Aidelle poured her eyes over the pretty painting above the fireplace.
“Why can’t you be a sign of how the day will always turn out: bright and lovely?” she asked it.
The previous day’s sun was gone, followed by clouds of dark grey and the knowledge of a stormy ahead. If there had been any signs of bright blue, they were gone with the last hints of summer. It was the end of August, after all, and Aidelle had known that the lucky days were numbered.
Around Aidelle were cardboard boxes packed full of clothes, books, ornaments, and various other things needed to complete the furnishing of the home. She rooted around in one box, the closest to her, and lifted out a pastel pink christening gown, once belonging to her infant self and which she hoped would one day belong to any daughters that she would have. With a light giggle, Aidelle swished the dress around in her arms, imagining a little girl there in a few years.
Her own dress, pea-green, and whose straps were dainty amongst the medium-set clavicle and looped around the tops of her arms, shimmered in the reflection of the dripping light-shapes from the dark of the window. The outfit, including a jacket, was too formal for a day, unpacking, like today, but Aidelle had recently come across the dress, not new, but an old gift from her mother and, as well as contrasting with her eyes- the natural brown against the vinyl green- to make both sparkle, the dress was well-fitting, leading Aidelle to smile about her well-fitted future, especially if it meant many more dresses like this one.
Suddenly, the latch on the old wooden front door clicked and Aidelle jumped, stuffing the christening dress back into the box with the rest of her outfits. It wouldn’t be fair for Phillip to see her inward dreams and to be put under any pressure to make them reality.
He himself entered the sitting room, looking glum, but he did attempt to reflect the warm smile that Aidelle gave him.
Once again, she looked outside, and came to the conclusion, with a nod to the windows, that the weather was the reason for his lack of internal sunshine.
“It’s getting horrible out there. What luck that we’re inside with each other’s warmth, don’t you think?”
He brushed the flecked raindrops off his long coat, but Phillip did not respond, she started to get worried; he was not letting her see what dulled those bright eyes of his.
Before Aidelle could say another word, Phillip took a deep breath and stepped forward.
“Aidelle, there’s something I must say…”
“What is it Phillip? You’re making me worried.”
“My love… I have to go out to war-”
“War has broken out once again. Our land needs honourable soldiers, men who can fight and men who can be used to combat the enemy’s technology. I, like my brothers, have been chosen.”
Aidelle was horrified. In her mind, it made no sense; for as long as she had known, her fiancé was a man of peace.
“Chosen? By whom? Why must you comply?”
Then an anger started to brew inside her.
“What about me?” Aidelle allowed herself some indulgence. “You are just going to walk away from me, your wife-to-be, and walk away from this growing house, to go to a war? How can you do that, Phillip?”
Her lover’s eyes lit up in anger; behind the one base emotion was spread lonely regret.
“You don’t understand, Aidelle. I am doing this for you. I have no choice, my love-”
“You have every choice.”
“I really don’t,” whispered Phillip, sighing. “It’s for you, and I’ll be back, I promise.”
“What about our wedding?”
“It’ll have to be postponed.”
“Postponed? You don’t even care enough to wed me now!”
“I do care. Why do you think…? If you cared, you’d be prepared to wait until I come home!”
“You don’t even want to do this!”
“Don’t tell me what I think!”
“I accepted the duty of being your bride because I thought you were less fickle than the rest of your family.”
“I am! Aidelle, please hear me out.”
“Phillip!” Raw tears streamed down Aidelle’s porcelain face. “If you really loved me, you would stay!”
Phillip sighed. Aidelle kept her eyes above his, avoiding the crying heart in his gaze.
“Let’s not bring love into this…” said he, slowly.
“Oh, because, of course, love counts for nothing!”
“Aidelle, I do love you-”
“No, you do not! What have you been doing all this time? Stringing me along for the sake of your family heritage?”
“Yes, I’m just a silly girl, am I?”
“Ridiculous! Please, just listen to me,” Phillip begged. “I am trying to do what will be best in the long run for you and me. All I need is your promise that you will be with me in spirit, as we cannot be together in body. The war will be over before you know it, and I will be back to protect you.”
Aidelle was not convinced. She straightened herself up and brushed off her dress, with its full-bodied shape that swept down to the ground. She was laid out immaculate, proud. Even amongst the destroyed picture of her made-up face, she tried to hold herself higher than her fiancée. But no one can accomplish the impossible.
“If you walk out that door now, I will not come to see you off. I will stay here, in this house, forever and I will not put my support towards anything you do. If you choose to leave me now, you will never get me back. Don’t you dare call me ridiculous.”
“Aidelle Masters…” Phillip tired of the argument; it was not in his veins to keep such things going.
Aidelle turned away from him and scrutinised a golden flower decorating the wall. If her mind had not been clouded with fury, she would have been fascinated by the depth of the irony; their little future family was supposed to bloom in that house, in the same way that the flowers all grew so wonderfully over the wall.
There was a movement behind her, the swinging of Phillip’s arms in Aidelle’s direction. Silence gained more weight between them. What more was to be done?
Suddenly, Aidelle whipped back around to him, just as Phillip’s hands would have touched the edged fabric of her cotton jacket. She was fury personified, but she had no words to say either. All that Aidelle was now was the uncorked pain and sorrow that she experienced from having not only her ties with a respectable family sliced, but also the only man she had ever loved running hastily into war far away from her.
That anger gripped Aidelle more than it had ever taken hold of her before. Inside, the pulse that she had concealed and regressed could no longer be compressed into fashion and smiles, instead daring to emerge as displacement towards her ungentle man. She swung her fist and it pounded, with a crash, against the mirror behind her, a deeper loathing towards her filthy image perforating the glass. A crack, a golden crack, trickled through the face of the mirror, the shards falling easily like droplets out of the frame. Little did Aidelle feel the blood that bloomed out of her knuckles, for her heart was too much agonised. She didn’t see the scene of the mirror dropping from its place as Phillip did.
For her view was elsewhere and she had already reached out to the mantelpiece and grasped the nearest heavy object that she could reach easily: the silver and gold clock. She lifted it high above her head and brought it, singing, down through the air. Wide-eyed was Phillip, as he must have known what she was about to do, and he stepped away in time not to be struck but, even so, he still tried to reach for her dainty wrists.
“Get out!” Aidelle screamed, lifting the small clock and preparing to bring it down once again.
“Get out! I never want to see you again, Phillip! You war-mongering hypocrite! You betrayer! You-”
As she ranted, Phillip gasped like a fish out of water, his mouth opening and closing, filling with silence. It was now or never.
So, he turned away from Aidelle. It was slow motion as each watched the face of their young companion become part of the background of their vision. Phillip shuffled forward, but then turned right back, as if he could not bring himself to turn away from her. Aidelle wished! All the hurt that reigned in their eyes could not change stubborn minds.
“Just leave and never see me again,” she screamed, finally gathering the mental strength to throw the timepiece in Phillip’s direction.
He leant to, a picture of confusion crossing his face, and tried to catch it; it skimmed his fingernails and came crashing to the ground with musical reverberation. Momentarily distracted, Aidelle looked at it, shocked at her actions now, but when she looked back up, Phillip had gone, and the door lay, no longer ajar, but slammed closed, tight. He had chosen to leave her, his one true love.
Aidelle knelt beside the clock, she fingered the silver hands, easy to touch now through the shattered glass face, and she tried to pair up the broken cogs that poured from the body, its blood, its essence, gone.
Aidelle knelt beside the timepiece and cried.
The wind outside the house trembled in awe and ceased to moan and exist; everything was so placid for a moment, waiting with baited breath for what was to come.
Through her tears, Aidelle did not see the sliver of silver-based light that passed from the clock and up, like a gas, into the atmosphere. The energy of time shook with its burning power and revelled at, after having been kept confined in the clock for years, it was finally free to dance in the stream of the other time that might be.
With a shimmer it was gone, along with everything that Aidelle and Phillip had known.
It was the end of her, of that Aidelle was sure. And yet, the little she didn’t know was that it was only the beginning of her journey to better horizons. For, in order for richer change to surpass the old, there needed to be sacrifices made in the façade of insecurity. Aidelle might not have seen the hand fall, but truth beckoned with a smile.