All Shall Be Well, by Crombie Deborah
- ISBN: 9780060534394 | 0060534397
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 3/16/2012
Jasmine Dent let her head fall back against the pillowsand closed her eyes. Morphine coats the mindlike fuzz on a peach, she thought sleepily, and smileda little at her metaphor. For a while she floated betweensleeping and waking, aware of faint soundsdrifting in through the open window, aware of the sunlightflowing across the foot of her bed, but unable torouse herself.
Her earliest memories were of heat and dust, and theunseasonable warmth of the April afternoon conjuredup smells and sounds that danced in her mind likelong-forgotten wraiths. Jasmine wondered if the long,slow hours of her childhood lay buried somewhere inthe cells of her brain, waiting to explode upon her consciousnesswith that particular lucidity attributed to thememories of the dying.
She was born in India, in Mayapore, a child of thedissolution of the Raj. Her father, a minor civil servant,had sat out the war in an obscure office. In 1947, hehad chosen to stay on in India, scraping a living fromhis ICS pension.
Of her mother she had little recollection. Five years after Jasmine's birth, she had borne Theo and passedaway, making as little fuss in dying as she had in living.She left behind only a faint scent of English rosesthat mingled in Jasmine's mind with the click of closingshutters and the sound of insects singing.
A soft thump on the bed jerked Jasmine's mind backto consciousness. She lifted her hand and buried herfingers in Sidhi's plush coat, opening her eyes to gazeat her fingers, the knobby joints held together by fragilebridges of skin and muscle. The cat's body, a blacksplash against the red-orange of the coverlet, vibratedagainst her hip.
After a few moments Jasmine gave the cat's sleekhead one last stroke and maneuvered herself into a sittingposition on the edge of the bed, her fingers automaticallychecking the catheter in her chest. Installinga hospital bed in the sitting room had eliminated theclaustrophobia she'd felt as she became confined forlonger periods to the small bedroom. Surrounded byher things, with the large windows open to the gardenand the afternoon sun, the shrinking of her worldseemed more bearable.
Tea first, then whatever she could manage of thedinner Meg left, and afterwards she could settle downfor the evening with the telly. Plan in small increments,giving equal weight to each event -- that was the techniqueshe had adopted for getting through the day.
She levered herself up from the bed and shuffledtoward the kitchen, wrapping about her the brilliantcolors of an Indian silk caftan. No drab British flannelsfor her -- only now the folds of the caftan hung on herlike washing hung out on a line. Some accident of geneticshad endowed her with an appearance more exoticthan her English parentage warranted -- the dark hair and eyes and delicate frame had made her an objectof derision with the English schoolgirls remainingin Calcutta -- but now, with the dark hair cropped shortand the eyes enormous in her thin face, she lookedelfin, and in spite of her illness, younger than heryears.
She put the kettle on to boil and leaned against thekitchen windowsill, pushing the casement out andpeering into the garden below.
She was not disappointed. The Major, clippers inhand, patrolled the postage-stamp garden in his uniformof baggy, gray cardigan and flannels, ready topluck out any insubordinate sprig. He looked up andraised his clippers in salute. Jasmine mimed "Cup oftea?" When he nodded acceptance she returned to thehob and moved carefully through the ritual of makingtea.
Jasmine carried the mugs out to the steps that ledfrom her flat down to the garden. The Major had thebasement flat and he considered the garden his territory.She and Duncan, in the flat above hers, were onlyprivileged spectators. The planks of the top step gratedagainst her bones as she eased into a sitting position.
The Major climbed the steps and sat beside her, accepting his cup with a grunt. "Lovely day," he said byway of thanks. "Like to think it would last." He sippedhis tea, making a small swishing sound through hismustache. "You been keeping all right today?" Heglanced at her for a second only, his attention drawnback to the rioting daffodils and tulips.
"Yes," Jasmine answered, smiling, for the Majorwas a man of few words under the best of circumstances.Those brief comments were his equivalent ofa monologue, and his usual query was the only reference he ever made to her illness. They drank in silence,the tea warming them as much as the late afternoonsun soaking into their skins, until Jasmine spoke. "Idon't think I've ever seen the garden look as lovely asit has this spring, Major. Is it just that I appreciatethings more these days, or is it really more beautifulthis year?"
"Hummff," he muttered into his cup, then clearedhis throat for the difficult business of replying. "Couldbe. Weather's been bonny enough." He frowned andran his fingers over the tips of his clippers, checkingfor rust. "Tulips're almost gone, though." The tulipswouldn't be allowed to linger past their prime. At thefirst fallen petal the Major would sever heads fromstalks with a quick, merciful slash.
Jasmine's mouth twitched at the thought -- too badthere was no one to perform such a service for her. Sheherself had failed in the final determination, whetherfrom cowardice or courage, she couldn't say. AndMeg ...All Shall Be Well. Copyright © by Deborah Crombie. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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