As Earth stirs in her winter sleep
And puts out grass and flowers
Despite the snow
Despite the falling snow
There was never really one thing that went wrong, or even a string of cruelnesses, just the emptiness of depression from which few things can be saved. There was one moment when she thought she was Ellen, and saw that he thought so too, and Maud was Christabel, and then she dismissed that as hard as she could. The horror of Ellen was the passionate, blind devotion. Here there was nothing left to work with, just a kind of companionship that was being presumed on.
And now she would try to learn how to cultivate winter.
Money helps. Being lifted out of her life helps. And Euan’s baffling kindness helps, though it also scares her a little. She wants, defiantly, to scare him out of loving her now, before she gets too settled and he tires of her when she is already used to this.
She folds herself into chairs, lanky and mouselike, sitting cross-legged with her feet off the floor. There is something fascinating about her, some depth, some clever turn of phase, some sparkle to her, a quick flashing sharpness when she forgets herself. He adores her. Just because he finds saving things, mending things satisfying doesn’t mean that she isn’t a wonder, he thinks. Like refurbishing a gorgeous old desk: because I worked on it doesn’t mean it isn’t of immense beauty and value on its own. Val just needs beeswax.
There are some teetering days when she wonders if she will crash utterly, now that she does not need to survive. She wonders what other than menial work she could possibly do, if she should go back to school, if she can do anything that would befit Euan’s lover. He gentles her like a skittish horse: you have time, and you are safe and adored in the meantime. He tempts her to forget herself, to laugh with her head thrown back, surprising it out of her.
She fucks with a surprising ferocity for such a birdlike, precise woman. She meets Euan, animal in her pleasure, curious and inventive and forthright. She is most at ease then, and only relaxes warily after, seeming to expect Euan to get up and go into the kitchen, disinterested. He carefully does not.
Val thinks, after all is said and done, I am not Ellen, I am Blanche. But my lover has gone honestly and I am still here, living. She wants to redeem her a little, to stay with her at least, to grant her a little human life. She phones up Leonora Stern.