Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The Smell of Fire - Part Five
See Part One HERE
See Part Two HERE
See Part Three HERE
See Part Four HERE
My room was all the way up in the attics. One small little dormer room, a single bed, a dresser, a cracked mirror, my trunk, that was it. Four stories up it was.
A terrible part of it was the blindfolding. Even though it all happened in darkness. I never knew who it was, you see. I'd get little clues, smells, grunts, the feel of different hands, some soft, some rough, odd scented soap, hair-oils, unshaven chins, brandied breath, garlic from the pasta. I was gagged too at the beginning, but when I begged them not to do that as losing my breath on top of everything else was paralyzing me so much I thought I would die, they stopped, making me promise not to talk or scream or cry out, I just became numb, you know?
I had nowhere to run, nowhere to go, neither flesh nor fowl nor fish that belonged to me in this strange huge city, such a leap from Ballycloyne, Brigid. You would have no idea.
I knew nothing of such acts. Nothing. I thought it all part of the service to the clergy. Doing my duty in the palace. All in a maid's daily work.
I went to his Excellency when the inevitable occurred. He called me some terrible names, if you can imagine. There was nothing worse that could happen to me, I knew that, so I stood up to him. So I did. I had nothing to lose at all. I had no intention of giving up my child so I asked him for ten thousand dollars and I would be no more trouble to him or his friends. That was a huge amount in those days, dear. I suppose it would be over a hundred thousand today. If he didn't give it to me I would go to the police, I said. He made a lot of threats, of course, saying I'd gone down the docks with all the sailors and he knew all sorts of characters, shady ones, that would knife me as soon as look at me, but he gave in. He must have seen something in my eyes. I would not go down lightly.
Cash, I'll never forget the sight of all that cash in his safe in the library. And jewellery too, diamonds and gold and the flash of rubies. My ten thousand was just a drop in the ocean. He piled it all up in front of me and then, a very odd thing, put an envelope beside it with St. Michael's College printed on it. Told me to use it for the boy's education. If it was a girl, he said, spend it on her wedding.
And that was that. Of course Ian is the head off him, unfortunate I suppose, I could never think of him as my son, understandable, I would think? He is so much of his. But Ian is kinder, he's always been such a gentle boy. But oh, so timid. I had dreams for him, but he plays life carefully, narrowly, have you met Signorina Rosa?
Here, her reflective mood shifts and she laughs as I nod.
Can you imagine how she hates being called Signorina?
Her delight ignited my own and we tittered companionably as she held my hand in both of hers, suddenly sombre.
I have a favour to ask you, Brigid.