The climb up the cliff path had been steeper than I expected it to be and I sat gratefully down on the fallen log by the side of the way. My view of the sea was almost reward enough for the climb. I love looking at the sea, it is never the same twice. I do not know where in the world I am, but it is warm and sunny and peaceful here. I stretch out like a cat and my foot strikes another that I had not seen before.
“Careful sister. I may have an extra face, but no extra feet!”
The month sacred to my brother Janus hosts the feast of revels and he takes this as licence to find what he sees as humour in all situations.
I had not seen him arrive. No matter. We sit in hypnotic contemplation of the play of light on the waves stretching out in front of us as far as we can see. At least as far as I can see, who knows what Janus can see, looking both forward and back as he does.
I put my hand to my brow to wipe the sweat, my hand again discovering the ravages of my face. What are ravages I ask myself?
” Havoc, damage, destructive effect of.” My brother responded to my unspoken musings.
I did not reply. I had been mortal long enough to lose both wonder and anger at my siblings’ divine abilities. Instead, I listened to myself. I seemed to have moved away from the archaic language I often found came readily to my tongue.
“Toffee?” Janus held a bag of waxed paper out to me. Automatically I took a piece of the dark hard substance and, without thinking, put it in my mouth. He did the same and we sucked contentedly.
It was treacle toffee. Do not seek to know how I knew; it simply was.
As the dark rich sweetness dissolved in my frozen mouth, memories formed of another treacle toffee. A plump grey-haired woman stood at a brown
stone sink washing a pan. She turned and looked at me, really looked at me, seeing that I was there, that nothing had happened to me.
A voice drifted through an open window and the woman’s face tightened. She didn’t exactly flinch, but there was something there that had not been there before; a wariness, a retreat.
I realised that she had risked something to give me that piece of toffee, but whatever the voice held, I knew that it held a threat that she could not counter. There would be no more toffee today.
Sitting on my log looking at the see with my outer eye and this loving but cowed woman with my inner, I resigned myself to that past certainty.
Somehow I was able to suckle on the toffee of my memory as well as the real treat of the moment. I knew the moment the child realised there would be no more toffee that day; felt her resentment at the cold controlling voice beyond the window and her curling contempt for the frail figure in front of her who could not contend with the voice.
I felt the rage of the child at being controlled by these contesting women whose personal battles were being fought out in her body and mind. The helpless rage of the powerless is flooded her little body and spilled over into mine. It knocked me from my emotional feet and I floundered, flailing my arms fruitlessly searching for an anchorage, a place to hold onto and get my balance.
Without thinking I put out my hand to catch and steady the drowning child. I caught her arm and swung her round to float out the tidal wave supported by my strength. I tightened my arms in what might be an embrace and in that moment dropped my head to hers and kissed her wavy red hair.
I felt her respond; leaning, tentatively at first, into my support. If I thought it odd to feel both giver and receiver, it was only on later reflection.
As the toffee in my mouth dissolved so too did the angry little redhead, comforted and soothed from her own future, without the need for more sugar.
The seagulls called warnings to each other of gull business I did not understand. Janus had taken his shirt off and was sprawled over his end of the log that we shared.
I cupped the paralysed side of my face in my left hand. Was it my imagination, was the mouth straighter?
“Tell me, Janus; I can ask you what nobody else can know. Why do you think I have this double faced Aspect? I know you can look back at the old
year and forward to the new with your to faces, but what is could there be in a single face that is split into frozen and mobile halves?”
He said nothing.
“Tell me what you think,” I demanded.
“More toffee?” He offered the bag again.
“No, thank you,” I said. “I don’t want any more.”
I briefly saw the grey-haired woman at the brown stone sink. Her shoulders relaxed their tension and she got back to her washing up. A faint refrain of a Charles Wesley hymn sounded in the background.
“Ah,” I said.
“Ah,” Janus echoed.
In the warmth of the afternoon sun, I felt some of the tension leave my own face, trickle down my shoulders and flow out into the glimmering shimmering sea.