Lie against my shoulders, darling. Press me in--or turn your face to the wall
and let me close my eyes against your back. My cheek wished for the rumple of
your hair--yours. I knew the sickness would come. You have made me sick
again, you conniving innocent rat. First you toxified my tea, held the
silver teaspoon (your family heirloom) like a butterfly against my lips,
"Drink, darling," you told me. My blood ran thin and erratic as you took
my pulse and pressed the damp cloth to my neck.
The fever makes everything less real. Maybe there was water in my eyes and maybe the world really blurred when you crushed me down under your weight, murmuring like a bird in my ear, "Darling.." Your mouth was warm and tinted with toothpaste and I thought you were going to breathe life itself between my cold cold lips. No, it was always more than I imagined. You were never so beautiful as when you loomed above me with your palms pressed tight to my ribs, and I saw the light fall through your hair--Oh god. I think you loved me most when I was utterly at your mercy, frail and half-delirious. Didn't I call you my angel? I started to bleed lilac scent.
They brought me roses on Thursdays and Sundays. They laid them mauve and pink and white and peach, camped them like sentinels round my body and I could smell their petals in my dreams. They used to ask if they could lie beside me, stroke my fluttering eyelids, trace the line of my shoulder ever-so-gently.
No, I said. I was too ill. There was no one I could stand to have beside me but you, and I craved you, the soft texture of your cotton shirts, the careful cleanliness you would keep, the comforting solid shape of your body in smooth linen (never wool, you disdained its scratchiness). To sleep against your side was my peace. You were the anagelsic to your own poison. I didn't mind when you dug your half-moon nails into my arms and whispered secrets in my ear. I didn't flinch when you reached into my gown to tear away the locket, when you broke the gold clasp and paused over the pictures before pocketing it. You watched my calm mirror-dark eyes so intently as you peeled me. Did you think it was wrong? Nothing could be right or wrong in that room. I wasn't dying, just sick and vulnerable and that was what you wanted, wasn't it? To keep me in the tower for a year and a day, to taste my smiles and take them prisoner, yours and no one else's. You knew me too well. Healthy, I might have driven you to despair. I was always a strong, proud thing. Do you remember, darling?
Do you remember that day in the grass, when you showed me the daffodils and I coaxed you behind the tree? Do you remember the daffodils you twined in my hair, the daffodils you stuffed into my cambric sleeves? Do you remember the shade that concealed your trembling hands? Do you remember how I smiled against your collarbones and traced the lines of your palms like the lines of a fairytale page? Tell me you remember, darling.
Tell me you remember and remember that I loved you then, though you were already making me sick with infection--that's right. I knew. I let you infect me, I let you in, for always. And when the year and the day is over, I will stop taking your toxified tea, and let the ravens lead me down the staircase, into the garden.
I will disappear, and you mustn't doubt me. For either I will die, or I will be well again, and I will come back for you, to press the daffodils into your hands again and again, until you know you know that I love you, I love you.