I eat sugared violets and roses while sitting on plumped cushions. Crushing the sweet lilac and pink carapaces with my teeth. My lover, who will eventually be my husband, so I like to imagine, and perhaps eventually will, when he is free to be, possibly, always possibly, leant over me and asked why the dark scent of roses clings to my pale skin. There are answers to his question. Always answers; I am reticent to speak the correct one.
A field of roses, cultivated, cajoled by my Grandfather, growing around the house. Nonna plucking the petals to make rose water, with which she bathed her breasts each morning, leaning forwards, her shoulders braced, dipping each breast into the basin, using her wide hands to palm the liquid to her neck, slowly, before sitting straight, her brown nipples dripping, and then reaching for me to sit on her lap to clean my face, her fingers gentled around my eyes, my delicate arrangement, but tougher over my cheeks, my ears, probing, my nose. Here we are with the perfumed mythology. That is what memory makes of this. Or. Perhaps the answer is the knock on the door, my mother, young and black-haired; sleek as if untouched by the elements, unscathed, opens it to deliveries of flowers, young men, maddened by a promise, send them in gaudy armfuls. She dances about the kitchen, desired, smiling, forgetful. Who will be tasked with her remembering? We know the answer, of course. How silly.
And roses, it could be as simple as this – barefoot, a summer ominous with heat, the balding lupins, fat insects terrorising, treacherous long grasses, and being very small. The roses, crumpled balls of white and pink, curving around the house and stepping in amongst them, their cool dry absorption, my soft feet testing the soil, going in further, the linger of the placid scent, caught in hair and on fingers, lingering, staying too long, or not long enough, before turning and turning to retrace steps, toe extended, fingers worrying at the air, and hair, long strands, baby hair, tangled caught, the cotton summer dress, that too snagged in the sharp clasp of the rose bushes. And my hero, he comes, Grandfather, the roses only thigh-high, he pauses – a shadow on the garden – and stands on all that growth, he crushes the flowers to get to me. Delicately, his fingers untwist my hair; patiently he prises me from the innocent flowers, his breath on my neck, so close, holding me to him. He lifts me up, his hand – I remember tucked under my bottom – hot against my skin, he holds me to him. I felt the sharp bristles of his chest hair against my cheek, cleansing me; I am held far above the danger. The next day he cut them all down.
You see? Answers; that if I lie very still will settle around me like truth, and persuade of my purity.
Heidi James’ novella The Mesmerist’s Daughter (published by Apis Books) was launched in July 2007. Her novel Carbon (published by Blatt) will be out in Autumn 09 and is published in Spanish by El Tercer Nombre. She has collaborated with artists including Delaine LeBas, Marisa Carnesky and Tara Darby. Her essays and short stories have appeared in various publications and anthologies including Dazed and Confused, Next Level, Flux, Brand, Another Magazine, The Independent, Undercurrent, 3:AM London, New York, Paris, Dreams That Money Can Buy, Full Moon Empty Sports Bag, Pulp,net etc. She is a doctoral research student.