Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Portrait of Loneliness

Silvia trundled home in her little car.  There was a new and unexplained rattle from the engine and the choke didn't seem to be working properly.  Her gate, with the name Roskenwyn painted upon it, stood open.  A pretentious name, she always thought, for such a small and ordinary house, but that was what it had been called when she and Tom bought it, and they had never got around to thinking up anything better.
She parked outside her door, collected her handbag off the seat, and went indoors.  The cramped hallway seemed deathly quiet.  She looked for letters, forgetting that the postman had already passed, leaving none for her.  She dropped her handbag at the foot of the stairs.  The silence pressed upon her, a physical thing.  Silence, stirred only by the slow ticking of the clock on the upstairs landing. 
She went across the hall and into her sitting room, an apartment so small that there was room only for a sofa and a couple of armchairs and desk with bookshelves over it.  In the grate lay the dusty ashes of a fire, although she had not lit one for days.
She found a cigarette and lit it, and stooped to switch on the television, she punched the buttons to change channels, was bored by everything, and switched it off.  After the moment's burst meaningless voices, silence pressed in on her again.  It was only eight o'clock.  She could not, reasonably, go to bed for at least two hours.  She thought of pouring herself a drink, but already had had two with Even and Gerald, and it was best to be careful with alcohol.   Supper, then?  But she felt no healthy pang of hunger, no inclination to eat.
A glass door stood open, leading out into her garden. She threw the half-smoked cigarette into the empty fireplace and went out of doors, stooping to pick up a pair of scissors from a wooden basket. Now, with the sun nearly gone, the lawn lay dark with long shadows. She crossed the grass towards her rosebed, began aimlessly to snip off a few dead heads.
A wayward briar became entangled in the hem of her dress, snagging the material.  Impatient, angry, she jerked it free, but in her clumsiness caught her thumb on on a jagged thorn. 
She gave a little cry of pain, holding up her hand to inspect the damage.  From the tiny agonizing wound blood swelled.  A dot of blood, a bead, a trickle.  She watched its progress, a miniature scarlet river, flowing down into the palm of her hand.
As though in sympathy, tears welled in her eyes, brimmed, overflowed.  She stood there in the gloomy twilight, numbed by the misery of loneliness, bleeding, and weeping for herself.

From Voices in Summer by Rosamunde Pilcher.

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