This piece was written for the Henry Handel Richardson story competition in 2012 (it won an honorable mention). The connection to Henry Handel Richardson is that Madeleine, the narrator of the story, is an extension of that character in Richardson’s novel Maurice Guest.
This piece is longer than my usual postings. Please let me know if you find it too long.
Madeleine covered her nose with a lavender-scented handkerchief to mask the carbolic of the school infirmary. She bent over a boy in the one occupied bed. ‘Oh, Scotty,’ she whispered. She could think of nothing else to say. Tied to the iron bedstead was a sign that gave the patient’s formal name, Nicholas Scott, and the date of admittance, Tuesday 15th August, 1922.
She always thought of him as Scotty. His normally unruly red curls had been brushed off his face and he seemed to be sleeping. The look of sleep gave him a childish innocence. But there were wounds under the gauze dressings on his neck. The contrast of Scotty’s innocent face with the reality of the violence he had wished to enact was deeply disturbing. His long eye lashes fluttered.
It was not the first time Madeleine had confronted suicide. There was a young woman back in her student days in Leipzig, thirty years ago, and soon after that, Maurice – Maurice whom she had tried so hard to drag away from his desperate infatuation. She remembered hurrying back to Leipzig from Paris to attend his ignominious funeral. It was worse than having a friend die from accident or illness – there was a stronger sense of disbelief. How could this person, with whom you had talked and argued just days earlier, perform an act of such abrupt finality? How naïve she had been to think that one day Maurice would come to his senses and settle down as a music teacher, perhaps with her. It was so hard to accept the brutal truth that he had loved another woman more than anything else in the world. Certainly more than her.