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The woman, and the god who loved her

Once upon a time, a god fell in love with a mortal woman.
Ah. You nod. You’ve heard this tale before? Well, many tales start that way.

So this god went to this woman’s house, and appeared before her in all his godly splendour. She greeted him kindly and invited him in.

This might have been unwise – there are many vile beings that can not enter a dwelling unbidden – but she did so, and offered him wine.

The god smelled the wine, wrinkled his beautiful nose, and waved his fingers over his cup, and hers, to make it a perfect vintage.

He smiled. “I am, as you see, a god.”
She smiled back, though not as widely, and put her cup down.
“I come to take you away,” he said.

“Ah,” the woman said, “but I do not wish to go.”
The god looked at her. “But I love you!” he exclaimed.
“Nevertheless,” she said.

The god pleaded, and she refused.
He threatened her, her family, and her city, and still she refused.
“What you do, you do,” she said.

Shush, you all. This is the story I am telling, and I care not what stories you have heard before. This is not one of those stories.

Anyway, the god went left the woman’s house. He did not act on any of his threats. Instead, he mulled his words over, and felt shame.

So he put on a disguise, and went to the market. There, he bought wine, of the kind she had offered, and paid to have it sent to her.

He wrote a note to go with the wine:
“My apologies. I was discourteous, and ill-tempered.”
He did not, however, ask for forgiveness.

As you know, most gods can make mistakes. Yes, you smile, and wince. You know. And, in fairness, many will laugh, and admit them, too.

But forgiveness? How could a mortal forgive a god? Well. That is neither here nor there. He did not ask, and she did not offer any.

But this god could not forget the mortal woman he loved, and watched over her, unseen. She did not, could not know he did, of course.

I do not know half the gods I can feel watch over me, and can not feel many others I am sure are there, and I am much wiser and much-

I apologise. This is not a story about me. Forget me.
The god watched her. And every now and then, he did some small thing to help her.

Her business, whatever that was, that is not important, prospered. The occasional cough she had suffered went away. She was blessed.

She might have been happy, yes. Who knows?
Well. One day, a few years after she had first refused him, the god returned to her house.

Like before, she invited him in, and offered him wine. He smiled almost ruefully, and drank with her.
“Why?” he asked. “Or, why not?”

“I could ask the same same question,” she replied. “Why? Why me?”
The god did not point out he had asked first. Even gods can be wise.

“You are beautiful,” the god said.
The woman snorted, but held back the derisive words that leaped to her tongue. Gods can not lie.

“That may be so,” she said, “or maybe was so once. But a beauty love fades with it.”
The god nodded. “Yes. But we see not as you do.”

She shook her head. “Nevertheless.”
“But you can never hope to find a man better than me,” the god said.
“That is of no concern to me.”

The god thanked her for her hospitality and left, deep in thought.
Hah! Don’t think I cant hear your giggles there in the back! I know.

So, well, the god cursed himself for a fool, and went to speak to various goddesses. He paid dearly and long to learn their secrets.

Many years after the god had last visited, there was a knock on the woman’s door.
When she opened it, she beheld a radiant goddess.

The woman bowed, invited the goddess into her house, and offered her wine. The goddess smelled it, and wrinkled her perfect nose.

“I know you can afford better,” the goddess said.
The woman looked at her. “I’m sorry, but I did not expect…”
“Oh,” the goddess said, “don’t you recognise me? It is I, your erstwhile suitor!”

The woman sat down and buried her face in her hands, while the goddess smiled. After a moment, the woman’s shoulders began to quiver.

The goddess patted the woman’s shoulder. “There, there-“
She paused. “You’re laughing?”
The woman could not contain herself any longer.

She laughed uproariously, wildly, until she had lost all breath and sat hiccuping, tears flowing along the wrinkles from her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” the woman wheezed, “So so sorry.”
The goddess looked at her sternly. Then she slumped, sat down, and emptied the wine cup.

The woman dried her tears and tried to collect herself. “I’m truly sorry. Did you think-“
“Obviously,” said the goddess, “I was wrong.”

The goddess waved her cup. It filled with a fragrant wine. She looked into it, sighed, drank it all, and stood.
“Wait,” the woman said.

The goddess looked at the woman she loved. “Yes?”
“You are… you are beautiful, in both this form, and your previous.”
“Yes. But?”

“But,” the woman said. “I have no interest in beauty. In what to do with it. In- um…”
The goddess smiled. “I see we are both fools.”

Patience, dears, the story is almost done. I had not thought it would be this long in the telling, but I will soon release you.

The goddess took the woman’s hand. “You’re beautiful.”
“Still. I love you.”
“But I can’t…”

The woman leaned forward and kissed the goddess gently on the lips.
“That is all I will ever give you.”
“I will never ask for more.”

After that, the goddess left. Yes. But she, or he, came back to visit every now and then, and they spoke, and laughed, and drank wine.

The woman lived for many years. They say a god came to take her away in the end, and that she refused. But people tell so many tales.

And now this tale has come to an end. Was it the tale you expected, when I first started? Well. It is good to be surprised.

Live-written in 42 tweets over around 2.5 hours. I had the first tweet and a vague idea where the story would go (I was wrong) and a notion of the voice to write it in. It seems to have worked out.

Published inShort story