by Annie Coyle Martin
Victoria’s thoughts raced. What would happen? Would she be called down one day and told a husband had been found for her? Would she ever get out of this bedroom, where the walls leaned in over her? From her window she could see three houses opposite and the short lane down to the sea. The house faced east and on one side she could see a lime tree in the neighbour’s garden, on the other side, the street. The late summer had wound wearily away and finally it was September. Every day she checked the calendar, heard the bells of the Catholic Church ring at eight, at midday, and at six; on Sundays she heard the Protestant bell. She listened always for the sounds of the house, but saw no one but Kathleen who brought her meals. She read and reread the same books from her shelf, Jane Austen, Stevenson, Dickens. She was appalled at how accustomed she had become to her prison. Sunny afternoons she watched for a black cat with a white spot on its breast to step delicately round the corner of the house opposite and settle in the sun. She looked at the larch tree in the garden on the other side of the street and saw the edges of its leaves had become dried and crinkled. When the sun moved round to the back of the house and dusk shadowed her room, another day was ending. When rain washed down the window, obscuring the view, she was unbearably sad. At night, she awoke drowned in sweat and with a strange metal taste in her mouth, as if she sucked a copper coin; and she thought they were trying to poison her.