All Bedlam Courses Past (part eighty-two)
All Bedlam Courses Past
An Object in Motion
“What a frown, Luce. Go sit where the light’s better. You’ll be in spectacles.”
Do you think? I could take drama lessons. Maybe the light’s better in Paris.
“I’m not trying to be comical.”
“I’m sorry. I was thinking of this and that.”
“Geneva,” Mother said. “Is she settled?”
“In her chair, ma’am, wanting a letter to Owen, rather have you take it…”
Geneva at the door, speaking hushed for no reason. Élucide knew Ranilde hated her efficiencies. (“Don’t sit there holding the pencil like that. How can anyone think!”)
Mother unsettled herself, gripped the lamppost to rise. The spaniel rose and shuffled to her skirts.
Scene one: Monday afternoon, The Summit’s back parlor. Miss Gremot carries her stitching to the window seat
The way her parents had of talking as though things were agreed on—
And if she were unwary, for agreeing to this, to stay another few days with her sister…
“We’ll send Mr. Ziegler for your things. When I see Mr. Ebrach Wednesday, I’ll tell him about your change of plans.”
She might half-listen. Learn only later that Eugene believed her gone from his service forever; that the things were her trunks, packed with all her possessions.
The phrase made her think of Mrs. Lincoln.
Maligned for every ambit and gambit and utterance and act, and penny spent and pension sought—and had been all Élucide’s life, a figure her father read the antics of aloud, as often as the papers printed them.
What had Mrs. Lincoln done? Raised money, once, on the sale of gowns, under a naive alias; been swindled, fled to Europe. Carried home trunks of cloths and trims, insisted on taking all of them everywhere. Went to a hotel in Chicago, took the trunks, took others with her whole store of clothing. Was locked in a rest home. Was delivered to her sister’s home.
She imagined ailments…or claimed, at any rate, odd and changeable ones: the sensation of knives, the sensation of burning heat. Had recently announced—making the news, along with every sad detail reiterated—that she’d lost her sight. Editors wrote of whims, a wish for attention, wanting “her name in the papers”. Her physician, speaking to the friend who spoke to the editors, confided her eyes very weak…due to her habit of sitting in a dark room.
But the faults were collected by Americans, as Mrs. Lincoln collected her cloths and trims. The story rolled like a parade float; it could roll on without its protagonist.
You could be erased by your own reputation.
(2023, Stephanie Foster)