I had known Hette since her family had moved to my village when we were children.
We had grown up together in the hilly village of Eingarten on the banks of the Edelstein river and, as children, we had frequently quarreled. Nothing serious, mind you, just the usual bickering of children.
When I got a little bit older, I began to notice how beautiful she was…how her hair shone in the sun as she picked flowers with her mother and sisters.
I was a shy boy, but she was always so vibrant…so full of life.
One night during the celebration of the vernal equinox, as I sat alone listening to the musicians play, she came and sat next to me. My heart skipped a beat but I tried to hide my feelings from her. We talked and laughed for hours and yelled out to the minstrels to play our favorite songs, and it seemed to me that I would never come any closer to heaven.
She sang along sometimes and I became captivated by her golden voice that matched her golden hair.
When the night was drawing to a close, she took my hand in hers, leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. I could feel the blood rushing to my face as my uncle Claus said “Way to go, Clement!” but I knew, then and there, that Hette was the girl that I would marry.
From there, we grew closer and closer, yet the closer I got to her, the closer she wanted me to be. There were certain secrets I wanted to keep, and she would push and push and push until I got angry. She got angry, too. She didn’t think my feelings were true. She said that if I truly loved her, I would tell her anything. She said that if I truly wanted her, I would give myself to her fully. But…I was still a shy boy. Why couldn’t she understand? I loved you, Hette…more than you could have ever possibly known.
I should have just told you exactly how I felt.
I began to notice there was a darkness in her. She heard people that no one else could hear. She saw things that no one else could see. And these ghosts or demons…they told her that I was untrue. They told her that she needed to run away. They told her that she needed to find someone else, someone from her past or her future. Someone that had meant something once.
We called on the wise woman, Unn, to drive away the darkness and it seemed to work for a while…but soon they were back again.
What could I have done? “Go,” I told her, “I don’t want to keep you from your happiness…and if it isn’t me that makes you happy then I won’t be happy, either.”
And so she went…
For weeks, she was gone, and I kept telling myself that she would be back in my arms and that everything would be perfect with us again. For weeks I told myself that I had made the right decision. That by letting her be free, I gave her everything she needed. That she would find her way back to me.
When she came home, I was lying awake in our bed, trying to sleep. She came in and kissed me and I could immediately tell that something was wrong. What had happened to my beautiful Hette? Where had she been?
She said she had gone to visit an old friend…a friend she had known since before we had met. She said she just needed to get away for a while. She said she was sure now…and that it was me. It had always been me, yet things only got worse.
Once, around the time that Hette and I had first met, I had mentioned to a friend of mine that an acquaintance of hers’ was pretty. I said, “Hey, Hette should introduce you to Ayla, she’s really pretty.” It was in front of Hette that I said this, and she became insanely jealous. Not a week went by after that, that she did not burst into tears and accuse me of being unfaithful with Ayla.
If I glanced at a girl that walked down the street or talked too long to the girl that ran the store, it meant I was sleeping with them behind her back. If I took too long plowing the field, it meant that I did not want to spend time with her.
She began to drink too much…and every time she drank she found a reason to pick a fight with me.
The next day she would apologize…She would cry and beg for forgiveness…she would blame it on the demons or ghosts that haunted her. And yet…she always believed that I did not love her. That I was looking for something else. She always felt that she was not good enough for me.
Eventually I had decided that we needed to spend some time apart…some time to think about things. In truth, I intended to run away and never come back…I had reached my wit’s end…but in the end my heart belonged to her and only her.
I moved to a neighboring village and occasionally I would go to visit her. The time we spent together I alternately looked forward to or dreaded. The odds were equal that I would either see the love that I had lost, or the reasons I had chosen to leave.
After a time, I decided that we had done this long enough and I told her I didn’t want to see her anymore. It broke my heart, I swear to you, but I didn’t know what else to do.
She began to see another man, Jeck. I had been friends with him for years and always liked him…I had spoken highly of him. On one of my final visits with her, she told me that he had been taking care of her. That she had been sick and that he had watched over her. She told me that they were just friends. I saw a poem he had written her, wishing that she got well soon. “No intentions,” it said.
He was much older than her and had been married before. I saw through him. I saw what he wanted and I tried to warn her. She had moved in with him. He owned a house and offered her a life of ease. She didn’t want to hear me, she didn’t want to listen.
Soon they began sharing the same bed and I couldn’t take it any more…my true love…my one and only…yet, I hoped she just needed some time.
For months I sent no letters and heard nothing from her and then one day, a letter came in the mail. It said, “You were right. He is no good for me. I’m sorry. Can I see you?”
I immediately packed a bag and travelled back to Eingarten to see her. She looked so beautiful and I remembered again why I loved her. I held her close and her smell and her touch intoxicated me. We sat and talked for hours and I asked her to please come home with me. She said that she couldn’t…but that she would see me tomorrow.
Tomorrow came and when I went to see her, she told me that she had decided to work things out with Jeck…That she was sorry…that she had made a mistake…that she didn’t want to see me again.
I was crushed…absolutely and completely. I felt betrayed and used.
I became angry…I called her and her new lover all manner of names…I told her again that she was making a mistake. I told her again that I loved her…that I loved her more than anything. What a fool I felt like, when I realized that she no longer felt the same.
What a fool I was.
Another month passed and another letter came. She said that she was sure this time…that it was done with her and him and, again, I dropped everything to run to her. Again we talked for hours and this time we spent the night together. Nothing could have made me happier.
When the morning came, she was gone, and she had left a letter in her place. It said, “I’m sorry, but I realized that we aren’t the same anymore, and I am going back to him.”
…how can one person do this to another? Have you no feelings at all? Do you ever think of anyone but yourself? I decided then and there that I would never speak to her again and that I never wanted to see her ever again…but what is true love if it cannot transcend all obstacles?
A year later, I decided that I had to go see her. Thoughts of her had never left my mind, and I realized that I couldn’t live without her any longer. I was going to do whatever it took to win her back, no matter the cost. I was prepared to stand naked in the rain and profess my undying love for her with the whole village watching. I was prepared to sing a song praising her beauty even though I had no musical talent.
When I reached Eingarten, the townsfolk were all gathered outside. When my uncle saw me coming he ran up to me, saying, “You heard the news already? I’m so sorry, Clement…I don’t even know what to say.”
“News?” I said. “What news? I’ve come to see Hette.”
At that, the color drained from his face and I began to understand what had happened. I pushed through the crowd and there I saw her…her beautiful face was cut off from her body. I ran over to her and put my arms around her…no…no…no…how can this be? “Who did this?” I inquired.
It was Jeck…he had discovered her with another man…and he was extremely jealous.
He had fled in the night.
I spent the next months searching for him but found no trace. He had disappeared and eventually I had no choice but to give up. I was no hunter of men.
I returned home to Eingarten and at her grave among the flowers I found a coffin. A tiny ivory coffin. I don’t know who put it there.
It is with despair, now, that I carve these final words…a poem for my lost love…I hope to see you again in the afterlife, Hette. My one and only…I can’t go on without you.
I join my lovely lady tonight.