The Velvet Chamber
An Anthology of Revisioned Myth and Fairy Tale

Explore the dark side of the female psyche --A CALL FOR WRITERS supports The Velvet Chamber

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Belle Reve

Deconstructing Stella

I don't know how this woman could be my sister. I tell her, I'm to going to run your bath, but it's an excuse to get away from her. Dear God in heaven it's like she's still a debutante. She's fanning a big white moth from her face, and drinking Stanley's whiskey. She's wearing a white silk dress, matching gloves and hat, still holding tight to mama's embroidered satchel. When I close the door, and turn on the faucet, it occurs to me to just drown myself before this goes any further. I run the water a little hot out of spite. I see the look she gave him. But I'm having a baby so I have to be careful. She's not the woman she used to be, but even so, still dangerous. I splash cold water on my face.

She walks unsteadily into the bathroom, and the moth follows her. Baby, she whimpers, why do you have bugs in your house? I reach out my hand, crush it in my palm, now we don't, I say. She's close to me now and she smells like a whorehouse; beyond cheap perfume and sweat, beyond desperation. It's sour and clings to her like dust. Help unzip me, she says. I take hold of the zipper but the dress tears at the shoulder, the lace practically dissolving. Careful, she says, unfazed, it's my last good dress. Steam rises up from the water, and I turn off the tap. I leave without saying another word.

Stanley is gone, the whiskey bottle is empty. I'm alone in the kitchen. I'm so glad I got away. I'm so glad I escaped the ghosts of that house, and the nightmare of those summer nights underneath the magnolias. Mama was always up in her room, sequestered and protected by the servants, doing God knows what. And on Saturdays, young men in linen trousers lined up to drink papa's bourbon, and get close to Blanche; flowers in her hair, eyes unfocused, why yes I'd like another drink you silly goose.

Later, I'd watch her slink off towards the barn with Philip or James or the captain's son. She'd return just as the sun was coming up. I'd ask, do you know what you're doing. It's not as if she was stupid. When I got older, I just wanted to get as far away as possible. I knew it was a dying world. By then Blanche was married to a man who would soon die of mysterious complications. Mama couldn't see me off because she had a sick headache. After all, I was just Stella, not brilliant, not beautiful, not even interesting enough to be missed. I got a a job as a waitress in the French Quarter, met Stanley one night in July. I don't need the past or the future.

She is shocked by New Orleans because it is dirty, chaotic, but it is also alive. Belle Reve is dead. I don't know if she'll be able to tell the difference. I can't bring myself to care anymore. The bathroom door opens and she makes her entrance wearing only a thin ivory chemise. Her breasts seem weighted. Careful Blanche, I say, Stanley will be back at any minute. She ignores this. Sits down at the kitchen table, says, there's no point in having servants in a two room apartment. I put my hand over hers, I know Blanche.

I still would like to kill her. When you are so thoroughly engaged in destruction, you shouldn't fall apart when your work is done. I could respect her if she brought her own whiskey and said, I'm a dumb stupid whore, and I've lost everything that ever belonged to us, and now I have nothing. Instead, she walks around as if she is hallucinating. As if she is still the mythical beauty of Belle Reve, instead of a moth trapped in the bright light of a single light bulb. She puts her head down on the table. I run my fingers through her hair. I can't help it, I still love her. Just then, Stanley opens the door, puts the bottle down on the table, asks, do we have any ice?