That was the signal for the family meal to come to an end. It was a shadow of her youth, an empty echo of the life Sophie had once known; and aware that her mother would sit back now, lost and alone in the comfort of her armchair, Sophie hurried on, reaching the fourth stair before she heard the teasing chimes of a soap opera. Like much else that she had once enjoyed, these had lost their appeal, the gritty drama of a London square no longer engaging. Sophie’s passions had become confused indeed; she had rejected much of her past, not hiding, but refusing to enjoy it, and at the same time she had allowed herself to become immersed in its magic.
This magic returned as she closed the bedroom door, echoes of TV still sounding from below. The room was dark, only a desk-lamp offering relief; and beside it, a present from a doting father, was a leather satchel. Sophie opened it as she sat down, the shadows about her already busy with goblins, pirates and wizards; these creatures were hers, or hers now, and they continued to busy about as she took out a plain notebook, bound like the satchel in a soft brown leather.
The notebook, like the satchel, like the stories themselves, was a special treasure; it held her dreams, worlds as endless as her imagining, and it also held despair, cruel, lying, deceitful things. Sophie had laboured this cruelty, just as she had her magic; and the product of her labour was a notebook slowly filling with sketches, drafts, memories. Sophie flicked these once she was settled, wanting to embrace it all. The kingdom she entered thus was an idyll of light and dark; and its ruler was a god, perfect, flawed and mortal.
Mr Gralove had not died as yet, however; and Sophie’s god, some Santa Claus to educate a child was no more than a metaphor. Sophie had learned this mantra almost with her first words, her loving, humanist parents determined to give her the utmost freedom. She was free thus, at the age of 19, to own her despair, to know that what she regretted of her father was not the product of some wicked temptation; it was his own life choices.
Despite this freedom, that Mr Gralove had chosen made it no easier to accept his behaviour; and one of the few icons she retained from her father, a photograph on her desk, served to remind her both of his love and his deceit. She could see his smile, hear his laughing voice as she looked up from her notebook; and as usual of late she wondered if even then, even as they posed for happiness, a summer picnic, Mr Gralove was thinking rather of his own selfish desires.
Sophie would never know the truth, could only guess at how her father felt; and though she asked the question many times the answers that presented themselves tended to change with her moods. She chose at that moment then not to think, temporarily without a cheating father, a grieving mother; and as she prepared to escape, to reconcile the confusions of her past with the emerging clarity of her writing, William Earle, a young man with no family still living, was embracing a very different future of his own.
CLICK HERE FOR CHAPTER 1
©2013 Padraig De Brún