Listen to a podcast of Jessica Maybury's 'Scarlet Carson.'
Auntie Bea died because she had thrown herself from the highest room of Auburn and onto the widow's walk below. I'm not exactly sure why she did this, but my mother seemed to be of the opinion that it had something to do with love.
It was more romantic to assume this than to acknowledge the fact that Auntie Bea was quite probably insane.
It was a grey day, and she was dressed in an old lace dress when she opened the lattice on the iron-wrought window. The windows in Auburn are complex, whimsical affairs. Auntie Bea opened the lattice daintily, as she did all things, and stood up onto the window seat in one movement. I suppose she thought that the lace dress added an intertextual touch to the proceedings. I wonder if she hesitated. I wonder if the wind played softly with her hair. That high up, one can smell the whisper of the sea to the west, and the wind is always soft and slightly warm, not like on ground level, where it seems to harbour a desire for skinning and eating.
I imagine the wind pressed the dress against her, outlining her thighs. Her body was still soft and firm, the breasts high - she was a childless spinster of thirty five, my Auntie Bea. Twenty years younger than my mother, she was more my sister than my aunt.
I found her jewelry in a safe in Number Eight which I busted open with a sledgehammer. I wear her rings.
She hesitated, looking out over the rose garden and the fields beyond, the distant village, the water on the horizon. Her feet were bare. She had the unused feet of a young girl. Maybe she didn't mean to fall. Maybe she just wanted to look at the sky. Maybe the wind took her, pulling her off and out to dance. She danced her way down to the widow's walk, my Auntie Bea, doing a rusty Charleston for the benefit of Smark, who was pruning back the trees, and who saw everything. He looked up at the sound of the opening window - it was cold, the sound carried - and pushed off his cap in shock at the sight of my dancing aunt. She floated down to the widow's walk but then time caught up with her. The smack of her body against the granite appalled the garden. The firethorn recoiled. Nothing ever grew on that spot again - by that I mean weeds. Mother used to place the first roses of the year into a vase in that place, to honour her sister. Roses were Beatrice's flower, she used to tell me over and over again, sadly, as though this was the first time.
The vase is still there, and the roses have run amok.
In the first few days of my time in the warehouse, I thought often of those roses. They crept up through my mattress into my dreams. It was the first time I had ever been really, truly, alone. The roses seemed to know that, to smell it somewhere in the air; they followed me everywhere, sprouting up from the buckling slabs in the kitchen, spreading their incarnadine hands over the ceiling. No, I don't believe in ghosts - I refused to believe that these roses represented the lingering soul of my Aunt Beatrice, for such things have indeed been suggested to me.
In the warehouse, I found many things difficult. I had never cooked for myself before. I had never dressed myself before. On the second morning, I took eight minutes to lace up my shoes. They were loafers. They were the only shoes I had brought with me from Auburn. The eggs I tried to poach stuck to the pan. My porridge burned.
It should be understood, however, that I never once tired of the situation. I was glad to be out of claustrophobia, away from petty family politics, the increasing eccentricity of my sister, the cold silence of my father, who had not spoken more than five words since my mother's death.
The day before Christmas Eve, I found myself in her chambers. Mother's I mean. I must have liberty to tell my story the right way up, for once. Nothing is so important as it being finished. In the third week of the warehouse, I sat myself down to tell this tale. I wrote furiously while the boiler broke down and the heating stopped around me, while the water got cut off, my credit cards declined and everywhere, everywhere, the scent of roses.
About the author:
Jessica Maybury is a writer and musician living in Galway, Ireland. Her work as appeared in Dogzplot as well as various anthologies. Scarlet Carson is an extract from a novel tweaked around to turn it into flash.
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