Two Tickets for the Resurrection
Her fingers sift through layers of tissue paper to free each crystal droplet, jewel and pendant. Frilled edges of glass scatter prisms of light across the room, bright reflections bounce off the multi-faceted, glinting diamonds. Even in the weak winter sunshine rainbow shapes waltz on her living room walls.
Her brother Paul is travelling by train to visit. A trip to the portrait gallery and then some music will appeal to him, especially Mahler’s Second Symphony. A concert in the grandeur of the century-old, sandstone-built Usher Hall will evoke memories and nostalgia. She bought a pair of upper tier tickets in a frisson of extravagance when she was passing the box office a few weeks ago. An orchestra plus the massed vocal ranks of a choir, with a sprinkle of international soloists, will certainly indulge the senses and conjure up escapades of the nineteen-seventies teenagers Paul and Joyce.
Joyce fondles the cold pieces of coruscating glass and hums the symphony’s slow movement to herself. Once mounted on the black iron frame the baubles will speak of dark matter, swirling galaxies and twinkling stars. They were both fascinated with the cosmos and had watched and dissected the television footage of Aldrin and Armstrong as they walked on the surface of the moon in 1969.
Paul’s birthday is February the fourteenth, a romantic date that no-one would forget. She remembers Paul taking her to London on the train, a three-hour journey, when she was sixteen and he was celebrating his eighteenth birthday. He’d got tickets for the film ‘Gone with the Wind’ and she wept, it was so enjoyable.
Paul’s only daughter teaches in California. She doesn’t write to Joyce, not even a birthday card, but Joyce always sends one to California.
Joyce and her husband had no children, but she feels the faint pang of two disappointing miscarriages. Now she is a widow and she has just celebrated her first Christmas alone.
Joyce prays that her big brother Paul approves of her impetuous Gothic chandelier. When she saw it in the antique shop she imagined it suspended from the elaborately-corniced ceiling in the living room of her nineteenth-century Edinburgh apartment.
One Christmas Day she recalls that Paul ridiculed her traditional Christmas dinner of turkey and kilted sausages with Brussels sprouts and roast potatoes. In a meandering telephone conversation he had extolled the virtues of the nut roast and hummus they were cooking hundreds of miles away in Devon, iconoclast that he was. And perhaps still is.
Joyce doesn’t want the chandelier to spoil his visit. But wait a minute.
It’s my apartment, she thinks, the beds are comfortable, the view is pretty good for a European city—Edinburgh Castle tracing the skyline in a ribbon of gold at night, and her company will be spirited and sisterly. The Usher Hall concert will be a triumph. Excitement is building in her chest. Their shared love of Mahler, his Resurrection Symphony indeed, will reignite their sibling intimacy on his birthday.
They were raised as Roman Catholics so the Gothic symbolism of her chandelier will be familiar. He served as an altar boy while Joyce, in the congregation, inhaled the incense, recited from her missal, and knelt for the Credo.
The hard glass components tinkle and clank against one another as she sorts them according to size and follows the plan of where each will hang on the skeletal black structure. On the dining table she marshals the jewels into neat rows of soldiers, a kaleidoscope of brilliance impatient to be slotted into the dazzling overhead array.
Joyce places a chair below the ceiling-mounted chandelier and steps up to attach the glimmering treasures one by one. She polishes with a lint cloth each crystal before she slips the thin wire into its assigned slot on the iron frame. The chandelier hangs right above the table where they will drink a champagne toast on Paul’s arrival. Prismatic beams will mosaic across their faces. Joyce smiles, anticipating Paul’s smile.
Optimism swells and her fingers dance as she drops scintillating shards one by one into place.
It’s nine years since her brother visited. He came for their mother’s funeral.
Not a visit. No, it couldn’t be called that. He stayed less than twenty-four hours.
Joyce has made eight trips to see him in the past fifteen years. She’s just counted them in her head.
But he’s never come to visit her.
Her stomach churns. She slots a rhomboid diamond into place. It glitters.
His interest in his only sister is an illusion.
Not one phone call.
Fifteen years of rejection.
How stupid I am.
The chandelier sparkles through the tears as they seep from her eyes, refracting the radiant ranks.
Dusk has fallen as she finishes her masterpiece. She steps down from the chair. It is ready. In the darkness she gropes her way to the light switch by the door.
The moment has come. She breathes deeply and the switch illuminates the chandelier.
She gasps. Her hand rushes to her mouth.
A blaze of mottled colours fleck the white walls. She walks to the table, reaches up and nudges one droplet – it tinkles against its neighbour, sending a wave of rainbows dancing around the white walls. Iridescence flickers on the pinkness of her hands, flashes on the black window glass and reflects back.
Her spirit lifts in the presence of such Gothic glory. Surely she is wrong? The parents who raised them were intelligent, compassionate and inculcated a sense of love, family and justice into both of their children.
A bottle of good champagne chills in the fridge. Slices of French Brie and a pile of nutty oatcakes sit on her favourite silver tray. When she has collected Paul from the train station they will chink glasses, tuck into the little feast and reminisce.
She selects two crystal glasses from the sideboard and places them on the silver tray. Joyce invokes her blessed mother’s soul to join them as they commune in her chapel of light.
The phone rings.
Her sister-in-law. ‘Paul’s gone down with the flu.’
‘He won’t be coming to visit.’ AQ