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I fell in love with his silhouette. It stood on the mantelpiece in his aunt’s parlour, a slice of monochromatic masculinity in the floral cocoon of the room. ‘It’s such a true likeness, Viola. I do so look forward to you meeting him,’ his aunt said. Then we sat in silence, admiring the shape of his hair, the jut of his nose and the shy curve that joined his chin to his mouth.
[private]”Viola, allow me to introduce you to Henry,” she said on the day that he arrived; her anxiety steepled and collapsed her hands as she spoke. Beside her was the silhouette brought to life: as flat and inky and papery as his portrait on the mantel. When he moved to greet me I was faced for a moment with his missing dimension and had to crane my neck to catch sight of him again.
I loved him best when he was most starkly contrasted. Before we married I had the walls of our house papered from eaves to cellar in brutal shades of white. I replaced the dark-wood furniture with high-backed chairs upholstered in snow drift velvet, and marble tables like blocks of ice. I dressed our bed with swans’ feathers.
We honeymooned in Lyme Regis. We watched couples striding out across the Cobb, ladies’ skirts billowing into abstract shapes and men clutching tall hats to their heads. The wind blew their laughter over us.
“I can’t. I’ll blow away,” he said.
“I’ll hold onto you,” I replied. So he held my arm and I sheltered him from the grasping wind as we set out down the stony walkway. But half way down I stumbled on the salt-slick path and a little gust reached past me and caught him in its teeth. For a moment he billowed like a sail, then the full force of the wind took him, tumbling him and rolling him before it carried him out over the sea. His dark shape was printed for a moment on a cloud and then he was gone.
He left nothing behind but a tiny corner of himself that had torn off between my fingers; it is impossibly black against the whiteness of my palm.[/private]