Another Emma, by Hannah Allies
Give me one good reason not to walk into the water this evening.
The moon asked me if I would as I watched it rise from behind the warped glass of my dressing room. As the light faded, husky pink to dusty blue, it said enough. But not how you say it.
Earlier I heard the servant girls gossiping: they thought I was upstairs, or in the parlour, staring out across the shore again.
But I wasn’t, I was contorted into that unforgiving place under the stairs, the place the girls say gives them a fright every time they come up from the kitchens at night. I’ve taken to creeping round this old house like my own ghost.
The girls love you and they pity me, and it brings bile to my mouth just to think it. They talk of me like I’m a dog that ought to be taken out into the courtyard and shot.
They love you even though they know about the fists you use and the bottles under the bed. They even know about what you did to the butcher’s girl. I hope she brings a cleaver next time.
Your mother told me I was mad, again, sneaking around this house. I take my slippers off and my skin is translucent, the veins in my feet purple.
I acted out my own funeral and I wretched at the thought of your crumpled face. Twenty-eight years and not a kind word since you brought me here.
Why did I come? I hear the scratch of your pen in the early hours, but I do not wonder about the worlds you tease into life on those pages. You are scratching life out of me with every word.
I long for the sea spray on my cheeks but the windows are shut even tonight, even as the midsummer moon calls to me.
Instead of feeling the balmy breeze I am stuck in this airless crypt, cool and covered in dust. What do you pay those girls for?
Instead of gulls I hear dull footsteps on the stairs. The dissonant chime of the grandfather clock. The house is laughing at me. Sometimes I laugh with it, and that’s when your mother really slaps me. Her black taffeta makes an awful sound, like bones snapping.
When the time comes I will slip out between the bricks. Shift-shape free of these walls. I will collect pebbles from the beach in my corset and feel the ache of the shore on the arches of my feet.
I will greet the cold tide like a friend, and she will kiss my bruises. The girls will find what’s left, shock masking their contempt.
I can see your face, pained at first, then something darker. Relishing the chance to write the eulogy.
How much easier to contain me when I’m nothing but scrawl.
Hannah Allies is a writer based in Brighton. She has had poetry and flash fiction published by Reflex Fiction, Writers’ HQ and Visual Verse. She is particularly interested in our relationship with the natural world and most of her work includes themes of environmentalism. She is writing her first novel.