Maggie Rainey-Smith: Organic Whole

Dec 2023 | Short story

All her feelings… sharp and defined, one as true as the other – yet contradictory. She loathes him, yet she loves him. She wants yet she also wastes what it is she wants. Keeps him at bay, not in play, but confusion. In torment she writes to him. He is kind but cruel and frequently unaffected. Not affected the way she is with these sharp and defined and contradictory feelings. What is she supposed to do about them? He is her mentor, editor, her sometime companion, and sometime lover. How she loves him.

In Menton the sun shines. The heat, the heat of December, the sea lapping and it is a kind of bliss. He will come for Christmas, bring champagne, her lover, critic, one half of an organic whole. Meanwhile the butter and sugar thief slips in and out, provisioning.

At night she draws a shawl about her shoulders in the garden. She could almost touch the train as it passes. It rattles in her heart. She would like at times to leap into a lit carriage and fly away to an unknown destination high in the mountains with clear air and clean lungs and a fresh page to write on. The stories are crowding in, filling her with contradictory feelings, both sharp and defined. Memories of home, her brother, the beach, the slap-slap of water, the secret hush-hush of fog both lifting and shifting, revealing. Revealing her feelings. Childhood with all its terrors and comforts. Childhood, sheltering in the dunes, hiding in the toi toi, running, running across the sand, into the sea, into the sparkling cold sea. Wet bathers on the balustrade.

She shivers, draws her shawl closer, heart thumping, breathless a little, her lungs pumping, her pathetic shallow-drawing lungs as if filled with sand-memories, clogging her killing her but still she writes and he comes as he promised bearing champagne and her spirits lift and they are, briefly that organic whole she wrote of. Did she write it into being, or is it true? Did he love her the way she wanted or did she dream this, like a chain of champagne bubbles, rising, rising, intoxicating.

The moon rises, she eats a pear that the butter and sugar thief has quartered, the pips all gone, just one left on the small knife beside the plate, a lonely pip that she will throw into the garden, imagine a flowering pear tree, the moonlight, Murray gone now, for he is a distraction, her sharp and defined feelings returning, a yearning for home and family, and she breathes easier, almost asleep, the shawl about her shoulders, the warm sea breeze across her arms.

She will wake. Go inside. She will write. She will travel to the Swiss mountains seeking truth. The Burnells, The Kelveys, The Kembers, sharply drawn, well defined.

We hear her now, one hundred years on, marvelling at her feelings, sharp and defined, all her feelings.


Maggie Rainey-Smith is a novelist and poet who lives in Days Bay Oruamotoro looking out towards Downes Point where Katherine Mansfield and her family once holidayed.  Her poetry collection Formica (The Cuba Press, 2022) includes two poems inspired by themes from KM short stories ‘At the Bay’ and ‘Her First Ball’.

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