|Isobel Brandt \\ Persephone (praxidike) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-10-29 21:33:00
|Entry tags:||hades, persephone|
loss alone is but the wounding of a heart
Who: Obed & Isobel.
What: Halloween hijinks to make the month a little less...serious.
Where: Heritage Square Museum.
When: Oct. 28.
Isobel had gently needled Obed for details after he'd told her that he'd made Halloween plans for them—not on the day of, but the weekend before so they could do something that was specifically not Pax related. On some level, Isobel recognized that he might have thought they both needed a distraction from everything that had happened; between her getting her memory back, the strange events of the key hall, and Bryan's ultimate fate, Isobel felt that she, at the very least, was living in some sort of a surreal dream.
For the first week after they'd dumped Bryan's body into the Los Angeles bay, she was certain the authorities would turn up. She'd kept to work, to focusing on herself, on moving back in with Obed—the details of which were still being dealt with—but the thought that she'd be free of all the fears Bryan inspired in her seemed to be a lie every time she spied a cop car out of the corner of her eye while driving, or received a call from an unlisted or unfamiliar number.
But the days went by. Nothing happened. Things went back to normal, or as much as they ever did when living in a strange complex that changed on a whim.
The only information Obed would give her, when not smirking like a cat who caught the canary, was to dress comfortably with good shoes, because they'd be doing a lot of walking. Isobel thought he was taking her to Monterey, perhaps, or to a pumpkin patch with a corn maze. Even during the short drive he'd given few answers, so they'd focused on discussing work and other things—plans for the future, Isobel tentatively asking if he still had the ring he'd given her over a year ago. He did, in his nightstand.
Her attention was diverted as they approached a cluster of older looking but well maintained Victorian houses seated in the middle of Los Angeles; a group of people were outside one of them, a green house that looked like it could have been made of gingerbread were it not for the coloring. Raising a brow in Obed's direction, she unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car.
"This definitely isn't what I was expecting."
He slid an arm around the small of her back, gently pulling her closer as they made their way toward the crowd; Isobel made no complaint, her hand going to his waistline and ringing fingers through one belt loop. The majority of the throng were dressed precisely as Obed and Isobel were, but a handful of men and women milling about wore far more elaborate clothing: all black, of course, with a wealth of intricate lace, embossed buttons, and delicate veils. Isobel's attention immediately went to them, rising up on tip-toe a little as they came to a stop on the edge of what was clearly a tour group in order to get a better look. Quite pleased with himself, Obed leaned down to Isobel, kissing her temple just as they joined the group.
"It's good to know I can still surprise you," he whispered; she smiled, her eyes moving to what she could see of his profile from her angle.
"I don't think that's ever going to be something you'll have to worry about," she countered, her arm squeezing a little tighter around his waist. She opened her mouth to say something about getting pumpkins after whatever this was, but she didn't have the chance before a tour guide unknowingly interrupted her.
"Looks like we have everyone?" A man in a green so dark it was two steps away from black stepped forward, a hand raised as he took a head count. His top hat tilted backward before righting itself again, and he smiled. "Good, and thank you all for joining us on this lovely Saturday morning for our mourning tour." A few chuckles rose out of the crowd; two women and another man standing behind the one who'd labeled himself the main guide rolled their eyes, one of the women flapping a fan in her face. "Today we're going to introduce you to the intimacies of Victorian mourning here at the Heritage Square Museum; and today's our more adult tour, so I hope everyone's of age."
The man trailed off, giving a little background about the museum itself. Isobel took the opportunity to lean into Obed's space again, whispering. "A mourning tour, huh? This is Halloween-y, but I hope you're not trying to prep me for something, Obed; I don't know how many times I have to say it, you're not that old yet..." She switched tack, rising up on her tip toes enough to whisper directly into his ear. "You definitely weren't too old for that position we tried this morning..."
Obed could not curb his answering smile. "I guess there are benefits to those yoga sessions after all." He leaned down to her, lowering his voice as the tour guide droned on. "And no, this is just… seasonally appropriate. Something different. You'll see." Someone in front of them turned around and threw them a glare; Obed's expression proved enough to make her turn around and face front again. He glanced back to Isobel and continued, still whispering, "I thought we'd all appreciate this, as weird as that sounds. You know?"
Isobel's brow furrowed, not completely understanding what he was getting at. Before she could ask what he meant, they were being ushered inside the green building, the crowd slowly milling its way inside the first room.
A woman in a red-tinged outfit with a bodice that made Isobel wince took center stage, standing in one corner of the room as she waited for her guests to finish filtering in. She waved toward a fireplace, where a large mirror was draped with a gauzy lace material.
"Following the passing of a loved one, mirrors in the home would be covered to prevent their spirits from becoming trapped and held from their true destination, which in Victorian times was either Heaven or Hell; sorry, no purgatory for anyone in the 1800s." The crowd mumbled a small laugh, though the joke fell a little flat. The woman, used to such things, carried on. "You'll also see some of the portraiture turned around; these are all photos depicting the deceased, which were blocked so that their spirits didn't end up accidentally—or purposefully—possessing the bodies of the living."
The crowd around them began to murmur, and the woman directed them into the next room. Isobel held Obed's arm, keeping them at the back of the group.
"What did you mean, outside? You don't think... We're not mourning...Bryan?!" Isobel kept her voice as low as possible, barely uttering the dead man's name.
"No." Obed's mouth thinned to a fine line. Blue eyes flicked up to the departing crowd, but they had time enough for this; his tone softened when he spoke again. "There's nothing to mourn there, and trust me, if I could make sure he was trapped somewhere terrible for eternity, I would. Keep all the mirrors uncovered and a picture out just for him."
He shook his head. "No, I thought… you know. This is something Hades and Persephone might like. Maybe if we try to do something for them, something that might… I don't know. Resonate with them… then maybe we can deal with them a little better."
Keeping her grip around his arm, the two made a slow procession behind the rest of the group as they moved into another room—a dining room, though the table wasn't set for a meal but covered with other items. She turned Obed's suggestions over in her mind; she had no idea if Persephone would like something like this, or how much interaction any of the gods had with their day to day. It wasn't a bad idea, though, and truth be told, all of this folklore surrounding death was interesting. She laid her head against Obed's shoulder as the tour guide geared up again to feed them more historical tidbits.
"Here we've got some of the items family would make from their relatives after they'd died—and yes, you heard me right, from the deceased. Hair, nails, teeth, they were all considered momentos from the dead. Momento mori, to be specific. It was meant to be a way to keep them close." She plucked up a locket that held a length of braided blond hair, holding it up for all to see. "This was a broach made from the hair of a woman's dead mother; a whole jewelry set might have been included. Hair was braided into fabric, corsages, paintings, and also wreaths, all to keep the dead with the living."
Isobel shivered a little at the thought. "I know it's just hair," she whispered to Obed, "but that's kind of...creepy."
He nodded without hesitation. He caught himself wrinkling his nose and forced himself to soften his features. Some part of him saw the appeal. It was difficult to consider permanent loss, and there was wisdom in having tangible reminders of mortality. This particular method, though, was indeed something that felt difficult to understand.
"When I die," he said, only half joking, "please don't keep anything. Just cremate me and do something with the ashes. Something not jewelry related, preferably."
"Shhh," Isobel replied, swatting at his chest. "I'm gonna be one of those old ladies you read about in the news, living with their son's or husband's corpses for the Social Security checks... Might have to get you embalmed, though," she teased in reply, the humor souring a little as she looked back at the table and everything laid out on it. This wasn't merely remembering the dead; it edged on glorifying death as a whole, and before she knew it, that theory would be supported even more.
"Of course, much more happened before the deceased were actually in the ground, or even deceased," the tour guide started, plucking up a photo. "Families took portraits with their passed on loved ones, or of their loved ones. It was common for women to take photos with their dead children, or vice versa. The last moments that might be remembered for eternity."
Isobel shivered, but kept her mouth closed; Obed's face grew still more stony in an effort to hide his disgust. The tour guide continued, entirely nonplussed by her audience's discomfort.
"This wasn't the only way death affected Victorian lives. If you'll follow me into the next room..." The crowd shuffled forward, Isobel's hand wound loosely in Obed's. The next room was a sitting room, with several black gowns set up throughout the space. There were more portraits of people who looked like they were sleeping, or staring mindlessly off into the distance amid those who were pinpointed directly at the camera. Another mirror was covered; Isobel suspected such things would continue throughout the entirety of wherever they visited in the house.
"The length of mourning had many wearing black for their entire lives," the guide said, motioning to her dress and the others stationed around the room. "Women were required to mourn the passing of a husband for two years, and to live in a never-ending state of grief. They were not allowed any of the momento mori we saw in the last room until one year after the husband's death, but that certainly didn't stop society from expecting them to be in black, constantly, never smiling, never enjoying themselves. Their dresses were made of non-reflective paramatta silk or the cheaper bombazine; many widows in Dicken's novels wore bombazine. Dresses were trimmed with crape, a hard, scratchy silk that was crimped with heat.
"Crape is particularly associated with mourning because it didn't combine well with any other clothing—no velvet, satin, or lace. After a specified period, the crape could be removed, which was called 'slighting the mourning.' The color of mourning lightened over time, from black to gray, mauve, then white, called half-mourning."
"Obed, I'm just going to say this in advance, I know I look amazing in black, but I like a lot of other colors, too," Isobel whispered to him, earning her another glare from a group member; she didn't care, needing the humor to stay above the dismalness of the subject matter. "You might get six months out of me, tops."
"Even that seems excessive," Obed said. "I was thinking three or four at most."
The woman turned around again, shushing them with one finger raised to her lips. Obed arched a brow at her, then looked back to Isobel and made a point of coming up with something else to say. "I'd much rather you be a merry widow. Wear a lot of red. Be the talk of the town." He chuckled, and brought her hand to his lips for another soft kiss. "We've done so few things the proper way in life. Why start when I die?"
Isobel's hands flipped to cup his face, moving down his neck before dropping completely. "Mm, if I have it my way, you're not going anywhere for a very, very long time, and this is starting to sound like you're getting too serious," she teased. Her hands went back to his, one threading through his fingers while the other ringed his wrist. "I could definitely pull off one of those dresses, though. Gives me some ideas for our Halloween costumes."
"Is that so?"
They earned another glare, but the conversation in front of them had already moved on.
"There were societal expectations for the passing of young children, which, unfortunately, happened often in that era. Parents would sometimes commission—" here the guide moved over to another couch, carefully picking up a life-sized doll that looked like a sleeping toddler, "mourning or grave dolls. These were made of wax and dressed in the child's clothing, sometimes even incorporating the child's own hair." The woman tucked the doll into her arm, where it fit neatly. "They were filled with sand to give them a lifelike weight and feel, and flat backs so they would fit into glass coffins or cribs that were kept in the home. However, they were usually left at the child's grave site."
Isobel fell silent at this particular branch of conversation, though her eyes widened as the guide offered to pass the doll around; the deathly sleeping child began to make the rounds, some people merely touching its face while others actually held it. Most murmured about how it felt real enough, but the closer it drew, the more Isobel felt uncomfortable. Still, when the option was presented to her, she accepted it, and carefully held the doll with both arms. It felt real enough, even if it was too pale to actually be alive. Isobel glanced at Obed, looking for comment or a desire to hold it himself before she passed it to someone else.
He hesitated. It was foolish, he told himself. Sentimental and unnecessary. But he found himself holding out his hands, taking the false child in his arms. Its slight weight found its echo in his chest, a leaden, tangible sorrow he had not expected to feel. It did not feel good, but it felt almost like closure, like embracing the grief he had not allowed himself to acknowledge before. When the weight became too heavy, he passed the doll off to the nearest tourist, and settled back in close to Isobel.
He had no more cheeky comments, no more stoic calm. His face was stony and still. He slipped his arm around Isobel's shoulders and pulled her close against him. She returned the hold, her arm fast around his waist as her mind spun—not for the first time—through all that could have been.
"Now, if you'll follow me, we'll move through some of the actual funerary customs," the tour guide was saying, having replaced the wax doll back in its makeshift coffin. The group wandered toward another door, at which the guide invited another tourist to gently ring a bell that would have normally been found on the exterior of the house.
"Note the crape, which was intended to tell guest that the 'dread visitor' had arrived and that they should summon the household or butler through means other than this distraction," the guide offered, ushering them into another room. Another body was laid out on the bed, this one in a man's suit, its arms crossed over its chest. Isobel tugged Obed to the side, where she wasn't as pressed to stand on tip-toe to watch.
"Before this, the family were usually very involved in preparation for burial. During the Victorian era, things started to shift away from that; friends sat with the dying, to spare the family that particular affliction during this difficult time. Funerals held at the house were not for the family, and the family were not expected to view the remains; this was, again, more of a courtesy to the family, rather than anything else, as it was supposed to spare them their grief in front of others."
Their guide continued on, heaping more and more social niceties onto everything else she'd already said; Isobel was starting to lose interest. Since they were at the corner of the group, she tugged Obed back a pace. "Are you all right?"
"Mmhm." His tight grip on her hand said otherwise; she squeezed back, her thumb moving patiently and reassuringly across the back of his hand. "This is just a little heavier than I…" He smiled, suddenly feeling sheepish. "Well, I probably should have expected that, shouldn't I. I apologize."
He looked back to the crowd, now wending their way through the last part of the house. The hallway was small, and they were left walking almost single file. Obed cleared his throat and, desperate for a distraction, started down the hall with her hand still in his. Isobel followed, quiet, worried. At the very least, they were headed back outside, which she was grateful for.
The crowd spilled out into the backyard behind the green gingerbread house, where a makeshift cemetery had been erected. More people in costume were milling about between the tombstones, some seated around picnic blankets, while others were in the middle of conducting a full funeral. The tour guide brought them next to a long, closed coffin sitting on sawhorses.
"This," the guide said, putting a hand on the top, "is one of many ways that the Victorians fought back against premature burial. You see, medicine was still in a natal phase during the 1800s and it was unfortunately all too common to accidentally be buried alive. So, to combat this..." She pulled up the lid, showing a small hole that had previously been unviewable. She tapped the lid next to it. "Through this there would be a string that attached to a bell topside. The other end would be tied around the deceased's wrist, so if they were to wake, they would be 'saved by the bell.' Gives you a new perspective on that TV show, doesn't it?"
The crowd laughed nervously. "One doctor was so nervous about being buried alive that he had a 14 by 14 inch glass window atop a shaft that ran six feet down onto the top of his coffin so he could see out, were he to awaken in his grave. Fortunately for him, he did actually die on Halloween 1893, so the window ended up being more of a curiosity than actually useful."
Isobel listened, standing in a patch of sun that made her feel warmer than she had all day. She squeezed Obed's hand again, glancing at his face and worrying on his quickly deteriorating attitude. "You know, a bell could be fun," she started, trying to make a joke. "Get you a little bell... Mmm, no, I think a collar would be a good briefcase addition. Just for the apartment. If you want to, anyway..." She stopped, feeling uncertain, and looked back toward the front of the tour.
It took him a moment to shake off the dark veil of his thoughts. Her presence helped, as did her soft, teasing voice. A hint of a smile at last moved one corner of his mouth. "Why not both?" he asked, his voice low. "A collar with a bell. I think I like that idea." He looked down to her, all pretense of paying attention to their guide now gone. The crowd had moved on, at least, inching closer to the coffin or the funeral now underway, and the two of them could speak in peace.
"The costume shops are probably going to have a much wider variety than usual. Maybe we should make a stop on the way home."
A toothy grin met his comment, and Isobel looked up at him once more, glad that her comments had done a little good.
"OK, just something simple. Maybe a leash, too...?" He nodded, mirroring her smile. A hand moved to Obed's waist, hooking through a belt loop once more as the tour guide started talking about picnics in cemeteries. The thought made her stomach grumble. "No, the first thing we're doing is getting something to eat. I think that'll make us both a lot happier; and maybe pick up some pumpkins, too? Did you carve jack-o-lanterns as a kid?"
Obed shook his head. "Not really. It made too much of a mess, and my parents always worried about the candles falling over and setting vines on fire. So they said." He chuckled. "I'm not entirely sure I'm artistic enough for it now, unless we get one of those stencils to go by. I'd probably be better with the sculpture sort of ones, where you glue bat wings or googly eyes onto them, but you know Hanni would just chew all that off…"
Isobel pressed a finger to his still-moving lips, her brows arched. "OK, all I'm hearing are excuses. We are definitely getting pumpkins, and you are learning that it doesn't have to be some Pinterest perfect thing." She tugged on his belt loop, turning her body toward his; her arms went back around his middle. "Stencils are a must because I certainly can't do any of that crazy stuff I've seen either. We'll just have some fun with it, that's all. Get a little messy." She put her chin on his shoulder, her eyes and mouth warming just at the sight of him.
"Thank you for the tour. It was fun, it really was. I love it when you plan surprises for us."
Even his thoughts stopped short at that. He felt too pleased to be concerned about his lack of crafting skill, too content with how the day had gone—some parts excepted, of course—to worry that he might not be able to meet this new creative bar he had unwittingly set for himself. He had surprised her before, after all, today included. Surely he could do so again. So he only smiled, and nodded, and kissed her temple as they moved toward the farthest edge of the crowd.
"Thank you for being open to it," he said. "I… I enjoy doing these things for you. With you."
She grinned, brightly. "I do, too. I love seeing you let your hair down." Pulling back from around his waist, she grasped one of his hands. "If you're OK with leaving a little early, I can yelp a restaurant from the car? And then a good costume place—I don't want to get something cheap that breaks the first time we use it..." Isobel took a few steps away, not enough to start tugging him, but to underscore her earlier question about cutting the tour however short. He followed close behind, clearly open to the suggestion.
"I feel like we should stick with the Victorian theme," he said. "I'm sure there are plenty of places nearby with goose and mincemeat and, I don't know, puddings or something." Smiling, he dipped a hand into his pocket, retrieving the slim black key fob to his car. "Or maybe we've both had enough torment for one day."
Together they headed toward the parking lot and their escape. Isobel pulled her phone out of her pocket, opening up the Yelp app to see what would appear. She took his suggestion and carefully tapped out 'victorian' with the thumb of one hand.
"Oh, here's one. Basement Tavern; underground bar beneath a Victorian house," she read off, her eyes glancing up from the screen to his face. "Taxidermy, chandeliers, sounds like it's right up your alley," she grinned. "The best part, though, is it's two miles down the street from a pumpkin patch. Everybody wins!" Isobel pressed a kiss to his cheek, then darted away, all but pulling him toward the car.