Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for Yvette

She had told me we would call the girl Yvette even before she knew it was a girl. It was a name with long roots in Geraldine’s family and my interest in a name had gone no further than flitting through a book of baby names and arriving on the name “Gertrude.”



There was a forcefulness about Geraldine on this point and others that related to the baby, such as decking the room out for a girl before we knew the sex. Inevitably, Geraldine was right. For two months we did the perfect designer family thing. We built cribs and lined up wallpaper in the turret room overlooking the pool and the gentle hills. Anyone who saw us there touching each other lightly with the late afternoon sun in our hair would have imagined us to be the perfect couple in our designer villa overlooking the Umbrian countryside. I was a successful painter and Geraldine was pretty and wan, even in the late stages of pregnancy and surrounded by her pale blue vases and window boxes choked with camellias.



Despite the perfect symmetry of our lives, I would catch myself wondering. I would see Geraldine’s far off expression and ask her about in on occasions.  She would tell me of her homesickness for France and the smell of fresh croissants from the tiny bakery on the corner of her street. She would wake up from bad dreams about cold hours spent under stained glass windows amid the statutes of the dead. I wondered sometimes at our rootlessness and displacement and how we never fit into any landscape like the ruddy faced peasants in the work of Constable.

Yvette got in the way of our circumspection. Geraldine was right, of course. She was born with a healthy set of lungs and appetite in the small hospital of the nearby town. I had been born in a vast industrial hospital overlooking the smoke stacks of Manchester. I marveled that anyone could come into the world to the sound of bells and the sight of the old palace basking in the morning sun. It was a landscape to visit, not to be part of.

From the outset the child displayed a strong will. I took to painting her screaming, to the consternation of Geraldine who wanted me to help with the feeding. My brush was unfiltered. I painted Geraldine breast feeding her and the child’s bizarrely blue eyes. In those days all of my senses were heightened. The sun seemed to shine every day and I saw the world again with child-like clarity.

One weekend Gracie came to visit with her fiancé, a fine fellow who had studied classics at Oxford. They had driven a classic MG over from Britain and were heading to see the antiquities of Rome. Gracie looked over my sparkling new collection of paintings, the ones that the very colors of Umbria danced out of the canvass on.
“They are splendid,” she said, her Champagne tipping over on the bare floor. “Not a poor person in sight.”
We drank and talked into the night. Gracie’s fiancé had a knack of bringing the excesses of the Roman emperors to light in the most vibrant and hilarious ways, even Caligula who was by most accounts mad and frightening.

Later Gracie squeezed my arm as she headed upstairs to bed. “Who would have thought you would become my clever, witty and successful brother while Monty slops out in an Italian jail?” she said.
I had a vision of my cousin hunched over that was not altogether pleasant. One evening down by the pool I saw another figure doubled over. It was Geraldine. I crept closer to her but she did not hear me. I heard suppressed sobs coming from the hunched figure. It not occurred to me that I had not seen Geraldine for many hours.

I look her slender arm. “Geraldine. What’s up love?”

She turned to me and her face was a shocking mass of smudged mascara. I pulled her closer but she said nothing.

“What’s the matter?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me.”

Still she was looking over the darkened hills and a small rim of lighter sky where the moon illuminated a cloud.

“It’s pretty here Campbell, but so much space. So empty.”

I saw a pale pinkness on her hands. A residue of blood, perhaps. There was something desperate and unhinged in her voice.

“Geraldine. What have you done with Yvette?”


No sooner had spoken the words than I heard a wail from the baby from an upstairs room that sounded high pitch and off-key.  I sprang up from the marble bench I was sitting on and ran like a madman  toward the balustrade that led to the child’s room.

9 comments:

  1. Gahhhh! What has Geraldine done??? You can't leave us hanging like this :P

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    1. well you can always check tomorrow's :)

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  2. Geraldine wouldn't... would she?
    Post-partum depression setting in perhaps?

    I'm visiting *in a daze* from the A to Z Challenge. One more day...
    Thank you for visiting my blog.
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Thanks for visiting back Michelle - sadly i failed to hop as much as I wanted to..

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    2. Me too...
      Well, I suppose every challenge is different...

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  3. Blimey! You do realise you've only got tomorrow to tie up ALL the loose ends? I've enjoyed this a lot,David, thank you.

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    1. so glad you liked it Mark - indeed much wrapping up tomorrow.

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  4. Late to this party!

    I need to get myself back to 'A'. Nice stuff Sir.

    Congrats on getting to the end of the challenge.

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  5. well there's always Z - thanks for stopping by and your comments.

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