The Elderflowers of Capra

… Since then the world has turned into a place I do not recognise. There was a swift funeral for the deceased, attended it would seem only by the household staff and one or two others from the valleys. The older woman servant made it clear it would not be possible for me to join the wake, and for that small mercy, I was silently thankful. She has been helping me with the child, often taking him so that I can rest a little in between the constant feeding and crying. They are odd, the feelings I have for him; I love the perfect small creature so dearly, and yet when he is awake I just long for him to sleep; and when he is so softly snoozing, I long for him to wake again. I haven’t slept a night since his arrival several weeks ago and hence walk about the place in a constant haze. I imagine this is just a normal part of the process, but I have no way to ask anyone. I don’t know what I can say to the old woman, even if I could speak more than a phrase or two of the language. I don’t have the words to say what I need to scream.

As I go about the house now, I can feel the servants look at me with grave pity – Capra’s widow. I wonder what they truly see. When I peer into the looking glass I do not know the woman who looks back. My body is so changed, my face looks puffed and eternally unrested. My mind still cannot fully accept the brutality of the physical assault I suffered the night my son was born, I had no idea what would be involved. I wished my mother or some friend had forewarned me, but none were here with me. There was no one, just the servants who could tell me nothing that I understood.

The black dresses I wear have been made especially for this new woman with this new body and new life. The swelling of my figure is gradually declining, but it is not revealing a shape I remember. My Danaus Chrysippushair falls out in clumps every time I touch it and, as I feed my child I am reminded my weary, bruised body does not belong to me anyhow. I am, whoever I am, lost. And my son. My innocent newborn son. What will I say to him about all of this? When he learns to speak my language and asks about his father, what words and stories can I share? Everything that has happened here feels too horrific to ever mention again. And everything that happened before we arrived feels as though it happened to somebody else in some other life. It was not me, not this woman today. I have no point of reference to that bright girl of hope, she no longer exists – Capra was not the only one who died that day. All that remains are three elderflower trees, planted upon instruction by her late husband. It was a divine gesture indeed.

(Extract taken from full story first published in ‘Curious Tales’, 2018)

Copyright 2018 Joon Haque. All rights reserved