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My version of 'Patient Griselda'

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posted on Dec, 6 2006 @ 05:31 PM
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Original versions:
(I'll hafta get back with a link to Boccaccio's original story..)
Petrarch
Wikipedia info on Griselda

And the following is my version of the tale.


As always, suggestions, clarifications, questions are always welcome & encouraged! (Writing is a two-way street... the writers need the readers, and vice versa. So feel free to speak up!)

I sat alone in a corner booth next to the cafe’s front window, legs pulled up to my chest, a lukewarm cup of coffee resting in my hands, just under my nose. The place was quiet, a lull before the storm of drunks who demanded fries and coffee were kicked out of the bar next door.

I looked through the jagged streams of rain that drizzled down the cafe’s bay window to the slick black streets. Stark white headlights passed and shown on individual raindrops. The yellow streetlights made the thin and scraggly trees look waxy. On the sidewalk, a puddle formed around a chewed blue wad of gum.

I knew that if a lone drop of water fell into the puddle, each ripple would be a perfect contiguous circle, lazily coasting outward, and the sliced reflection of the streetlight would be carried, swayed between the rings, then slip back and congeal in gently rocking waters.

However, with such a steady rainfall, the downward force of each drop collided with the next, which created ripples like small shoulders, stiff and strong, that charged and rammed into each other, smashing, breaking, constantly interrupting – ringlets of headstrong will that crashed into each other, ran over each other, gave in to each other. So strong, yet so weak.

Thus, the streetlight reflection never had a chance, flashed randomly in small, frizzy bursts. A foil wrapper sailboat fought to remain upright on the churning puddle. Meanwhile, the bubble gum island stoically accepted the battery of turbulent, albeit miniature, waves.

The waiter came over offering a refill. “Guess you and what’s-his-face had another fight...”

I nodded, but did not meet his eye. “Yeah, another melodramatic fight over nothing.” I sighed deeply, “But it’s always my fault, so there’s no point in arguing or whining.”

The waiter bit his lip, topped off my cup, then walked away. I sipped my coffee. The crinkled tin-foil boat swayed furiously on the heaving water, leaned this way, then that. I cheered for it silently.

“Hi...” a soft voice said.

She scared me, the way she was suddenly in my peripheral vision. I didn’t notice her walk up to the cafe, didn’t hear the clanking jingle of the bell as the door opened, but there she was, smiling and asking if I was ok. I shrugged, looked back out the window. Nothing earth-shattering. Did I feel like talking? I shook my head, saw that the silver boat had now bumped into the bubble gum island, tried desperately to navigate around it.

How about listening then? I turned my head and looked her dead in the eye. And for a moment she was so happy that I wanted to leap from my booth and smack the happiness right out of her.

“Why?”

“Sometimes people need to talk without being interrupted, and sometimes people need to hear other people talking. You look lonely, thought maybe I could help.” Her lowered eyes flickered up, then back to the floor, then returned to me.

“I don’t need help. I need a backbone.”

She smiled. “May I?” she demurely gestured towards the seat opposite me.

I thought of saying, “Hell no! I want to be alone. I want him to get worried that his sweet girl hasn’t come home yet, so worried that he combs the city, scours the streets and searches the bus stations... That when he finally comes here he’s got a trail of snot and tears behind him.” But, I knew deep down that he’d never do that, and that I simply wanted to be away from him, not completely alone. Besides that, she wasn’t asking for change, or a free meal, or trying to sell me tube socks or a ‘real Rolex watch’ for five bucks. Besides that, there was nothing fancy about this woman. In fact, she was plain -- hair pulled up in a loose bun, her clothes simple, but comely. What harm could she do?

So I smiled back, said ok. She leaned over, wiped the crumbs from the brown pleather cushion, sat down across from me.

I glanced over at my boat and saw that one of its sharp corners had poked an anchor into the gum, worked hard to keep itself upright against the constant battery of waves.

She smiled. I offered a cigarette. She politely declined. I shrugged.

“Why do you smoke?”

As I sparked a match, I debated the virtues of telling the truth when speaking to a stranger. “Well...” (ah # it. What’s the worst that can happen?) I coughed. “Well, when I started smoking, I wanted to die, but I was too chicken-# to actually go through with it. Now, I’m addicted, and I lack the willpower. I’ve never officially, really quit.”

“Fair enough,” she nodded.

“Hey, can I get another cup?” I called out, and the waiter brought it directly, along with an ashtray and a pack of matches. (The service gets better and better the more you frequent a place.) A moment later, as I sparked a match and lit my smoke, I heard the bubbling broil of french fries being lowered into the fryer, the loud belches of two drunk men as they stumbled out of the next-door bar.

We watched them walk by the cafe, stand and debate the menu posted in the window by the door. While she poured cream in her coffee, she said the man she lived with before Mel (the man she was with now) loved her so much he tried to kill her. And no matter what anyone else said, she knew that he really loved her.

My eyebrow arched. Well, I guess that’s the difference between true love and real love. I mean, how much more real can you get than attempted murder?

With her slender fingers wrapped around the white porcelain mug, she stared into the brown-black coffee, the swirls of cream.


[edit on 6-12-2006 by Diseria]

[edit on 6-12-2006 by Diseria]




posted on Dec, 6 2006 @ 05:33 PM
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It all started like a happy fairy tale – she was fifteen years old, walking back with a bucket of water from the well. Oblivious to the pomp and circumstance until she saw the gathering crowd at her house. And then out came Gualtieri, a shining prince. He asked her to marry him, first in front of her father, then in front of the crowd of curious on-lookers which had gathered around her father’s house. And when she consented, he had her stripped of her peasant clothes, and re-dressed her in beautiful and flowing dresses, then he whisked her away to his house in the clouds. She giggled.

A prince picking a pesant? Why?

She shrugged. “It wasn’t my place to ask, simply to be honored.”

I shook my head. I was whisked away once... By a toad that told me he was a handsome prince, and made me believe it. The warty # habituated me to constant feelings of guilt, hidden tears in the bathroom, smiling when I should have screamed. What a naive fool... I snorted. Never again.

She smiled, small and hopeful. “Sometimes you don’t know, or won’t let yourself see.”
Yeah, maybe so.

She lowered her gaze. She knew that Walter (as he liked to be called), was business oriented. A work-a-holic. He’d been given the business by his father, a man from Lombardy known for his tyrannical clientele skills, and from then had been focused solely on making the business successful. ‘A man must leave his legacy.’ She smirked. Those weren’t her husband’s words, although he invoked them often enough.

In the beginning, Walter gave her fresh lilies every morning, stole her away from hanging the laundry for afternoon picnics, surprised her with gigantic parties with so many new neighbors, new clients, new owners, and then their wives... (And she had to remember them all, in case they should call on her husband.) So many new faces that by the end of the night she no longer recognized her good friends.

She missed them, her friends. She was always so busy that she lost touch with them. Even lost touch with her father for awhile...

I gasped. How on earth did that happen?

Her father, Giannucole, was the world to her since her mother died in child birth. They’d sit and talk in the fields while they watched the sheep and cattle. Over the years he taught her about herbs and their medicinal properties, and eventually she began delivering herbal remedies to the sick.

“If I could help them – then why shouldn’t I?”

After she and Walter married, she’d spend whole afternoons with her father. Then, an assistant began accompanying her, and before she knew it the assistant became full-time and took over her position.

Why not just go visit him? Why let someone else take care of her father?

Because she was pleased that her husband had seen to it that her father wouldn’t be left alone, he’d have someone there with him. She was aware of the gratitude that she owed her father; but then she had her duty and gratitude to her husband...

Humming, the waiter walked to the booth adjacent to us and proceeded to stack the plates on a tray, each heaped with left-over food. Quickly, he wiped the table, lifted the tray and walked away, followed by a dull plop. I smirked at the dollop of sterilized white dehydrated potatoes on the linoleum floor.

She asked if I thought he noticed.
I didn’t think so.

I debated calling out, debated cleaning it up, then wondered if I might witness a truly priceless moment when an old woman slips on the slick gelatin and falls flat on her yellow polka dotted butt. Of course, she’d raise her cane, shaking it and swearing the wrath of elderly vengeance in the form of bi-weekly handwritten letters of complaint to the local Board of Health until the cafe was closed indefinitely just to shut her up. I suppressed a giggle, put out my cigarette.

Before I could decide which action best suited my mood, she got up and wiped the floor with the napkin from her lap. Meekly, I looked down at my own napkin when she returned to the table.
Eventually it would be cleaned up, but she would feel positively horrible if a feeble elderly person were to slip and fall.

Yeah, I guess. Hips are kinda hard to replace. Would have been funny though... However, I would be sad if the cafe closed. It might be grungy, run-down, maybe even low-class – but it has character.

That’s what she did -- cleaned his house from top to bottom every day, made sure the kitchen was spotless, that dinner was prepared and waiting for him, that his evening clothes were laid out on the bed, that his work clothes were cleaned and pressed for the next day. She straightened her back when she proclaimed that she was the proud keeper of his castle. Except, of course, when there was a party, because then the part-time servants were sent for, and then she was the hostess and a manager.

She sipped her coffee. I shook my head – and I thought keeping my apartment clean was an un-manageable chore. I mean, I’ve never successfully gotten all my dishes clean at one time, never mind the laundry...

The cook pulled the fries from the fryer, grabbed a plate, threw them on, hung the basket. He whistled a tune that felt familiar, but I couldn’t place the low tones and soothing melody.

“Sounds like a tune by Lollius,” she muttered, but before I could ask for an explanation the bell on the door rang, followed by two loud belches that resonated throughout the cafe which announced the arrival of the drunkards, who sauntered over to a table far away from us. The waiter looked at the floor for a moment, then brought them two glasses of water. They thanked him, clapped him on the back, hard and solid thuds. He was startled, but, to his credit, he smiled happily while scribbling their order, and directly brought them two mugs of coffee, no cream, no sugar. The waiter showed the order to the cook, who rolled his eyes and grumbled something about dinner, then handed the waiter the plate of fries and dropped another frozen batch in the fryer.



posted on Dec, 6 2006 @ 05:35 PM
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She continued, her voice soft. After two years, she’d tell him that she loved him, and he’d smile, then turn away, smiling, saying, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah...’; sometimes he’d repeat her words, but they sounded hesitant, sometimes hollow. Then, they had their first child. A daughter. She pulled out a picture of a baby’s face, soft dimples, a full no-tooth grin, a sprig of hair tied up in a pink bow. She told me that it was the girl’s eyes that she loved the best, reminded her of a forest on a foggy night, waving green flecks against a steady brown.

She took the picture back and gazed lovingly at it. That baby girl looked like her mother. Just as I opened my mouth, her smile melted at the corners, and she quickly returned the picture to her purse. Without pause, she plucked a tissue from her pants pocket, wiped her eyes, blew her nose, tucked the tissue away again.

She didn’t blame him when he put their daughter up for adoption – they’d agreed, after his frequent insistence, that they didn’t have enough money or time to deal with a child.

Who does? Very few are lucky enough to plan pregnancy.

She knew that, said he knew that too. Didn’t change the fact of the situation though. The timing was bad, they could’ve had a bigger house, he could’ve had a better job. She made peace with it because he wanted it that way.

Shocked, I remained silent. Could I do that? Give up my first born because my husband willed it so?

Three years later, she was pregnant again. He rejoiced for the first year after their son’s birth. Then he said that people at work were talking about him behind his back, whispering that he’d never have time to properly take care of a family, that his quality of work would start suffering, that neither one were really good parents. ‘Career or family,’ they said. And he believed them.

She sighed, looked out the window. He stewed over their words for three weeks before explaining why he was pacing the house all night long, why he was constantly late for dinner, why he refused to sleep in the same bed with her. Then, one night, he came to her in their bedroom and told her that they had to put their son up for adoption. He gave his reasons, asked her to sign the papers, made her promise to never speak of their son again.

‘You probably think I’m crazy,’ she said. I almost nodded, wanted to nod, but the sincerity in her eyes, the way they begged me to understand, to hear her words... I wanted to blame her. I wanted to slam my hands on the table and scream that she was a love-struck fool, too young to know what was good for her, too naive to see past her lover’s abuse. That’s when my train of thought paused. Hadn’t I done the same thing once? Put up with far more than I should have in the name of love?

That’s when she smiled. I looked down to my coffee, felt the oil of my tears welling up on top of my watery anger. I hoped she didn’t notice; she didn’t seem to, since she continued, tried to explain.

You see, she’d made a promise to him, ‘to love and honor, to cherish and obey.’ Her eyes sparkled as she re-spoke the words. That was her vow to him the day they wed. That was her promise. And she never broke promises.

I swallowed my tears with a sip of coffee, slid a cigarette out from the box. Did he make the same?

Yes, the same, she thought. So long ago, so many times he repeated the ‘love, honor and cherish’ part that she couldn’t remember what he put in that blank spot. She shrugged. But, it didn’t matter. She loved him all the same.

Silently, she picked up the small cream container, poured, then slid it over to me so I could do the same, which I graciously accepted after I lit my smoke. Together, we watched the white cream plume from the depths of our coffee, curling at the surface and bending underneath, thinning tendrils of cream, then darkening degrees of beige.

She sighed. They lived happily for a quite few years, financially comfortable, socially acceptable. He worked all day long at the office, she worked all day long at the house, they got together for dinner, after which he retired to his study, and she retired to the kitchen; they slept in the same bed, but she always turned in much earlier than he did. She admitted that she became increasingly lonely, but she assuaged herself with the knowledge that all his hard work and long hours were done in an earnest effort, for the benefit of both of them.

Then one day, he came home angry, went directly to his study and called her in. Then he told her about how he’d overheard his co-workers again, about how much they respected him and all the work he’d done, but saw how he could still improve himself, how he was letting the opportunity for final advancement slip away because of his marriage, how his choice for a wife was most un-wise.
He stood with his hands on his hips, his white work-shirt pulled out from his pants and ruffled; his favorite blue tie undone and hanging limply down his chest, its tail flung over his shoulder.

‘He watched me while he spoke, the words falling out of his mouth perfectly while his eyes studied me for my reaction.’

Her gaze was lost in the faux marble of the cafe table. Her fingers, however, were tense, the tendons that ran over her knuckles were slithering from side to side, stretching the skin pale white. And her face... for as lively and as flush as her face was when we first sat down, it was equally as waxen and blank. The rouge on her cheeks now too vibrant, she almost looked dead.

Standing there like that, with his head cocked to one side, staring her down, he asked her to leave. He informed her that he was petitioning for a divorce, filing it as ‘personal differences.’

And, as I figured, she’d gotten screwed out of any the settlement – the business was in his name, she’d given him no money in order to achieve his position, therefore she was not entitled to anything. She was to leave the house immediately, and in the same manner as she’d come.

[edit on 6-12-2006 by Diseria]

[edit on 6-12-2006 by Diseria]



posted on Dec, 6 2006 @ 05:40 PM
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“I came with nothing, I was to leave with nothing.”

My eyes widened, my face flushed. How could he let the woman who birthed his children return to her father naked? How could he be so heartless to someone that he loved?

Finishing the last of her coffee, she looked at me with a glint in her eye. She stood in her husband’s office, facing him and the bay window, and stripped naked, neatly folded her clothes, and left them on his desk. She reminded him that she’d brought her virginity to the marriage, which she could not take back with her. On behalf of that, and the belly that birthed his children, she bartered for a cotton slip. He agreed, and she, still naked, retrieved a slip from the laundress’ cabinets, dressed, then returned directly to his study.

‘Thank you for the sixteen years of happiness you’ve given me, and I wish you happiness and good fortune in this life and the next.” she’d said. Then, she strained her leg muscles in the deepest, most gracious curtsey, and left the house.

She shrugged. What else was there to do? He no longer required her, and she did not wrong him. So, she held her head up high and walked back to her father’s house. (Her father, by the way, never believed that her husband would stay true to his promise; indeed, he kept her old clothes folded on her bed.) She arrived in the afternoon, dismissed the assistant, and walked straight out to the fields and met her father. He didn’t say anything, just hugged her and tearfully welcomed her back.

Her father was proud of her. You see, he raised her to be more ashamed of dishonesty than poverty.

“Do not accept praise for your outer beauty, for that was not your doing. True beauty is one’s Virtue and Goodness. Remember that.”

The waiter walked by and I asked for more cream. He said certainly, and hurried away.
She spent almost a year trying to get Walter out of her head and heart. Just when she thought she’d succeeded, a messenger delivered a letter requesting for her immediate return to his house – He’d found someone new who he intended to marry. And since no one knew the house like she did, he wanted her to prepare the entire house for the party that was to take place in a week, as well as send out the invitations.

I just shook my head. Why on earth she would set foot in that house again, after all that crap he put her through? No way I would have gone back. How dare he.. who the hell did he think he was to treat her like that... and then... With a vengeance, I stabbed out my cigarette. I wanted to find this man and punch him in the nose. I just didn’t understand. How could she do that?

She smiled. Because she loved him. Because then she could pretend for a few days that she was his wife again. Because fulfilling the request would bring her no shame, while snubbing it would bring shame to her family. So what difference did it make? She was honored that he thought of her first, that he’d noticed how hard she worked, how well she’d learned to take care of his house. All in the name of love and the promise she’d made. Unbelievable – she knew. Bordered on complete and utter insanity – she knew.

I sighed -- well, so long as she knew...

The waiter returned, silently set the cream on the table, then disappeared.

The estate was ready by the appointed day, and a house full of guests waited on the front lawn for the new bride and her little brother. Everyone was dressed in the height of fashion and the best cloth they could afford. She, however, still wore the simple cotton slip. Walter walked around as if nothing were askew, migrated from group to group to monitor the party’s morale, never once glanced in her direction; however, the guests tittered and whispered. They asked him to please allow her to wear a dress from their personal wardrobes. He refused. Later, the guests told her that he’d said she was content to be dressed as a peasant, happy to be a part of his wedding. Which, in truth, she was, but of course this stunned the guests into silence.

Okay, so she was a little embarrassed, more so for the sight of a dirty slip for a dress at such a formal gathering, rather than the demotion itself. But she was there at his request, so she owned none of the shame – it was his alone.

Finally, a carriage pulled up and Walter’s new bride stepped forth – she was beautiful, well mannered, young (at best fourteen?), educated, and most importantly of good lineage. The girl looked so fragile, such a doll with her hair pulled up and twisted, curls for ornaments, the thin line of pearls around her neck, a creamy silk dress that elongated her vase-like figure. What negative and harsh things could the boys at the office possibly say when he flashed them a picture of his new bride?

The carriage was unloaded, and the crowd encircled the girl, showering her with praise. It was almost an hour before everyone moved inside for the feast she’d prepared. Her eyes twinkled as she told how he stayed behind the crowd, wrapped his arms around her, kissed her; how her head whirled, how she melted.

I didn’t believe her. How could she swoon over a man who treated her so cruelly?

She said that some things, like undying love and faith, are hard for some people to believe. No matter what she did to prove it, no matter who advised him or what they said, he still needed to test her himself. It was the only way he’d believe her. And now he finally, truly believed her.
On some level I guessed I almost understood. Almost.

Suddenly, the bell rang. I looked up, saw the drunkards were gone, saw them stumbling, trying to run down the street, guffawing into the night. She went to their table, shook her head, then dug in her pocket, pulled out a neatly folded bill and laid it down next to the empty plate. As she sat down, she explained that the two men had not paid their check. Not fair to the waiter or the cook, who were excellent in their service.

[edit on 6-12-2006 by Diseria]



posted on Dec, 6 2006 @ 05:42 PM
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I nodded, felt a pang of shame for my own dine-and-dashes.

She smiled. He brought her inside and infront of everyone told her that he loved her, only her, that the divorce had been fake, that he’d sent the children to live with his sister, that the girl he was to marry was really their daughter, that the page boy was really their son.

She rested her head in her hand. For fourteen years she dreamt about her dead children, sometimes woke up with tears. Neither of them ever mention the children’s names out loud -- not once.

And that evening she got to hold her children! Full grown and beautiful. And Walter gave her the most beautiful silk dress, smothered her with hugs, lavished her with sincere I love yous. He was so forward with his love for her – it was the best moment of her life, the happiest she’d ever been.
That night, after everyone had gone to bed, he professed the true extent of his love to her. He apologized for all his brutal tests, explaining that he had not believed that he could live with her peacefully, that because she was poor she did not know how to be a proper wife, that he wasn’t sure he could depend on her, her steadfastness, her patience, her love. As he explained, his cheeks flushed, his voice cracked.

He sat up in bed and proclaimed that he loved her so much... From beneath his pillow he pulled out a pistol and aimed it directly at her heart. She lay still, smiled. He loved her so much that the very thought of being alone, or leaving her a widow, was just too much for his heart and soul to bear.

Then there was a tentative knock at the door, two tiny voices requesting to enter. She guessed they misunderstood his words as permission, since the door creaked open and they walked in, saw him brandishing the pistol, and screamed. All the guests awoke and came running to the bedroom.

I swallowed, unsure if I should ask, but too curious to bite my tongue. So, did he shoot her?
She smiled. No. He was so scared because of their screams, so shocked at the loving smile on her face, that he froze, except for his tears and quivering lip. The male guests burst through the door, he leapt from the bed and ran out of the house. Someone called the police, and, to make a long story short, he’ll be in prison for awhile.

That’s where Mel came into the picture – he was Walter’s co-worker who offered to take care of her and the children. He knew that she would not re-marry. She still loved her husband and eagerly awaited his release.

I finished my coffee. The waiter came by, but I covered the top of my mug. I was coffee’d out for the night. She agreed, and the waiter left the cheque face-down on the table. Quickly, I snapped it up. I was broke, but not too broke to treat a new friend.

She thanked me. I shook my head, thanked her.

“If I can make it through everything that I have so far, I am certain that I can handle anything. And so can you.”

I smirked, shook my head. “No, because you are you, and I’m me. You have your honesty, your goodness...”

“Most of life is spent trying and learning.” She smiled, and I saw a solid grey-ness in her eyes, worn and rounded, shaped by a length of time and a wide breadth of effort.

Then she got up, thanked me again for paying, and walked out the door. I sat speechless, watched her leave. Because the bell rang, the waiter glanced over, but instantly became confused.

I looked out the window again. Rain still poured from the sky, and the nearby intersection was flooded. A streetlight on the corner flickered, competed with the flashes of the cafe’s neon sign. I dug a bill out of my pocket, counted some change, then smacked it down on the table (which made the waiter and the cook jump) and ran out the door. The waiter yelled something (“Hey, aren’t you gonna drink this other cup of coffee?”), but I didn’t hear him, too busy searching the street, checking the alley behind the cafe, jogging over to the intersection to continue looking. Although cars were parked everywhere, I saw no headlights shining through the heavy rainfall. The wind picked up, pushed the rain forward, then lapsed a moment, then another torrential wave. I looked around one last time, then turned back towards the cafe. She was gone, and I never asked her name.

My foot caught on a raised edge in the sidewalk and I stumbled, my gaze immediately before me, on the crumpled foil wrapper that floated in the puddle. The island of bubble gum had disappeared.

I scooped up my sailboat, waved good-bye to the waiter and cook (who were both watching me with heads cocked and eyebrows furrowed), then went home.

****************

After all this, I realize that it needs another re-write. *eyes computer* I did re-write it, as some of these moments are from the previous version, but apparently my computer has disagreed with my changes. I shall go through (probably tomorrow) and put in the changes.


But, what do you guys think? Any thoughts of what *else* should be changed? (my edits shall be minor.. mostly for clarification than anything else.)

Edit: I think I found all the spots that needed to be changed.. but much, just a few things here and there.

[edit on 6-12-2006 by Diseria]



posted on Dec, 8 2006 @ 12:26 PM
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Loved it !!


Lex



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