Excerpt Two: Love
“Ashley.” Alexander took my hand and held it gingerly. “Everyone learns about nymphs and dryads from their parents in our world. Everyone knows about the naiads, sprites, sylphs, oreads, undines, fauns, and fates. Do you know who Lachesis is?” I shook my head. “Clotho? No? Atropos? The Muses? Do you know anything?” He sounded as if he were in real pain.
I looked at Plexis. He was staring at me, and on his face was the strangest expression. I tried to laugh but the sound stuck in my throat. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, “I didn’t learn about any of that.”
“But you said you went to school. You had teachers, you knew about Plato and Homer, you even spoke to Aristotle about the world being round. And that’s a new idea.” He shook his head. “I just don’t understand.”
“I’m sorry.” I blinked. I wasn’t used to anyone paying so much attention to me. It was unnerving. “I don’t know what to say.”
“But where were you educated?” Alexander asked me. “Even the barbarians know about dryads!”
“I can’t tell you,” I said, shaking my head.
“Why not? I just don’t understand you, Ashley.” There was such pain in his voice that I felt awful.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, “but I can’t.”
“Perhaps it’s just as well you don’t say anything,” said Plexis. “This is what the oracle meant, wasn’t it? I’ll find out on my deathbed, after we’ve reached the sacred river and after I’ve seen the twelve pillars.”
“What’s that?” Alexander said, attentive.
“An oracle’s riddle.” Plexis shrugged. “I don’t know where the sacred river is, perhaps in Indus, I heard of one that flowed there. But I know not where the twelve pillars are.”
I stared at Plexis, he looked at me and then his face softened. He smiled. “Don’t cry. Why, thanks to you I’m probably the only person in the whole world to look forward to my own death.”
“Don’t say that.” Shivering, Alexander put his hand across Plexis’s mouth.
Plexis took it and kissed it, drawing it across his cheek. He looked at it a moment, turned it over, and traced a faint scar on the thumb. Their fingers entwined. Then Plexis placed Alexander’s hand on my leg. “You’re going to have your hands full teaching your wife everything she needs to know before we get back to civilization,” he said in a light voice.
Alexander didn’t say anything, but I felt his sorrow keenly.
“Is it because of me?” I asked Plexis.
He shook his head, mute.
“I won’t stand in your way,” I said to Alexander. “If you love him I won’t stand in your way.”
“There’s nothing in our way,” said Alexander quietly, “except ourselves.” His fey eyes were filled with something like joy.
Plexis shook his head. “Ah, Iskander. There was never anything between us except friendship. Cxious tried to change all that, but you were right all along. Sometimes the difference between love and need is as thin and transparent as spring ice.”
“And the difference between love and need is like the difference between ice and water.” Alexander spoke automatically.
“I see you haven’t forgotten your lessons.” Plexis smiled. “Aristotle should be proud.”
“No, I never forget my lessons,” he said.
“May the gods hear you.” Plexis winced as he levered himself from the ground. “I think I’ll go find Usse and beg some of his sleeping draught. My shoulder pains me. Perhaps I was hasty, moving about so soon.” He turned and left, but not before I saw something shine on his cheeks.
“Oh Alex,” I said, laying my head on his chest. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be.” His heartbeat was slow and regular. “I have all I need.”
“And what about what you want?” I asked.
“You asked me that question long ago, if I remember well. It’s easy to answer. I want to find my son. I want to avenge Darius. And I want to make Alexandria the most beautiful city on earth. I want to grow old with you by my side, our children playing at our feet. I want the stars and the moon.” He paused and kissed my nose. “I want to rule the world and the heavens. So, tell me. Tell me, my oracle, my love. Will I get what I want?”
I gave him the sweetest smile I could muster, and I said, “Alex, you’re standing on thin ice.”
He sputtered, then laughed. “I would be married to the only oracle in the world with a sense of humor.”
We sat in the fragrant grass watching as the horses came down the mountainside. The breeze was redolent of freshly cut hay and summer flowers. Dust sparkled in the air and butterflies darted about. White clouds looked like fat sheep grazing on an endless blue plain above us. The campsite was set up on the flank of the mountain, amongst the trees. Men came and went, fetching wood, forage, water, and meat. All around us there was bustle and the sound of men laughing, arguing, and singing.
We sat on the mossy bank of a silvery stream in a grove of white birch trees, surrounded by a sort of quiet grace.
I looked at the man I had read about three thousand years in the future, the man who would be known as Alexander the Great, and he smiled at me.
~ About the Author ~
Jennifer Macaire is an American living in Paris. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories. Her short stories have been published by Three Rivers Press, Nothing But Red, The Bear Deluxe, and The Vestal Review, among others. One of her short stories was nominated for the Push Cart Prize (Honey on Your Skin) and is now being made into a film. Her short story ‘There be Gheckos’ won the Harper Collins /3 AM flash fiction prize.