Priscilla Part 2: Jump back into the story of Priscilla
Haven't read Part 1 yet? Read it here.
Illustration by Vitoria Mendes
Apologies for the delay, my friend. I barely know my way around this old house! I struggle to prepare a cup of coffee that doesn’t taste bitter without Etheldreda or Ari to help. So, in the meantime, allow me to pour you a glass of whiskey.
Where were we? Ah! Yes… Yes. Conceiving another child with Etheldreda was not the easiest choice I have ever made. But it’s one that has brought so much joy into our lives. And I can never be thankful enough to Etheldreda. Oh, my dear Etheldreda, I am so sorry, but you left me no choice. A pact is a pact. We made a deal that you selfishly wanted to break. And I just couldn’t let you take him away - I could not, and would not, stand losing yet another child. But let me explain. Hold on, don’t pick up the phone just yet.
After conceiving Alfred with Etheldreda, we had agreed to leave Vienna and move south where I had inherited the house we are in right now. Ari could have a fresh start here, away from the pain embedded in the walls at home. I know it’s old, but there is an undeniable charm about it. This house has a voice, if you listen closely you can hear it. Listen. Did you hear that? No, it’s not just the wind.
Listen closely… ah, yes, we have guests darling, be nice.
Sorry, the house’s mellow tone can be distracting. Where was I… hmmm, I’ll get some more whiskey, give me your glass.
Come again? Oh! Oh! Absolutely not. Etheldreda is not dead, what a strange conclusion you’ve arrived at! Oh no, no, no. I’m not entirely sure where she is, last I heard she was headed towards the Italian border I believe. But that was a few months ago, only God knows where she is now.
Here is your glass, what a fine drink.
Priscilla is two and a half years old now, and her blonde locks reach her shoulders. I try my best to be the one who changes her clothes, although I don’t know for how much longer I can hide this away from Ari. She is still very much absent; her room looks out to the garden of the properties. And there she spends her time, fixing her gaze on that willow tree. You can barely see it now. But it gracefully swings its branches with every breeze as if its only job was to entertain Ari in her solitude. And in all honesty, in her absent state I doubt she’ll ever notice that Alfred is Alfred, and that Priscilla is long gone. So I don’t know why I keep hiding it away from her.
I had initially predicted a rather different future for us when I decided to conceive Alfred, you know? I was certain that this act of selfless and pure love towards Ari would almost certainly bring light to the darkness that inhabits her since our first-born died. But it has become clear within these six months that it has barely made a difference.
I have blood on my hands. I’ve committed adultery and conceived another child - and for what? Nothing apparently. I haven’t changed anything. I’ve just made things harder, darker, more complicated. It breaks my heart to see her like this, she is no longer Ari. Her eyes shimmer no more. Her wordless presence is getting heavier and heavier. I’m not saying she is a burden per se. But would you like to live like that? Spending your days looking out of a window. Every day the same. She makes no effort, and I can’t blame her. She rarely ever glances at Alfred when I take him up to visit her. Yes, yes, I still dress him as Priscilla. But you see what I mean? Is there a point to this, am I just worsening her pain? Have I helped at all? No, I know it was out of love. But does that really make a difference? You can love someone with all you’ve got, in whatever way you seem fit. But there is never a guarantee that it will achieve the results you expected.
It’s getting late, perhaps it would be smart to leave now before the 8pm train?
Sorry? You’d like to interview Ari as well? Of course, please go ahead. She should be in the same position. Upstairs, third room to your left. It has the best view of the garden, and she truly enjoys that willow tree. But be careful to not wake Alfred up, he is sleeping right next door.
What’s the rush?
Oh no, no, no. Come on now, you can try calling them. Oh, no, please don’t be upset. I obviously made sure the phone didn’t work, but don’t cry now. It’ll be painless I promise. You never asked the right questions you see. And the only pertinent one you asked, I blatantly lied about, and you believed me! But we’re in this together, my friend. Just relax, sit comfortably, I’ll explain.
When it became clear that Etheldreda was becoming overly attached to Alfred, I knew I had to do something. This child is as much mine as it is hers. I couldn’t afford losing a second child, a child that could mean a fresh start with Ari. So I did exactly what you’re thinking, the reason you’re here. I think she is still in that closet in Vienna, rotting away. Quicklime works wonders. But Mrs. Gruber, the nosy upstairs neighbour, noticed a smell and raised the alarm. I had stupidly left this address for mail to be forwarded. So terribly stupid of me. I wasn’t born for this. I never dreamt about becoming this when I was a child. Etheldreda died in a painless way too, don’t take me for a monster! Poison is the way to go. It’s not a pretty death, but I’d rather do this. I hate blood!
I left her there, in the closet and moved with Ari and Alfred to the countryside, and I tried my best. I promise. But it was just too hard to see her like that. Staring into nothingness, sleeping in separate rooms. She wouldn’t even flinch when she saw Alfred. So once again I decided to take matters into my own hands. And she was at peace, finally. Such a weight lifted off my shoulders, you should’ve seen her face. It was graceful. She was grateful and welcomed the ending, and I accompanied her through it. I would never let her do it alone, or scared. I’m still a human being. I’m still her husband. And I do what I do for love. Alfred has followed along with us today - being an orphan is nobody’s choice.
Let’s join them on the other side, bottoms up!