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THe Vincent Island is one of the latest works written by Liana Margiva
The Vincent island was astonishingly beautiful. Its majestic and proud rocky cliffs cascaded down to the turquoise foamy surf. Huge , tumultuous swells of the Great Ocean rolled around it like gigantic muscles. There were other islands in close proximity, large and small, where inhabitants either loved The Vincent or hated it, since from time immemorial The Vincent, like God incarnate, had dominated the surrounding islands, contemplating its neighbors from lordly, extraordinary heights.
When something wasn’t completely to its liking, The Vincent simply crushed whatever it was with its outrageous might. Therefore, everyone was forced to respect it, start behaving, and do as they were told. There once was another powerful island where people detested The Vincent, however, The Vincent used its substantial brain power ( as well as the unscrupulousness of its rival’s leaders) to smash the foe into little pieces, becoming an undisputed master of all the neighboring islands.
The nature of The Vincent was stunningly gorgeous. People visiting The Vincent from other islands were amazed to see trees with deep purple and crimson foliage, even leaves that were almost black. Of course, there were normal trees, as on other islands, with regular green leaves. In the fall, green leaves turned yellow, and the entire island looked like the Garden of Eden. It needs to be said that the inhabitants of The Vincent had a special, strange affection for the yellow color. They were so much into the yellow leaves that they named streets and even cities after them. Of course, you may say, What is so extraordinarily fancy in those two words? However, people of The Vincent liked it very much. There were over ten cities on the island named Yellow Leaves.
The Vincent was home to scores of magnificent bird species bursting with festive colors, but the most favorite bird with the islanders was the one that had bright lemon-yellow wings and eyes like black pearls. The islanders claimed it was the prettiest bird in their land, but that was debatable, for who can judge impartially which bird is truly the most beautiful in the woods?
The Vincent’s greatest and most prized assets were, indisputably, its people. The people, naturally, had no idea how fine they were, having nobody to compare themselves with, since very few of them had ever left their beautiful island. They were so courteous and good-natured that foreigners could easily feel that they were royalty.
Almost every one of The Vincentians had a dark complexion, since their sun had no preference for one or another group. It shone indiscriminately on all islanders, turning their skin either golden or another color, the color of a special fruit growing only on The Vincent (the name which is translated as ‘’the color of a ripe peach.’’)
Residents from other islands dreamt of coming to live on The Vincent. Under cover of darkness, people from surrounding islands boarded homemade crafts and, secretly from the leaders of their islands, set sail for The Vincent. Many of them didn’t make it, perishing in the dark abyss of the Great Ocean. Those lucky ones who reached their destination alive did not realize that the home islands they had abandoned with tremendous relief would be appearing in their dreams until the last breath of their lives. The refugees would never be able to forget the smell of their homeland breeze.
All arrivals from other islands were required to have a special ‘’Yellow Leaf Number One.’’ No one could explain the significance of ‘’ Number One ,’’ because there were many more Outlanders on The Vincent than natural-born Vincentian. New arrivals stopped at nothing to obtain the coveted Yellow Leaf Number One. For instance, they pretended to marry The Vincentian citizens.
The Vincentian Outlander Control Agency was vigilant. On any given sunny day (since all days on The Vincent were sunny), any Outlander could be summoned to the Agency to be subjected to a tough interrogation. For example, they could be asked, ‘’What color is your husband’s underwear?’’ A trick question, considering the fact that the husband never wore any underwear even on the coldest days. But that was, of course, impossible to prove.
On The Vincent, just like on any other island, people fell in love and got married. However, unlike on other islands, Vincentian women enjoyed unlimited rights, therefore, when they divorced their spouses they took possession of everything their husbands had worked for their entire lives. Many men had nothing to live on after a divorce, they were completely broke. However, the island laws totally ignored this fact, maybe because they were written exclusively by women. Because of this, all Vincentian men were scared stiff of the institute of marriage, however, as time went by, they tended to relax and forget about laws, fell in love, and were only reminded about them when they stood in front of the locked doors of their former mansions, holding a small overnight bag with a toothbrush and a pair of threadbare socks.
In one of the Yellow Leaves cities, people were particularly kind and courteous, perhaps, because the abundant sun warmed their hearts all year round.
She arrived to The Vincent, to Yellow Leaves from a remote island where winter reigned nine months a year, and her soul was yearning for warmth. Before The Vincent, she had already visited other islands, but anywhere she went she felt restless, because her soul was not at peace. Her name was Ofra, and she was a quiet, shy girl. Her soul resembled petals of a blossoming rose, studded with pearls of morning dew, upon which the shoe of a careless passer-by leaves an indelible footprint. Ofra bore similar footprints on her soul, but, unlike the fragile flower, she managed to survive.
Ofra roamed the island, admiring every blossoming shrub, enjoying the spicy fragrance of flowers and gazing at the awesome birds. She was astonished to see the islanders voluntarily display their homeland’s flags outside every house. They must really love their island, Ofra thought. Because on my home island people bartered all flags for bright foreign candy wrappers.
With amusement and awe, Ofra watched the rabbits with pensive black eyes hopping merrily across the manicured lawns, and dashing squirrels with long furry tails gracefully parachuting from branch to branch. On my home island, people would have trapped these animals, made hats and collars of their fur, and cooked the meat, Ofra thought.
With deep admiration, Ofra stared at the smiling Vincentians dressed in long wide gowns, mostly yellow ones, bearing the picture of a dark-eyed bird with lemon wings-the emblem of The Vincent on their backs. Suddenly, Ofra saw unusual trees with black leaves, and beside them, other trees with crimson leaves. Some of the trees were in full bloom, swimming in a cloud of pink and white blossoms. A gigantic tree with deep burgundy leaves caught her eye.
Oh, Lord, this is so pretty! thought Ofra, approaching the tree and touching its unusually colored leaves. I had no idea such beauty exists!
“ Do you like the tree?” someone’s voice asked behind her. She turned around to see one of the handsomest men on the island. He was tall and muscular, like an ancient Roman, and was wearing an oversized shirt the color of the sun, with the yellow-winged bird on the front, and a pair of light-colored shorts. On his feet were burgundy sandals. Most Vincentian men dressed like that due to the heat. The beauty of his dark eyes was rivaled only by the splendor of the yellow bird, the symbol of the island.
“ You must be an Outlander? None of our local women would be gazing at this tree with such enthusiasm,’’ the stranger smiled gently.
“ It’s just…I have never seen trees with red or burgundy leaves. I had no idea they existed,’’ Ofra muttered shyly.
“ Yeah, there’s lots of things on this island that no other island has. Take the birds for example. We have birds of all imaginable colors.’’
“ It is true , on my home island we don’t have birds like this,’’ Ofra said, staring at the stranger admiringly. He was ravishingly handsome, and his entire posture radiated strength and confidence. The stranger knew exactly what was going on in the young woman’s head. He had seen it before many times in other women’s eyes.
‘’Now, what is your name, beautiful Outlander?” the handsome stranger asked gently.
‘’It’s… Ofra,’’ she replied, her cheeks turning the color of the leaves on the tree she had just admired.
‘’ Ofra, I would like to make my point very clear now. I am Spartacus, one of the richest men on The Vincent. If you agree to stay with me, I will shower you with money and jewelry,’’ Spartacus said, touching Ofra’s hand and looking her straight in the eye.
‘’I appreciate your generosity, Spartacus, but I have enough of my own money,’’ Ofra replied with a touch of embarrassment.
‘’Well then,’’ he said with a shrewd twinkle in his eyes, ‘’do you have the Yellow Leaf Number One? I can help you get it, I have connections.’’
‘’I don’t need any of this!” she said with sudden emotion. “All I need is love, some feelings beyond belief!”
It was very clear to Spartacus that she was not very bright, this Ofra girl, since a smart woman seeks more than love from a man. ‘’I can tell you are an Outlander, Ofra,’’ Spartacus laughed, taking her hand in his.
‘’ Spartacus…you have a beautiful name,’’ said Ofra softly.
‘’It is a great name. Have you ever heard of Spartacus, the leader of a slave rebellion in a faraway land? He was the bravest man of all ages. I was called after him, although there haven’t been any slaves on this island for a long time, and I have nobody to liberate. However, a woman once told me that I was liberating women’s hearts from excessive emotions.’’
Spartacus and Ofra spent the entire day together, walking, swimming in the Great Ocean, and dancing to the peculiar Vincentian music. Spartacus was attentive and affectionate, and Ofra was in heaven. She had yet to find out that Vincentian men regarded marriage as anathema, and fell madly in love with Spartacus.
It was late at night when Spartacus took Ofra to his stately mansion, and for the first time, she realized how wealthy he was. There was marble on the walls, floors, and ceilings, and antique furniture and paintings in heavy gilded frames. In this magnificent setting she gave him all her love and the passion burning within her. Ofra was ignoring of the fact that in no land would a man fall in love with the woman eager to stay with him on the first night.
Early the next morning Spartacus left, asking her to come at dawn the next day to the tall tree with deep burgundy leaves. Ofra’s day dragged in anticipation of the date, and she arrived at the rendezvous hours before dawn. Spartacus showed up in a dark blue shirt and black slacks, looking more handsome that ever, and swept her off feet. Hand in hand, they wandered the fragrant parks and cozy cobble-stoned streets of The Vincent, looking forward to another night of intense passion. She had no idea at the time that for Spartacus, all nights were nearly alike. He kept the doors of his heart locked securely from potential burglars.
In the morning, Spartacus made another date with Ofra, this time on a day that was a week away. That week seemed like eternity to her. When Ofra came to the tree, Spartacus never showed up. From that day on, deep melancholy took possession of Ofra’s heart. Her happiness was no more. Life on the island went on as before around her. People still went to work, ate, slept, and made love, only for Ofra, life had stopped. Once Ofra came to her favorite tree again, but this time the tree was completely bare.
‘’Hello, tree, my dear old tree!’’ Ofra said. ‘’Here I am, again, to keep you company. You must be as lonely as I am. I am very lonely indeed without him, my darling Spartacus… who do you miss, tree? Your pretty burgundy dress, or perhaps, the birds that nested on your branches and that now have deserted you, betrayed you? Well, in your case, you’ll soon get your pretty dress back, and the birds will return to you to sing their beautiful songs…Now, Spartacus, he will never come back to me …like a migrating bird he will fly farther and farther from me, warming up other nests as he goes, as long as his invisible wings can carry him.’’
The tree was silent. It didn’t have answers to Ofra’s questions, and the broken-hearted Ofra finally returned home. A month flew by, and Ofra’s favorite tree was again covered by lush, burgundy leaves. When Ofra came to visit the tree next time, she saw Spartacus. She followed him with her longing stare as he walked down the path, unaware of the pair of loving, tearfilled eyes observing him from a distance. He was oblivious to the presence of the soul that yearned for him, the one who in all this time he had not missed once. He was hurrying to meet another woman- a happy, trifling girl with red hair-leaving far behind the shy and miserable Ofra, whose heart was overflowing with love. He wrapped his hand around the waist of the one who loved him for his money, to whom he was just another sugar daddy.
Ofra watched Spartacus embrace the girl, and continue walking down the path. She put her arms around the tree, and leaned her head against its smooth, cool bark. Ofra watched the chattering, frivolous woman put her arms around her Spartacus, without asking Ofra’s permission. Only a short distance separated them: the one who’s hand was wrapped around Spartacus’s waist, and the other one, standing in the shade of the tree with deep burgundy leaves, squeezing its trunk ever tighter in her embrace.
“Why are you hugging the tree? You have no one else to hug?” a young female voice inquired. Ofra turned to see a young girl a long pink dress. She had long dark curly hair and beautiful green eyes.
“ Don’t you cry over him. He won’t love you,” the strange girl said.
Ofra brushed tears off her cheeks and settled on the grass under the tree.
The strange young girl sat beside her.
Do you love him a lot?” the girl asked. Ofra burst into tears again.” Can you flirt with men, kid around with them?” the girl pried, unperturbed.
“No, I cannot.” Ofra shook her head.
“Well, then, who can love you if you can’t flirt with men?” The girl looked surprised. “Did you see the redhead totally swoon when she saw that guy you are crying about? She could be faking it, you know. She knows how to charm a guy. Many men fall into that trap. Sometimes they fail to see genuine love, but lose their heads completely from a well-planned loving game. I am in the same predicament,’’ the girl sighed. “The guy I love doesn’t care for me either. See, I can’t flirt and deceive; therefore I am doomed to suffer.
“Have you lived long on this island?” Ofra asked.
“As long as I can remember. See that big yellow house over there?That’s where I live,” the girl pointed to a large yellow building up the hill with barred windows and some kind of sign by the front door.
“ Do you live with your parents?” Ofra inquired.
“ No, I live with Desdemona. There’s only two of us in the room,” the girl said eagerly.
“ With…Desdemona?..” Ofra peered at the strange girl incredulously.
“ Yeah, she fell in love with some Hamlet and was about to escape with him to Denmark, but her husband, Othello,somehow found out and began to strangle her when she was asleep. And now she lives with me in the same room, but eventually she’ll travel to Denmark anyway, ‘cause she just can’t imagine her life without that Hamlet fellow. I wish some Othello loved me as much as he loved that woman. I wouldn’t even think of looking at any Hamlets! No one would have loved him more than I did. It’s the men who are all alike, but women…they are all different. If you ask me, I know that for fact…Have you tried to write God a letter?” the girls suddenly asked.
“ To God?” Ofra wondered. “Can one write a letter to…God?”
“ Aha, there you are! See, nobody does,right? People carry God in their hearts, think about Him, always beg Him for something, but no one , not a single person would actually write Him a letter! Last night, for instance, when I was asleep, I was standing before Him, asked Him questions, and all He did was smile and keep saying, ‘ That was meant to happen,’ So, apparently, we are not to blame for our mistakes.’’
“ I don’t know…never thought of it,’’ Ofra said sadly.
“ Last night when I was sleeping, I understood that God is pissed off at our island big time. He doesn’t like our people’s lifestyles. I just want to give them a warning before it’s too late!” The girl rose to her feet and, without saying goodbye to Ofra, walked up the path, talking to herself loudly.
Hardly a week had passed since Ofra met the strange girl, when a horrible calamity befell the entire island of The Vincent. Any Vincentian, be it a male or a female, who kissed more than one man or a woman in his or her life fell terribly ill. Great chagrin fell over the land, The trees with multicolored leaves moaned, the birds with brightly colored wings wept, but helpless they were before the will of God, and The Vincent’s population melted with each passing day. Frightening rumors spread over the island.
The dreadful affliction didn’t spare Spartacus. He also fell victim to the disease called “The Love Plague,” since no man in the whole white world could match Spartacus’s lust. Bent under the burden of her grief, Ofra went to see the love of her life. She found Spartacus in bed, alone and miserable. She kneeled before his bedside and took his head in her hands like a caring mother he had long forgotten and a woman in love at the same time.
“Spartacus, my darling,” Ofra said softly, stroking his hair.
“ Please, don’t touch me, you can catch the disease,” Spartacus muttered weakly, although Ofra’s warm touch felt extraordinarily good.
“ I won’t be able to live without you anyway,” Ofra whispered, kissing his red eyes, his swollen lips.
Spartacus was astonished to hear Ofra’s words. Never before had he seen such powerful emotions. Then he remembered the fact that he was doomed, and tears of self-pity streamed down his cheeks.
“Where have you been all this time?” Spartacus murmured in Ofra’s arms.
“ I have always been close to you, you just never seemed to notice. Even at times when you were wooing my redhead neighbor, promising her money, jewelry and paradise on Earth, I was standing a short distance away from you under the tree with deep burgundy leaves, swallowing my bitter tears.”
Those women! They never miss a chance to rub it in, to remind men of all offenses, big and small, committed during their lives, thought Spartacus.
“ The redhead? She died… she kissed lots of other men too.”
“ Did you love her, Spartacus?” Ofra asked, looking into his eyes with sadness.
“ I…I guess, I am not really familiar with the feeling, don’t understand what it means…to love. When I met a woman, all I wanted was to touch her, kiss her, possess her, but after I’d had her, she ceased to exist for me. Tell me, what does it mean to love? The feeling you are talking about must exist on your island, but here on The Vincent it sure doesn’t.’’
“ Tell me, Spartacus, do you love your money,your house, lands, and jewelry?” Ofra asked.
“ Oh, yes, of course. That kind of love I can understand. My money gave me freedom, independence . I bought lots of women with money,’’ Spartacus said quietly.
“ You see,Spartacus, I love you the same way you love your money and then some,’’ Ofra exclaimed.
“Hmm, then you must love me very much indeed. Although, I know for fact that no love is stronger than the one I feel for my money. Money always bought me what I desired, but now it has lost its power and become like leaves-yellow leaves on the trees-abundant and useless,” Spartacus said somberly. “Ofra, did you know I was fabulously rich? Women who didn’t want me because of my dark skin color crawled on their knees for the houses, land, money, and jewelry I gave them.”
“Spartacus, my darling! I was never interested in your wealth. I would have loved you even if you had nothing but your yellow shirt with the dark -eyed bird, the symbol of your island! I won’t leave you, Spartacus, I will stay with you till the end, and then together we will stand before the God and beg Him not to separate us. You won’t leave me anymore, Spartacus? You didn’t want me in this life, at least stay with me after death!” Ofra was standing on her knees before his bed, holding his head with both hands, looking into his eyes with a long, pleading stare.
“ No, I won’t leave you, Ofra. No one wants me anymore,’’ Spartacus whispered despondently.
“ Oh, Spartacus, thank you, thank you for your kindness! I wish you could feel how much I love you! When I saw you with other women, heard you offer them yourself and your money. I always went to church and pleaded with the Lord to rip you out of my heart, to help me forget you. But He didn’t, and I am grateful to Him now that you’ve agreed to stay with me after death.’’
“ Are you for real, Ofra? I always thought money was the only thing that deserved such love! I thought all Outlander women arriving to The Vincent were only after Yellow Leaf Number One, and would stop at nothing to get it. They would use all their charms to fool you!”
“ Spartacus, you are much dearer to me than all the money in the world, than all yellow and burgundy leaves! You are more precious to me than my own miserable life! I praise the Lord for a chance to die together and be joined forever on the Other Side. I wish I was loved by you in life!” Ofra exclaimed, kissing his pale, weakening hands. :Please tell me, darling, now that death is near, tell me you love me too,just once before both of us are silenced for eternity!”
“ Dear girl, I am afraid I can’t say it. I have never loved anyone. Beg you, tell me what I should feel!”
“ Just say ‘Ofra, I love you as much as I love me money, my houses and my land!”
“ But…this can’t be, Ofra. Never. Yes, I admit I liked you, but I also liked other women…anyway, it doesn’t make any difference now, I am going to die soon. Why did you come to me, Ofra? Now you’ll die too, and I haven’t paid you for this. It’s not right.’’
“ Oh, dear Lord…Spartacus!” Ofra moaned, putting her arms around the dying man.
Ofra’s happiness lasted seven days. For seven days, she stayed with Spartacus, confident for the first time that her lover wasn’t going anywhere, and would not take away from his home in the morning after a steamy night. He was dying from a ghastly, agonizing disease called The Love Plague.
On April 9, the seventh day, Ofra and Spartacus closed their eyes for the last time, never to open them again. They were buried together. The most handsome man on The Vincent, lovely Spartacus-always happy, smiling, and proud of his wealth-side by side with the sad Ofra, the woman who couldn’t give up loving him. Her pale face still bore a soft smile, for she did, after all, keep her loved one for eternity, while her soul, together with the soul of Spartacus soared to Heaven, carrying their passionate plea to keep them together.
They were buried side by side in the shade of a tall tree with deep burgundy leaves, the leaves that never stopped amazing her.
By Liana Margiva.
Translated from Russian by Anatol Kardiukov.
Reader Reviews for
"The Vincent Island"
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|Reviewed by Joyce Bell
|AS ALWAYS, LIANA, YOUR GIFT DOES AMAZE ME. THIS IS A VERY 'GRASPING' STORY...I ENJOYED IT. THANKS FOR SHARING AND GOD BLESS. LOVE,
JOYCE * HIS INSPIRATIONS
|Reviewed by Inspire Hope
|Liana this a very powerfully written sad story!
beautifully written though! Liana what a wonderful
gift you have, May God continually bless the work of
|Reviewed by Sheila Roy
|She had enough love for both of them. Liana, this is sad, but it feels like legend. Great work telling this tale! Hugs,
|Reviewed by Jerry Diamond
True love is never parted and is time immemorial
I loved the film ' Spartacus ' with Kirk Douglas when I was just a boy..:)
You are a fabolous storyteller !!
|Reviewed by MaryGrace Patterson
|A sad story ..They'll now be together always!...M|
|Reviewed by Andre Bendavi ben-YEHU
|I have enjoyed the reading "The Vincent Island".
I am impressed with the writing style of Author Liana Margiva, and also with the translation by Anatol Kardiukov, which showed the artistic vein of both creative Masters.
Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU
|Reviewed by Kenneth Seay
|It gives a new meaning to pack your toothbrush.
This seemed deja-vu.
My getting treated like Royalty. Not here.
I tink the storyin the end taight a lesson "the love plague". Point well taken.