Saturday, July 15, 2017


© Shackled

It happened the same way
That a sudden curve in the road
Sends you down the wrong path,
A path full of secrets never shared.

It was never something planned.
Pinwheels spun, aroused by a cloud’s
Summer breath; then one became many
Clouds casting shadows full of doubt.

It came at you from nowhere,
From a place where life does not exist,
Released from a prison to let dreams live
While decomposed vines clung to each other.

It no longer haunted your mirrors
Nor searched for approval
The way ink floods pages as
Wretched shadows performed inside of books.

It snatched your existence; It dragged you
Into a foreign world, one without
Wonder and color and thought where
Death, for It was Death, held the key.

Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved
(painting: The Field Of The Slain by Evelyn De Morgan, 1916)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

One Last Smoke

I was working on a scene where love had gone south, but it is the male character who is sad. Sadness is a strong emotion and I couldn't let the scene go with only the words: "She left him without a note or a goodbye". I want the reader to feel his shock, his pain, his hurt. This poem was written over a couple of days and I switched the characters around and it is the man who has walked away. This is not close to what I wrote in my WIP. It is a poem. It is shortened and, therefore, each word counts. 

© One Last Smoke

Standing in this river outside your hotel
Wondering where you are since you told me farewell;
I’ve been wishing on a star, hanging onto Jack Daniels—
He’s soothing my broken heart, stroking the shrapnel.

God’s sitting on his mountain having one last smoke,
Satan’s here beside me laughing at some joke.
I…I wish I could look into your eyes,
Know everything will be the way it should;
If you looked at me without turning away,

You…you would see tears welling in my eyes
While I make promises to God that I will be good
If He’ll just bring you back and have you stay.
And Hell’s not heaven, and I’m dying of heatstroke;
Satan’s still laughing so it must be a good joke.

Before I throw out the empty and tear up your clothes,
I’m leaving these photos…I’m not the one you chose.
Will you remember us and getting sick on avocados
Will you remember me and all my goofy fiascos?

I never told you but you’re the love of my life;
I only wish I’d never laughed when you wanted me for your wife—
I wish I hadn’t laughed and caused you such strife;
I wish I hadn’t laughed and let my words run rife.

God’s sitting on his mountain having one last smoke,
Satan’s here beside me laughing at some joke.
I…I wish I could look into your eyes,
Know everything will be the way it should;
If you looked at me without turning away,

You…you would see tears welling in my eyes
While I make promises to God that I will be good
If He’ll just bring you back and have you stay.
And Hell’s not heaven, and I’m dying of heatstroke;
Satan’s still laughing so it must be a good joke.

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

(Painting: DarkWaters by Julio Reyes)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Standing Alone Asking One Question

© Standing Alone Asking One Question

The pole is secured to the tree; or, is it the other way around?
Or, does it matter since they are both vertical?
There is a position THEY can agree on.
The THEY, which are humans, will soon decide to take the tree, or the pole, and advance in slow degrees to their present position.
That says it all.
Life is a circle.
You’re going nowhere fast.
You can’t get there from here.
Blessed are THEY who go in circles…THEY shall be known as unidirectional “big wheels” taking the world by the tail.
I seem to be standing alone and asking one question; can you tell me where the world’s tail is located?

Mimi Wolske

All Right’s Reserved

Viscid Thoughts of Loss

© Viscid Thoughts of Loss

The bitcoins fly, the guys are high
I’ll wager you’re here to procure
If you think you will win tonight
Know you are not the man to beat

Mascara streaking down your cheeks
Because you lost love’s lottery
For you, darkness comes all too soon
The road ends before you can see

When Eden becomes decimated
The bubble will pop around their world
How will existence continue when
No one hears viscid thoughts of loss

Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved

(painting: Loss of Virginity or Girl with a Fox, 1890-91, Paul Gauguin)

VIP 001

© VIP 001

I’m an old soul in a new moon,
educated by good ol’ boys
wearing their blue suits, under the
thickness of a reflected gray
sky and the eddying shocks of stirred
water and whirling moonlight. Beating
down my baffled soul, they left me
climbing back up from a sunken
path only to see them riding
like aristocrats in sedans,
sedans permitted only to
the most privileged of humans.
Where is the hiccup for this man’s
misfortune? Where is that pretty
penny? That swagger of ego?
Don’t hand me a suit of blue and
Cloak me eternally in your
emotional, egoless guilt.
I possess the resources you
married to intent; your prison
psychosis is not my whole world.
Selective amnesia of your
past is not my disease. Release
me from your tango in the grass;
I am an old soul in a new moon.

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 22, 2017

VIP 001

Never let anyone dominate you with their experiences of life as happening to them rather than the reverse. Walk away from people who have no direction and feel dependent on the whims of fate or the environment in terms of what happens to them. 

© VIP 001

I’m an old soul in a new moon,
educated by good ol’ boys
wearing their blue suits, under the
thickness of a reflected gray
sky and the eddying shocks of stirred
water and whirling moonlight. Beating
down my baffled soul, they left me
climbing back up from a sunken
path only to see them riding
like aristocrats in sedans,
sedans permitted only to
the most privileged of humans.
Where is the hiccup for this man’s
misfortune? Where is that pretty
penny? That swagger of ego?
Don’t hand me a suit of blue and
Cloak me eternally in your
emotional guilt and ego.
I possess the resources you
married to intent; your prison
psychosis is not my whole world.
Selective amnesia of your
past is not my disease. Release
me from your tango in the grass;
I am an old soul in a new moon.

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cartwheeling Through Life

© Cartwheeling Through Life

Years spent unknowingly observing
the ebbing and flowing of the sea,
the constant rising and falling of
my pen as ink flowed across pages,
the ups and downs of learning
how to perform a simple cartwheel,
seeing the wretched horror of
global warming wax and wane
like a moon over Neanderthals,
Painting and weaving color and love
into a life waiting for a revelation,
the melodious and gradual
increase in the loudness in
various pieces of music, but days
became years after leaving the marriage bed
before I recognized the fear of death,
the duration of a mother’s love,
and the time spent finding, appreciating,
and growing in the wonders of true love.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

One Less Egg To Fry

Image result for gif - falling rose petals

© One Less Egg To Fry

Eyes like a snake’s, she pinned him
With her glare and frosty smile.
A soul like an empty museum,
One hand on her hip, the other
Flicking the ashes from a
Rolled smoke, and cocking her head,
She exhaled a wheezing breath.
She was ready for murder.

He came from the old boy school
Of past lives’ expectancies;
An object lesson for her
In kindness and honesty?
No. He never showed her
Anything but a hollow,
Steel frame containing his lust…
And valueless, devoid love.

Critical of clothes she wore,
Her every movement, and
All she said and did, his weak
Lips punished her. It began;
Progressive  manipulation.
He changed too slowly to alarm.
Family called less; friends dropped off
Like petals from a dead flower.

Was it last night she dreamed of
Something sexual? How long
Had it taken to recognize
She was working her way up
To a boxer’s practice bag?
Sweating came from more than
hiding from a reckless, sweltering
Sweltering Louisiana sun.

Today, without a tinge
Of melancholy, her eyes
Slanted like those of a snake,
Her smile defrosted, she flicked
Her smoke, reached for her weapon,
He rearranged himself and smirked.
Took one long stride toward her.
“You don’t have the balls to shoot…”

All Rights Reserved

Mimi Wolske

Monday, May 15, 2017

What About Brothers Keepers? A Report on A Funny Book

When the muse is away I will post reviews of books I recently finished.

Today, Brothers Keepers, and I'm only years and years (the book was originally published in 1975) late in reading this funny and sillier than "hell" book by Donald E. Westlake.

It seems that there is a small band of sixteen mild-mannered monks who, all quirky in their manner, manage to find peace and the needed solutions to their various problems in the Crispinite Order of the Nomum Mundum. These monks have managed to live rent free on some prime New York property. Now, their landlord, real estate mogul Daniel Flattery, wants to tear down that townhouse on Park Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets and the monks "gotta go". The thing is, the contemplative order is dedicated to the notion that travel is bad.

Not only does Brother Benedict deal with this threat, but he's faced with a second threat. He's falling in love with the  landlord's daughter -- oh, my! Pretty divorcee Eileen is a real threat and an occasion for sin since Brother Benedict's attempts to have the townhouse declared a landmark involves many encounters by him with the Flatterys.

Let me add that this may be one of the funniest not-really-a-crime-novel(s) I've read and now this author has moved to the top of my crime-authors'-books-to-buy list. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has not read it or has not read any Westlake books.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I Am Watched; My Every Move Documented...from "Letters I Never Sent to You"

Sometimes love struggles to survive and letters continue to be written and never sent. There is a reason. And, as each letter is read, it is another chapter to a love story; a little more is learned and we want more letters; we want to know who, why, where, when, and what...and how, how will the story end? Love Letters Never Sent...

© I'm In Hiding, My Dearest,
from Letters I Never Sent to You

I was watched; my every move documented; I had to run. Run only at night and find a place to hide.

Time passes so slowly.

Is it too horrid of me to say I envy this sheet of paper that shall soon be in your hands? I pray I am here when you read it.

I’m frightened. Every day and every night my heart pounds when I hear military trucks pass by on the street above. I hold my breath waiting for them to force their way in and drag me off or murder me where I sleep.

I am quite alone. I feel abandoned. But, I know there will be no one to betray me.

I have nothing to hold onto. The war has separated us and your letters have stopped.

I hate that the war separates us. I know you’re alive. I know it. I know it.

You took possession of my heart and left me here with nothing to desire, no one to love. How many years have I been alive without a word from you? How I long to embrace you. I had to stop a wipe a few tears because it just keeps going through my mind how long it has been since we were naked lying skin to skin.

Dammit! I feel like I am losing this battle and I was never even fighting the war. I feel as though I am like a house, still standing after the battle, but empty. Lonely. Hopeful for your return.

You’ll think me sentimental, but each time I wrap that shawl you gave me for my birthday around my shoulders, I imagine it is your arms enveloping mine and your body pressing against my back.

I can’t post this. You’ll understand when you return and read all of my letters. Your sister, Marquette, escaped but they shot you mother, Jeanne, for hiding me. She wasn’t; she never did. Well, you know the reason why. Anyway, suffice it to say I had been somewhere else, but I heard what happened to them. I don’t know what happened to your brother and his wife. No one does.

Until the end of time, I am always
Your Love

(Thomas P. Anschutz, Woman Writing at a Table, 1905)

(Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fill Me With Your Love

Fill Me With Your Love

There’s a bunch of men in most cities
who are handsome as can be
and they’ll take you anywhere you want
for a nominal fee

But you, you only wanted
to dance me to the edge, and
you promised, with your whiskey breath,
it was me, only me

Wrapped me in your blanket
danced me with the stars above
until the earth tilted on its axis,
then filled me with your love

Whiskey and blankets
and stars winking from above
won’t you dance me to the edge and
give me all your love

and stars winking
from above
won’t you dance me to the edge
give me all your love

You loved me as if we’re out of time
Love me now as if it were a crime
Won’t you love me
Love me as long as a lifetime

Whiskey and blankets
and stars winking from above
won’t you dance me to the edge and
give me all your love

Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved

As If It's Real (a poem by Mimi, your Tumbleweed Contessa)

As If It's Real

Having me some Leonard with my coffee
and my memories of you,
there's nothing left to do
when all our wishes are through.
my mind wants to read,
my hands want to write,
my heart wants to paint
my brain tells me--just sail out that door and have some fun.
don't we all live our lives as if they're real;
don't lose your grip,
don't let them press you to the limits,
don't slip or you may end up in my masterpiece.
never any broken promises too deep
that left time for us to weep;
I guess you'll always be the gift
I was never meant to keep.

Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved

(painting by Eric G Thompson called Good Morning)

Friday, April 7, 2017

No More, a poem

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone? I don't think so; you knew what you had, you just thought you'd never lose it. It's like giving yourself an allowance--once it is gone, it is No More.

No More

no more skirts caught in spring breezes
like words flowing with the wind
from the poetic voice of today’s woman

no more the hard muscles of a chest
exposed by the removal of a shirt
as today’s man tries to impress her

no reason for him to keep hands
from pockets when impropriety
stands as the norm for many

no more wrapping her in your blanket
nor dancing her around in a night
that never sleeps, music that never weeps

no more the randomness of colors
exploding as she falls from the edge
and he falls onto his back breathless

nor more would she surrender
to the whispers of the night
nor blankets under old oak trees.

no more would she love the way
his words looked on her once she learned
they once were the gown of another,

slipped off, and left at his feet

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

His Old-time Religion Fork

© His Old-time Religion Fork

Sip, Swish, Spit.
Words danced over his tongue;
Another thought that departed,
That farted and stuttered his flow,
That drove him to delirium.

Sip, Swish, Spit.
Saying what they wanted
Him to say; madness; badness.
Got out of bed before he lost control,
Stepped off the train, rolled his eyes.

Sip, Swish, Spit.
Was that Mezcal sprayed
With every borrowed word,
That mellowed him as he
Got them off his chest?

Sip, Swish, Spit.
He sold snake oil to soothe recent
War wounds, to grease squeaky
Wheels, and exchanged his silver
Spoon for a borrowed silver tongue.

And left you to choke down every word,
To wonder from whose limo they escaped;
Knowing wood kills the flavor of the drink,
He swore they all will pay to play—
Let everyone get that old-time religion.


Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

Friday, February 24, 2017

Narrative and Poem -- Stumble. Stop.

Growing up in a funeral home isn’t scary. I've only known life with dead people. I always look at them, the dead. They're the temporary guests in our house, guests I’ve never met before, but I am completely comfortable around them — and they seem to enjoy my entertainment. I kind of like them in a way; I don’t know anything about their lives — whether they were nice or mean or crazy. They're just our temporary guests who have callers coming and going and whispering and crying.

© Stumple. Stop.

Come and go, come and go.
Tedious; it’s always the same.
Come, go, come, go.
See that colorful, camphor window?
No, you can’t see in; I can’t see out.
Footfalls; step, step, step.
Voices whispering
Sounding like hissing snakes;
Tears and sniffles and
Step, step, come and go.
Why have you come?
Not for the wedding;
You’re too late.
Oh, for the funeral;
You know he lost his connection?
Yes, and he lost his heart;
He lost his mind.
He lost his head.
Someone said, “He would
Not have done it, otherwise.”
Whispers, footfalls, step, step, step.
Come and go, come and go.

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Taking A Chance

It is an enormous risk to make yourself vulnerable to another person.
You may have faced these risks of hurt or rejection when you asked someone to have lunch or dinner with you, dressed up for a date (possibly giving away how excited you are about the person), said "I love you" for the first time to someone, or made the first move with a kiss or a touch.
Did you take the chance? Did you roll the dice?

©Taking A Chance

Rolling the dice in any relationship is taking a chance;
But, doesn’t love always come conditionally?
With expectations?
With disappointments?
With you losing your heart
Or losing your mind?
With misery and mockery?
With endurance before isolation?
With objections before rejections?
The worst odds could be better
Than anything you might imagine.
Love comes with a price.
Mostly you pay... then again,
It’s a game you know you will play,
You know you are going to try,
So go all the way; you just might win.
There’s no other feeling like it;
It will be the ride of your life.
You will fly with the gods
Or you’ll go down in flames.
C'mon; roll the dice. Take a chance.

by Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Poetry: Wonderland, The Alternate

The insurgent who attacks the foundation of our government, our constitution, our ethics, and our morals from within is able to fool some of the people all of the time. 
Nearly, not fully, one-half of the country follows, trusts, and loves, like sheep on their way to the slaughterhouse, the man who states loud and clear he is the only one who can unify the country in the midst of a "crisis" (that does not exist, by the way). 
What does this insurgent hold over the heads of the governmental party claiming him that makes them terrified to oppose him, even though some know they should?

© Wonderland, The Alternate

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

They wonder, never ask,
“Are suspense thrillers your thing?
Can you suck the rhetoric of hate?
Will you honor, obey, and keep

Your mouth shut?” On your knees
Is how you are seen,
Taking a vow of inequality.
On a road trip into alt reality

Where you end up becoming another self.
Did you think you had value?
You don’t. You never had worth.
Can you face that?

A psychedelic trip;
Don’t you know Alice is illegal?
Stay away from that mushroom!
Here, drink this; it’s spiked

With one or two roofies.
Hey, you’ll never know/remember
The geopolitics this liquid
Ecstasy will slam down your throat.

Forty-one called; it’s three a.m.
Find your own place
On the greasy, orange pole
Who presents himself

As the most important person.
Put up a fight—get attacked.
Watch words twist and fall
Down the rabbit hole.
Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved
(cartoon: NY-Daily-News-Trump)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things." ~~ T.S.Eliot

"Poetry is, at bottom, a criticism of life." ~~ Matthew Arnold

© Gone

No! Walk away. Go back to the shadows.
Gone is the sun that made the flower bloom.
He turned his back, hid behind the moon,
And, so, she disappeared into her sheath of folds.
Strong were his hands that could not hold her;
In that short summer, she cloaked him with her ether;
Her sweet aroma lingered before she fell.
No! Do not look up. He will blind you.
Don’t throw rocks at her windows;
She was plucked and set in glass, on a pedestal,
Next to more glass where his arms stretched,
Longing to embrace the full sweep of her summits.
Naked, she stood in a sea of shining diamonds
And iridescent pearls created by his hands.

Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 2, 2017

In The Silence of Her

Romance is not dead.
It is just done differently.
There are still people out there who are more "old fashioned" in today's fast-paced world and want to be in a real relationship.

© In The Silence of Her

You can’t step into the same river twice
I swallowed my drink, took a drag of my smoke
She smelled like lemon blossoms
I called her Spring
She laughed and called me wet between the toes
Always one step ahead of me in her
Perfectly round matching cultured pearl necklace
Hanging down her naked back
I pulled her into a dance
Across the dew-soaked lawn
Away from the river’s edge
All parks are cut from the same canvas

Grazing across her bare shoulder
Up her sensual sensitive long neck
A vulnerable mewl escaped her lips
Driving my desire
Her body inclined in my arms
Like a young tree in the wind
She was like caviar
After my years of home-baked beans
I could not get enough
I could drive for hours heading nowhere
And learn peace is found only with her
In the silence of her... I could be her silence forever

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 29, 2016

EGO ET TU (I’m With You)

ABSTRACT POETRY: Verse that makes little sense grammatically or syntactically but which relies on auditory patterns to create its meaning or poetic effect; Dame Edith Sitwell popularized this term and considered this verse form the equivalent of abstract painting.

© EGO ET TU (I’m With You)
For a while
For a while
Unlike waking from a dream
Going into one
Taking pleasure
No apology
Lingering abed
Night slipping
Into day
Into night
Spending time
Until the end
Emptying memories
Into weightlessness
For a while
For a while

Mimi Wolske

All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tangled Tree Lights

Mimi and Mona wish you a holiday better than your dreams; a holiday filled with peace, good will, and hope; a holiday filled with a firelight that gleams; a holiday filled with the joy and love of your family; a holiday overflowing with holiday spirit, good food, and laughter. And when this holiday is done, we hope you live happily until the next one!


It took hours before I found the box
Of the many strings of lights for the tree;
After climbing the ladder in my sox
and reaching the attic venturously,

I crossed the chilly floor in stocking feet.
Passed the trunks, the crib, old furniture,
Passed the sled, memories now bittersweet,
And paintings in oils, pastels, and watercolor,

To the large, corrugated box. It sat on top
Of the highest of the built-in storage shelves.
It’s the box I got from our closed bookshop,
The box covered with inked Santa elves.

I opened and climbed the small, 3-step ladder,
Blew away the cobwebs and got my surprise
When the dust blew all over my hair. In a blur,
I saw my reflection and began to fantasize

I was covered with white hair and a full beard,
Dressed in a red suit and shiny, black boots.
My reflection from the window was bleared;
So was my mind. There were no absolutes.

It wasn’t that jolly elf I thought I saw.
I laughed and took down the box stored on high.
Dear reader, don’t think me too bourgeois
But I wished I bought lights, thus gave a sigh.

Dragging the heavy box of Christmas tree lights
across the attic floor, down the wooden slats,
And into the family room, turned on the lights,
And what to my eyes should appear? Doormats!

“Arrg! Where are the lights?” I asked myself.
Went to the kitchen, opened some wine,
Drank one, no two glasses, returned to the shelf,
And saw, on a box on the floor, the TREE LITES sign.

My laugh sounded merry, so I laughed again,
Dragged another box downstairs, poured
Another glass or four, and gave a broad grin
Because the lights were all tangled that I procured.

Now on my third bottle and wound in the lights,
I rolled to the wrapped presents and stood like a tree.
I swear by the fluttering wings, an angel alights;
When she kissed my forehead, I lit up with glee.

Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

(photograph by B. Rosen)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Career Man And The Artist

The first tangos had no written lyrics. Sometimes some were improvised in the spur of the moment. Dame la lata is the first tango song with written lyrics. At the end of the poem is Dame la lata, music only.

© The Career Man And The Artist
Mimi Wolske
All Rights Reserved

At the end of the nineteenth century
He wanted to take her to Buenos Aires
She said no, Montevideo
They settled for the border
Between Argentina and Uruguay
Where they could learn to tango
To the sweet sounds of the violin,
The driving flamenco guitar, and
The strange, mournful wail
Of the bandoneon

Each night was a different, shady,
Dockside dive where they watched
The mating dance between
Barmaids and their customers,
Where the entertainment was the
Violence and illicit sex and the
Lower classes on both sides of the border
Before the clubs were raided by police

He learned every move from the barmaids
She learned to step and side-step the customers
Together they danced
Separately they returned to California
He grew a mustache, married, and
Died after forty years working in a bank
She studied painting, showed
Her work in galleries, and lives forever

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Tumbleweed Contessa's Poem "Crazy Love"

Love is both a momentary feeling and a long-term state of mind.
It is also that powerful moment when we meet another person and feel energized and are immediately aware of our heart pounding.

Crazy Love

In the frisson of passionate love making,
you startled me
suddenly jumping up
and yelling,
“Who’s shilly-shallying?”
and throwing my Tootsie Roll supply
into the fire.

“Not me,” I said,
“I’m Yipee-Ky-Yea Cow Patty.
Now, come here Ger-On-Imo
and help me make a
topic sentence.”

Don’t fill up on macaroni and carrot stew
after I’ve made all this crazy love.

by Mimi Wolske

(Crazy Love by Gil Bruvel)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tumbleweed Contessa's Blog Stuff -- a short excerpt from mystery WIP

What's that you say? What am I working on currently? You want an excerpt? How about long "short excerpt" of a scene from my mystery WIP (aka -- typos and all)? Okay, but first, I always like to know what the characters look like; don't you? Before we get to the excerpt, here's an idea of how I see the two cousins. On the left, Hannah Westcott and next to her, Antonia Westcott. 

What you need to know to help you understand the scene just a little better. Antonia was ten years old when her family was in Jaffa; her father was sent there on the King's business. Napoleon and his army entered Jaffa and killed everyone. Antonia and a Jewish boy managed to escape Napoleon but were captured by an Arab and kept as slaves... until another Englishman found her and helped her escape and brought her home to England. 
And, now, here's a part pulled from the middle of a scene from:

Chapter 2
A Morning Call Before Eta Pie and The Ladies Witness A Near Death

“You’re smiling?”

“Of course. I am happy to do whatever I am able to do for you.” How could her family continue to take money from her? Unless. Did they, then, presume they stood equally with her upon some ground belonging mutually to all of them?

“Since you understand, I must continue to be blunt, Cousin.” 

This Hannah said with a smile that was not a true smile. It was nearly vulgar. Or, so Antonia thought. “Speak plainly then.” 

Hannah sat wringing her hands in her lap. “I think you like Lord Holsworthy.”

“Yes; I find him to be quite genuine and friendly.”

“You know what I mean. You are setting your cap for him.”

“I do like him, but my feelings for him are not those of love. And, I can only assume his ambitions do not go beyond feelings he carries for you.”

“And your ambitions?”

Antonia met Hannah’s gaze squarely. “My ambitions concern no man at this time.”

Hannah laughed.

“I think I rather like hearing you laughter; I do indeed. I must tell you that it does me good to hear you laugh with such abandon, but I swear to you, I have no desires for this man you claim for yourself.”

Of course, everything she said about having no ambition where Viscount Holsworthy was concerned rang false. Hannah’s notion that her cousin’s sensibilities were otherwise would prove more honest than Antonia’s words.

Hannah’s happy manner abandoned her and she said rather gloomily, “Is that so?”

They sat together in silence for a few minutes, Hannah fingering some smaller article lying on the same table, something that belonged to Antonia. It was a small letter knife Antonia had placed there after she and Holsworthy talked yesterday. He had handed it to her in the library and said to her, “Please, keep it. I should like to know something of mine shall be useful in your hands.” Antonia blushed, but she kept it. The handle was cast and gilt, a small item of no great value he promised, the price “a few shillings”. And, as Hannah, pensive, sat passing it from hand to hand, Antonia held her breath.

Suddenly, Hannah stopped to looked at it. “Who gave this to you?”

“Good Heavens! Why? And why ask in such an accusing tone as if you thought I stole it?”

Hannah’s lips thinned. “Because, if it’s a gift from a certain someone, someone whom I know has a letter knife exactly like this, then I shall take it up with him.”

Antonia couldn’t lie. Not completely. “Lord Holsworthy let me borrow it yesterday. I believe he forgot about it, so I brought it up here to open my morning mail... until I see him next.”

Hannah let it drop to the marble tabletop from her fingers with a noise. Angry, she shoved it away from her so it fell onto the carpet on the other side of the table, near where Antonia sat.

“Hannah!” Antonia leaned over the arm of the chair’s arm and picked it up. “Such a violent reaction is uncalled for and most unreasonable. Please stop.”

“Apologies, Cousin,” she said. “I didn’t mean it. Oh, blast that unfortunate knife.”

“Take it. You can return it to him when he calls on you next.”

“By no means am I going to do that. He let you borrow it. He will expect it from you and question me if I return it.” Hannah had fixed her eyes upon Antonia and her hands returned to her lap.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Quit being so unreasonable and take the blasted thing. It means nothing to me and it has sorely upset you.”

“That’s not quite fair.”

“I didn’t say it to be unfair.”

Hannah pouted a moment before she said, “I’m not sure of that, Antonia. I can almost believe you do mean it to be inconsiderate of my feelings. That you were being spiteful. You tell me you will give my father money for my dowry and then you make me miserable by saying this knife is from the man I love.”

Antonia let her head fall back enough to look up at the ceiling. She rolled her eyes and gripped the arms of her chair. “I am not making you miserable, Hannah. Certainly not willfully.”

“Can you tell me honestly he left it with you by accident and not as a gift?”

“Hannah, I told you all that happened with regards to that bloody letter knife. Now, please, let us talk of more pleasant things.”

“Your foul language indicates you are hiding something.”

“Yes, I am.”

“I knew it!”

“My anger, dear Cousin. I’m hiding my growing anger,” she responded, still facing the ceiling.

“Well, if it was a gift, it is your responsibility to tell me, not to let me find that thing and wonder.”

Antonia would have said it was so if she were brave enough to dare, but she never bothered to answer. She sat silent, and turning her face away from Hannah’s, longed for her cousin’s visit to end, and felt she lost some of her hard-earned self-respect.

“See here, Antonia,” Hannah said, “I’m finding it quite difficult to understand you. When I think of what passed between us only minutes ago, and when I consider what you shared of the horrors you endured in your life with that horrid man, and if I sum these with your treatment of me just now, I quite find myself at a loss to understand your character.”

“I fear I cannot help you,” Antonia bit out, her face still turned away.

“I thought you might consider your family, well, me mostly, with love. But, this quarreling with me? I cannot find sufficient clearness of the sweet, genteel lady you wish to be. No, none. Not even a morsel of sweet poetry. I thought I might be beginning to understand you. Then, you lie about this gift to you from the man you say you know I love and it’s as though you have no thought to your sin. Should I blame myself for you driving yourself to such fatal misgivings?”

Now, Antonia turned towards her cousin sharply, as though she thought to interrupt Hannah. Fatal misgivings! But she said nothing, although Hannah paused for her to speak.

And then, Hannah continued. “I had thought I might be understanding my dear cousin better. I begin to see being a lady is too much for you to ever learn. By heavens! Yes. There is no misinterpreting what you have grown up to be. If ever there was a relative driven to be deceitful and mean, you can never claim it is not you. My mother and father accepted you into their home, and you dared take it away. And now you strive to take away from me, your own cousin, the man I love.”

Antonia pinched her lips together and glared at Hannah. She looked at her with something of Hannah’s own fierceness on her face, as though she was preparing for battle. But, she still said nothing, and Hannah went on.

“And, never believe I do not now understand it when you offered to pay my dowry. You expect to take that amount from the nine hundred you promised my father. I may have been vain enough to believe you were offering me a gift of love, but surely that was unnatural. By heavens, it was my own foolishness to believe such a thing and to believe you ever had such a warm heart. Put yourself in my place, if you’re able, and tell me you would not have thought the same. Yesterday evening, I sincerely believed your conduct, on the whole, was improving, even intelligent and quite becoming as a lady.” She said all that and then shook her head.

The last of Hannah’s diatribe grated on Antonia’s ears and her anger was shown by the hurried tapping motion of her foot on the floor because she once again chose to look at the boring ceiling rather than her hateful cousin. 

Hannah noted her cousin's tapping like that of some mad woman,  but she went on as though she had not made note of it.

“Stop looking up at the ceiling and tell me you cannot see how your present behavior makes everything I have shared this morning is more a mystery than the true nature of your character? No; stop!” she said when Antonia at last lowered her face. “Never try to reassure me. What should I think? And, how would you expect me to behave with you? And after I had hoped you might love me like your sister.”

As she said her last word, she gazed at Antonia with her eyes wide and her mouth round like a perfect o and that last word came out with a denigrating hiss. And, though Antonia made no effort to speak, Hannah dared to pause again. Did her cousin dare hope she might not realize the full implication of her questions? Antonia realized far more; the full scale of her cousin’s hatred, of Hannah’s complete unladylike qualities, and of this woman’s need for Antonia’s money.

“I just simply do not understand the person you are. What am I to think?” Hannah asked.

Then, her cousin paused one last time and Antonia found that the time had come for her to say something. “I wonder you are unable to understand,” Antonia said, “just how much I have suffered and have survived.”

“Is that to be your answer to me?”

“I have no idea what you expect me to say.”

“I might expect an explanation for such behavior from you.”

Antonia stood; so did Hannah. Still, Antonia said nothing more. She picked up the letter knife Lord Holsworthy gave to her with an offering of more, and she held it out so Hannah might take it, held it with a little doubt that her cousin would take it, and wondered what the angry woman might do with it if she did take it.

“Do you have anything you wish to tell me?”

“Not now, Hannah. You’re angry and I have no desire to speak to you, or anyone, in such a temperament.”

“Do you think I don’t have cause to be of such a frame of mind? Are you so feebleminded you cannot see how badly you have treated me?”

“Hannah, right now my head aches and I am wretched. I want you to leave.”

“There then is your gift!” she said, and she took the letter knife from Antonia and threw it violently into the fender, beneath the fire-grate, and with quick steps, walked to the door. When Hannah’s hand was on the door handle, she turned and said, “When I leave, think hard on your conduct to me.” Then, she left and Antonia remained still until she heard her cousin’s footfalls on the steps.

When she was sure her hateful cousin was gone, Antonia’s first movement was to search for the letter knife. Ellen entered and Antonia looked at her maid over her shoulder. On her hands and knees in front of the grate was not dignified, but it seemed the most natural thing.

“Oh, miss. What are you doing?”

“Looking for a letter knife.”