A Poverty of Love

Have you ever witnessed such an interesting vividness in pallid cheeks which were once rosy, dried and cracked lips that were once moist, and gray strands of hair that were once silky in this deathly image of affliction? From what we may witness and from what we, as a loved one may notice of our own stagnancy, there is both solemnity and tranquility in this view of death clawing at our dying loved one. During this strange sight and our stagnancy, we question our own mortality and ponder over the end as we know it. We cannot but at least attempt to understand death in its molded form before us.
So, we refer to our character of our story who is a man such questions have often passed through his mind. Such questions we allow him to inquire, for his wife has become afflicted with a deadly malady.
He has bought a small cottage within the Forest of Bowland, secluded and wrapped in silence. Only the faint scraping of quill on parchment, and the dabbling of the quill in vial of ink could be heard in this small abode. Though perhaps even the faint howl of the wind might also be heard if it were not drowned out by the perpetual sound of a crackling fireplace.
It is a traditional English cottage of rustic bricks with vines crawling up towards a roof of slating; atop the roof holds a dual heating system of twin fireplaces, one at either end. Four windows at the “front” of the home at four corners, and a green door to finish the exterior. Of the rather dull interior: one wide room, with hardly any more furniture other than two sofas, one bed, and a desk. Both sofas are built of carved mahogany, with wood carved into a scene of cupids and roses. These sofas decked with red matelassé fabric as well; the desk bought off a street auction and is said to come from America. Our male character had been rich once upon a time, as one could plainly tell. And this bed, were it to not be carrying the stench of affliction, one might even describe it as a thing of beauty. A well-made walnut bed with a headboard that resembled a throne, the mattress stuffed with horsehair.
Were anyone to step through the door, they might take in the odoriferous scent of age lingering on the aforementioned furniture. Such times not long since gone may evoke nostalgic feelings for it is of the year 1902 and Queen Victoria has only just fallen.
We see the man, whom we shall call Caldwell, tending to some stew over a fire. The aroma of venison and vegetables permeate around the room, and the air is warm. Caldwell stirs the stew with a pale spoon. Upon his countenance is the picture of sternness.
He straightens his back, and turns around, and looks at Annabel.
His wife, a woman whose illness has torn her beauty, lays upon the only single-person bed near the desk. Annabel breathes faintly, as death waits at the door.
Annabel’s eyes are pitiful and miserable when peering at her husband’s own.
Caldwell walks towards his desk with a blank expression, humming a tune, and pulls a drawer out. Inside is a notepad, containing a series of poems. He takes the journal and draws it close to his chest, as though embracing it with passion. He breathes a sigh, kneels down and utters a prayer:
Dear Lord, please aid me in creating my greatest masterpiece, for so long have I thought on it, nothing has been written. Amen.’
What of this masterpiece? We will reveal that Caldwell is a poet as such might be blatant from the mention of his journal. He has amounted a considerable fortune for success in his vocation.
‘Caldwell,’ said Annabel without ease. ‘Come over to me. I wish to speak, for I fear death may soon arrive and greet me with its touch.’ She had awoken at the sound of his voice. Her lips quiver, and her eyes squint in the warm light of the fire. Her hand slowly raises from the bed to meet his,
At her side, Caldwell takes her hand in his own. He plants a soft kiss on the dry skin. But this stare! The look in his eyes holds a mixture of sympathy and contempt; both are conflicting.
‘I’m here, Annabel,’ Caldwell speaks coldly. ‘Tell me what you are thinking.’
She mumbles a couple of indiscernible words before her head tilts to the side and lays motionless. The nearness of death is a display of pallid cheeks and shallow breathing, like the moving of fog down a hill.
Caldwell utters a gasp from his throat, and his eyes widen; a faint smile is on his lips. Placing his two fingers on her tapered neck, he searches for a pulse. He finds one, that is faint, and he breathes a sigh.
He looks away and feels as though he’s going to heave.
‘Do you hate me?’ are the almost silent though perceptible words spoken from Annabel. She’s drowsy, though completely aware.
‘No! Never say that! I’ve told you so already!’ shouts Caldwell, who lets her hand fall, and getting up, he grips his hair in frustration.
Caldwell stares at the brick wall, and his eyes trail over the cracks, as one day this home will collapse from the slightest gust of wind.
Caldwell spins on his heel and stares straight at Annabel’s emaciated body clothed in transparent sadness. He exclaims the words he has uttered repeatedly and continuously for years now. The words that send searing waves of pain through Annabel’s body. These very words he cannot stop himself from speaking every day, for such is the madness in the idle creator.
‘Annabel! My dear, I will write this poem, and it shall spread throughout London. Perhaps made into a play by a famous playwright, and premiered at all the great halls of England. It shall be my greatest work yet. Do you not see?’
Annabel’s body starts to squirm at these words, then she groans in pain; her body then begins to twist and turn on the bed, writhing in convulsions. In such pain, Caldwell still speaks!
‘Annabel, my dear, please understand my motives, my desires, you must. Your dancing, it was such a marvel to look upon. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It had such form and exquisiteness. Such charm and poise.’
Annabel’s body spasms and convulses in a paroxysm ceaselessly.
She took in every word, and every word was torture. Like a terrifying nightmare she dreamed every day, these words had been what she feared to come and yet, she could not escape it. But why? Why not pull away? Why not run away? Why not disengage from this man?
Hitherto Caldwell had been near the wall, he now rushes towards Annabel for she is about to fall off the bed. She actually does so, and her shoulder knocks against the wooden floor. Caldwell motions his hands around her arms and lifts her with difficulty back onto the bed. But still, he speaks, with his hands gripping her sharp shoulders, and staring into her terrible eyes.
‘Annabel, my sweet. I’ll write this story, and it will make you and I so proud. You will get better and we will sail the oceans far and wide, and explore uncharted lands, and make a real name for ourselves in the great country of England, and all of Great Britain. This poem, the poem of all poems, and shall evoke passion and exquisiteness; of your talent in dancing, the talent that you love, the poem will be phenomenal. Please, you must realize that this is our destiny. It’s what we you were made for.’
These last words were simply too much. She convulses one last time, then falls still.
Annabel is dead.

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