Monday, 22 February 2010
A THING OF BEAUTY by J. R. Lindermuth
A THING OF BEAUTY
Her mother always preferred him.
Call it incestuous if you must; it was simply a fact he early recognized. Though he valued her support in his many arguments with his wife, he never consciously wanted to exchange one woman for the other. Obviously, as he was to learn, her mother felt differently about that.
Perhaps it was their similarity in age. Olivia was less than 10 years older than Neal and he was double that number of years older than Leslie. Or, perhaps, rather than the mere fact of age, it was their similarity of temperament. She and Neal were quiet introverts while Leslie was a confirmed and vociferous extrovert.
This difference in temperament was often the source of their arguments. How could he have imagined it otherwise when he married her? Should he not have realized it was his affluence and not his appearance persuaded this young and beautiful woman to marry him? How could he have thought a life of solitude and books would offer her the contentment it did him?
Oh, he was devoted to her in his way. She was his wife and he loved her. Despite their many disagreements, Neal always eventually gave into her whims, bought her many gifts, allowed her to roam at will, turned a blind eye to her many indiscretions. What else was he to do? He loved her.
When Leslie took ill he was devastated. He sat by her bedside long hours, helpless as she writhed in pain until her life faded away. It never occurred to him then her mother had poisoned her.
The night Leslie died her mother went to bed and slept soundly.
In the morning Olivia came into the bedroom where Neal had tossed and turned away the hours until dawn. Olivia sang happily as she entered the room with a pot of tea and two cups. She sat beside him on the bed, shook out her hair and smiled.
Neal shrank from her in horror. She was the image of his dead wife.
Days, then weeks passed. Each morning Olivia came to his room with a song and a pot of tea. On the morning of the third week, he accepted the tea and that night Olivia got into bed beside him.
The next morning he looked on her and smiled, thinking of that line from Keats—“A thing of beauty...” She looked exactly like his dead wife, but she treated him as he’d wanted to be treated.
He thought he might prefer her to Leslie.
Watch The Hour (April 2009), Whiskey Creek Press
Corruption's Child (June 2008), Whiskey Creek Press
The Accidental Spy (July 2008), Lachesis Publishing