Ella stared into the bleak streets beneath her penthouse windows, her hand resting on delicate linen, but her mind flitting restlessly between past and present, youth and her uncontrollably swift loss of it. Hers was an incalculable wealth, inherited, cultivated, with a small surplus provided by Henry’s untimely death, and it showed in her every gesture. The downward curve of her plump red lips, the angle of her crossed ankles, the gentle cock of her shapely head, it all spoke of privilege, of refinement, of an ingrained genteel.
She started as though recalling life from reverie and reached for her bitter black coffee. He would have to come back to collect his things, she thought, and immediately forgot her coffee again. How swift it had been, that torrent of irrevocable bitterness, the small rift gone impassable abyss, and then Noel had left, anger still fresh in the air, and her own voice ringing in her ears.
She had found a bundle of letters, she had long expected them and there they were, perfumed, clichéd, dripping with the sentimentality she knew his naive ego craved. He had other lovers, he had always had other lovers, the pretty housemaids, the foreign students, she had seen them, forgiven them all, but this mistress was not like the others. Her name was Mathilde, the youngest daughter of Ella’s dearest friend, and a blossoming artist. Her work had gained some notoriety in elite circles, due partially to her connections, but mainly to both her enormous talent and ethereal loveliness. Ella had watched the girl grow from an elfin child into a great beauty and she had loved her deeply, maternally. Now those enormous blue eyes and that petal of a mouth did nothing but leave Ella frail, resentful, full of the bitterness of realized mortality. Her own youth was but a memory, no wealth could ever restore the flush, the radiance, her brightness had long since faded, and what she had left was her loneliness.