Saturnia and Aprilis

Here begins the tale containing the merry-glum liaison of Aprilis and Saturnia which took place one festive night in May. Several factors converged to sanction the events that follow – chief amongst them were: the dominion at that time of Venus over the Earth and Ηer alignment with the Archer; the excess of salt and other sundry spices in the feast turkey; the profuseness of spirits indulged therein; the privation of natural sleep: a consequence of the latter; the fleeting manner of man: a consequence of the Fall; the free nature of woman: the cause of the Latter.  

Aprilis, while strolling about a fertile grove, chanced upon a hidden bower. “O, I wonder what is in this bower?” He mused. 

“Come and see! A quest awaits you here!” A sly voice came from within, announcing the appearance of an outstretched hand, laced in Tyrian purple. 

Aprilis traced the full length of that elegant limb, down to the tip of its index finger, and further still, all the way to the door of the animated house, to which it pointed. 

Stars and moon bent to peer into the bower with its tiny, trickling fountain shaped like a rooster, round marble bank and four columns, from which hung heavy dimpled curtains setting it apart from its wild milieu. 

A few moments later, the expectant hand, until then straight as the sword that bestows knighthood on the initiate, suddenly disappeared, and a leering female face, covered in tufts of disheveled hair, took its place in the opening of the curtains: “It really is you!” She cried out and without saying another word pounced on his neck. 

Saturnia instantly registered the tense angle of his body and felt the need to excuse herself: “I’m drunk as a donkey.” She puffed out into his shoulder. The strange expression made Aprilis chuckle in earnest. He straightened her up and held her out at a slight distance so he could examine her, while she ran her hand over the side of his face essentially to the same effect. She was just as he remembered: brown protruding eyes, oval freckled face, hair slightly shorter than it had been. Likewise, he, though having acquired some additional wrinkles on his otherwise juvenile face – to that day devoid of any noticeable hair – was the melancholy physiognomy she recalled. 

“It’s been…” They began in a duet cacophony. Enough for Saturnia to flout the exchange and start back into her bower: “No, you go ahead. I don’t even know.” She said. “Me neither…” He threw in after her, though it was doubtful she heard or cared. 

A second later he skipped into the bower, the curtains flapping shut behind him. He found her sitting down in a corner of the bank and sat opposite her. The dark settled between them. 

“Say, how did you come here?” He felt inclined to drop his voice almost to a whisper. “I was swept by a wave…” Saturnia answered with an easy laugh. “No, I mean…” “I was swept by a wave of people coming out of the house and you know that because you followed us.” She interrupted him with a hearty cackle. “Sure I did, but how did you come to the island in the first place is what I’m asking?” “I never left it.” This puzzled Aprilis, who seldom remained in one place for too long. “What about you? Where have you been?” She asked. “I came from Paris, and I’m going to Berlin next. I’ll do a post-doc there. Before Paris, I …” 

“Shush!” She wedged herself in his words again with impunity. That ‘shush’ sounded so loud it was picked up by the spiked cliffs of the shore and carried over the rocky rampart from point to point till it reached the sea. “Can you hear that?” There was a wailing sound coming from the ships anchored in the harbor. “He loved their song; said it was like the sirens.” She looked up at Aprilis and added, as though he didn’t already know: “Sydeus, I mean. He’s gone again.” 

Aprilis got up and drew the curtains, letting the full moon in. His eyes wandered through the intricate web of specter and gleam suspended over the shapeless mass of rocks that was the shore. “He will come back, won’t he?” He asked hesitantly. “He… always does.” Saturnia answered in a level voice. “Where did he go this time?” “Far.” “Well sometimes a little room to breathe can be a good thing, I suppose.” “I don’t need room to breathe. I want him here, let him suffocate me if he will.” Saturnia spoke through chapped lips; the profuse wine had soaked into them like water that floods the soil in an overnight storm and then dries in flakes in the coming day’s sun. 

“What?” She asked, as she saw Aprilis staring at her pensively. “I saw you inside. You seemed so … ecstatic.” And now she was blue, and so was he. Ecstatic blue – the royal color of bohemia. 

There was nothing she could say to that, so she just smiled faintly. Aprilis shifted his pose away from her, tucked his shirt into his pants more neatly, and waited. 

“Do you see that tiny islet there?” Saturnia asked after the pause. He nodded without turning to look. “I remember when we went there with Syd, the sand rubbed against my back and the combs of the little waves, for it was a quiet May morning, tickled my toes. That tiny islet is where I first made love.” Only at this did Aprillis care to venture a gaze on the obsidian lid of the sea in search for that happy islet. Abruptly, however, his excitement was punctured by the edged cliffs that affronted his eyes and he abandoned the search. 

The trickling of the fountain, the piquant night air infused with brine, and most of all Saturnia’s manner of speaking began turning Aprilis’ casual ease into drowsy indifference. He came to suspect she kept him here just so she wouldn’t be alone. If he hadn’t found her, she’d probably have cried herself to sleep on the marble bank and wouldn’t have even cared come morning. It was just better this way, when she had someone watching. None of this went unnoticed by Saturnia. 

“Have you ever loved anyone?” She asked in her old level voice, which soothed his past irritation somewhat but sparked new ones by the content of its query. “No.” Aprillis lied. “How would you like to love me then?” She said plainly. “How do you mean?” He answered with a baffled grin. “I will give you my love, if you want it.” “I don’t think I deserve it.” “You will.” “How?” “As a true knight must – you shall embark on a quest.” Aprillis fell silent. “Do you want to or not?” She urged him for an answer, but none came. 

“What exactly do you mean?” He asked after a while. “If you are a true knight and brave you must remove for me all the rocks from the island’s shore. Only then will you have my love.” “Why do you propose this?” “I pity you. And, alas, I know it to be impossible.” “What if I do it?” Aprillis said suddenly stern. She looked at him quizzically. “Do you mean to try?” There was a loud splash down on the shore and then a drawn-out hiss, as though a burning torch had fallen into the water. “I could find a way.” Green Aprillis proclaimed. She gave him a quaint smile. “But what about Sydious?” She had expected him to say that. “Come, come…” Was her ready reply. 

None of them knew what it meant. Yet there was some strange comfort in looking into the other’s eyes and imagining what that “come” could mean. 

Saturnia yawned. It was a luxurious, profuse yawn, like that of a lioness. She stretched out on the bench. “Your pose lady, does not become you.” It was this that blew the lid off their little game for good. They cracked like two seagulls screeching at the sky. “Well played, playfellow.” Came her voice, now suddenly gay. “M’lady.” Was the squire’s reply, who gave a deep theatrical curtsy. 

It was almost daybreak. A porphyrous strip sealed the sepia black sea in the West. On their end the waves found ways into dark fissures at the foot of the rocky shore, leaving white trails behind on the gravel, quickly taken up by the next assailant. As far as a mile offshore, less distinct but still lurid, the outline of a vast forest of spikes haunted the surface of the sea. They seemed somewhere as tall as mountains and somewhere no more than daggers, inflicting silent terror on the scene. 

“Come…” Saturnia issued another cue. But the play had ended, or so it seemed!? She rose and took Aprilis by the forearm, silencing him with a terrible glance. She took him outside in the clearing, where the merry drone of the critters and bugs had ceased and now the only sound was that of the wailing ships. Saturnia pressed against Aprilis and began to sway gently. He put his hands just above her waist and tried to synchronize his movements with hers. The wails came at irregular intervals, like shrill waves on the shores of silence. Saturnia and Aprilis danced to this disjointed tune without either of them making a sound. 

Then just like before, the songs and faces spewed out of the house and swept her away, snatching her right out of his arms. As his hand fell from her side to his, she caught it for a fleeting moment, just as one catches a scarf taken up by the wind. And then she was gone. 

Aprilis bid her goodnight, though it was doubtful she heard or cared. As he made his way through the grove, back to the gleaming, open door of the house, he pondered on his Quest to become a knight. “Could it be done?” He came inside the long, arched hallway, which had fallen into uneasy silence. There was a sense of something rollicking and loud having just passed through here – the walls still faintly reverberating with the feast. Aprilis felt his eyes and lips brackish and his body heavy as though he had just come out of the sea. 

He had stood peering into the intricate designs of the wallpapers in the hallway for a good minute before realizing what it was he saw – alternating scenes of hunting, merrymaking, love and war, woven together with hyacinth leaves, gold offsetting red, purple offsetting white, mixing and matching to depict all manner of living and non-living things. As he walked down the hallway the whole carnival of images seemed to move with him, and he could swear he saw no other than Saturnia there in one corner – a red silhouette spinning wildly on the axis of its heels. And here he is too ­– a gentle golden knight; he catches her by the waist, and they become one under the hyacinth leaves. “It could be done…” He sighed hopelessly. “It could be…” 

Thus, ends the tale of Saturnia and Aprilis, may God save their young blood!

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