Prelude - Time
In an unguarded moment
it felt like it was raining roses
then they cut me
Bandon,West Cork, Ireland 1956
I watch her as she moves about the room,pride in every step, and elegance in every turn and my heart stirs. I devour her as she dances around the floor light as a butterfly’s wing and my soul smiles at the wonder of her. When she laughs my heart giggles. She is so very beautiful. I cannot see a lot of him in her. Yet at times, I can visualize him in her expressions, especially when she is displeased, as I would not describe him as having a sunny disposition. She has mannerisms unique to her, flamboyant and expressive hand movements come naturally to her. She is going to be an artiste or artist of some sort; her situation has allowed her imaginative and creative side to flourish. She loves to draw and play fancy dress; she is able to add drama to any situation. I have seen her summon her maid to the castle she has made out of her bedclothes. A little madam, but oh so sweet with it, I love her so much but have to let her go. It is now time, I must prove my love for her by losing her. I am going to miss her so. This place is too dark for her; she is too young a soul to act so old. Nanny has done the very best she can in bad circumstances.
Ah, she has jumped up. What caught her attention? Of course, he is on his way, no matter what he does or says she will always love him.
Long ago, I used to feel the same for him. How things and people change over time. I will always watch her.
Chapter 1 - Homecoming
Daddy's on his way
hip hip hooray
he is coming home today
Who is this lady with my eyes? I have never been introduced, but she is all over the house. She seems like a happy soul. Her smile often reaches her eyes. The only time I have seen her cross is at Daddy, she often glares at him. I ask Nanny, she always gets a faraway look and says “Rosa, ask your Dad.” I have asked Daddy but he gets a pained, closed off expression, and retires early. I am not told of just no bedtime story that night. Eventually, I learn there is no point in asking.
I go over to check Nanny’s schedule. She likes to keep us running like clockwork - hang on - What date is this? 15th April - My heart leaps. I realize my Daddy is coming home today and he has promised me an extra special surprise, if he gets a good report about me from Nanny, that is. I feel like I am bursting at the seams. I try to read the clock but have not fully grasped the skill, yet. I think it says two o’clock, if I am right there’s only an hour to go, seems like an eternity.
Nanny has put all my stuff in my upstairs room, which means Daddy will not be alone and I will have to be extra quiet until he calls me. I usually hate retiring upstairs I do not mind as much today as the thought of the surprise is quelling a usually boisterous and long tantrum.
Nanny tries to calm me and has me safely occupied in my room with paper and pen. My hand as per usual seems to have a mind of its own guiding itself over the page. I try to capture the lady, her image is on various walls and windowsills but they do not reflect my view of her, I want to trap how I see her. She is always happy when Daddy's not here but when he is around her expression becomes worried.
If I happen to catch her eyes on me, she tries to hide it with a disarming smile but on these occasions, it always skirts around, but misses her eyes.
Oh, he is here, I can hear the car pull up. I wish I could reach the window to catch a glimpse of Daddy and hopefully my surprise. However, I remember the last time he caught me trying to get to the window; I was not allowed out of my upstairs room for what felt like a lifetime. The window was taped over after that but Nanny takes it down now and again when she knows he is away for a while. I barely saw him, none of our just him and me time. I was crushed no matter what I love my Daddy. Nanny rocked me each night reciting my favorite poem she wrote called Sweet Dreams, and the lady hummed until my sobbing was finally overcome by exhaustion.
Wrapped up tight
Bed bugs bite
I have an ear pressed to the door but all I can hear is muttering and mumbling noises, nothing to tell one from the other. I will never forget the one time that I quietly crept down, when Daddy had a visitor, a woman; I recall her being all sparkly. When Daddy espied me over her shoulder, he excused himself and brought me back upstairs to Nanny. He awoke Nanny abruptly, shaking her,and said she better sort herself out and it was never to happen again. Poor Nanny, it was now my turn to rock her back to sleep. I never did see the woman again.
Music, that means Daddy's in great form, oh he has put on Papa Loves Mambo, and he always dances to this one. That means it is going to be a fun few days, yippee. I am going to dress up special, as Daddy likes it when his little Rosalind has made an effort to look good for him.I do not feel like it when I know he is not in a good place. I sneak over to my wardrobe. The one good thing about this room is that Daddy has filled it with clothes, shoes, toys, anything my little heart could desire. Except for company that comes in the shape of Nanny, and the enigmatic lady who hardly ever says a word just watches and reacts. I pick my favorite pink dress. Daddy always likes it as well, so it is a winner. I grab my brush and run to the mirror.
Oh, no, I have lost a big clump of hair again. Nanny always cries when this happens. I know, I will borrow her hair clip, cover that bit,and flush the hair down the toilet. She will never know, not today, anyway.
I am ready, wired, anticipation oozes from every single pore. Is Nanny going to come and get me sooooon? A door closes in the distance. Bet that means the visitors are leaving, brilliant, I get to see my Daddy now.
I hear raised voices -but I thought everyone else had gone? Oh, it's Nanny and she is angry "No, it goes back right now. It's bad enough you keep the child locked away, but this is just cruel to both of them."
They must have shut a door because it is gone back to just background noise. What could it possibly be? Curiosity is eating away at my insides and curling them into a tight ball. Oooh come on Nanny I want to know, this minute.
"It stays, Nanny, you look after it just as well as you look after Rosalind or you go. Do you understand? Am I making myself clear?"
He inhales, audibly, usually a sign to exit quickly. Nevertheless, I persist, for once.
"It will need walking and fresh air. It is a spaniel for god sake they need constant attention they are hyperactive. How am I supposed to take care of that and Rosalind? She can be poorly at the best of times, Sir."
"Will you leave me alone? Blimey, you cannot half harp on. I swear you may take her outside, that you will not hear a single word of gripe or complaint as long as she, you, or the dog our never too rambunctious or overtly loud to draw undue attention to yourselves. Will that enable you to give my head some peace from your incessant nagging and whingeing? Rosalind is loved by me more than life itself and nothing, I mean nothing, gets to harm one hair on her head, you got that Nanny, is that absolutely and abundantly clear, this time? I trust I will not have to mention it again."
I do not know who he thinks is going to espy us when we our stuck in the middle of nowhere but bite my tongue.
"Oh, it's a blessed day, Sir, thank you, Sir, shall I fetch her? I know she is going to be over the moon."
"Give me another half an hour Nanny, go up, and make sure she's okay. I have no idea what she is getting up to, left to her own devices. How's she been?"
"Beside herself with excitement which grows as your time of arrival gets nearer. She counts the days until you come back, sir."
"That’s nice to hear, thank you Nanny."
“You’re welcome, Sir.”
Chapter 2 - Ready For Inspection
The glance you seared my way
is still imprinted on my heart today
Nanny leaves quickly, before he changes his mind, making the sign of the cross, and looking up to the heavens.
"Thank you, lord, for today, it won't last, it never does, but I'm grateful to you for today. I will take the poor thing, just to get Rosa outside for a wee while, even if it is only for a few days. The fresh air will put some color in those starved cheeks; she looks drawn. She needs some sunshine and a breeze on her face. Although, being Ireland, we are more likely to need an umbrella. I'll add it to my list."
I can hear the dear child. She is at it again. Who? What? Is she talking to? It is extremely unnerving. I go in and she is standing with her legs crossed, jiggling, obviously dying for a pee.
"Who are you talking to, honey?"
"The lady with my eyes, she's extra happy today, her eyes are dancing."
"Are they now? Why is that? Is she here right now, Rosa?"
"Nanny, you know she leaves when you come. I've told you, I think she’s extra happy now because she knows of my surprise."
"You could very well be right, dear, you look like you need the bathroom, do you?"
"Yes, but I was afraid in case I missed you calling me.How is Daddy? Did you see my secret treat, is it wonderful?"
"Whoa, so many questions, he's in flying form, and if I told you it wouldn't be a secret anymore, would it? Off with you to the bathroom, and wash those hands young lady, please." While she is out of sight I stick the covering back on the window, how Sir has not caught me removing it I will never know. I often take it down when I know he is going to be gone for a few days at least, sometimes it passes an hour with Rosa as we both lay down and follow the shapes that the shadows create on the ceiling. Digressing but brought back by yet another question.
"Okay, Nanny, can we go straight down then?"
"Well you have yourself all prettied up, but this room needs a tidy. When it’s perfect for your Daddy’s inspection, then we'll go down, is that okay?"
"Yippee, thank you Nanny!"
I smile she is such a delightful innocent child, in some ways a lot older than her years.
A brilliant vocabulary helped by all our reading, play-acting, and conversations. She can embroider to match any young lady but her scenery only comes from books and an active imagination. In other ways, she is completely backward.
No social skills at all, she is not even allowed go to the hall because it has a view outside. Never mind that she might be able to converse with anyone. I adore her, and just like Sir, am only here to protect her, but I protect her from him. No wonder she has an imaginary friend, poor little mite. A regular dose of daydreaming stops us both from going insane.
Out she comes like a whirlwind, picking things up, throwing things in their baskets. A bundle of quivering joy, never has the space been tidied so quick and with such eagerness.
"Are you ready Nanny? Let's go."
"Whew, Rosa, I’m exhausted just watching you, let me catch my breath."
"Careful Nanny, remember my name is Rosalind when Daddy's here. No need to get him going now is there?"
Her adult awareness mixed with childish innocence pierces the lining of my heart.
I never call her Rosalind, except in his presence, that was her mother’s name for her. I always thought it was too grown up for the small bundle I was handed over. She will always be Rosa to me and I will always be here for her, as long as she needs me. My heart would not let me be anywhere else.
"Right, so Missy, ready to go?"
She links my arm and speeds down the mahogany steps of the spiral staircase; we must have made some racket. Our legs become entangled and we cannot stop ourselves. We take a little tumble, and end up a spread-eagled giggling mess at the bottom. Snapped out of our giddiness and relief that there is nothing broken, by a roar, we stare wide-eyed at each other.
"What, the hell is going on here?"
"Daddy, you’re home at last!"
She leaps up and gives him the biggest hug. Pulling at his beard, in spite of himself, he smiles. She is the only thing that can calm him that I know of anyway. His gaze at me over her head is the coldest I have ever seen from him and I have seen many cold gazes in six years. His eyes, the palest shade of silver, like a slice of moon on a wintry day.
They are now two slivers of ice, searing through me with their intensity. I shiver involuntarily,the sharpest and bitterest of winter winds could not make me react like that. I know he will have harsh words with me later.
"Hi Rosalind, my darling girl, don’t you look pretty, I like your hair up like that. Come and tell me how you've been.” He carries her into the drawing room without a backward glance. " Nanny, I'll have some tea thank you."
Ah, that is my first punishment. I do not get to see her expression at the grand opening of her surprise. Me, the only mother figure, or human contact besides himself of any kind am being denied this rare joy. I am because of necessity also her best friend and I suppose the bigger sister too. I also know, knew the moment I saw her, that I will be sweeping up some of Rosa’s blond hair later. Poor darling, tried to hide it from view. Sighing, miserably, I retreat to the kitchen.