Caspar David Friedrich
Inn-Woman in the Sun (3 rev)
Thanks to Jane’s patient and constructive criticisms, the story is closer to where I wanted it to be. If you have read earlier versions, please read again as I hope I have clarified some points, removed detritus and kept the less-than-microfiction flowing.
I rose before the sun; it is my ritual and constant. Drew on my robe, and walked out beyond the compound gates to welcome her. She should not return alone from her cold and lonely night. My cold and lonely nights since Hector’s passing. Not that Hector was one for the passionate warmth of a sunrise; he had his addictions, I had mine.
As I greeted dawn on a foggy day – still knowing she sat lonely on the horizon – a figure appeared out of the mist – like magic smoke and mirrors.
He asked if an inn or cottage might be available to let, as he was on a sort of rambling holiday. As Hector’s afflictions were costly, after his death, I turned our home to a small cottage-inn. Having just learned my honey-mooning guests for this week would not arrive, was forward enough to explain the terms, services, and costs. A ray of her coloured glory parted the grey, lowering skies, and my new guest’s umbrella seemed so unnecessary.
We chatted about the sun and her paint box. “Are you an artist,” I rather boldly asked, noticing his case. He smiled, “Of a sort,” he said, “of a sort.” He hummed Saint-Saëns, but I daren’t ask if a musician, too. Perhaps my piano would answer the question.
A most polite and erudite gentleman. Quiet – collecting specimens of all sorts. He checked in saying he’d like to amble about the countryside for the day. With a packed luncheon, my directions, and his collecting case and tools, he headed off towards the west. I stood at the door and wished him luck.
He returned just before sunset with a bouquet of wild beaming flowers and summoners plums for me. How did he know my favourite flowers and fruit? I was enamoured. Dismissing the servants early, I dined with him – cold fowl, cheeses, fresh bread and and for his hard walking, ale.
I made polite conversation, which he returned, but it seemed his amethyst eyes in his tanned skin burned more brightly than this morning.
I kept brandy and sherry for the guests. I suggested he retire to the parlour, and feel free to smoke whilst waiting for his brandy.
He was playing Saint-Saëns on my piano when I entered the room. He bid that I should join him with a small sherry, and continued playing Danse macabre. Hector would be appalled that I acquired a taste for sherry from entertaining the paying guests. And on coldest nights, a small glass to warm my frozen heart. Now, he would be sputtering, and getting ready to find his own danse macabre in a opium pipe. His wife, servants abed, alone with a virile male. I realized that was the scent I had been inhaling all evening – of a real man. It was as intoxicating as the sherry could be. Dead Hector was effete and a wastrel; my guest was anything but.
“Do you dance, Miss?” he inquired. Quite honestly, I replied, “Infrequently.” “Then we shall remedy this, he said – standing and bowing in front of me.
Hector be damned, as he no doubt was. I rose; his hand was pleasing warm but loose on my waist, while he took my hand with his other. Humming Saint-Saëns, he first sedately waltzed me about the room. Then the pace became faster, his hand tighter, warmer, and the pins flew out of my hair, sending it water-falling down my back, then around me as he spun me. The stays loosened on my corset, the buttons on my bodice opened and I could fully breath as we danced faster around the room, his hot hand on my waist, my hand firmly glued to his. My boots too restrictive; my hose unnecessary to dance in my bare feet.
What remains of the week are vignettes, more felt that remembered. My dawn ceremony with me dressed as nature intended celebrated on the eave of my house. A week of no hair pins, nor corsets. Only loose hair buns, and draping gowns. Dancing, always dancing. Bottles of wine and firelight. Amethyst eyes and gentle tanned hands. Picnics with beaming flowers scent and summoners plum juice running down my chin. Laughter. Caresses and sweet kisses; breathless crescendos; a cacophony of delights.
Too soon, the week was over. I asked that he might stay another week, collect more specimens for his case, as I had no guest pending. But he kindly said “No, what I sought in this part of the county, I found. Time to ramble on.”
I walked him to the gate at dawn, wished him well, and watched him walk into another grey foggy morn when sad, lonely sun hid her tears. He was gone in an instant, but I stood hoping the sun would split sky and I’d see his striding walk along the road.
I walk to the gates each dawn to welcome the sun. I feel her radiance on my out-turned palms. On fog-grey morns, my silly schoolgirl heart might wish that he will appear again, to collect more specimens or to declare me the best specimen to be found. Maybe the very erudite, polite, and enchanting, enthralling Mr. Theodore Gardener will stop by. Til then I hum Saint-Saëns on occasion.