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 beautiful. I cannot recognize a lot of him in her. Yet at times, I visualize him in her expressions, most often when she is displeased, as I would not describe him as having a sunny disposition.
She has mannerisms all of her own, flamboyant and expressive hand movements come naturally to her. She, I imagine, will become an artiste or artist of some sort; as 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 summoning her maid to the castle she has made out of her bedclothes. A precocious 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 will miss her so. This place is too dark for her; she is too young a soul to act so old. Nanny has done all she has been able to in difficult circumstances. I have to take matters in hand, probably should have done it years ago. Nothing I can do about that now though.
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. I suppose that is only natural.
Long ago, I used to feel the same for him. How things and people change over time. I will always watch over her. but in future from afar, without her knowing, as it should be.
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 colour 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 hear the dear child. She is at it again. Who? What? Is she talking to now? It is 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 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. Our hands over time have created all sorts of wondrous creatures. Digressing but brought back by yet another question.
“Okay, Nanny, I'm ready, 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, in others infantile.
A brilliant vocabulary helped by all our reading, play-acting, and conversations. She is able to 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 and that Sir won’t allow. 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 area been tidied so quick and with such eagerness.
“Are you ready Nanny? Let’s go, please.”
“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. 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. Are you 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 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 calms 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 lovely. 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. I, 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, she knows how upset I get. Sighing, I retreat to the kitchen.
but I want my treat
maybe a new doll
or something to eat
There is a big box in the middle of the floor; I cannot take my eyes of it. Daddy will not let me open it yet, says he wants some he and I time. Just the two of us with no interruptions, I sigh because I know what is coming. I go through the motions, feigning interest, but just want to know what is in the box. Daddy has an hourglass on his desk; he says that when its cycle is complete the box will be opened. Already knowing what he is going to ask my replies are rattled off at speed; he asks after my health, do I have everything I need? Did I miss him? He then without fail fires questions about Nanny, quizzes me, as per usual. Trapped between looking at the hourglass and the box, my answers to Daddy, are secondary.
"Did the doorbell ring? Did Nanny have any visitors?"
"No, Daddy it did not, and no visitors either, the same as always."
After what feels like an eternity he relents, the hourglass is not finished. "Right, I think I’ve kept you waiting long enough, you go and open the box, Rosalind."
Approaching the box with the utmost excitement, tearing of the lid and am attacked with licks and love, and attack right back with vigour. It is a puppy, a floppy-eared, big-eyed bundle of joy.
"Oh, Daddy is it for me? Can I keep it forever and ever?"
"Yes, Rosalind forever and ever, she's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a tri-colour, that means three colours, black, white and ruby and she's all yours.”
“Her ruby hair is just like Nanny’s, how funny.”
“Yes a lovely deep red, isn’t it?”
“Daddy, the black bit is you, the white bit I’ll is like my yellow hair and the ruby bit, Nanny. She’s the colour of all of us.”
“Rosalind I would never have considered that, but yes I suppose she is. What do you want to call her?"
"Well... hmmm she looks like a Molly to me, Daddy, don't you think?"
"She is your dog Rosalind, so if you want to call her Molly, that’s what she’s called."
"Where, does she sleep, can she sleep with me, please Dadddddyyyyy?"
"Well for the first night or two, yes she can, but after that, she'll have to get her own bed. I'll sort something out with Nanny."
"Can I bring Molly in to show Nanny?"
"Yes, she's in the kitchen but be sure to come right back, Molly's only a baby and needs to be kept by the fire, she needs plenty of food, sleep, and heat to grow."
"Okay, Daddy, she's the best present ever."
That day and night, Rosa and I take care of Molly's needs, cleaning her accidents and making a bed for her, we resorted to the blanket box. I try to prepare Rosa for what is coming tomorrow.
Her first time ever outside that she will be old enough to remember anyway, hopefully, unless he is taking one of his turns and reneges. Which is not a rare occurrence but he is the calmest he has been in a long time.
Unless told, I had little concept these days of what was going on in the outside world. Rosa had none at all; the poor child has no idea what outside means. Firing questions, which are ricocheting around my head at speed, while rolling on the floor with Molly. I finally get her to sleep and retire to my own bed; we are only separated by a wooden partition, as he never wants her alone at night, ever. I thought it was strange the detail he gave Rosa on looking after Molly and he does not grant her the same treatment. Settling comfortably and ready for a peaceful sleep, a feeling of contentment surrounds. I am already dreaming about tomorrow, it should be a good day for us. The grounds are vast and will be fascinating to both Rosa and Molly. A tight rein will have to be kept on them both.