The course of true love never did run smooth.
-William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Sylvia. The name itself a piece of art. The harsh intonation of the first syllable, the soft pronunciation of the v and the delicate combination of an i and an a. A name made famous by Shakespeare, a name made famous by Sylvia Tietjens.
Because Sylvia Tietjens is a walking, renowned oxymoron; known in Britian and Germany for her manners at the dinner table and lack of in the bedroom. A breathing contradiction. Rotten and spoiled, but beautiful at the same time. Delicate angles as if cut out by the greatest of sculptors and a small nose, complimentary curves and a head held high at all times. Pure as white snow and used like a whore.
To Christopher, it's his wife. To Christopher, it's the woman he will never love.
Her hair is red. Red as cinnamon and rust. Bronze, copper and blood.
That's all he can think of. His scarred mind conjuring up images he thought gone while he's holding her in his arms. Sweat against sweat, skin against skin.
Her hair is the colour of blood. Red like the teeth and the uniforms of the innumerable soldiers he saw falling to their death. Into the mud. Into the sea. Onto the shore. Buried underneath stirred up earth and limbs and their cries drowned out by detonations in the distance. Detonations within reach. Shining metal piercing through ivory bone with a splat and a crack. Crimson smiles and fading eyes. Shrapnels like jewelry; adorning marble skin, decorating open wounds. Silver beads red-rimmed.
And as he holds her in his arms, as he kisses her lips and their breaths mingle and teeth clash, it feels like Verdun all over again.
"What happened to you?"
Valentine's different. Valentine, a name as endearing as she might never grow to be and definitely never has been. She's not fragile, she's not weak. Not gallant and noble. She's a fighter, just like him. Hair a golden corona surrounding her head, skin glowing white. She stands for everything Christopher has despised for all these years, everthing he despises, and vice versa.
But all he wants is to kiss her. He has wanted to kiss her ever since he first laid eyes upon her. The fragile figure with pure power in her veins, electric sparks igniting and particles colliding. A white, innocent spot, linnen and cotton, in the midst of an evergreen hell.
"Why didn't you kiss me?"
It's easy. It's so easy. He asks Sylvia to tie her hair back into a knot before they go to bed, he asked her to clip her nails shorter. No long hair caressing his legs when she throws her head back in ecstacy and no scrap of fingernails leaving ragged marks.
When he closes his eyes, he can imagine it's her.
When he closes his eyes, the body on top of his belongs to somebody he loves.
Somebody who might love him.
Because Sylvia never does, never will, and Sylvia never did. Their marriage a scam, an act of heroic salvation and noble self-sacrifice.
It felt like the right thing to do; back then when the war was only at their doorstep, not in their bedroom and when he had given up the idea of finding someone that would love him.
She once described their situation. One of those rare moments when the words that leave her mouth are nothing but the truth. And he knows, he knows, those words will haunt him, follow him, echo in his head. They won't leave until his heart stops beating and his final breath leaves his body.
“Look at us. Higher than the beasts, lower than the angels, stuck in our idiot Eden.”