Title: Had We But World Enough (And Time)
Word Count: 1,865
Notes: This is for fiddlings as part of the first inrevelations challenge. I'm hoping you like it! The title and epigraph are courstesy of Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress and a certain deflowering is heavily inspired by Mr. T. S. Eliot. Thank you to lynniepearl for the beta andsnapdragonrose for the read through.
Red nails tap against the smooth wood. Bites time with each tap.
She does a lot of that these days. Lawyer’s offices, train stations, bars- she’s sick of always waiting for someone else to show up.
Chair pushes back, heels click and spin.
Her lawyer calls after her. She’s already left.
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
Jack was once good at saying things about the sun, moons and stars, good at spinning together poetry with that wicked tongue of his. Sharp enough to cut away at her resistance and her clothes with a single sweep of the blade.
Talents fade. Her fingers itch for a paint brush and talents fade. He faded too. An indiscretion that she thought she could sweep under the rug and it’s a lesson well learnt.
She swirls her name at the end of the check and nods thank you to the waiter. Two more signatures till she drops her husband’s name. A very small part of her whimpers, wondering how much it would hurt if it were Jack, she were leaving behind.
Two more flicks of wrist and strokes of the pen and freedom is just around the corner. She buttons up her coat, smoothing down the red silk skirt beneath it and her fingers trace the hem. Her mother made this dress, sewing away at it for weeks in the bay window of their tiny Richmond flat, glasses perched at the end of her long nose. Said Clare ought to take it on her honeymoon and dance with her husband on the long deck of a cruise ship, sipping champagne all the way to America and feeling terribly glamorous.
It didn’t happen that way. They took a plane to Paris, instead and she toured the city. Eating breakfast in little cafes while he spent his mornings on the phone. Taking calls from New York and barking out insults to his subordinates as he kissed her good morning.
She dragged him to the Louvre and he smiled indulgently at her excitement, her childish fervor and her dark eyes ate up each painting, voice a husky whisper as she tried to explain to him what it all meant.
His eyes held no response to her enthusiasm, his lips pressed into a firm line that scared her a bit.
They went home that night and as she lay beside him in their white bed. It’s a bed she made and she feels the need to remind herself of this fact.
The first time with Richard reminds her of her very first time with the loitering heir of a city director. Nameless boy, pretty eyes, straight mouth and he’d worn a coat that smelt pricey so she smiled when he took her hand and said an afternoon on the Thames would be nice.
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe, knees raised heaven ward. They’d sailed lazy all afternoon, drifting, drifting until Richmond and Kew undid her and suddenly they weren’t.
Her ankles propped up on the waiting oars and he leaves no address behind.
When lovely woman stoops to folly- well, the next time she’ll a get a ring.
She acquires something her mother never had. Ambition.
Spades of it.
She’s a good sort of wife, she thinks, at least when they’re just starting out, she was. She wasn’t trained to be a wife of society, a hostess to stand at the top of her stairs but she has ambition in spades and even more cunning than you’d think.
She learns the ropes fast till she’s skipping across them with all the grace of the ballerina she never did become. Ferragamo flats are prettier though and a year’s work in London would have left her without a penny.
Clare isn’t one for regrets. It’s not the easiest choice between the life of an artist and that of a wife. Money, she admits, tips the scale.
Money, respectability and pretty shoes. She makes her bed of these things without a second thought. (Love, whispers a long buried half of the old Clare, but she’s more than that now. White tea dresses on Sunday afternoons and galas on Saturday night.
She has parties now. She doesn’t need love.)
She’s the sort of wife who has dinner on the table every night and conciliatory bed room manners. She lies back and thinks of England and he seems to be pleased with her in that odd sort way of his. Quiet and condescending but he brings her New York.
She always wanted New York.
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near
Her mother’s marriage was bittersweet. The sweet part was honey, laced through Maria’s childhood. Kisses, flowers and secrets. Happiness. (Dare she say it- love?)
The bitter part was death. Harsh cold and cruel and sure, Clare never cared for her step father but watching your mother heart break before your fucking eyes is no kid’s idea of happiness.
That won’t be me, she swore. That won’t be me.
Before she married Richard, Clare made a list.
A list of reasons she must marry him. A list of reason that no one else would do and by the time the list was complete, it would have been an excellent campaign manifesto, should he ever chose to run for President.
Not a bad idea, come to think of it. Point twenty two- Richard could one day run for President.
When she first met Jack, they were both thirteen and he beat her at chess. She didn’t like him but he was smart and pretty and she was only just thirteen.
He was her first muse, nose tilted to sky while her pencil flew over the sheets and his smile would vanish when he looked at her work. Each flaw illuminated, the bridge of his nose held crooked for the world to see and his eyes, narrowed to the sun.
He’d sneer and criticize and huff like a Millais model but he’ll be back the next day because he isn’t Elizabeth Siddal and she isn’t Rossetti. ((There are no cold streams, no elegant necks and he’s addicted, sure but it isn’t laudanum and no, she’ll never ever be that good.)
He poses for her all the same.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.
It’s a Sunday morning, when Richard first tells her.
Over breakfast, in fact. “This has to end, Clare.”
“I gave you time.”
“I won’t share my wife with that man, dammit.”
His fingers straighten his tie. Tug at his collar.
Talking to the walls again. Grunting to the walls again.
And then-“I’ll draw up the divorce papers tomorrow.”
She butters her toast in silent protest. Her endless supply of pretty dresses is trotted out of the house by noon and as she steps out into the day, Jackie O sunglasses sliding down her nose, she knows she’ll fleece him for all he’s worth.
She always fancied a weekend at the Plaza.
Elizabeth comes to meet her. A box of baked goods under one arm and Bringing Up Baby in the other.
Emblems of the sisterhood of women. Magnolia cupcakes and Cary Grant.
“So what happened?” she asks, as they sip their lattes in the afternoon sun.
Clare takes a long sip of her coffee and draws out her words, slowly. “I had an affair.”
It falls flat.
Richard introduces them. “Mr. Worthing.”
“How nice to meet you,” and can anyone tell he fucked her after prom, his red silk bow tie wrapped around her ankle?
She can’t believe he crossed the pond and he can’t believe she wears pearls now. “I thought you wanted to be Goya,” he whispers in her ear, leaning under the pretext of pouring her a drink, “Not Bovary.”
She remembers of course. Remembers colors that were more than black and white and grey but she doesn’t care to remember him.
“Go to hell.” Two minutes in his company and she already wants to rip his hair out.
And her skin is flushed from the proximity.
A life with Richard seems to have made her predictable.
She and Jack are whirlpools and cycles, what goes around, comes around and they aren’t as original as they’d like to think. He waits a week before he comes to her, but when he does so his intentions are clear as crystal.
Midday and it doesn’t take a fool to figure out that the man of the house won’t be home and he’s standing there with this wistful smile that he shouldn’t be allowed to have anymore.
Sixteen and they’re hiding from Annie, or whichever flavor of the week calls herself, his because a certain Ms. Clare refuses to do so.
She isn’t his because she belongs to nobody and if she ever did let a man delude himself into thinking he owned her, it would be a man whose pockets were lined with silk.
He’s still smiling moving towards her now, but he stops short of kissing. Let’s her start because she’s impatient as ever and if she moves first she’ll let herself think she’s won.
“This is the last time.” It’s said right into his mouth (like every other time she’s said it) and she can’t believe what a fucking cliché she’s become, bent back over the baby grand and he feels just like he always did.
Bovary be damned, she’s going to draw him again.
Paint him. Strip him down to the core and she bets there are more flaws now than she ever saw before.
“No,” he protests when she hops out of bed, the tip of her eyeliner pressed against a napkin but he’s vain enough to turn his good side towards her.
S he smirks and for a moment she thinks that she can win both games.
Clare’s fatal flaw shines through. With him, she lets herself be careless.
Richard isn’t jealous when he finds out. He’s offended.
Eyes grow small. Beady.
“Have you no shame, Clare?”
She supposes this is the point where she makes her speech about love and life and freedom and how stifling he is. She restrains a shrug, though it’s just what she feels.
I changed my mind. I don’t want this.
She can’t say that, can she?
Her next encounter with Jack is a party of her own and she’s standing right in the middle of it all, ultra slim cigarette propped between her fingers. It never touches her lips and he knows this but she waves it about expressively as she crosses the room, (the crowd parts for her like the sea did for Moses) leaving a cloud of perfumed smoke in her wake.
He catches her by the cocktails and she almost smiles at how appropriate this is.
“Finally free?” His voice is a growl, shivering down her spine.
But his arm has already found it’s way around her waist and they stumble into her suite, tangled limbs and angry mouths.
If she marries him, she’ll marry in silk.
Oodles of deep red silk.