Saturday, 25 April 2015


It is evening, and Hilly draws the shaded lamp closer. She turns the page of her book, and looks out of the window into the velvet dark.

There is muffled sound of hooves on the drive-way leading up to the front of the house, a clatter announcing an arrival. She sits in her sitting room, close to the fire. It is autumn, and the high moulded ceilings invite in the humid cold of the Irish night. Cold. She hates the cold. She shivers. There is a soft tap at the door.

"Come!" she calls.

It is a footman. He carries a silver tray with a narrowly folded letter on it.

"Yes, John?"

"Ma'm, a letter from Lord Lucan's."

She frowns "From Lord Lucan?" She takes the envelope from his tray, waves him briskly away.

For a long moment she stares down at the jagged shape of her name carved into the paper by a hasty pen, then she flips it over, rips at the seal. "Vin," she whispers. "Oh, Vin!" The room spins, the earth tilts. She will fall, there is no longer an edge to the world. She cannot stand, and she cannot stand still.

She is running on numbed feet; running out, out past the herb garden, past the stables. She runs in the dark, on stumbling legs, catching at walls and hedges to steady herself. Hilary presses herself to the door - his door - clings to it; presses her icy cheek to the wood, feels a splinter breach her flesh.

She strikes at the door with her palm. The sound is distant and feeble to her deadened ears, but inside someone hears.

The door opens and she falls in, would have fallen at his feet; but he holds her up.

"My Lady!"

"No!" she moans, and blindly raises her fist, but he draws her in to the golden warmth, into his house.

"My Lady, you are bleeding..." He is pressing her to sit on a chair by the fire, running gentle fingers down her cheek. He draws his fingers away, painted in red.

"She is dead," she whispers, "Dead."

He wipes at her face with the same gentle hands she has watched for so long, cupping her chin, tilting her face into the light. "Who is dead, my darlin'?"

"Vin, my Vin..."

"Hush now, my love, My Lady." And those tender hands are wiping the blood and tears from her cheeks. "Hush now, and weep." He is drawing her into his embrace, she is hiding her face on his shoulder, as if all her life she has been looking for this -this quiet place, this man's hands touching her face.

A great pain wrenches her apart, and she screams. She raises her fists and beats at him. Scream after savage scream tears her throat, and he croons at her. He holds her closer, tighter, and croons. Her name. Hilly, Hilly, Hilary...

My love, he calls her; and those tender hands touch her, those gentle hands caress her face, her hair. After a time she weeps, and the pain unclenches it's vice-like fist from around her throat.
"She died in childbirth. That is how she died. In childbirth. Eight children in eight years."

"Hush now, let it go-"

"He killed her, Seamus, he killed my Vinnie. She was twenty-eight. Eight children in eight years."

"Childbirth is the battleground women face, my love."

"Yes, but for us, there is no glory, no medals, no parade. He will remarry before the year ends. Her children won't even remember her."

"You will."

"Yes. Yes." He is tracing the trail of tears down her face, wiping them away. "Why, Seamus, tell me why?"

"Why do we die?"

"No. Why am I here, with you on this night? Why did I come here, to you?"

"Ah, lass! I thought you knew! It is because you love me, and I love you."


Manuela Cardiga

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