There comes a time when shared self-reflection seems useless and indulgent, self-indulgent.
The sun is out. There is a gentle breeze. Building materials scattered across the lawn by the house. Yesterday, M and A made small greenhouses out of plastic boxes damaged in the house move, because many of the plants M started in the mini-propagator have already grown too large for it, especially the sweet corn. She also planted some seeds from a pepper from the supermarket, and a small seedling has poked itself through the soil. Nature is stronger than human progress. It always will be. A different imperative.
There is an unreal quiet over the houses today. Like something is about to happen. A storm of many kinds? A freeing of everything? A sudden end to the war? The world hopes for all these things. This country hopes for all those things. Something unexpected. Children’s voices from two gardens down the hill. Music from two gardens up the hill. The sun is unexpectedly warm. Words difficult, as usual. Clouds crossing the sky like stately ships or space ships. Maybe it’s a disguised invasion. But it’s too pretty for that. But then prettiness camouflages many less than pretty things. Posturing, lying, flattery. But the clouds aren’t flattering, nor posturing, nor lying. Although it won’t belong before someone does invent a weapon that looks like clouds.
A combat helicopter does its rounds, and drowns out the drone of the huge bumble bee by the house, the birdsong, the children’s voices, the music, the butterfly wings’ fluttering, the pulse of nature. An allegory? It disappears beyond the northern horizon, under the clouds, and the echo of its engine fades. At least it isn’t followed by a squadron of more war machines. The country is still for a moment. Other sounds resurface. Normality is restored. For the moment. Higher, high above the clouds, invisible machinery floats through the atmosphere. There will be no warning when its wings unfold.
A pastoral lie, this semblance of peace. The green, the colours, the mildness of temperature and scene.
Odd, how empty descriptions are without emotion. Objectivity is a desert.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 57
Smears of light. There are only occasional other cars on the road. The crash of the water onto the car masks all other sounds. No-one speaks. Marit’s eyes are fixed on what little of the way she can see ahead of her, and Katharina is staring ahead just as intently. No point having the radio on; they wouldn’t be able to hear whatever it is that would come out of it.
Zav, his chin resting on his right hand, propped up on the window ledge next to him, watches the rain, the storm, his face thoughtful, relaxed, as if he has forgotten the people around him. Anna looks ahead, through the gap between Marit and Katharina, at the smudges in front of her, cleared frequently and ineffectively by the wipers. She is leaning back, though, and her face says nothing of what she’s thinking. nothing of her conversation with Aggie. Her hands are pressed together between her thighs, and she doesn’t move. Her eyes, wide and dark, are immobile, too, and her breathing barely noticeable.
Aggie is resting her head on her hands, avoiding, as always, any semblance of reflection of herself in the glass. The rain is making it impossible for her to see any of the landscape beside the road, and she imagines that lakes must be gathering on the fens around them, threatening to take over the tarmac, to wash away the way west and north. The deafening rumble of the drops on the car echoes inside her head, stops her from thinking about where they’re going, what they will do next. She doesn’t feel exhaustion like the others do, just hopes the storm will pass safely and quickly. She doesn’t blink, doesn’t seek out Anna’s hand, doesn’t feel Anna’s heat next to her, does her best to be in contact with nothing, not to encumber herself or Anna with unwanted touch. Her eyes are still for once, resigned to the fact that if any danger is now approaching them, she will not sense it. But she isn’t unprepared, that coil of muscle and will deep within her as tight and tangible as ever.
The secret of patience. That voice again, that lesson again. What if others know patience better than she does? She doesn’t close her eyes, but searches through the Norwich house again, on a different plane. Everything goes silent inside her. All the rooms empty of anything worthwhile, except for Cassandra’s side of the marital bedroom. Nothing of Valentine’s to be found. And he never had an office in the house, so there is nothing to find, nowhere to look for anything that might give away his plans. She has a grudging admiration for his acting, the way he gave the impression of being confused and frightened and in a hurry, that upper class combination of being gormless and charming and never well-organised. Those well-turned vowels when he spoke, those well-modulated sentences somehow making him seem harmless and without intent. Giving nothing away. Then how she’d attacked Anna before she’d known who it was, that only Aggie’s resolution to never kill had stopped her from killing Anna. That bruising impact which ended with Anna unconscious and helpless. Had Anna had a sudden collapse then, too? Did the mentor still have a hold on her somehow, did they see through Anna’s eyes, and somehow control her actions? Did Anna still kill because the mentor was still telling her to? Was the mentor watching the storm through Anna, the progress, had they heard what Anna had promised Aggie?
They hadn’t explored that final cellar room, had they? Aggie holds her breath for a few seconds. She’d just carried Anna back upstairs, hadn’t shone her torch to see into the corners of that room afterwards, had just assumed it was empty and bare like the other rooms down there. What if Anna was lying and had got into the house some other way than through the front door? What if the order to kill Zav had come from someone Anna and Aggie knew, had known, but thought they had escaped from? What if they hadn’t escaped at all? Aggie puts one hand into her coat pocket nearest the car door, slowly so that no-one can see her move. She feels around in her pocket until she senses the narrow piece of plastic shielding a needle, pulls it our of her pocket, unsheathes the sharp point, and, without thinking, without pausing, without hesitating, and faster than light, plunges it into Anna’s arm.