Shadows And Charades

Entry by: Olivia

30th December 2016
Shadows and charades
She felt the weight of the years as she stood in the pew. She could hear all those who had gone before her and felt those who were still waiting.
Mrs Caldwick was wearing her hat, but then she always did. It was faded and somewhat squashed, a permanent feature. Mr Trethwin sniffed at his usual regular intervals and the vicar, well, he was there in all his glory. The familiar words drifted over her and she stood and sat at the appointed times. Today we had organist number two, never quite as good as number one – always the odd beat or so behind and somewhat prone to loud unscheduled solos. At least they became solos as we had run out of verses and out of breath to sing by then. It wasn’t really the centre stage stuff that excited her. It was the stuff of the corners that intrigued. She liked those smelly little baskets of faded envelopes, asking for a donation to a long forgotten cause. She adored the fusty robes, their owners long dead and buried in this very grave yard. They were never to be forgotten, never grow old, never be condemned.
When they were kids they dared each other to walk round the graves. They had a route, into the furthest, darkest corner and right over the Talbot family box. The shadows loomed large then. The shadows were full, they wrapped round them, sucked them in, kept them close. The shadows held them tighter than their parents ever could. The shadows saw it all. They knew when one was going to join them, they absorbed them in, sometimes before they had a chance to rot in their coffin, just took them straight into their midst.
She envied them that – she envied their sense of belonging and of being loved. Sometimes the world of shadows felt more real than the world that she was forced to live in. She hated the petty restrictions of the village. The little clubs, the groups that met with such jollity. She was in a ‘New Mum set’ now. Never sure if the ‘new’ was her age or the length of time she had been a mother. It mattered little, nothing mattered much now. She had conformed, she had ‘done well for a girl’ and ‘got herself a decent job’. She thought that doctors’ receptionist wasn’t that special, but it was better than her days were now, an unbroken tedium of feeding, washing and cooking. They had declared it a ‘good match’ when she and Bob had started courting. (Yes, they were truly stuck in the 50s around here) . She had carried on seeing him, and he had taken advantage. They all did eventually didn’t they? He had assumed an ownership after a few months that apparently entitled him to sex on demand. At first she had nothing to compare it to and it was OK – she wasn’t at all sure what all the fuss was about and every day at work she saw the result of too much sex, too little sex, the wrong sort of sex. She was just relieved that Bob was solid and never surprised her.
This little charade of a happy life would have continued she supposed, continued until she too joined the ranks in the graveyard. Some days she thought she might just get it all over and done with and die of boredom. It was then that she started to wander. They went to the church to plan their wedding, the vicar was so pleased. She had only said that she wanted a few minutes on her own and soon her wanderings were part of her life. No one really minded, she was known as the ‘quiet one’ – the one that was a ‘bit of a loner’. Bob was far too busy down the pub with the lads, getting it in before the little one was born.
The shadows held her, enveloped her, caressed her and needed her. Every night they welcomed her into their arms, offering a space in a different world. A world of half remembered souls, of icons and healing statues. In the shadows lurked all the people she needed and all the love she craved. She felt pleasure wash over her as she lay among the stones, the shadows protecting her and her own fingers doing that which Bob never quite managed. The shadows stood around and urged her on. Nightly she entered their world. It became more to her than the tedium of her daily life. She drifted through the days, waiting for the comfort of the night. She brought them little presents. At first they were grateful for anything, a few flowers to lay on an empty grave, a trinket to leave for a granny who had little in the life just gone. She was soon being told what to get and fearful that a mistake might mean they withdrew their comfort she stole what they wanted. She didn’t want to play alone. She needed the love and care of the shadows. Even when Tom was born she kept coming, often lying him down to sleep to give herself the freedom to touch herself, to love, to care. Bob had resumed his pubbing, all big and bold, swaggering around, boasting about his son. Why did they all behave as if they were the only one with a willie that could fit in a fanny?
Tom was a sickly little boy, her mother was forever telling her to ‘wrap him up’, to ‘give him some tonic’, to ‘make sure he ate all his tea’. She did her best, but he didn’t want to stay around. The shadows loved him, they pulled at him, tugging on his little dungarees. She sometimes wondered if the cold earth harmed him, but she knew she couldn’t stop. She belonged with shadows, she was through with the charade of her empty life. The shadows wanted both of them, it was so easy. She lay down, they wrapped them up and they drifted off, wandering to meet all those who had gone before.