Walking with Emma Bovary
I met Emma Bovary yesterday afternoon. I was walking along the fields and I saw her leaning on the windowsill with an empty gaze, looking towards the clouds. She must have noticed I was approaching her because she grabbed a duster from behind her and started dusting the windowsill, stopping to fixate on a stain.
“Madeliene, hello, you seem to be enjoying a leisurely walk! I wish I could do the same, but I really must keep this big house in order, no matter how much help one has, some things are best left up to me.”
She kept waving the duster from one end of the window to the other. When I asked her if she wanted to join me for a walk she finally stopped and looked at me — her vacant gaze had left her, it was replaced by a sadness that evoked pride, the kind that stems from forbidden love.
“I could resume work after I come back. Although, we mustn’t be too long, I must be here when my husband comes back home.”
I waited for her outside the window while she wrapped her shoulders in a shawl.
“The finish on that clock is beautiful.”
“Thank you, it’s from Paris. I got it and a few other things from this lovely man who lets me pay whenever I’m comfortable, isn’t that good of him?”
She closed the front door behind her, holding her shawl with her almond-shaped tips.
“Make sure you don’t stir up a bill you won’t be able to pay back.”
“Oh Madeliene, these little luxuries are good for the mind and the soul! You must treat yourself sometimes.”
“This walk will do today. So how are you doing Emma?”
“I’m very busy; I’ve been going from one thing to the other, especially now with Berthe, she requires so much of my time.”
“Is she still with the nurse?”
“Yes, but I visit as often as I can. There’s also Charles — he comes home every night after a long day of work and he needs someone he can share his day with, not to mention taking care of the household.”
“Poor thing, you must not have a moment to yourself.”
“Not as much as I would like to, but when I have a spare moment I go into studious labour reading stories by Balzac or George Sand.”
“I have been devouring Balzac myself. What has struck you from La Comédie Humaine?”
“Well, I am more inclined to remember the imagery he conjures up; it fills me with such emotions.”
I was waiting for her to go off on one of her dreamy states about the notion of passion, of bliss and excitement found in the novels she read, when we both stepped in mud.
“Our walk is ruined Madeliene!” she cried, while struggling to get the mud from her boots.
“Emma, it’s mud, it will be washed away,” I said, while looking down at my Alexander McQueen embellished suede slippers which were caked in mud. I know, such walks require appropriate footwear, but I needed to walk in those slippers.
“It’s not just mud Madeliene! And is this rain I feel? It is, now I will get soaked!”
She fell silent after this. Walking quietly back to her house, she kept to a few steps ahead of me, biting her full lips and letting her shawl fall off her shoulders as the rain grew fiercer. By the time we arrived at her house, the rain had stopped and we were dripping wet. She turned to look at me only when she was at the door; I had let her down, such a potentially romantic rain scene was wasted on the two of us together.
The blank look of despair had reappeared in her eyes, “goodbye Madeliene,” she said, and went inside. I stayed on her front door step, moving then to the window to take one last peak of her. She was in her armchair near the window, the one she would sit on to watch the villagers go by, but she had turned it to face the fireplace and a blank wall where only the clock stood. I started to tremble from the cold after a while, so I went back home.
Story credits: Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; Tatler Russia for the image.