Cold

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Jane of Lantern Hill

Copyright: L. M. Montgomery

The Moore family's parlor had seen better days. There were pale spots on the faded diamond-pattern wallpaper where portraits used to hang; the carpet had once been blue, but was now faded to gray. The room was dusty and gloomy in spite of the fireplace, the air loaded with the scent of old furniture, mothballs and (so it seemed to Victoria) hopelessness.

Colonel Moore looked down at his daughter with pale blue eyes as cold as Lake Ontario in the winter. "We need not discuss this any longer," he said. "You will marry James Anderson in the spring, and that is final."

"But Father – " The young girl's hands fluttered like white butterflies; her eyes, exactly the same shade of blue, began to fill with tears. "I do not love him. I barely know him!"

It was useless to argue, she knew; the Colonel was a man who demanded obedience, from the soldiers under his command and especially the women in his family.

"This is not about you, Victoria," he said. "This is about Frostpines," meaning the family manor, which was in dire need of repair, "And our fortune – his fortune. You cannot have your way all the time, child. Other people must be taken into account occasionally."

Victoria shrank into herself like a wilting forget-me-not. She thought of Mr. Anderson's pouchy eyes, his thin, sewed-up mouth and his cold fishy handshake, and gave a shudder.

"Yes, Father," was all she said.

"You may go," he replied, dismissing her with a wave of his hand.

Victoria went. Tears began to run down her flower-like face, but inside her, something hard and cold began to form – like a lump of ice growing inside her heart.

I hate Frostpines. I hate James Anderson. And most of all, Father, I hate you.

()

Mrs. Kennedy had never liked funerals – the endless black, the whispers and solemn-eyed faces, the aura of grief – feigned or unfeigned – that hung over everything like heavy gray cobwebs. James Anderson's funeral had simply bored her out of her mind. But this one was by far the worst.

Her hand was sticky from dozens of condoling handshakes. Her face was still from looking and speaking politely to these idiotic people who kept telling her how sorry they were. Sorry? How could they possibly be half as sorry as she was?

She heard their words as if through a veil. "A very respectable man"..."A pillar of the community"... "A loss felt by us all".... This perfect man, this Robert Kennedy they were talking about, could not possibly be her Robbie. Her sunny, mischievous husband who used to sneak up behind her and cover her eyes with his hands, making her laugh; who whirled her across the ballroom floor until the candlesticks and the sumptuous gowns were all a blur; who played tag with his three stepchildren until all four of them flopped down in the grass, exhausted.

This face in the long wooden casket, pale and cool to the touch. Eyes closed, mouth stern. The sickly-sweet scent of lilies all around. This was not Robbie. He was gone.

A tiny whimper brought Mrs. Kennedy's attention down to the warm little bundle in her arms. Baby Robin looked up with huge blue eyes and reached up a chubby hand. She had her father's golden curls, already beginning to show.

"Shh, my darling," whispered the widow, rocking the baby. "It's all right. Your papa may be gone, but I will protect you. You're all I have now...my Robbie's child...no one can take you away from me."

They were alone in the world now, the two of them. Even Gertrude and William were outsiders, the offspring of duty, not love. This precious little daughter was hers – forever.

The lump of ice thickened around a heart frozen with sorrow and twisted love.

()

Grandmother lies awake at night, surrounded by the heavy black curtains of her empty four-poster bed. 60 Gay is eerily silent, as it has been ever since the death of its master. Now that there is no clumsy, intrusive grandchild bumping into things and making messes, and especially no Robin with her shining hair and tinkly laugh, it is more silent still.

Robin used to cry in the night. It is unfair. Why was all the love a mother can give not enough to make her daughter happy? Rather than blaming herself, Grandmother blames that man. Andrew Stuart, with his arrogant sarcasm and selfish absorption in his scribblings, who together with his pernicious sister wore down Robin's self-respect and broke her fragile heart.

Sometimes, at three o'clock in the morning as it is now, Grandmother is frightened of herself and her Arctic wastes of hate and bitterness. Robbie would not recognize her these days; where has his pretty, laughing wife gone to?

She died long ago, withered like an autumn leaf; perhaps she followed her husband into the coffin, perhaps she left later, when her daughter disappeared from the hotel with nothing but a scribbled note, or during that last confrontation in the parlor – Robin's eyes blazing like live coals ("Jane needs me, Mother! You cannot stop me this time!").

Since the sun and moon, her husband and daughter, are gone, there is nothing left now but what Victoria has always had: a numbing, glittering cold encasing the place where her heart ought to be.