Disclaimer: I own nothing, only the inherent belief that Keats and Ellen look too hot not to have some smexing time. That is all.
Diaphanous light shone through the open window; patches of warmth crisscrossed towards the sturdy wooden floor, lattice-shaped and geometrical, as if fabricated – the sun of the Netherworld, its paradoxical nature sweeping to the cluttered office, books, magazines and crumpled documents littered everywhere and no where, in a mad rush of chill and uncertain tangibility. The afternoon mist of gauzy perception filled the room, giving it a faint look of nostalgia, like a faded photograph - old, melancholic and painful. The sound of typing could be heard, its familiar automatons moving in urgency, like a man on the vestiges of a palpable victorious race, thoughts and words flowing out, black blocks of letters stamped out with rigidity and sureness into the crisp whiteness of starch. It read:
Time dictates the practical and the impractical, reason and the absurd, truth and fiction, act and vision,
a raw principle for the vortex called reality. William Blake once depicted the ghost of a flea, a monstrous
creature with jutting tongue and burning eyes, and declared that if the gates of perception were cleansed
man would see everything as it truly was, endless. That there is no birth nor death, no beginning nor end, a
never ending cycle of journey towards the ethereal. Matter and force fused in a volatile moment until a power
of pure and complex form is reproduced.
And what of speed then? In the olden days when paranoia and immediate mobs were of the norm, women
accused of witchcraft were hovered in sacks from the limbs of trees and were given a solid shove. While
inside, accompanied only by the grayness of the bag and desperate fear, detached from time, space and the
body, they were said to have been aware of other worlds and hallucinations. Over speeding cars and other
similar contraptions may hold the same effect on modern man hypothetically speaking. By then a conundrum
of inertia will arise, like a cosmic joke, the belief and unbelief of what you perceive, metaphysics at its finest!
Tanned hands, crude and effective, hovered momentarily in mid-air, the humdrum of afternoon traffic a minor annoyance in the silent office. Keats heard the lock from the front door open and looked up expectantly, spectacles shining in the glow of the room, the creaks of rusted metal and joints accompanying soft steps and jostling plastic. The intruder stopped for a second, as if in mid-stride, uncertain whether to proceed or leave, the heavy oak door left half-open.
"Would you be kind enough to close the door if you're not coming in?"
With a quiet thud, he heard the entrance close and familiar footsteps pace from the foyer to the main office. "I brought tea and some scones," said Ellen, raising a bag of grocery as if in placation.
He was about to say something, release a temper or two, the stress of the day and the days previous taking its toll on him in a strangling grip, but thought better of it, gave a deep sigh, and humor the girl. "The kitchen's free for you to use," he said indolently. "I'll be with you shortly."
Ellen's face brightened, and her smile, while brief, was sweet. Letting loose the paper he was recently working on, one which on second reading he curled his lips for in distaste, and the charcoal tie that suddenly felt suffocating to him, the notion that Ellen was far more cunning than she looks crossed his mind.
The kitchen was small and gray, a fitting accompaniment to the man residing the place, a dingy array of ceramics, pots and pans neatly arranged in a whitewashed hickory cupboard, left lonely and unused. In a corner of the granite kitchen worktop where no sun touches, a simple vase of green heat-blown glass Ellen found one July day inside one of the unoccupied rooms in Keat's office, could be seen on display with pale, crimson and purple orchids, lisianthus and elderberries plucked in one of her adjourns in the Faery Realm, alive and bursting with unnatural gleam and vibrancy. Hearing a cough behind her, she said, "The plants here never fail to amaze me. How long has it been since I've placed those there? And yet look, it's like a day hasn't passed."
"What makes you think it's the flowers? Could have been me."
"Flowers and you don't mix."
"And yet here they are proudly displayed in my kitchen – an eyesore," said Keats, eyebrow raised.
"But I like them there," said Ellen plaintively not bothering to look up and discontinue her perusal of the area. He watched her deftly move in his unaccommodating kitchenette and wondered just when she began to belong in the little place he called home. Was it her constant visits despite his verbal disapproval or did it begin since that day they met while carrying different names and potential futures? Once Ellen told him how if her father had not died and her mother forced to live the home she was born in, moving to a ghost town like Doolin (for it has always been decrepit, as if born a corpse, innards fully out in the open) would have been unfeasible. She told him this innocently enough one winter day, he supposed, her face left empty and bare that made him feel uneasy and anxious. Fate, he grimly thought, despite its irrational existence, was more paradoxical than the lands the faes inhabited.
"How fares the job hunting?"
She turned around, eyes wide. "Oh! I was offered a teaching position in the National University. I haven't fully decided yet, but I might take them on their offer. It's not a bad job if I do say so myself. If anything I'd still get plenty of time for my paintings."
"Don't be absurd," he snapped, forehead crunching. "You would have a better prospect in Dublin. Weren't you offered a tempting arrangement there?"
She placed her hands in front of her chest, a nervous habit of hers she rarely practiced nowadays and in which Keats never took a liking to. "Please stop. I get enough nagging from my father, I refuse to get that from you as well."
Robert Reid, a well-known critic and thinker, Keats reflected with aversion, was an intractable and obdurate man. Moving from England, the Reids were a family greedy for knowledge and thirst for reason. He did not know their whole history, neither did he care, not truly, however from his limited perspective it was the Reids who adopted Ellen when she was alone and seemingly orphaned. Keats met him once, the day he took Ellen home after a night of complete exhaustion from the Netherworld though all Robert saw was the hint of unnatural shadow hovering protectively over his daughter's shoulders. Uninvited, Keats wandered in their encumbered abode, diminutive yet filled with too much furnishings; a mahogany-framed three piece sofa upholstered in gothic red, a rose-decked chaise lounge, a gold-lacquered folding screen of oriental design, a marble cocktail table with detailed engravings of Daphne's flight from Apollo, a high-chest drawer veneered with walnut and grain surrounded by a herring-bone border, a colonial mantelpiece gilded and framed with brass and fireplace filled with the fragrance of woodsmoke, ottomans, tapestries and lampshades. Bay windows opened towards the English garden, lined with heavy mauve velvet causing a deviant drab to the sitting room. The floor was made of polished honey oak, covered with a carpet faded with age, its Holland meadows and creaks frayed at the ends.
His concept of time foggy, Keats rambled in their residence with no inherent thought except some semblance of perverse glee and mild curiosity for Ellen's living conditions and the occupants of such an oppressive magnificent dwelling. He heard them speak over a hot bowl of soup in the dining room, dreadful rain pouring down the roof, the Mr. and Mrs. Reid along with Ellen, the heater releasing warmth with a constant clicking tired groan. A brilliant man of educated background yet Robert Reids was a boor with a tight leash on his family. If Keats had a conscience he would have felt pity, however being who he was all he could feel was icy revulsion.
"I'm nothing of the sort," responded Keats, mildly affronted. "The only reason you're not going to Dublin is to spite that man you call father."
Ellen jammed the teacups filled with steaming liquid over the table, drops of brown fluids splashed, jasmine scent filling the room. She gazed with uncharacteristic steel-like grip, and said, "Even if that were the case, even so, that is my decision. You seem to still be under some illusion, Keats. I'm not a child anymore."
"I suppose you'll martyr yourself then?" asked Keats, almost angrily. "You'll go mad with boredom there, stuck in a backward place like that."
"I don't have to get bored," said Ellen, face gradually relaxing, features nondescript, and sat opposite him. "I could get married. I'm not totally adverse to that."
"Married to a country bumpkin," hollered Keats, "that's brilliant! No different from a cow then."
"No need to be cross with me, Keats."
"Don't be an idiot! There's so much more you could do. There is no need to pretend to be someone you're not."
"I suppose you would know about that first-hand?" It was a question, yet something Keats felt to be loaded with far more meaning he was comfortable in tackling.
Silence hung in the air. "Oh god."
"You should drink your tea, it'll get cold," said Ellen, lips curling faintly. "Here's some jam, they go well with the scones."
"You have learned from your father."
"But it's you who is more like my father."
"Always so obstinate, forcing me to just forget everything that has happened, the Netherworld and the people I've met there. It's not possible, you should know that." Ellen stared, her eyes carrying a defiant gleam in them. It was enough to make him bellow with laughter. Irony of ironies indeed, Keats thought.
"I am not Hervé."
"I know that. I'm no fool. Neither am I Cecilia. At least not anymore, can't you see?"
"You grew a spine, girl. How I failed to notice that I cannot say." The din of traffic down in the avenue lessened, the air in the kitchen became more concise. Reality condensed for a split second. Time, space and body occupying the same world. He was going to say something about his very own hollowness and the flimsy thread that produced his being, or something equally damning sentiments to his aggravation, however found the rebuttals no matter how commonsense stuck firmly in his throat. "What would you have me do?"
"Oh, you know," said Ellen inaudibly, almost too quiet to be heard. The ticking of the wall clock with its mechanical precision deafening in its robotic steadiness.
"Damn," said Keats, roughly reached out to Ellen on the other side of the table as if shaking her to her senses, saw her wince for a second, and placed his mouth over hers. Saliva and breath mixing, her teeth bit his lower lip carelessly, the ringing of the telephone reminding them of a faint dream-like sound on the peripheral of their consciousness. His grip on her arm was almost painful. "Oh, damn it all to hell."