The purple shadow...
Cast by the waning sun's light streaming past the fine lattice window of her study..
One sugar cube was dropped into her tea.
A spot of milk was stirred into the steaming cup, to drown piteously in the dark-umber pit. The back of the spoon made small clinking sounds every time it hit the golden cloisonné rim of porcelain. She watched, with a dispassionate gaze, the milk get swept away in a fashionable whirlpool created by every tiny and precise 'tings' of the spoon.
There must only be 10 rotations of the spoon, exactly. The tea ceased to be stirred when a small murky reflection of her face could be seen. The gloomy liquid represented a mysterious yawning cave for her to curiously peer in.
Not one more action of stirring should begin, not one less should be missed; otherwise the flavor would never be right. With countless experiments she had found the proper brew to her taste's selective consent. She had created the perfect blend. The tea bag had to soak for exactly 15 minutes and not a second later, not a second before- to create the correctly colored brew, the right smell. Otherwise everything would end up wrong, and her evening would simply be ruined.
She had her tea every day of her life at the punctual passé schedule of 5:30 pm. sharp. On the dot. Not a minute later! Not even of a fraction of a second before! All clocks were synchronized at the same time. The grandfather's clock that lay in the den, the chipper cuckoo clock at the near dining table, and the wood furbished wall clock here, in the study.. all were made to be set at the same time. They all read on impassive faces, the same numerical placard.
Every hour of the hour, all clocks would ring simultaneously around the house creating a near deafening cacophonic choir she so loved to hear.
Bing ! Bing ! bong!
Tick tick tick tock!
Hickory dickory dock!
Plock scholock !
It was the only time the house was alive.
She blinked. She tucked a stray strand of her auburn hair back into her bun; realized the futility that it was not the same, undid her hair and wrapped it back with quick, precise, practiced movements. The soft tanned cascade lasted for only a few moments, to catch the near diminishing sun's light and reflect the sparkle off the window.
She sipped the tea- a warm, slithering sensation down her throat. The thumb of her hand liked to feel the spoon's handle of gold plated work. She liked the way the handle had little facets carved into them, and the way they popped up and sunk on different parts to create a pleasing texture.
It was left as a family heirloom. Alone in this huge house left to her by her deceased father. Where the wind was rare and cool. . calming. She fixed a detached stare, at the beginning of snow's descent.
.. Her hand extended for the tea, fingers crooked around the half-circular cup's handle, in order to drink again. This intricately detailed saucer of royal blue spring flowers embossed with golden leaves... She glanced at the matching cups and saucers; satisfied.
She turned to her writing desk, to look at the letter that lay innocently on it.
The mailman had come earlier today, to deliver the letter to her. At the letter's arrival her prim and proper heart had fluttered and ceased to beat for the stretch of an agonizing second. Her little, little world spun and her breath was still.
She already knew who it came from. She already knew what it was all about. All she had done was wait patiently, dreading and hoping its arrival. Now it was here.
With subtly trembling hands the letter was taken, and grasped between two long delicate fingers. Despite her anxiety, she had managed to utter her mannerly, polite thanks and entered the sanctuary of her carpeted study.
The letter had come today.. this year of 1905. From an old close friend. Her only friend.
Utmost privacy was needed and ensured. None had ever and would ever come to see her. Her only frequent visitor was the unexpected guest of Sadness who was never welcome, but always let in.
But today would be different. Today was the day of her deliverance. Today was the day she was to be set free.
She clutched the golden locket that hung from her neck- the one that rested so contentedly, so lightly near her bosom. She looked at the picture of the young man on one side, that of her close friend, and of herself on the other. Her eyes held a numb gaze in the worn out photograph, but his were bright and hopeful. She etched a kiss on their shiny foreheads before snapping the locket tightly, quietly. She let her hand close around the golden young trinket once more before it fell back to its place like a light caress, on its own accord.
She cauterized and sterilized the letter opener with the lighted candle at the corner of her desk. She used careful hands, afraid of the flame for reasons of her own. She did not want to be burned, nor nicked accidentally; Did not want her blood to spill on her pristine garments, nor on her beloved letter.
The letter was long. The longest he had ever written her. He had so much to tell her. And she was reading all of it, never wanting to miss anything.
She huddled near the soft candlelight- yellow and wavering, flickering at the gentle command of the wind. The place was not so damp or cold. There was a fire raging in the fireplace opposite her desk. She drew her shawl closer around her arms, and instinctively rubbed her arms every now and then. Once in a while, while reading, a ghost of a smile was illuminated by the faint glow of candlelight.
She finished the letter. And she looked up.
Beside her was a vase with a single flower. She smelled the flower near the candle flame, once. for the last time. the flower would wilt and be dry by tomorrow. It was already browning by the edges. She inhaled it, deliberately letting the vanishing scent intoxicate her. the sweet smell of a morning's day leaving coiled tendrils of rapidly evaporated dew. This flower was of nature's nurturing hand. This flower only bloomed during the season of Persephone.
She folded the letter and creased the sides. All the pages of the letter were carefully placed back into the envelope.
Except for one.
One single piece of the letter that lay in the open for her to read and re- read in a kind, smiling daze.
Sweet darling Eleanor! Childhood friend! My Eliney..! It would mean so much to me if you would come to attend our wedding! It takes places only a few months from now.. if you were to arrive early, I am sure my fiancée would be more than happy to take you into her home..
She felt a wave of relief. Her only binding tie to this world had been removed..
In her hands she gathered her plump taffeta skirt, and stiffly straightened her jacquard ivory blouse. She walked to the fireplace.
She threw the envelope into the fire.
She sat down again.
A lone tear fell down her cheek, joyous to finally escape so lonely a prison.
She did not watch the fire burn around the paper.
Did not watch the small blaze lick and swallow. .
Did not watch the embers twist and snake dance in a crackling waltz and fly.
But engraved the sound of the flames engulfing the fragile thin surface of her heart... reached for the letter opener with her delicate white hands and exposed white wrists, and started to slice.
The tea sat unfinished, wobbling. .disappointed at being forgotten.