The bishopric city of Curtea de Arges sits comfortably on the bank of the river, overlooked by the Carpathians which form a luscious woodland cradle around the valley; and although the natives are not the most hospitable of human beings, we've all come to agree on a certain affair - that the eligible Quintessa Danesti is the most admirable woman in Europe. There's been some debate, especially among the other debutantes, of just how beautiful she places. But it would be dishonest of me to say she was anything but the finest in the world. I'm so certain of this because it has frequently occupied my thoughts, in addition to how very fortunate I am to know the lovely Quintessa, first as a childhood attendant.
The gold band in my pocket supports me like a Grecian column. It says I've known her long enough; and I'm awful sure she's weary of bachelorhood (as am I). There's been a great many to have proposed on her doorstep, and every bit of that many left in heartbreak. Her sisters are coupled and gone, scattered throughout the face of Europe, boring children, and sending letters boasting their new domestic roles. She's awful tired of bachelorhood, that I can't say enough. Fortunately, I can put an ease to that burden with a majority yes.
Now that I approach the loaded Danesti estate, the vision of our future becomes all the more vivid. The ranch and mill will bring us wealth and we will relocate to the bank of Arges River in a prim manor three-flats tall, with windows - so many windows - that overlook the meadows below the Carpathians. We will see the water turn gold at sunset. There we will breed dogs and horses, grow foods from all places, and raise a picket fence. I'll teach the children to fish and she'll teach them to ride thoroughbreds like true-blooded nobles. On Sundays the monastery will fill our yard with angelic melodies and the baptists will dip believers in the cool waters of the river. I can see it now and so clear that God will devour my heart whole if it is a lie. Rapping on the door, the bud of a waterlily behind my back(for those are her favorite), I can hear the rhythmic click of heels. I can imagine them on the panels of our destined home at the river. Quintessa's angular beauty seeps from the crack of the doors.
"Constantin?" She wonders.
A beastly hand extends the length of the opening, inches from her nose, and throws the door open fully. "Who is Constantin?" the man asks. The proposal in my head buries itself under nerves and I can't think of what to say. "Who is Constantin?" he asks again, burden knitted over the whole of his overly virile features.
"I-I . . ."
"He is my attendant," she says.
"What is it you want?" The guttural roar holds me captive. "She has no need for an attendant - not no more."
"You can leave," he says. "She will not be needing an attendant from hereon."
There's no understanding what has just been said. My hands are trembling. I look to Quintessa whose stare reveals nothing to me than indifference, and for the time being, I feel as if I don't know her from Adam. All at once, the connotations are clear. Hair undone and clothes ruffled for the both of them. Bare feet, missing undershirt, missing stomacher, and red lips dotting his face. Lord Danesti's carriage; gone. A stranger's carriage in his place.
"Constantin," she says, "It's awful rude to stare."
"Quintessa." My voice is barely audible but she hears it. "Why?"
"What you muttering about?" Her companion gingerly approaches. "Say it loud, boy."
My eyes are riveted on her's, moistening. I do not care for the giant in her doorway. In my world there is only her. "He is yours?"
"Yes," she says, looking at him and back. "I was fixing to tell you this evening that I would no longer need your services."
I realize I'm looking down at my feet. "On that matter, fortunate I stopped by."
"I happen to forget." There's nothing more I can say and pirouette, making clearly for the busy road. Seven years of knowing a love, a day of absolute certainty that I would marry her, and a moment of immeasurable pain. But am I so much like the others who have stood on those steps in hope of a bride? Are all men a stencil of the first? Has she never cared to learn me like I have quite willfully learned her? The future is not so clear now. In fact, I know not where to start. No house at the bank of Arges River, no children born to the woman I love, no wealth and prosperity, and no hope for what lies ahead of every step. The streets of my childhood are now unfamiliar to me, everything renewed in this grim reality. The eligible Quintessa Danesti, the most beautiful woman in my world, is the object of theft - to a man I've never before seen and to a man who drew her into a life of immorality. And so love spoils, faster than any fruit grown by man.