When Wynona learned that Arianne would be a way at least a week she took advantage of the wintry break by going to Mallorca. November through June was her favorite time for being there. James and Carmensina took the house in July and she rented it each August to a Danish gentleman who loved it and took care of it as much as she. The Mediterranean summer was not to her taste anymore, especially as it was then that the family estate in Cornwall achieved such astonishing levels of beauty.
Not very computer savvy and without a travel agent and not wanting to bother James who was traveling in the States, she had Finn drive her all the way to Heathrow. She went to a British Airways ticket counter as if she were in Victoria Station and purchased a ticket. The only remaining flight available that day left in the late afternoon. By the time she landed in Palma night had fallen and she had little desire to open the house at that hour so she hired a taxi to take her to the La Residencia Hotel in Deiá where she checked-in in time for dinner. It was too cold to sit outside and the hotel restaurant was too fancy for her to eat there alone so she took a small table in the bar and had white wine and some olives and they brought her a simple omelet from the kitchen. She ate slowly and read a rumpled copy of that day’s La Vanguardia newspaper and felt about as content as she could remember.
Her room, as beautiful as any bedroom in her house, faced the Serra Tramontana and she awakened at dawn and opened the window. She looked at the terraced landscape, bathed in salmon and violet hues, a good long time and smelled the air and gave thanks to whomever might be responsible for such a plethora of riches. After a bath and breakfast she checked out and walked to the local florestería and then continued on to the cemetery next to the church high up on a hill where Graves and Beryl and her own daughter were buried. The day was clear and ideal. The trek up to the church was arduous and she was soon too warm for the sweater she wore. She rested in the shade and looked down towards the north. The village and the island itself had that off-season, cleaned-out, renewed, after-a-storm feeling she most cherished. It was the island as she had imagined it when reading the scroll excerpt Arianne had printed out for her.
She visited the simple tombstones of Graves and his wife first. Beryl’s was covered with dead leaves and the poet’s had a sad looking bouquet of plastic roses resting upon it that she tossed into the nearest trash receptacle. Then she distributed some of the flowers she brought and said a little prayer. Though she had stayed in touch with him in his waning years and visited with them whenever she could he had barely recognized her during his last demented decade. That, she thought, was something she must never allow herself to live through or to put anyone else caring for her through.
Then she found her way to Inmaculada’s tomb. Her husband’s family had pushed hard to have father and daughter buried together in the family plot near Barcelona. But she had not allowed it. She wanted her there where she herself would be buried, right there, next to her daughter. Wynona’s mother and all their line were in cemeteries in Cornwall. Her father was buried in the Guinness pantheon in Ireland. This was her spot, a place for she and her little girl, protected from the Tramontana winds by the green mountains, looking towards the Mediterranean, near palm trees and vineyards and shaded earthen paths between stone houses still fresh with her own faded youth. As she cleared the dust and bits of dried plants off the tombstone and laid new flowers about its perimeter she recalled how she had looked at herself in the bath that morning. The air and the light entering through the window had been as young and radiant as always. The towels folded nearby were thick and newly laundered. The soap had been organically made and unwrapped only minutes before. But the body in the water, this current version of herself, was old, old and gray like in the storybooks. And she remembered how fun it had been to be naked in a shower or tub in her twenties, and then how sexy and arousing it had felt throughout her thirties and forties. Afterwards the march of narcissistic disappointment began, and had continued unabated. She remembered getting her first period and her mother being uncharacteristically gentle and later that day realizing that Graves had been informed as well when he presented her with a crown made from honeysuckle vines.
She did not miss sex. She did not miss her husband. Even if what had happened hadn’t she doubted she would feel any different about him now in that regard. She had enjoyed the play of flirtation and gone on about it with friends at school and at university as much as anyone, but she had not known passion nor the degree of sexual hunger that often goes with it. Some of her friends had. Even her mother had. Perhaps it skipped a generation, for Inmaculada would have had it – for better or worse – for sure. It was there already in the way she seduced her father into taking her on that damned little airplane. Inmaculada never got her period. When they fished her from the Mediterranean she had been as white as snow. She had no visible wounds nor broken bones. It was as if she had merely fallen asleep in some watery warren. The closest thing to passion Wynona had ever felt was what she had felt for her daughter.
And James, she wondered, walking back down towards the village. Was James a passionate boy – or man – to her he was always a boy. In the beginning with Carmensina the sparks had flown, but maybe most of the heat had come from the Catalana. She really did not know. Now he seemed anxious and elusive and saddled with her – damned if he did and if he didn’t – all for the sake of his little girls, something no one could understand better than she. When Anna and Monsé had first come into the world Wynona had toyed for a while with a belief in reincarnation, hoping one or the other might prove to be Inmaculada come back for another try at life. But as they grew and began to reflect Carmensina’s vanities and her son’s equanimity she let that fantasy go and she has kept her emotional distance from her granddaughters ever since.
The walk from the church to her house took almost an hour and by the time she reached it the excitement she felt was somewhat diluted by pangs of hunger and sharp pains in her right hip – an age related lesion she had been ignoring for years. A good number of her contemporaries had had replacement surgeries performed as a matter of course but she remained staunchly opposed to it. The keys were in their customary spot and though the house had been cleaned a week earlier as a matter of course it had a cozy and slightly sorry feel to it. One really had to live in a place, she thought, and this was where she should be. Everything within her attested to it and as she opened various pairs of shutters and windows filling the house with light and fresh air tinged with sea and blossoms – lemon trees, avocado trees, grape vines, boxwood, geraniums – the estate in Cornwall recaptured its ball and chain status as never before. She said another prayer, there and then, begging – and the irony was not lost upon her – that Arianne’s work might bring forth the sort of sum required to accomplish the transition in a dignified fashion. Of course nothing was preventing her from just moving there now, and from putting the family estate up for sale to the highest bidder. But such a brutish way of proceeding still felt unseemly. It was as if, having disappointed her mother by marrying ‘down’ she was not about to also be the first in her line to relinquish the family’s legacy simply to suit her own impatience.
Neither the joint pain nor this stream of agitated thoughts dampened for long the pleasure she derived from opening the house. The only thing good about not living there permanently was the now decades old thrill of returning to it like this, and especially at this time of the year. The closed up smells did a slow intoxicating dance, the old well waxed floor tiles in the zaguan, the wicker patio furniture piled up in the ground floor and rarely used guest bedroom, her collection of summer hats hanging on pegs near the medieval wooden chest Graves had given her as a wedding gift. The living room and the study bookshelves lined with hundreds of fading Penguin editions arranged in no particular order and mixed with airport novels left behind by years of visitors. Two prints by Miro and some good family paintings. The coffee and tea canisters in the kitchen pantry, packs of sugar and rice and flour and pasta, the liquor closet, the maid’s bathroom, the laundry room with its detergents and containers of bleach, the wooden basket filled with half-used years old suntan lotions.
She went outside and walked down to the swimming pool, pleased to see it had been properly emptied and covered. The state of the gardens and of the trees and the shrubbery in general dismayed her, but this too formed part of the ritual. She went up to her bedroom to use the toilet and remembered she had still to collect her suitcase from the hotel and if she was going to stay for a few days she might as well go and do a bit of food shopping too. There were friends she could call for a touch of social life and the maid to make sure she would come the following day, but none of this appealed to her then. Wearier than she would like to be she stepped out onto her bedroom terrace to survey her domain once again before going back inside for a nap. Naps had never really been her custom, especially at that hour of the day, and she hoped as she drifted off, that she was not coming down with something.
She woke up half an hour later quite hungry and stiff and existentially challenged – mildly depressed – and then got angry with herself for feeling that way in a place she loved so much and which she had made such an effort to get to. She brushed her teeth with an old toothbrush squeezing the last remnants from a twisted tube of Elgydium and then went down to the garage. Her old, beige, diesel powered Santana started up on the first try and she was feeling better already being back in her favorite vehicle that smelled of oil and summer sand and cracked leather when, backing out onto the street without looking behind her with any degree of thoroughness, she was hit by a speeding jet black Mercedes G550 SUV driven by a bald, gold rolexed, thick-set, air charter executive from Hamburg talking on his mobile phone. His attempt to brake and swerve out of her way came too late. The powerful, engine-heavy prow of his new car hit the passenger seat door of Wynona’s Land Rover with such force it propelled her halfway through her driver’s seat window, breaking her neck, rendering her instantly unconscious, and initiating a chain of biological events that, some five minutes later, stilled her heart