Although Lucy Blythe was forty she had moments like this when she wanted to skip instead of walk, to hop-scotch on the pavement, do a handstand, or stand still and laugh - at nothing - at nothing, simply.
What can you do if you are forty and, turning the corner of your own road, you are overcome by a feeling of joy - absolute joy! As though you'd suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your stomach, sending out little silver sparks into every cell, into every strand of DNA. There could be nothing abnormal about this feeling. Her daughter had already caught the disease of propriety. Anna nudged and bullied her when she was feeling like this. She didn't care what they thought. Today was her day.
How mad the world is! Why be given a body and a mind if you have to keep it shut up like an antique figurine in a glass case.
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'No, the antique figurine is not what I mean. More like a sheep being herded and corralled,' she thought, running up the steps and feeling in her bag for the key - she'd forgotten it, as usual - and ringing the bell. 'It's not what I mean, because - Thank you, Brenda' - she went into the hall. 'Are the caterers here?'
'The marquee is up and It's enormous. I thought you and your husband agreed on the smaller one? The caterers have brought six crates of champagne instead of two!'
Here we go again, she thought, rolling her eyes and winking at her. 'What he doesn't know won't hurt him. Are the flowers in the kitchen?'
It was cool and dusky in the kitchen. But all the same she ripped off her coat pulling one of the arms inside out. She couldn't stand coats and loved the chill of the air on her bare arms.
But in her body there was still that bright glowing place - that shock of electricity tingling her skin. It was almost unbearable. She breathed deeply. She didn't dare look in the mirror - but she did look, and it gave her back a woman, radiant, with eyes that were alive again. She wanted to look like she did when she was a girl, big hair and big make-up. She laughed at her self, grabbed a comb and backcombed the pale sleek bob. The aquamarine eyes looked into her and said, 'Something amazing is about to happen.'
Brenda brought the crystal vase. The dying sun caught the intricate fissures in the glass and burst rainbow prisms across the walls. This of course in her present mood, was so incredibly beautiful…she began to laugh.
'Don't put the lights on. I can see quite well. Is Anna getting ready?'
'She's been trying on clothes all day. Luckily that (one of her friends stopped by to help her) lovely girl from across the road has come to help her get ready - Sophi isn't it?
('Yes, yes. That's her name.')
There were white blousy roses stained with cherry red and violet delphiniums.
Only that morning they had been wagging dangerously in the breeze. How crazy was it, that she had chosen the flowers so that they would match her dress! A thorn stabbed her thumb. The pain shot through her and she jerked the vase.
'Calm yourself dear. Let me clean it up, there are shards of glass everywhere. Why don't you go and get a relaxing bath.'
She thought not. Wrapping her thumb in kitchen paper, 'I think we need more flowers, don't you? Bring me all the vases we have, I want the house filled with them.' Grabbing a knife and running into the garden she heard the silly woman call out that she would run her a bath. She cut and cut - Jasmine, honeysuckle, roses of pink, red, yellow and every colour of delphinium. She was breathless. She tumbled her treasures onto the kitchen table. 'It will be a Midsummer's Night Dream!' Dear Brenda crouching on the floor picking up glass, looking at her like a small, frightened animal.
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She seized her bag and coat and ran upstairs. Anna's door was open. (She heard them whispering.)
'I thought you were in London Sophi?'
Sweeping the long dark curls over her shoulder she shrugged. Sophi did not look at her; but then she seldom did look at people directly. Her heavy eyelids lay upon her eyes and the strange half smile came and went upon her lips as though she lived by listening rather than seeing.
'The photo shoot ended early Lucia - so I came back.'
'You are more than welcome to…'
'I've already had an invite from your husband this morning'.
Anna wasn't listening. She had her headphones on and her mouth open in front of a mirror applying mascara.
'Shouldn't the birthday girl be getting ready for her ball?'
'Oh yes…I have lots to get on with!' As she was shutting the door she heard the precocious girl call,
'Let me know if you need a hand.'
Brenda had laid her violet dress out on the bed. It was a deeper shade than she had remembered. Not as vivid. She was holding onto her coat and bag like it was a baby and her back pinned up against the slammed bedroom door. 'Why did that dreadful girl insist on calling her Lucia!' She threw her baby into the corner and sank down next to the dress on the bed. If only she could send the dress to the party instead of herself. The sunlit room where she had awoken that morning, felt like a vacuum. The lamps laced shadows around the heavy furniture. She tore the curtains open and the moon fell at her feet.
She could shake this off. She'd done it before. It usually took a few days to manifest fully.
He opened the door to the bathroom and released the enveloping warmth.
('Loo!) Are you in there? He was laughing and wafting his arms to get rid of the steam. 'Come on old girl the curtain goes up soon. Stop wallowing and get your backside into that insanely expensive dress.'
She'd lost time. It had been swallowed up - by something. Was it the dark? Her fake smile told him something. She could see it in his eyes. He was scared. She liked it.
The cold stung her body - he was gone. She slathered herself in body oil, not waiting for it to sink in and wrapped herself in a robe. No, the dowdy blue dress would not do. She'd bought… something… before it had happened the first time? She yanked dresses out of the wardrobe and dumped them on the carpet. 'I really aught to get rid of this sickly swirling carpet. Ah yes, yes, yes - the ebony silk.' She would ask the girl to do her eyes. Black rimmed - like a cat.
She smelt her before she saw her. The musk clawed at her throat. It made her feel as if there were wasps in her head. What must she think of Anna's mother sprawled out on the floor surrounded by a mountain of clothes?
Having a wardrobe malfunction are we?
Sophi was sneering at her. The long brown legs stomped their way through the piles of clothes, past her, and draped themselves over the dressing table chair. She had to drag herself up from the swirling dancing carpet. She followed her. She felt she must.
'Could you make up my eyes the way you do yours?' I'm feeling a little shaky with nerves tonight. She rummaged in her drawer. 'I'm sure I have a liner somewhere. Sophi bent in front of her. The silver heart pendant swung from her breasts - back and forth, back and forth. She lingered over the drawer and picked out a pencil - oh God the stench was drowning her. The girl gently took her by the shoulders and sat her down in front of the mirror. The radiance had vanished. The numb was creeping, creeping. This mirror had replaced her by a haunted mouse.
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She closed her eyes and opened someone else's. Jet rimmed, swept up at the corners like an Egyptian: full scarlet lips and tousled hair. ' This is not me', she screamed in her head. 'I need you to get my husband…I'm not feeling well. I need my …'
The girl glared at her through the mirror. 'Shut up! Don't be such a coward Lucia. You are more yourself now than you ever were. Vivien Leigh had the same thing as you. Did you know she used to find strangers in the park to have sex with? She threw her head back laughing, 'Imagine what poor old Lawrence Olivier thought when he found out! Imagine what that dumb shit of a husband of yours would do if you did something?
She smoothed the black silk over her body and clipped on the diamond studs he had given her. She adored the way the taffeta kicked out when she descended the stairs. She wanted to laugh at the relief in his eyes when she walked into her dream flower room. 'Wow, this is a new look?
She felt the warm spark pulsate through her again: but softer this time. Not looking at him, she gave him a strange half smile. 'Could you be an angel and fix my new pendant, I've snapped the chain. Tell Anna, Sophi won't be joining us tonight. 'Now why was he looking at me like I was mad?'
Personal experience in that my sister has bi polar disorder and also it has been highlighted in the news recently with Catherine Zeta Jones being treated for the disease.
But ultimately I chose the disorder because it happens in episodes and doesn't take a long time to manifest and is more suited to a short story narrative. There is usually a trigger that set it in motion, stress for instance.
The protagonist's initial euphoric state is a classic sign of the onset of an episode. Where the sufferer has limitless energy, is enamoured by everything.
The Sargasso Sea
The Yellow Wallpaper