The Orchid Bottle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Orchid Bottle is an excerpt from a novella I have written that depicts the struggling romance between two women of unequal societal stations.

Submitted: March 15, 2016

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Submitted: March 15, 2016

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Mid winter has unleashed its swirling ghosts;

crystal phantoms sparkling like frozen souls.

I hear the white oaks creak and moan despair;

the faint wind-chime tinkling of sleeted cattails,

beneath the willows frost-bound snowy veils,

and weep to sad requiems of solitude,

these dull, icy, dimmer days,  lifeless,

lonely nights when winter specters roam.

Nights I cuddle beside my hearths cordial fire

wrapped tightly in fond memories and down,

hands clutching your orchid bottle to my breast.

Wishing as though Burton's fancied Aladdin,

I could caress its flowered porcelain;

turn your ashes inside, to smoke, then you.

As the white oaks grieve their absent leaves,

I will e'er mourn you, my Margaret.

 

Nonetheless, having endured nigh all

my life without you, more so than with you;

I can still envision your claret lips,

your sly little coup d'oeil, as you sauntered

towards me in Moulsecoomb marketplace.

Twas a fevered blush upon my cheeks,

I felt it sure, as I feel tears there now,

as sure as my racing heart thundered.

I worried; you would hear, and laugh at me.

Instead, you smiled, and bought a basket

of my apples, said ever so sweetly,

ever so mesmerizing, "Thank you, Miss".

 

Twas a Sapphic secret told with your lips.

Its question bright in your lazuline eyes,

when you leaned close and said, "I'm Margaret";

turned me to a pool upon the cobbles,

without a mouth to answer; I'm Anne.

Nonetheless, you did not belittle me,

but simply turned and walked away,

glanced twice backwards before the crowds fell

as your curtain, and you became my dream.

 

Days thereafter I woke before the sun.

Bathed quickly, brushed my shawl of auburn hair,

slipped once again into my worn coatdress,

donned my umber toque, and rosy-cheek smile,

watched for you amidst all the fair bonnets

and parasols awash in the square like

a flowered, sweet perfumed sea, drowning me.

 

"Fresh Apples," I would yell, impatiently,

hoping to hear you speak your name again.

I had never practiced speaking my name,

fearfully rehearsed my traitorous lips,

begged a surrender of them if only

given one more chance to utter, I'm Anne.

 

Sadly, fairer days passed all to quickly.

The solstice sun debuted but long, thin, hurried

shadows, spewing dragons white smoky breathe.

As swollen dabble-gray skies labored birth,

and the square marketplace avowed silence,

thereafter an untouched vestal virgin.

Adieu, good fortune, my chance of meeting

my dream, my Margaret, when cold whispered

to ruby ears, Go home to your hearths glow.

 

Four leaf clovers had never grown for me.

Twas dreams left me to see her tropic eyes,

imagine my station more than what it was,

a lowly fruiterer, nigh vagabond.

Pretend I was highborn like my Lady

of means, my dear Margaret, groomed in silk.

Then perchance it was imagining, which

blossomed temptation on Margaret's face,

vinified her pouting lips their sweet claret,

conceived lusty panting of her bosom.

Doubt and I did have our share of tangles.

Nonetheless, I cradled my ardor dear.

Prayed nightly, desire would survive unnamed,

until fair Margaret dubbed it with me.

Naught, but hope is so precious to preserve.

 

What a wonder, steadfast my dreams remained.

Forbearance was least my strongest of virtue,

worn less than bows or ribbons in my hair.

Margaret was Rosa Damascena.

I was more a briar-woods sharp prickly thorn.

Never had my want been a lover's dream,

a fantasy, no longer Christmas Eve,

once the bell tower rang its seventh chime,

bade my Romani veneer shed softer.

 

I had resorted to selling hot cider.

Moulsecoomb Square lay bespeckled with footprints,

with shoe nor soul left to press another.

The burnt aroma of roast chestnuts lagged

behind the vendors trudging homeward.

Beckoned me to follow lead, snuff out my

lamps beneath each steaming cider tin, to

reluctantly retire my handcart, and

to pine from one more soulless bitter day,

forlorn cruel night, with empty arms and eyes;

my fate, naught but a dream of Margaret.

 

My desperation bulled my stuck handcart;

dislodged its icy foothold with a curse.

Then a woman said, with a lusty voice,

"Please tell me, Miss, is your cider still hot?"

A ticklish soft feather played up my spine,

me knowing it was Margaret speaking,

for naught but her voice could cause my girlish

shivering, my goose bumps to rise. Twas an

ever stargaze her saying, "I'm Margaret".

 

I knew if I turned about to face her,

she would be a fire and I a snow flake

breathless to answer. Instead, I took what

air a gasp could hold, and answered with a

chitterling that trilled more equal to a

canary than a woman. "A moment

is all I'll need to ignite one wick, to

heat you up a fresh hot tin. If you can

afford all but a brief delay, that is?"

 

Twas I, dumbly ambushed by my answer,

who waited, quivering, a branch in the wind,

sweat dribbling across my brow in contrast,

listening to the wild beat of my heart,

for Margaret to proffer her answer.

Oddly thinking, could prayer divine good luck?

God had never sought out my door to knock,

nor I winged words to rap at glory's gate.

What heaven spared favors for a beggar?

 

Naught but silence reigned, then footfalls fading.

Margaret was departing my brain shrieked.

Say something clever to draw her back,

before she fades into a silhouette,

grows more distant in your nightly fancy.

And what is there for me to say, I argued?

My tongue has never worn a silver coat,

my repartee thought as spellbound engaging.

I'd be a poor gasping Cod on the shore.

Give her your name, my desperate soul shouted!

 

Lacking an epigram or wise entreat,

I shouted like a barker into shadows,

"I'm Anne McFarland; my name is Anne McFarland!",

too late once more, for there came no answer.

My love, like a sudden zephyr was gone;

her absent words, the silence of her voice,

haunting me like an undone concerto.

 

Dolefully, as self-reproof allowed,

I hunched there weakly, spirit slump-shouldered,

unable to move, to scold myself, to think

beyond regret, deep as the fresh fallen snow.

Never expecting from round the corner,

near the southern end of the dreary square

to hear the sharp rattling of a bridled horse,

the creaking of coach wheels amidst the tatted

lacy snowflakes spiraling anew.

 

I held my breath, heart nervously quickened,

as a carriage encircled with saffron light

came to a sudden halt, nigh at my feet.

Seconds swung a pendulum, so slowly,

before the window curtain was drawn back,

revealed my hope, my love, dear Margaret.

Twas a caution hinted in her smile this time,

storm warnings in her eyes. My good sense begged,

uninvite this pain. The Devils fingers

play at your heartstrings. It tis a dirge, nay

a love-song strummed. Yet love is heedless

to frail mortal truths. The truth be spoken.

 

"Please, meet me in London," said Margaret,

as she reached out through the open window,

holding a perfumed letter in her hand.

Her hand, dear God, her soft beautiful hand,

which caressed mine with boudoir promises,

before Margaret tapped on the coach door,

to signaled her patient driver onward.

 

I stood there speechless as a hitching post,

eyes following the coach into the gloom,

holding Margaret's letter to my lips,

my senses dizzied by its subtle orchid scent,

her pentimento of sitter's visage,

the fiery autumn of her long braided hair,

as the coach lantern had shown upon it,

blushed again her peeress cheeks with sunrise,

and glossed her pouting lips with deep red wine.

Margaret Belfry, but her name was love,

and I the willow's bark carved with us, so

Neverland ago in Moulsecoomb Square.

 

Once, true once, a desperate Christmas Eve,

when death and ghost stood near, too close unbound;

I posed a question to a grimmer self.

If fate had warned hearts would surely bleed;

would I have given mine to Margaret?

So much of me lay now within her ash,

in her orchid bottle I hold nightly to

my breast to lend her a living heartbeat.

Would Margaret's letter lay unopened

in a hatbox beneath a craven's bed?

Would one night have been enough, forever?

 

Twas my ire speaking in those early years,

cursing day for night, blue sky, wanting black.

Anne, the naïve selfish little girl who thought love

was a sponsor of betrayal. Angry Anne,

once more left to dream, so lost in her grief,

she knew not what she once had, nor once wanted.

What her dear Margaret had given her,

love to live a thousand lifetimes;

how less my pain, if age and wit were one.

 

Thank God, I, like all things grow to wither.

This brittle winter's eve shall be my last

to clutch your orchid bottle, instead of you.

We've done it, have we not, Margaret.

Our loves endured to end this lonely dream.


© Copyright 2017 Dame Lamia. All rights reserved.

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