Chapter 1 : horror feminae
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I've been living in cafes ever since we got married.
It doesn't matter where the cafe is, the setting is the same; a quiet place with linoleum floors and harsh fluorescent lighting, as if we are backstage at a theatre. And this is not an unfitting simile - beyond the doors, the action and drama plays: young Muggle boys yelling innocent obscenities and spilling Fanta, the one drunk woman sobbing into her mobile phone (at three in the afternoon! Shameful, says the waitress, curiously envious) and a girl fancying herself alternative plays Green Day loud on her oh-so-‘90s radio, three distorted chords over and over.
I like it like this. I am a sad woman; I would be unhappy in a happier world.
I sit at a table near the window, watching it all, within and without, like Nick in The Great Gatsby. I compose poetic lists of other people's situations in my head. I am in a sort of flowery ennui, grey cappuccino congealing before me while my mind drifts. Or drowns, rather, because in that great English stereotype, it is raining.
The English do not appreciate their cafes.
It rained on our wedding, heavy and sad so that it felt more like a funeral. Ginny looked lovely. Fleur lovelier. I wanted to strangle them both, grab their beautiful swan-necks and break them, I wanted to be rid of their presence-
Fleur is part Veela.
I am not attractive. The mannequins in the shops are at least half my weight - I dread to think what I might look like if I were pregnant. I have to wear men's shoes, and even then I wear quite a large size. My husband is beautiful and small next to my giantess figure, and I am reconciled with that. I can accept it.
I am not jealous, though maybe it would be easier if I were. I do not want to be beautiful. Beauty is ephemeral. I do not want to die, to wither and collapse like roses in the snow. I can confidently say: I do not want to look like Ginny or Fleur.
When I saw her for the first time, I panicked and sweated, stammered and made excuses, like a hormonal teenager. Then when we got home, I shook and vomited and nearly cried in front of him, oh yes I did, and I can't quite look Fleur in the eye since.
Perhaps this is why I am here in these cheap Muggle cafes. I am safe here from glamour charms and Veela and expensive make-up. I can sit here and reflect, with my notebook filled with invented confessions and dreary poetry.
I am not homicidal. I do not, objectively, wish for the deaths of either Fleur or Ginny. I do not wish for their lives, either.
She does, this I know.
Rita Skeeter, über-glamorous bullshit artist extraordinaire when I was younger and angrier, but now looking like the ads from the Victorian era seaside fad one can still find here. No quill or parchment. I relax when I see that.
My husband will be home in around an hour or two, I lie when she speeds towards me. What brings you here?
She clumsily evades my question – no artist extraordinaire, but plenty of bullshit – and launches onto me about Fleur, whose child is turning five tomorrow.
My sister-in-law is a lovely woman and a wonderful cook. Why… what did you want to know, dear?
A/N: The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald's.
What do you think of Audrey? Is she the kind of person you'd hate?
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