…so they would be safe. However, as we think it will be is not always how it transpires. More was expected of him, being older. Strange then that such foolishness came from him, not from her.
She could see all the dangers, the perils behind them illuminated for her the dangers in the ways forward. The whirlpool of passionate love swallowed her in deep. Such reason as she at first tried to apply was soon swept away. Together they would go wherever, do whatever, escape however. Together they would be, forever.
In their time of troubles, in the making of them, she was not entirely innocent. Jealous gossips later said it was pride in her own great beauty drove her to such extremes. No woman they said, could be so unaware of her own beauty as to be senseless of it’s effects on others, no woman…
…strange how none of the jealous gossips who speak in such vicious tones are never troubled by the burdens of beauty themselves.
It was a small enough world they lived in, you could only hide in it for so long. They never spoke of a first meeting. Did their overwhelming love grow slowly, a great blaze from a tiny spark? Was it perhaps a sudden light, flaring in blinding brightness through the dark night? They never said before the time came when they could no longer say.
The same gossips who were so critical of her unquestioned loveliness, were their ultimate undoing. That is the way, the path of gossip. Once the tales, the whispers, are unleashed they can never be unsaid.
Long years ago a wise teacher told me that if you wished to retrieve words spoken you might as well take a pillow filled with the finest of feathers to the top of the highest mountain you could see. There you must shake loose the feathers, turning all the while to the four corners of the world. Repairing the damage of ill-chosen words was as easy as gathering once again each and every feather and restoring it to its place in the pillow.
Soon the lovers had more to contend with than words. One day in the narrowest of lanes leading into the Great Market a clay flowerpot fell from on high. He was lucky. A full blow on the head from that and no surgeon, no matter how skilled, could save him. As it was the pot hit a ledge on the sudden downward flight and fragments flew everywhere.
His scars were simply added to yet again. The malicious gossips commenting on his ugliness compared to her much maligned beauty now had even more to say.
It did not help their cause that that one tiny fragment flew away from him, towards an old storyteller, the lane being that of the scribes, storytellers and singers. A storyteller can be a dangerous enemy at the best of times. One who has lost the sight of an eye, blinded by a projectile meant for another, could be a terrible source of trouble indeed.
Tellers of tales can tease the truth to torment others. That he may have stepped into the lane from his lair of manuscripts to ponder the man of scandal passing by possibly rendered his cup of bitterness even more galling.
They say that the strange day was not finished then, they say that…
(The manuscript is unclear here, I have left out some pieces I cannot understand, dear Reader forgive me)
The lanes of the clothing for women were some distance away, at the far side of the Great Market. This led on directly to the Quays. Inside one of the finest shops in the best part of the lane of the finest women’s clothes she waited to try on something new.
The owner, an older woman who wisely presented herself plainly to her customers, helped her in her choosing. In her plainness the woman of the shop supported the faith of her customers in their own beauty. Alone, when evening had come, when the doors and shutters were firmly closed, the candles lit, she had the choice of all she showed to others during the day. All the wonderful colours, fabrics, dyes, scents, powders, jewels, sandals, shoes were hers to choose. It was then and only then, she would reveal to herself and her many mirrors the truth of her own loveliness.
With her customers she gave pride of place to them, by false praise she lined her pockets, all the while attracting no attention, or jealousy, to herself.
That day the woman in love, in exhilarating, disapproved, scandalous love, glowed with the inner beauty of all women in the first flushes of the blinding light of love. Truly, she needed no further enhancements, no more adornments. Yet she could not resist the allure of the fine materials the woman of the shop laid out for her.
It was the older woman who picked out clothes she could try. These were such that her customer must needs disrobe. Stepping behind some curtains she removed her street clothes and reached her hand through to receive the chosen garments.
To her utmost horror, as she did so, the flimsy rail supporting the curtains seemed to collapse of it’s own accord. There she was exposed, her beauty momentarily naked, unadorned.
Stranger still, even more horrifying, she caught a glimpse of a silent knot of people, women and men alike, standing around the door and the little windows. Somehow items previously displayed on the window ledge had vanished, making the interior even more visible.
She turned her back in confusion as the woman of the shop covered her in apologies and curtains.
The image of silent figures with burning hostile eyes almost glowing in the darkness of the lane was seared in her memory. When she could turn again they were gone, as mysteriously vanished as they had arrived.
Some say it was that very day the lovers first made their desperate plans. Who can say? Certainly they cannot. It is known for certain that they were seen later beyond the lanes and narrow streets leading from the Great Market. Far out on the Breakwater they were seen walking together. Almost at the end they seemed to spend a long time looking out across the waves, beyond the fishing boats, far beyond the great swirling masses of white birds drifting up and down the coast.
Then, for a time, they were not seen or heard of again. It cannot be said they were not spoken of during that time. For sure it was not anything like the storm of stories, songs, tales and so on that flowed later. It could not have been, not then.
Even during that quiet time they were still spoken of but it was along with all the other affairs with which people were concerned. The price of food, the movements of ships, the unpredictable nature of weather, the luck and otherwise of gamblers, births, deaths, illnesses, these all occupied peoples thoughts and words. In that time the two lovers were just one among many other concerns, for that little while.
Then they were gone. One morning, no-one knew precisely when, but crowds streamed towards the quays where the cut ropes that had fastened tight one of the boats were held up as further proof of their treachery.
It wasn’t long before other boats were made ready, there was no shortage of people to take part in the pursuit. Swiftly the best were chosen, the boats launched, the chase begun. There was no doubt now as to the outcome and what the terrible future would bring to them upon their return.
Surely, all thought, they had no chance…
(At this point the manuscript finally ends. Other than some faint drawings we know no more.)
February 2015 – ‘Otherworldly Originals’ Month
This story is part of the Short Story Sunday ‘Otherworldly Originals Month’ which continues throughout February with a quirky, distinctive and original story every Sunday.
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