She was present in Laura’s nightmares, though Laura could never bring herself to admit this. Laura would stand at her mother’s side and welcome her with all the ardour which existed within her body, within her bones, but it would never be enough. Her mother was the very personification of misery, though Laura liked to laugh and reply that her mother’s goodness was alive, though it might well have been invisible to animals without an innate ability to smell blood. I’d look at her beautiful eyes, deep pools of azure framed by limp blonde hair which swayed neatly about her shoulders, and tell her that some people were simply born incapable of love. I could see how she would try to understand, but instead her smile would steal strikingly across her face and break my heart into pieces. Her mother had never treated her with the same love which she was willing to pour from her heart; and she did so very willingly, perhaps in an attempt to fill the great vast in-between the desirable reciprocating of love and the realistic severance of any form of affection, with something much more exquisite. Perhaps this was why I despised this woman so, and as I held her daughter’s frail and beautiful form against my own, the thought of her mother’s contemptibility caused my stomach to spasm in incredulity. How something so hideous had created such a delicate frame was implausible, and my mind shook with mordantly unsolicited prayers of unqualified thanks.
Laura had once given her mother a small bottle of perfume as a gift, and it had proved to had been the only thing she had ever taken a great deal of interest in. She would wear it every day, and I had come to associate the sickly sweet scent of pomarose and sandalwood with acts of vileness and hatred. The bottom layers of the scent stuck to the back of your throat and caused a gagging sensation, but the beauty of the gift would come to reflect how the perfume itself was not contemptible, rather it was the woman who wore it. I watched Laura look at her mother, attentive and swathed with an intricate jealousy of her mother and her sardonic connection to the very nature of detachment. I looked on them as the contrast of day and night, of beauty and the not so beautiful, a woman willing to love even the most undeserving of love, and the heartless whose mirth exploded, revelling in the despising all others, and the crushing of the love from the willing.
Her death of course would not yield any greater joy, as was her wont. To see Laura’s wretched spirit writhe in guilt and sadness caused me greater pain than I had ever felt before, even within the darkest reaches of my memories. The burning of her mother’s body caused an unbearable suffocation to fall upon the congregation, a grey day, for an even greyer soul. Unable to feel grief for her mother’s passing, my entire power was spent on grief for my poor Laura’s anguish; confusion at the disassociation of her mother’s love, and a longing for the touch of her embrace. She would not yield in life, perhaps her death would bring some comfort.
We drove to the door of her mother’s house, and we held hands as we stepped through the door frame. Closing the large wooden door gently behind us caused my heart to pound at the prospect of being sealed within a house of such despair, where none had really known the joys of living. We began in the kitchen, sorting her mother’s belongings, and then into the living room- tables faded in patterns representing fragments where photographs once stood, faces of old, of those no longer in our company. Trinkets covered by blankets of filth, sharp to the touch, unappealing faces of clowns and of cats immortalised in porcelain. Our task was arduous and extensive, and our menial activities soon drew Laura and I apart, as I descended the stairs to the basement, and Laura ascended to her mother’s bedroom.
There she carefully packed away her mother’s old clothes and linen, her shoes and old documents printed on paper so fine, it could crumble at the lightest touch. She happened upon a small key at the bottom of one of the drawers, a small brass creation with faded imprints which suggested an amount of over-use, or at the height of Laura’s imagination, a great deal of love. She knew which box it would open, and yet so overwhelmed by the amount of care and security her mother had exercised at protecting such an item, she sat for many minutes gazing out of the window into the grey sky. Black clouds had started to gather at the edges of the horizon, and Laura smiled to herself; storms could breathe life into the dullest of days, and at this very moment, would breathe life into her shattered limbs. She carefully rummaged at the bottom of her mother’s wardrobe and retrieved a small box. She instantly recognised the green and cream horizontal stripes reaching from one side of the box to the other, bridging the distance between the cold metal frame which surrounded it. Her heart leaped into her throat as she turned the key and lifted the lid of the old container; inside she found countless cosmetics, years old, and she traced her fingers along each one in turn, each dusty item sending an electrical impulse through her veins, never feeling as close to her mother as she did in this moment. The entirety of time seemed not to matter as a stale sweetness filled her head. She had almost forgotten that the scent had clung to the very fabric of the room, as now within the box the smell emanated more distinctly. Inside the dim pink fabric of the inside of the box, her fingers found an object much less dusty than all the others, it was the very thing she had been searching for. Though the embossing had faded, Laura could still feel the outline of the letters beneath her skin, and she held the entity in front of her eyes for a short while longer before she allowed herself to breathe in deeply. It was her mother’s perfume, Laura’s gift to her many, many years ago. She rubbed away the stains adorning the outside of the container, and held the small chamber in her hands, watching the diminutive remnants of liquid swish inside their tiny prison. She held her breath as she delicately sprayed a small amount of perfume across her chest, and slowly allowed herself to breathe in the decayed scent of love, from so many years ago; pinks and greens, memories of hope and of unrelenting feeling.
My Laura had entered her mother’s house as a beautiful woman, her eyes deep pools of azure, framed by limp blonde hair, which swayed neatly about her shoulders. She left the house with the stale perfume clinging to her chest, and though we had tried to rid her skin of the scent it infused deep within her, pervaded her clothes, entered our home. Her eyes were never able to settle, they would squirm and struggle to comprehend any beauty which came before them. She disregarded the splendour of flowers, and accepted instead the dire complacency of their plastic counterparts. She became tired and withered, and her love of all things was soon displaced by a seething hatred akin to her mother’s. She became night, the not so beautiful, the heartless whose mirth exploded, revelling in the despising all others, and the crushing of the love from the willing. My love had gone, her heart dissolved in the languishing of the old and stale. We would not know joy again, though the scent of pomarose and sandalwood would forever linger in our throats.