Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crosses Earn Their Worth

            A lone serpent writhes through the high grasses at an unexpectedly quick pace, but doing so seemingly unaware of its stalker, an out of place owl, sun-bathed in its peculiar hunt in the daytime. Its feathers take in the mystery of the sun witnessed, not in its fall to earth and sea, but in this new air of day where the sun stands alone, perched on high above the much traversed arena of the fowls. No feast is to be had though, even as the winged beast works desperately for its meal. The great hunter is blinded. It is blinded by the foreign grace of mesmerizing daylight.

            God bless Mama. God bless Mama because no one else has or ever will. God bless her with the love that she deserves. Even when she turns blind to it, love her all the more God because you made her without her permission and left her as a flawed defenseless creature in an uncaring world. As her daughter, I too seek this blessing of love, because no one else has or ever will. Don't abandon us to the hell of wander, let us now be fixed in the arms of a kind embrace.

-Elizabeth Rene Charles

            I watch Mama do simple things. She turns her head towards a mirror or window as she holds her shoulders with wide set fingers. In this grandiose pose, her arms fold over her breast. Mama draws her stray hairs back from in front of her face with an elegant toss from left to right. Mama slowly puts her lipstick on from the right corner of her mouth, shifting her hand left and upwards to coat the upper lip and then continuing from the left corner of her mouth, she goes right and downward to coat the bottom lip. She completes all of her ornate gestures perfectly without interruption. Walking back and forth in her room contemplating, her humanity bleeds out through her softly painted lips, heavy blown sighs, and cheap imitations of vulnerable ecstasy. Heels sound off a chorus along the wooden floorboards, announcing an animal simplicity ripping through her flesh in thoughtless repetitions, orchestrated entirely for others, specifically though, the men who can appreciate and afford her numerous charms. All of her efforts are for those she can use to her advantage and the male visitors in her life: the things she wears, the several books she reads, the way she looks, the sweetness of her voice. In all her glamor and refinement though she is no better than a owlish creature of calculative habits, hunting in the nighttime for prey willing to fall victim beneath the curious moon.

She ceaselessly indulges in the sensual passions to feed her childish love of novelty, wherein her shallowest judgments are never so kind as to offer deeper consideration to things that are not straightforward in their beauty or worth, like myself. There are unavoidable conversations that I have with my mother, if they can even be called such. Mainly our interactions, rare as they are, consist of her critiquing how flawed I am as her daughter. I am berated constantly because I am not able to wear garments as well as  Mama.

“Elizabeth, your 16 years old, why don't you ever wear your clothes properly? You completely throw off the look if you slovenly toss your pieces on. You must make use of all of your pieces properly. My God, think and use some effort!”

“I'm sorry mama. I've become much better though. I do my best to follow all of your advice.”

“I know your trying, but I still don't see it. Your efforts yield no results whatsoever. Knowing the power of your pieces, accents, and the like and the mystery that arises in their arrangement is how you build a stunning wardrobe. I can't believe I had a child, let alone a child with no sense of herself and no style.”

“I have style mama, it's just that it's not as sophisticated as yours. That's all.”

“ No you don't. What you just said is a useless excuse. Never say such a pathetic thing like that again. Your style isn't as sophisticated as mine? Of course it isn't, but you need something proper in which to aspire. You don't have any style even though you have so many clothes to choose from to develop your own, yet still you look the way you do. What am I going to do with you? I don't buy you these things to watch you dress yourself like a homeless person. I may not take you to the events I attend, and you may be home schooled by Ms. Favnet, but I'll be damned if my daughter doesn't know how to dress herself. Now go back into your room, and try again! I don't want to ever see you not looking your best. It's a waste of my money. And put on some makeup. You're not me, you know. Your not the type of woman who can pull off pretty without it.”

I am restricted on what I am allowed to eat because I am not as thin as Mama.

“Mama, I can't fit that. This dress is too small for me.”

“What's your size?”

“I'm a size four, that's at least a size two, if not a zero.”

“Your already a size four? You'll be lucky to not be a six or above by the time your 30. Have you been dieting like I told you and writing in your food journal everyday?”

“Yes, but why do I have to do that? Its so embarrassing and I am not fat.”

“I didn't say you were.  Did you hear the word fat come out of my mouth?

“No mama.”

“ Alright then. I wear size zero clothes. They drape my frame well. Clothes become victims the larger a person gets. You're not fat, but your aren't skinny either. Cut down on your calories. The cutest outfits are for the thinnest women. Everything else is trash for the ugly refuse of the world. I will not shoulder a fat child. That is far too unbecoming of a woman of my beauty. Don't think of what I say as selfish or harsh. I say this because if you want to make it in this world you must be spectacular, and from what I can tell, you're mediocre at best. Mediocre efforts earn no rewards. Do you understand, Elizabeth? Elizabeth?

Yes Mama, I understand. Can't we just buy something else.”

“I've got a better idea. This dress will serve as your goal. Your going to use it to motivate yourself to get skinnier.”

“Is that really necessary Mama? We can just get a larger dress, can't we?”

“Obviously, your a child that doesn't listen. I will not shoulder a fat child. Fat people are ugly people who could possibly be beautiful if not for the tragedy of their figures, you know. I have met many of that position, beautiful faces, but horrible figures. It disfigures fantasy to see two extremes in the same place. Fat people are unattractive people. I think I have made myself clear on the matter. Take this up and stand in line. I will join you after I get some makeup. Remember that I push you so that you aren't weak like everyone else. This world is hard for women, but especially so on women like you, who dance the razor's edge between beauty and nothingness.”

Tears were forming in my eyes. She had shamed me so fiercely without even having the compassion to look me in my eyes as I heard “nothingness” echo between us.

“Yes mama.”

 I could stab her. She says what she says, not feeling any of the force behind her words. All I ever glimpse in her eyes when she looks at me is a hollowness unwilling to entertain the presence of a human light. Her body subtly denotes my existence as an impure reflection of herself, lesser in every manner through which Mama might offer praise: femininity, grace, beauty, intellect. All of the treasures that she has meticulously cultivated for the fulfillment of others I possess, but only in comparison to the shine of the moon, embittered by the shameless illumination of the sun. Mama's silent admissions of disgust for me draws out of this house of holy souls echoes of the bitterest loneliness birthed from the womb of rejection. The echoes pervert me with their incessant invasions, bewitching me like a slave hymn engorged like a bloated corpse with beauty and despair. Mama replaced me long ago with object after object, all gifts or purchases made possible by men from her past. The newest member of her collection is a new blue dress that reflects Mama's devotion with an impeccable shine, a characteristic eventually reduced to the pail flicker of a starved flame.

            Mama adores her new blue dress. She got it from the man who leaves her things she particularly loved, like the set of canary diamond earrings she paraded at a gala in Soho, or the emerald broach that accented her outfit perfectly at Mardi Gras two years before. He comes to visit irregularly though, unlike the other gentlemen who assail our home. This infrequent gift giver as he were, is a nervous stranger, inserting himself into our secret house of half realized womanhood at his convenience with quick passionless motions, only to leave abruptly in an anticlimactic fashion. He moves as if he fears the painted faces haunting our home, never staying long, always buttoned up in his ash colored pea coat, wearing 1960's styled horn rimmed glasses and a silly knitted cap that masks his premature baldness. He comes and goes and comes and goes. I do not think this is Daddy, but history reveals that Mama loves intensely, for a short time, what he occasionally leaves with her, so I suppose that man is like my daddy, if not Daddy entirely. I cannot say because whosoever Daddy may be is a mystery that is as uninteresting to me as thin vapors of dreamy gray smoke rising to heaven to become rainclouds. I don't remember Daddy with Mama. There is not one memory that should solidify such a phantasm in my mind, so I gladly hope he remains as smoke and shadows on a gray background, indistinguishable and unimportant. He had no place before and would surely have none now with us in this factory of woman ghosts who sacrifice themselves for fleeting illusions, like the love of lovers or parents and their children.

            Mama's blue dress is a cold creamy darkness like the blue of autumn twilight revolving into the land of night. The clean lines of the silhouette guide the eyes to its careful sparkle, a conscientiousness communicated through its  well-crafted design choice of sparsely used sequins, that fall in straight lines like cold blue tears from the midriff to its perfectly hemmed bottom. Mama wouldn't be caught dead in a garment that seems unfinished, even if its designed that way. No, Mama is too classy, in her mind, at the least, for such inventions. The new blue dress is decorative, but not gaudy like the others paraded by Mama's friends, simple minded creatures that they are, like overgrown peacocks kept in chain link cages. Those cheap women are made strangely masculine in their forced choices of wearing garments tactlessly decorated with superficial ornaments:  ruffles, feathers, flowers and the like, all stitched together reminiscent of a mad collection of still objects that inspire starving amateur artists. No no, Mama is far superior to her beastly crowd. Little blue dress radiates intensely the soul of Coco Chanel's funeral gown turned chic runway couture. It is subtle yet dazzling, like a shifting blue of a less purpled African violet, a humble bloom made all the more enigmatic because of its queerness, and also because of its ease of transition, more deceptive than the many shades occupying an effectively cut sapphire. Mama's little blue dress is soft like nighttime, caressing her thighs just above the knees. She thinks herself a  movie star when she wears it. Of course, when Mama wears this alluring armor, everything else falls pitifully. She ascends the world like Venus with  its olden name of Lucifer, the morning star.

            Mama puts her hands beneath the delicate straps of her little blue dress. Alabaster fingers dance frivolously under those blue straps as she rushes it toward her breasts. And the dress falls upon its owner, rushing to drape the form of its proud mannequin gently, this costume Mama loves so much. Family must live in the stitching. Everything about that dress is love to Mama, love she must have never known I suppose. The dress is beautiful without trying and embraces her body like a long lost child that has yet to forget its love and was yet to be unwanted. It must inspire something in that spirit of hers, I am sure of it, though she would never be so moved as to show it to the likes of me. She loves it too much for there to be no discernible depth there though, even if it is the shallowest of all loves, the love of an object that cannot parrot back affection. Even as she revels in the beauty of her outfit, blue straps gracing collar bones and the hemmed bottom caressing her thighs, it seems now is not the time to wear the little blue dress. It must be brought out in those moments when the world must be satisfied. Beauty is rationed, much like emotion you know, or at least I know this is what Mama believes. Mama never acts without reason and so her efforts are shadowed and empowered by their infrequency. Mama does not smile if there is no reward, nor showcase her personality if no man is pleased by it. She is a contemplative animal, cold and calculating, but she has her reasons as always for such things.

            The little blue dress pleases her as it was designed to do, but now is not the time she will wear it, and so now reassured of the power that still emanates from her most prized object, she returns it to solitary confinement. Little blue dress is placed on a lone mannequin. It sits in the center of the opposing wall in the back of Mama's walk-in closet, surrounded by her army of shoes sitting on the walls in little black cubbies. Mama did not want to be absorbed in a place of such puritanical immaculateness. She refused the safety of an all consuming white let loose in her space of adoptable fantasy. Her shoes rest in black coffin cubbies, arranged along the middle of the wall with an even distribution of space between the top and bottom and the ceiling and the floor. This is to prevent the shoes from conquering the space completely. The walls upon which the shoes are arranged are white, a feature allowed only to make the red accent wall, opposite to the entrance, more traumatic to stare upon. Staring upon it makes  an ocean of blood more real than the heart dares to figure. It would take an unimaginable amount of corpses to get so much beautiful red.  A makeshift walkway is created from the vertically arranged black shelves that contain both garment and accessory. This closet is very much a library of dead beauty, like captured butterflies preserved for display. Everything in it is still, but beyond the saving grace of suffering and death. Everything is arranged by color coding in Mama's collection. She will have perfection from those things that she can control, unlike myself. I am the wild unicorn and she is the virgin maid that lulls me into capture. I know if I let her, she would claim my horn even if it would cost me my life, and probably not shed a single tear because of it. Nothing in the world that produces the illusion of her beauty can be out of place because that distracts from the center piece of the show, herself. Mama refuses to be upstaged by flaws, or the imperfections of others. The horrific women she allows around her are merely to heighten her beauty to a greater more intoxicating shine.

            I am not allowed to be by her side. I can only watch from a distance. I can only dream the beauty of her life because she cannot stand the sight of mine. I am the great ugliness that she expelled from her body like the solid waste of an animal. Sadly though, I could not be buried or left to the forest to dry out in the sun and crumble away. I am feces matted in my mother's glorious fur, blighting her  perfection. Why should she feel any affections for her own droppings? When she goes out with her male suitors, I am left here in this house, vast in the superficial wealth that my mother pays for with a great deal of effort and a great loss of humanity. She has erected a mass grave for me and every beautiful thing that fills this house. She isn't malicious though. Though she refuses to see me, she would never admit to that. The tactics she utilizes are never camouflaged by malice, but an even greater evil, indifference. The women who also live here notice how Mama neglects me. Mama simply retorts with a practiced speech,

            “My daughter has the world here. Everything that she could want is here in this home for her because I put it there with my efforts, and such great effort it requires. Such a great deal of effort. One day she will appreciate it. One day she will forget the loneliness met in these young years of hers. That is my hope. That is what saves my retched soul. Soon she will be off to college, free to live her life as she chooses. I never wanted to be a mother, but dammit if I won't give this child what is necessary to know the wealth of living. She wont have to debase herself for luxury. I have given her a taste of it in exchange for the bitter hemlock. She should be appreciative of that, even if I can't spend time with her, or talk to her, or fulfill other  superfluous duties the world deems right for a mother to fulfill. I gave her the things she needs. That is the truth behind a mother's love, actually being of worth to their children. I am not a burden like other mothers are to their children and I have not deprived her of her simple wants.”

The women devour her lies voraciously, and commence to celebrate them with praises of how dedicated Mama is as a mother. This wonderful showcase is followed by them turning their attention away from me, back to their fruitless little lives. I can't help but cry until it turns to laughter. I can't cry abuse. My mother doesn't harm me, she doesn't even hug me. My live-in tutor sees to it that I am educated, fed, etc. She isn't my mother though and I am not her blessing.

            Mama isn't cruel because she neglects me. Neglect is a petty thing upon which to nourish the love and contempt that I have for her. I do not think neglect could be the cause for what leads me to where I am now. I think it is a simple memory, or the dream of a memory, where I am looking up at her face, as if cradled in her arms. She looks down on me and all I see is a mother in love with her child. All I see is a beautiful young woman with the most radiant fully released smile. She isn't holding back or partitioning off her emotions for material or sensual wealth. She is fully realized in them. She is not living for strategies, or wealth, but the love of a simple existence. Of course, given what I know about Mama, I could simply have been a new beautiful gift from one of the gentlemen that frequent her. I too am an object in my mother's collection. I too possessed a short lived moment of doting love. The new blue dress is a sibling of mine, who is still novel, and thus still loved. The new blue dress will eventually be like me or the plethora of other things that have lost that glamor of the new.

            That half dream memory is devastating to my psyche. A mother of neglect, and soft-handed cruelty I know, and have learned through horrific trials, what unfathomably exquisite depths of pain she can lure my soul into, but this memory of her in such unrestrained bliss is infuriating. Who is Mama if not a monster of beauty? Who is Mama if not the blinding sun that inspires the blessing of starvation? I have loved her even though I knew she was monster. I have loved her even though I knew she would simply devour me. I always just assumed my mother is what she is because that is who she is. Assumptions make the heart quite stony after enough have been made and proven quite unreliable. Well now, I will assume nothing of her.

            Mama is beautiful with her arsenal of wardrobes and finely quaffed hairstyles. Mama is unrelenting with her mysterious appeal and cool demeanor. I admire her as anyone else would. I love my Mama very much. She does her best to provide for me and I am appreciative of that. I am appreciative of her efforts, but sadly they are not good enough. My heart yearns perpetually for more. I know I wouldn't be this way if I had not unearthed my dreaming memory of her smiling at me. I would gladly cling to the pathetic existence that I have in relation to her. She is the sun and I am the moon that showers the world of night with my imperfect somber glow. I would gladly watch my life burn out in the palm of her suffocating hands. She is Mama and I want to be obedient to her, even if that obedience is never truly fulfilled, and if not obedience, I would exchange  the lesser offering of sacrifice. She is my mother and I want to payback the cost of my birth. She is my mother and I want to undo the loathsome burden that I must be to her. But no more.

            She will always have my love, but truly now is the sweetest moment of my fury. Truly this is the hour of the raging unicorn. I will skewer her with my blessed horn and devour her organs, savoring that black heart of hers the most. It will be purified in me devouring it. I will rescue the nearly destroyed seed that once was her angelic magnificence, inexplicably immaculate from before her great corruption. She will be purified through the love that I have for her and the love she once had for me. In killing Mama I save her and myself. God can not weep at the flawlessness of our victory. I will do what no one dared  and what no one could. I will save this flawed pathetic creature, this pitiful girl. I will save her through the one great strength that God has blessed me with, endurance. It is God who inspires this ceremony of salvation. It is God who leads me here to save Mama. I know it. I know it in the depths of my soul. In killing Mama, I know we both earn our worth.

The Game of Little Monsters

By: Denzel Xavier Scott

            Shoulder length coal black curls blow lightly over a young girl's alabaster face. Her hands stretch, gripping a red blanket spread out beneath three dreaming bodies, all arranged head to toe like the arms of a triangle, around a miniature mountain of green apples. The innocent dreamers are each dressed in white cotton. One is the young girl named Penelope, her twin, Samuel, with long black curls in contrast to his sister's short black ones, and their mutual friend Paul, a dark skinned black boy with large green eyes. All three are 16 years of age, drowning in the luxuries of youth. Penelope and Samuel are beautiful in the ways of convention with their smooth porcelain skin, apple red cheeks, bright blue green eyes, and contrasting dark black hair, but Paul is of an alien pulchritude with slim build and small hands and wrists, oddly soft lines to build the face and dazzling doll-like eyes. He is crafted after the black cats of ancient heathen lords, with magics and curses to do with as they pleased. Penelope raises her body upward in mimicry of surrender, with hands extended outward along the blanket until finally sitting tall, resting her hips on folded legs to survey the boys' sleeping faces.

“Wake up you silly princes, we must continue with the day. Wake up, wake up, wake up.”

            The boys are not the least bit stirred by Penelope's call. She crawls like a panther over to Samuel on all fours  and caresses his feet slowly. Samuel reacts at first with slow dancing movements until his feet begin launching like the hind legs of a bucking mule. Penelope dodges successfully and laughs, awakening Samuel with a fright.

“Penelope, you rat! I thought that was some kind of animal. Your lucky I didn't give you a good kick in that pretty little face of yours. No one would believe we were twins anymore.”

“Would that be a blessing or a curse? Wake up Paul, will you? We have yet to gather flowers for our crowns. We slept so long it might be midday already.”

            The sun lingers over them, brightly showering soft warm rays on the smooth patch of short grass where they chose to slumber in the dense forest.

“Really, Penelope? We came out here very early in the morning, only an hour or two after sunrise, and you think we slept that long?

“Yes! So stop being so lazy and  do as I tell you, fool! Wake up Paul. We have to go. There is so much fun to be had this day. So much fun. I don't want to waste any more time. Now wake up Paul. Wake him up, Samuel. We haven't a moment to lose.”

“Oh yes your majesty, right away. I live to serve the brat Queen.”

“Haha, my little court jester, just do as I tell you, alright? Hurry and wake up Paul.”

Paul stirs in his sleep, disturbed by the loudness of their conversation. He begins to awaken slowly, raising upward into a crouching position with his arms wrapped around his shins before finally opening his eyes.

“My gosh you two, why are you always so loud? Its such a pretty day, don't ruin it with that. We're all awake now so lets just get on with it, alright? No more arguing, ok? Promise?”

“Promise. How about you Penelope?”

“Yes, yes. Satisfied? The only reason why I'm angry is because we're late, and Paul your not helping the matter with wasting our time like this.”

“Yes, yes Penelope. I know this day is important to you, but it's not like it's not important to us as well. Right, Samuel?”

“That's right. Today is a day for all three of us, not just you Penelope.”

“Fine, fine! I understand, alright! I'll be a good girl from now on. Promise. Now can we finally go? It's much later than we expected and the day grows shorter still. I have no intention of not finishing the day  as we've planned.”

            Penelope, Paul and Samuel make sure that the red blanket stays fixed to the ground through the weight of the apples in the center and a heavy brown woven picnic basket sitting on the corner. The forest intimately knows the slow breezes passing through its borders. The blanket's stillness proves the weight of its anchors. Its serenity is undisturbed, it does not fold. They begin walking deeper into the woods in search of flowers. Penelope leads, and Paul and Samuel follow, with Paul bringing up the end of the short parade. Penelope's simple white summer dress dances freely with the frequent whispers of the soft breeze, as Paul and Samuel converse amongst themselves.

“I wonder how many different types of flowers we'll come across Paul?”

“The forest is usually in full bloom at this time. We should come across as many flowers as you could hope for. Penelope and I wander through this forest around the same time each year. This is around the time when our mother died.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Don't be. Penelope and I were very young back then when it happened. This forest was our mother's favorite place to runaway to and lose herself. When she was still alive, we followed her once and saw her sleeping amongst the blossoms like some wild animal. When she died, every year we would come into the forest to collect flowers to put on her grave. Even though we've been friends with you  for so long, we just couldn't invite you here before, you understand, don't you? Don't be angry with us.”

Paul stops just as the group comes up to a small slope. He smiles softly and hugs Samuel, gripping the back of Samuel's neck with his right hand, clenching a small tuft of hair, as his left arm moves across Samuel's back. He pulls Samuel in closely.

“How could I possibly be angry with you two? It's an important place for you two to honor your mother. Who could possibly be angry with that? I couldn't imagine the pain of losing a parent. Besides, you know I could never be angry with you two.”

Paul lets go of Samuel and quickly steps back, the soft smile growing more into laughter.

“In fact, I'm quite glad that you two have a place just for yourselves. Although, funny enough, no matter how sacred and beloved the place, you two never stop bickering, do you?”

Penelope listens from a very small distance and tires of her exclusion. She walks between Paul and Samuel.

“Sweet, na├»ve Paul. Always playing the role of mediator, aren't you? Remember darling, you have no siblings. What we do, may seem harsh to you, but that's only because you do not share our plight. There's always bickering amongst siblings who love as much as Samuel and I. What makes our plight greater still is the fact that not only are we siblings, but darling, we're twins. He has my face and we share so much in common. It's infuriating to say the least.”

“Hmm. I have no sympathy for you Penelope. The fury that you bear towards our closeness you bear alone. I in no way am bothered by the fact that were twins but, the fact of your vitriolic attitude.”

“What do you mean, my attitude? There is absolutely nothing wrong with my attitude. My personality is flawless. I'm ambitious, knowledgeable, confident, and disciplined. I'm what every young woman strives to be.”

“Let's see, dear sister, your also: highly aggressive, combative, a-know-it-all, vain, prideful, inflexible and headstrong. Did I miss anything? Your demeanor rarely glimpses upon the womanly privileges. If I didn't know you as my sister, I would have surely thought you to be a man. The only saving grace that proves your of the fairer sex is your beauty and that isn't even uniquely yours.”

“Brother, that hurts me deeply.”

“It might hurt Penelope, but its true. Look how you so eagerly took to the head of the line. You always want to be the leader, no matter the circumstances. You always have something to  prove, or champion, or what have you.”

“Why do you make it seem as if everything I do is so calculated?”

“Penelope, everything you do is calculated.”

“Oh, Samuel, that's too cruel.”

“Oh, Penelope, it is only as cruel as it is true.”

Paul rolls his eyes in aggravation and yells,

“Well then, damned be the truth and the cruelty in it. Let us be new things in this wood. Let us be love in this time of bloom.”

The bird songs grow furious and the whispering breeze begins to scream in its quickened pace. Penelope and Samuel are startled by Paul's outburst. Paul laughs, obscuring his mouth with cupped hands and slightly spread fingers. He suddenly grows silent, and then immediately roars loudly, pouncing upon Penelope and Samuel. All three tumble down the slope into a small expanse of flowers and begin to laugh where they have fallen. Their shameless laughter, full bodied in its childish simplicity and  unapologetic ecstasy, merges with the voices of the arboreal ancients and their acolytes.

“Paul, what in God's name possessed you to do something so ridiculous?”

“I wanted to break the tension between you two. I think I succeeded. Wouldn't you agree Samuel?”

“Yes, although you could give a little warning before acting so impulsively.”

Paul walks over to Penelope and Samuel. They raise up to a sitting position in response to his movement towards them. Paul puts his forehead on theirs and his arms around them.

“I'm sorry.”

The flowers that engulf the  place where they have fallen is a narcissus bloom of deep blue shade. They gather them in laughter weaving the blossoms about their ears to form their much sought after flower crowns. Penelope grabs Paul's hand, grips it tightly, and Paul takes Samuel's hand in the same manner.

She whispers love and other spells in Paul's ears and grips his hand tighter. Samuel lets go and wanders, leaving Paul's abandoned hand to clutch an unsympathetic void. Penelope raises Paul's chin, and kisses him slowly, working upward to kiss his lips and then each eyelid. His hands float up her back and they roll in their embrace.

“ I brought a surprise for our wedding.”

“Does it have something to do with that big picnic basket?”

“Inside of it is a bottle of one of our father's most prized wines, a tin cup, a knife,  a jeweled needle, and mother's wedding dress. I wanted this to be something they see from a distance. Before this day is done, we three will be wed in these blessed woods. Mother, father, and nature will be our witnesses.”

“Penelope, how could you take your father's wine and your mother's wedding dress for that matter?”

“ Don't be angry Paul. We should be done before he gets home and the dress will be returned to the back of his closet. He's gotten rid of everything that reminds him of her, except this dress, which I am sure he keeps for my wedding day. Well, this is my wedding day, and I just wanted this to be as special as possible.”

“My goodness, you really planned out this day didn't you?”

“I love you. I want to be with you. Its my wedding day. Of course I planned this out. It's what I want. My mother and father married at 16. I feel it is destined that we do the same.”

Penelope sits on Paul's lap with folded legs placed alongside his hips, slipping her arms around Paul's neck and embraces him tightly.

“This day will be perfection.”

“Samuel, will be angry with us if we don't hurry back to his side.”

“Let him be. I saw you two hugging. I saw how much your bodies took to each other. He can kiss you soon enough, but now is my time.”

“I'm sorry to be the focal point of such a terrible storm.”

“Don't apologize for things you speak in falsehood.”

“We wouldn't be here if you didn't enjoy the bliss of our combined affections. Now would we?”

“You speak the truth. I do enjoy both of your affections. Because you two are so different, its like with one, I know the security and grace of steady earth, and with the other, adventures through mysterious  seas. Penelope you are the earth to me and Samuel is the sea. But even if that is so, it does not mean that I wish to be the source of tension between you two.”

“It cannot be avoided. I love you and you love me. He loves you and you love him.”

 Penelope stands up and begins to walk away. Tears heated by her entire body dispense as hot rain from her sapphire eyes.

“Love is a tragic web that ensnares us all.”

Paul looks at her growing distant amongst the encircling trees and suffers cruel lacerations of the heart and  head. Guilt sits upon the throne of Paul's love swept heart. He muffles selfish screams, refusing the tears of self-pity that would drown both cheeks and chin.

After calming his breath, he raises his head to the sky and hears Penelope and Paul calling after him. He races to their side once his face is undisturbed and he wears the tranquility of a long suffered saint. He will not share his doubts with them. His terror is an ugly cloak draped at the foot of his suffering throne of hopeless love. He will only give them the side of affections that he sees is fitting of his innocent beloveds.

Penelope, Paul, and Samuel return to the clearing where they first awoke with the red picnic blanket, at each other's side, shoulder to shoulder.

“I wonder what we should do now?”

“Penelope brought along some surprises it seems, Samuel.”

Samuel's eyes grow bright with excitement, taking in more light from the sun.

“I wonder what it could be?”

Samuel grabs his chin pensively, but quickly grows tired in frustration.

“Ooh, I hate guessing. Penelope, what did you bring?”

Penelope opens the basket, taking out the knife, needle, bottle of wine, and a tin cup. She keeps the dress inside the basket.

“Wow. This is quite unexpected, but so appropriate.”

Penelope takes the green apple at the top of the miniature mountain and slices it along its length into three pieces. Each takes one piece as she begins to pour wine into the tin cup.

“Close your eyes and put a finger over the wine”, Penelope calmly demanded.

The boys obeyed without need to question or second thoughts raised. They trusted fully in her control. Penelope swiftly pierces them both with the jeweled needle. Drops of blood mingle with the scarlet wine. Penelope follows, closing her eyes and stabbing herself. Each lets out a yelp and then a low hiss as air is suctioned between pearl teeth.

“Now, silently whisper a prayer and then drink. This will make us one flesh.”

First to drink is Paul, whispering for the ease of love's guilt. Second to drink is Penelope, whispering for love unbroken. And last is Samuel, whispering for love's certainty. They eat their pieces of apple, which are tart mostly, but from moment to moment, they spring sweet upon their unsuspecting tongues.

Penelope kisses Samuel on the cheek. She takes his hand and kisses it. Samuel does the same. They join hands with Paul, and he kisses both of their hands and then both of their mouths.

“I saved the best part for last. I'll show you both when we reach the lake. Let's hurry its getting late and father maybe home soon.”

Penelope, Paul, and Samuel race to the lake with the brown picnic basket. They decide to rest reaching a small cliff on the lake's edge. Penelope opens the basket revealing the white wedding dress. It is a long sleeve gown with a dazzling train. The veil is absent. Pearls are stitched in along the midriff, with interweaving layers of flattened white lace. The sleeves open outward at the wrist only slightly with lace ruffled  to mimic the opening of a lily.

Penelope begins disrobing. She slips on the dress telling Samuel to zip up the back and grabs Paul's right arm, placing it around her waist. He pulls her in closely and kisses her lips, tasting wine and apples and hints of irony blood.

“Now this is perfection.”

She reaches for the wine and pours some down Paul's throat. He shares with her what remains in his mouth through a kiss. Wine trickles down both of their mouths. Penelope dances. She looks at Samuel. Samuel looks at her and then towards the lake. She stops, walks to his side, and whispers in his ear,

“You want to wear it too, don't you? Don't fear it. Just give in. Nature will be your witness and it will remember.”

She turns her back to him and he unzips the dress and wears it for himself. He is mesmerized by how natural it feels against his skin, remembering his mother hugging him. He runs towards Paul and kisses him.

More wine is drunk. More kisses fall. More wine, more kisses, more wine more kisses.

Paul asks if he could wear the dress. Samuel turns to him and Paul unzips the wedding dress, wearing the foreign object like he too was a child of this broken tribe. The dress took him and adorned black skin with white. It fit him perfectly. He held his hands up and moved them slowly through the rays of the sun. They warmly kiss his fingers, and then swallow them whole in fleshless mouths. Drunk, he danced like a spiraling gypsy living in the present gift of her own beauty. He danced on circle after circle, with his feet knowing the privileges of eternity in forming bounded objects that went through themselves, beginning to end, beginning to end. And he danced and danced, edging towards the short drop. There is no tension in his face, only the unbounded bliss that earns anger from a world that knows too much misfortune. The edge of the cliff begins to crumble under black feet. Birds spring from the branches and took like shadows to the air. First there was a burst of noise, then a silence coupled with a great scream, and last a splash accompanied by limbs flailing in the water. Penelope and Samuel raced to the edge of the cliff, watching the white dress spread out over the waves, only to be overtaken by the water. Paul was frantically crying out to be saved, clawing desperately at the water as if begging at the feet of an ancient god. His guilt was no secret to the waters. Wave after wave ignored his pleas for mercy and salvation. Penelope and Samuel leaped after him and searched. The waters had taken the boy to mysteries that they could not know. He was fated to wear the mantle of the tragedian and weave a beautiful text of sorrow with his pitiful screams. Only when the lake was done with him did he return, too late to be saved, nestled like a small seed amongst sleeping petals, too heavy to bear their own weight.