Collaboration from beginning to end

Next phase of the collaboration with Jane Astley

Gwenno’s gaze moved to a cracked glass vase of Hydrangeas jutting from the edge of a tall flimsy table. Pastel tissue paper butterflies, the colours of summer fruit-infused snow. Light yet so devouring. She had always considered them nature’s wedding bouquet. Even though her grandmother insisted that it was a curse to bring Hydrangeas into the house, Gwenno remained connected to the omens of superstition. She was troubled more by the women who believed in them. The woman who collected the same style of knickknacks adorning the mantelpiece in front of her now. Surely they were not to Rhodri’s taste. Basset hounds wearing trilbies and cats in Victorian dresses holding parasols. Who actually wants this shit in their house, in their space? Clutter for cluttered minds, fanning all size of fire.

Gwenno looked up at him looking at her. It wasn’t the first time someone had looked at her that way. She was not bewitching but almost faddish like velvet or waistcoats with backs of a crimson sheen.

“You don’t look like a hoarder” she commented, her fingertips pressing against the bone coloured mantelpiece where new ornaments sprung to attention. Dogs with long faces, brass bells, and candelabra slotted between opened and unopened envelopes.

He smiled, “It’s not my house.”

“Ah” she sounded relieved. She didn’t want to know more about this story yet. It would open up the crevices in a portal to a whole new world. A tiring prospect for somebody who didn’t need to know all the details about anything.

He was still watching her observing the new space, acclimatizing herself to it as though he wasn’t even a part of the landscape. If he adapted to a quizzical glance she might have asked why. Instead, he drifted off to the kitchen and with the physical motion, his mind parted ways toward the dull ache of what was now extinct. He’d always allowed the mind free rein. It wasn’t simply an overseer but the ultimate controller over the minutiae of his existence. The power bestowed bent him into submission to the point he had begun walking to a new soundtrack. If he watched its progress from another perspective, he would see himself gradually roll into a ball. How much of his life he had spent slowly becoming a statue made of stone. Eventually he would return to his original existence – a rock. Then someone would launch him through his own window. The mind evaporated these observations and led him by calloused palm to the very pinnacle of deprivation, to the worst of his worst. Pausing before asking him to arouse familiar feelings now. How far had he come in distance in spite of the curvature? Could he realise it without being it? How much of it is inlaid in our mortar, our essence? He felt the origin of all pain, pulsating in his chest this hard, heavy imprisoned weapon.

The sudden influx. Nothing hurt this much.

“What are you doing?” she yelled at him. She was in the kitchen with arms flailing.

She had hurled the kettle and grasped him roughly by the wrist. Cold flowing water on hot static skin as boiling water coursed to the floor. It felt interminable. She would not let go and he didn’t want that anyway. In the quiet that was infused with water pattering across a basin and dripping to the lino, the dark shifted to crimson and to gold. He had known the bliss of that dawn to be alive, as transitory as it was, felt its backlash, which hid all the exits out of its converse. He had never worked out that there was more than one way out. How had a mind as complex as his present so little option? That was the sort of question that Ann Marie would pose. The chest burn faded, compounding to the fresh sensation in the sink. The present moment. He started to laugh, was it really a gift when so often he discarded it in favour of what came before.

She was looking at him in a new way, scavenging the new indelible impressions on his face. Her grip was still strong, impressively so, protecting what was now mottled and numb as though her life depended on it.


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