Titania: True Confessions
by Sue Williams
Truth be told, I still yearn for the ass.Don't misunderstand me, I would not have been unfaithful—had I known I'd been enchanted, I'd have stopped the spell. And yes, the Queen of Fairies shouldn't dote on a beast, but how was I to help it, in the end? That wiry mane, those dark, wet eyes. . . and though beforehand I'd have loathed his smell, at the time it was sweet as summer hay. Even his laugh was a poem—hee-haw. . .hee-haw. . .hee-haw! The magic had only misshapen his head, but I sensed the beast elsewhere: it heaved within his tunic, sinewy and strong, as if he could lift anything, pull anything, for days (and suffice it to say, at the risk of being unseemly, his more manly parts were also built to suit).
Before my husband duped me, we fought on a mountain making lightning crack the air. Our quarrels—and there'd been many—made the poor earth suffer: the rivers flooded, pears rotted on the bough, oxen died in droves. But still we clashed about the boy and what could I do? I'd made a fairy promise. His mother had died in childbirth, and I, who can break moonlight from a terracotta urn, could do nothing to bring her back to life; even at her final breath, I could see us eating mangoes on a Goan beach, where I'd cupped her belly and blessed her unborn child: she was dressed in emerald silk, her laugh smelt sweet and the white sands sighed beneath our soles.
Afterwards, my fairy-charges kept the child; played lullabies on grass-pipes, crowned him in daisies, made frogs belch bubbles from the lake; and I saw him clap his hands as they kissed his dimpled cheeks. But my Oberon thought I'd just give him the boy because he was my lord and wanted—what?—a toy? Well, I would not let him, and so he grew cruel and I forsook his bed.
Then came the night I woke to the moon and a most becoming song. I rose, without thinking, and followed the voice. It was a stranger by the elder trees, his ass-ears tipped with moonshine, singing at the sky, eyes half-shut. At once, the scent of magic filled my head, but I thought it was this demi-god that tricked my senses so. I fell to my knees, as a queen never should, told him I loved him, begged him to be kind. He looked at me and spoke the humblest words: "Mistress, there's no reason for you to fall for me, but I understand completely! Love and reason are not friends." I laughed for it was true—he was wise and divine—and I led him to my bower and bade him sit. I called upon the forest to wind about him: the thornless rose caressed him, ivy lounged against his chest. My charges filled the air, swift on silvered wings, as I sent them to the Orient, to Egypt and Rome, and they returned with purple figs and sweet, dark berries, which I fed him from my fingers, kneeling in his lap. Once we were alone, I raised my skirts, and we made love in idleness, his beast-scent in my head: I rose and fell, light as glass, and crushed the flowers we'd decked him with between my fists.
He brayed. I kissed his neck.
I forgot to ask his name.
Oberon woke me at dawn, his thumbs on my eyelids. I roused myself and looked at him; I felt he'd taken something. His smile was half-cocked, there was triumph on his face. "Look, my love," he whispered and gestured to my side. I stared, open-mouthed, as I saw the sleeping ass, and my mind raced beyond my breaking heart: I knew I had to play the part, or Oberon would quit me (no queen can be enamoured of a beast). I fell into my husband's arms, as if I was afraid, and, as he held me, I looked for the boy; I'd forgotten the mite—this was my sin—and I knew he was the reason I'd been duped. "Where. . . ?" I began, but my husband grabbed my face.
"Do not fret, Titania. The child's where he belongs."
I hid my soul's earthquake behind a mask of wax, bowed and said, "Yes, my lord," for I knew the boy was taken and could not be mine, unless I used slyness and stealth. I glimpsed my lover, found his ass-head gone. He was human now. I laughed to keep from crying.
"Just a dream," soothed my lord, stroking my hair.
What a fool to think a dream could mean so little!
Now his followers have the child, they'll make him hunt and skin. I can't abide it! This was not his mother's wish. From the elder trees, I glimpse him with his toy spear, and plan to break him free. For I swore I'd protect him and I won't forget, and my lord's guard is lowering— he thinks I'm no threat. He doesn't know he wounded me, for how can I trust him? The man who made me fall in love, then woke me up again? Granted, he still charms me, makes moths dance round my head, claps fireflies from the darkness and makes them spell my name—and yes, I like to lie with him, to feel his hands upon me, and make the soft rain fall with him or hear him speak of need—but at nights, while he sleeps, I turn towards the dark and ache when his snoring sounds like braying. And often, when I wake, I find him watching and know I've been murmuring, dreaming of the ass, and he kisses me fiercely as if to scold us both: for though it was my lover who wore the donkey's ears, it was my husband made a cuckold of himself.
Sue Williams is a British writer living near Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blue Earth Review, Controlled Burn, Redivider, Salamander, Hacks: Ten Years On Grub Street, Dream Catcher, and elsewhere. She was also a recent finalist in the River Styx micro-fiction contest, and won first prize in Flashquake's Less Is More. You can find Sue online at: www.suewilliams.co.uk.