“Here, Philip,” Barbara murmurs, and he feels her lapping closer.
She brings with her warmth and a cool, bright perfume, a delicate, lime-tinged scent. He feels the pull of her, the gentle glow of her – but he waits until she is standing right beside him before he turns to her directly. A part of him resists being drawn away from the tall French windows. Like a child, he has been captivated, mesmerised, by the falling snow.
It is coming down more heavily now, turning and colliding in thick, wet, playful clumps, alternately highlighting and then hiding the trees in Barbara’s garden, outlining the slightly disconcerting silhouette of a statue rising from the centre of her large stone pond. Except that the pond is invisible now, as the statue is faceless, eyeless, almost mythically blind. Philip appreciates this; he likes how the snow brings an uncertainty to things. A mystery and magic – and yet the way that it whips and gathers is very tangible too, reminding him of cake mix, a pale, creamy blend of butter and sugar in a bowl. Forbidden and delicious and irresistible. As he watches it whirl, he remembers the sharp childhood satisfaction of dipping a grubby, reckless finger – the anticipation of a sweetness that makes him shiver, as though with cold.
“Here, Philip,” Barbara murmurs, lifting a champagne flute. “For you.”
Except the glass seems filled not with liquid, but with a lemony light, and behind it, Barbara’s shimmering too. Her dress is very pale, although not quite white. It glimmers silver as she moves. A long, strapless garment, possibly silk. It fits her narrow body closely. Catching him looking, she hooks his gaze back in with hers, and reels it up towards her sculpted face. She smiles and lifts one eyebrow and, as if from a great distance, he hears his own unembarrassed laugh.
The snow, this house – the smell and shine of her: there is a satiny, dreaming quality to it all …
Extracted from The Dawning
(Available now!! And just what you’re after! An unsettling festive read!)