The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp...

Episode 16

She would fuss and worry over him. The eggs must be soft! The toast must be light! The bacon must not be salty! She would pour hot green tea for him only, into an important blue and white china cup. One morning on entering the breakfast room, Esme thought she had heard the mention of ‘a photographer’… but it trailed away on the lips of Rose, hunched as she was, in her usual stance; over Edward, and his must be ‘perfect breakfast’. But the mention of a photographer had moistened arid seeds within Esme’s mind and later, when Edward had left the house, she sat for an hour in the upstairs room with the pale red curtain, and wept herself to normality.

This particular morning she possessed a certain peace. A man required flaws in a woman for the benefit of his pride, she had told herself this… But had she flaws? She was not aware of any. Edward seemed to think that she had many! And would scold and abuse her in meridians of sexual indulgence! Some evenings he would spend hours with a coveted book, its pages depicting scenes of sadistic rape and sullen buggery.
Rose, it seemed, slept heavily to any sounds of gratified pleasure that could have parroted along the upstairs landing and settled to her ear in the long dark hours of the night. She was complacent in her slumbered indifference, in her small bedroom, overlooking the silent, dim garden of Primula and Pride.

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