Alchemist Gift – Marcella thinks of love
Alchemy and Alchemist Gift continued: The pole was in the center of a green field that adjoined the town square. The May pole stood sixteen feet tall with a knot of red and white and yellow streamers attached to the very top. The streamers fluttered in the breeze. Suspended below the streamers on four red colored cords hung a horizontal hoop woven with bright spring flowers and myrtle boughs. The long ribbons were attached to the hoop and followed a gentle curve into the hands of the young maidens who ringed the pole.
The girls were pretty faced and fresh, with rosy cheeks and hair either plaited or in a rush of bouncing chestnut waves and curls. They wore embroidered blouses and brightly colored, full over skirts. They were about to dance around the May Pole as their distant Babylonian sisters did to celebrate the fecundity of spring. Each girl faced the pole and held a ribbon. Then every other girl stepped in a few paces toward the pole and turned to the left, the outer ring of girls faced the right, all bowed and with some kind of unspoken collective recognition moved to the beat of the tabor and the aching cry of the rauschpfeife. The girls in the outer circle moved in and around their stationary counterparts and began to intertwine their ribbons around the maypole. Rene along with the young men looked on appreciatively at the display of grace and femininity.
For no clear reason Rene was captivated by one of the girls. He could not stop looking at her. Her hair was long and curly with an auburn tinge. He had never seen anyone move their body in so graceful a manner. The object of his attention was Bella Fiore. Her playful blue eyes sparkled, the deep glow of her skin and her smile, that serene and gentle smile that lay lightly on her full soft lips; the way her shoulders moved, the concentration she showed as she repeated the steps around each new girl she came to, her swirling skirt that swayed back and forth; the way her bare feet stepped lightly on the path in the grass entranced Rene and left him breathless. He stepped closer to the dancing maidens and waited for this beautiful girl to come into his sight again.
When the girls completed the first circle and the first course of ribbons was woven into a delicate sheath at the head of the erect pole, Bella passed by Rene who stationed himself so she could not miss him, she could not help look into his eyes. In that timeless instant she too became transfixed by the handsome young man who looked at her with such a sincere and inviting smile. She involuntarily followed Rene with her gaze, turning her head away from the dance as she passed and almost lost the rhythm of her steps as she barely avoided running into the next girl she was to circle.
Each waited with impatience for the other to be within sight. Bella’s heart raced. She was swept up in a transcendental moment as she joined with the blue sky and the white clouds, the shimmering sun and the gentle breeze that rippled the grass. For a few expanding seconds she lost herself in the vastness of eternity and found herself again and understood her place in that vastness as she returned to the here and now and sensed her future could not be lived without the young man who somehow filled her soul and she opened her heart to this magic possibility.
Rene followed Bella’s every graceful movement as she disappeared and reappeared, hidden away and then released into his sight as she passed around the other girls. And even though he knew she would come into view he still was anxious until he could see her again. The dance became an agony for them both as the ribbons slowly wrapped tighter against the surface of the shaft. Each time she passed both could feel their auras join and be pulled apart until finally the pole was snugly encased in the ribbons’ silky membrane.
When the dance ended Bella left her dance mates as if walking out of a cloud and went straight to Rene who was already headed towards her. With each step they took the world around them faded into a mist of indefinable shapes and watery colors. The sky and the clouds and breeze, the people all disappeared. Neither could see beyond the other. Theirs’ was a world of he, being the sun and she, the moon, alpha and omega. Without a word they embraced and their fates were sealed forever.
Rene and Bella spent part of everyday together before he would return to university. They announced their plan to marry. His parents had no great objections; they only wished she had some kind of dowry except a wedding chest with linens and two matching candle sticks.
Bella was the third daughter of Floriano Fiore the soap maker. He was moderately successful. At certain times of the year, especially in the spring when the blossoms perfumed the air and the wild flowers formed a palette of yellow and red and purple and blue over the countryside, Floriano had work for anyone who wanted it. His cauldrons bubbled and boiled from dawn to dusk and through the night unlocking and capturing the delicate fragrance of each petal in the form of its essential oil used to scent his soap. They were a respected and industrious family and Bella was a good girl, always respectful, kind and helpful. She was not quite the wife Rene’s parents hoped the future court doctor would marry, but seeing how much in love the two youngsters were, there was no changing their minds. On his return they would marry.
* * * * * *
Marcella awoke; it was dark and still outside. She heard the steady rhythm of Cesare’s gentle snoring. She had a little bit of a head ache and needed something in her stomach. Marcella threw the covers off and sat on the edge of her bed. The cool floor felt good against her warm feet. She thought about the things Cesare said the night before. She thought about all of the things she learned about her usually reticent benefactor. She was excited at the thought of learning how to read. She couldn’t wait for him to be her teacher.
Marcella slipped her feet into her slippers and folded the screen back and leaned it against the wall. Cesare stirred, made a funny little noise between a sigh and whimper and settled back into his quiet snoring.
Marcella went into the kitchen and knelt before the hearth, stirred in the embers until she found a little orange ball of charcoal, teased it to the surface of the ashes with a twig and added some wood shavings and dried moss. The small bundle of combustibles smoldered and smoked and after a few well delivered breaths flashed into fire. She added more wood until the fire shed warmth and a soft golden glow into the room.
Marcella took her shawl from the wooden peg on the wall next to the back door and put it over her head and shoulders. She then grabbed the clay pitcher off the work table and headed outside and down the path to the spring. The February morning air was crisp and exhilarating. When Marcella looked up to the heavens she felt her mother looking down from the brilliant black sky that spread out overhead with its myriad of twinkling stars.
Marcella bent down and plunged the pitcher into the little basin that, over the millennia, the bubbling water of the spring formed in the soft sandstone. After filling the pitcher, she put it aside and put both hands into the cold water. The chilling surge that traveled up her arms took her breath away. She cupped her hands and brought the water up and splashed her face. Marcella liked the shock of the icy water against her skin. Of late she felt everything more deeply.
Since she moved away from Terra Sanctus and out of the Andano house all of her senses were heightened; not only physical senses but her emotional sensibility as well. This emotional freedom was something new, but at times she felt quite lonely. More than once tears came to her eyes when she thought about her mother. She now only realized it was a luxury to be able to cry. Marcella did not have to be strong for anyone else’s sake. She felt a little lost not being absorbed by someone else’s needs and wants. She thought of her sisters and their husbands and their babies. She thought of her mother and Farintino; how all of them gave something of themselves to another person and that other person gave something back to them. She wondered what that would be like, to get something in return.
Marcella sat on the mossy rocks by the spring, looked into the soft face of Aurora as she streaked the sky with pink and gray; Marcella rubbed her cold hands together. With no ill will towards them, she thought of all the time she gave to her sisters, literally raised them until they were old enough to tend to themselves, then she had given all of those years of care to Fausto only to receive the shock of her disgraceful parentage as a reward. She felt loss for those years; she did not look for someone to blame for that would truly be a waste of time, and time for Marcella now became very important, very precious, something not to be squandered.
Her thoughts wandered to the night she ran away from Santa Terra and she revisited the scene in the alley where she had seen the two lovers kiss, and could only wonder what it was like. Once when she was sixteen she stood in front of the looking glass, wrapped her arms around herself and gave an open eyed kiss to her image in the glass. It made her sad that she felt nothing, even kissing herself. She took care to clean the smudge of her lips and cheek off the glass and knew she would never do that again.
Now a virgin at age twenty three, almost twenty four, Marcella figured her life was most likely half over. It seemed so easy and natural for her sisters as, one by one, the young men came, courted them and married them and took them away. Marcella was happy for her sisters but could only pretend to share in their excitement. She wondered what that giddiness and irrational distraction, the excitement and all the smiling and fretting that each of her sisters went through was all about. She couldn’t understand how a person could be complete and fully functioning one day and then allow themselves to be conquered by someone whom they found so singularly appealing, someone they all of a sudden could not live without.
Marcella just could not understand the attraction. Her sisters’ husbands were strong and kind and in a way could even be considered handsome. Marcella could not see what all the fuss was about. She loved her sisters as much as they allowed her to and God knows her sisters were no saints, what these young men saw in any of them was beyond her. She accepted her fate and felt her life unfolded as it did to free her from that silly state. But Venus in her cunning way would pull the veil away from Marcella and expose that precious and thirsty heart to love.
The cock crowed and Marcella knew that Cesare would be waking up. She fetched the pitcher that was next to her and headed to the chicken coop, disturbed a few sleeping hens and collected four eggs. Marcella gathered up a bit of her blouse and made a little pouch to hold the eggs. She felt the warmth of the eggs as they gently bounced against her naked midriff when she walked back to the kitchen.
Once inside Marcella put the pitcher and the eggs on the work table. She stoked up the fire and lit a few candles. When the kitchen was cheery and warm Marcella did something she never did. She sang, first in a low, barely audible way, just a little louder than a whisper; loud enough to have her voice sketch out the tune. She forgot the words, so she substituted the sound “la” for the lyrics. She did remember a line or two from the refrain and when appropriate sang, “…do not pity me, for love comes on silent wings…do not pity me, for love is sweet but stings…”
Cesare awoke and heard Marcella. It was the first time he heard her sing and it made him smile. He stretched and sighed and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Cesare lie on his chaise with his blanket pulled under his chin and one foot sticking out from under the covers. He thought of the day ahead and tried to remember the strange dreams he had the night before. The few details he did remember had to do with a Pan-like character who had hooves and bent up legs. Then there was a part of the dream that had something to do with a wooden lady whose face was like a black sun.
He was glad to have someone else in the house. Marcella was an excellent housekeeper. The house was so in order that Cesare felt bad if he tracked in mud or if wood chips fell from his clothes onto the floor.
He kept his eyes closed as he listened.
“Tell me little bird, why do you all of a sudden sing?”
Cesare’s question startled Marcella; when he called her “little bird” the ease and innocence of the endearment made her blush and made her heart swell. It was something she was not used to, except for her Zietta Prunella who called all of her nieces by pet names. Marcella thought it best to stop singing.
“Don’t stop, you have a very nice voice, of what I can hear of it.”
Marcella could feel her face flush hot for a second or two. “Thank you.” She smiled and took the heavy copper skillet off the wall and placed it on the crackling orange coals.
“Don’t stop.” Cesare got up and pulled on his trousers, then his over shirt. Cesare’s habits improved since Marcella moved in. He folded his blanket and sheet and put it at the head of the chaise.
“Please sir, I am shy when it comes to things like that.”
“No need to be shy here. There’s only the two of us. Sing for yourself, not for me.”
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The Alchemist Gift is a book about the lives of people in the Renaissance and the alchemy that brought them together with its repercussions on our modern-day hero, Roland.
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