All Bedlam Courses Past (part seventy-seven)
All Bedlam Courses Past
An Object in Motion
Her sister let the shirtwaist fall, one of the spaniels too interested…
In snuffling deep, as a dog near blind with age will, the scent of old crossers of his territory, hands that have patted his foolish head.
Clothes were a thing they had talked about. For that reason she’d brought Libby’s handiwork to look at, and Libby’s borrowed book of fashion plates. Another discarded offering, sitting now in some peril from the hot water bottle at Ranilde’s feet.
Élucide stitched her disheveled French knots, having no design. The scrap of machine quilted linen might be something…given knots at every cross. At the moment it was a filler of time. Time needed it.
When she had to visit, she had also to help with her mother’s letters, and show grace through these parlor afternoons. Under her parents’ roof were few of her own pursuits to chat about. There was censure in the air already; she would feel the yoke of it, if she chided the spaniel, sprang after her new shirt, said anything at all about Libby’s book, or made to take either away.
“Nildie, do you want the shutter drawn?”
“I don’t care.”
“Let me get that. Here.”
Here, she moved the book to the table, under the sofa arm behind her sister’s pillows, as she plumped these—and in passing swept up the shirt. The slats narrowed onto Ranilde’s pallor piercing little stripes.
“Luce! Why are you fiddling with that?”
“Sorry, is this better? Or like it was?”
“Luce, you are not being helpful.” Her mother spoke.
“Does she want it open?”
Where, though, was any means of negotiating this? Ranilde didn’t care. Élucide didn’t care. Mother wanted her to be helpful in a way of having such conversations all the afternoons of her life, while making busywork stitchery become a knotty pillowcase—or some other unhelpful thing.
“I don’t know,” Mother said. “Ranilde, is the light too much?”
“It doesn’t make any difference to me.”
The day before, Élucide had called on Mrs. Metz.
“Dear, I used to save my bolt-ends for Verbena, to send along with Cleome. I believe Mr. Everard…”
“Has banned poor Miss Towson.”
She watched Mrs. Metz find a handful of ribbon, then raise a face with the trace of a smile. “See if you can’t find someone who wants them. Madame Gremot, it may be, for the child…”
(2023, Stephanie Foster)