ANGELINE, THE TALE CONTINUES
Angeline is a character I have been writing for some years. She is, in many respects a contemporary femme fatale, the story in my last post being that of her childhood, about the lies and tragedy and abuse of her mother and her own conception. History, as they say often repeats itself but unlike her mother, Rebecca (in the first story) Angeline is ultimately empowered by her journey into prostitution and uses the weakness of men to her own advantage. In some ways in my mind she is like a modern day Mata Hari. Like a butterfly she had to spend quite sometime in the cocoon of darkness; depression, self harm, before she could emerge and become the woman goddess she is today...we left Angeline as a child who had just discovered the truth behind her story and in this story find her as an adult some 25 years later...
I waited for two whole years. Expectant of a return to normality. Believing that she would eventually, come back for us. But, she didn't. In the meantime, I hurtled, head first into and through puberty. On top of mourning my lost childhood innocence, I mourned the loss of my Mother.
It’s been seven years since she up and left, quit her job as Mother to me and my brother and now he is starting to ask questions. Questions I am loathe to answer fully, as why would I want him to feel what I do? He needs to remain that happy care-free boy he has somehow managed to hold on to. Andrew and Elise have told him that our Mother was mentally unstable and had refused help. That she left as a direct result of her illness and was never heard of again. I think he knows, deep down, that there is much more to the story, hence all the why’s.
As yet I have not delivered. Not explained to him that his darling ‘mummy’ and daddy, (my Andrew and Elise) drove our real Mother over the brink of sanity, a brink that she had doubtless been at for too long, but nonetheless. I also don't think they have told him that it is more than just a coincidence that I, his sister, bears more than just a passing resemblance to that woman he calls mummy. She was never just daddies girlfriend, a friend of the family as she was always couched to us, but in fact our Mother’s long lost sister.
Even though I stopped actively waiting for her return 5 years ago, I have always known I would one day see her face again. Though perhaps, I envisaged I would actually have to go looking for it, that it would be harder than it turned out to be.
That very first time I saw her, I mean ACTUALLY saw her with my own eyes, as an adult, it was in the pub with my boyfriend and our mates, celebrating my 18th birthday and my heart felt like it literally skipped a beat (I have always wondered what people meant when they used that phrase, ridiculous hyperbole is what I’d always felt. Until now anyway).
I was in the middle of telling Kit that he should stop worrying about the landlord and staff being rankled by our celebrations of my 18th, when evidently I’d been going there for 2 years prior to being legal already. He was nagging and annoying me. Telling me to wind my neck in and pipe down. Just as I mouthed the ‘b’ sound in the word ‘boring’, there she was, the antithesis in form and meaning of all that word contained.
I saw my brothers eyes, first, but quickly that impression was quashed by a faint and distant memory from the way those eyes made my blood start to flow more easily through my heart.
By the time my tongue had begun to press against my palette, just at the onset of that ‘ng’ sound, it seemed as though the music had stopped playing, although I could still feel the bass coursing through me. It was her. My heart knew it before my brain caught up, eventually propelling my body forward, through the still and silent crowd. I didn’t acknowledge Kit’s arm reaching out for mine as he tried to grasp on to me.
I, all moth to a flame like, moved away from them and towards the door, after this shadowy figure, who just seemed to slip away.
A warm summer rain hit me as I entered the night. Half expecting no one to be there, I startled to see her standing underneath a street light.
For what seemed an eternity, we stood. Locked in a gaze that spoke so much more than we ever had done or perhaps ever could. Kit’s concerned tone did little more than irritate, like a fly buzzing around my face, which I informed him of (in less delicate language). I walked towards this shadowy figure in the rain and drifted away from his meek protestations.
This was three months ago. And in that time, my whole world has been turned inside out. In a good way, mainly.
In a cloudless sky, Mother dearest, what else am I to hunt but your reverence?
At first, it was like lancing a boil, like shedding away the layers of pain, inducing more pain in the process, all the time knowing that one day, I would finally emerge, clean and new. Raw perhaps but finally over the trauma of the previous 15 years.
When your father and I first met, I was just a girl, 19. He was in his early 30’s, cultured and in love with me (to my flattered surprise). I was just a normal teenager; unsure of myself and my place in the world, curious and in my own way, very beautiful, although only now see that retrospectively. I was also a keen (and talented) artist. Your father just had his first (and only) book published but the poor sales left him broke, financially as well as in regards self-belief. My talents were being noticed by various people and galleries and I sold quite a lot in those few of years. Needless to say, the criticisms he levelled at me, subtlety… so I could barely perceive his words as negative, were just enough to cause me to doubt myself. When I fell pregnant, with you, he was elated.
He said that we should both give up our creative ‘pipe dreams’.
He got himself a job at the council and told me I could just take it easy from now on, as he was earning good money. It all seemed to me like a dream come true, like he was, indeed my knight in shining armour, like he had saved me from myself, from the humiliation of trying to push forward with my art. Little did I know how deep that river ran, how pregnant his need was to remain that worldly wise and superior one, in my eyes. How much he needed that (not only to be with me but to survive, to live)…
Life was in fact idyllic for a couple of years. He was loving, attentive, romantic even. But then I was approached by a company wanting me to do some work for them, some sculpture work in their offices. Not the most exciting of projects but it made me feel excited again about creating. As the work came in though, my mental health began to slip, slowly, slowly at first…almost imperceptible but eventually it became unbearable. A ton of feathers for my fragile mind. Looking back I can see now how the subtle drip- drip of Andrew’s comments about my work, (it's quality, my process, how it was negatively impacting on your happiness, me not being around all the time) added to by a withdrawal of the love he had been giving freely, combined to erode my sense of self, almost entirely. Until eventually I had learnt coping mechanisms for the anxiety and depression. It became part of me. From what I have gathered, him and your Aunty Elise started having an affair when you were about 3, when I was at the height of my career but before the height of my mental instability…
Tom has been hassling me again, about what happened to our Mother, now at a point when I know so much more and am even more reticent to tell him the truth. For the truth as I now know it, is too far removed from that blanket of lies Andrew and Elise have had him covered in for years. How would he cope? In all fairness, soon he will have to if my mother’s plans come to fruition, as I’m sure, judging from the feeling I am getting off this woman, they undoubtedly will.
He has discovered that mummy dearest is also, actually Aunty Elise. A distant cousin of my Mother and Elise’s came to tell Elise that their father, his Uncle, had died in prison. Our Mother and Elise’s father had been in prison for the rape of not only my maternal grandmother but Elise's mother too. Both sisters seemingly conceived in rape, their mothers, both children at the time.
They had tried to encourage Tom to go out and play with his friends, so they could have ‘adult’ talk. But he refused and heard this distant cousin mention our mother…and moreover, heard her referred to as Elise’s sister…
The spiral, for him, began in that moment. Perhaps I should just tell him all I know and allow him to make his own mind up… But what if he told them? What if he didn’t believe her?
I have another date with her tomorrow evening. Kit is complaining that I never see him anymore and thinks I may be having an affair. Perhaps in a way I am, because I spend every waking hour thinking of her – her long curly dark hair, her beautiful almond shaped tigers eyes and her equally cat like body; lithe and agile, dressed in no uncertain terms for the type of action she intends to impose upon my world. She is graceful yet strong, intuitive yet pragmatic. Alluring whilst at the same time utterly terrifying. So maybe, when I compare that to my feelings toward Kit, maybe what I am engaged in could be seen as an affair of sorts, because she has my attentions, has me hooked, indeed she has my heart…
The first two years I spent living off my savings and immersing myself in the cultural mish mash I was surrounded by. Two years was perhaps too long as leaving was so very, very hard. Extricating myself from the mire of drugs, sex and the type of hedonism that cuts you loose from the bounds of past and future was no simple task. I was the ether. But somewhere deep down, I knew that I had achieved my task of loosing myself and that I needed to start trying to find myself, and quickly before I lost myself for good.
Varanasi was hot. It takes a while to adjust to that kind of heat, some never do and leave before their journey can really begin. Most, like myself, found the underground world. A world that existed mainly in the night time, in darkly lit corners full of low drums and billows of sweetly scented smoke. Full of all forms of escapism known to man, and they, like me, lost themselves to the welcoming beat of the eternal night. Many never came back… I always had a purpose though…I always knew that escapism and loss of self was just the first step on my path to getting back to you and Tom. My next step, that lasted the last five years, taught me all I needed to know in order to do what I need to do right now. That gave me the strength to even contemplate what I intend on doing to get you guys, both of you back. That made me the woman you see before you today.
I sat and watched her talk animatedly about her five years working as a kind of prostitute, to all intents and purposes, in Paris. But one who sells the information she got from sleeping with powerful men. My mother is not merely just beautiful, although her physicality is arresting. She is beautiful in the kinda way that I can fully imagine would turn even the steeliest of men into play doh. Putty in her palms indeed. She is tall and lithe and built for function as well as form. The type of woman I have always idolised, wanted to be like. Not the sort of woman I remember my mother being. Always hunched and pale from the weight of my father and Aunt’s valiant attempts at destroying her. No, this woman was a new rare breed. Sassy. Self assured. Stylish. Immediately commanding of attention and respect.
Tom’s part to play in her plan is crucial. So I did well not to give him any information. Andrew and Elise will pay for what they have done to our mother. And that payment will illustrate perfectly to my brother how little he should trust them…and how much he should be with us…like a family again.