Lost To Fog
Most of the time I can’t even determine which memories of my mother are real, or which might just be residue from my dreams. I tend to daydream and fantasize a lot which doesn’t help. I see my mother’s face in photographs and the painting that hangs in my father’s bureau and imagine all things we could have experienced together as mother and daughter, and it all just becomes a tangled web of dreams, fantasies, and memories.
My earliest memory of her is remarkably simple; her hand moves nettle from my path as I follow her into her garden. I’ve replayed it in my mind over and over questioning its authenticity. It must be real, it has to be. The love she must have felt for me to risk burning her skin, that small gesture touched me at that moment, and I captured that feeling of love along with a simple image and stored it in my memory bank.
As I lie in my soft cozy bed, the image I’m trying to focus on now is the same one I dream of every night, and every morning, no matter how hard I try, finding it is like walking through fog and grasping at something that may or may not even be there.
It’s the same every day, the same dream every night, or at least I believe it’s the same dream, and every morning I wake up feeling hollow and alone, as if whatever world I was just in was the real one, and awake I’m in limbo. It’s frustrating, I can feel it, right there beyond the veil, but every time I try to recall it, it’s as if I never dreamt of it.
I know it’s real, it must be, because there is one thing I remember for certain: a voice, a deep voice calling out to me. His voice seemed to bathe my very soul in warm summer sunshine. I don’t remember his exact words, it’s his desperation, his need, and desire that seem to pierce like hooks into my very being and pull my soul toward a desired destination. I want to go to him, but he isn’t real.
I let out a long breath. It’s no good, I’ll never be able to remember it. Perhaps tomorrow.
“That dream again?” Sophie asks as she barges into my room and makes her way to open my windows. Light floods into the room with every long heavy curtain she pulls open, and I cover my head with my sheets.
“Please, Sophie, go away, it’s too early,” I say as I try to bury myself further into my bed.
No luck. Sophie pulls my sheets off with one swift motion. How is she so strong at her age? The woman is nearing her sixties and as strong as an Ox.
“Viola,” I dare to glimpse at her from behind my hands, and she gives me the stink eye, “it’s past midday. Il est temps de se préparer.” Oh no, I’ve forgotten something. What was it?
“Get ready? For...something...” Sophie’s eyes widen and mine seem to copy hers as we somehow expect to channel information at each other without speaking.
“You have a party to prepare for?” Sophie reminds me.
I blow a raspberry at her and wave her away.
I go to grab my sheets away from her, “Party shmarty. Waste of time, the last thing I need is to lock myself in a house with a bunch of uptight, over-primped pansies with sticks up their bums.”
Sophie grips the sheets tighter out of my reach, “Miss Pollyanna will be there.”
I can’t help but roll my eyes, “Yes, but so will Laura Cidery.”
Laura is the worst of the worst, always out in society trying to sink her claws into the newest and richest eligible bachelor in town. They all do it, that’s our purpose as daughters, but Laura is the most brazen about it, and since we’re all whipped to be demur and modest wall flowers, her brashness makes her head stick out above all others.
Sophie always says, “The nail that sticks out the highest always attracts the hammer first,” so I keep my head low, and try to be as inconspicuous as possible. The last thing I want is a husband, a husband would take me from my father, and he’s the only family I have left.
Laura, however, is most amusing to watch at a party, it’s her stage, especially when she thinks no one else is watching. There’s always someone watching and it’s usually me. Watching Laura is like watching a peacock trying to seduce a mate, but what she doesn’t seem to realize is that it’s the males that have long beautiful feathers. They’re the ones meant to be doing the posturing and seducing. It’s like that for most species of animals, at least that’s what I’ve read in the books Father has.
I sigh into my pillow, “I guess I must save Polly from Laura, she can be a bit of a bully, though I can’t imagine why, aren’t we all in the same boat?”
“Some just can’t help themselves,” Sophie sits on the edge of my bed with all the sheets piled onto her lap, “I suppose her mother brought her up to be...competitive.”
I wouldn’t know what that’s like; to have that sort of pressure to marry from one’s parents. My mother died when I was six, and my father is a bit awkward on the subject, although he has started hinting at his getting older. I couldn’t even fathom leaving this house or my father. This is the only world I’ve ever known, only venturing out into the wider world through the books I read. Books are my greatest passion in life, and going on drives with my father. It’s taken a long time for me to learn to drive, I’m not the most physically gifted or coordinated person and tend to trip over my own feet, probably because my head is in the clouds most of the time.
“I wish Mother were here Sophie. It seems like now is the time I need her the most to guide me through all this nonsense.”
“Ah, oui ma chérie,” Sophie gently brushes the hair off my face as she speaks, “you are not wrong there, but you must always find your own way with what is available to you.”
Even though Sophie raised me she’s never presumed to mother me. Sometimes she might give me a little nudge, but she never oversteps. Most of the time I’m grateful for it, but at times it would be easier if someone would just point the way and say, “There, this way, now get going knob-head.”
Sophie leaves my blankets on my bed and holds up her finger as if remembering something. She leaves my room for a moment and comes back in with a big box.
She puts it on my bed and steps back, watching me eagerly, “Your father let me order this for you from Paris. You should wear it tonight, give Miss Laura a run for her money.”
“No, Sophie,” I bury my face into the sheets, “I’m not going,” I mumble into my bed.
Sophie takes the lid off the box and looks inside, “Oooh, it looks better than the photographs.”
I hear a rusting and take a curious peek at her holding the dress up to herself.
“Très belle,” Sophie walks around the room to examine herself in the full-length mirror, “You know, this one is the latest in Parisian fashion and to be worn without a corset.”
Sophie’s eyes lock onto mine in the reflection of the mirror and she knows she has me hook line and sinker.
“No corset you say?”
Sophie goes to look inside the box, “Oui, there are special undergarments here.”
She pulls out an interesting cloth garment made from two triangles held together by straps, “What is it?”
Sophie smiles and widens her ever for dramatic effect, “Liberté.” Sophie chuckles and sighs looking at the garment, “If only I were young and petit like you.”
I take the garment and look it over before holding it to my chest, “Here, like this?” Sophie nods, “I think it’s too big.”
Sophie places her hand over my breast, “Ah oui, like a little peach.”
She laughs as I swat her hand away and I look down into my nightgown, “They’re not getting any bigger, are they?”
“You’re twenty Viola, you’re done growing.”
My face twists on its own. I don’t mind being small-chested but I had hoped I’d get a little fatter, I feel like a twig sometimes. Sophie once said if I stood sideways I could disappear entirely.
“I will alter it, if I don’t finish in time, wear nothing,” Sophie takes the garment and shoots me a cheeky smirk before leaving me to start my day.