Read My Candlelight Novel Online

Authors: Joanne Horniman

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My Candlelight Novel (7 page)

BOOK: My Candlelight Novel
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There was a woman picnicking with her two children over in the park, and I kept my eye on her at first to make sure she hadn't seen us, and then I got lost in the moment. Sex is essentially ridiculous when you think about it, but while you're actually doing it, it's not ridiculous at all, but lovely and essential. The thing I like is the way you reach a point where nothing else matters. There is that moment when time is suspended. Everything stops, and falls away.

We looked into each other's eyes the whole time. That was one thing I loved about Marcus, that he always kept his eyes open. Afterwards, I saw the woman in the park ushering her children away with an angry backwards glance. I also noticed with surprise that my knickers were still balled up into my fist.

And then I had to hurry to get to work on time, a wad of tissues stuck into my pants to collect the drips. I waited on tables all afternoon in a dreamy haze. I kept thinking of the Judith Wright poem, ‘Woman to Man'.
The third that lay in our embrace
is the line that ran through my head. But there had been four of
us
: me, Marcus, the gum tree and Hetty. Hetty was as yet only there in her potentiality, but that's the point of the poem, isn't it?

In an idle moment, standing next to the sink and scoffing a piece of brioche that I pulled apart with sticky fingers, I thought about those animated diagrams of conception, with sperm wriggling their way towards the ovum. I wasn't sure how long that swim took, but sperm were small, so it must take some little time at least. In my mind, the baby was already the imperious little madam that Hetty in fact became. My womb was waiting for her. And although I knew in reality that it must be quite small (it had to be; it fitted in there somewhere between my fanny and my waist), in my imagination I saw that part of me as a place as large and as infinite as an entire universe, with its own constellations and weather. It was dark there, and beautifully patterned with stars.

That night Marcus stayed with me in my red-room at Samarkand. And though I knew that he would be gone in a few days, I didn't care because I had him with me here, now. I couldn't stop looking at him and marvelling. It was as if
he
was my baby, he was so exquisite, so perfect, so astonishing. I had this idea that there was a type of love that you didn't want to miss out on in your life, and I knew it was that type of love I was experiencing now. It was absolute, abandoned, and beyond sense or logic.

Marcus slept, and still my eyeless labourer toiled through the night, striving herself into being
. Are we there yet?
I asked her silently.

Not yet, not yet.

It was then that I felt fully the strength of my baby's will.

Then, when I was almost dead with exhaustion (I didn't want to miss the actual moment of my baby's arrival so I kept myself awake) I heard a bat fly into the room. It was one of those tiny bats that frequented the house, and was no bigger than a tiny mouse.

The sound of its wings stopped, and I switched on the reading light at the same instant that it alighted on the shade that hung in the middle of the room. As I watched, the bat took off, out through the doors leading to the verandah. The moment between its alighting and swooping away again was a long, breathless pause. It was like the swinging arc made by a trapeze artist in a circus, the releasing and grasping, another moment when time stood still.

And I know that it was at that moment, that split second as the bat pushed away from the lightshade, that a single spermatozoon, the winner of the race, reached its destination and Hetty came into being.

I had met Marcus only three days before. He was just another customer in the café where I worked, and he started a conversation by asking me what I did.

‘What do you mean, what do I do?'

‘For a living.'

‘I work here.'

‘No – I mean really…'

‘I work here. Do you want pepper with that?' I brandished a tall grinder.

‘You don't look like a waitress – you must do something else as well.' He was flirting with me, and I was pretending indifference.

‘Really? What do I look like?'

‘I dunno…an actress?'

It was at that moment I should have hit him with a line from Shakespeare or Edward Albee (or better still, the pepper grinder), but I never had the knack of saying something witty at the right time; it only ever came to me afterwards. I found myself agreeing to come to the pub that night where he had a gig. He said his name was Marcus Innocenti (
Sure
, I thought), and his band was called The Innocents.

I'd forgotten how viscerally live rock music hits you. How
loud
it is. The way the sheer volume of it pounds into your chest, taking you by force, storming right in and using your body as a sounding board.

I loved it; I could have sat there all night. I watched Marcus Innocenti and felt, rather than heard, the music that he made. I conceded that perhaps ‘Innocenti' might be his real name after all because he
looked
Italian. That face, that nose, that dark hair, and the glance he shot me between songs that almost killed me. He looked anything but innocent, and that was the kind of boy I liked.

I hadn't dressed up, and still wore the outfit I'd worn at work, an old cotton dress and down-at-heel flats, ugly shoes that I hated; I called them my
licorice shoes
because of their unappetising dull black surface. Looking up from my horrible shoes, I made the fatal mistake of comparing myself with a slim, blonde girl in jeans and a skimpy top who seemed somehow connected with the band. She sipped at her beer with such a healthy unawareness of anyone else that I became painfully conscious that I can seldom lose myself like that in a crowd.

The music stopped and I got up and moved for the exit. I heard a voice say, over the microphone, ‘I think we'll take a break,' and before I got to the door, Marcus Innocenti caught me up. And he looked at me with such an entreating expression that I couldn't help but go back with him. He led me to a seat in a corner and fetched us some drinks. As we sipped beer together I saw various girls I'd been at school with toss their hair and throw me hincty glances.

After the gig there was absolutely nowhere in Lismore for us to go, so we walked the darkened streets. It was early December, and some houses had Christmas lights out already. What did we talk about? I can't remember, and besides, who needed to talk? If I wanted conversation I'd read Leo Tolstoy. It was enough simply to be walking beside Marcus Innocenti, aware of every cell in his body.

We ended up at his motel. I hadn't been in many motel rooms in my life, and this one struck me as very depressing, with ugly furniture and expanses of brown curtain and carpet and bedspread. So far we hadn't touched each other, not on the walk, and not now. I sat on the end of the bed and drank a can of Passiona from the mini-bar. Marcus Innocenti made himself a cup of green tea. He sat beside me on the bed to drink it. I kicked off my shoes, and they lay there on the brown carpet looking very lost and ugly and alone.

He said, ‘Tell me the story of your life.'

No one had ever said this to me before. It would never have crossed the minds of the boys I'd been with up till now.

Tell me the story of your life.

I looked at him, and it seemed as though he meant it. He smiled.

Marcus Innocenti wasn't your brooding, moody type. He was no Edward Rochester or Mr Darcy, and thank goodness for that. He smiled and laughed a lot, even though I couldn't remember afterwards exactly what he'd smiled and laughed about.

I took him at his word. I told him the story of my life. I told him everything, things I'd never told another soul. It took all night. It took till the dawn, lying all that time next to him on the bed, still not touching. When I'd finished he took my face between his hands and said, ‘Do you know what? You're the funniest girl I've ever met in my life.'

We undressed each other and Marcus Innocenti examined every inch of my body. Under his scrutiny there wasn't one part of myself that I felt the need to cover up or feel ashamed of. He said, pinching the flesh tenderly between his fingers, ‘You've got a fat back,' and it didn't seem that he was criticising, merely observing. He found the scar on my knee from when I'd fallen from a swing when I was four, and chided me gently for not telling him the
entire
story of my life after all.

Back in the days when I used to meet up with boys on the riverbank, after sex I always ended up reaching into my bag for my copy of
Anna Karenina
. I used to carry it with me to help me deal with boring moments in my life.

With Marcus Innocenti, the thought of
Anna Karenina
didn't even enter my mind.

C
HAPTER
E
IGHT

T
HE DAY AFTER
Hetty was conceived, Marcus and I found a set of old inks in an op shop. They were in small squat bottles, and were coloured crimson, vermilion, aquamarine, Prussian blue, chrome yellow, and dark, evil black.

The reds were as transparent as blood – all the colours but the black were transparent; we speculated that the other colours might have been from differently blooded people. We sat in my room and drew on large sheets of paper (all abstract stuff, just lines and squiggles, trying out the colours and dropping the ink from the stoppers, smearing them across the paper). And he told me about his family. His mother worked in a bank and his father sold appliances in a store. They lived in a squat brick house somewhere in Sydney's west and he had a little sister who played hockey and roller-skated. It all seemed so exotic – I longed to live his life, to go home to a mass-produced modern kitchen, up a path surrounded by unevenly mown lawn, to a family watching television and eating food they'd warmed in a microwave. There were people like that in Lismore, but their lives were unknown to me.

The name Innocenti was real, he said, only the Italian heritage was so long ago that no one remembered a thing about it. It had all been lost. He lived in the garage out the back of his parents' house, worked odd jobs when he wasn't doing gigs. They despaired of him, and I felt sad for him when he told me that, because I'd been allowed to glimpse an aspect of his life that wasn't all hope and glory and dazzling, beautiful noise.

That morning, drawing with the old inks, the late morning sunlight slanting through the doors, I thought that perhaps I had imagined I was now pregnant. The baby seemed a figment of my fevered imagination (and I was fevered – I was so filled with love for Marcus Innocenti that I was constantly giddy, and I hadn't slept properly for several nights in a row).

Marcus told me that he'd thought I must have invented the colourful past I'd related to him on that first night, but now, having seen Samarkand, he conceded that I might have been telling the truth. I smiled, and put three vermilion dots next to a Prussian blue square.

‘Why paint your room
red
?' he asked, gesturing at the bright walls.

I shrugged. ‘Why not?' I could only tell him so much about myself, after all. How could I tell him that the colour red represented my mother to me, and living in a red-room was a way of keeping her always with me when at that time I hadn't even reasoned that out for myself?

When we'd done enough fooling about with the inks, we lay next to each other on my bed and fooled around with each other. We compared the colour of our skins. The inside of my arm was the colour of a gardenia, he decided. I said his was polished wood. Both of us had hair of similar length, which made it easy to lay a hank of one across another. Though both were black, his hair was glossier than mine. And mine smelt filthy, he told me tenderly. It smelt of me, of my skin and sweat, as if I never used shampoo (and I didn't).

After Kate came in to offer to make us some lunch (but really to get a good look at Marcus) and I'd sent her away with an order for cheese on toast, Marcus said, teasingly, ‘Do you
really
remember the day your sister was conceived? And your own birth?'

I nodded. ‘I remember my own conception too,' I boasted.

He grinned and pinned me down, kissing me so hard that I could taste blood from where his teeth (they were very sharp) grazed the inside of my mouth.

He was so beautiful. That was the thing about him, his sheer beauty. And it would be a shame not to love beauty like that. People say that beauty isn't a virtue, but it is. What was it Oscar Wilde said? That only shallow people don't judge by appearances.

He wore make-up when he performed so that the bright lights didn't wash out the colour in his face, and wore it in the daytime as well (he was very tardy about taking it off at night, so that in my impatience to get at him, I copped toxic mouthfuls of lipstick and eyeshadow). Once, a waitress in a café paused in the middle of setting down our order to gushingly tell him he had beautiful eyes, and he responded with such innocent pleasure that I couldn't help but love him for it. His was such a simple soul: he loved praise and admiration, and was so charming that to be smiled upon by him was like a blessing. Knowing what I did about his family, I could see that he had constructed a persona for himself from nothing but his astonishing beauty and naturally generous impulses. We had that in common: both of us, in our different ways, had invented ourselves from the best part of our natures. And knowing that, how could I not feel optimistic about our child?

We talked and talked, and thought in euphoria that we had
everything
in common. (Now, in retrospect, I see we had very little in common, but when you're in that state of being miraculously in love any small similarity seems pre-ordained and stupendously significant. ‘Really?' you say. ‘You like that too? That's amazing. So do I!' and ‘You too?
I
feel that way!' All your conversations go like that.)

I knew that he would soon be gone, and I wanted to remember him. Perhaps Hetty was a way of memorising him. But when I look at her now, I can see that she is her own self, that despite my efforts, Marcus Innocenti has eluded me.

BOOK: My Candlelight Novel
6.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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