I must ask pardon for not writing too much about this time, For one thing, little changed from day to day. For another, mostly all I can remember is grey days fading into stygian black nights dawning into more grey and hopeless days. The leaves on the rosebush tattoo were starting to turn colours and fall. An unmoving fog seemed ever around the house.. fitting for the haunted house of a monster, I suppose.
Maggie assures me that it was no more foggy than any other autumn in the city. There were sunny days and rainy days and so on and it was only my own gloom that created my perception of constant fog. She’s probably right- she usually is.
I don’t know what I would have done without Maggie. She badgered me to get up in the mornings, to eat and to keep moving. She refused to coddle me over much and would not let me lapse into total immobility.
At first, I admit, I was an uncooperative brat. The only way she could get me out of bed was to dump frozen ball bearings on me. She only had to do that twice- after that hearing them rattling in the can was enough to propel me out of the bed. But once up, I moped and when I didn’t mope, I sulked. I refused to see anyone and I never left the house so that no one could see me. When I did get up, the only movement I did willingly was to occasionally take heart-felt but mostly ineffective swings at the punching bag we’d installed in one of the larger rooms. I think it was originally meant to be a ballroom but it was never going to fill that function with me living here.
I tried to confine my violence to the punching bag but one morning I looked in the bathroom mirror and drew back to take a swing at my own horrific reflection. There was a green flash and green eyes looking out of the mirror at me.
“Rule #2. Don’t Break The Mirror. You’re going to need it.”
The eyes started to fade and I called “Wait!” They came back into focus. “I have a question about rule #1- if I don’t tell but someone guesses, do I have to deny it?”
“Humm. Yes, okay. If they guess, you can confirm. But be careful- telling anything they did not guess will be breaking the rule.”
I’d been wondering about that for awhile. “Thank you. Even if it doesn’t happen, that helps.”
The eyes blinked and looked a little surprised. “You’re welcome. Don’t break the mirror.” And they were gone again.
Some time later, I came into the room while Maggie was watching a news program and she uncharacteristically flipped it off. Since she was usually encouraging me to take an interest in the world outside of the house, I flipped it back on- perversely wanting to know what it was that she didn’t want me to see.
Laurel. Laurel getting married… to Sam. I watched the whole program with Maggie darting sidelong looks at me to see how I was taking it. When it was over she asked me “Well?”
I had to think about it a bit… but while I was a little angry, I wasn’t hurt. I didn’t even wish either of them anything but well. “Well, I don’t suppose they could have invited me but it might have been nice for Sam to let me know.” It occurred to me that it had only been about six months since that horrible day when my life as I knew it ended and Laurel walked out.
“Then you’re ok with this?” she probed.
“Yeah, he’ll make her a nice ‘first husband’… and she had to hurry- that dress will be out of style by spring.” I was pretty sure that was her motivation for the rush. She’d spent a fortune on that dress- by Vera Wang or somebody- and had it altered so it couldn’t be returned. I did wonder if Sam had managed to curb his tendency to play the field or if they were both doing it… and if they were, were they telling each other? Or were they playing the happy couple for each other as well as the public? It didn’t matter- I was just glad it was Sam and not me. I felt more like laughing than I had in months.
I didn’t entirely stop sulking after that but my black mood did lighten just a bit. Maggie no longer had to push me to get up and I started a workout routine which helped. The more I moved, the less bad I felt so I ended up doing a lot more. I started exploring the house- not that I hadn’t dragged into every room before- but really seeing it. While I couldn’t make myself look any better, the house had a lot of untapped potential, including a rooftop garden.
Working on the garden was a bit problematic for me because it was exposed… until I realized that in the first place, most people never look up and in the second, even if they did, I was too high to be more than a silhouette. They might wonder what I looked like but they wouldn’t be able to see. So I worked on the garden as much as I could and planned a greenhouse so that I could still grow some of the plants in the winter.
The greenhouse turned out to be one of my more eclectic home improvement projects. I didn’t want workmen in the house so I had to learn how to do pretty much everything myself, which, I’m sure was good for me. I found in the attic a number of old windows- fabulous old windows- some had stained glass insets and others were leaded glass and it was out of these that I planned my greenhouse. I scraped my hands and I hammered my thumb more than once but eventually I got it together… and realized I had no idea what to plant. I did put in several pots of herbs for Maggie after asking her what she liked to cook with most but they only filled a very small corner.
While that was the most difficult, it wasn’t the only improvement I made to the house. I laid a cork floor in the kitchen- because cork is easier on the feet and legs when cooking but still easy to clean. I fixed doors and window sashes and stripped and refinished woodwork… and stripped all the hardwood floors and refinished them. Then I turned painter and painted or papered every room in the house. There was one I made into a bedroom… although goodness knows I was never going to have a guest… at the top of the house. I painted it some shade of green called bamboo and helped Maggie fix up the soft furnishings in all shades of green. It had a leaded glass skylight that opened into the greenhouse and it turned out to be the prettiest room in the house. We actually fixed several rooms up as bedrooms- mine and Maggie’s of course- and the room at the top of the house- and the room that my father never moved into.
That last was so depressing that I didn’t have the heart to finish it. I knew my father and I knew he placed great value on good looks- he works in television- so I knew he was never going to spend even a single night there, no matter how many time he said he was coming. He would always have a reason to cancel at the last minute.
Maggie found me sitting in the middle of the floor. I’d reverted to my not-moving phase, I guess.
“I’d have thought you’d be finished with this room by now.”
“Why? He’s not ever coming here.”
“You never know. He’s your father, he’ll come.”
“I don’t think so.”
Maggie looked at me pensively. “Still, finish the room. It’s not good to leave things unfinished.”
I knew she was right but I kept procrastinating- or trying to, there wasn’t much else to do. Maggie kept the house spotless and, with only the two of us, she didn’t need any help. Indeed, she had more spare time than ever, part of which she used to write long letters. I later found out that she had always written the letters… but she never mailed any of them. She didn’t even address them, just wrote a date on the envelope and added it to a file box with dozens of others. Finally curiosity got the better if me and I asked her about it over dinner one night. We had abandoned eating separately early on. With only the two of us, it seemed stupid as well as lonely.
“They’re to my family.”
“But you never send them, why is that?” I knew she must miss her family a lot to write such long letters.
“They don’t want to hear from me.” She sighed.
“Oh, Maggie, I’m sure they do. You said you had a son?” She had never told me anything about her family… but then, I hadn’t ever asked before.
“Two… and a husband. They’re in Ireland, fighting in the IRA, and I had to leave. I couldn’t stand the violence any more.”
“But you still miss them, ” I said.
“Of course I do! I tried to get Liam, that’s my husband, to come with me but he wouldn’t and the boys are already following in his footsteps… or they were when I left. I still wish they would drop all the revenge and hate and join me here but I don’t see any way of that happening.”
I felt bad for Maggie. I knew all too well how lonely it is to have a family that doesn’t want you. I wanted to help but frankly, I didn’t see any way I could.
It was around that same time that I asked Maggie to call me by my middle name, Thorne, instead of Kyle.
“Um. Okay, it will take a bit of getting used to and you might have to remind me a couple of times. But why?”
I didn’t blame her for being a little confused. I’d brought it up out of the clear blue. “Everything’s changed- I’ve changed. So much so that I don’t even feel like the same person any more. ‘Kyle’ is dead and gone.”
She nodded. She never did need reminding which only reinforced my conviction.
Eventually I finished my father’s room. I’d drawn it out longer than was reasonable but there were limits. And now I had nothing at all to do. The house began to close in on me like a prison and I felt that I had to get out or go crazy.