This one was tough! This morning I thought, ‘Right, fiction today.’ And fiction, pure fiction, is an untravelled country for me. So I wrote a little longer than usual – more like 15-20 minutes – and edited a bit more than usual to get something that just might hold together. Anyway, here’s to rough new landscapes.
It was a duty that Polly took seriously, a chore that felt like an honour, not drudgery, but as important as keeping the sun rising and setting each day.
Every evening, after the linen had been laid and the silver was set, when dusk was lingering in eaves, she came to the dining room and unwound the hemp rope hidden near the curtains. She gripped the rough rope, anticipating the sudden weight of the wrought iron chandelier transferring into her hands once she worked the rope free of its pegs. Slowly, slowly, she lowered the ring until it hovered just above place settings. With an old dented butter knife, no longer fit to be used for dining, she dug out what she could of the cold waxy remains of last night’s light from each candle cup, carefully collecting the bits of wax on a small plate. These would be used for more light, added to new candles.
She opened a drawer in a wooden sideboard and carefully counted out twelve new tapers, wicks still white, wax still smooth. Fitting one into each candle cup felt like planting a forest of light, soon to be aglow. From her pocket she pulled out an old candle stub with an uneven burn and lopsided top. Using this, she caught a flame from the hearth at the other end of the room. Sheltering the small light with her hand, she relished the heat on her palm in contrast with the chill in the room. The new ring of candles, silent and slender, were waiting to be set alight, set alive.
One by one, she woke each candle with a touch from the short flame. When the dozen lights were glowing, the light darted onto the silver and ricocheted off the crystal, it ventured into and out of the mirrors, populating the room with warmth, with movement.
Polly stepped back from the table to blow out the stub and watched the smoke tendrils rise in memory of the flame. She then laid the short candle on the sideboard and returned to the rope. Hand over hand she raised the ring of light until the candles were at just the right height to shine down and illuminate the evening.
Wrapping the rope around its pegs, she felt the satisfaction of knowing the chandelier was secure. She picked up the candle stub, the plate of old wax and the butter knife and slipped out.
The room was ready. The evening could begin.