Tuesday, September 04, 2007

vignette: the empress of trick

I watch him sleeping now, this stranger in my bed. At rest, his eyelids conceal his brilliant mismatched eyes – one green as a moss-covered glen, the other a cornflower blue.

“My mother loved cats and was loved by them in return,” he told me earlier when he found me staring at him. “Some folk back at home even whisper that I am cat-kin, and that my mother went a-dancing with the feline spirits under a harvest of moonlight. It’s only well that my real father didn’t ever catch wind of it – it would have broken his heart.”

I recall nodding then, mute as always. The shock of how fast events had taken place still weighed heavily on me.

“But whether that rumor be true or not, I love the strangeness of my eyes. They make me seem a little more than I am. But it’s all seeming, really. Nothing but an accident of color. They only become special when people think they belie something else. Do they bother you, girl-wife?"

I did not answer him, quickly lowering my gaze to the marble floor of the tapestried room where we spoke. I felt his piercing gaze cover me, razing all my garments in a haze of blue and green. Under the torrid heat of his eyes, I was made aware of only one thing: my nakedness under the robes of Imperial red and gold that I wore, the very ones that once belonged to his mother, he said.

Even now, as I watch him breathe and dream (what could his dreams be?) I shudder at his form. For where fortune or felinity had granted him the marvel of his eyes, he had been robbed of everything else. The rest of his face was dominated by a nose twisted to one side by an over generous mouth. His hair was of a rough and unkempt brown, framing his harsh features. On his back between his shoulders , a small lump grew. And where his forearms were massive and covered with hair, his legs were thin, pale and bare – almost like a woman’s.

After the funeral and the marriage came the evening I most dreaded. We were left alone by the courtiers and well-wishers, ladies-in-waiting, cousins and other crowned heads. I was dressed in borrowed splendor but my tears outshone all my jewels and finery.

“Do not be afraid, girl-wife,” he whispered as he began to kiss my neck.

When I was younger I had dreamed of a prince on a white charger, of us galloping to his castle far away. Or else a handsome tailor, common but truehearted, clever and kind. Or a young soldier returning from a distant war, with three mysterious hounds each larger and more magnificent than the other.

“I loved you the first moment I heard of you. And I knew it to be true when I first beheld you."

He had revealed all of me by then, leaving a pile of regal clothing on the floor. He carried me to the bed. I could not bear to look while he disrobed – I was wondering when my tears would stop flowing.

“You will learn to love me.”

Was that love he showed me that night? I realized that I was not breathing all that time.



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