But the thing is, now I have memories of her. Marina, my first mother. I don’t want memories of her. The ones I have are hazy and muddled. I can’t recall the sound of her voice. Oliver says that might be because she hardly spoke. I can’t remember whether she spoke or not. I can’t remember the exact shape of her face, and I can’t remember her smell.
Instead, I remember standing outside her door, feeling very small and frightened. And I remember tiptoeing a great deal, because we knew we mustn’t make noise. I remember always feeling rather nervous, as if I knew something bad were about to happen.
And indeed it did.
Shouldn’t a memory be specific? I would not mind a memory of a moment, or of a face, or a sound. Instead, I have vague feelings, and not even happy ones at that.
I once asked Oliver if he had the same memories, and he just shrugged and said he didn’t really think about her. I am not sure if I believe him. I suppose I probably do; he does not often think deeply about such things. Or perhaps more accurately, he does not think deeply about anything. One can only hope that when he marries (which surely will not come soon enough for the sisters Brougham) that he will choose a bride with a similar lack of thoughtfulness and sensibility. Otherwise, she shall be miserable. He won’t be, of course; he wouldn’t even notice her misery.
Men are like that, I’m told.
My father, for example, is remarkably unobservant. Unless, of course, you happen to be a plant, then he notices everything. He is a botanist and could happily toddle about in his greenhouse all day. He seems to me a most unlikely match for my mother, who is vivacious and outgoing and never at a loss for words; but when they are together, it is obvious that they love each other very much. Last week I caught them kissing in the garden. I was aghast. Mother is nearly forty, and Father older than that.
But I have digressed. I was speaking of the Brougham family, more specifically of Mrs. Brougham’s foolish query about not being a twin. I was, as previously mentioned, feeling rather pleased with myself for not having been rude, when Mrs. Brougham said something that was of interest.
“My nephew comes to visit this afternoon.”
Every one of the Brougham girls popped straighter in her seat. I swear, it was like some children’s game with snaps. Bing bing bing bing…Up they went, from perfect posture to preternaturally erect.
From this I immediately deduced that Mrs. Brougham’s nephew must be of marriageable age, probably of good fortune, and perhaps of pleasing features.
“You did not mention that Ian was coming to visit,” one of the daughters said.
“He’s not,” replied Mrs. Brougham. “He is still at Oxford, as you well know. Charles is coming.”
Poof. The daughters Brougham deflated, all at once.
“Oh,” said one of them. “Charlie.”
“Today, you say,” said another, with a remarkable lack of enthusiasm.
And then the third said, “I shall have to hide my
The fourth said nothing. She just resumed drinking her tea, looking rather bored by the whole thing.
“Why do you have to hide your dolls?” Penelope asked. In all truth, I was wondering the same thing, but it seemed too childish a question for a lady of nineteen years.
“That was twelve years ago, Dulcie,” Mrs. Brougham said. “Good heavens, you’ve a memory of an elephant.”
“One does not forget what he did to my dolls,” Dulcie said darkly.
“What did he do?” Penelope asked.
Dulcie made a slashing motion across her throat. Penelope gasped, and I must confess, there was something rather gruesome in Dulcie’s expression.
“He is a beast,” said one of Dulcie’s sisters.
“He is not a beast,” Mrs. Brougham insisted.
The Brougham girls all looked at us, shaking their heads in silent agreement, as if to say—Do not listen to her.
“How old is your nephew now?” my mother asked.
“Two-and-twenty,” Mrs. Brougham replied, looking rather grateful for the question. “He was graduated from Oxford last month.”
“He is a year older than Ian,” explained one of the girls.