I drew the gauzy covering aside and stared into the mirror. At first it’s aged surface revealed nothing but the mist that swirled around me. As I leaned in, however, the mist parted to reveal her heart shaped face. Her copper tresses flowed down her shoulders, covering nearly half her body. Her wide spaced green eyes stared right into mine. There was but one question in them. I shook my head quickly, ashamedly. A flash of scorn and she turned away.
“No!”, I cried, “Please don’t….”
She turned back and looked at me again. She was beautiful, powerful, and all knowing. She stretched her arm out, beckoning me towards her. Wonderingly, I stepped into her world. All at once I was in a verdant netherworld, a vetiver land of moss, grass and lichens, trees that stood tall, but with branches that reached down to caress, retreating shyly at a glance. Bushes that grew in a tangle that moved and swayed to invisible chords. Wildflowers that grew in thickets, roses that ambushed the senses with their heady perfume. She stood amongst them, a tiny figure that held me in her thrall. Her body was ivory, the skin translucent enough for me to see her network of blue veins. It was I who felt naked under her gaze.
“Tell me”, she whispered, her voice sending a ripple through the leaves of her Kingdom, “tell me why you return with the task undone?”
“I…I…it is too hard. It would break his heart.”
Something coiled around my ankle. I looked down in horror at the serpent that wrapped itself on my left leg. A serpent that looked like a chain. Serpent. Chain. Serpent.
“That is for your cowardice”
She turned and walked away. I limped behind her, dragging my chained leg.
“No…please….your Majesty….I need time….”
“You have had time. Enough time.”
“Yes, you have been kind and patient. It is I who is unable…”
“Unable, or unwilling?”
She stood near enough for me to touch her. Her beauty was cruel, and mocking of my weakness. Her eyes blazed with a fury that set me trembling. A rose branch reached out towards my arms, and suddenly, brutally wrapped itself around my wrists, imprisoning them, the thorns piercing my skin, drawing blood. Tighter and tighter, while I swayed and moaned with pain.
“This is for your betrayal”
Still I followed her, into the darkness, as the mist dipped and swelled and eddied around my slight form.
“I promise…I promise….”
She laughed then. Her laugh echoed around me, carried upon the waves of droplets that laughed along with her. A thousand laughters. A million.
“You promise! What of your promise to him? The one you took when you wedded him? What of that?”
Her face was near mine. I could smell hyacinths on her breath. I could see my reflection in the irises of her merciless eyes.
She had a dagger in her hand. I fell to my knees, no longer capable of any further supplication. The dagger hovered above me, as though waiting for one last admission of guilt.
I looked up at her, and murmured, “Yes, it is what I deserve. My infidelity cost me the most precious thing in the world: my peace of mind. I carry the burden of my guilt and betrayal like a rock around my heart. What I hide from him, eats me up from the inside, daily. What I am unable to confess, poisons every act of love and repentance. I am a sinner. I have fallen in the court of my own judgement. Your punishments are nothing but the manifestations of my own castigations. Do with me what you will. It cannot be any worse than what I do to myself every day”
Head bowed, I waited for the dagger to plunge into my cheating heart. A lifetime passed. A moment elapsed.
I raised my eyes to the hem of her blue dress. The dagger had been replaced with an olive branch. Veritas by Clementia. She reached down to me, gently pulling me up. My shackles fell away as I stared into her pools of mercy.
“There is no sin, my child, that cannot be atoned for. Veritas demands truth and honesty. However, she does not take into account the damage that such truth may do. I offer clemency and salvation. It is a path that is paved with humility, kindness and compassion. It is not for the faint hearted. Upon this path, you will have to discard your ego, and enter upon a contract of devotion and fidelity. You will never forget your transgression, yet, as days pass by, you will view it as a distant memory. Something that happened once upon a time.”
“Now, are you willing to journey back to your land?”
I nodded, still incredulous of the benevolence I was receiving.
We walked, arm in arm, through carpets of bluebells, an orange glow, precursor to dawn, suffusing the air with warmth and life. Hummingbirds and butterflies and sweet lavender soothed my bruised soul till I reached the doorway of my Purgatory.
Clementia took my face in her hands. Her lips brushed my forehead softly.
“Be kind to yourself child. You will only begin to heal once you forgive yourself ”
I stepped back through the looking glass into my world. The portal to my conscience was already disappearing. Yet I knew that I carried that world within me. Truth, honesty, mercy, forgiveness and salvation were all inside of me. I was both Goddess and supplicant. I was both judge and criminal.
Slowly, I got into bed with my sleeping husband, wrapping my arm around his torso. As my eyelids welcomed sleep, the night whispered its last message to me, Dilectio Sanat Omnia.
Love Heals Everything.
©Poornima Manco 2017