Treintiocho

“Oh, Grannie!” cried Gabrielle to the stars. “Do you mind me marrying Dominick? Are you happy for me?”

The stars gazed down at the slim figure on the tiny balcony, the old silvered serenity of their iris light now strangely cold. Passive lonesomeness glared through the black emptiness of space, sorrowful stars blemishing the desolation with their blank faces.

“Grannie?” called Gabrielle. “Answer me, won’t you, please? You know I’ll do anything you ask me. Anything but Dominick. I can’t be parted from him again. If you don’t like it that I love him, love will never mean so much to me as it does now. Love is to be shared. You know that. Can’t you show me you know it?”

Swirling veils of lilac and grey mist dimmed the awesome lonely opalescence of the great above, distorting it to a pearly shimmer as in tears. The gentlest rain made runnels through the vacuous atmosphere, and fell with a pale patter on crusty autumn leaves.

“Could you be sad of me?” Gabrielle whispered in heartbroken surprise. “Won’t you be delighted that my life is finally coming together for the first time since you left me? Yes, Grannie: you left me. Why did you go and leave me to misery, Grannie?”

The raindrops turned to glass, shimmering mirages of vague steamy translucency and hard as arrows. Gabrielle promptly lost patience with the lack of comprehensible communication in nature.

“Why can’t you appreciate the advent of joy to my bleak existence on this bleak earth where everything is always tragedy? Your husband and my father are dead – and don’t think I don’t grieve for them too. But don’t immerse yourself in their memory, because that ruins your consideration for other loved ones.

“Death is imminent and it will come in all. I have seen men die before and I am to see men die in the future; otherwise I would possess a magical quality that induces immortality. One can lament and rejoice at the same time; see if they can’t.

You should know, Grannie. Neither of your sisters outlived you. And did you believe in eternal life, Grannie? I don’t know if I do, but I know in my soul that you will live forever, if no one else does. Heaven is the power of love. I will never forget you in love, and so you are bound to life while I live.

“Do you love me, Grannie? For you don’t seem to be overly exhilarated in my happiness.

"Your husband and my father are dead, and I’m sorry – but my mother is alive and well and she cares about me. Look to what that means to me! My best friend – the only real friend I have ever had, the only friend I have loved – is going to have a baby in February. That makes me positively sing for joy. My sister will achieve her dream: marrying into aristocracy. And then, perhaps, she will be satisfied. Then, perhaps, her arrogance will stop haunting me.

“And finally I: I, after all these years of broken dreams, am to be united forever with the one man I have ever truly and wholly loved, and this man I have loved in such a way since we met. We have come through so much, but we know that we cannot find peace but with one another. Can you not find it in your soul, which I have always held so beloved as a role model and dearest friend, though we are parted because you died, to be happy? Not for me?”

The rain ceased and the autumn wind stirred as the bulk of a restless animal that has lazed in balmy indolence all the summer, and has suddenly recognised the necessity of preparing for the pending winter and hibernation.

Its power rose as a falling object gaining momentum by time, and soon the wind had burnished the stars to mahogany and flame, and the air was ripe in warmth and amity.

With the rising of the wind came a sensation of peace within an afore-stricken Gabrielle. She could not expect Grannie to answer her in words any more than the trees or the stars could do so. Grannie was as dead as Francis Lyle, as dead as Declan Mountain. But Grannie was special. While Gabrielle loved Grannie she believed in Heaven.

Windswept, satisfied, Gabrielle bid the night goodbye and returned to her centipede-infested room. That summer the college had taken up her carpets and cleared the room of those pests the cockroaches. The rustling at night was gone; only to be replaced with a series of uncanny appearances of tiny green centipedes in the most unexpected places.

One of those unassuming wrigglies was undulating across her duvet as she set to pull back the bedclothes and drop her aching limbs onto the pleasing torso of her mattress.

Gabrielle, usually repulsed by anything that crawled, was suddenly struck with the poignant harmlessness of the insect’s courageous but quite fruitless plight. Compassionate pity transfigured her sallow-by-dark face, and with outstanding gentility she plucked the centipede from her eiderdown and released it on her windowsill.

Drawing the window down again to shut it on the outer side of the glass, Gabrielle smiled. Grannie had always been good to insects.

The End

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