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Posted: Feb 10 2017, 01:17 PM
Joined: 21-February 11
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She had not wanted to come here, but now it felt inevitable. It was like sitting up in bed, with her feet hovering just above the cold wooden floor, knowing she would have to stand – and yet, wishing she could lie back down. Margaret made a great many things feel inevitable, mostly with this odd sense that she had to be going somewhere, doing something. Margaret was in constant motion, like the hands of a clock, marching onward into eternity. Her presence was haunting. It was the only thing holding Iris together.
Among Margaret’s many quirks was her shamelessness, her habit of being around Iris at any given moment, no matter the state of undress. It would have felt sensible if the other woman had presented herself as a maid or a servant, but she never did; her initial bedroom appearances had been spectacularly unnerving. There was a way that Margaret seemed to glow in the moonlight, and the brown of her eyes shifted to a malevolent purple. She stood at the edges of the room, watching Iris or staring out the window, indifferent to Iris’s discomfort. Yes, haunting was the right word.
One night, tucking her feet under the covers, Iris asked her, "Are you a demon?"
Margaret shrugged. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, tracing a pattern on the coverlet. “There are different words for it.” And that was all she would say on the matter, keeping silent watch at the foot of the bed, until Iris fell into an uneasy sleep. There she remained until morning.
Still Iris didn't know what it was that Margaret wanted - only that she would engage in long, drawn-out conversations dedicated to the most uncomfortable kind of introspection. These interactions seemed to be fulfilling in themselves, because Margaret never told her any particular action to take in the wake of them. All they did was talk, and Iris hated her. Sometimes Margaret would vanish for days, then just as suddenly reappear, usually bypassing some locked door, as if to make a point. Then, they spoke again, and something would change. Something inside Iris would shift, as Margaret’s endless motion became contagious.
Iris didn't want to go back to London, but Margaret hadn't told her not to, and that felt like reason enough to go. Margaret had hinted at it enough times that it seemed like there was no getting out of it, even though a hint did not constitute a direct order, even though Iris did not believe that the strange, gnawing feeling inside her was anything more than curiosity. It was raining when they got out at the train station. Margaret had an umbrella at the ready, and Iris leaned into her shoulder.
"Where are we going?" Margaret asked.
"To a place we used to stay."
“We?” Margaret smiled. Iris did not deign to respond.
When they got there, to the little flat, there were men moving boxes. They were hunched men with punched-in noses, carrying boxes and dragging furniture, loading it into horse-drawn carts parked on the street. Iris stood on the sidewalk and watched, dumbstruck. Her mind couldn’t accept what she was seeing until she saw the yellow tassels of a pillow jutting from the top of a box.
She half-stepped in front of one of the men, causing him to shift the box in his arms. "What are you doing here?" Iris strained to make her voice polite. With effort, she summoned up her small, sweet smile. She wanted to shout at all of them. She wanted to scream. Stop! Those are mine!
"Mister's sold the flat and giving away the stuffs," the man told her. His voice told of the conflict between getting rid of the box and loitering to talk to a pretty missus. "Mister's gone somewhere."
"Giving it away?" She managed to sound curious, instead of incredulous. Margaret stood beside her, silent, and the man did not so much as look at Margaret.
"Yes, Miss, to the orphans and the like." He shrugged. The weight of the box won his attention, and he resumed his short walk to the cart. The box landed in it with a soft thud, and the man fell in line with the other men, marching back to the house for another.
Iris felt like the next great wind was going to blow her away. She leaned harder against Margaret. Margaret put a hand on her shoulder.
"What is happening, Margaret?" She understood the literal nature of what was happening. Men were putting boxes into a cart. The pillows were being given to the orphans. It was the meaning of the happening that she could not accept, the significance of the gesture. Ariel was supposed to be waiting for her at the flat. He would have left the spare key under one of the gargoyles that guarded the little lawn. She could have sat in the pillows and waited for him, or remembered him a little while and run away. The pillows were being given to the orphans. There was no flat.
"We were too late," Margaret sighed. She did not sound surprised. "Now he's really getting into the swing of it."
"The swing of what?" What was there to swing for, to swing with, when there was no flat, no sunshine, no little desks?
"Oh, I guess you could call it the swing of change.” Iris heard the tone in Margaret’s voice that signaled a lecture. “We have missed our chance to intercept him. Now he's really dedicated to forgiving you."
"Why's he throwing our things away, if he forgives me?" Our things. They had things together. They were being loaded into a cart. Iris felt like she was going to be sick.
"These are the things of your past. One has to let go of the past to accept the present."
"I'm the past." She meant to say it with a question mark, but lost it along the way.
Margaret sighed again. "Indeed you are, my dear.” She patted Iris on the shoulder. “And you're not going to be a very convincing present, looking like this."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that before, you might have had a chance at..." Margaret paused. She looked up at the gray sky, at the rain that came down upon them. The men moving the boxes ignored them both now, as if they were invisible. "You may have still gotten him to shoulder most of the blame for your leaving, and your unhappiness. He might have listened, against his better judgment." She laughed. "Against Regus. But we've dallied. Now you’ve actually got to go and make something of yourself."
"I wasn't making something of myself?"
"You were and you weren't. Being a child is, in part, about doing nothing in particular, making mistakes. Wandering doesn’t necessarily guarantee becoming."
"Am I supposed to be on… some sort of schedule?" Iris felt something now. She felt bitterness, a deep, abiding bitterness – because Ariel hadn’t waited. He was intent on doing things his own way, on his own timelines, and if she didn’t go along with him, he would make her suffer. She laid back down in the bed of her hatred, and she was filled with as much relief as despair.
"No, there's no particular schedule. Everyone does things in their own time, in their own way."
Iris bristled, then laughed. "So why am I even here? Trying to catch up with someone else's schedule?"
Margaret closed her eyes. "It isn't that you need to, or have to." She opened her eyes to slits. They glowed purple. The rain picked up, pattering harder on the umbrella. "It is like a splinter, Iris. If you don’t pick out a splinter, it sinks deeper. As it sinks, it becomes infected, and festers.”
“I do believe I picked out Ariel a long time ago.”
“No,” Margaret said. “You didn’t. That is why we are here.”
Was there any escape? There was no freedom in Paris – no freedom in contempt, no freedom in forgetting. London was being washed away, by change and the rain. There was only the pain, that throbbing beneath the surface, an ache that ebbed and flowed but never went away entirely. Iris knew nothing, but on faith alone she felt Ariel at the center of it. There was something she needed from him. She just did not know what.
“I’m tired,” she said. “Let’s find something to eat, and rest.”
“Yes,” Margaret said. “Yes.” She followed Iris with the umbrella as Iris turned away from the flat, not bothering to lift the edge of her dress as it dragged in the growing puddles on the sidewalk, the puddles that surrounded the little garden gargoyle that guarded the house key, where it would lay, forgotten, forever.