By J Freese
It did not wash off in the rain, or dry out in the sun. It was not revealed in the shadows of roof tops as they spilled like black steps along the darkness of the road. It was cold, and would not melt in the warmth of children’s laughter. Cats noticed the cold and scrambled for the heat of a still warm car, green or yellow eyes wide with knowing they could not comprehend. It made no sound and had a smell only the sparrows could scent; they fluttered to leafy caves and broken guttering, not knowing where they had left their young or when some young might come to them. The young would come to me. This would not blow away, but spun round and round like leaves in an autumn breeze: a glimmer for the innocent, a glamour for the old, applied with the dried blood of plague rats to the back of a lead mirror, words chanted slowly thrice at midnight, and the glamour encapsulated me, and captivated them, especially she who would come of her own free will.
Small, in a winter coat too warm for the early spring, just as it had been too warm for its previous owner, she submitted soft fingers to the efficient grip of her mother’s hand. Cracked patent leather shoes, well oiled with petroleum jelly, skipped several beats alongside the rigorously polished leather of her mother’s sensible shoes. We approached, my child and I. My golden haired child; conceived by the light of the moon, in a lubrication excreted by small creatures, whose trail glistens like film over the things that rot. My child’s eyes are as empty as tears, whilst hers glow with the warmth of coals. The mother's eyes are yellowed with trials, her fingers are pricked with the sewing needle that mends the clothes of others, are calloused with the scrubbing of her own floor, so that the daughter may walk like a barefoot princess through a house immaculate, a house and home that are killing the tired-eyed mother. For she with the warm-eyed daughter is a woman of standards: a woman who will no more watch the tower fall than she will allow the beauty of a spider’s web to glisten in the winter sun. My child and I have passed them for months now and I see how she grips the girl’s hand tighter as we approach. I see how she raises her head and through the tips of her fingers sends the girl messages of dignity. I hear her at bath time scrubbing the girl clean and pure, repeating her mantra, “All that glitters is not gold”. While the child sleeps, the mother takes no rest for herself: scrubbing, polishing, mending, building the palace for her princess, so occupying is this quest that she barely lays eyes on her child, her focus is elsewhere, her mission is to succeed alone.
I have heard her story before, many times. Bad choices: mistakes have been made and will not be made again. Pure determined focus, unbending, unrelenting: a woman who needs no one and can succeed with nothing, without asking, without ever taking. Never taking time for herself. Like I shall take her child for myself. For me. For my pure, self-conceited pleasure until mine decomposes and the flies leave patterns on her never living body. They never laugh, the Mother and child. The child tries to bring back the memory of laughter but it is to the mother a reminder of weakness, a lapse of concentration, a symbol of her downfall.
We walk on opposite sides of the street, my child and I looking like laughter. The girl's eyes are wanting, wanting the glamour of me, wanting to swap places with my golden haired child, wanting a mother who is beautiful and charming, who plays and laughs, who lets her skip on ahead, as she has seen my golden-haired concoction dance across the paving slabs. The warm-eyed girl does not wish for efficiency born of pride, she wishes for me. The mother grits her teeth; tension seeps through her hand, but her child has stopped and sees only me. The sunlight is in her eyes. She wriggles from her mother’s hand and pushes her hair away from her face. It is only a moment, a moment in the spring sun, a moment of longing to be with me, and the magic is done: her hand is in mine. The mother moves onwards, my golden-haired child coldly clutching her hand, tonight she will dissolve in the bath leaving only a soapy film to be scrubbed away in the morning.
The warm eyed child raised with pride will be picked clean, her flesh distilled will feed the oil lamps around my lead mirror, and the dust of her bones will form a circle about me, when I cast once more a light to feed the glamour.