The Doomed Queen
in the dark night
the colour of nothing
I am in my parents’ bedroom – a place I haven’t been in since my wedding day nearly fifty years ago. There’s my parents’ bed with its blush-pink quilt, their wardrobe with mother’s coats, dresses, shoes and handbags on one side and dad’s suits and shoes on the other. A bookcase full of gardening magazines, books dad won at Sunday school and a few romance novels. Mum’s dressing-table with its three mirrors, in which you could see every aspect of yourself and where we three sisters would riffle through the drawers when mum was at work, fingering her lingerie, trying on her hats or wearing her pearls.
Suddenly, I see someone lying in the bed. The most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Long black hair, perfectly sculpted eyebrows, a cupid’s bow mouth. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” I ask. “I’m hiding,” she says. “Men are coming to arrest me. I must get to Scotland.” “You can’t stay here”, I tell her. “My father has a shop with a flat above it. You could stay there. He will take you to the station and you can get a train there to Scotland.” “Station? What is that? What is train? Je ne comprends pas.” I explain in words that even a child would understand. I leave the room to phone my dad, but when I return, the bed is empty. The lady has disappeared.
Waking to a new day, the sun streaming through a gap in the curtains, I realise it’s been a dream. There, on my bed, is the book I’d been reading the night before: Philippa Gregory’s The Other Queen about Mary Queen of Scots.
museum case –
so small they escape death
her tiny shoes