Friday, August 31, 2007

Tarts and Tears

Lydia was wary when she opened the door. She didn’t recognise me at first; I’d forgotten about the value of natural camouflage and my expensive Armani suit (Hand tailored by he man himself, I’ll have you know, not one of those off-the-peg jobs) was definitely not native to 1955. When she’d seen me last (a month ago, by her reckoning; fifty years by mine) I’d been wearing a polyester Teddy Boy coat and crepes.

“Lydia,” I said. I don’t really know why. She knew who she was already. “It’s me.” She still looked blank so I lifted up my shades – sorry, sunglasses -- to reveal my red eyes.

“Jasfoup?” She took a step forward and touched my arm, as if she was loathe to believe her eyes. “Why are you here? Has something happened with the children?”

It was hard to equate the word children with Ada and Frederick who were, in my time, a cantankerous busybody and a pompous old git (deceased) but after a moment’s pause I shook my head and laughed. “Not at all,” I said. They’re fine. I’m here about you.”

“Oh.” She faltered then and pulled me inside. “How did you know?”

If truth be told I hadn’t the faintest idea what she was talking about but I bluffed. “I’m a demon, Lydia,” I said, which was true enough and offered a myriad of possibilities. She took it, I assume, to mean that I was omniscient (which I’m not).

“I don’t know why I told him,” she said. I stopped my self asking her what she had told to whom and instead lifted her face to the light. She’d been crying in private; her cheeks still held the salt trails of dried tears.

“He’ll get over it,” I said. “Give him a century or two.”

“I can’t,” she said. “He stormed off. Besides, he hasn’t got a century. He’s mortal.”

I can count the number of times I’ve seen Lydia cry on one hand. It takes a lot to push her over that edge. The last time I saw her crying was when she and Sophia were baking for Frederick’s seventh birthday party. There had been Words said about the canapés. Sophia had made several trays of banana and honey ones and Lydia had made an equal number of cheese with swirls of melted chocolate.

Herbert went loopy. “No guest of this house will be served such rubbish,” he said and dumped the whole lot in the pig big (all wasted food went to the pigs then; it was a Civic Duty). He insisted that they start again with smoked salmon with prawn and avocado and shrimp ones.

Sophia burst into tears. This was supposed to be a party for a seven year old that didn’t even like seafood. They’d made things that he liked without regard to the conventions of a well-to-do member of the gentry (who was rapidly, thanks to the enormous cost of his experiments, becoming one of the well-to-don’t).

Lydia gave her some comfort and they both cried for about ten minutes before they began all over again, though as recompense to Frederick for all the food he didn’t like they also made a huge batch of treacle tarts.

Is it any wonder that Frederick wanted to be nothing like his father, and grew up to be a poet?

Until the morrow. X

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