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Loving on borrowed time

My days with Oskar passed quickly. At first we remained reserved. I felt sometimes that Gauvain’s spirit was with us still. I looked in the mirror and sometimes fancied I saw him there, looking back at me with condemning eyes. I knew all was not well. My happiness was not without bitterness.
But still I gave myself completely over to my passionate love. I dined with him. We walked to familiar places, hand in hand. We recalled the merriment we had shared as children, here and there. Our innocence was not lost, but somehow found in one another’s eyes as for days we had a thousand things to do that we should have been doing for the past several years we had been denied one another.
He became not just my lover, but the other half of my soul.
I did not look to the end of summer any more than to the end of my life. I felt that they were the same. Life without this man would be my life no longer. To love—and be loved. I knew as I held him close that I had a precious gift many who lived to be a hundred might never possess—and I felt this must be some eminent Power’s balance in the universe, to gift me with love when I had so little life. I would gladly—a thousand times, yes—have taken this summer of love, even if the life before and after it must be so poor and mirthless.
We had to hide. We thought we were fooling everyone. At first we were so careful, but our very natures insisted that we take more and more risks to be present in the relationship we so desired. There were the servants with which to contend. It might be that the older servants might get a bit above themselves and be obliged to report my doings to the master on his return. I looked after this, but only for a time. I forgot about Gauvain and all the reasons I should keep away from Oskar. I forgot how I would hurt at the end of this thing.
One night, my maid—Gervaise—saw us together, and the next morning she wept over my things as she was folding them and putting them in my drawers. I watched her apathetically from my bed, a teacup perched nimbly on my fingers, a satisfied smile on my lips. This girl could do nothing to me.
“Fraulein… the Markgraf.”
I merely looked at her with the resentment I had harbored for years. I could be cruel to those that were weaker than myself. I was so weak in body, but so strong in spirit. I could not tolerate sniveling women. I wanted to crush her—even if I could scarcely move across the rooms at times without her assistance.
With a jerk of the wrist, I retrieved my slate and wrote, I am going to die.
Gervaise began to cry all the harder. Then, I threw the slate at her head, and she tottered clumsily from the room, slamming the door behind her.
It was that day I received my first correspondence from Gauvain. “My dear girl, I have been doing a lot of thinking about our family now that I am away from home. We have never spoken openly of the unfortunate circumstances that brought Oskar to the burg and drove him away from it, but all involved in the scandal are deceased, and there is no reason to carry this injustice to a second generation. I would not presume to tell you that which you already know—only to plead your tolerance of a unique family. Oskar is our half-brother. His mother was our father’s lover. Our mother ordered him away long ago. Should he continue now to work as a servant in our vineyard, or should he live with us as the family he deserves to be? There is only you and me now—and I know you are very fond of him. However, the decision rests with you. There is your future, and your potential embarrassment, to consider.”
His letter fluttered from my nerveless fingers as I moved slowly to the window. I wanted to burn my brother’s loving missive whose words were like poison. I didn’t want to see—didn’t want to think—
I deserve this, I thought fiercely. I deserve Oskar. He is mine.
Then Oskar came to me, and I requested that we go together to the summerhouse as we had in our early days. My strength failed me, as it had more and more as of late, and he was required to carry me. I rested my head against his and closed my eyes as the dappled sunlight and shadows fell across my face. I inhaled the scent of wild honeysuckle that grew around the abandoned summerhouse.
I thought no more of Gauvain’s letter. I devoted myself once more to my love. My frail form reminded me that we loved on borrowed time in more ways than one.

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