Chapter 1 : she is patient
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And she was patient.
You got lost in the smell of her skin and bathed in the silk of her hair. You spent careless hours tracing the line of her arm. You planted kisses on her belly and was rewarded with a pearly laugh. You relished in the feeling of her lips on yours.
No one told you that the feeling would not last, and if they had of, you would not have believed them. Not when you had her - she was your light, your life and she owned you completely. You breathed with her, laughed with her and hers was the voice that whispered to you in the darkness.
“I told you, didn’t I, Teddy?” Victoire had whispered to you. “You belong to me.”
And you knew that there was no other truth than hers.
And sometimes, you are a man drowning, and when it rains, it pours, drenching you, soaking you to the bone. Times like these are when you need her the most, when you need to run your nose along her arm and smell the faint floral scent that always lingers on her skin.
And she is never there.
She is a wisp of smoke on the breeze, a floating woman, as carefree and fine as silk. Your ear is seared with the sound of her voice and yet, when it is your turn to empty your thoughts into the darkness, you are always talking to yourself.
And you know it is not your fault; it is not hers either, yet it sinks between you, lives between you until trying is a chore and failure is a surety. You do not know how to comfort her, and your words have lost meaning, even to you, because what can you say to one so grieved?
And conversation ceases; words grow thorns, glances are barbed and you don’t look at her anymore.
“I don’t want your pity,” she says and you nod; you will not give it again, because you have forgotten how. It is no ones fault – these things are as they are and while you grieve you know the depth of your despair is nothing to hers.
She cannot be what she once was to you, and you know that is not your fault either.
And so you are alone in the evenings, sitting at a nondescript table in a nondescript Muggle cafe, drinking bad coffee. You sit and let your eyes move beyond the glass panel that separates you from the world outside and you watch the kaleidoscope of life twist and turn and spiral past. You watch as couples kiss outside under the street lamp, and you think of a woman with pale hair and skin the colour of snow.
And so you have come to sit and wait, to sit and watch, but there is a woman at your table. You pause in the doorway, shaking the last of the rain from your hair and watch her sip at her coffee. Her hair is a chocolate streak down her back, the hands that lift the mug are slim and delicate and she is dressed warm against the chill of winter. As she moves, twisting her neck to peer out the window into the streamers of rain, you realise you know her.
Molly is a thing unspoken. She is the shadow that lingers in the corner, the space beneath the furniture that collects dust and is seldom cleaned. Victoire calls her a coward, but the truth is, no one seems to want to know the truth behind the whispers.
It is easier, being angry. You understand that, acknowledge it in the pale grey of the early morning when the space between you and Victoire is wide, when the sheets are cold and her shoulder an ice-berg.
Molly stands up to leave as you step inside, the warmth and smell of the cafe engulfing you. You had begun to think of this place as home. She slings her bag over her shoulder and turns, her skin paling at the sight of you.
You hold up your hands in entreaty, your eyes dropping closed for a split second. When you open them, she is gone, and it is only then you remember your little cafe has a back door.
And you can’t get her out of your head. There is no reason why, no logic, because aren't you done with such things? There is only curiousity now, and the sense of disquiet, and an anguish that you are all too familiar with. When you tell Victoire about Molly, she snorts and raises a perfect eyebrow. This, this will be the thing that causes her to talk to you again, to look at you with something other than anger and sadness combined and for a moment, you care nothing about Molly, nothing at all.
“You are wrong, Teddy; it was not her. Molly is gone.”
“But, Vic, it was her.”
“And what would you know of her anyway? She isn’t your cousin, but mine. She isn’t your problem, Teddy.” And Victoire storms from the room, hair swinging and you wonder anew at the mystery of women and the ocean that surrounds them.
You do not try again; Victoire makes you sleep in the other room, where the sheets are cold and the air frosty. Your breath makes little clouds when you breathe and so you don’t, holding your air in the permanent winter of your home.
And Molly does not run from you. She pauses, stands and slowly, lifts a long arm and beckons you forward. Perhaps she sees something in your face, something that she recognises and as you move closer to her you see something in her face that you recognise.
“Hello, Molly,” you say.
She bites her lip; you wonder if she will deny her own existence, but she nods, sits down, and you sit across from her, your eyes never leaving her face and the pain in her eyes.
You did not ever think you would understand what it felt like to be hated.
And yet you understand. You understand.
So the cycle begins.
It turns over in the night and flows through the morning, and by lunch, sitting in your new office at your new job, you want to know.
And the terrible, terrible secret – the thing that washes her from everyone’s lips like dirty water.
And you know there is no denying it – you loved her, and she was torn from you for reasons you still don’t understand.
In the dark hours, she disappeared. They looked at you with pity, with knowing and you had no choice but to hide it. Your love had been secret, shared with only her and now that she was gone, you could not speak of it.
There was another who called your attention; one who had danced around the periphery of your eyes for as long as you could remember. One with hair like snow and skin like cream and you wondered if you could love her as you once loved another.
Molly was gone.
Victoire was there.
You moved forward.
And you feel the need to talk, to justify.
“Maybe we made a mistake,” you say slowly. She does not speak but you sense her looking at you. “Maybe Vic and I should have waited a while to get married.”
You expect her to argue with you, to tell you that was ridiculous and that Victoire was the woman for you. Instead, she turns her long, dark gaze on your face, her eyes crushing the barrier you have constructed around your misery. You thought that barrier was strong, but as Molly watches you, you know you had been wrong.
She runs a pale hand through her hair, her face turning to the window. “Maybe you should have.”
And now it is Saturday and you are supposed to be at home. Molly sits opposite you, her hair loose around her face, her skin pale and lips colourless. She is agitated and taps the spoon violently against the saucer.
“Vic wants a baby,” you announce, and you wait.
“And you don’t?”
“It’s not that I don’t...she told me if I really loved her I’d give her a baby,” you reply.
Molly snorts. “A baby isn’t a gift – you don’t ‘give’ someone a baby.”
“That’s what I said.” You lean forward in your seat, watching her eagerly as you search for an ally. Molly is practical, rational – she will understand.
She sugars her coffee, taps the saucer once more, her expression neutral. “So what are you going to do? Will you give her what she wants – again?”
“What do you mean, again?”
“You married her didn’t you?” she answers, her tone defiant. “Everyone knows that was for her, not you.”
“I love her.” You feel like picking a fight and you do not understand why.
Molly pushes her coffee aside and leans forward in her chair; an action you were once terribly familiar with. “But it is not the same for her, is it? You love her with everything you are, Ted – can you honestly say that she loves you the same way?”
And you never discovered the truth until it was too late – there were whispers, conversations behind doors. Molly. Molly. Molly.
Her name haunted you but you smiled and held Victoire close.
You do not realise they are speaking of her. There is only sadness in her name.
There are only the looks her parents give you at family dinners; as if they know, and suddenly, you want to apologise.
It is not until you hear the formal words 'medical procedure' that you have some inkling of truth.
Truth. The Truth.
And you find yourself wanting to weep. For the first time since you were a child and you skinned your knees falling from your broom, you want to be held while you bawl your pain into the world.
She notices, as you knew she would and you have no choice but to tell her what you are really thinking.
“We can’t have a baby.” The words are a whisper; they claw their way from your throat and you can taste the horror of your own admission.
“Can’t? Who said?”
“Nobody, but...what do you know about babies?”
She is very still, quiet, a girl carved from marble and she sits that way for a long moment; you hear the minutes pass, announced importantly from the clock on the wall.
“Nothing,” she says eventually. “I know nothing about them.”
And she is gone, blown away into the chill of the morning. You realise your tea has gone cold but you drink it anyway, a penance and your brain is flying, whirling as the mystery of her reaches out to embrace you once more.
And you know you cannot hide it any longer. You know she suspects the truth, for isn’t she in this family with you? Hasn’t she heard the whispers, the half-truths and unspoken things.
But you cannot.
For saying it will make it real.
“Teddy,” she says to you when you are lying sated with another woman in your brain. “We should have a baby.”
You want to scream at her, shake her and tell her no, you had a child once, and that child was lost to you, but instead you smile and kiss her and make promises you do not wish to keep.
And so here you are again, watching her. You watch the play of light and shadow dance across her face as the light on the wall flickers. You watch the way she tucks a continually loose strand of hair behind her ear, her face irritated.
You reach for her hand; she starts, shifts and her eyes smash their way into your skull. Your breath flees your throat, rushes forward with a silent scream into the night as her fingers wind their way between yours. The heat of her skin melts you, peels away the layers because here is a simple touch, a mere sensation that you hadn’t realised you craved.
“Molly,” you murmur her name. She pulls her hand free and you gasp.
Molly stands up to leave; you look away. You cannot look at her all of a sudden – the air between you is chilled, and it seeps inside you, settles inside you and you know you will not be able to shake it. You will go home with a chill in your heart and no one will know why you are so cold. You will have nothing to say, no explanation, no reason, and you will not mention Molly. You will never mention Molly.
When you hear the door sing the melody of her exit, you turn your eyes to the table, to your hand, which had been clutched in hers moments ago.
On the table, resting innocently by the sugar bowl, is a key. You stare at it, stare until your eyes burn and your head threatens to explode. You take a deep breath, force the air down your constricted throat and snatch the key up. It burns through the pocket of your coat, branding your skin and it is with a trembling hand that you pay for the drinks.
In the street outside, you wonder what men do in these situations.
And you want to find out, but she does not go, and it isn’t until a week has passed that you have the chance to ask her why. She blinks at you.
“Did you want me to?”
Your sigh is frustrated. “Molly, why play games with me?”
“Who said they are games? They are not games to me, Ted.”
“Because,” she interjects gently. “I did not think you would so I made the decision to avoid the rejection altogether.”
You reach for her hand but she pulls it away, stashing it safely in her lap instead, a maiden made of ice and fire and twisted insides. “Don’t, Teddy. Not unless you mean it.”
“I do mean it.” You want to fix her, because fixing is what you do best, but you can tell she will never allow it. She looks at you then and you are startled at the hint of a tear in her eye and you know that she knows your intent because she shakes her head gently.
When she is gone, you ponder her words, wondering why she thinks she needs fixing. You wonder what she sees in the dark, when she thinks of herself. You want to know what it is that eats at her and you want to know how to feed it so that it will be sated. So that it will be tamed.
But there is no monster in Molly, you know that too. Molly is sadness and regret, softness and thunder.
There is only the monster in you and you realise suddenly that you are the one in need of fixing.
There is a corner table in a coffee shop. It is hidden by shadows yet it faces the street so those seated there can witness the turning wheel of the world.
If the boy with the ever changing smile and the girl with chocolate hair had taken a moment to glance out at the street they would have seen her.
She watches. She waits.
She is patient.