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And They Lived Happily Ever After…Maybe

May 7, 2021

All fairytales are love stories.

Even at the core of tales like Hansel and Gretel is the love and devotion between a brother and sister. Hans Christian Andersen’s, The Little Matchgirl, is about a poor, dying child and the love she holds for her late grandmother, the only person who had ever treated her with kindness. When the girl dies, freezing to death on the street, it is her grandmother who takes her soul up to heaven.

And, of course, there are the many fairytales that tell of the love that grows between a man and a woman. It is that sort we’re unearthing in our next installment of “Romakaji,” our Cold fairytale-in-progress. I decided to make it a romantic love because that’s a theme here in the Cold…but that doesn’t mean they’ll live happily ever after. They might – I haven’t decided yet. But this is the Cold, after all, and we don’t just deal in hopes and wishes here. We also address the greater truths and meanings of not always getting what we want – or what we think we want. We celebrate getting what we need. What, in the end, was perhaps what we would have hoped and wished for all along, had we known better.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“Romakaji” Part 6

By Yours Truly

Romakaji took a long time to walk home from Sybil’s stone house. She wandered through the forest, savoring the crush of cold leaves beneath her feet. She tip-toed through the yards of old and new cottages with windows that glowed yellow with electric light and chimneys that billowed grey smoke. As a child, she had hated the winter, but now, as a woman who had spent centuries afloat, unable to put her heels to the ground, she relished the bite of the frigid air on a brisk walk, and then cozying into the comfort of an armchair next to a fire. Or feeling the warmth of a lover’s arms as he held her in sleep.

Even with Byron, the boy she’d loved better than all of the other boys she’d known when she lived in the pond, love had been a cool, if not cold experience. His skin had been chilled and wet when he held her in the water and would grow goosepimpled and prune over time. Sometimes, his lips would turn blue. His touch had been better than nothing, but even his most loving and passionate embrace couldn’t compare with even a brush of Lionel’s finger.

Lionel’s fingers.

Dry and smelling of herbs and the walnuts he likes to crack, of paper and pen, and sandalwood soap. The loving tentacles that reach for her as if they harbor all of his senses. They lead to the rest of him: his lean, muscular arms and sturdy shoulders that could carry two of her if they tried, the soft, curly hair that sprouts at the top of his chest, the coarse hair that he shaves every morning, making his chin smooth and square.

Then there are Lionel’s eyes.

So different from Byrons, which were crisp and blue. Lovely, yet thin somehow, like panes of glass in a window. Lionel’s are of soil and chocolate, tanned leather and glossed wood. They speak to her not only of love and desire, but of all the things he wants to know, and yearns to share with her. They are a deep well of forever.

And they lit up with a joy he took no pains to conceal when she walked through the door of their house.

“Where have you been?” He asked her.

She told him she’d gone to have tea with her new friend, Sybil, and he seemed happy to see her finally settling in and finding things to do other than piddling around the cottage or reading. He liked to see her becoming more confident.

“Tell me,” she said, as they sat on the soft, spongy sofa he’d first layed her upon when he carried her from the pond. She leaned on him and rested her chin on his chest, looking up into his handsome face. “What would you do if I died?”

Lionel blinked hard. “Why would you ask such a thing?”

“It’s just that I think about how much I love you all the time. I see how your eyes seek me out, how your skin thrills to my touch. Do you not ever think about what it would be like if we lost one another?”

Lionel caressed her hair and kissed her temple. “I know it hasn’t been very long for us, but I’m only ever happy when I’m in your presence. I think if something happened to you, I would never feel this again. I would live my life alone, and have only my work and interests taking me from moment to moment.”

Romakaji could see this was true. That he didn’t only love her because she was becoming more beautiful by the hour, although beauty could be a powerful thing. It was Lionel’s beauty that made her vulnerable to him when she peeked her head up from the pond and saw him for the first time, after all.

Over the centuries, Romakaji had discovered how easily one could grow accustomed to beauty, though. How this, too, had been part of her curse. To be stared at with such lust and longing from outside of the pond, but ultimately unloved. To be dreamed about like a picture in a magazine, and put away just as readily.

Lionel loved her in ways the other boys, no matter how beguiled by her at the outset, never had. With Lionel, there were long talks about all the things she’d thought about in the two hundred ninety-six years, twenty-one days, six hours and roughly twenty minutes she’d spent in the pond. Why the trees seem to shiver when a person pays them real attention? If the twinkling of stars in the night sky is its own language and what those stars might be trying to tell us? Why ghosts don’t seem to recognize that they are no longer among the living? With Lionel, there were walks around the cottage grounds, both of them alive to the subtle changes of nature that crept silently upon each day. There were nights of love so tender and full of intention that even thinking about them made it difficult to breathe.

Of course, it was also their mutual loneliness that bound them. A deep feeling of singularity that made it hard for them to truly connect with a lover, or even a friend. She and Lionel each had minds that wandered into secret rooms that were largely closed to others – not because they were unwilling to share them, but because few people wished to enter into those domains. For Romakaji, it had always been this way, even before Cressida had cursed her to the pond. For Lionel, it had been this way since he could remember. It was only after they met and entered into each other’s secret rooms, that they felt like they belonged somewhere, with someone, for the first time.

Poor, poor Lionel, Romakaji thought. He had but this one, short life. This fleeting chance at happiness with her that would glow bright like a firework and extinguish just as quickly. In the coming decades, he would become frail and gray, while she would remain just as she was.

Romakaji tapped the necklace at her throat. How easy it would be to take it off and simply float up to heaven, as if she’d never met Cressida, or her horrible suitor, or the dreaded Count Furfur, or her beautiful Lionel.

“It’s a shame you can’t remember who gave it to you.”

“Hmm?”

“Your necklace.”

Romakaji smiled and took her hand from the charm. She kissed the spot over Lionel’s heart. “It doesn’t matter.”

Only it did matter to Lionel. For when Count Furfur had made it possible for him to love Romakaji, had opened his heart to her, the Earl of Hell had also planted a seed of jealousy in Lionel’s affections. It was nothing personal. All great loves have an element of possession that must be struggled with, pondered, and ultimately, tamed. It is an ingredient of romantic love that’s much like salt in a sweet cake. With none, the cake is bland, but too much makes it unpalatable.

“Romakaji,” Lionel said. “I was going to wait until the first spring buds appeared, but I think I don’t have the patience.”

“For what?”

Lionel got up from the sofa and went to his desk by the window. He opened his pen drawer and took out a small, rectangular box trimmed with gold foil. He brought it to Romakaji and sat down next to her.

“This is for you.”

Romakaji’s breath caught in her throat. It had been so long since someone who loved her had given her a present.

“Thank you,” she said, taking the box in hand.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

“Oh.” Romakaji hadn’t realized there was actually something in the box. It was a pretty enough present all on its own.

“Let me,” Lionel said.

He took the box from her hand and opened it like a clam shell. Inside was a lovely gold necklace with an oval charm dangling from the chain. At the center of the charm was a pale green stone with great depth of color. It seemed to sparkle from the inside.

“I’ve never seen anything so fine,” she said.

“It reminded me of your eyes. You like it?”

“I love it, and will cherish it for always.”

Romakaji took the necklace from its pretty box and hung it around her neck. It had a long chain that dangled well beneath the necklace from Count Furfur. Lionel’s present fell just over her heart, which she thought was fitting.

“Would you like me to help you take off the other one?” Lionel asked.

Romakaji felt a bit flummoxed. She fingered Count Furfur’s charm for a moment, then rose up and walked over to a mirror that hung by the coat stand.

“My, though,” she said, as she looked at herself. “They do look so lovely together. Did you buy this with that in mind?”

“Not exactly,” Lionel said.

Romakaji bit down on her lip and wrapped her arms around her middle.

“Well, I think for now I’d like to try wearing them together. One is a symbol of my old life, and this one – this perfect one you’ve given me – a token of love for the rest of our lives together.”

“As you wish,” Lionel said.

He went to the mirror and stood behind her, admiring her light, silvery hair and plum, perfect skin. How his darkness so complimented the fairest of her features. It was the way their emotions complimented one another’s, and their interests in nature and the stars. What they shared seemed to deepen with every day they spent together.

Lionel turned her to face him. He put his hands on her cheeks, holding her head as if it was the most precious thing in all the world. “You asked me what I would do if you were no longer with me.”

Romakaji nodded. When Lionel was this close, she seemed to lose all ability to speak.

“I would die,” he said.

He then kissed her with both sweetness and passion. He kissed her for a long time. Until every part of her was filled with love, and her legs felt as soft as caramel. When he broke from her, finally, he opened his eyes and looked into hers. It was as if he’d stepped into her soul and make his home there.

“I will never leave you,” she whispered.

And she realized, in that moment, that she meant it. Romakaji would not, could not, watch him mourn her from heaven. She would not, could not, allow him to live his one, short life without love. The way she loved him wouldn’t allow that.

If it was the fate of her curse, and the will of her creator; if it was folly what she was doing, so be it. If she must give herself to Count Furfur for eternity in order for Lionel to have happiness, for her to share in it even for a few, measely years, then that is what would be.

Ok, Cold readers – here’s your chance to vote for the ending you think “Romakaji” needs. Should she and Lionel live happily ever after or not?

Leave your answer in the comments here, or, if you are reading this via my newsletter, just email me back with the words “Happily Ever After” or “NOT.”

And don’t forget to listen to this week’s Cold podcast!

6 Comments
  1. Mia permalink

    Definitely happily ever after! Love the story!

  2. Nancy Clark permalink

    Happily Ever After

  3. Tell the story that is in YOUR heart. If I want to hear what is MY heart, I’ll just talk to myself. 🙂

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