Sonja Nic Rafferty
The Last Wild Rose In My Mother´s Garden
The air pillow is pumping itself irresistibly bigger, like a balloon that will burst immediately. The Hover Speed is removing from the docks. Unaffected by the spectacle a stewardess is carrying refreshments through the passage, the ´White Cliffs of Dover´ lie behind me. It is a good feeling to have the sea around me. As far as I can think back it had a large fascination on me. I would have preferred to live at the coast. A child however cannot choose its environment. It becomes born it or adopted like I was.
My thoughts turn back. A week ago I started with my daughter Lauretta, called Laura, to this journey. It occurs unreal to me. Perhaps I do not sit on the ship, soon the alarm clock will ring and my duty at school begins like every day. But Laura is sitting next to me and views the sea. The captain welcomes the travellers on board. You almost cannot hear him because of the motor sounds.
Why did Eva die? Died before I saw her yet once again? I got extra holiday when the call of the officer from the police station came. One day later I reached the little village at the south coast of England, in which she lived. I had believed that for me Eva in her cottage would be certain, I still always could visit her. I cannot! It is over! I will not receive her letters any longer. Again I feel myself left. The first time she left me when I was a little girl.
With my flat hand I am wiping away sweat on my face, diving into the dark wetness of the sea waves and let myself drive. White crests overflow my hot body and cool me down, will be broken by a weighty stature that is heaving up from unfathomable deepness. It is totally made out of glittering white and pink marble. Suddenly the figure is leaving its petrifaction. Its mouth is opening as a wide, seaweed framed cleft, unintelligibly murmuring.
When I am opening my eyes, Laura is saying: “ We’ve arrived the harbour of Calais.” The throat of the ferry is spitting out all cars together with us, as air bubbles, that are rolling out of a fish mouth.
The French country road is empty. My hair is fluttering in the air stream; Eva had the same brown curls. When I saw her last time, it was faded to white.
Only because of her hair he could recognize her, the friendly Police Constable Tom Jarman. A Bobby like taken out of a picture book.
The street door key for ‘Holly Lodge’, the cottage at the Christ’s thorn, we got already from the Coroner’s Officer, the responsible detective of the police president’s office. “You have to be very brave, when you will enter the house” he said. Eva had lain in her house for weeks. It was unusually hot for a May, in 1992. We stood in front of the cottage, like vis-à-vis of an enchanted haunting castle in a savage garden. Tom had promised to give us company. So we drove to his one-room police station and had to realise that he was on a patrol. We sat down on that sunny wall over the way and observed the flat roof building that was framed by picturesque rose tendril on brick buildings. After one hour we gave up.
The next night I was laying under my flowered, mignonette coloured bedcover in our guesthouse. The sea-gull’s cry reminded me that we were at the seaside.
Until now I had not really realized the ocean.
My thought circled around the house. What did Tom say? Two metal hot plates,
winding like a fried sausage, he found when he picked a lock of the front door. The cottage could have been in flames. I can feel the heat and I wrestle for air. The cries of the sea-gulls sounded like: “Fire, fire!”
A house is burning. It is my mother’s house. Many metres high the flames are leaping up the roof. I am trying to open my way through the bushes. Laura is holding me tight, saying: “It is of no use, too late!” In the flaring light Tom is appearing. He is placing my mother’s body in front of me. She is looking young, like on the post war photos. I believe to realise a smile around the corners of her mouth. “It was like switching off the light”, Tom is guessing my thoughts.
The seagull’s cries were drowned by the alarm clock. Meanwhile the English breakfast in the room with a mantelpiece we spoke about dates. “Bestattungsunternehmer – how is that called? Undertaker, oh yes: Unter-die Erde-bringer.“
We reach Oostende at midnight. In our hotel ‘Starfish’ it is always the same game. “We are booked out, Madame.” “ Really nothing to arrange?” The old gentleman is discovering something. He is taking Laura’s passport and reading “Schwarzhelm”? She is correcting: “Schwerdthelm.” “Schwerdthelm, are that those who go for a joy-ride?” “No, that are Schwarzfahrer.” The window of our room shows a manhole. It is quiet, there again they were, the seagull’s cries:” Fire, fire –fire.” The doorkeeper is serving our breakfast and repeats with his Dutch accent: “Schwarzfahrer.”
Quickly Belgium is crossed. Laura put a cassette on, the ‘Pogues’, an Irish folk band. I like Celtic sounds. They remind me at my father. He has got Scottish-Irish roots. The photos, that Eva presented me are quite well thumbed, I have looked at them countless times.
I was told that he was in Hong Kong when I was born. I greatly valued that he tried to take me to Scotland when he heard of my existence.
The border of the Netherlands, nobody at the frontier-station! The traffic on the motorway is becoming busy.
In front of us a bizarre silhouette of gigantic factory chimneys! I take my red pocket diary. A pressed wild rose blossom is slipping out. I picked it in Eva´s garden.
It was Sunday. We left the house when the bells of a trashy Big Ben´s reproduction rang, that hang in our landlady´s staircase. Tom was in his office. He described the discovering of my mother´s mortal frame. “Her soul was already away.“ On his question: “Do you know about dead human beings“? I shrugged my shoulder. “The heat, that wasn’t a nice view,“ he told me seriously but I could not notice a disgusted face. The Constable pointed to the opposite roadside with its stringed shops. There she went daily, a cord cap on her white tuft. She filled two bottles in the public water place; her water pipeline had broken down. She was not quite mad but confused. Her house is full with boxes, magazines and all kinds of stuff on the floor.“ We drove by police patrol car to Eva´s house. Tom entered the dark corridor before us. A repulsive smell crept into my nose. I fled outside, struggled for air and appeared in the midst of shrubs. A bush of wild roses bloomed softly pink. Spontaneously I plucked a blossom.
Blood is flowing over my hand, drips on the bloom, colours it dark red. A tendril is entwining my body, puts itself as a snake around my neck. I am missing the air for breathing. I must have died. My white summer dress is embroidered with pink wild roses. Tendrils of the thorn bush are wreathing the pearl-coloured marble coffin that cools my hot wounds. It is not a prince, who is kissing the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood alive, but a sunbeam tickling her nose. Glittering and warming he cleared itself its way through the thicket like it wants to say: “As long as you spot a light at the horizon ... .“
“Everything OK?“ Soon after that voice I heard from the cottage I looked into boxes for photos, letters and documents. Black high-heeled shoes were lying in a corner. “From better times!“ I commentated.
Tom smiled: “She was attractive as a young lady.“ With a painting we left ´Holly Lodge´. Laura started to place the picture, which was my father´s present souvenir from Hong Kong in the police car on the driver´s side instead of on the driver´s mate´s seat. “We are not in Germany“ Tom joked. His serenity caused liberating. This small seaside-place however lost its sunny character for me. “Your mother is not the only one who lived in that way. The old people settle over here to die in peace,“ said Constable Tom.
We are approaching to Hanover. It is still hot. Off the motorway we dive into dark spruce forests, which promise us cool shadows.
Darkly also the Wild Life Area Crematorium was, where we buried Eva. We, who only were the “Vicar“, the funeral entrepreneur, Laura and I. Incessantly I stared on the oak coffin, which was put upon the bier behind an opened purple red curtain. Faster than I expected solemnly the curtain was closed. I said good-bye to Eva for the last time in my life. It was a lonely funeral.
James Grant was the man who married Eva after the separation of my father. They only lived half a year together. Now I found his address in my mother´s documents.
We parked next to one of those typical English terraced houses. An older lady opened the front door. She was James’ widow. She made us tea and talked non-stop about her five children. One of her children was called Kevin. Suddenly she mentioned Kevin´s “mother“. Casually I asked who his mother would be if not her. Her response struck my breath: “Eva!“ Then I had a three years younger brother. I perceived a feeling of entirely special joy. Unfortunately Kevin´s stepmother did not know his address. He lived in London that was all she could tell us.
Half an hour later I sat vis-à-vis, Keith Harrison, my lawyer. I gave him instructions to trace my half brother. Keith was gawky and blinked at me craftily with a slight brightening of silver. Then he wrote down some notes. I put the street-door key of ´Holly Lodge´ on his desk.
Keith was standing in front of his office and waving when we left to the direction of Germany.
Every-day life had returned. I never could have forgotten Eva and ´Holly Lodge´ but there were things that took priority of my thoughts. The leaves were falling quietly from the oaks in front of our house. I was honestly tired after a conference. It had been a grey day so I did not expect much of it. I went to bed early and suddenly I heard: “Telephone, England!“ I jumped out of my bed and almost overturned: “Sonja?“ a male voice asked. “I am Kevin – Kevin Grant!“
© 2002 Sonja Nic Rafferty
I changed many names of this autobiographic text and it is a shorter draft of my 1st original German version (1992).
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Sonja Nic Rafferty.
Published on e-Stories.org on 16.08.2004.