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My Better Half

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My dear godson,


I am quite saddened by the news of your uncle's passing and I send you all the appropriate condolences from the bottom of my heart. I have been busy lately so this letter is quite late in coming, though I have received and read all of yours.

I understand your late uncle has left you quite a large amount of property, including his apartments in Petersburg as well as an estate in the country. The reforms you purpose for the estate are indeed revolutionary and, I warn you, may cause scorn with the locals who are not quite acquainted with such novelties, I'm afraid.  

 

Now, Eugene, as you propose to spend some time at the estate I must advise you to seek out some company. Don't exclude yourself so fully from society. It will do you no good, my dear boy. Your isolationist tendencies have already driven you away from Petersburg and I'm afraid you will soon exhaust Moscow's resources of amusement, as well. By company I do not mean your deadly desire for flirtation but rather something that brings you comfort. Perhaps these men, or even ladies, will not become your lifelong friends but the winters are long and dreary in the country if you are all alone so do not alienate yourself from all the neighbors as you seem to have started doing.

 

Now, as to this new acquaintance of yours… Eugene, I have the honor to be your confident and I know the perverse and unusual inclinations your passions take. Be careful, for your own sake, in your words, deeds and looks. This is not Petersburg, after all. There in the aftermath of balls, in the back rooms of soirées and during late nights at the pubs after dinner at the English Club, you and your friends could easily take to pleasures that are viewed as undesirable. It is all a game with your lot, a way to relieve anxiety and satisfy carnal pleasure and society turns a blind eye as long as you are discreet and present yourself properly elsewhere. They have seen too much libertinage and have lived it out too eagerly themselves to criticize much. In the countryside, however, it is different. The folk there are sheltered, pious, unfamiliar with depravity and European liberties. They will notice oddness and they will not take kindly to it. As for this Vladimir Lensky, you have said yourself that he is a righteous, even if foolhardy boy a year or two your junior, just emerging from the German University, a student of romance and literature, a self proclaimed poet. Eugene, do consider well how you present yourself with this boy, this child. Do not let yourself be swept away in your games and your momentary desires. The harm could be beyond your ability to control.

 

Anatole sends you his affection and awaits your letters, or so he has told me to tell you. I hope to hear back from you in due time. Take care, dear boy.

 

Your godfather,

F— D—


***


Evening settled over the countryside turning the clear, azure, summer sky into a blend of pinks, purples, violates, and peach oranges. A quiet fell over the Onegin estate as the day gave into the sunset, fading slowly into twilight. The chirping of birds gave into the slowly mounting chorus of crickets and frogs in a nearby pond. The breeze stilled and the rustling of the leaves and grasses faded, leaving the picturesque landscape in the state of a mirage as though it were a painting on a canvas.


Throughout the large house, candles were being lit, popping up as yellow and orange lights along the dark walls, lighting the windows with a soft inviting glow. Two young men – the master of the house and his guest – appeared on the front porch, still engrossed in conversation. The young owner of the estate leaned carelessly against the railing, staring blankly into the blossoming garden, as his guest, the young Vladimir Lensky, stood beside him, hat in hand, his eyes bright as his gaze swept over the blooming flowerbeds and groves of leafy trees. "Don't you find it beautiful?" Vladimir asked after a few minutes of mutual silence.


"Aesthetically pleasing, yes," Onegin replied lazily, his eyes not leaving the far off horizon below which the sun had dropped only several minutes ago.


"You make everything so banal," Vladimir sighed, running a rand through his dark curls and coming to stand at Onegin's side.


"My dear Lensky, life is banal."   


"Must you be so vulgar?"


Eugene laughed and turned to face the boy. "No. But I do enjoy your reaction."


"Oh!" Vladimir looked quite displeased, though the effect was somewhat ruined by the upward twitch at the corners of his mouth. "Well don't. You frustrate me."


Another laugh as Eugene's eyes searched the younger man's face for something that he was not finding. "It makes things more interesting. If we always agreed with each other we would grow quite bored off each other's company much too quickly."


"No, I wouldn't say."


"Oh, really?"


"I'm sure we can agree on some things and still find difference enough to entertain us."


Onegin shrugged and nodded at the same time, a combination that might have looked comical on anyone else but was rather coherent in his performance. "Certainly…take romance, for one. You burn with a love for everything that pleases you. The garden, the wine, the pretty country maiden…" He smirked roguishly, awaiting the rebuke.


It never came, however. Instead, Vladimir managed to blush to a point where he resembled a ripe strawberry. "Don't make fun of me, I beg you. I confided in you; please don't hold that against me."


"I'm not! I don't!" Eugene threw his hands up in the air in playful surrender. "But it is true, though – the point I was making? You are a romantic, a poet; I am a cynic, a realist. Our outlook on love can not possibly be the same."


Vladimir didn't find much to say, dropping his gaze and fumbling with his hat somewhat uncomfortably. He looked up at the darkening sky and took a step away from Onegin. "I must go."


Eugene looked up, grey eyes somewhat miffed at the sudden transition. "Must you? It isn't that late. Tell me, where do you spend your evenings?"


"The Larins." Lensky managed to flush again, though it wasn't quite as obvious in the fading light.


"Ah, I see. Well, this makes me quite sad." He pushed away from the railing and took a step toward Vladimir, the corners of his mouth twitching upward. "Tell me, am I wrong to assume that these evenings consist of nothing much other than homemade pies and talk of harvests and household duties?"


"You mock in vane, Eugene. I have no need for your posh Petersburg world, where everything is corrupted and depraved, thinly veiled by a sparkling façade—"


"Oh surely not everything! You do offend!"


"—I would much rather prefer the home's hearth and the familiar talk of gentle and true hearts—"


"Alright, alright! You've beaten me there; no need to continue." Eugene's eyes danced with amusement as they met Vladimir's honestly bright ones. Dark, passionate eyes that burned with a desire for life, beauty and love. For something bigger and better and utterly idealistic. "Any chance I could meet this diva of yours at some time? She, to whom all your thoughts surrender?"


Vladimir seemed to calm and his expression lost its defensive air and was now as open and genuine as ever, the gentle lines of his features no longer creased but smooth, almost angelic. "Why not now?"


"Now?"


"Why not?"


Eugene smiled broadly. "Alright, let us be off then." He led the way off the porch and to the garden gate. He was about to push it open when Lensky's quiet, almost cautious comment stalled him. "Eugene? I don't think it's true that you and I can never have the same outlook on love."


Onegin turned, eyeing the boy curiously. "Oh?"


 Vladimir shifted just slightly, The moon was visible now and its faint light seemed reflected in the boy's dark, bottomless eyes. "Yes. You just…you've just never truly been in love, I think. But when you do fall in love, you will see the world as I see it, in all its magnificent, radiant beauty, with all its mysteries and significance…"


"When I fall in love?" Eugene repeated, his voice dropping a notch, the edges of his tone fraying.


"Yes." Vladimir put a hand on the gate to push it open and froze when Eugene reached out and covered it with his. The coolness of the metal gate on one side and the feverish warmth of Eugene's hand on the other, made small goose bumps run down the boy's back. He slowly raised his eyes to Onegin's in innocent, confused askance.


"What if I'm already in love?" Eugene asked, his eyes, steady and sharp like a blade, not leaving Vladimir's face.


For a moment, there was no comprehension, no movement. They stood frozen as if carved of stone. Then Lensky's face lit up with color and his eyes left Eugene's face, darting downward as though in panic. He wrenched his hand out of Onegin's grip and shouldered open the gate. "It would be rude to be any later," he mumbled in way of excuse, pushing past Onegin and through the gate. Eugene turned slowly and walked after his young friend, hands behind his back and head slightly tilted upwards, surveying the sky bathed in twilight hues. It really was a beautiful evening…


***


My dear Eugene,

 

Your letters are scant and far between. Why? Yes, I demand to know, and no, I will not leave you in peace so don't even bother asking it of me. I am well and I am quite happy with life. Now that Papa has agreed to it, I am able to see Marie whenever I feel like it. I suppose I will be proposing to her soon enough. Papa has already agreed to allow me to see her; he can not possibly imagine that I shall go on willingly compromising her.

 

As for you, my friend, I don't see why you are so terribly bored in the country. It is a nice place, especially in the summers. Don't be grumpy, it is your pessimistic mood that makes everything out to be worse that it is, you know. Oh! And I almost quite forgot though I've been thinking about it nearly all day. Do tell me why you scorn the poor Larin girl so harshly. Your sharp tongue is well known but do explain yourself! It seems strange for you to describe her as "vapid" and "delusional" and to speak of her countryside origins in such a cynically cruel manner. These are not the words of a man in love! And, I must confess, my father does seem to think you quite taken. Please, do shed some light on this mystery or I shall go crazy building up all sorts of theories in my mind. Do relieve me of the horrible gossip within me and come out with it all.  I await your letter with much anticipation (and impatience).

 

Your friend,

Anatole D—


***


"Lensky, I ride better than you! How can you not acknowledge that even after all those times I've beat you?"


Vladimir, busy feeling some morsel to his beautiful white mare, didn't turn around but Eugene could hear the smile in his voice. "Well, legitimately, you beat me only once. We only really raced but once."


"I am still the better rider!" Eugene protested. He finished tying up his horse and strode over to Lensky's side, putting a hand casually on the young man's shoulder. "Are you quite done babying her? I'd like to get in a swim before dinner."


Vladimir turned, smiling widely. It was a sloppy, boyish smile that radiated warmth and happiness, a small, second sun, beautiful enough to make Onegin gasp inwardly and stare shamelessly. "I'll race you!" Vladimir took off laughing, completely confidant that Eugene would follow.


Eugene did follow, running through the lush undergrowth of the woods, along small, earthy paths, across a feisty, gurgling stream and into a sunbathed clearing that opened up onto a small lake. The water was an enticing deep blue and the surface as smooth as glass, reflecting the bright sunlight in sparkling paths and ripples. Vladimir kicked off his boots, still running toward the water's edge. Onegin followed suite, relieving himself of his own. He caught up to Vladimir at the edge of the late and without much thought, not giving the boy enough chance to undress, pushed him into the lake.  


Lensky let out a startled cry, sinking to the shoulders into the water. He came up, half sputtering, half laughing and grabbing Eugene's ankle pulled him in as well with a wild splash. "Ah! Lensky—" Eugene pushed the boy away splashing up a fountain of clear, sparkling water. Vladimir laughed, the sound like a handful of small, chiming, silver bells. The world lip up as they engaged in a water war, one retaliating against the other, laughter at times suppressed by mouthfuls of water. Finally, Vladimir's patience broke and in a wild, carefree display of happiness and affection, he threw himself at Eugene, knocking the young man backwards into the water. For a moment, Onegin found himself submerged in the cool depths of the lake, looking up into Vladimir's face which was just barely above him, a halo of sunlight over his head, his raven curls splayed out by the water. Eugene came up quickly with a gasp for air, reaching out for the boy and winding his arms around Vladimir's waist.


They found themselves standing in each other's arms, with water up to their shoulders. Vladimir put his hands on Eugene's forearms as though to push away gently but found Eugene's hold on him too tight to break so easily. Water droplets lung off of Vladimir's girlishly long lashes and several drops sparkled enticingly on his full, pink lips, now slightly parted from his hard breathing. Onegin's eyes glided over the boy's face, stopping suggestively on his lips. "Eugene let me go," Vladimir said softly, though he didn't make any attempts to push away himself. His hands were still on Onegin's arms and Eugene could feel their slight trebling through his soaked shirt.


"Why?"


"Oh, don't do this to me," Vladimir protested weekly as Eugene drew him in closer, pressing their warm bodies together, displacing the cool water between them. Vladimir looked down only to have his eyes land on Eugene's broad shoulders from which he could not look away. "Oh…"


"You're trembling," Onegin commented.


"And that surprises you?" Lensky found his voice weak and failing him, sliding away from his control and his trembling increased. Their closeness was almost suffocating, sending shocks and tremors through his body at every touch. The hot sun above was starting to melt away his consciousness and the languidness of the peaceful woods and the still water made the proximity with Onegin even more unbearably tempting. "Eugene," he was pleading now.


Onegin held him for just another moment, then let go and pushed back, floating on his back, face up to the sun. "Race you to the lilies over there…"


It took Lensky only a moment to recover and give an enthusiastic, "Alright! Start now!" They took off easily toward the center of the lake under the late summer sun, returned to carefree innocence, untainted by the possibilities that had offered themselves up so freely just moments ago.


***

 

Dear Anatole,

 

You are much too curious and make too many assumptions for your own good. Your father is, as always, insightful but I think either he or you have made too many conclusions too quickly. I am not at all taken with the Larin girl though she might well be taken with me. It isn't that I think very badly of her, not at all. She seems much more sensible than her sister, though plain and provincial. Her good qualities are mostly romantic and Christian virtues, which is to say she is a good, morally inclined girl and she has much more of my respect than any of my other blockhead neighbors.

 

However, it is not Tatiana Larin that I am taken with, not at all. It is a creature of such pure heart and whose nature is so opposite to mine that I do not fully understand how we can bear each other at all. My friend, I do not think I have ever experienced a love such as this, a passion so possessing and violent that I can barely stop myself from ravaging and ravishing the object of my frantic desire. I now know what you meant when you tried to explain to me how it felt to be so near to your Marie and yet be unable to touch her and be consumed in her as you wished. I find myself in rather the same pitiful state now. I did not understand then, despite the vast number of women I had been with already, this feeling. But I understand now, and plainly at that.

 

Dear friend, I do not dare say more. Please, do not ask me more. Perhaps, I will tell you when I am back in Petersburg (whenever that might be) but do not ask me to explain any further. Rather, be the true friend you have always been and comfort me with your boundless assurances. I await your letter, Anatole, as for now, take care.

 

Your friend,

Eugene Onegin 

 

***


Fall came in a breeze of cool air and a swarm of colorful dry leaves which broke from the branches and swirled and drifted down to the hardening earth below, creating a bright, crinkling carpet below foot. The days grew shorter and the evenings longer, making the fireplace and gluehwein more enticing and appropriate. Eugene and Vladimir made full use of these longer evenings, staying in and playing a game of billiards before supper and lounging in languid conversation after, as the fire filled the room with dancing, warm shadows. With the cooler days came the instinctive, natural need for warmth, for closeness, and intimacy was freely given and taken without a second thought. Lensky no longer recoiled at Eugene's touch and it become second nature for Onegin to slip his arm comfortably around Vladimir's waist as they sat on the plush rug spread out before the drawing room fireplace.  


The night the tension – that had been building slowly but steadily since the night at the garden gate – broke, they had been arguing about women and Olga in particular. The sudden silence that fell between the two, sparked and hummed. It was like a deadly, living entity. Vladimir's eyes were deep and agitated, his cheeks flushed and his gestures frantic. Eugene was feral, his eyes cool and calculating as his tone clipped and bit every sentence, sharpening every word to serve as a weapon.


"You're a misogynist," Vladimir said finally, his tone flat.


"But not a misanthrope."


"That is completely irrelevant."


"Is it?" Eugene's sharp movement was too fast for Vladimir to react to it. Onegin's arm on his waist tightened and his other arm wound around his neck, pulling him forward. Vladimir gasped just before Eugene's lips caught his, sending him into a whirlwind of emotional and physical confusion, freezing his ability to respond to or reject the sudden assault. When Onegin withdrew both men were breathing heavily and Eugene's voice came across husky and a tone deeper than usual. "If I hated all mankind, would I have just done that?"


Vladimir shook his head mutely, feeling the heat rise in his chest and spread downward. Eugene pressed their bodies closer together, touching their foreheads so that their breath mingled. He fingered the top button of Vladimir's shirt, undoing it and moving on to the next one, his eyes not leaving those of the boy in his arms. He leaned forward, devouring the boy's mouth in a greedy demand for a response. Vladimir wound his arms around Onegin's neck, no longer able to deny the growing temptation of his desire. His kisses were soft and lingering, responding meekly, albeit eagerly, to Eugene's possessive onslaught. Onegin managed to unbutton Vladimir's shirt with one hand and slid both hands under the smooth fabric to rub across Vladimir's chest, swirling the already-hard nipples. The touch of skin to skin made Vladimir gasp and arch forward. He was no longer comprehending the meaning of all this. All he knew was that Eugene was slowly and systematically undressing him: his shirt, belt, sox… Onegin himself had practically ripped off his own shirt.


Vladimir felt himself tip back and in seconds he was lying on the rug with Eugene on top, straddling his hips. "Please we can't, we can't," Vladimir pleaded, sliding his hands over Eugene's bare chest. "What is this? What are we doing?"


Eugene grabbed Vladimir's wrists and pinned them to the floor above his head. "I know this is what you want," Eugene growled, pushing his hips down so that his erection rubbed against Vladimir's.


Lensky let out a throaty moan, his knees buckling slightly as he arched up to increase the friction. Onegin resumed his assault, licking intricate designs over Vladimir's chest and nipping gently at his nipples, coming up from time to time to impart a hot, passionate kiss on the helpless boy beneath him. He whispered little, dirty banalities in Vladimir's ear, making the boy flush and gasp from the feeling of Onegin's hot breath on the shell of his ear.


Vladimir was completely helpless under Onegin's violent possession but there was no turning back. The fear and awkwardness had all melted away in a heat wave of passion that abstracted all logic and heightened the senses to a point where it was painful to not be touched and kissed and made love to. Lensky fell in a dizzying hurricane of purely youthful hormonal responses into the abyss that Eugene opened up before him. He did not struggle or regret a single kiss, a single stroke to his sensitive areas. He did not regret the pain when it came and even took joy in it, crying out in a mixture of pleasure and distress when Eugene filled him to the brim. Onegin seemed to feed of the emotional turmoil coming off of his young lover. Everything feral in him that might have lain dormant before, sprang up and lurched forward with vengeful force.  


Their rhythm was erratic, primeval. There was a violence in their union that stemmed from fear of the forbidden, desire restrained and hidden too long, the feeling of finality and damnation that accompanied every gasp and every repetition of one another's name. Their release was mutual, almost simultaneous, exploding in a delirious display of emotional and sensational fireworks.      


    When Vladimir was woken the next morning with soft gentle kisses to the crook of his neck and shoulder and opened his eyes to encounter a pair of grey-blue ones, he felt neither fear nor passion, neither revulsion nor desire, but rather the most tenderness and devotion that one young heart could ever offer another.


    ***

     

    My darling Eugene,

     

    I have no words for they are all futile when I try to describe how I feel when I see you, touch you, think of you… I use to think language and poetic verse could describe every feeling of the body, every longing of the soul, every detail of the world… It can not.

     

    I do not know what you have done to me, how you have managed to bewitch me and bind me to you. All I know is that if I am every deprived of your tenderness I shall chose to die rather than live without what I now know to be heaven. My fate is fully in your hands and I have no will beyond this love. Be I only your plaything, know that you have conquered a heart that will never put itself back together if you break it.

     

    I love you. I do not fear the words any longer nor do I fear the feeling itself. Whatever the damnation, whatever the cost, let it come to us in our union rather than our separation. I know you love me. I have seen it in your eyes and felt it in the way you kiss me. Don't stay away another day. Come to me or bid me come to you. I wait, my love, I wait solely for you.

     

    Eternally yours,

    Vladimir Lensky


    ***


    The water of the lake was sill. Not a ripple disturbed the glassy surface that reflected the graying blue of the autumn sky. Eugene sat on the bank, leaning back against a balding oak, surrounded by a vibrant display of fallen leaves. He played idly with the raven curls of the boy who lay with his head in his lap, looking alternately outward at the water and downward into a pair of dark, velvet eyes. The utter stillness of the world around them, the perfect, unbroken serenity, allowed for a comfortable silence between them, made of nothing but a mutual understand that they were together.


    "Eugene?"


    "Yes?"


    "Do you remember when I told you that when you fall in love your outlook on the world would change?"


    "Yes?"


    "I don't think I want it to."


    Eugene looked down, running a finger over his lover's lips and smiling in amusement. "Why is that?"


    "Because you would be a different person. The way you are now…you complete me. I've often wondered what it was like for those who find their perfect other half, their soul mate. I know now."


    Eugene's smile broadened and became more roguish. "Always the romantic, Vladimir."


    The boy laughed, half-closing his eyes. "That's probably for the best. You wouldn't love me half as much if I wasn't."


    "So you think I love you because you're incorrigibly idealistic?"


    Vladimir's eyes fluttered shut. "In part, yes, I think so."


    Eugene shook his head, even though Vladimir couldn't see it and looked out across the lake. "You are my better half. That's all I know." He closed his eyes and inhaled the autumn air with its smell of dry leaves and rainwater. "That's all I need to know."


    ***


    My dear godfather,

     

    I am sorry for the lengthy periods of time between my letters and for their general blandness. Most of what has been happening here has been as dull as my writing. With one exception. I am afraid, too, that this exception is the one thing you will not be able to forgive me.  

     

    I am in love. How many times have you heard this from me? Many, perhaps. But never like this, I assure you. That is, perhaps, the most problematic aspect of the affair. My heart has been empty until now. But now it is full and ready to burst with the tender feeling you warned me against so strongly. Even worse, you will find it, that this is not a love I might sanctify and justify with righteous wedding vows.

     

    But do not judge me too harshly. Before you write to beret me of my youthful foolishness, do take up the locket you keep closed in the top drawer of your bedside secretaire and look at the miniature portrait within. Would you not give anything in the world to look into that pair of eyes once more? Did reason extinguish the love you had for the boy depicted there? Did his passing diminish your longing for his tenderness? I know that the pain at this separation is partially what moves you to forewarn me so insistently but please consider with an honest heart: had you known the end before it came, would you have turned away from your young prince?

     

    With all due affection and respect,

    Your godson,

    Eugene Onegin