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Nights of Summer

Chapter Text

Come back, come back, my dearest love!
Like a flower far from the sun,
The flower of my life has drooped,
Removed from the charm of your smile.

Between our hearts how long a distance!
Too much space between our kisses!
O bitter fate! O cruel absence!
O great longing, so unsatisfied!

From there to there, how wide the country,
How many towns and hamlets,
What winding valleys, rugged mountains,
To tire the horses along the way

 

Another night has fallen. The red of sunset has faded to darkness, and even the stars shine dim. Again she did not come. What must it take for me to see her again? How long must I wait in torment, unable to know her whereabouts or, more importantly, her feelings. Was it only a dream? Did we not swear to one another that this passion, this secret flame would not be smothered? Every moment I am ready for her, yearning for her arms, and every evening my hopes are dashed, to rise once again with the dawn. Night has become my foe.

I read her letters, so few and sparse, yet telling even in their brevity. The way her pen hesitates on a letter or embellishes a word speaks volumes, though she may not know it. She is so careful with her words that, to a mere observer, we would seem to be nothing more than friends. It is only in these last few tortured days that I have begun to doubt…but no, I cannot think of such things. There can be no mistaking her feelings, nor mine. The only question is whether fate and society will force her into an empty life devoid of passion, or whether she will leave her old world behind and come with me to build our new life together.

I lie ensconced in my bedroom, unwilling to leave even for meals; my clothes seem to hang off of my shrunken frame. There is no sanity left in me, for if she does not come surely I shall throw myself from the far cliffs and into the sea. What use is it to live without my beloved?

As I gaze out the window I see birds rising from the trees, their calls shrill and jarring. I envy them their wings: they alone can fly to my beloved’s side, see where she sleeps tonight. Is it in her father’s house, safe and untroubled by cruel dreams? Or perhaps an inn along the road, halfway to my arms? Oh, were I in her position I would not rest until I held her in my embrace. Until then I must waste away, content in the idea that, should she not return to me, I will not rest much longer upon this earth.

Chapter Text

When verdant spring again approaches,
When winter’s chills have disappeared,
Together we shall stroll, my darling,
To cut the fair primrose of the forest.

The trembling pearls of dew under our feet,
Each morning we shall brush aside;
We shall go to hear the gay thrushes singing.

Come with me on the mossy bank,
Where we’ll talk of nothing else but love,
And whisper with thy voice so tender: Always!

Far, far off let us wander,
Fright’ning the hiding hare away,
While the deer at the spring is gazing,
Admiring his reflected horns.

Then back home, with our hearts rejoicing,
And fondly our fingers entwined,
Let’s return, bringing strawberries of the forest.

 

There is no happiness like this elsewhere in the universe. The sky has never seemed as blue, the grass as lush and green. All around me nature has awakened and I am alive again, for I feel her hand in mine. I do not walk, I float—my heart is so light it lifts me clear off the ground. Surely, were it not for fear of leaving her behind, I would rise up into the heavens, lifted on wings of pure joy.

I am searching for her, racing through the woods, not frantic that I have lost her but overcome with excitement. We play like children, ducking behind trees here and there, yelling and laughing without heed for our clothes or our station. If a passerby were to spot us I have no doubt he or she would be so appalled as to report to the authorities that a pair of lunatics had escaped the madhouse. Indeed, I feel as though I am mad—mad with joy and drunk on happiness. Can there be a better way to go through life than this?

We move in tandem, she and I. We are of one thought, one mind. Our eyes meet and my heart stops, for I know what she feels. It is the same rush of emotion that I feel, the kind that fills up my heart until it is fit to burst. I cannot breathe, I am overwhelmed. Upon seeing me she descends gracefully to sit upon the grass, pulling me down beside her and guiding my head so that it lies in her lap. As I gaze up at the night sky, stars wink at me, their beautiful lights so small and insignificant next to my star, my beloved.

I do not protest when she pulls me to my feet, nor when in her rush she nearly extinguishes our small lamp. The darkness is my ally, as it draws her even closer to me. As we reach the door she gives one last glance around, as though checking to see that no one is watching us. Her concern brings me a fleeting moment of sadness, and impulsively I kiss her. Though her first reaction is shock she soon yields to me. When we at last break away from one another I see that her eyes have filled with tears, not of sadness but of relief. There will be no more hiding for us, no more clandestine encounters far from prying eyes. Let the world say what it will. All that matters in my life stands here before me, and she is mine!

Chapter Text

Open your closed eyelid
Which is gently brushed by a virginal dream!
I am the ghost of the rose
That you wore last night at the ball.

You took me when I was still sprinkled with pearls
Of silvery tears from the watering-can,
And, among the sparkling festivities,
You carried me the entire night.

O you, who caused my death:
Without the power to chase it away,
You will be visited every night by my ghost,
Which will dance at your bedside.

But fear nothing; I demand
Neither mass nor De Profundis;
This mild perfume is my soul,
And I’ve come from paradise.

My destiny is worthy of envy;
And to have a fate so fine,
More than one would give his life
For on your breast I have my tomb,

And on the alabaster where I rest,
A poet with a kiss wrote:
“Here lies a rose,
Of which all kings may be jealous.”

 

She is, if anything, more lovely asleep. The soft brown of her hair descends in waves over her shoulders and back. It smells of roses, a perfume free from the cloying sweetness of society’s eligible females.

When I first met her she was so young and innocent next to the little vultures of the court. While snobbish heiresses and their formidable mothers fought for the attention of the titled bachelor set, she chose instead to escape onto a terrace and avoid the appraising stares of the men. I followed her, ignoring the occasional disapproving glance cast my way. I did not care what the matrons thought of my reluctance to marry, nor of my independent ways. My life was my own, and if a life of solitude was what it took to escape the marriage market then solitary I would stay. But something about the way she’d looked at the predators of the court, the hint of fear and trepidation as she felt the eyes of the patricians examining her for flaws, caught my attention and my sympathy. Here was a girl who wanted to be at the ball about as much as I did. At the first opportunity I followed her onto the terrace, intent upon learning more about the timid newcomer. I expected to find her immediately, perhaps seated on a convenient bench, but instead I had to search a full five minutes before discovering her in the garden, kneeling to admire a cluster of tiny purple flowers. I approached her silently, waiting until I was close behind her to clear my throat. She gasped and hurried to stand, nearly falling over in her rush. I reached out and grasped her arm, helping her to remain upright, and her startled eyes met mine. They were a deep blue, framed by long lashes, and I could sense the spark of intelligence that lay behind them. She took a close look at me before relaxing and freeing herself from my grip. She murmured her thanks, and as we introduced ourselves I could not help but notice how her eyes lingered on me. My eyes were drawn to her as well, and I began to notice the graceful slope of her shoulders, the tilt to her head that bespoke her curiosity in everything around her, the way her skin seemed to glow in the moonlight. She was radiant. We spoke of flowers at first, then of other things, and she was more engaging than women twice her age. I could have been content to wander the garden with her all night, but all too soon she was called inside by a severe looking woman in black who shot me a warning glance as if to say, “You are hardly the sort of company she needs.” Perhaps it was the unspoken admonishment that irked me, or simply the pain of losing my companion, but I heard myself call to the girl to wait. Breaking off a single white rose from a bush at my feet, I presented it to her with a flourish. She accepted it and curtsied, and as she rose I saw in her eyes how much she wished we could remain together alone. Her thoughts, not for the last time, mirrored my own, and as we returned to the ball I vowed that I would someday know everything that lay behind those eyes.

The sun begins to stream in through the windows, the white linen curtains doing nothing to halt the rays. I find myself growing impatient and, like a child, I begin to tease my sleeping beauty, my dearest. I nudge her arm, whisper in her ear, slowly walk my fingers along her collarbone. I am so intent on my work I do not notice that she has awakened until with a flash of those sapphire eyes she pulls me down onto the bed beside her once more. Her expression is one of rebuke, but there is something else there, something more inviting, and all at once the breaking day holds no allure for me at all.

To drink so deeply from the cup of joy is surely a sin, for in these hours together she has become my idol, my goddess on earth. Some might say that I have lost my mind, but I say the opposite: my beloved has given me back my mind. So long as my thoughts lie with her I can never be unhappy, and the memory of this, the first of many nights we will have together, will light up all my days to come.

Indeed, our love has transcended words, and we have no need for speech. The light perfume that she brings into a room, the nameless tune she hums as she leans out the window to view the garden, the feel of our interlaced fingers as we walk hand and hand through the forest—these things are far greater than words can express. Our love has become a deity in its own right, an eternal and infinite being to watch over us forever. Thus we shall live in bliss until time itself, jealous of our happiness, stops out of sheer spite.

Chapter Text

My beautiful love is dead:
I shall weep always;
Into the tomb, she has taken
My soul and my love.
Without waiting for me,
She has returned to heaven.
The angel which took her there
Did not want to take me.
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! without love, to go to sea!

The white creature
Is lying in the coffin;
How all in Nature
Seems bereaved to me!
The forgotten dove
Weeps and dreams of the one who is absent;
My soul cries and feels
That it has been abandoned.
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! without love, to go to sea!

Above me the immense night
Spreads itself like a shroud;
I sing my romanza
That heaven alone hears.

Ah! how beautiful she was,
And how I loved her!
I will never love
Another woman as much as I loved her;
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! without love, to go to sea! To go to sea!

 

My beloved is dead. I cannot speak nor move for grief. In one cruel act Death’s avenging angel has blotted out all light in the world. Oh, merciless death, could you not have taken me too? I am a soulless shell, for she was my soul. I am a lifeless husk, for my heart lies silent in a faraway grave. Night, once my enemy as I waited for her return, now acts as my only friend and confidant. To it alone can I express my pain, my emptiness. I shall never love again.

As I reread the letter for the thousandth time the old rage and denial courses through me. A carriage accident. No other injuries. Only my life, my beloved was lost. Again and again I think they must have made a mistake. As I gaze over the sheets of the bed, our bed that we shared, I can still see her lying there. Her memory is so fresh in my mind that I half expect her to rise and chide me for my foolishness. But no, even in dreams she cannot rise to greet me again. The image blurs, my eyes are shielded from the sight by my helpless tears.

Cloudless sky. The blue of the sky is a pale imitation of my beloved’s eyes. As I make my way slowly through the garden I see nature blooming unchanged around me. I turn angrily to return to the house when I see a white rosebush in the far corner. In contrast to its gaily blooming sisters, this rose has lost nearly all its petals. The wilting blooms speak of a sadness and loss beyond words. I gather a handful of petals, their edges browned, and a few slip through my fingers. The perfume was there, but with it an edge of decay. Quickly dropping the rest, I escape inside, slamming the door behind me.

I have retreated to a small town by the sea. I could not stand to be in the house we’d shared for a moment longer. The memories were too much for me. Yet now, as I stand gazing out at the relentless waves crashing upon the shore, I wish I had stayed after all. Her voice has been haunting me, driving me to madness. Here, with the pounding of the waves filling my ears, her voice has faded away, and I long for it as I long for her with every fiber of my being. A sudden desire grips me, a desire to fall into those waves and let myself be carried into darkness beneath the water. Death brings a peace unknown to those whose hearts have been stolen away.

Chapter Text

Say, young beauty,
Where do you wish to go?
The sail swells,
The breeze will blow.

The oar is made of ivory,
The flag is of silk,
The helm is of fine gold;
I have for ballast an orange,
For a sail, the wing of an angel,
For a deck boy, a seraph.

Say, young beauty,
Where do you wish to go?
The sail swells,
The breeze will blow.

Is it to the Baltic?
To the Pacific Ocean?
To the island of Java?
Or is it well to Norway,
To gather the flower of the snow,
Or the flower of Angsoka?

Say, young beauty,
Where do you wish to go?

“Lead me,” says the beauty,
“To the faithful shore
Where one loves always!”

This shore, my darling,
We hardly know at all
In the land of Love.

The sail swells,
The breeze will blow!

 

She is with me once more, in my mind. I speak to her, silently or out loud, and hear her soft voice whisper in my ears only. This night is particularly trying, for it is my reemergence into society. I would never have bothered, save for the fact that that it was at this very ball one year ago where my beloved and I first met. Like then, I gaze around the ballroom with disinterest. The glitter and pomp both discomfort me and bore me. I hear her ghostly voice laugh at me as it points out a girl here, a girl there. She teases me, but I cannot even bear to look at other women. Ignoring the tears that threaten to spill over, I walk slowly and purposefully onto the terrace. I know the voice is trying to tell me something, but I refuse to listen. I know that all I can do now is move forward with life, but it is impossible to forget what once was.

I walk into the garden, searching for the rosebush from which I first plucked a single white rose for my beloved. My heart stops, frozen. The roses are gone. The little garden is no more. A grassy lawn now stretches, unbroken, from the terrace to the far off trees. Even nature has moved on.

The seaside town has become my retreat, of sorts. I have rented a little cottage overlooking the ocean. The locals exchanged dubious glances when I first expressed interest, but since then they have grown used to my presence and do not bother me. I find it peaceful here. My heart still aches, and always will, but the time has come and gone when I would have eagerly embraced death. On this night I have found an isolated cliff overlooking the water. The sky is studded with stars, their tiny lights casting reflections on the water. I sit on the edge of the cliff, my feet dangling over the precipice. My thoughts turn to her, as they always do, but this time I have a purpose. Taking a slow, deep breath, I begin to speak aloud to her. I tell her how I loved her and what she meant to me. I tell her how she will always be with me. I reminisce about our moments of laughter and of love. Every second, every detail I can remember I direct to the stars, to the waves, and to my beloved. I do not expect to find answers as to why death took her from me. I stopped searching for those answers long ago. Nothing will bring her back to me—I understand that now. From this point onward I seek peace, peace for both of us.

As I speak I watch each star flicker and fade. Before I know it the sky is empty and black, the first rays of dawn just beginning to appear on the horizon. I feel calm and serene as I watch the sky grow light. The night has passed so quickly, I barely noticed. For the first time since her death I feel ready to meet the dawn and the challenges of day. This night has been our goodbye.

As sunrise turned the sky gold I heard a rustle in the bushes behind me. Turning, I saw a local villager, red faced and puffing from the climb. I had not noticed last night how steep the path to cliff was, so intent was I upon my purpose for making the ascent. The villager, however, was far more aware of the height as he peered over the edge down to the ocean below. Noticing the sharp rocks below he winced, then offered me his arm. “This place isn't safe for anyone, not even those who know the cliffs best. You’d best come with me, milady, and we’ll go down nice and careful together.”

Taking one last look over the water, I nodded to him and took the offered arm, then grasped my skirt in the other hand and proceeded carefully down the path.