Thursday, May 24, 2012

Still Waters Run Deep

He came into her life after it had been ruled by violence.  She, too young to know, too old to care but overwhelmed by his attention and affection. She fell hook, line and sinker for a drifter, a handsome younger man. Loved only marginally less than the child conceived by rape; the other treasure of her life.

They were thick as thieves, tight as a drum, joined at the hip. Whatever clich√© described the bond between Maria and her daughter Estelle, barely described the golden tie that bound them.  That was Maria’s perspective. Estelle had been born after an encounter with violence yet loved as a child of fortune. Maria was besotted with her daughter. Estelle knew her mother.
He on the other hand, was besotted with Maria.  People never understood how a woman so alone, so destroyed by her past, could find a partner so sweet, so gentle.  The man in her life loved her more than life.  He was gentle, kind, understood the delicacy of her mind.  For her mind was a storm.  Thoughts of mistrust, delusions of grandeur, the fear of the dark, Maria fought persistent and constant battles with the voices in her head.
‘He’s cheating on you,’ they would say. ‘He looks at other women you know?’
She occasionally won the battle but the war raged on as voices persisted. ‘There is another, there might be many…’
She busied herself with domestic duties.  She played music loud; so loud that the walls reverberated.  She read.  She swam, allowing the cool stones of the river bed to massage her back, while its crystal fluid ran over her body.  She found solace in the river.  The trickle of water, the sound of birds, the deafness it afforded as she submerged her head and drowned the voices beneath its flow.
It was on one of those days wrapped in sticky heat, as cricket’s and grasshoppers deafening drone subverted all other sound, that she saw them.  Sherolled against the smooth  pebbles of the riverbed, righted herself and crept towards its grassy, willow-shaded edge.  There they were the child she loved, and the man she adored.  As the sun cast shadow beneath the stony bridge, she crouched beneath the trees and watched their exchange.  At sweet 16, her daughter, Estelle, was in the embrace of a man twice her age.

What she sees, a lucid mind would piece together.  What she knows, the same mind would evaluate.  What she assumes, a cool head would rationalise.  But she does not have a lucid mind nor sane thought, not even a cool head - despite the dripping locks, and droplets of river water massaging her skin, her mood becomes hot and the wiring in her brain begins to arc . 

What she sees is a thoughtless lover.  What she knows is that he is being unfaithful. What she assumes will be her undoing.  She is deaf to their conversation.  The babbling of the brook beneath her feet and the incessant pitch of insects escalating, preventing her from hearing the conversation.
“You know I love your mother, you know I stayed with her even though sometimes she acts crazy?” He holds Estelle close and she nuzzles into his shoulder.  Slender fingers push a lustrous lock behind her ear with the tenderness of a lover’s touch, a father’s care. “I can’t stay with her Estelle.  She is suffocating me with her neediness.  You do understand that, don’t you?”

The teenager embraces him, brown arms clinging as if it is her last moment on earth, desperation and sadness filling her once bright eyes.  She falls to her knees, her hands dragging from his chest, face leaning into his thigh before he gently pulls her upwards and kisses her; wraps her in his embrace.
“I’m sorry my darling, I will stay in touch. I love you as if you were my own.”  He passes her a note which he folds and kisses.  Estelle takes it from him, her hand lingering long in his, and presses the squared paper to her lips.
Maria watches from the bank.  A slow rage begins burning inside, evaporating the cool and quiet effects rendered by a momentarily calming stream.  Of all the people to be unfaithful, she never suspected her own daughter.  The voices chant ‘Cheating child…  Teenage whore…  Devil’s spawn.” As she remembers her own lurid past, she projects the harlot’s curse, “Like mother, like daughter. The voices are evil in their persistence today.

She rises from the shadows and dresses with haste.  Maria creeps unnoticed through the curtain of draped willows until she is beneath the sandstone bridge.  As he walks away, her daughter falls once more on to her knees and sobs into a tiny square of paper, scrawled with words of affection in his hand and a contact number, should she ever need him.
“What have you done?  What have you done?” Her mother screams.
Taken by surprise, Estelle knows the nature of unbalanced love.  Estelle well remembers the hand of unjustified punishment caused by little more than tensions, alcohol and hormones.
“Mom, what’s wrong with you, what’s the matter?” The question from Estelle is fraught with faux concern.  Her own heart already broken by the departure of the only man she knew as her father.
“I knew I couldn’t trust you.  I knew I couldn’t trust him!”  The hatred in her mother’s eyes is enforced by bitter words, “He was mine, mine alone!"  I’ve seen the way you look at him, the way you idolise, the way to flirt and tease.  It’s enough, it’s too much.  He is all I have once you've gone.”
Maria rushes at the girl and catches her as she rises to her feet.  Her hands around her throat, still tear filled, and push her backwards into the free flowing stream.  Estelle struggles between sobs and a newfound terror.  She knew her mother was unbalanced, odd.  She knew her mother heard voices.  She knew her mother was jealous, difficult and possessive, but above all she knew her mother loved her –until now.
Maria’s bony hands clasp tight around the girl’s neck.  Strength summoned through demons turned the petite body face down into the water.  Estelle’s struggle is short lived and feint. Within minutes she has been claimed in violence, as she was in conception but by the same stream that only moments ago, had brought her mother peace.
The drums begin pounding inside Maria’s brain.  Where is he?  The traitor, the paedophile.  She looks up from her handiwork and scours the path beside the bridge.  The stream once with its quiet lulling rhythm is now pounding in her head.  Rapids rushing, thundering falls; they are an ominous call to a battle that must be won.  He must pay for his infidelity; he must justify the end and the means.  Crazed, confused, she resolves that no woman will have him, none than other than her.
She looks back once more at the place where her daughter lay, the body has disappeared beneath the river’s surface.
Trent Marshall has fished here for many years.  May through to July the trout run and he becomes a popular man at home.  Mrs. Marshall happy to claim the product of his leisure allows him to indulge and spend hours making flies, casting lines and enjoy rare solitude beside the languid river.  As he sits beneath the willows chowing down on homemade rye bread sandwiches, swilled intermittently with homemade Ginger beer, he sees her.
A woman.  The glimpse of red fabric beneath a dour grey trenchcoat, muddied at its hem. She is pale, thin with a hint of fading beauty, and kneeling beneath the bridge. Her bony hands frantically separating the bull rush reeds that have accumulated during dry times, and the slower pace of water flow.  Her face is distraught and her movements frenetic.  He wonders what she’s looking for but he’s never had the courage to approach her.  Like so many observers of odd behaviour, he is a watcher, a waiter, not one to become involved.
“Just another crazy.”  He assumes .He packs a rod and reel and the day’s catch of two sizeable trout into his tackle box. He glances once more over his shoulder at the woman who has become a familiar sight.  He mumbles something to himself about how these people should be taking care of, put somewhere safe, and how he pays taxes to provide facilities for such weirdos.  And yet he is somehow fascinated by a woman who could have once been beautiful yet has clearly lost her mind.
“Trent, do you remember that young man,” his wife asks as she dutifully scales a trout in preparation for frying.
Her husband is preoccupied with the precision of winding a fly. His burly fingers are struggling with the delicacy of such a task. “What young man?” He doesn’t raise his head.
“That young fellow that came to do some yard tasks for us, you remember, he was a musician or an artist or some such thing.  Painted the shed, tidied up the attic, even got that old Buick going?  Nice young man he was.”
“Indeed he was, what about him?”
They found him dead.   Throat cut and face down by the side of the road near Maria Markham’s place.  I wonder what became of her?  Odd woman that but I heard they were an item once.” Her prattling continues extolling the virtues and woes of age differences as he winds nylon around feather and holds his handiwork up to the light
“Stop your gossiping woman.  Tragic about the young fellow but no point wondering.  The police will sort it out soon enough.  None of our business it isn’t…  None of our business.”
A rational mind would never have committed the act.  A rational mind with criminal intentions would have far better covered her tracks.  A passionate mind filled with voices and misconceptions followed a young man and his suitcase to a lonely bus stop, late one Friday night.  A mind halted by jealousy, assumption, misconception, guilt and the delusion of betrayal, followed a one-time lover.  The confrontation began with tears and pleas, followed by accusations and irrational ravings.  No matter how he tried to explain the constriction she had caused, how patient he had been, how he held her during the nightmares and reasoned with her during her outbursts –no matter how he told her that he loved her how beautiful she once was, how she needed to get help, but he just needed space, her blue eyes glazed. They had even embraced and her pleading ceased.  He had kissed her and told her he’d be back before he saw the glint of steel and felt its stinging cold.
After, she meandered with vague purpose towards the river washing her bloodied hands in its cool embrace.  She began mumbling about fish and whores and begging for the return of a daughter bonded by a golden thread.  It was there that she felt the grasp of invisible juvenile hands around her ankles.  It was there that she surrendered willingly to the call of a water nymph, and slid silently beneath the crystal flow.
It was there that Trent saw her up close for the first time, face down, her body entangled among the reeds. Not the odd rambling woman in nondescript clothing, but a slim red sati-clad corpse, her lipstick still apparent on water-swollen lips.  Her hair, dark and wild, swept across her eyes by the flowing stream.  She was beautiful and peaceful. He swore she was smiling.
He never told his wife that he was the one who discovered Maria's body.  He feared she would not scale the fish that he caught there had she known.  Yet for years afterwards he would cast his flies, reel in his line in the hope and wild fantasy that somehow she still existed beneath the rivulets. Occasionally, he’d catch a glimpse of red…and wonder.

Posted for The Tenth Daughter of Memory Under The Water's Surface, Heartbreak; The War That Follows


  1. smiles...nicely spun tale helen and i am sure no easy feat with your injury...i might have built the tension a bit more in the struggle between mom and daughter but i like your close to that part comparing it to piece...

  2. Good one. I can picture this on the small screen on a show like Alfred Hitchcock.

    They all ended up dead, yeah? I wasn't sure about that, with the juvenile hands around her ankle. Who was the woman in the reeds searching? Mother or daughter? I'm guessing the daughter if she's also the beautiful woman in red, maybe searching for the note, but I'm not sure.

    Did you do this with voice recognition software? If so, pretty impressive.

  3. quite the meandering tale of murder and mayhem, right from the mind of a raving lunatic i suppose. I likes it