I managed to cross the 70k word threshold on The Mortality Code yesterday evening on a day full of non-stop doing (except for household practicalities), so now my head is full of two live novels, although I try not to think of Aggie too much because I’m trying to restrict her life to just the mornings when I write this. I wonder if these two voices will conflict or spill over into each other or destroy each other. I’ll only know the answer by persisting.
Storm Dudley is upon us, and one of our fences is listing quite badly. I keep meaning to find a piece of rope long enough to tie the loose post to the strange plum tree next to it so it stops leaning over. When Storm Eunice hits us tomorrow, I want it secured. M and I are both confused as to which fence is whose. That’s the downside to living in a garden bordered by other people’s gardens on two sides (three, actually, here, in the city where everything is packed so tightly together). I don’t know if my reluctance to even think about these borders to other people’s properties is down to my age-old instinct to withdraw into myself whenever I can. It probably is.
Last night was strangely dreamless. I did wake at quarter to one thinking it was time to get up, and was disappointed when my clock and my watch both told me it wasn’t time yet, that my brain was deceiving me. The moon was shining fully into the landing, bright as day, and I stood briefly nakedly at the window and looked up into the cloudless sky to admire its fullness. My best nights were always those when the full moon shone into my bedroom. That was before sleep became important.
I try to find ways of not repeating myself – in my recollection of facts, and in the fictional stories I tell.
The external hard drive plugged into my machine ready to prepare some radio shows is whirring loudly, and tells me time is up.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 5
But the feeling of control does not last long for Aggie. She realises that the commotion of Sir’s unexpected arrival and just as unexpected departure has made her miss out something in the usual order of things. The baking of the bread was only supposed to be the beginning of her evening tasks. She was supposed to, while the bread was proving and then baking, prepare evening meals for Sir and Madam, and for herself. She has done none of this, distracted, almost distraught, by the strangeness of seeing him with his black hair out of place, by his sweating, his curt, curter than normal, words, his haste, by that hint of fear she thought she saw in his eyes when she looked down at him from her enormous and what she often considers inhuman height. And the trail of neat letters and numbers on the open page in the book on the table behind her.
And then the moment does come, the moment she knows comes every night, when the floodlights illuminating the cathedral blink and go out, leaving a huge patch of darkness where a blooming spire of brightness should be, leaving only a blot of black, a void with all life sucked from it, and the lights of the city around that emptiness doing nothing more than define the edge of the shape that was there before, the shape which will reappear in the light of dawn, a skeleton of limestone and lead, a soaring beast borne out of the morning mist back into life, a sign that all routines repeat and withdraw, repeat and withdraw, an unending refrain of duty and care.
Aggie sighs out into the night, and her breath clouds the window and her reflection, that image she can’t escape from now her holy symbol has disappeared. A part of her always asks itself if she’s just imagined it exists at all, and if the floodlights aren’t floodlights at all but just devices which project the image of a big church onto the city to keep its citizens at peace, to offer its citizens an imaginary refuge from the daily drudgery they have to perform. And then, like every evening at this time, she thinks of those who are dying at the exact time the lights go out, how appropriate it seems that death should come when the church disappears from the panorama laid out before her, and decides that today of all days she doesn’t want to think about them, not ever again, because that time will come for her soon enough, despite her youth.
Aggie hurries away from the window, lays her hands gently onto the loaves which she now deems to have cooled enough to be covered by two pristine Egyptian cotton tea towels so they can develop the crust that makes her bread so special. She drapes the towels over these loaves with special care, reminding herself that she must freeze one of them for Sir and Madam’s return, and that she might have a few slices of the other one thickly covered with butter instead of the meal she now doesn’t have the energy or inclination to prepare.
On the wall by the kitchen door the phone rings. Aggie takes one stride across to it. ‘Hello?’
‘Don’t let him…’
Aggie opens her mouth in an unspoken question. The line is dead.