Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Adam and Eve

Chapter 17

When Cymen Ruecross was fated to return to Gafe, it would be Winter Mass.  Eve plucked a holly leaf from the wreath nearest her, and smelled it.  Then, liking it too much, worked prying the thing from its nail to a door, pricking her fingers and yelping throughout what was supposed to be a stealthy job, got it, screamed joy and ran, and only then did the poor person open their front door.

"I saw the Virgin covered exactly in holly.  I saw the Maiden Mother herself!" the child with paint smears all over his cheeks squealed and ran back into the house to further frustrate his parents.

How wrong, anyone could ever be, about Eve.

Though she hid from Margarethe all day because of the trespass, word still got to the wayward woman that there were good things due her, if she were to show up at Church, and on time, on Sunday.  Eve did so, and saw it was the start of Endvent.  She wasn't particularly fond of the service recently.  Something about Micco being just beyond the great doors and the altar upset her, but today, other than the surprise, it was more to test Margarethe's wrath before so many, new game! 

Eve arrived late, with pointed leaves sewn all over her gray dress--it took a sad amount of skill to be this naughty, needle bending through cloth, and holly pricker sticking every other stitch.  Margarethe eyed Eve sideways, and whispered that she would not be discouraged at saving her, the effort only showed she had promise.

"What?  I can't hear you talking in the middle of mass, over the priest, Margarethe?" Eve asked loudly in response.

Margarethe flushed red and nabbed grinning Eve by the ear as soon as the service finished.  Much to Eve's frustration, not a soul there had a problem with it.

"Ow, ow, ow!  I will never go to Church again, I promise you.  I hate it now, oh how I hate it!"

"Don't say that, it's blasphemous."

"It's true, I tell you."  They went round a corner, and Eve was let go.  She instantly nursed her ear and made enough noise for everyone without view to hear.  "And this is worse, perhaps worse than that time you dragged me to the dragon cave."

"Oh, it is not--"

"Is so!  That is how much I dislike looking upon that altar, and knowing what he said, it is.  It is."

Margarethe scrutinized her.  "Child, I've never seen you so particularly upset.  You usually embrace anything involving charity--and the service will feed you if you haven't sinned."

"Heh, and water you too..."

Margarethe pressed the issue again, when Eve's smile faded.  "I suppose... someone said something to me.  A handsome someone, that I used to believe in."

"Not you-know-who, we hear his name evermuch.  Second, we disproved the dragon's existence.  But if not either of those, then whom else?"

"Micco said... Well, he told me that he was only..." Eve sat on the floor and cried.  Margarethe hugged her.

"Love, you can't base your faith on one person."

"Not even an angel-person?"

"It must come from you, and be because you want it to be.  But what could he have possibly said that was so terrible?  Come, I know everything about Scripture.  You must have misinterpreted, and I can set it right."

There was no consolation to be had on that point, and so Margarethe went on with the 'good thing' she had promised.  "I have a letter for you.  Have you been practicing your reading?"

Eve said she wasn't.  She was too upset and distracted to manage a good lie, and looked embarrassed about that more than anything else.

Margarethe looked around, smiling very scandalously for her, and then unfolded the crackling paper.

My dearest Margarethe, I wish to thank you for watching sweet Eve all this time I was away.  As you proscribed, I did the meditations, reflected upon my own mortal shortcomings, and I see now that I was cruel to have judged her so harshly.

"Wait!  Who is speaking of me?  What's this new scheme?"

"Shh!  That's the best part... now he writes,"

I have found in my travels, therefore, and through all this hardship, that I am still capable of the tenderest feelings.  In a hundred years, I have not felt as much joy as when she first enchanted me.  But that was no curse, Margarethe, do you not agree?  It was a miracle cast upon me, for King Micco teaches that there are no such things as witches.  A miracle cast upon me by a wild woman, a sweet and lovely woman.  I do not think it ever wore off, Mother Superior, as we have both examined these last few months.  It served to open the window to my heart.  And she is the only good friend, most precious lady that I have been fighting for, I find, and distressed over, that I might have left her so hurt.  Until this day, to think that I left to risk myself and said nothing to her!

Eve had nothing to say now, herself.  She rested chin at the meeting of her knees and leaned even closer to the shuffling pages.

I thank you, Mother Margarethe, for watching over her, and molding her into a woman I can keep.  I await an agreeable response to my proposal of marriage forthwith!  But, please do one last favor to me, and refrain from telling her so much, only keep her happy and give comfort that we are in good standing... And please say a special prayer, because yesterday Archbishop Damascus was impaled, blah blah blah... 

"Oh, Eve!  Isn't this wonderful?" and seized her in a fierce hug.

"A woman he can keep?  Mold me?  And Damscus impaled who now?"

"Yes, and you've succeeded, I worked hard on you, and you've arrived.  The only thing left is to get you back into Chapel, and that will perfect it!  Oh, what a good deed I've done, the Father above would be pleased.  If heaven were open I'd be so certain to join the angels for taking on a project such as you, Eve.  And look, your eyes are less yellow.  Or, shall I call you Lady Ruecross!"

Eve pounded on Margarethe's shoulders and tore apart from her.  "Your attention toward me, all these half-brained trips all over, tramping after dragons, forcing me to grow myself... I thought that I was growing myself.  But you were cutting at me and grafting me like a tree.  A very tree!  Isn't that what you said the very moment we first spoke--"

"Don't flatter yourself, girl.  Cymen is a prize, and you were not anywhere near his sights back then.  It was only after he went away, found himself caught up in the throes of war, and then also tortured, incredibly lonely, depressed, stuck with a sassy unicorn with no reprieve, and in need of spiritual guidance...  Then, he wrote me.  He should not have, considering, but he did.  And I saw right away that he wrestled with tender feelings for you, and with guilt.  Cymen thought he would not be a gentleman if he ever returned the ferocity which you showed him, and, boy, did he feel it... but then he also felt he could not be a man if he went on and denied you even friendship, for fear.  He wanted what was best for you, but felt he was not that.  A man, and a virgin--bless me, I'm not to think of these things anymore, and aren't we all called to chastity, if not abstinence--but Cymen's been in the saddle--and not, if you see my meaning--for a hundred years.  A whole century without love.  He felt himself incapable of it.  I told him that even the Lord above loves, and he loves lovers within that vast embrace, and that was the start of many letters shuffled back and forth with supplies between us from Gafe.  He needed the voice of a sensible woman about another... less sensible one.  Dear, what troubles you when the only thing left to do is cream all over him as always?  Cymen is coming home, whole, and to you!"

Eve took the letter.  She could not have been re-reading it, but she folded it carefully and stowed it away inside her holly-dress.

"You do realize that is Cymen's letter to me, that you are concealing?"

Eve flinched, and reached around awkwardly to retrieve it.  Then, she said, "I... I suppose I am lucky after all.  Cymen cares for me.  And you used the word 'ferocity' didn't you?  Did he use that very word?"

She snatched the letter. "Not... essentially.  Oh, but can you imagine what it must be like for a virgin and after a whole hundred years, Eve."

"Am I the one destined to bed him, or are you?"

"Dammit, woman, if you don't marry that man and make him excessively happy with your evident skills, I shall pray Purgatory take you early.  Oh, ungrateful!" then Margarethe stormed off.

Endvent arrived, the purple candles were lit, and all the people were asked to meditate on the miracle of the Maiden.  How did they fit into this sacred story of the miracle?  They should love themselves and one another even more, they should focus on his eventual Sacrifice with greater, soulful dedication.  All of humanity was blessed when the Angel Gajbrielle came down to the earth and delivered news to the first Archbishop, that from that day on, human miracle workers would be born.

The Maiden bore the first, as a virgin.

Eve only caught half of the message, being so elusive.  She never did quit being so lusty, and could only think of virginity, and how she had once been a virgin and that was torn away, and now Cymen was a virgin.  What did he want with her?  With someone like her?  Why had it been necessary to mold her into 'a woman he could keep?'  Perhaps she needed to be molded.  Perhaps she had been born dirty, unworthy.  He deserved sacred ground on which to become a man, to plant his seed... would she give him children?  Eve was not even sure if she wanted children.  In fact, she never indulged the idea of being a mother, with the world so bad.  It never ever seemed possible.  She always feared to want it.

They lit the pink candle on the third week, which was a warning, and finally, the last purple was due to burn.  It would be a mid-night mass.  On that evening, Eve sat at the table before her finished dinner and watched the smiling people get up and pair off to go to services.  Damascus, Cymen, and the rest of the army had finally got within conjuring range, and would be summoned, on schedule, by the real moment of Winter Mass.  A staged miracle when the army was fine and warm, why not?  A delight to everyone.

Eve swept her plate off the empty table when she was alone in the hall, and watched it crash all over the floor.

"Miss!  Oh, Miss, you're gonna make us late... Here, no I'll clean it up.  You go on, at least.  I'm just a scullery boy, you go on.  I can finish it fast, it's all I ever do."

Eve gazed at him, not really finished with her anger.

"You're dressed very nicely, for 'just a scullery boy.'  Besides, don't you know we're all equal in the eyes of King Micco, and so forth.  Ugh.  If you are going to hate someone hate him for not seeing you, don't hate yourself."

"But I don't hate myself?"

"Yes, you do.  You've made a grand and fruitful effort to look so good on the eve of Winter Mass, but yet you don't even congratulate yourself."

She looked up from between the palms of her fists.  The table and its crumbs beneath her elbows now seemed a lot less interesting.  All that pause meant the young man was blushing at her.  Why did he call himself a boy?  Was it meant to go along with all that insistence on his inferiority?  Cut blonde hair that covered one eye before the longer part stuffed behind perfect ears.  Perfect, perfect ears on a man?  When was the last time... not even Micco had such well-formed ears.  Maybe it had to do with actually being birthed of someone, forced through the flesh-canal, stamped by real mortal pain and sin and all that.  Skull squeezed, ears pressed rightly against the head.  A lifetime of hardship to ferment thoughts between them, until one day, they bravely unstuck.  As a man, now.  A newly minted man, every arch and bridge of his ears were apparent, and they were clean, too.  Eve had never seen a man so carefully clean his ears.  Down to the soft, unpierced lobes that blushed with the tension in him, ashamed for having admired her, and church being so close nearby.  Several lanterns were blown out, as the rest of the staff finished up at the head of the hall.

"I'll get the last of it, there... we're gonna be late.  I'll, uh, escort you."

"You don't like Church either.  This is the first time you've gone, all year, I can tell.  But how did you ever manage such a sin without the monks watching?"

"I take extra shifts, Ma'am.  But, now at the end of the year, I figured I'd make my peace."

"There's a girl there you want to see.  And she loves preaching, I take it.  Except, she never bothered to preach at you.  Mmm... but I could do better.  She's missing out."


Eve did all this without turning to him.  She folded her hands and thought of Cymen's molded right-standing lady, this woman he could keep.  She would never do this.  And how the angel's kiss must have worn off, by now.  In fact, it had been too long.  Two birds with one stone.

"What difference will one service make?  No, she will not see you.  It will not make a difference.  What you need to do is make her desire you.  Make yourself special."

"Me?  I don't understand, I'll admit that."

"I can teach you exactly what to say to her, Adam, and what to do to her.  Only, it has to be right now, and it has to be in my room."

He spooked at her knowing his name.  Eve had heard it shouted around before, it pleased her how well it matched and so she never forgot it.  Funny, how some things came together.

"You may have heard of me before, however.  I am a miracle worker, underneath the Archbishop Damascus himself, and star pupil to Mother Superior Margarethe.  It was I who found the holy Grail and began the Second Crusades!" she erupted from the table, long sleeves flying overhead, to slip down once the drama was done and bare ash-white arms revealed.  Eve itched them slightly, while trying to remember her point.  She left. "Let me work one of my finest miracles over on your body."

Adam had all the choice in the world.  He tossed out her core of apple, fretted at her tin plate being thrown in the rubbish pile as well, then decided to walk swiftly away instead, as if he had a purpose, as if he really believed this woman could help him at all.  As he watched her from behind it was nice to simultaneously recall, the exact shape of her breasts.

"I'm several confessions out you see, anyways." Adam told Eve on the stairs.  She turned, forced hands on his cheeks, still slightly round, and stole a kiss.

"Oh my, I forgot to ask your age, when I think I've still got my dignity."

"Seventeen--Eighteen... or something.  High enough?"

Another kiss.  "Hurry up, before Winter Mass lets out, the place is crawling with holies again, and the army gets here." She took his hand and they ran the rest of the way.

She was ashamed to find his awkward innocence arousing.  But fear was usurped by seeing Cymen's sword, unsheathed--whichever one it was, for they alternated menacing postures--did not matter.  The visions made her feel angry and protective.  Eve found herself willing to swallow Adam whole or eat him while alive, just open your mouth, come, tell me which you prefer! 

After, Eve luxuriated in the warm blanket.  Adam curled it tight up under her chin, pressed his whole naked weight against it.  They laughed together at the game.  He asked if she was finally warm, after all that.  She kissed him, said his cheeks were cold and then he tried to wrest the blanket away from her get inside with her, and more and more.  Adam finally asked why her door had been left open.

Cymen made not a sound when he entered.  When he saw, he came at them slowly, holding out a chain with amulet fastened to it.  Adam let it get as close as the tip of his nose, then clambered down from the bed, swept up his clothes and ran.  This left the holy knight standing before Eve's bed alone.  The sorceress gathered herself up, let the covers slip away, eyes already wet and said,

"Are you happy, with what Margarethe has done?  Go on, tell the truth."

Cymen's knuckles went white, he grasped the strange diadem so firmly by its lead.  He had not even removed his armor.  Polished for the evening.  The pommel of his longsword raised up over left shoulder.  Eve felt fear bloom again in her heart.  He was armed.  He could do anything.  No one would blame him.  She would not even blame him.  It was what they both deserved.  Go for it, then, and end this!

"I am so mad with craving and being craved by you, Cymen Ruecross!  I can't stand it, it rips my soul in two.  First you cannot have me, and now you come home to me?  Then you want to save me, I find salvation, and it's still not good enough for you?  Which is it?  What do we even have, when it's so cruel between us?  Are we not friends?"

He opened his mouth, and the first words he spoke were soundless.  So, Cymen tried again.  "This is the Hand of Fatima."

Cymen meant the trinket.  Eve backed away from him, but he went with her.  So fervently with her, and eyes taking in all of her blush-bruised nakedness, as if he meant to exorcise her!  She cursed him and slapped it from his hand. 

"...It wards off the Evil Eye.  It's rare and mystical, exotic. Even... incredibly odd? I felt... I felt that it suited you, Eve."

Cymen went to the floor and picked it up again.  Then, he lay the sacred object in the rumpled sheets.  A long scratch of his head, another look over her body.  Then, he backed away, through the door again, and withdrew.  Eve watched the gold metal frame of a woman's flat palm set sense in the wash of dark cloth confusion.  Steel scrape of a weapon being drawn beyond the door brought her back to life.  Eve snatched up the Hand of Fatima and ran.

"Cymen!  Cymen Ruecross, don't you touch him.  Don't murder him, it was me, I did it!  Please... It was Eve alone, who conspired to break your heart." 

People returning from Winter Mass saw her leaning over the wooden stairwell.  Crying, naked, fastening the ward around her neck as fast as she could with failing fingers.

Some very zealous and drunk person downstairs applauded, thinking this was true performance.  The entirety of man's destiny was play-acted at midnight Wintermass according to tradition.  And, Eve never did so well at being distraught, than when she was tossed out of her own garden.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So nice of you to get Randitty today. Hope your read was a good one!