It was a gloomy overcast afternoon on the island of Piffling. The chilly autumn wind left blushes on Antigone's skin as she walked to the grounds where the Piffling Traveling Circus had set up, clutching a rotting wicker basket in her hand. As she reached the performer caravans, she spotted Marlene Magdalena sitting the wooden steps of her red caravan, smoking.
"Marlene!" She called out, jogging up to her.
The ringmistress stomped out her cigarette as she stood up.
"Are you busy right now?" Antigone asked nervously, she gazed at the ringmistress, her top hat and bowtie missing, a hint of collarbone peeked from her partly unbuttoned shirt.
"No, not at all." Marlene replied, a small smiled tugging on her lips as she eyed the wicker basket.
"Would you, uhm, would you like to go on a picnic with me?"
"I would love to." She said, holding out her hand to Antigone.
Antigone took Marlene's hand, and it felt like home. Even though Marlene came to visit Antigone whenever she was in town, it always felt like an eternity between those times.
They walked past the sandy beaches and patches of bright grass through the streets of Piffling Vale, straying farther and farther away from ideal picnic spots.
"Where are we going exactly?" Marlene asked as they passed the town.
"Oh, well, when I find the living a bore, there's a place I go." Antigone said, pointing towards the Piffling Vale Cemetery.
Marlene simply made a "hmph," sound, more surprised than irritated.
They paused in front of the cemetery gates, Antigone rattled the rusty wrought iron, but it remained shut. She turned back to the confused Marlene and told her there was a hole in the gate further down the way.
Antigone led Marlene to a section of the gate where there were two bars missing. Antigone slipped in just like the breeze, the ringmistress following close behind her.
"Mind the trees," she cautioned, ducking the twisted limbs that curled like claws.
Marlene's tailcoat caught in the branches. She fought with seemingly living tree; with each twist, the fabric of her coat caught in another branch. Frustrated, she tore her coat away from the tree.
Antigone hadn't noticed, and continued to a particular spot in the cemetery.
She took an ancient plaid picnic blanket from out of the basket and laid it on the ground. She sat down against a rather large and mossy gravestone, obscuring the names carved onto them.
Though there was now several rips in her tailcoat, Marlene finally escaped her entrapment from the trees. She dusted her coat off as she looked back at where Antigone sat. She was facing the tombstone, her mouth moving as if she were talking to someone.
As Marlene slowly approached, Antigone looked up and turned back to the wicker basket, and began setting out jars and paper wrapped deli meats.
"I went the library and found a recipe book of Slovakian food....I don't know how to pronounce this but I -"
"Ah! Obložené chlebíčky!" Marlene exclaimed at the sight of the jar of red peppers, baguette, ham and jar of hard-boiled eggs.
"Yes... that's it..." Antigone murmured, hiding her face in her hand.
Marlene sliced a piece of the baguette and promptly began to make her open-faced sandwich. For a moment she felt like she was back home. The scent of the fresh bread wafted through the autumn air, and it all felt so familiar.
Antigone stared at her with mild wonder, dumbly holding the bread.
Marlene gently took the bread out of her hands and began to make Antigone's sandwich.
Antigone rummaged through the wicker basket, taking out two white and orange cans. Marlene gasped.
"Where did you find Kofola?" She asked in amazement.
"I asked someone at the town market to special order it..."
Marlene was beyond words, only managing a heartfelt "thank you," and kissing Antigone's hand.
Antigone looked away, a deep blush creeping to her cheeks and she pursed her lips, trying not to smile.
Marlene handed Antigone her sandwich, she cracked open her Slovakian cola and raised the can high.
"To my creepy girl," she said.
Antigone followed suit, and rather quietly she raised her can of Kofola and said "To my ringmistress,"
They tapped their cans together and began their luncheon.
The ringmistress ate greedily, relishing each bite. As she finished her food, she was suddenly reminded that she wasn't back in Slovakia, but rather she was in fact, in a graveyard. She looked around at the stones and crosses all in a row. It wasn't an unnerving feeling, rather it brought her back to celebrating All Saint's Day in her town.
She looked to Antigone, leaning against an aging tombstone, eating very slowly.
"Do you not like it?" She asked.
"No! No...its just, well I've never tasted it before...." She trailed off, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"It's alright if you don't like it." Marlene said, scooting closer to Antigone.
"No, I promise I like it...I just eat slowly..."
Marlene leaned next to Antigone against the tombstone, resting her head on her shoulder. She reached for the wicker basket, as she opened it, she saw a very familiar packet she hadn't seen in several years.
"Kávenky!" She exclaimed, grabbing the packet of coffee wafer bars from the basket. Antigone smiled as she finished her food.
Marlene excitedly tore open the packet, offering a wafer to Antigone. She accepted the snack and munched on it slowly, watching Marlene happily scarf hers down.
Marlene gently turned Antigone's head to face her. She pressed her lips against hers. Antigone's hand crawled to Marlene's thigh. She pulled away, pressing her forehead against Antigone's.
"Milujem ťa ....that is 'I love you' in Slovak." The ringmistress murmured. What she didn't say was that the term was used for the most serious and strongest of loves.
A blush crept to Antigone's cheeks, she tried saying it back, stammering. She couldn't pronounce it. She looked away in embarrassment. Marlene smiled, peppering kisses against her cheek.
"You make me feel like there are moths in my stomach..." Antigone murmured.
"You mean butterflies?"
"No, moths....because they're attracted to the light and I'm always pulled towards you..." She said, shivering.
Marlene encircled her arms around her, kissing her cheek.
"Are you cold?"
Antigone nodded. Marlene shrugged off her tailcoat and handed it to Antigone. She pulled it on, wrapping her arms around Marlene. The ringmistress kissed Antigone's hair.
She moved to lay down, resting her head on Antigone's lap. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the cool air.
She asked Antigone about the symbols on gravstones, and listened intently to her creepy girl's words.
"...and a lamb usually means that a child is buried... and the clasped hands mean a married couple who have been separated by death, and their unity to one another..." she trailed off.
She tilted her head down to look at Marlene, who opened her eyes. A fleeting thought of clasped hands on her gravestone crossed Antigone's mind. She fantasized about marrying the ringmistress so often...
"Why do you come here, my creepy girl?" Marlene asked.
Antigone was silent for a moment. She played with Marlene's hair, curling it around her fingers.
"It's peaceful and quiet....the dead don't bother me. The dead don't say cruel things. It's beautiful here..."
Marlene looked around, she was right. The dead leaves in the trees all around them broke off and swirled in the wind, the aging tombstones and wilting flowers had an ethereal beauty to them.
What Antigone didn't say was that she felt like a living corpse, a girl who spent so much time with corpses that she became one herself.
As Marlene continued to lay against Antigone's thigh, she played with her thin hand, softly kissing it as Antigone continued to talk about gravestones. Marlene told Antigone about celebrating All Saint's Day in Slovakia, telling her how beautiful the cemetery was at night with hundreds of candles aglow.
As it grew darker, the two of them decided to head home. Antigone properly packed up all the food and stood up, she noticed a disarray of flowers at a grave and went over to fix them.
As Marlene got up and tossed the blanket over her shoulder, she finally caught glimpse of what was carved into the gravestone.
Though she didn't recognize the first names, the last names were such blatant markers.
Intricately carved twice into the stone was the surname "Funn" and the dates that told they were buried 18 years ago.
The sound of Antigone's voice snapped Marlene out of her thoughts and together they snuck out of the cemetery, their fingers laced together.