Friday, July 6, 2012

"The Sixth Wife" by Laura Lond (Novelette)

Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Adelia has no one to blame for her heartache. She’d been cautioned, many times and by many people. Everyone except her mother had told her it was folly to marry an elf, citing a host of reasons. Adelia knew their warnings were not unfounded. She knew he was very different from her and her kind, he was much older, and he’d had five other wives before her. She didn’t care. She had chosen her path.


Adelia was only happy when she was alone with Ametar. She could then pretend that they were an ordinary couple, with the husband perhaps just a few years older than the wife, living in their beautiful palace with magnificent gardens. He was always caring and kind, although a little reserved like all elves. He never spoke about love, but he made her feel certain that he accepted and liked her the way she was, with all her imperfections. Adelia could be herself with him, forgetting all worries. She could only wonder why he’d chosen her over so many impeccable elven ladies.

On their fifth wedding anniversary, Ametar had told her that he wouldn’t require her to leave at the age of fifty; he was dropping that part of their agreement. She still remembered how her heart had fluttered at the news. He didn’t elaborate on his decision, but she knew it could only mean one thing: he truly cared about her. Whether he’d taken those five years to test his own feelings or hers, or perhaps there was a whole different reason altogether, Ametar’s announcement had told her he was taking their marriage seriously. She thought herself the happiest woman in the world.

The happiness lasted until she began to age. He never said a word about it, but Adelia saw every little change—a new wrinkle, another silvery hair, some extra plumpness her figure never used to have—and knew it would only get worse, no matter how hard she tried to fight the effects of aging. She exercised, ate lots of fruit, used creams and oils, and bathed in the warm waters of the Calla stream. At fifty, she probably looked better than most human women of her age, but the difference was noticeable, especially when she stood next to her young-looking husband, who hadn’t changed one bit. She was only delaying the inevitable.

Adelia had been fifty-seven when her mother died. She’d traveled back to her homeland for the funeral, together with Ametar. Everyone stared at them there, of course. Katrina’s comment still rang in her ears:

“So how many young mistresses does he have, now that you look like you’re his mother?”

Ametar didn’t have any, and his treatment of Adelia had not changed, but she was growing uncomfortable. Upon their return to Rosendoll, she’d taken a long, honest look in the mirror and realized his original plan to separate probably made sense. She had become reclusive, asking to be excused from public events. Ametar seemed to understand and didn’t push her. He did, however, try to stop her gradual withdrawal from him.

“Is it all just because of your changing looks, Adelia?” he’d asked. “You do realize looks are deceiving, don’t you? I am not staying young, I only appear so. I am not younger than you are; I am much, much older, with all sorts of scars and burdens inside. My body may not show my age, but it’s there all the same. You don’t need to hide from me just because your body works differently.”

But Adelia couldn’t help it. She couldn’t stop seeing the difference or thinking about it. She had decided to leave when she turned sixty, and just be grateful for the extra ten years. When sixty had come, she didn’t have the heart to go. She’d changed the date several times since then.

At seventy-five, she no longer looked like his mother; she could easily pass for his grandmother. A couple of years ago, her health had begun to decline, too. Elves knew little about human aches and pains, especially those that came with old age, so they could offer no remedies.

It was time to leave. She did not want Ametar to watch her turn into a helpless creature, the sight of whom could invoke only pity or disgust.

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