by Michelle Christophorou
The hope that the October sun might disperse Anna’s sadness had brought the couple to this beautiful location on Cyprus: Aphrodite’s Rock, birthplace of the goddess, where, according to legend, if you managed to swim around the more remote formation, you would look forever young. The currents, however, made it a notorious spot for drowning.
But, as with every morning lately, Anna woke, restless, at dawn. She slipped out of the hotel room, and down to the sea, the bruise of the pebbles under her feet almost pleasurable as she picked her way to the sea stack.
As Anna stood and imagined the pull of the currents claiming her, a figure rose out of the foamy surf, and took shape as it walked towards her.
“I am Kipris,” said the figure, and held out her hand. Anna took it, squinting into her face. Her beauty was elemental, terrible but compelling, like gazing at an eclipsed sun. She smelt of musk, and freshly dug potatoes. “Tell me your story,” Kipris said.
So Anna told of the tug of her ageing womb, the series of miscarriages, until she was raw and soft as a peeled grape. To this, Kipris said, “I have left you a gift. Take it. But you must return next year, and bring me one equally as precious.” Then she disappeared into the wine-dark sea.
The gift was a baby, crying, naked, on a low rock behind her. Anna gathered it up, and pressed it to her already lactating breast. The sharp stitch of its lips sealed up the hole inside her.
Next autumn, Anna crept out of the hotel room and down to the sea. She could not bear for Kipris to reclaim the child, and she could offer her just one thing as precious. So Anna walked into the surf, and waited for the current to take her. Mercifully, it came quickly, cradling her as it pulled her under, before flinging her head against the limestone. And then finally, a vague awareness of her body being turned; the slow motion spiral of water down a drain.
Anna woke on a bed of pebbles, to the scent of musk and potatoes. “Many women before you have brought me their mortal bodies,” said Kipris, “but none, like yours, was a gift wrapped in love. It is the wrapping that honours me.”
When Anna returned to her husband and child, her skin was soft as an orchid flower.