The Purple Haired Lady stirred the tea thoroughly and left it on the bedside table, although no one had slept on that side of the bed for almost a month. She sat on the bed. Her face was still. It had long forgotten how expressions felt like. The dim puddles below her forehead used to be the sparkling eyes she first saw him with.
When she and the Moustache met at a party at her sister`s, The Purple Haired Lady was a girl. She was studying architecture and wanted to continue her education abroad, at the Bauhaus. She felt like a bee in spring, eager to try every sweet nectar life had to offer. As she was about to find out later, the Moustache didn`t share her yearnings. He wanted a life away from the big city. Education wasn`t his idea of a proper woman`s occupation. He had his life planned and there was no place for her foolish whimsies. Her dreams got suppressed by his charming and imperious nature just like the Bauhaus got shut by the Nazi. Perhaps she loved him very much or not at all. Such were the times.
What The Purple Haired Lady loved for sure, was spring. She never really liked the countryside but the smell of blooming flowers and blossoming trees filled her with bright feelings of inexplicable hope and happiness. Such that could not be obscured even by the dubiety coming from the vast empty fields of greenery, away from the shielding of the city. She and the Moustache moved to the countryside in the last days of a sunny March. They have bought an old farm for The Moustache wanted to start out beekeeping. While the air was filling with the scent of wild flowers, her days were filled with the reconstruction. It kept her busy up until dinner time when she and Moustache would sit on the porch and eat the dud meals she had prepared. Cooking never was her thing. As her first summer as a farmer`s wife was setting so was her enthusiasm. She was starting to miss the city.
Beekeeping is a job one must do with love and respect to bees. The Moustache saw himself as a subjugator, a master rather than a keeper. He only took the bees because he believed selling manna honey would bring a fortune.
Manna honey is a honey with the color of a rosehip marmalade, so extremely sweet in taste that can even feel bitter. It is made out of the sticky liquid secreted by aphids as they feed on plant sap. Basically, a honey made out of insect`s excrements. For some reason bees left to overwinter on manna honey often die.
The Purple Haired Lady overwintered their first year in the farm, imagining their life together would get better. Her hopes died. As years went by The Moustache was becoming more and more like an aphid drinking the sap out of her. And all he produced was excrements. No good, no manna honey ever came out of it all. The Moustache had planned for them to have two children. The Purple Haired Lady had agreed. The children never came. Nor the fortune.
They had eighteen springs in the farm, seventeen of which she felt like winters. At the outset of the nineteenth spring the Moustache died. Almost a month after his death, The Purple Haired Lady would still wake up early every morning to make his tea. He had made her serve his black tea in bed. He liked to have it boiling hot with three rich spoons of honey. It was standing on his bedside table even now when he was laid to rest beneath the blossoming trees in the farm. She was sitting on his side of the bed watching towards his cup. As the steam was rising from the cup, so were the thoughts in her head. Having been the obedient wife he trained her to be, she had no idea what to do with her life having no one to obey to. She had no friends or family, except for an older sister. One who didn`t treat her very well when they were children. One she never felt close to. The one that once had introduced her to the Moustache. She was now living in the city, a widow to her third husband, and had invited her fellow widowed sister to join her. Not long after the steam had stopped rising, The Purple Haired Lady started to pack. She took a few clothes and a lot of honey and caught the first train to the city. She never liked honey but it was all she could give the sister in return for her hospitality. The train arrived at night at the main city station. It was bigger and very different than the last time she saw it years ago. The sister wasn`t there to meet her.
The apartment was nice and The Purple Haired Lady felt almost good living there. She didn`t mind cleaning and taking care of the place when the housekeeper got fired. Even away from the farm, The Purple Haired Lady could not abandon the old habit of getting up early in the morning to make the Moustache`s tea. Years from then this would probably be classified as the Stockholm syndrome. Back then it was a good think the sister liked it very much. They didn`t spend much time together. The sister was a longtime editor in a fashion magazine. When she wasn`t working, she was spending time with her snobbish friends to whom her younger sister was never introduced.
The Purple Haired Lady loved walking across the city. She eagerly absorbed the beauty of the buildings. She explored how the city had changed since she left and imagined how her studio would look like, where it would be and which of the buildings might have been designed by her, had she become an architect. Too much years have passed for her to be able to start over with a career in architecture. But she got a job as a real estate agent, which pleased her enough for some years. Sadly, she had to quit one winter when the sister got sick and needed care. The sister was getting weaker every day and even the tea couldn`t get her out of the bed. At least it made the taste of death sweet.
The Purple Haired Lady inherited the apartment. It was a bright and spacious place in a Bauhaus building which she had wanted to renovate ever since she saw it. One morning, when the renovation just had finished, she woke up early and went for a walk. She came back with a small box. She opened it, poured its content in a bowl and prepared a thick mixture. Its ammoniac smell blended with the lilac scent coming from the open windows. She started dyeing her gray hair purple, her violet eyes focused on the reflection in the mirror.
Neither The Purple Haired Lady, nor the sister and the Moustache ever knew that honey put in hot water becomes carcinogenic.
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This was Elitza Manoleva’s graduation short story, published here exactly as submitted.