She spoke to her of sorrow. Of things that we do and regret-especially those we cannot control. Regret over throwing a tantrum, when she could have easily enjoyed the afternoon on the beach. Regret over the fight that they had over something as mundane as a type of lace or a color. Regret for causing on her eyes that look of utter pain and disappointment. She still could not tell if it was disappointment in herself or of her daughter.
Sunday luncheons with the family were the worst. When her grandmother decided to visit from France-the first two days would be pure heaven and the next two weeks would be pure terror. She had very few memories of her grandmother, only that she had the prettiest sapphire eyes, framed by the darkest and longest lashes and thick black eyebrows that contrasted with her porcelain skin. Her long silver hair would cascade well bellow her waist and Vanessa could not recall a more enticing and ferociously beautiful woman.
Five year old Vanessa thought her grandmother to be something of a faerie and something of a beast. But grandmother was never a beast to her... But to Vanessa's mother, her daughter, she was.
"Vanessa, why don't you come and sit with me for a while." Her grandmother would ask, interrupting her playing with Mina and speaking to her in French.
Mina did not understand French, but Vanessa did and even spoke in it. Mina didn't have a grandmother. Vanessa did.
"Oui, grandmère." Vanessa would look at Mina with a special glow in her eyes and promise her that they would resume their activities the next day. And Mina would go home to her mother, father and Peter.
At night grandmother would undress in front of Vanessa-something her mother never did. As she would slide off her bodice and corset, tiny lavender petals would fall to the floor and Vanessa would think she was in the presence of a goddess. Her silver hair shone mesmerizingly against the yellow glow of the candles.
Grandmother would ceremoniously slide under the covers and wrap that tiny Vanessa in to her arms, her head against the bare bosom, inhaling the sweet and calming scent of the flowers.
It had been grandmother the one who taught her to always be strong and to always safe guard her heart. Grandmother would kiss her temple at night and softly undo her braids. Grandmother would run her nails gently, ticklishly, lazily up and down Vanessa's back... Until sleep would take her. Grandmother was the one who would say, do everything and nothing they say. Learn to sew but never do it. Learn to serve tea and never do it (unless you want to-but there are better ways to entertain); Play with dolls and never enjoy them. Be a woman, but never their kind of woman. Kiss and be loved, try not to fall in love. If you do fall in love, fall deeply in love. And never, and I repeat, Vanessa, never ever marry.
Grandmother had molded her in many ways. But she had also deeply hurt her-even if there had never been a woman Vanessa had loved and worshiped more (even more than Mina). Grandmother hurt her by leaving, disappearing into the world as if she had only been a dream or a ghost. She hadn't been there when Vanessa cried for her mother. She hadn't been there when they had hurt her time and again at the hospice. Grandmother had not been there at her bedside, when she had been nearly taken by the devil. Grandmother wasn't here now as she lay on the cold floor of a random suite in a ship and cried because she was all alone and afraid.
Grandmother wasn't here with her lavender scent.
Or when she lay out of grief with a repulsive man.
Or when her heart ached and she gave herself to another again.
Or when she stood by the tiny round window, looking out to the endless blue sea, as another lay bare in her bed.
Or when she saw him (the one she loved deeply) and her heart beat rapidly, dangerously, in her chest.
But she was there as they lay in the dark, in a room in the middle of no where and she had never felt so alive. Grandmother would wink at her with that knowingly smile and whisper in her ear that all would be all right.
Grandmother was there as his arm held her protectively against him and his nails went up and down her back. Gently, lazily, ticklishly... Until she slept.
She held her baby girl in her arms, sapphire eyes staring back at her framed by dark and long lashes and eyebrows black and full. Her hair was the color of midnight, full and soft and shiny. She looked at her and saw her grandmother again, looking at her with a mixture of wonder and astonishment. Here was her grandmother in the eyes of her daughter.
And she whispered all of those things her grandmother had whispered to her, into those tiny little ears.
Her hair was silver now and hung well bellow her waist. She closed her eyes and revelled in the softness of those tiny, soft hands adoring her.
"Celeste, did grandmother ever tell you the story of her grandmother?"
"No you did not..." Was the little one's response, as they lay on the large bed, wrapped in the soft blankets and darkness. The only light was the one in her eyes as she spun the tail.
"Darling, did grandmother ever tell you the story of her own grandmother, Vanessa?"
And curious blue eyes would stare at her in wonder and soon be fast asleep.