As part of an exercise in characterisation, the men in my class were asked to write a piece about a woman, and the ladies were to write about a man. Examples given to us were from Alan Bennett’s “A Chip In the Sugar”. I haven’t read the book, but to my knowledge, the lady I wrote about, never lived ‘oop North’…
“My hair looks beautiful I think. I’m so glad that Agnetha listened to me this time, Rosa. That woman! She always cuts it too short, or leaves it too long. And he hated it, when she dyed it just a little bit darker than I usually have it.” I’m laughing as Rosa tidies my dressing table. “He needs something constant in his life now, and if the colour of my hair helps him, it’s the least I can do for the sweet man. Do you like it? ” I turn to Rosa.
“Your hair is very beautiful, madam. Everyone will love it.”
“Why, I think I’ll wear his favourite black dress, but which shoes? I know! It has to be the black. The Italian ones! Yes – black again… Well, it’s not the colour I would have chosen but you know, really I don’t care Rosa. It’s all I’ve ever wanted since I met him. I love him so much. I am just so excited! Can you see it in me, in my eyes? Oh Rosa…” I go off into another reverie.
“Madam, calm yourself, calm yourself. You will get me excited too.” Rosa is laughing with me now. “It is so wonderful for you. You deserve it, after these 17 years. Now let me brush your hair before you get dressed.”
“I can’t wait to see him. To kiss his sweet face.”
“I know, madam. But a bride should never see her husband on the day before the wedding.”
“Ow! Rosa! Rosa! My hair!” I’m laughing at her through my tears, her brushing is very vigorous tonight. “Don’t tear my hair out in great clumps, or he will be even more unhappy to have a bald wife! He seems so very sad just now. I only hope this will raise his spirits. It’s so shiny, Rosa!” I’m looking in the mirror now.
“I know a bride should never see her husband before the wedding. I do know that!”
I’m laughing again. “I’m always saying you treat me like a child. I remember what my mother taught me. She didn’t see my father for years, until one day he came home from Africa and asked her to marry him! Africa, Rosa! So very r-o-m-a-n-t-i-c!” I drag the last word out, almost lasciviously.
“But were they happy together, madam?” She turns back to me, holding the dress up for me by its shoulder straps.
“I only hope that we shall be as happy as they were. Now help me on with this beautiful dress, Rosa. There, now how do I look? Wait. I’ll put the shoes on first. Can you hand them to me? They are so soft and comfortable. From Milan I think. I feel so tall in them, you know? There. What do you say now?”
“I say you must put your watch on, madam. The diamonds match your eyes. Any man would be more than proud to marry you, madam. Any man. You are radiant!”
“There’s only one for me Rosa. I must go to him now. Open the door.”
I step outside my room, and suddenly I feel scared. Just that tight feeling I get deep in my stomach sometimes. What if he doesn’t like how I look? Sometimes he can be distant, so very cool. But I will be strong. I know he loves me. As I open his office door, I see them all waiting by the light of the candles. The electricity is switched off again tonight. And there he is, talking to Martin and Joseph. He still looks so noble. He turns to me. “My dear. You look so wonderful!” He gestures towards my dress. “My favourite colour for you!”
“My love.” I say, and his eyes are shining. He is so proud. I am sure they must all envy him! “I think we’re ready, Herr Wagner.” he says. Herr Wagner looks worried. The room is shaking so! I can hear the shells outside too. I don’t care because I have everything I need right here, and even if we were never to leave, I simply would not care. But I’ve never seen Herr Wagner here before, and I am sure he can’t wait to get away from us tonight! Perhaps though he would be safer in here, than out there. But I must concentrate on listening. I can hardly hear his words with that din outside, he is so nervous! This is such fun, but I am just a little scared too.
“I do”, I eventually say to Herr Wagner, and that is it. Some smile at me, but some look away. I know they care, but they’re worried for themselves. I understand that. That’s really it. It’s over, and we are married at last! And he kisses me so tenderly. Just like the first time, that day in the Hartz Mountains. He still looks at me in just the same way.
I sign my name. Oh! I signed it Eva B! I stop and cross the ‘B’ out, and sign Eva Hitler. Martin looks at me as though he can see right into me, at my stupidity. Well, I was only just married! I felt so very foolish. But I tell you, I have never liked that man! Never trusted him.