Elizabeth Power is a graduate of the MA in Writing (2007) from NUIG and received a Scholarship to attend Banff Arts Centre, Canada (2009). She has won prizes for flash fiction including the Swift Satire International Writing competition (2011) and the Domineer Literary Festival Ireland (2011). Her poetry and short stories have have been published widely in Irish literary journals including the Moth, Crannog and Force Ten.
By Elizabeth Power
Isabel steps out in purple L.K. Bennett’s and a soft leather clutch. She has given it thought and feels she has got the look right. The idea had formed at the hairdresser, while Aisling teased her hair. She had gazed at the magazine of the young Duchess on her lap. Kate Middleton, the style icon with her nude shoes and nude dresses and L.K. Bennett’s.
To avoid pot holes and mountain sheep, she walks the white line of the road. It’s a good day for this plan. A sweet blue sky falls into Kylemore Lake on her right. Bog cotton swells in heat. A flick of sun, a spit of polish on buttercups.
A car churns in the distance, rounds the bend and hoots. She places a hand on a blade of bone covering her heart and takes a breath before raising her hand in a regal salute.
‘You’re taking liberties?’ her husband enquired when he saw her prepare for her outing this morning.
‘My liberty,’ Isabel answered.
‘I’m concerned. That’s all. You don’t know what might happen,’ he replied, touching her arm. ‘I’ll wait at the car park.’
‘I can take care of myself. I have to do this. I need to figure it out.’
Large purple rhododendrons pop out of the hedge. Isabel stares at them and thinks about the cuts. An austerity measure too far, that’s what she said, when she saw what was proposed. Her assets stripped. Her future as bare as the quartz lumps of Binn Dubh and Binn Bhan, which this morning are an immutable glimpse, a graveyard of stone out of the corner of her eye.
She looks down at the remains of her surgery; two purple lines instead of breasts.
When Isabel first saw them, her ears rang as loud and persistent as an unanswered phone. Wads of bandages and an empty night dress stared back at her. Tears leaked out.
‘There’s always something to weep about,’ her friend, the healer said. ‘Find your dignity.’
A brazen sun throws a shadow from the rhododendrons.
Ah. Mary Ann, her neighbour, straightens from her task of collecting wild strawberries.
Isabel reaches for her Jean Paul Gaultier holster and takes a Marlborough Light from its leather holder strapped to her thigh. She lights the cigarette while she considers what to do. The dark coal of Kylemore Lake laps behind her back. She could make a break for it and dive in but remembers her hair just in time.
MaryAnn’s eyes meet Isabel’s and feverishly looks away.
Isabel won’t let go of the gaze.
‘Where are your clothes?’ her neighbour asks, even as she sees, for God’s sake, the approach of a tourist bus on the way to the Abbey.
‘But you can’t,’ MaryAnn splutters.
‘Of course I can. You have to keep up and make an effort,’ Isabel replies. ‘Apparently nude is bang on trend.’
Isabel has prepared for many eventualities. She has rehearsed how she would cope with strangers, jeerers, whistle callers, even molesters. She has not prepared for a neighbour who was this minute is advancing towards her with jacket and a pleading smile.
Isabel’s L.K. Bennett’s rub the cigarette butt into the road. Mary Ann misreads the foot gesture, thinks better of her rescue and moves out of the way.
The road curves ahead in colour and bursts of fabric, as though the landscape itself has decided to dress in its best.
Her future unfolds as she straightens and walks ahead. She will return to college she thinks. Fashion design. That’s what she will do.