As I said, the purpose of this blog is to put my work as a writer out to the public in the hopes of selling my first screenplay. Since the traditional approaches have been slow to bear fruit I’ve decided to go with more novel approaches to selling the script. But that reminds me that I have another novel idea – a novel. My novel involves the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to a small degree. Mary’s life is not the subject nor the driving force of the novel just a component – as such – the prologue to the novel is a scene of her in the cemetery where her mother is buried. I also included the beginning of chapter 1. This character/element is more the “meat” of the story – the story of Chula a young pregnant archaeologist.
While I love my screenplays - this novel is my “prodgeny”. Besides, I’m not opposed to getting a book deal first! I hope you enjoy.
DRINK OF A FULL CUP
by Mary Godwin
We are all continuously improving and changing in our own
way, in our own time, based on our life experiences.
Perfection is achieved………….after the fact.
In the legacy we leave behind or not.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley slightly lifted her long black skirt and sank to her knees in front of the monument. The grounds at St. Pancras churchyard were sodden from the previous night’s storm and the first hints of autumn were evident in the unseasonably cool of the early August air. The sun rose over an hour ago, if you could call it “sun”. Through the bleakness of the grey sky it could do nothing to temper the briskness in the air and even less to dissuade the beads of dew hanging heavy on the grass to let go their perch.
She loved early morning walks for those normally glistening beads brought to life in the waking sun. She had always imagined the ones trapped in a spider’s web to be a jewel necklace. A necklace never to be worn by a mere mortal. Mortals, of course, lack the steadiness of hand to even pluck it from display – but, in Mary’s view, they also lacked the worthiness to wear such a treasure. These walks, taken to clear her thoughts and settle her restless spirit, were usually found to be a comfort to Mary. Not today. Today was simply grey and matte and wet. Wet with the night’s storm, wet with the morning dew, and wet with the tears now streaming down Mary’s cheeks.
The water of the ground soon permeated the cotton fabric. She allowed herself to take a moment, just a moment, to mentally describe the feeling created by the cold water as it soaked through to her skin. The skin would begin to feel cold – lifeless – or almost lifeless. The way it feels with the attempts of revitalization of a baby after a traumatic birth – still wet with amniotic fluid. And cold - as there was no circulation of corpuscles bringing warmth from within to the outmost of the body. Her body shivered at that particular thought. It came from her own life experience and always chilled her steadiness – the one trait she had admired the most of herself.
Mary delights in seeing, tasting … feeling. She would then challenge herself to place that into words. Sometimes this exercise would touch upon the core of her pain, as it just had, but she embraced it for what it was instead of trying to deny she ever had feelings of pain and sorrow. Doctors have to lay hands on the very thing that hurts for good to come of it and she felt the same of the pain in her mind and heart – she had to lay words on the very thing causing her pain. Her mother had been a writer too – she knew her mother would understand this ritual.
Realizing she could forever continue in these thoughts she distracted herself by mentally calculating the placement of the resulting water and mud spots on her garment and realized they would fall somewhere mid shin upon standing.
As, today, it was another ritual Mary had come to her mother’s graveside to perform. A ritual taught to her from infancy. She remembered the gentle hand of William Godwin holding her chubby fingers – guiding their liturgical movements. It was how she had learned to both read and write her very own name. The name she shared with her mother. Mother had died just days after Mary’s birth. Just days? Why would I think of it in such vague terms? 10 – 10 days it was – this was the cruel limit placed on our time together. How many times had mother been able to hold me? Had mother even been able to suckle me before the ravages of puerperal fever ripped her from this world?
Her eyes went from looking down to the ever widening circle of water on her skirt to the monument before her. It had been a fixture of Mary’s life and she found it comforting to be here, she always had. The marble was a pedestal, almost cube shaped, only slightly taller than it was wide. It was capped on top which gave it the impression of a squat table. Percy Shelley had made note of that very thing the day he proposed to her. It was here, on this sacrosanct place, that Percy Shelly had professed his undying love to her. Un-dying? He did so by saying it was time he “laid all his cards on the table” as he leaned over the stone. Mary had always felt it more resembled an alter but never questioned Percy’s choice of words. Never. They asked her mother’s blessings and each leaned across this alter of their love in a kiss. As these memories and thoughts flooded her mind she raised a trembling hand to the stone’s cold surface then steadied her finger as began to trace the letters of her mother’s name in the grave stone.
Throughout her life, father brought Mary here to her mother’s side. Just a continuation, she thought, of how things had begun. He had been the one to place her alongside her mother the first time after her birth. Mother had retained the placenta and Mary’s first six hours were spent fretting in the arms of father as mother was attended and the gruesome extraction was attempted with unspeakable implements and, when that failed, the resorting to who had the longest fingers and the smallest hands.
There were times they would come here that she could tell her father wished nothing more than to be able to speak to her – or perhaps to just hold her once again and brush his lips into her hair in gentle kisses. As the words formed in her mind Mary considered the entendre’ of whether it was mother or she who father wished to speak – kiss. Father loved her, this she knew. She had always sensed he wanted more of a family bond but lacked what it took inside to make it so. She always felt that ability in him had died with her mother and she had long since come to accept him and his cold analytical thinking. But this had never sufficed for, or even mitigated, the love Mary so fervently desired.
Mary wondered what life would have been had mother lived. She always imagined living in the equilibrium that would form as they each would allow themselves to be dependent upon the other – dependent, yet equally respected, and then equally self-sacrificing individuals. Individuals that, together, were part of a greater plan – a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The thought made Mary ache for want of it. It was what she had tried to establish with Percy but, she had finally come to realize, he wasn’t aware of anything greater than the here and now. How freely, though, he had spoken his vow of love that was an “undying” love. Mary noted the contradiction. But, she never questioned Percy Shelly’s choice of words. Never.
Mary spoke aloud, “What did you wish for me mother in those first moments you saw me? What would you have me know? Could you already see that I too was cursed to find my love and to be separated, as you are from father, by the confines of death? But, at least I found it – that love, I tasted it … I lived it. Briefly. Ever so briefly. So few ever know the pleasure of a love so pure it has to outlast eternity.” Percy, she knew, was an atheist and would have had no speak of eternity – or God – and neither had been mentioned at his funeral just days before. But Mary, especially now, felt a greater good was “out there”. There just had to be. Death could not be a force so great as to separate them forever. Their kindred spirits would reunite – someday – somehow and this life would have not been for naught as it would be the life in which they found one another. Could the next life be the one in which they perfect their union?
As always, Mary ended her graveside visit by placing her palms on the surface of the monument. She had begun this by the age of three. When asked, she told father it was to send her warmth to her mother who certainly must be cold down there.
Mary rose. The slackness of the skirt fabric fell back into place and, indeed, the spots she had pondered were mid shin. But, her accuracy went completely unnoticed. She instead thought of each of her babies and how she had tried to warm them back to life with strokes of her hands. She thought of how she had used that pain to describe the Monster vivified in her novel Frankenstein and how she would trade the modest success of it for all of her children to be circled around her, tugging her skirt, hugging her hips. She thought of Percy Florence, her only surviving child – now two years old, and the mother she had vowed to be for him. The life she had wanted and the life she now has. Then, the thoughts of the next life began to plague her mind. The next life. How do we find that next life? The life where mother and she could both wear the glistening jewels of the spider’s web. The life perfected. Can it really exist or could it be simply the next chapter to an ever expanding story?
Will I be one of the women who can let go their baby without so much as even trying to get a glimpse? How can they not feel this? How is a woman not supposed to want to see this when it is born?
Chula knew little of childbirth but she did know the baby would be taken away upon delivery. It was just the way of things and the other women accepted it as such. She knew she would have to work on her resolve before the delivery so she could allow this without a show of emotion. It was told to them from a very young age the women who strained to see their baby, as it was removed from the birthing room, were severely reprimanded and the women who allowed it were rewarded. She placed her hand on her stomach and into the waist of her pants, sliding it down onto the increasingly taunt skin beneath her belly button. The faint flutters of the baby’s movement had begun just this week and she found herself overwhelmed with new thoughts and new feelings of and for this new human being inside her. She was afraid to ask the midwives if there was any meaning to these new sensations. Afraid mostly that they would say no. She imagined they would dismiss it as insignificant and it would then be explained to her that it was just a result of her body feeding two beings instead of one. Her mind was not prepared, not at this point at least, to accept that answer. Her mind, bathed in the pregnancy, forced her to think and feel it was something more profound that – it felt more like something in her life would now endure through the ages of time.