Tuesday, November 19, 2013

She supposed that everybody had one. At least one. A - however you want to put it - love of their life. A soul mate. A person for whom you would cast yourself under the wheels of a chariot if it meant saving them from certain disaster.

Looking back now, it was hard to remember exactly what it felt like back then. Certainly, she did her best not to feel anything much these days.

She knew she'd been wide-eyed. She knew she'd been in love with words - she was never any good at sport. And this man spun words in honeyed golden tendrils across her horizons. Seventeen. Trying to look like she knew what she was doing. In the days before she knew what she was doing so many steps ahead that most things the world served up ceased to be a surprise.

Cicero. A foppish flamboyant pseudo-intellectual philosopher. On scrutiny, she suspected a lot of what he said was nonsense. But like all the best orators - for she's made a point of studying them since - he used forty different words to repeat the same simple point. And the people lapped it up and rewarded it with waves of adulation. The campus rockstar. Though he was only flown in for guest lectures by the time she got there.

She considered herself to be a cynic. What seventeen year old doesn't? And she was more ascerbic than most. Though she had no reason to believe this back then, she was certain that the life intended for her was an endurance test. If she made it past Cerberus, maybe there'd be a thousand willing virgins somewhere in the afterlife. But the earth bit of things was set up to push her to be quicker and smarter and more cunning than she thought her DNA permitted.

Intolerant? And some.

But Cicero made her melt.

"You, miss, you on the third row from the back in the baseball cap. You look like you're here to prove a point to the world. That a girl can be just as smart. But you're not actually interested in a single word I'm saying. Are you?"

Her confession slipped out of her mouth at the same time as her heart stole out of (where? her ears?) her unsuspecting soul and she was lost.

Dinner. They discussed it over dinner. She suspected they all thought - in the velvet lined restaurant - that she was out for dinner with her dad. The baseball cap and plaid shirt alongside his red velvet smoking jacket and bottle green scarf didn't help. And to her prickly, defiant, defensive horror, he Got Her. She, who thought she was unique, who thought her own peculiar brand of spike was a one off, was forced into (seduced into) sitting and listening in meek submission as he sketched her deepest darkest hidden soul in three paragraphs of apposite words.

"But you've never met me," she stuttered at last.

"It's all in your eyes," he said. Well, he said it in Greek first (he claimed) and then generously, to the fawning onlookers, offered a translation.


Skinny little thing, she couldn't have been further from the voluptuous lovelies who more commonly hung off his arm. But she believed him to the moon and back when he said that she was different. This was intellectual as well as physical. This was him reconnecting with his inner child. This was how love was meant to be.

And so it was for her.

She shrugged off the photos in the Daily Amphora. Ages old, he said. Out of date. Those women were publishers, agents, people he had to be nice to. He'd been up till all hours writing her another of his eloquent, heart-wrenching, soul searching declarations of undying passion in Greek. Here was the proof. How could she possibly think he would have any interest...?

But she snuck into one of his first year lectures one day. Stayed to hear "you look like you're here to prove a point to the world". And fled.

Kinda hard to trust anyone again when your soul has been served up to you on a plate in between the starter and the main course by a man who used 64 words when 3 would have done.

It would be a terrible cliché to say she swore to get revenge. Cassius didn't believe in wasting time on such unsatisfying suppers.

But she did swear to prove that a girl can be just as smart.

That felt like a good start.


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