Because J.M. Blackman said so.
Today’s snippet comes from Chapter three of my WIP. This is our first glimpse at one of Grace’s past lives, a wistful English girl named Elizabeth Bailey living in 1962 London. Her chapter takes place over the course of several days in December, when Londoners suffered through a sulphurous cloud of pollution over the city.
I stand in the kitchen securing my mask. It is crude and plain, but its beauty is in its usefulness. I wonder how it will fare against the smog, how I will fare against the smog, but decide that an asthma attack is the least of my worries tonight.
The wind is like a thousand knives when I open the garden door, my nightgown providing little in the way of warmth. The ground, as I had predicted, is a block of ice beneath my feet, and the crunch of the snow seems so loud. The cold slices across my face. I can just barely see the outline of the shed beyond the tree, on the far end of the garden. I will make it this time.
I run. By the time I reach the latched shed door, I am breathing hard. My mask slipped to my neck at some point during the trip. I end up ripping the straps from the body of it and dropping it in the snow in my rush to get out of the wind and smog and into the shed.
Inside, I know just where it is. It hangs there on a hook, unused since Daddy cut length from it for the swing Mary asked for last spring. I feel a sense of happiness at giving the unused portion such a noble purpose. It will make whole two fractured souls. It will bear me to him, as on the wings of the angels I surely anger with the very act.
I’m unsure exactly how to tie the appropriate knots, but I will figure something out, I tell myself. Unwinding, tying and untying. I am anxious and cold, afraid of being found at any second, but the knowledge of what awaits warms me from the inside and I focus on the task at hand. The minutes feel like hours and my fingers have gone numb before I have something I believe to be workable. I test its integrity by holding it in my hands, pulling against my own strength, and deem myself ready.
My hand trembles as I push the shed door open. I am greeted once again by the freezing wind, and my chest feels tight when I inhale, like a layer of sudden frost traveling through my insides. I feel the attack lurking just in the shadows, but it doesn’t matter now. All that matters is him.
I stand on the seat of the swing and toss my noble rope over the same strong branch, securing it with knots practiced in haste moments ago. The breeze sways my body but not my determination as I work. Can’t stop now, I am so close.
The rope in my hands reminds me of the delicious roughness on his face, and I feel a great and resounding love as I raise my chin to greet them both. The tightening clench in my chest, the sour smell of the smog, the bitter cold air turning my lips numb; none of it concerns me. I revel in this moment, just before, enjoying what anyone else would avoid at all cost, and it is amazing.
Then it is around my neck, pricking the sensitive skin above my collarbone. I lean forward. The swing slips from under my toes. He is watching, listening, and I exhale.
“I love you.”
I can’t breathe, and I am happy.