CREATIVE Inés Garland translated by Richard Gwyn

NWR Issue 100

A Perfect Queen

You will be aware of an absence, presently,
Growing beside you, like a tree
- Sylvia Plath

I look for Mama even though I know she is never here when I come home from school. There are flowers on the table in the hall. In the guests’ bathroom I see a freshly ironed linen towel, its neatly ironed pleats like those in my uniform. And there are new, violet soaps, with a scent of violets. Guests are expected tonight. I go to the kitchen and open the fridge. On the middle shelf there is a chocolate mousse, fluffy and perfect. I imagine myself sitting on the carpet in the blue room, eating it all up. Slowly. With my finger. But I know that the mousse is not for me. When I write this memory, I will want to know why I suppress my desire, why I don’t even taste the mousse and instead make myself a sweet bread roll with butter and eat it sitting on the floor in the blue room.

Everyone else calls the blue room the study. It is not a study, it’s a blue room. There are black and white photos all over the walls. There is also a bar, two doors that open onto a mirrored compartment filled with bottles of gold and clear liquids, and very delicate wineglasses that my youngest sister likes biting from time to time, when no one is watching. Mama and Papa then come running over to her, Papa puts his fingers in her mouth to take out the bits of glass although my sister carries on as if it were quite normal to have her mouth full of fragments from a wineglass that she has been told time and time again is expensive and was a wedding present, and that if she persists with this madness, there will be not a single glass left.

Sometimes I would like to turn into Thumbelina and sit on the bar that smells of wood along with something else which one day I will know is whisky. It would be like living in a city of glass buildings: I would see myself reflected in the sky and on the ground, multiplied behind the bottles, all in a row, side by side with the cocktail stirrers. I would also climb into the drawer of Mama’s bedside table, and go to sleep inside the little green towel that covers the leather manicure set bearing her initials.

My sisters have to be in here somewhere, but when I write this I will not be able to remember them and it will seem to me as though I am alone in the house and that the only thing I do is wait for Mama so that I can ask her for a scoop of mousse. I will remember that at some point she arrives, bustles into the house with her long blonde hair and her cloud of perfume which at that time is gardenia even though I do not know this until years later...

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