Authors: Ashly Graham
THE TRIPLE GODDESS
From humanity she went into Art,
And I shall never see her face again;
But all of her that lives within my heart
I use to recreate her with my pen.
She never was a statue in my mind,
Or one who only lives where fancy’s bred;
Her image, which she left intact behind,
Speaks eagerly of matters left unsaid.
Words I shape roughly with a knife
And drop in little bundles on the way:
She wraps them in colour and gives them life,
Meaning and context, worthy of the day.
From Hell I gyre momentum in reverse
To reach her high point in the Universe.
THE TRIPLE GODDESS
a novel in three parts
When Apollo noticed you at fifteen
His composure was blown to smithereens:
There was nothing under the sun to compare
With your innocent beauty, your burnished hair.
Though not intending Apollo disrespect,
Your triumph at such a tender age
First enraged him, then left him marvelling
At the mortal visible ascent of one
Who had no thought to eclipse him.
The dazzler bedazzled, stepping down
From the podium, passed you his crown
And the encomium of an admiring glance.
Bestowing the garland,
He laced your fingers in his hand.
It was a work day, and as she came downstairs to breakfast the Honourable Arbella Stace, auburn-tressed and slender-hocked at twenty-two, was in the same ill humour as she always was during the week. She also had a hangover, but so she did every morning and it had nothing to do with her mood. Not to have a hangover would have been cause for alarm, and reason to call the office and say that one was ill and unable to come to work.
Breakfast was the only time that Arbella’s eyes could properly be said to be open, for she lowered her gaze as she left the house and the shutters closed upon her soul. This was not a bad thing, for a full exposure to her viridian irises was enough to overwhelm rather than merely disconcert a susceptible person. From thoughts of Arbella images rose: of a darkened box at the opera, perhaps, with her sitting beside one sheathed in silk as the luminous ice slipped around a bottle of Pol Roger champagne. Her designer shoes were invitations to dance, cheek to cheek by candlelight. Her walk conjured a sleek ketch, sliding pilotless through the Mediterranean into Portofino. Her fingers were drawn by Raphael on one of his better days.
And her voice: her voice was like emerging refreshed into early sun at the entrance of a mountain cave, and hearing the sound of chanting from a monastery below, and the intonation of a bell rising through the mist.
Outside, in recognition of Arbella’s indisposition, the world hid its joys so as not to irritate her by taunting her with cheerfulness. The sky scowled, dropsical bellies of clouds gathered over the streets of London, and rain bounced on the slick shining squares of pavement. A spiteful wind sprung up and the temperature adjusted to an unseasonal low. Amongst the mass of commuters who had pulled themselves out of bed in the dark, nobody spoke. Debouching from the Bank, Monument, and Tower Hill Undergrounds, and the London Bridge, Cannon Street, Liverpool Street, and Fenchurch Street railway stations, the bedraggled crowd toted its umbrellas and bags or briefcases, and proceeded along the spokes of pavement that led to the Square Mile of the city’s financial district.
Clothes and souls dampened in equal measure, for, ignorant that the state of the weather could be determined by the indisposition of a single person, it seemed to each working stiff that the malignant conditions were intended solely for his or her inconvenience. The lucky ones had cars and parking spaces under cover at their destinations; but today, although they drove anyway as a matter of privilege and stayed dry, even that was a penance. The traffic jams were worse than usual in bad weather, and the rain defied the sloshing wipers on the windshields and made it difficult to see ahead.
The drivers compensated by turning up the heat and volume on the stereo, and aiming for the puddles so that they could have the satisfaction of seeing the pedestrians jump out of the way.
Arbella lived with her father, Baron Stace, in an Eaton Square mansion where she had the top floor to herself. For Arbella, living with her father in the sanctuary of his palatial four-storey house was the perfect arrangement, and she had never considered moving into a place of her own; and he, as a widower, was delighted that she felt that way.
The two were close, and made a point of meeting in the breakfast-room every day before going their separate ways to work: Stace in his chauffeured Bentley to pummel the stock, oil, currency, metal or commodity markets, or whatever it was that he did; and Arbella on the Tube to the insurance brokerage company, registered at Lloyd’s of London, where she pummelled nothing but herself for leading such a feckless life.
At night she sighed with relief when she came home, shut the front door behind her, and left the world on the other side.
As for Arbella’s mother, Veronica, she had died long before her husband had been ennobled for services to the realm. In her dreams the daughter saw her, lovable and distracted, enthroned in splendour and not knowing what to do with her hands. Strangely, although Arbella did not remember her father paying more than passing attention to his wife—and she was never mentioned between them—in these visions the baron waited on her hand and foot. Under celestial law he was not allowed to address her, which for the first time after many years of suffering with impatience her concerned and anxious ministrations he was eager, even desperate, to do. But now things were the other way around, and, despite his pleading eyes as he knelt before his former spouse proffering her harp on a velvet cushion, or offered to preen the feathers in her wings for her, Veronica Stace seemed not to be aware of his presence.
Arbella had not given thought to why this dream occurred so often. The stringed instrument she recognized not because it was a heavenly tradition but because, although her mother did not have an ear for music, she enjoyed a good radio concert on the BBC’s Third Programme and was fond of Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp.
The door opened and, preceded by the envelope of certainty that surrounded his diurnal progress, admitted the full parental frontal of Lord Stace. The door had no choice but to open, if it were to retain its designation as a portal, for the details of his lordship’s days were fixed by unalterable law and facts before they occurred. They could be entered into the almanac like Easter and the dates of full moons. Had Stace ever decided to do anything so frivolous as to take up golf, which he would not, his score could with confidence be recorded before he started the back nine; and, if he were playing in a tournament, his name engraved on the cup before the last couple of holes were played.
The clock on the mantelpiece synchronized itself to eight twenty-eight—the baron scorned the top and bottom of the hours and the median quarters thereof—confident of the accuracy of the adjustment because Lord Stace was entering the room. Whilst his lordship appreciated the timepiece’s good intentions in striking at regular intervals to get his attention, he regarded it as he might a person who was persistent in trying to make an appointment to see him, but whom he had instructed his secretaries to refuse because the individual could not possibly have anything to offer that his lordship did not already have or know about.
Upon the assurance of his consultant horologist, formerly of the Royal Observatory, Stace had established that, by adopting an alternative temporal system to Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, he could add fully two hours and thirty-five seconds to his day: starting at five forty-nine, when he awoke refreshed after the four hours and two minutes of sleep, or brain defragmentation as he termed it, which was all he needed after poring over his journals into the wee hours, and telephoning his subordinates awake with peremptory questions and instructions.
It was by designing for himself such an existence, one which imposed minimal strain upon his neurons, that his lordship was able to regulate his metabolism and remain such a powerhouse of activity. His wife, rest her soul, had been a mess in this regard and always in a tizzy, either forgetting things or doing them in the wrong order, or procrastinating over some and rushing over others; in the process wasting so much energy that finally she was worn out, poor girl. It was hardly surprising that she had gone a bit barking towards the end.
According to the pre-ordained breakfast pattern
Stace, his lordship was about to address the stencilled space that always at this moment contained his daughter, nursing her coffee-cup with both hands. Coffee was all that Arbella took for breakfast, black and strong and in quantity.
‘G’morning, Arbella, dearest.’ Thus cued, the stilly form of Garforth the butler emerged from the paintwork holding the baron’s decaffeinated brew, with the handle pointed to his right for ease of docking with his fingers as the predictable peer advanced to meet it; eyed the faint swirl of steam and pretended to assess its temperature...which he knew was one medium-length sentence away from drinkability. His lordship walked clockwise around the table to kiss the top of his daughter’s head, and completed his greeting. ‘Your papa postulates that you have slept well and risen refreshed. Please confirm.’ He drank, once, twice; the cup was empty, and Garforth refilled it.
The baron’s abhorrence of referring to himself in the first person, and refusal to entertain the possibility that things could be other than they ought to be, was complicated. Despite the brusque manner that he displayed in public, he was a shy man. Because it pained him to think that all might not be right in his world, he had adopted a mode of expression, which, in stating his convictions, coerced them into truth by stating them as he did in memoranda to his employees, to whom his word was law.