Breach of Promise

Eglantine was a long pretty woman with a cool pleasant face that belied her name. She drank Irish whiskey and smoked tough black cigarets and laughed infrequently but thoroughly. She carried her hands folded over her belly, walked straight-backed as a nun. She worked with, but not for, Mr. Rice. Mr. Rice was a being of light with no solidity and no substance beyond his rumbling voice.

It grew inside her, the thing, and pushed up and down through her long pretty torso. It was an insomniac, unmannered guest, opening cupboards and running the taps at all hours of the day and the night. She woke when its eyes looked through the dew of her flesh. She didn’t sleep. She didn’t eat. She gave up her whiskey and her cigarets and her posture. Her hands swung free at her sides.

Mr. Rice came to her when she was lost in it, and rumbled at her. It looked through her at him and she was troubled to see with it a dark, nebulous cloud turning within him. She stretched a hand under his voice, chasing the cloud, but touched nothing.

Mr. Rice came to her on Fridays, and the cloud grew, and his step roughened. They watched him, Eglantine and it, and soon they couldn’t move their hands past his voice anymore. He brought gifts, bird’s nests and tin foil and promises.

She was drowsing on the porch while it looked at the stars. The noise of a man climbed the stairs. She stirred uneasily — her dreams bubbled and burst — Mr. Rice came into the light. The cloud spread itself on the ground behind him. His hands were closed in reverence and now she could feel the weight of the years to come.