The handkerchief of increasing despair lies in her sweaty palm, charting her demise. Those in the shadows know it won’t be long and they shift in the cluttered boudoir, avoiding the burgundy, pink, ivory and pale blue bodices and skirts of their friend, their lover, their employee.
Emerald still manages to draw them to her, as she always has. As this place, probably, always will. Her chalk white fingers encircle the material as she brings it to her mouth, those sounds breaking the silence of waiting. It’s now more than blots that plan her final path; gone are the ladybirds of blood that signalled the beginning of the end. Huge countries map themselves onto the handkerchief, stains of where she has been. Is one of them where she is going? Is heaven or hell depicted among the blemishes her insides thrust out of her? Would she be able to tell the difference?
Canto moves forward and pushes down on her shoulders as the heaving subsides. The pillows and cushions welcome her back. Emerald remembers she is wearing her favourite dress. She has been wearing it for three days. She remembers Majorie putting her into it after the priest’s visit. It still makes her feel ready. She closes her eyes and hopes it isn’t too stained for whatever is coming next.
Canto stays next to her and takes her hand. She knows he will be the last to leave after everyone else has gone; back to their rooms, their stages, the work that awaits them. Time is money, she has always understood that. Canto will continue to hold her hand afterwards, talk to her, stroke her face, kiss her eyes – her eyes which gave her her name. He will stay with her and among her things, the lace, the little china cups she treasures.
One last breath. Treasured.
And he does stay, holding on to the moment where, finally, he has her to himself; his pure, beautiful Emerald whom everyone loved but no one could keep.