The Visitor

February 21, 2013
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Hermia craned her neck to look out the window, her jet-black hair swirling regally around the ivory chair. The silent, white stillness of the snow unnerved her, causing her to drop her colorful knitting sock. Again. Nurse Jacqueline looked up, straightened her starched apron disapprovingly and went back to her crocheting. ‘Ha!’ Hermia thought to herself, ‘I’ve seen snow for four-hundred thirty two years, and it still astounds me.’
As she knitted, memories came unbidden to her, dragging heartache along. She recollected their stately house, Dorum Anaxium; a present to her father from the Duke and sighed, remembering the golden leaves embossed upon the marble tiles, their borders sequined with silver.
It was upon one of those golden leaves that a furious Duchess Hippolyta had stood – her bowless hands quivering in rage. She had fumbled and fumed as she cussed, her nostrils flaring like an angry cow’s. Her words were incomprehensible, uttered in her Amazonian tongue, but the message that she meant to convey was clear and sharp. What they had done was worthy of death, she had said. Worthy of death by the sword.
And since both Hermia and her blonde twin Helena were accomplices in this cruel act of subversion, they would both be held accountable. Hippolyta then walked out, her leather girdle flaming in righteous indignation. “One shalT NOW die and the other never”, she had said, stomping away on the silent snow. “See thou to it, thou snow, afore thou reachest the river”.
Dignified Jacqueline ran behind her, barefoot, begging Hippolyta to curse her too – so her young mistress would never lack a faithful maidservant.
The silent snow acceded. Winter had scarcely passed before Helena contracted diphtheria, and died – a slow, painful death, making her a mere skeletal-cage of her former self, a sorry parody of her previous vanities.
For Hermia however, the pleasure of death was not to be. She was granted a most undesirable gift, one that left her eternally young. Cursed with this secret boon, she watched her worlds go by, spinning across the centuries. She had witnessed kingdoms and governments rise and fall, fashions come and go, and the silent white snow dissolve into clear, blue water. Across four centuries, she had changed and adapted to the customs of the times, picking up new words like “Gosh” and “Okay” along the way. Yet, her hair remained jet-black and her cheeks rose-red.
Her life, however, was one of constant aberration.
It was in a decidedly unceremonious manner that she had recently fled the majestic peaks of the Altai Tavan Bogd. Her lush, black hair attracted a curious admirer in the thirteen year-old, hysterical sheik of the Mongolian expanse – Jinong Khan.
He, a tall, handsome prince with strong eyes and a stern nose, had usurped the liberty of clinging to her long, slim forearm as he spoke. His words were fast and curious, the amount of thought put into them lightly veiled. “Eight winters have I seen you”, he said, his baby voice thickening with an insatiable curiosity. “Behi Hermia, tell me your secret. How are you yet unchanged?”
Jacqueline had always told Hermia that this was the latter of Hippolyta’s cruel damnation. It was too numerical to be attributed to chance alone.
Every eight years, there appeared a boy – a youngster of nobility, who knew, or appeared to know of her secret. Fearful of what secrets those lads would elicit from the precious child, Nurse Jacqueline had always bundled her charge up and ferried her to safety. Again.
This was the fifty-fourth time, Hermia mused. Fifty-four boy children know of me now.
Jacqueline’s shrill voice cut through the flurried noise of Hermia’s thoughts. “What wilst thou have for tea? she asked, an antique blue-rimmed teacup swaying dangerously from her fore-finger. She often reverted back to their original dialect when alone.
“Warm milk and two oatmeal biscuits, please.”
Hermia’s answer was, in many ways, an allegory of her own nature. Polite, yet reserved, curt almost, in her dealings with her own kind. Never revealing a thing about herself. And yet, it was underneath this calm, dignified exterior that lurked a beautiful winged butterfly.
Hermia longed to let loose of all four-hundred thirty two years of etiquette and proper womanly conduct. She longed to talk – to bare all the dark, painful longings and childish, exuberant desires that her soul had harbored so long. She longed to laugh, and to be laughed at. To confide and be confided in.
Yes, Hermia Eagleson longed for a companion.
Companions were hard to come by in Milwaukee, though. Especially when you spoke with a foreign accent, possessed startling ebony hair, had been sixteen for four hundred thirty- two years, and had just moved in a week ago.
And so, Hermia knitted. She was briskly sewing an ambrosial grassy pattern when a confident knock sounded at the door.
Hurrying to the hallway, she tripped over a brass flower vase.
All four hundred thirty-two years of her life had not seen a decrease in her klutziness.
Outside the door, stood a boy; a child of ten or eleven. His blonde curls were grimy with sweat, but his smile was fresh and sweet. “Mama said we’d got neighbors, so I just thought get Stinkie over and visit,” he said. “I’m Xander.”
He held out his sooty, soiled hand. A sign of trust and comradeship.
Hermia smiled. She had a visitor.

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Jaimy 460 said...
Mar. 1, 2013 at 8:32 am
The wiriting is awesome! Keep up the good work! Expecting more to read from you... imagination and language is so good.... !
Liquid_Skies said...
Feb. 28, 2013 at 11:18 am
I love the concept and idea of this story. The description in it is amazing and keeps me reading more. Your fluency is outstanding and how you describe the thoughts of the girl is very good as well. Keep on writing!
danicosta This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 1, 2013 at 8:29 am
Thank you so much!
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