Random passage from my Marion Grace novel THE GODMOTHER, as yet unedited and unrevised. (Dysfunctional family struggles in the aftermath of two World Wars in pre-millennium Britain under its dour but charismatic oracle, Sibyl.)
Freak gales hectored the coastline until New Year’s Day when they departed with as much caprice as they had arrived.
Godfrey mooted a stroll on the sands that afternoon. Neither he nor Annabel was in a disagreeable mood but it was an effort to think of things to say. Despite the number of hours they'd spent together over the last week Annabel felt she did not know him any better. Godfrey must have felt the same because he kept slyly consulting his watch.
"I've got an essay to tackle tomorrow," she frowned, "about Shakespeare's use of the pathetic fallacy. I wonder whether art mimics life or if it's the other way round."
"What a bore," Godfrey said. "Where's it all leading? You'd do better to get some shorthand and typing under your belt."
She stopped in her tracks. "What!" she demanded, half-laughing. The noisy throb of a light aircraft, gaining space low in the sky, drowned out any further reply. For a moment, he had sounded so like her father.
Godfrey span round to confront her, beaming triumphantly, shielding his tilted gaze from the glare. "In fact," he cried, "you don't have to work at all if you don't want to!"
Looking up, Annabel saw the little red and white plane overtaking them, way above her head, like an imperturbable insect, and it was trailing a silver message, writ large over the marshes, reflecting the wan rays of the winter solstice. MARRY ME, ANNABEL!
She stood still, nonplussed, her hands plunged deep in her anorak pockets. Could this really mean her?
Godfrey did not need to comb the pages of literature to understand that even a Deus ex machina could find no chink large enough to subvert his purpose. His innate talent for barnstorming, in this instance to an audience of one, made him confident of success. As yet, his quarry was bent on no goal of her own and had been thwarted in the pursuit of her interests. He had to make an impact now, before she beetled off to university or discovered she had a vocation to lend Mother Theresa a helping hand on the streets of Calcutta. In addition to which, she was possessed of a kind heart sturdily developed against her mother's irony. She was being given a means of escape, for free.
Annabel dissolved into peals of mirth at the unqualified logic of it. She leapt into a rockpool and made a gigantic hollow splash. Its coldness seeped into her wellingtons. "OK! Why not! I bet you haven't talked to Dad, though."
Godfrey hadn't. He had judged that his end would be best achieved all round if things were ordered with an appearance of spontaneity. He would allow Annabel to pave the way to paternal sanction, then bring up a trust-inspiring rearguard, man to man. "Anyway," he said seditiously, "you'll be eighteen in a few weeks."
They embraced and kissed and her skin tasted of salty splashes and his of faded aftershave. Then, he delved inside his breast pocket and produced a ring he said was an heirloom. It had been his grandmother's engagement ring and was wreathed in precious sentiments. That her finger had been small, exactly the same size as Annabel's, surely indicated that their future together was written in the stars. It made perfect sense. "I shan't interfere," he promised. "You can do as you please. Study or not. Work or not. Perform on stage..."
When Sibyl clapped eyes on the pearl buttressed with Art Nouveau swirls, she turned pale with shock and then pink with scandal.
"He's leading you up the garden path and no mistake. You want to watch your step, my girl. He's trouble."
"Mum, don't be silly. Not all men are like that."
Sibyl knew that much was true. Edwin was living proof, but she was sure that he had not evolved from any viable species. Aside from personal feelings, the whole thing struck a false note, yet she could not have said why. It had erupted out of nowhere, creating turbulence she couldn't handle. She stared intently out of the window. "That winter jasmine's early."
"It's what I want, Mum."
"The seasons are out of sync. It's all down to man interfering with the cosmos: atom bombs and DDT and fluoride. There's no saying where it will end. But it's all foretold.”
"I've thought it through."
"You're no age, no age at all. How can you know what you want? You'll not be certain even when you reach thirty! It’s madness, taking up with a stranger!"
But I have lived my life among strangers, Annabel wanted to shout. "Can't you be happy for me?" she wheedled. "Just this once."
"You've not a clue what you're doing! Not the faintest idea of responsibility. You're committing yourself for life!"
"You make it sound like a sentence."
"And so it is! Not a word of a lie! When you're married, you have to submit, like it or not. It's no bed of roses, I can tell you!"
Sibyl, turning again towards the shimmering spray of jasmine, was clenching her teeth, the tears welling hotly between her lashes.
Annabel had the pearl and the world was her oyster.
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...