned out in the end. He had struck lucky one-night gambling and fretting away money that wasn’t his own. With a roll of unforeseen luck, he had acquired what he needed to enchant her and blanket them all with deception. It wore off of course, but by then she was cut off from her family and from the aged magic her own mother knew and possessed, which could’ve helped.
Things are sometimes hidden deep, before being rediscovered. Her mind had silenced all she had learned from her book growing up; and that’s the thing about the book itself, it needs to be with the owner. It needs to have a connection in order to tap that power and manifest. More importantly, it needs to come from a place of positivity. A submissive negative mind is not the soil in which miracles will grow.
But magic, and good magic, finds a way. Which is why the book came to her; posted by her mother when she knew she was safe and free. Knowing the how, or the why or the ways this magic helped find its way back to her, is inconsequential. Knowing why the sun sets and rises, won’t stop it doing so each day. What we do know is that once she was in possession again to such wonders, she did all she could to block out the sickening heat that reminded her of that horrible day. The magic she used for good, and to make an amends for the lost time where she was impotent of power which needed to breathe and thrive. Which is why it snows constantly there, and why she always feels happier cold and by herself rather than hot and suffering, surrounded by those flies.