Élucide: part one
Her mind was on Eugene Ebrach.
She had turned the key. She could bear the headaches more easily, her temple throbbed less, when she lay on the floor. The floorboards were cold and unyielding; the ice bag―a strange receptacle for faith and duty―lay where she had discarded it, sweating, dampening the sleeve of her dress. It followed Élucide to her room, carried upstairs by Sarah.
To accept that offered with gratitude, and with a young lady’s reticence, was what Mother expected of her—what Élucide had been taught. Always afterwards she said, “Yes, ma’am, thank you, it does help.”
It didn’t. The ice bag was too much; it sagged and needed shoving this way and that, woke her when it slid onto her shoulder or dropped to the floor…and she could only endure the migraine by keeping still. She had kicked away her shoes. She had crawled under the bed. And that was why Élucide locked herself in. Even this locking of the door was a fault. The greater fault was to be odd, not normal…to behave in ways unladylike and uncivilized. There was a depth of torment to this pain she could make no one understand. But that, as her father would say, was presupposing. So long as she took herself out of the way when she was sick, her torments seemed not much puzzled over by her family.
While the headache, once gone, tended to leave her dull and sleepy, until it had ended, she could never quite drift into a doze. Behind closed eyes, she hovered…it felt to Élucide as though this were really so—that from this low place she looked up at herself, and while floating above looked down…seeing the corporeal Élucide (Mr. Ebrach’s way with words) push her palms against her temples, bend her knees, then stretch her legs out flat. She saw vivid auroras, red waves that played across her eyelids. Her thoughts cycled, one thing arising from another. It was uncouth, she knew it, writhing on the floor, dirtying her nightgown with the coal dust that found its way into every out-of-mind corner, her hair coming unpinned, teasing itself into a coarse cloud. She pressed her fingertips against her eyes, and forced her mind to make a picture of Mr. Ebrach. The headache could go crouch in a corner, from which it might spring or slink away.
Élucide knew she had a pretty face. They held her in restraint, as though she were an imbecile, a child who would never grow up. And Mr. Ebrach had looked at her…all the while her mother was drawing conversation from Mr. Jerome. He, this new cousin, was horribly thin, his pale translucent skin bluish from the veins that showed through…
(2017, Stephanie Foster)