Her Enigmatic Mind
The pot was boiling over. A mountain of broth was being belched out from under the glass lid and drops of brown foam stained the once glistening stovetop. But Florence didn’t notice.
The woman was once again frozen in time. Her blank gaze was focused solely on the plate in her hands, which she had scrubbed several times now. The lid of the pot began to jump, letting out small hisses and chitters, as if it were some uneased animal. Florence paid it no mind. And she probably would have let the stove catch fire if her husband hadn’t walked in then and there.
“What on earth is the matter with you?” Eugene spat, fumbling with the pot, before whipping around to face his now wide-eyed wife. A part of him hoped she would show some sign of surprise, or even cry, but he knew that wouldn’t happen. He knew she would bow her head and whisper a monotonous, “I’m sorry,” before cleaning up the unsightly mess. As she got down on her knees to wipe up the remnant of the spilled broth, he watched her, somewhat dissatisfied with her quiet submission. But he spoke nothing on the matter, for he was a reclusive man, who shut himself in with his own dangerous thoughts. Off he stalked to his study, leaving Florence alone on the kitchen floor.
After completing her task, the woman rose to her feet, unsure of what to do. Eugene had left without a word or gesture to something that needed to be done, and she was momentarily free. What an odd feeling. She blinked. Once, then twice, her eyes slowly losing some of the blankness that so often resided there.
Florence drifted from the kitchen into the hallway, seeing it for what it was, a vast empty space, filled with trinkets and pictures that she had never paid mind to. Her pale fingers ran over a chipped figurine of a praying cherub, before drifting up the rose-patterned wall to the dull oaken frame of a picture. It was of a woman. A woman with black curls, like her, but she was not her, for her eyes shone with contagious glee that Florence had never known. Who was this woman, this strange doppelganger who hung upon the wall?
A biting desire rose up in Florence then, a desire to find out more about the woman who lived on in the house through pictures and embroidery. She went from room to room, her gaze now keen and insightful, for this task had been ordained by her, and her alone. In some rooms she found nothing, but in others she found little hints to another existence before hers, scattered like shards of glass.
At last, her feet landed before the last unexplored terrain. Eugene’s study. A chill of fearful hesitation ran up Florence’s spine, and she stood frozen once more. She wasn’t supposed to enter that room, not unless she had been called. The thought of investigating further began to slip, little by little, into the recess of her hazy mind. But her spirit grabbed at it, snapping her out of her stupor. It wouldn’t let this go. Not now, when she had finally been acting on her own.
She pushed the door open. A small fire was blazing in the hearth, but the room itself was cold in spirit. Eugene was nowhere to be found. There were even more pictures of Florence’s doppelganger here, each lovingly nestled in places where the viewer could pine over them. Beside one of these photographs on a side table, lay a leather-bound book. Florence’s slender hands cradled it as she flipped it open and began to read:
“My darling, my heart aches as I watch you. I cannot stand to watch you wallowing in illness. It pains me to my core.”
The spindly, coarse writing was of her husband’s hand, but what darling was he speaking of? Was this directed towards her? A frown twisted her lips. It couldn’t be. Eugene was seldom affectionate towards her. She read on:
“A part of me rejoices that you near death, for you will be put out of your misery, and I will be able to love the woman who stole the other half of my heart. But, ah–! My mistress does not have your warm smile and eyes, and her touch is cold and teasing, not warm like yours. Yet I love her, in some ways. But it is you that I miss, and long for when the night grows cold, not her. If only- If only I could have both of you at once. If only her cattish spirit was dampened, and she was more mellow and sweet— like you!"
Curious, Florence turned the page, eager to see what other unexpected words would come.
“Who says that I cannot have both? As I write this, I feel young and spry; it is almost frightening. My love, my true love, you may be buried under a willow tree several miles away, but tonight we will speak again! I have found the answer to my problems, dearest. My mistress can become you; I must only alter her mind by way of a surgical procedure. It is called a lobotomy. By midnight, Eloise Walker will no longer be- in her place will remain your meek and tender love.”
The book fell to the wooden floor with a dull crack. And Eloise Walker stood frozen once more, not in time, but in fear. How long had she been living in this house, wearing another woman’s clothes and sleeping in her bed? How long had she donned the mask of this poor soul? She clutched at her face in agony that she did not truly feel, gripping it as if she wanted to rip into her skull and bring back the rest of the memories that had been selfishly stolen away.
Her body convulsed with an unreleased cry, and she shoved it further down into her throat. What would she do now? She couldn’t go on living the way she had, not after reading those sickening pledges of mad love. She must flee. With this thought in mind, Eloise picked the book up.
She did not have to turn around to know that Eugene Spencer stood behind her.
She could practically feel his wide, enraged gaze; hear his lips curling back in a hateful scowl.
The gleam of his hunting rifle bounced off the smooth base of a nearby lamp.
His voice hissed out, raggedly,
“You’re not supposed to be in here, Florence.”
When she did not respond, he gripped the rifle, barking like a rabid dog,
“Did you hear me, Florence? I’ve told you time and time again to stay out- so get out!” He threw a furious gesticulation to the door with his right hand, panting heavily.
An answer then came, not in the soft, monotone voice, but in a rather firm tone that Eugene had nearly forgotten.
“My name is Eloise Walker.”
The man gritted his teeth in a show of savagery that revealed his inner nature, and his finger did not falter as it jerked back fiercely on the trigger. Her words stung. They stung because they were true. But Eugene hated the truth.
That night the fire blazed outside.
Eugene watched with morose, half-hearted satisfaction as the remnants of Eloise were spat out by the flames and carried away by the wind.
That night he would write:
“I feel as if you have died a second death my love. My last connection to you was rather uncooperative, and her folly has been the end of her. I must admit that she was right. An Eloise Walker will never be my Florence. That being said, another woman may be. I simply have to find the right one. And once I do, you will never leave me again."