Kendall and Half of the Moon
by Otilia Tena
In my high school days I kept a class notebook where my classmates used to write down answers for things like: “Tell me the name of the only man you’d let spoil your hair and make-up right before a chic party.” The first answer was mine: Jared Leto.
My grandma used to tell me: “Loneliness is part of a woman’s destiny. Men have become a rare species nowadays and they don’t look forward to marriage any longer. Things were so simple back in my days and young people took life seriously.” I was merely amused by her words back then.
“Have I told you about the mirrors on St. Andrew’s night?”
“Yes, Grandma, you told me. You told me it’s a foolish, scary thing and all.”
I didn’t care too much about anything, I used to wear Chanel 5 and high heels, I did my hair and my nails and wanted to be popular. And there I was, thirty years old and still the same. There was this doll-like quality about me that lulled me into believing I could never grow any older. It was only me who truly understood the torment of idolizing oneself. It was this sweet curse that hid under our students’ dark rings and pressed on them with the burden of gods. They were kind of bleeding inside a ziggurat and I guess this is why acting like gods was most natural for them.
“Watch out baby! Let me help you!” He picked up the books and smiled. “Are you new here? You’re so cute! If only I didn’t have a girlfriend...”
“Stop it!” I said. “I’m the new literature teacher. If you don’t mind, I’d like you to take me to the teachers’ room.”
He cast his eyes down and flushed a bit. “Please, forgive me, miss! Don’t tell the other teachers about it! My behaviour grade is already too low.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Evan Meredith, miss. Come with me, I’ll take you to the staff room. We’ve already interrupted the students’ reading.” As we went down the staircase he said, “Don’t worry, miss...”
“Gwenda, my name is Gwenda.”
“You’ll love it here, Miss Gwenda.” The truth is, he didn’t make it any easier for me than it was. Evan used to give me a hard time during classes, though he never forgot to bring a smile on my face in the end. The headmaster warned me on several occasions:
“Our charming Evan Meredith has become a sweet problem for the girls in our school and a rather painful one for you, Gwenda. You wouldn’t be in this situation if you had mastered the class better.”
“But... he is delicate with me... as with everyone else.”
“Of course, Gwenda, how could a young woman not notice that? I’m afraid this isn’t a reason to defend him.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“You see, there are rumors that Evan comes from an ill-famed family. His father tries to withdraw him, and they say he also has a brother, half-actor and half-magician.”
“You believe he is under their bad influence.”
At last I went out of the room and there he was, smiling to me behind the glass panel door. He put his hand on the glass in a sort of invitation, so I stepped forward and stretched my arm with a hesitating movement. I did the same and looked him in the eyes.
“It’s me you talked about, isn’t it? Did I get you into trouble, miss?” Then Angela came running and put her arm round Evan’s neck.
“Good evening, miss!” she said. “What a lovely dress you have! Are you coming downstairs to dinner? We’ll be waiting for you.”
I entered my room only late at night and began to undress, when suddenly I remembered that was St. Andrew’s night. So I lit the candles and stepped naked between the two mirrors. It was getting colder, I put my arms around me and the candles shivered. It felt like water ripples to my ear but I still couldn’t see anything. That must have been an oar trying to make it through a swallowing fog. I could feel my arms and legs no longer, I thought the cold might turn me into stone. The candles went out, leaving me petrified in the dark.
I had a weird dream that night. I was standing on a peak with some people and I couldn’t see their faces. An unbearable feeling wrapped my chest, something like nature obeyed us, or sort of.
I was going home for Christmas. Home meant far from the woods and therefore far from the cold which they kept. I found my father a bit older and silent, as if shrouded in a grey mist.
“What is it, father?”
“They won’t come. I’ve been waiting for them but they won’t come any longer.”
His sadness made me a bit down in the mouth. “Come on, father, there is one more day left. Maybe they’ll come tomorrow. They did last year, after all.”
“They graduated two years ago. Why should they remember to visit an old man on Christmas eve?”
I wanted to hope that his former students would pay us a visit, but in my heart of hearts I knew that we are all forgotten in the end. “The newspaper man told me to learn how to rejoice in the insignificant things of life. He said it’s wrong to expect something which may never come. I am here, so please, brace up for me!”
* * *
I put on the silk dress and fixed my hair up, leaving a few curls along my neck. The only thing I knew about this play was that it kind of mixed with magic in some way. Angela worked as a model for Evan’s brother and she was going to be run through with spears.
“It’s intercourse that spoils our nature. Friends, parents and teachers above all turn us into fake beings, expecting our gratitude in return. How should one not be grateful for their stubborn efforts?”
The words grew clearer as Evan and I drew closer to the stage. I raised my head and there he was, his knees close to the chest, while the long curve of his neck revealed a gleaming skin. There were three ladies with him, each with her own part.
“Miss Gwenda, you look mesmerized! Isn’t he beautiful?” Angela said, sneaking a short hug at my back. “The play is over now. I’ll be on stage for the magic tricks. Wish me luck!”
Once their act was over, I saw Angela whisper something in his ear. He looked at me and my hands turned cold. “He is stretching his arm towards me and I can’t move.” This is what crossed my mind then.
“Lady Gwenda, step closer!” he said. “I have a nice box to put you in.”
I simply stood in front of him and found nothing to say.
“Are you afraid? Do you fear for your arms or for the dress?”
I finally entered the huge glittering box, though trembling with what I thought to be a sort of fear. I crouched and held my arms wide open, waiting for the spears.
“Is it going to spin around?” I whispered to him.
“You are the worst model I’ve ever had!”
“Have you had many then?” A spear passed right under my chin. I realized he wanted to upset me in order to take my mind off what was going on. And then I must have fainted or something since I could remember no more of it.
* * *
The first morning after making love to Kendall I asked him, “Do I look like the lady of Shalott to you?”
And he said, “No, you are not like her at all.”
“Well,” I said, “I felt like her until I met you.” The truth is, I couldn’t get the smell of his skin out of my head. I could no longer think properly, I wasn’t hungry any more and everybody at school started to worry about me. I was forbidden to have guests in my room, so he used to take me to his place after dinner.
One evening Kendall sneaked inside my room and I rushed to blow the candles out.
“What were you doing?” he asked.
“Trying to fling a thread on you.”
He came up to me. “No thread will ever catch me.”
“I’m falling ill, Kendall, I don’t know what you did to me.”
“Would you like me to find a cure for you, dear lady Gwenda?” He put his head in my lap and said: “I have a cure for this. You will forget the lady of Shalott and all this crap. Evan will take you tomorrow night to where our father lives, on the other side of the lake. I will meet you there.”
The next morning I heard Angela in the corridor. “Evan, let me teach you some new words! Mariposa... eres la mariposa de mi vida.” They both burst into laughter.
“You are late to my class again!” I said. “You’ll stay outside!”
We all gathered for dinner in the evening and Evan came to sit next to me. “We are taking a boat trip to the woods, miss. Don’t be afraid! Our father lives there. We’ll meet Kendall’s theatre colleagues too.”
We went out in the cold night and made for the lake. I stepped aside while Evan unchained the boat. He helped me get inside and said, “Look around and listen to things, so you can forget about the cold.” So I listened to the purl of the water and it brought me a smile on my face.
“You’ve never been so far into the woods, have you?” he asked.
“No, I haven’t. So what is this place after all? Is it some kind of Meredith abode?”
“Well, sort of. Kendall called it Half of the Moon.”
We finally arrived on the other side and Evan took my hand and said: “Don’t be afraid!” We entered the house and he led me to my room.
“And your father? And Kendall?”
“It’s late, miss. They must be sleeping. You’ll see both of them in the morning. Sleep well!” he said and left.
I locked the door behind me and closed my eyes. When I opened them again I saw a wedding dress on the bed. There was a long veil beside it, so long that it seemed to engulf the whole room in its mist. The dress felt so delicate and so nearly unearthly that I cringed away from it. I tried to draw the veil near my face and my head began to turn.
A knock in the morning made me realize that I had to get ready for breakfast. I heard a few voices and I remembered Kendall’s friends. They were all downstairs and seemed so glad to see me. Mister Meredith looked as if he wanted to talk about things with me but we had to wait a few more hours to remain alone. He said I didn’t know many things there, this is what I remember.
“Father, leave miss Gwenda alone! Don’t tease her any more!” Kendall took me by the hand and we went out of the house. As we walked together I noticed there was something about him.
“You do something to things,” I said. “The trees look alive when you pass them by.” He smiled. “Oh,” I said, “you’re a magician! Now I remember.”
“We are rehearsing a play tonight. Will you stay and watch?”
“Yes.” For a moment I thought I was going out of my mind. I was even afraid to speak. “Listen, Kendall... the dress... is the dress for me?”
“Yes, dear Gwenda, at least I intended it for you.”
Evening came and they all gathered for the play on top of a mound. “Where is Marion?” Kendall asked.
“She didn’t come,” someone answered.
“Gwenda,” he said coming up to me, “our colleague Marion is missing. Will you join us and do her part only for tonight?” I agreed and climbed the mound. Evan was there too. We stretched our arms with open palms in front of us. “In these hands we hold the sun and the clouds and the wind.”
Oh! I was looking into a mirror and their faces turned rapidly in circle. It was just like in the old tales of my country people. “No, don’t turn round! Don’t turn round!” I did turn round and they all lamented and held their heads in both hands and moved them from one side to the other in distress.
I ran back to my room, though Evan tried to comfort me. My feelings were mixed and beyond my control. I put the dress on with a broken heart and wondered whether I could keep it, as if that Chantilly dress only was the matter that tore me apart. Late at night I knocked on Kendall’s door.
“Are you leaving?” he asked.
“Yes. Can I keep the dress?”
“Of course you can. It’s cold, take this and put it on your shoulders,” he said and gave me a woolen shawl. “Go back to the other side! You could have been the mistress of the woods.”
Evan was waiting for me in the boat. “You got scared, miss.”
“Evan, I know that your father wants to keep you away from school. You must promise me you won’t do this!”
“Miss Gwenda, you know I like it a lot at school. I love your classes... and I can’t stay away from Angela.”
“That’s good. You always make me smile.”
“This dress makes you look like a fairy. You are the fairy of the woods.” He leaned towards me and caressed my knee. “Don’t choke back your tears!”
I welcomed those words like the relief I had long waited for. Evan turned his face from me but I still felt helpless and ashamed. My face was a wet burning mess, hidden in the night and in my hands.
It was early in the morning that I passed by the glass door and caught a glimpse of Evan and Angela. I hid behind the wall for a few moments.
“What are you drawing here?” she asked. “Oh, it’s a circle!”
“Yes, it’s a circle and we are in the middle.”
“Then why is it not closed? Aren’t all circles closed?”
“No,” Evan said, “they aren’t, but people draw them closed.”
A moment of silence passed between them and then Angela asked: “Does our circle include miss Gwenda?”
“No, she was only a beautiful dream,” he said and kissed her.
When the class was over I went up to Angela and gave her my old class notebook. “It was a trend back then,” I said, “to have notebooks where you and your friends would write down questions and all kinds of stuff.”
She put a bright smile on and turned the first page. “Oh, miss, your idol was Jared Leto! I love him too!” She cried and hugged me.
* * *
“Father, let me buy your newspaper today,” I said. “I want to see the first buds on the trees.” I had missed a lot my old friend, the newspaper man.
“How are you, miss? You look pretty today, though something betrays you. A matter of the heart, right?”
“How come you know all the things?”
“Do you remember what I told you?”
“I do, I do. The small things in life. You always have the right words.”
Suddenly I wondered why I had been so blind in front of his eyes. “You’ve got beautiful eyes,” I said as rapidly as I could, almost making it sound like one huge word.
“Sorry? What was that?”
“I said you’ve got beautiful eyes!”
“No, no, I didn’t understand. Can you repeat?”
“I said you’ve got beautiful eyes!”
Copyright © 2013 by Otilia Tena