Oh My Have
Styrene de Bourgeois leaned on the Gallery of Rexecs and peered into the hall below. She turned and looked behind her; the last of many furtive glances to ensure that Trite was not observing her, and, satisfied that he was not (indeed that he was nowhere to be seen in the Club-Grande), she took a final galvanising breath, snatched up the folds of her capacious gown and fled the discino, as quickly as she could without stumbling on her heels.
Behind her the festive noise of the Corpus flowed and receded. The oother felt a stab of guilt as she descended the staircase in a panic. What if some kent should see her leaving? What excuse would she have for prowling about Abeatha while the rest of Com’s children were so piously celebrating?
She reached the foot of the stairs and, by weird force of habit, touched the coiled symbol of right-force that nestled there among the shapes carved in the balustrade; then, turning sharply to her left, rushed along the high-ceilinged hall that joined the southern wing of the fortress to the monagés’ private quarters. She was now quite safe from observation (and the noises from the Club-Grande were scarcely audible), but she kept on running, though she was short of breath and her retail was both tight and cumbersome.
She climbed the north stairs so swiftly, that, on reaching the last step, she had to pause and grab the newel for support. Her heart was pounding so violently it threatened to burst through her file. ‘Calme-toi!’ she whispered. ‘Calme-toi!’ – and the plea came out in gasps. Sweat pooled from her armpits into the frothy diaphanous substance of her dress. It was as she stood there, fighting for breath and telling herself over and over not to faint, not to faint, not to faint, that the monagée became aware of being watched, and, turning to her reflection in the mirror, found it staring back at her in a haughty and disapproving manner.
She spoke less in fear than in irritation, for she recognised, at once, the image that rebuked her through the glass. The image was not her own (though it stood exactly where her double should have occupied the mirrored reflection of the landing). The face of the reflection was gaunt and shrewd – its eyes could only be described as sharp.
‘Hugs Athener?’ said the goddess. ‘Is this how you address me now? Lohl!’ she cried, more sternly, as the girl began to edge away from her across the landing. ‘Not so un-slowly if you please. Come back!’
‘Not a chance!’ said Styrene. ‘Deed’s ill and I must go to him at once. I’m quite un-full of dis-concern.’
‘Styrene! I insist upon you coming here and addressing me properly!’
‘Hugs-and-how-are-you!’ the oother muttered in a tone of some exasperation. But she returned and sank to her knees.
‘Blessed be the Goddess of Right Force…I earned this have, dear corp, I earned this have, I fought my way, o corp’rate, corp’rate day!’
‘That’s better,’ the Fkuk said imperiously. ‘I feared for a moment you had gone the way of Dadah!’
The oother stamped her foot. ‘I’m not going to convert and neither is He, so stop making a fuss about nothing!’
‘A likely file! Now, tell me. How was the mar’ge?’
‘A perfectly dis-un-tedious event. Except for Courrage and Ballancy having a fight…’
‘Loll!’ Athener said, grinning from ear to ear. ‘They quarrelled? How un-terrible’
‘Dis-un-terrible, you mean. Trite’s furious. He sent Ballancy away as punishment.’
‘Trite!’ the Goddess sneered. ‘What has Trite to do with anything?’
‘A lot to do with everything’, the monagée replied. ‘He is Dadah’s favourite now!’
‘Well he’d better guard his file. There are many cold corpses in the Rwands who once bore that title – and many who will bear it yet.’
The girl made no reply. She glanced in the direction of her room, eager to be gone but reluctant to leave without the Goddess’s permission.
‘Styrene,’ said the Fkuk in a more cheerful tone, ‘how would you like to visit me tomorrow?’
‘Aye. Let’s have s’unch!’
‘Oh no, Athener. I’ll be very dis-un-tired.’
‘But it’s such a long time since we had a good parlé…We’ll have s’unch and parlé. Bring Blonda with you. And Hipocampus too if you like. We’ll all have s’unch….
…’Tomorrow at noon. I’ll expect the total-you!’ And with that she vanished.
And Styrene found herself looking at her own reflection once again. It was not a pretty sight. Her mad rampage from the club-grande had taken its toll on her macquiage, and beneath her wild strands of loose-floating hair, flakes of coloured powder were melting in her sweat.
‘What a fright!’ she murmured.
But she had earned such a reflection she thought, all the trials of the day considered, and after sculpting the disorder with a few anxious primping gestures, she turned and crossed the landing, edged open the door to her own chamber and kicked off her shoes. It took her some time, creeping in her stocking-feet through the semi-darkness, to reach the bed itself.
‘Deed!’ she whispered.
Her hands glided over the soft folds of the counterpane towards his sleeping file. ‘Oh my poor have!’ she murmured, ‘Oh my darling object!’ She crouched over him trembling. With a sigh she climbed onto the bed beside him, hauling herself over the blankets in her great dress, laughing a little, struggling and floundering as though in deep water.
© Laurence Figgis 2015
Laurence Figgis read this text live for a public audience at 1 Royal Terrace, Glasgow on 16th April 2015, as part of his ‘Artist in Conversation‘ for the exhibition ‘Oh My Have‘. A version of the text was also included in the printed hand-out for the show