I don’t remember the presence of a valance, or even the existence of such things. If my immature apprehension gave a name to the veil that my fingers had suddenly grown so reluctant to lift, it would have been bedspread; counterpane perhaps.
No, what I remember is the box behind it, and how, as I prostrated myself against my better judgement and lowered my cheek almost to the dusty Axminster, it slid shadily, shakily into view. The shape of it. The picture on it. This picture.
What kind of mother keeps a head-sized box with a picture like that on it under her bed?
Because I’m sorry, I know René Gruau was a pretty influential fashion illustrator and the logo he designed for Dickins & Jones of Regent Street was fabulously stylish but come on, COME ON... Here I am, really little and left alone in the house (things were done differently in those days) and of course I’m going to goad myself into sneaking into her room and getting down for another, terrified peek. Because even I, at God knows what tender age, can tell it looks like a severed head on some cloth, not a rose – and who would tie a black ribbon on a rose anyway?
And did I mention the head-sized box?
I never found the courage to look in it, of course. In those early, different days it was enough to catch sight of it, and skip a breath or a heartbeat, and beat a hasty retreat. Later, the space under the bed would fill up with other stuff. Pads. Dad’s pictures. A tartan picnic basket filled with slides and Kodak wallets. Those strangely orthopaedic-looking boot stretchers. But even though I’d only happen on it now and then, by chance, still the box would be under there somewhere.
After she was gone, Dad threw it all away. I asked him what had been in the box.
Her wedding dress, he said.
I've been writing for as long as I can remember (I think my first letter was a P). I got a degree writing about other people's writing and ever since then I've earned a living writing commercially, one way or another. But I never stopped writing and refining my own stuff. I just didn't do anything with it, until now.