Dear, dear Sam….
Well! Things are in quite a flurry around here.
I awoke this morning to find the velvet-covered book lying open on Anemone’s pillow, with these words inscribed in it:
What greater joy can I know
than to feel your warm arms
defend me each night
and the sheen of your face
on the pillow next to mine
gentle as the kiss of starlight
on dusk-dimpled sand?
I would drink you utterly
until my whole being is filled
with every drop of you.
I would dive into your magic
swim in your sweetness
bathe in your purity
dance in your power
whirl in your wonder
faint in your divinity
float in your stillness
walk in your warmth
fade in your fairness
and die in your arms.
This is all there is
and all we need to know:
that Love is
and ever will be
until all that we are
and will become
is swallowed whole
in Eternity’s embrace.
I read it through three times, smiling, recalling the previous night.
“I suppose no one will be much interested in my doings now,” Guilin had told us after we wandered back to the cottage, Raven’s arm wrapped about his waist, her free hand in Northlight’s, Anemone and I following close, hand in hand. As we took our seats around the terrace table, Anemone brought up some of the frozen cream confection from the cellar. There was enough left for each of us to have a dipperful. Raven and I poured orange juice and bits of strawberry over ours, while Anemone and Northlight sprinkled shavings of chocolate and chopped nuts on theirs, Anemone adding some pineapple chunks. Guilin took his plain, pronouncing it “most edible.” I could just hear him casting about in his mind as to how to make a profit from the stuff.
“I know I haven’t been around much lately,” he admitted. “I suppose you all think I’ve been up to no good.”
“Now why would we suppose such a thing?” Anemone said with an impish twinkle, as I hummed a little and glanced up innocently. “It’s not as if your past is against you or anything.”
“Has it to do with Nessima’s gift?” I asked him. “Is it finally finished?”
“Yes, but that isn’t what I was going to tell,” he said. “And you can tease all you wish,” he looked pointedly at Raven especially, who pouted a little, “but no one, and absolutely no one, is to know what it is until the night I present it to its recipient. And that’s the end of that.”
“So, tell us your big secret,” Northlight said. “We all know you’re simply dying to,” he grinned. “Tell us before you burst. It would be quite a nasty job for us to have to clean you off the terrace.”
“It has to do with Anemone’s dress-designs,” Guilin said. “At least primarily. I talked with one of the Queen’s lawyers—Maeglin by name—you know, that pompous-looking chap who likes to wear a pearl the size of a small country in his cravat. Well, he and I managed to come up with an idea to prevent further theft of your ideas—and any other, for that matter.” He glanced down meaningly at his empty dish. “It’s quite simple really. You register your idea with Maeglin and he draws up something called a ‘patent,’ which forbids others from using your idea without either paying up or getting written permission from you. If they presume to do so, they must pay a fine for their impudence, and most of it goes to you. The Queen herself has approved this plan, so there you have it. One purchases the patent, one’s ideas are safe. Oh, you needn’t purchase the patent for your designs yourself, Anemone—I took the liberty of purchasing it for you. You are my business-partner after all, as well as the mother of my sister; it’s the very least I can do. And Lady Celebrían has taken a patent on her hair-formula, and we will be making much more money from it than we already are. So…what do you think?”
I had come up with an invention of my own recently—nothing world-shaking, but most handy. I suppose I’ve told you before—Anemone and Tilwen make the hair-formula in the kitchen four days per week, and pour it into bottles they set upon the table. Well, I cudgeled my brains for ideas to make it easier for them. And I took some clay and molded it over a pipe, shaping it into a little trough with small spouts at equal distances apart, had it fired up, and laid it on top of the bottles with a spout going into each one, so that the flasks could all be filled at once. Well, in no time it was dropped and smashed, and I made another, then hit on the idea to make it of metal. So I took it to Leandros and asked him to take it to a metal-worker and have it cast in tin, and then I came up with a long compartmented wooden box in which to set the bottles so they wouldn’t tip while being filled. And then I had the idea to have the trough made double so that another row of bottles could be filled at once. It made the job far quicker and less tedious for the ladies, and I had one made for Talmar’s wife also, to facilitate her job of filling milk-bottles and cream-jugs for her husband’s route customers.
Needless to say, she quite adores me.
I had also contrived a sort of pen made of bamboo-poles, to keep Little Iorhael out of the ladies’ way while they worked. It is about four feet square with a cushioned rubber mat within, and there we placed some toys and teething-rings and his favorite blanket, and the whole thing can be easily folded up and stored away when not in use. He plays in it and chews on his teething-rings until he falls asleep, and when he awakes Raven is usually home from school to take him out and change him and play with him for a while until his mummy and auntie are done with their work and his daddy comes over to take him and Til home. I did have qualms, wondering how the idea of having his little son penned would go over with Galendur, but the child seemed quite happy in it, and his dad resigned himself to the contrivance quickly enough, to my vast relief, and even arranged to have one made for their home.
“I think it’s your best idea yet,” I said to Guilin. “What say you?” I asked Anemone. She shrugged.
“I liked Lover’s Day better,” she said with a little wink at Guilin. “But if you feel so compelled to protect my silly little designs, far be it from me to prevent you—especially seeing as how you’ve so completely taken matters into your hands without seeing fit to consult me first. You will have my undying gratitude.”
“I think it’s smashing,” Northlight said, his smile illuminating the entire corner in which he sat. Raven grinned proudly, yawning at the same time. It must have been close to midnight.
“Ah, I almost forgot,” Guilin said snapping his fingers. “I’ve gifts for all. Here, where’s that bag—here it is….”
For Raven there was a silver locket in a double-heart shape, with a letter R engraved on it, and inside was coiled a tiny braiding of hair in brown, black, gold, and silver-white. For Northlight a silver watch on a chain…so that he would not be late to class any more, Guilin said. We chuckled, Northlight being quite notorious in the college for his punctuality, as it were. He opened the cover, which had a letter N engraved on it, to examine the little sun-dial within, the numbers wrought in black onyx.
For Anemone there was a pretty silver bell, engraved with dolphins, for calling us to dinner, and for me a small silver tankard with a hinged lid. And yes, engraving, the words With Cold Beer All is Possible, all around it, in very fine Sindarin script. We all nearly fell over laughing, Raven hardest of all.
Of course Guilin stayed the night in our guest-room, and after everyone else had gone to bed, Anemone and I slipped out into the night to the little cave beneath the cliff by the sea, where we had celebrated our love for the very first time, on the first night of our meeting, and also on our wedding-night—she preferring this special place even to the bridal-chamber--and there we recaptured that first shivering fiery consummation of our union. Truly it felt as the first time.
I think we wrote our own chapter that night.
Afterward, as she lay with her head on my bosom, my fingers wandering lazily through the waves of her hair and over the firm damp satisfied curves of her body, marveling in the drunken reality of our kissed skins, I glanced at the light that filtered through the vines dangling over the mouth of our cave, and listened to the whisper of the faintly singing tide as it ventured ever closer, and yes, Sam, I thought of you, and wondered if you could possibly be as happy as I, and I sincerely hope and pray so. And I knew that we must live completely in the present, and move ever forward, looking back only as much as was good for us.
...for memory is a starry bridge
that will ever lead you to me
no matter what dark things disturb
the hungry waves below.
Still I would have you cross it
only as is needful
lest your steps should wear it thin
and you forget from whence you came....
I closed my eyes, telling myself it wouldn’t do to fall asleep here, with nothing on, but my eyes would close, and sleep began to take me in spite of all, when suddenly a little gasp brought me to.
I blinked, wondering where I was, then saw something luminous rolling up toward us on the sand. Anemone sprang up and went to retrieve it, and brought it to me, and it illuminated her all over…how was it possible, I wondered stupidly, that she looked even lovelier with no clothes on, and how had I ever lived before knowing her? And then she put her finding in my hand as I slowly sat up.