A Past Too Present
It was an announcement of a beautiful day. The mischievous beams of an arching sun had already weaved their way through the thick curtains of the bedroom. They weaved their blinding rays around Candy. With a sulky pout, she turned her head to one side, then the other, her brows frowning . The burning heat of this July morning began to invade the room. Candy stretched herself and stood up as she decided to go out to the terrace to find the day ultimately fresh. While getting up, she gave a soft look to the sleeping silhouette at her side. Silently and gingerly, she pulled down the french-window's handle and passed a foot in the opening. A light breeze spinned around her, releasing from her pretty face, the long locks matted during the night. She drew near the balcony and leaned on the handrail to admire Anthony's splendid rose-garden which always grew within the vast Andrey's property. The delicate perfume from the various species of roses came up towards Candy like a bewitching farandole. After smelling the tender scents, she smiled one of those melancholic smiles which often showed up on her lips when painful memories used to be more present and came to pinch her heart.
"Oh...Anthony," she sighed sadly.
It had been almost ten years since Anthony had died in the tragic horse accident. Candy felt a true panic towards horses, which she rarely kept inside, and which she could never be rid off. How she missed him still, her friend, her brother, her childhood love. This fair-haired and big blue-eyed adolescent whom she had known so well through his poems and his bouquet of roses had cheered her up and supported her throughout her horrible stay at Legrand's.
Only one person had succeeded in sweeping the immense sorrow which had inhabited her during those longlasting months after Anthony's death. Terrence...Terry...This name resounded in her head as if it were coming up from an outer-tomb. She had been trying for so long to chase him from her mind. This English aristocrat with the sour temper and rebellious locks whom she had met at Saint Paul's College of London, left her heart in pieces. How many years had elapsed since that cursed snow-covered evening when they broke up on the hospital's steps of New York? She had resigned herself not to count them anymore.
However, she was happy now, she reassured herself. She had a husband who adored her, and was surrounded by a family's affection to whom, at the very least, she had always wanted to be a part of. Despite an affectionate and wordly lifestyle, she still lived under the permanent fear of losing this balance, this home that she had been looking for, for so long. She thought about those beloved people whom she had loved and lost, as if each being, each thing she had met had to be removed from her, as if fate had not stopped playing with her, but continued instead,to test her resistance as she faced the hazards of life.
She told herself that she had enough unhappiness and malevolences of all sorts, and that she deserved a little peace. A call coming from the bedroom shook her out of her moody thoughts. She turned, stepping back, and found in the semi-darkness of the room, her husband sitting in bed, half-raised on his elbow while the other arm reached out to embrace her. She approached him.
"It was so hot in the bedroom that I went out for a little fresh air,"she explained gently. "Did you sleep well darling?"
As an answer, he brushed a hand across Candy's cheek, then brought her closer to him. He felt her gentle and refreshed skin softening against him. He thought that if he could reach her feared mind, the bruise of her wounds would heal. He often felt her escaping from him, unvoluntarily lost in her thoughts, alone. His powerlessness to control his wife's frame of mind, animated and exaggerated the devastating and painful passion he felt about her. She was like a little bird that fell from the nest. She had touched him by her weaknesses, her clumsinesses, but also by the force which emanated from her and the energy she drew up to surmount the handicaps of life.
It had not been easy for him to conquer her. All throughout the years, he succeeded in charming her affection. Nonetheless, he had to use numerous efforts and strategies to arrive in making her understand and accept that he could give her the happiness and tenderness she was missing. He would never forget that splendid day he had brought her under the strong oak where they had first met as children. With his voice that shook like a teenager on his first date, he had taken her hand and asked her to marry him. Seconds seemed to him like eternity before Candy's acceptance because he knew the risk of losing her if she had refused. He had never felt sure if Candy reciprocated his feelings. However, for several weeks, it had appeared to him that she was interested in him in a distinct way, that her gestures toward him betrayed a special emotion. That was when he had decided to attempt his chance, in spite of the doubts, that she could share the same feelings as him. His love for Candy was not reasonable anymore, but inordinately passionate for this golden curly-haird tomboy with freckles, who like a chrysalid coming out from its cocoon, changed herself into a delightful woman. However, he knew that under her false lively looks, she was hiding secret wounds he would have to surpass, even fight against to preserve this happiness she had finally accepted to give him. He was not in the least annoyed at having been unable to touch her heart without reaching her soul, which he knew belonged to somebody else... this missing one whose name was never uttered, but always entered his mind each time he felt her escaping from him. He knew the price for that privacy and had accepted it, until one day he could make her his, selfishly and jealously his, like envying a treasure.
This is the subject of my sufferings, fears and joys, he told to himself, as her beautiful, emerald eyes gazed upon him. Tenderly, he kissed the white skin of her sweet shoulder.
"Albert..." she whispered. She quivered a little as he deviated and buried his face in her untied hair which smelled of perfumed roses.
"You have such beautiful shoulders," he said with amazement.
He began to untie her chemise, which, transparent under the sun's rays, revealed with no reserve, the perfectly shadowed shapes of his wife. Intimidated always by her and only her, he kissed her. He raised his head to admire the sweet and fleshy lips that he was eager to devour. It was she who slowly looked for his. She thought that this vagabond and adventurer, who stopped his wanderings to take care of her, had lips that tasted of simplicity and relief, the subtle ingredients of a next cure. Surely, he would cure her from this insidious pain which used to eat at her heart and confuse her soul. Who else than her Prince, whom she had searched for such a long time, would have the power to chase these shadows of the past...which was still ever present. She widened her arms to embrace him and stretched herself down, moaning while he laid down against her, covering her skin with thousands of kisses. As he lifted up her nightly dress, his face nestled in the hollow of her breasts. She could only see glittering blond hair under the rays of light. As he moved against her body, she felt weak and inflamed under her ardent husband's caresses. She glimpsed his troubled and excited look as he bent towards her face. His warm, burning lips, seized hers in a stifling, oppressing kiss, which extended the passion, the uncontrolled emotion animating Albert.
"I love you...I love you so much! "he groaned.
Candy felt herself submitting to the delicious sensation invading her, when suddenly, a muffled but strong noise against their bedroom door broke the moment filled with intense and torrid affections.
They had just enough time to take a decent position before seeing a little ruffled fair-head springing up through a slapping door.
"Mummy! Mummy! tell her to leave me alone!"the child implored by taking refuge against his mother, who was already busy tying her nighty dress as much as she could.
"Arthur, darling, what's going on?" asked Candy while her eyes rose to the woman who came running in.
"I am sorry, Madam," said the maid, turning red as she became aware of having disturbed a very special moment. "He escaped me while I was going to give him his bath!"
Candy gave a reproachful gaze to her son. "Come on Arthur, these are not manners to behave! Why don't you want Nelly to give you a bath?"
"Because this is different from Dorothee's," he answered, obviously annoyed. "She hurt me!" he said, pointing to his chin.
"How come! Hurts you?" Candy was surprised.
"Yes, she rubs me too strongly and it hurts!" he retorted with a more energetic tone, feeling that he had touched a very sensitive point.
"Do believe Madam that I do my best!" the embarrassed maid cried out, "But he does not stop moving and I am obliged to force a little bit more when I rub... "
"With Dorothee, it's really better! She is very sweet with me!"the little scamp replied.
"Tell me something Arthur," asked Candy while taking her son's face between her hands. "Have you decided to make Nelly's life impossible, by thinking that, maybe it would make Dorothee come back sooner?"
"Euh...I..." Arthur said, amazed of having his plan so quickly discovered.
"You know that Dorothee has gone to visit her sister who lives at the other side of the country," Candy followed. "It is a long and tiring journey, you know. Moreover, it has been a very long time that she has not seen her family again and she misses them a lot. If you want to worry her and to see her back sooner, as you like, then I will let you inform her about it yourself. However, don't come and complain if you find her exhausted, sad, and moreover ill!" she added with exaggeration, while giving an abetting wink to her husband.
Candy's tragical version seemed having the awaited results. The little boy cried out. "Oh no! Never I wished it for Dorothee, Mummy! That's true I miss her, but... I 'll be able to wait more few days."
"This is better," said Candy and tenderly kissed Arthur on his forehead. "You're becoming reasonable. This is a sign that you are becoming a man...like Daddy!" She appealed to her husband, who had been silently observing the scene. Candy suspected he was a little annoyed by this sudden intrusion which had put an end, although fleeting, to their "reapproached intimacy".
"Yes darling, pretty soon, you'll be one,"answered Albert while straighening up on the bed. "Come and kiss me instead of annoying those ladies with your childishnesses."
They look like each other so much, Candy thought as she watched them together. I have always been told that Albert used to look like Anthony at the same age. I deduced then that Arthur might look like him too. I have often regretted not having known Anthony in his childhood! And now, I have his copy in flesh and bones...and this is my son.... My two loves, she whispered peacefully with emotion. She went to embrace them against her heart.
"Hum, hum!..." hemmed the maid showing her impatience.
"Oh, sorry Nelly," apologized Candy. "Go back to your work. I will take care of my son's bath today." Then turning her son she asked, "What do you think about having it together?"
The maid looked disconcerted and raised her eyes towards the ceiling and sighed. "A new thing yet!" she seemed to think.
"Do you see any objection if I join you?" asked Albert, with malice, guessing that he had touched the maid's excessive puritanism.
"Why not," answered Candy. "There is room enough for three!"
"Oh yes! Oh yes!" cried out Arthur, clapping his hands. "We are going to have fun-- three of us!"
"I think that someone is calling me..."pretexted the maid by eclipsing herself, missing any argument.
"A little bit wedged, isn't she?" noticed Candy as she pushed the door after the maid, while Arthur convulsed with laughter in his parents' bed. "But, tell me Albert, who chose this Nelly?"
"Great Aunt Elroy," he answered, a teasing smile appearing on his lips.
"Everything is clear now!" exclaimed Candy. She always felt obliged to find the stiffest of servants!
"So you see that I am not exaggerating when I say that Dorothee is better!" launched Arthur.
"Oh you, my little loafer," cried out Candy as she simulated running after him. "You are going to hurry and make the water's bath flow and wait for me ...for us," she ended by smiling at her husband who had come closer.
"Next time, we won't forget to lock the bedroom door!"he whispered to her on a teasing tone, while removing his night shirt and entering the bathroom.
They had been bustling about at the kitchen while keeping an attentive ear to the shouts and laughs coming from upstairs. It was suspected that after the truce, the bathroom would be found changed into a battle field. But the personnel did not seem to be bothered anyway by it, and adapted themselves easily to Candy's exuberances.
Only Nelly appeared to have difficulties familiarizing with this way of life, very distinct from all she had experienced in the other high-society families in which she had worked. Being at Great Aunt Elroy's service for many years, she had known an austere world whose walls perspired with oppressing atmosphere of servitude, rigor and discipline. This perfectly suited the housewife's tyrannical mood. She had been very shocked when she had arrived to Lakewood to take Dorothee's place for a few weeks, to discover a peaceful universe established by owners whose incongruous behavior consisted in manifesting interest and respect for their attendants. This is the explanation for never having heard any nasty word about them, she thought, observing her colleagues' placidity.
However, she had been well been told that Madame Candy was an intriguing person who was known, by her abandoned orphan's simperings, to bring upon herself the very wealthy William Albert Andrey's favors, and married him. "She might hide her cards," she said to herself, doubt and suspicion infiltrating with delight into her thoughts. "Madame Elisa strongly advised me to mistrust her. I would better stay on my guards," she concluded, as the cook, Sarah, withdrew her from her unhealthy reflections with a hit on her elbow.
"Instead of daydreaming, hurry now to bring Monsieur and Madame's breakfast to the patio. Do not let them wait. Monsieur Albert is a very busy person."
Surprised, the maid said nothing. Drawing a bantering smile, she indolently pushed the breakfast trolley, the noise of her dragging step wearing away under the wheels' cracking on the floor.
Albert waited until Arthur, who like all eager children his same age, had asked to end his breakfast, leave the table and go to play, before at last deciding to talk to his wife. Embarrassed, he crossed and uncrossed his legs, delicately setting back his cup of tea. He took his breath and looked at Candy.
"Darling..." he said, pausing to find his words. "I've something to tell you... "
Candy turned around to him, fearing bad news. He reassured her with a smile and tenderly took her hand.
"I did not dare to talk you about it yesterday evening. I did not want to waste the few times we have together," he explained, sounding troubled. "Do you remember this phone call I had after dinner?"
She remembered her husband's worried face when he had returned to the living-room. He had calmed her by pretexting some unimportant litigable questions with his partners. It was supposed to be nothing.
"To tell you the truth, this call came from one of our oil exploitation in Venezuela. An accident happened there, a bursting of one of our drillings. Damages are important. Some of our workers are injured."
"Are you going there?" asked Candy, already aware of the answer.
"I cannot leave them so," he answered sadly. "The counter-master appeared to me overtaken by the event. And moreover I have to give some explanations to local authorities."
"When do you have to go?" inquired Candy, with a resigned tone.
"In the morning's end, " he said solemnly, dreading his wife reaction.
"So early!" she cried out, standing up. "But you've just only come back from Chicago! We had so few moments together these times!"
"It will only take a few weeks, "he said weakly defending himself, not really knowing when he would be back. He knew how much Candy had wished his presence in Lakewood. Monopolized with family responsibilities, and also by the administration of the enormous Andrey's fortune, he was rarely close to his wife and son. Candy had adapted herself to it, since having known him in his youth, wandering all along all the world's roads. She thought that business made him wander in a distinct way, and that beneath it all, he might fancy this life.
Tired of giving up her place to her husband's obligations, she had made the decision to undertake a project really important to her... the building of a Children's Hospital in Chicago. Throughout the years that she worked as a nurse, she often regretted the lack of care towards sick children, who shared their bedroom with grown-ups, without any worry about their physical and mental distress. She had also suffered a lot over her impotency to cheer up teary-eyed parents, constrained to be separated from their child staying at the hospital because they could not afford the price of a hotel's room.
Her son's birth had delayed the start of her project, but as he was going to be six years old, the age of entering primary school, she had thought that he was going to become a little more autonomous, and less exacting for his mother's company. Having the financial resources and her husband's support in this enterprise, she was happy to be able to start caring for people in need, and participate in their welfare. Candy's philanthropic temper had recovered all its vigor and had begun to awaken her well known hyperactivity, kept latent since her wedding.
"I could come with you," she proposed with no conviction.
"I wish so much that you could," he sighed. "But you're forgetting the hospital that you've been working on for so many months. If you go now, it will never be able to open its doors on its forecast date."
"That's true! We are already in July," Candy realized. "The work is due to end in September, and I still need people to hire, material to order... " She gave an anxious look, understanding the importance and emergency of the impending tasks.
Albert came close to her and laid his hands on her shoulders. "Don't worry Darling," he said to her, trying to catch her gaze. His hand pushed away a lock from her pretty face. "I''ll be back as soon as possible, I promise."
"This is not fair!" she launched sadly. "I need you so much at present. Every thing is so fine when you are here," she complained. Candy's sudden half-revealed fragility was like a dagger into Albert's heart. He took her against him and embraced her powerfully. He felt her accelerated heart's rhythm slow down and appease, while she laid her head against his chest.
"I am going to miss you so much!" she sighed in whispers.
He raised her delicate chin with his finger and looked deeply at her. "Not a second, not an instant will elapse without my thoughts going towards you, "he said, his face approaching slowly to hers. He was never tired of admiring her seraphic features, physical expressions of her soul's purity; a soul who will always be besides him all along his journey, far away there, in the Southern Americas, without any consideration about time and distance. He would have ardently preferred to stay with her and love her, but reality was used to showing them its pernicious sides. He promised to himself to take more time to care for her and cheer her up when he returned. He was so eager to return......
"A separation for a better meeting again," she said with a smile, her husband's cheering up sign having an effective result.
He gently kissed her lips and felt her weakening against him. Candy's slow breath became faster. She let fall his elegant linen jacket from his shoulders, unknotted, with a furtive hand, and dropped his sober brown silk tie, his shirt's collar having given way to her promptness. Albert's gestures stirred up, captured by the sudden passion she had awakened. The morning's frustration was stimulating with unsatisfied instincts which threatened to cede. He rocked her on the large sofa behind them, caressing with an uncontrolled precipitation her exquisite rounded shapes. Her bust's tissues gave their place to skin's fragments whose paleness asked to be inflamed, colored under her husband's burning assaults.
"Someone could surprise us," she said in a moan, while her words vanished under the powerful grasp of a furious kiss.
"He is not ready to return," whispered Albert, aware she was thinking about their son. "I saw him going away with the gardener."
Never mind! She thought while she strongly embraced him, her desire having chased up her natural reserve, sharpening her woman in love's senses, eager to live this time intensely. As long as she could keep him close to her, into her, and share, during a suspended instant, this sensual rage which possessed them.....
"We can go when you like Monsieur," said Georges closing the car's trunk. With some discretion, he disappeared towards the front car. He just had taken time to show an understanding sign to Candy, knowing how hard it was for her to separate from her husband. Disappointed and feeling betrayed by his father's leaving, Arthur had refused to be present for his departure and had taken refuge in the old hut built by his cousins when they were children.
"I'll talk and explain to him,"said Candy quietly. "He will understand."
She had employed the more innocent tone, willing to let Albert go, so that his mind may be free of any concern. She appealed to all her forces to hide her sadness. She wanted to be strong, at least appear it, until he disappeared behind the rose-garden gate. She gave a more cheerful look when he approached her and took her face between his hands.
"Let me look at you," he whispered to her hear. "Let me engrave in my mind your souvenir, your beautiful face, and..." He took a breath, his insisting gaze grazing each shape of her body. "Let me feel your thin and perfect features under this lovely but so often unusual dress," he said with malice.
She turned a bit red, lowering her head as tears began to show. He plunged his face into her neck, smelling for the last time her scented perfume of country's flowers, of Pony's hill.
"I love you," he said to her, his warm breath invading her nape's rise, her body shivering with emotion. He squeezed her hand as strong as he could, then turned back, without a glance, his face looking at the floor while he entered the car. Candy looked at the car leaving through a curtain of tears, her hand still imprinted with Albert's contact. She turned back to the rose-garden, her desperate gaze looking for some help before allowing her tears to burst, her body racked with cries. She stayed a few minutes in the middle's path alone, feeling desperately alone and then decided to return home.
Lost in her thoughts, she did not even hear the light noise coming from the roses' hedge surrounding the iron gate. She did not even notice the blue profound look, who had been observing her for a moment, his long and aristocratic silhouette attempting to contain the bursting of his heart.