by Martin James Hunter
My free time is spent searching great halls and corridors for entertainment. A dropped coin, a petrified mouse, an empty bottle of port. Anything with a story. Anything until I am summoned by my husband.
It seems we met a thousand years ago, when life was much simpler and time played no tricks. When his eyes would meet mine without reluctance and when his smile required no effort. Now it seems there is something else looking out from his body and that the corners of his mouth are commanded by string. But there was a time it was wonderful.
One cold winter during World War I Aldous left for Serbia despite being unable to grow a full beard. Nine months later he returned with one leg and a metal disc in his head and with his experiences kept to himself. Aside from the glimpses the shouting in his sleep offered.
Thus began Aldous’ first period of reclusiveness during which I tended to his study door. I would knock it and leave dinner there and return an hour later to collect the remains. This led to his first publication, bringing us freedom from debt and a perfect wedding.
My husband disappeared again after a dreadful crash took his eye leaving me chasing errands and making excuses. During this chapter I taught myself to ignore his glass eye and always smile. Supported by his replacement limb and a chain of successful books, Aldous eventually re-emerged and soon had people cooking for me.
At less formal occasions he would talk to the servants like friends. It was one of the few times I heard him properly laugh. After a heart attack put him in a coma, the most loyal remained by his bedside and played a crucial role in his recovery. Admittedly neglecting of them beforehand, they suddenly became my best friends.
For three summers the sun’s caress was cold on my skin and I much preferred the moon. My dreams weren’t always of Aldous, but stung either way. Small movements in his fingers and toes initiated a diet and exercise routine that almost claimed my life. I had hardly noticed my gain in weight until then.
When he returned to us it was clear the pacemaker had installed significant changes. Servant bonuses diminished then vanished and many jobs were lost. Even my role as wife was open to reforms. I became subject to regular inspections, and would join him during meetings of unfathomable discourse. At night, cold precision replaced the passion that once captured my heart.
When cancer took from us the only connection we shared, I became his sculpture. I never saw an expression on his face after that. Not during debates or staff discipline or when I was commanded to undress. It became impossible to tell one eye from the other.
An exotic aroma reaches me. The ache I bear to cook has multiplied since I was designated a dining room and each summer diminishes quicker than its predecessor. My only interactions with my husband occur within meetings, my presence but a tradition. Aeons have passed since I had an effect on his decisions, yet I witness every one.
The garden rolls on for what seems like forever; the jewels lie heavy on my breast. I turn from the glass and wander under great portraits of men where my footsteps are loud but meaningless. Somewhere in the distance a bugle demands my attention.